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Journalism – a class of its own?

The essence of a journalist in a nutshell is to report news. Think of where news is generated; the possibilities are endless. News – whether it’s good or bad – can spring up from any situation. Granted, the chance of a newsworthy story increases for people in the public eye but a bulletin doesn’t have to resemble who’s on Jonathan Ross’ chat show sofa because it’s important that ordinary voices are heard and their stories are told too. In fact, those are often the most interesting.

In order to tell these stories appropriately, we need a diverse range of journalists who hail from a variety of backgrounds. This is so important for many reasons, including empathy with a interviewee, a range of contacts and  knowing where to look – having a good nose for a story.

The problem with the industry at the moment is that the amount of diversity on offer is grately restricted and that’s  because the most tried and tested way in is through the education system. It doesn’t matter about student loans because, at the end of the day, an undergraduate degree still costs £9,000 a year and for post-grads, the cost varies uni to uni, but it’ll be around the £5,000 mark for a year, without the same amount of student loan support available.

It’s a massive commitment to make when you decide you want to be a journo but it sorts out the wheat from the chaff because it’s a lot of time and money to spend pursuing a dream career. Which is why I would always recommend a budding journalist do what I did and get as much hands-on experience as possible before deciding which direction to take.

I stand by the comment I made on Twitter earlier this month…

Citizen journalism has it’s place but, if you want to make this a profession rather than a hobby,  you need to be an accredited journalist before you can even think about applying for certain jobs. That’s for a reason because media law knowledge is vital in keeping any work accurate and trustworthy – two key qualities of a good journalist. You wouldn’t call someone a Doctor because they can open a bottle of Calpol and it shouldn’t be a parallel in journalism.

However, I appreciate the price tag of the education system can be very elitist. This is on top of needing to do a lot of unpaid work-experience to learn your craft, so you need to be able to support yourself somehow. As well as knowing how to drive and having your own car available, which is all very desirable, on top of enthusiasm and dedication to the craft.

I’m not saying it’s right or  wrong – it’s just how the industry is. In order to become a journalist, education and subject knowledge is important because you need to be able to write well. Even if you’re a broadcast journalist, phonetic spellings akin to that of text talk belong in pronunciation brackets, not your script. You will also have to write web stories online increasingly as the digital world around us continues to evolve too. That’s all on top of probably the most essential skill – you need to be a good communicator.

There is a light at the end of this academic tunnel though and on-the-job training seems to be on the rise. As I’ve written in previous blog posts, I wouldn’t change my journalism training at UCLan for the world; I learnt so much there, made great friends and found myself as a person. Although, I’m like the idea of work while you learn schemes increasing because they aim to attract a diverse range of people to the journalism profession vocationally and that therefore allows more stories to be heard.

The BBC run the Journalism Trainee Scheme and ITV have announced their Break into News initiative. Student, community and hospital radio also rightly deserve their place as excellent training grounds and I’m one of many journalists who cut their teeth that way. The Journalism  Diversity Fund is also available to help with fees for those who want to access the academic route.

Let’s focus on attracting diverse journalists into the profession with a wide range of life experiences that reflect the stories we want to tell because the audience want to hear them – in an engaging and trustworthy way. That’s how we become top of the class.

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2011 – My year in retrospect.

Now January is in full swing and it’s probably a bit too late to wish you ‘Happy New Year’, but I will do anyway. I only really got blogging regularly during the last quarter of 2011 and, because of that, missed out on writing about a lot of my adventures. In this digital age of mobile technology, I like to keep a record of the good things that happen in my life with photos, which are all dotted around on my various social media profiles. However, they are not available all in one place to tell my story of 2011… Until now!

A picture can say more than a thousand words, as they say, so I’m going to give it a go. I’ve had chance to reflect a lot over my highlights of the year 2011 and I will present them to you in three categories, all of which are very important to my life. Firstly, there’s my hobby that I adore: radio. Then there’s all my work in the television industry, a job that I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to do. As well as music; I would go as far to say that music provides the foundation to what all the great experiences in my life are built on. I love it and have been very lucky to see some awesome live gigs this year.

RADIO

2011 started out brilliant for me and my radio work as I won the award for Pure 107.8 FM ‘Best New Volunteer Award’ and ‘The Basement’ show that I present / produce also won Pure’s ‘Best Total Access Community Show’ award. A great night was had all both during and after the party had finished! Here I am on the front row with the rest of the Basement team celebrating our successes:

The Basement

JAN bbcA great start to the year that just kept getting better and better. 2011 was the year of great change for the BBC sector of the radio industry. With the focus on creating a less ‘London-centric’ feel to their output, MediaCityUK, was finally opened. Before this my local station BBC Radio Manchester was based at New Broadcasting House on Oxford Road in Manchester. Even though the building was tired and old it had lovely nostalgic nuances to it. I have had some great memories in there; it is where I started my broadcasting career when I had work experience years ago while at university. As well as where I received my valuable radio training in 2011. In October  it was all systems go; the BBC had started to move into their new Media City home in Salford Quays. As a Radio Academy member I was lucky enough to one of the first to take a look around the Quay house building.

JAN bobAttending my first ever Radio Festival was a huge highlight for me, an experience I will never forget. I blogged about it all extensively at the time so if you want to read all about it then scroll down to the relevant post HERE. It was a great privilege to be surrounded by so many talented people including some of the more famous faces. Just to whet your appetite for my Radio Festival blogs, here’s an exclusive photo that I didn’t post at the time. It’s the legendary Bob Harris, who I was sat opposite in the Lowry restaurant! (You can see my audio recorder in the foreground too.)

 

TELEVISION

The freelance nature of working in television production is not an easy one. However, it is filled with facets that some people can only dream about. For example, during 2011 I was walking down the Coronation Street set one week and above the Emmerdale Woolpack set the next. Some people enter competitions to get the chance to do just that yet I was getting paid to work on it – amazing! I do appreciate how fortunate I am.

I started out the year working in ‘Calendar-land’ at ITV Yorkshire:

JAN itv

I would continue to take part in various projects at ITV’s base in Leeds during the year, but for the majority of 2011 my work was for productions being made by ITV Granada in Manchester. I worked on many different programmes in lots of different capacities, including:

  • COUNTDOWN
  • Love me, Love my Home – Logging.
  • May the Best House Win – Research, casting and recce shoots.
  • No Taste Like Home – Logging.
  • Super Tiny Animals – Logging.
  • Guess the Star – Running.
  • …As well as post-production and gallery running too. Linford Christie ain’t got nothing on me!

Particular moments of the year that stand out for me include getting lost down a single track lane in Conwy, Wales. We were on route to film a fabulously enchanting 1-up, 1-down house and pottery workshop for series 2 of May the Best House Win. Unfortunately, that particular house didn’t make it into the final episode cut but it felt like we were in a Disney film while we were there!

Another experience that perhaps isn’t as glamorous but is a typical ‘Runner’s story’ for you now. I was the runner with responsibility for Granada’s studio 6 when working on the ‘Guess the Star’ pilot – otherwise known as the Jeremy Kyle studio. I had just got all the crew their lunches… apart from one where the box hadn’t been closed properly. No, this couldn’t have been sandwiches could it? Oh no, this was runny beef curry that had left a trail all across the floor, as well as on myself! Not the most attractive look when you’re stood next to the Coronation cast looking perfect after just coming out of make up! Sod’s law strikes again in that it was me who made a mess of Jeremy Kyle’s studio floor. (Not many people can say that though, I suppose!) Instead of wait for the cleaners I thought I better clear it up… all while Lee Ryan from boyband Blue was talking me. That was definitely my most surreal experience of 2011!