In the summer between my first and second year, I was very lucky to secure work experience at the Birmingham Post & Mail. This helped me in my journey to become an aspiring journalists.
During my first year at De Montfort University I was able to acquire a range of skills from both areas of my joint honors degree, which I can use further in my course and in the world work. I was able to enhance my skills as a writer and as a journalist.
Though I was very excited about a career in the industry, I wasn’t very confident about approaching and speaking to people about possible opportunities and openings within places of work.
In Practical Journalism we (as a group) spent the session compiling a list of work experience ideas and places and businesses that we would like to do work experience at, then drafting letters to these places asking for placements which we would undertake in the summer between our first year and second year at De Montfort University.
When choosing possible work experience placements and compiling letters them, I did feel anxious and intimated by contacting these businesses and asking to undertake work experience with them.
Wanting to come home for the summer I decided to look for work experience placements in the Birmingham area.
I wanted to try and find a place which would be a little out of my comfort zone but also what I was familiar with. I wanted to enhance my skills and get a clearer picture to what I wanted to do in the future.
After researching thoroughly and carefully, I found a placement that I felt would challenge me, but I also felt it would meet my skills set. I
threw caution to the wind and I decided to apply to work experience at the Birmingham Post and Mail. I felt nervous about applying for work experience there, and accepted that there is a possibility that they may not respond, but I still decided to write to them with the hope they would respond and offer me a work experience placement.
Checking this letter through and sending it off, I waited for weeks, but I had no response from them.
Sad, I accepted that the Birmingham Post & Mail had probably received a lot of letters from loads of students from different universities, requesting work experience placements and they probably hadn’t even managed to read my letter or they may have chosen another student for a work experience placement, one who had more experience.
When I was in the last week of the course, I received an email, and to my delight Birmingham Post and Mail responded and invited me in for four days worth of work experience at their office.
They were impressed that I was studying a journalism degree and that I have had publications in magazines at university or online, thanks to the university’s connections.
Coincidently, the editor of the Birmingham Post and Mail came into De Montfort University to give a talk to single honors journalism students and my personal tutor arranged for me to speak to the editor, and for me to meet him before I started at my work experience.
The editor gave me some really good tips to work on before I started my work experience, the editor also showed me items that he and the newspaper was currently working on.
Having met the editor, I was even more excited for having the chance to complete this work experience placement.
Starting on my first day, I was very, very nervous but eager too. Dad always makes me laugh when he speaks about work experience placements that happening at his company.
As an employer himself he has work experience students come into his office on placement and he always tells me that they are surprised by the amount of hours a full working day is made up of.
So when I entered that office on the first day, I was sure to remember that these days we’re going to be long and more intense than I was used too, it would involve a lot of hard work and focus but I felt ready.
On previous work experience placements, I had shadowed people as they worked and learnt from them, possibly copying them, in order to help out. I have sometimes acted as an assistant to those at the office, typing letters or similar tasks.
I thought this placement would be similar, but I was wrong. In this placement I was thrown straight in at the deep end and was told that I’d be writing different forms of articles to support those in the office and possibly starting my own.
It was a real shock, but when I thought about it, it was accurate as those who are journalists are given limited information and told to go and find a story, then write and format it ready for publishing, which is what I was going to do.
Though I was still unsure and apprehensive about this, I felt it was a great chance to get the most out of my placement and expand my portfolio of work further to give me a stronger future. This was a daunting, but I was determined to seize the opportunity.
First I was given a press release and a small amount of information. I was to take this press release and the small amount of information and construct it into a form of news story which would be used for the newspaper.
In this case I was creating a news story about a mother fundraising on behalf of a charity supporting sick and premature babies, one of whom was her daughter.
This struck a cord with me as I was prematurely born and very sick, so I know how important this support is to prematurely and sick babies.
Feeling sentimental about the cause I decided to interview someone involved in the organsiation to build up and strengthen the content in the article. Once again, this involved conducting an interview with someone I barely know about such an important issue, and I felt pressure to do it right. Though I was able to gain confidence and interview effectively and developed a good article, I came across a physical difficulty; the interview involved me having to phone someone up and speak with them, but at the same time making notes on what they’re saying for the article. This led me to use a set of headphones to listen to the interview and a microphone to conduct the interview, leaving my hands free to make the notes. This worked very well for me and I will try and use this method in the future when I interview over the phone.
After finishing this news story, I was invited to observe a conference between the top members at the newspaper who cataloged the progression of the newspapers and stories over the past few weeks, they were able to do this by viewing and discussing the ‘leader’ board. This was interesting for me to see as it shows how they keep vigilant and keep their news stories and current.
It also showed me as a possible journalist how aware I need to be of current and interesting happenings to be successful.
As I was shown, it also helps to listen to audiences and other members of the team, to keep a newspaper running.
By the end of my first day, I returned home feeling completely exhausted and overwhelmed.
I was able to see what I was involved in and how the Birmingham Post & Mail operated. The best words I could use to describe my first day was ‘eye opening’.
I found my second day somewhat easier as I knew what to expect and what was expected of me.
During the morning of my second day, I was in charge of formatting another press release into a news article to go in the newspaper.
This time it was based on a charity in Solihull, who were due to hold a fundraising event as they were aiming to raise a sum of money to be able to renovate their camps to benefit young children aged between 6 and 14 years old.
The organisation targets those with and without disabilities and enables them to participate together in physical but fun activities.
This was a fairly easy press release to write, as its was a similar concept to Birmingham PHAB Camps, so I could relate hugely.
Alongside writing and formatting these press releases, I was also very eager and really wanted to shadow people to see their roles and how they worked and how it contributed to the newspaper.
My first chance to shadow someone, was observing the sub editors desk. I was shown how they receive articles from reporters and how their role involves them taking the article, editing it, add the final touches, before formatting it correctly and putting it online on their website.
As I’m not very technical myself, I found it mesmorising, I also liked how they fitted hyperlinks on certain words, which if clicked, it would take you to another article, making it easier for audiences to read, increasing overall numbers of views.
I wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly what they did or I wouldn’t be able to do it myself but it was a very interesting process to see. Its great to see the process behind it all. The only way I can describe it is a well oiled machine, all working together which was great to see.
I loved able to work on articles and shadow people in the office as it allowed me to get experience and knowledge in both areas, which expands my confidence, knowledge and this will allow me to have more to refer upon in future interviews or in sessions where I may have to draw on these skills and knowledge.
Towards the end of my second day, I was offered the opportunity to shadow the video editor, who created videos to accompany articles such as when opinion articles are written, audiences may want to read about someone’s opinion on a particular subject and also watch.
Before I left work placement that day, I was offered the amazing opportunity to try researching and writing a few articles of my own and try out my skills as a journalist under real life conditions. I returned home feeling very intimidated by this offer, but thrilled.
As a career in journalism sounded appealing and I wanted to try writing my own article from scratch, I’d always planned to write one, but never had to peruse it.
One of which was a ’Name & Shame’ article which I based on disability access and awareness in my local high street.
Having already pre-planned this article, I made sure I researched the laws surround this subject so my information was more accurate before I wrote the article.
Also wanting to go outside my comfort zone, I decided to write a piece on the Coronation Street’s grooming storyline that was taking place at the time, highlighting aspects of the controversial storyline and why some viewers say that it should be broadcast after the watershed because of the content they feature.
I also wanted balance this by arguing that this storyline is on before the watershed. In writing the two pieces, I wanted to balance the arguments equally and put my own opinion in each.
For example, I wanted to be sure that I expressed the importance of disability access and awareness and how infuriating it is when its neglected, cast aside.
I also felt I could put my own take on my ’Name & Shame’ article and write it in a way that no other reporter can because I have witnessed and experienced it first hand.
I was very excited to write my own articles and get them finished as soon as possible as there may have been a possibility of publication on Birmingham Post & Mail’s website which can then contribute to an overall portfolio for my career in journalism.
I would feel a true sense of achievement to see these articles published and to see my name in print in one of the most popular newspapers in Birmingham. I would once again describe my second day at work placement as surreal but enjoyable, it was definitely better than my first day and I was somewhat wiser on what to expect if I was to continue on this path.
My third day at Birmingham Post and Mail was probably the most stressful, and probably the most intimidating out of the days I was at placement.
Having done the majority of the research for both articles the night before, I slowly constructed two articles that I reflect on and am really proud of what I did.
Coming in the office on my final day of placement at the Birmingham Post & Mail, I felt bazar, thinking ‘I have completed work placement here’.
I was determined to make progress on my ‘Name & Shame’ article, and Coronation Street’s grooming storyline article to have at least two items for my growing portfolio. I also wanted to prove myself, and have the chance of publications.
Looking back now I felt like I did a good job on both articles, I felt I went into detail about the watershed and the concept behind this going into detail about how the content of Coronation Street’s grooming storyline and how it applies to the rules of the watershed, but then how some of the footage may be seen as to graphic and uncomfortable, balancing the article.
I included my opinion on the Grooming storyline highlighting that though I can understand people’s views about broadcast the storyline before the watershed.
Alongside this I paid equally attention to my name and shame article highlighting the lack of awareness within different shops along Harborne High Street, detailing specifically where the issues are and attitudes involved when I confront shop assistants about the establishment..
Unfortunately I was unable to finish this article in full as I wanted to soak up as much as the atmosphere as possible and the gain as much experience as I can to enable myself to be clearer on the path in journalism that I wanted to take.
I was able to Shadow and learn many aspects within the format and process behind the creation of the newspaper and I will take this fourth into my life, to make me more experience and aware of the process, making we wiser in the future.
At the end of this final day I felt that I had gained a lot of experience and knowledge and would be taking away some great skills and advice to use, learning a great amount about each one of the different sectors within the newspaper and how it operates.
I had also met some lovely people who were very friendly and was able to build a network in which I can use as points of contact when I have material in the future. Having not being able to finish the name and shame article that I was working.
I was given various contact details and was encouraged to keep in contact and send this article along when it was finished as well as any other article I chose to write.
Leaving this work experience placement I felt that I was a better person who had obtained an element of experience that I couldn’t gain elsewhere, also found another way to express myself and was even more sure about having a career as a journalist.