This week I have been working at the Croydon Guardian. It is a weekly paper, which specialises in local news from around the South-East London borough of Croydon. During my time at university studying journalism, this is the first time I have had some real ‘hands-on’ experience in the field.
Dealing mainly in broadcast journalism on WINOL, working at a local newspaper is somewhat different. For example, instead of actually going out and about to get quotes and interviews with people, it is mainly done over the phone. The Croydon edition of the newspaper is out on a Wednesday, and I started on the Monday, so by the time I had started the majority of the news-gathering by the reporters had been done, and now it was all about organising photographs, and writing the stories in time for the deadline.
My first task helping out and gaining some insight was to ‘turn around’ press releases that the reporters are sent by local organisations. A lot of the releases were sent by press departments of these organisations in an attempt to get some publicity, and were not hard-hitting news stories. Such stories would include local businesses giving free football tickets to schools, or news on upcoming events. Nevertheless, it was quite exciting to be involved in getting some real experience in the industry.
During my first day, the Chief Reporter handed me a story of four Croydon based youngsters who had reached the final of a prestigious London based award. My job was to call the four finalists and get a profile on why they had been nominated and to get quotes from them. It was at this point that I learned that shorthand was definitely a necessity for being a news hack! The first call was very ‘plain-sailing’, but the second a bit harder – a 12-year-old school girl, who was very reluctant to answer questions, she was a lovely young girl, but, as most kids do, she got very shy with speaking to a stranger. In the end we had to settle for a quote from the child’s mother.
With the first two so easy to contact and willing to speak, surely the next two would be the same – No. I was wrong to assume that. The next two have been a nightmare to contact, with not answering phone calls and not responding to e-mails. The reality of the difficulties news reporters face was beginning to settle in.
Day two was fun – Court. I was on my way to court with a reporter to get a bit of an insight into court reporting, when it dawned on me. I wasn’t wearing a tie! As I have learned from Chris in lectures, when visiting court, it is essential to wear a tie. Luckily enough, the reporter I was with was well connected in the court and explained that I was still learning, so all was fine! The difficulties and stresses of court reporting also became apparent, when we travelled all the way to the Crown Court, only for the case to be adjourned for one reason or another! So no doubt we will be back another day! The reporter I was with is still unaware as to the ‘interest factor’ to the story, but it is always worth finding out!