Monday is the beginning of my second Journalism work experience placement, so it only seems fitting to recap on my first placement in preparation.
I spent a 5 day week working at my local newspaper. Honestly when I applied for the placement I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t even think I’d enjoy it, but I thought I may as well get some experience early on, and although I feel I’m more suited to magazine journalism, all writing experience is good, right?
What I didn’t expect was that each day would be so varied. I’ve learnt that news can be quite interesting. This is coming from an aspiring journalist who isn’t too keen on ‘news’…. (Yes, that is possible.)
I really enjoy writing, and I think learning and exploring as many different styles and forms of writing is extremely helpful in allowing a writer to discover their own voice, their strengths, things they enjoy (that they didn’t know they would), and areas needed to improve in.
One thing that I always agree with is that even if you don’t like fiction writing or storytelling, learning how to do it can help you write journalistic pieces in a slightly more interesting way.
This theory was proved correct, as I believe learning more about news writing is helping me to be more succinct and engaging in my leisure journalistic pieces, my feature articles, and in my fiction writing.
One of the things I really appreciated from the work experience is that from the moment I got there, I was given practical stuff to do. Within the first 10 minutes of being introduced to the team, I was given my own computer and an article to start writing. Just like that. I kinda expected to be coaxed in, but there is certainly value to being thrown in the deep end and expected to produce (in this scenario). After I wrote each piece one of the reporters or editors (whoever had given me the assignment) would talk through the piece with me, suggesting ways to improve my writing. I found this to be a really valuable experience.
I strongly believe that in a placement like this, your input and willingness to participate determines how much you’ll get out of it. If I had just sat there and dawdled, picking at my nail varnish or checking my phone constantly, then I wouldn’t have got anything out of the placement. This isn’t school, or university – they gave me an assignment and left me to get on with it, without checking to see if I was engaged. The team have things to be getting on with, and so I had to be proactive and involve myself by letting them know when I’d finished a task, seeking help if I was confused, and asking for more things to do once I’d finished!
As I said, there is a definite correlation between your engagement/willingness and your output.
I’m particularly glad that the experience gave me a practical understanding of what it’s like to be a news journalist/reporter. As well as writing articles, I shadowed different members of the team, following them to find stories and attend events. I was given the opportunity to interview a writer over the phone; having to do research the day before and decide what questions I would ask her, and then turning the interview into a feature article.
Of course there were embarrassing moments:
As part of work experience I was sent, on my own, to town I’d never been to – to find five interesting things to do. It seemed pretty straight forward, internet research gave me a list of places to visit, and I trotted off with my ipad, notes, and train ticket, feeling like a super cool junior reporter. This should have been easy, taken about an hour, and I should have been back in no time.
I left the office at 11:30. I got back at 4:30pm.
Can I blame this on transport? No. It was pretty much because of a complete incompetence with regards to geographical skills. Simply put. I got lost. In a small place. The trouble is you see, when a town has roads called *** lane, *** park lane, *** road, *** park road, *** church road, *** church lane etc, there is bound to be confusion. I had to go back to go forwards, on every occasion.
There was also the day when I inconveniently wore a thin cardigan, a shirt, heeled sandals and a skirt and ended up following a reporter to wade in some mud, giant puddles and a field covered in horse poo. Of course it was raining and cold as well.
I was thrown in. And yes, it was scary for someone who doesn’t always like to speak to strangers. Or get lost in an unfamiliar place. Despite that, it helped me to realise the demands of the career path, caused me to engage and make the most of the opportunity, and allowed me to understand the importance of not being precious about everything I write. That’s not to say it’s fine to write junk and publish it, but as a writer, there are times when I become a bit too attached to what I’ve written; making editing sometimes upsetting, and often a challenge. It’s important to be able to adapt to the demands of the task at hand, taking all your prior knowledge and applying it in a relevant way.
My placement next week is with an online magazine. It’ll probably be a totally different experience, but I’m really excited, and ready to engage!
Looking back a few weeks after my first placement, one of the most important thing I learnt is that being a journalist can involve doing just about anything.
Always be prepared…