Recently, I’ve become more and more certain about the path I would like to go down when I finish university: Journalism. I’ve always been interested in this area, and from a young age I could often be found writing or play-acting reading the news. In fact, what I wanted was to be the next Fiona Bruce! But these were just visualisations, and back then I had no idea what this would entail, nor how to get there. Therefore, during school I explored lots of career fields; from Medicine right up to Law… It wasn’t until I started university until I arrived back at the idea of going into Journalism and the Media. It was then I realised what a broad field this industry is, but I decided to just go for it!
Over the past year I’ve been gaining as much knowledge and experience as I can in order to put myself in the best position. However, in no way does this mean that I’ve been forcing it, rather, everything I’m doing right now is not only valuable for the future, but the present too! I’ve taken on lots of different roles in Student Journalism, which I absolutely love, in addition to writing this blog. I enjoy being a part of them, as I’ve had so many unusual experiences I would have never even thought of before; from covering a Fashion Show, to actually learning how to read the news!
Yet this week, I was lucky enough to have been able to add to my new experiences, as I was accepted onto 4 Talent’s Pop-Up Event! On Wednesday 6th April I headed East to Stratford Circus in Theatre Square, for a Media experience day organised by Channel 4. I applied a few months ago, so I had been looking forward to this day for a while. The event was split into three sections: TV Production, Marketing and Journalism. Needless to say, I was part of the Journalism workshop, but it was interesting to learn how these sectors interact with one another, as well as talk to people within other areas.
It was an early start, and as I arrived I was greeted by a swarm of other excitable 16 – 25 year olds who were ready and raring for kick-off, despite the hour. Within minutes I got chatting to lots of different people in the queue to sign in, before moving into the theatre for the initial talk. Already I realised that I was in the right place, and was instantly pleased that I decided to send that application off! Certainly, I know many within university with similar career goals to me, but meeting new people from various backgrounds and with different experiences was so valuable. However, it did make me a little nervous to start with, especially as I met a lot of Journalism students who had committed to studying this sort of thing day in, day out. But once I got over the natural fear, I realised that it was going to be a really fun day. I knew I wanted to make the most of it.
Before we split up into sections, we all came together to listen to the welcome talk, which was led by (the very energetic!) Ray from My Kinda Future, who were collaborating with Channel 4. We found out how the day was going to pan out and were introduced to everyone working at 4 Talent. Then, we moved into our sections where us Journalists were introduced to Jules, who would lead our workshop for the day…
Jules McCarthy is a BBC Journalist, who also teaches Broadcast Journalism at Staffordshire University. I have to say, I took an instant liking to her when she admitted early on: “One of the most difficult things about being a Journalist is knowing which heels to wear!” Most of the time, Journalists walk into work without knowing what they’ll be doing that day; it’s the nature of the news. So wearing shoes with a thin heel, may not be the best choice if you have to walk through a field! However, her first task was slightly more tricky and we were certainly thrown in at the deep end. Before we even had a chance to get comfortable, we were asked to go off and film a video introducing ourselves. Who were we? Why had we chosen to come here today? We had no time to think about what we would say, just 45 seconds of non-stop talking about ourselves. It was a challenging thing to do, yet this is something that Journalists have to do this all the time.
As we came back in, Jules strongly hinted that we should post our video on social media! So, you can find mine here. As she continued with her talk, I wanted to take in every word that Jules said. Her knowledge of the industry was evident, and she’s clearly very good at what she does. For me, these were the most important tips and skills she shared with us:
Lessons of the Day:
1. “Check yourself, before you wreck yourself” – This was Jules’ first message to us. It’s amazing, but also quite troubling, just how much someone can find out about you merely from putting your name into Google. Therefore, it’s so important to be aware of your internet presence. This doesn’t mean that Twitter has to become a CV, but taking a more thoughtful approach to your online profile is key in any industry, even more so in Journalism. This doesn’t have to be as boring as it sounds, and it definitely doesn’t mean you have to rid all personality from your posts. In fact, it’s the opposite; and a good online profile could prove to be a real asset.
2. Weapon of choice: iPhone! – This leads on from the last, because if you have an iPhone, or any other smart phone, there’s almost no limit to what you can find out! Additionally, there’s almost no limit to the amount of people you can reach should you need to share a story, or contact someone specific. Jules has been working in Journalism for a very long time (I’m sure she won’t mind me saying this!), and I couldn’t believe it when she told us how information used to have to be communicated. Journalists would go to the scene, record the report and physically cut the tape to edit it. After this, someone on a motorcycle would have to take it back to headquarters! So the lesson here, never under-estimate the power of the smartphone – and use it to your advantage!
3. “Bed-to-Bed” Model – This was the name Jules gave to the modern way in which we like to receive the news. Previously, we were fed the news as we were literally fed, a format still in place on TV. But nowadays, checking our phones is the first thing we do in the morning and last thing we do at night, at least for most of us. Therefore, we demand news instantly and constantly, though most importantly, Online. This means that the first platform a Journalist is now required to update is the website, or social media. Our generation has grown up with this, but most Journalists in the industry have had to adapt to this revolution.
4. 3 sentences, 15 words – On Television or Radio, there is not the time to go into great detail of the story. Capturing and maintaining the audience’s attention, whilst ensuring to put across the key information is therefore, a vital skill for Journalists. Jules’ advice was to limit the report to three sentences, and these sentences should be no longer than fifteen words. This also involves using simple vocabulary and rephrasing jargon. Not only for the audience, as long sentences and words can prove tricky so say, especially under pressure!
After the networking lunch, where we were able to catch up with the other sections and meet lots of people working at Channel 4, it was time for the main project. As Channel 4 are covering the Paralympics in Brazil this summer, our task was centred around exactly this theme. Using the ‘3 sentences, 15 words’ technique, we were asked to choose a story surrounding the Paralympics and write a broadcast report. Of course, we all sourced our stories with our weapon of choice! There were lots of news reports I could have selected, but Jules’ advise was: “if it’s interesting to you, it will be interesting to other people”, and taking this onboard made it easier to pick my story. We then read our reports to the rest of the group, from which I was one of those whittled down to the final two teams to perform in the final talk!
When the workshops were finished we returned back to the theatre along with the other sections. TV Production and Marketing fed back what they had been getting up to all day, and I found it really interesting to see how the Paralympics theme ran through the whole event. Then, it was our turn… and we had to face the judges who would decide which was the best broadcast news report. It was an anxious wait whilst I listened to the special guests sharing their media experiences, but as the winners were announced, I could not believe it – my group won! The prize? A visit to channel 4 headquarters to go behind the news scenes – I can’t wait!
It really was an amazing day for me, and I’m thankful that Channel 4 host events like this. Not only have I learnt so many new things, I’ve met some great people who I’ll definitely stay in contact with. I would thoroughly recommend applying to any of their experiences.
SEE YOU SOON CHANNEL 4 !!