Tag Archives: journalism

What do you mean ‘no wine for me thank you’ ???

I wonder if there comes a time in every journalist’s career when they are hit by the crashing realisation that they’re about to vomit on an interviewee’s head.

Perhaps it comes to them the morning after a particularly heavy night of alcohol-fuelled lamentation that they didn’t become a doctor or a plumber or professional dog walker. Perhaps it’s after a spot of dodgy egg mayo at another barely relevant event minuted in hastily scrawled notes that they will only realise, some weeks later, are in a shorthand with logic unique to the ‘of course I’ll know what I mean’ moment. Or perhaps, like me, they will have recently discovered themselves inexplicably with child in the wrong place and at the wrong time.*

It was February 10th. I had woken up at the crack of a sparrow’s fart to drive from Guildford to Coventry via my broken-legged-editor’s house (she happily oblivious, at that point, to the hormones scrambling my brain into a squashy mess of questionable driving ability). The night previously I had returned home from a week-long skiing holiday, which had mainly consisted of me channelling my lower limbs into the most controlled parallels turns in the history of conscientious skiing, my mind torn between inanely repeating the chorus of Homer Simpson’s Baby on Board and sending subconscious fuck-off vibes to all beginner skiers and boarders within a 10 feet radius. Bean-sized baby intact, my sister and I had returned to the UK, freshly grey with what was to be the first of many sneezes of snow, and here I was, for the second time, covering the industry’s biggest trade show of the year. I had been pregnant for just under nine weeks.

For the most part, I hadn’t been feeling too bad. Sure, there had been a wobbly moment on a train a few weeks earlier when I very nearly did faint on some hapless commuter’s shoes, but otherwise it was mainly an ever-present lurk of nausea. A bit like the sound of cheerful relatives on a hungover Christmas morning, or the pink stuff you keep spitting out whenever you brush your teeth. More irritating than inconvenient, really, particularly as munching on plain cream crackers seemed to knock it on the head quite nicely. But I was beginning to realise, that day in Coventry, that sitting at one’s desk nibbling a cracker whilst surreptitiously congratulating oneself at being the master of deception among one’s unaware colleagues was not quite the same as wincing about on decent-work-shoe heels, trying to keep up a coherent conversation about the state of the garden market while the swimming white noise surged ever closer round the corners of one’s ears.

Luckily, I didn’t actually vomit on anyone’s head. I wrapped up the interview pretty quickly, hoping my face wasn’t going quite so milky on the outside as it was on the inside, and made my way back to our exhibition stand. A few crisps and a chug of orange juice later and I was ready for round two.

I hadn’t really thought at any point in the lead up to the show that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I was nine weeks pregnant, for goodness’ sake, not 39! But I did have my concerns that my colleagues might realise that something was going on when I didn’t accept my usual bucket of wine as soon as the earliest decent drinking opportunity rolled around. That evening, as we regrouped in the Premier Inn bar, and I opted for orange juice for the second round of drinks in a row, my editor raised her eyebrows at me and asked if I was on some sort of detox health kick. “Just trying to cut back,” I mumbled in reply.

“Yeah, either that or you’re pregnant!”

Well, it was nice being a master of deception for those nine short weeks.**

 

 

*I don’t mean to imply this pregnancy was unwanted – spectacularly unplanned and ill-timed in terms of life/career plans, yes, but never for one second unwanted.

**Technically only three if you don’t count the first six when I too, was counted among the happily oblivious and therefore perfectly eligible to drink half a bottle of wine while blearily deciding that Tyrion the Imp from Game of Thrones was quite hot actually.

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Hey world, why all the tradge?

“Adele wrote 21 when she was in the depths of break-up despair and a little bit fat. She’s now happy, in love and getting fit… Her next album won’t be half as good.”

If I’ve overheard it once, I’ve overheard it a million times. And not just about Adele and the beautifully melancholic whine-fest which I can only listen to if I reeeeeeeeally want to that is 21. I don’t remember a time I didn’t know because it was constantly drummed into me that tragedy is easier to write than comedy. Is it because the world is sick with cynicism? I learned at the age of 15 in a very poorly-executed GCSE Speaking and Listening presentation that you can’t, for love, money, or the desperate pitch of an eraser at an over-achiever’s head, MAKE an audience laugh. So why is it so easy to make them cry? Or, should I be asking, why is it so easy to make them want to cry?

As a journalist I have always found the most popular stories – whether that’s measured by website hits, comment, or even ye olde letters to the editor – are negative. Always. And I don’t have to link to a pyscho-babble article in the Guardian to say why: People love tragedy because it makes them feel better about their own lives. It’s why EastEnders is still going after nearly 30 years, it’s why the glossies and the red tops are always searching for that one in 10 billion shot which’ll make Cheryl Cole look fat and why that story probably got more hits than any government budget updates over the past 5 years combined. And it’s probably the reason why Someone Like You, in all its wailing glory, was the best-selling UK single of 2011.

Today I found out that my last post, that heartfelt, yowling whine from one of the most teeth-pullingly frustrating times of my life was one of the deciding factors in my current employers offering me a job. A job which I love and which has given me everything I so wanted for so long. There’s a lot to be said for tragedy.


Fuel Prices in Wales

A news package I put together a few months ago…


South Devon: The Hyperlocal Blackspot?

Or so it would seem… Following this week’s lecture on the rise of hyperlocal blogging as a low-cost, far-reaching mode of online journalism, I did a search for South Devon hyperlocal blogs on Google.

Most of the maps detailing the whereabouts of hyperlocal sites show a significant blank spot around the South Hams area of Devon, where I used to work as a local reporter. Even Northcliffe, the producers of the bigger local and regional newspapers in the area, with their 23 local sites launched last year, had a significant gap in their site map.

Here is the South Hams:


Clearly plenty happens here, and I’m not just saying that as a former reporter for the area.  Local papers have crumbled elsewhere while South Hams Newspapers is still going strong… So why has the 21st century still not quite reached the area in terms of futuristic journalism?

Maybe it’s because the average reader profile of the local paper does not match the profile of a person who would look for their news on a hyperlocal website.  Maybe it’s because not enough people in the area are ‘media-savvy’ enough to know what hyperlocal journalism could offer… 

The appetite for local news has not changed.  What has changed is the nationwide appetite for local newspapers.  Surely this means, then, that it is just a matter of time before places like the South Hams, or from the looks of things, the majority of Ireland, begin to spring hyperlocal sites.  A huge benefit is that it brings the whole community together into one place, from which they can spray off into whatever they care about the most.  As I’ve said previously on this blog, a huge part of local journalism is feedback from your consumer – hyperlocal sites have the potential to merge consumer with journalist, community with stories, reading with commentary.  It raises the bar without reducing the emphasis on the beauty of local news’ relevance to the average person.

As for the South Hams… Well, no doubt we’ll get there in the end.


Social Media: Power to the Pimpled

Whether he was serious or not, Andrew Marr’s scathing description of citizen journalism certainly threw an interesting shade on the subject-of-the-week at Cardiff Journalism School. 

After the fast-paced discussion of the role of Social Media by Claire Wardle of the BBC’s College of Journalism, something which stuck with me was her reference to Jay Rosen’s article about The People Formerly known as the Audience and their changing role from reactors to interactors.  It got me wondering, if readers are to users as magazines are to tablets, what are journalists to? 

When I wored at my local paper, my editor used to quote Mark Twain, saying that the mark of a good news story was one which someone, somewhere did not want published.  As an inexperienced local reporter, I came across many such people of a publication-day morning. 

Once, when I had been in the job a matter of weeks, I wrote a very small article saying there had been rumours that the local Post Office was going to close.  I had been unable to get confirmation from the press office or representatives at the local branch, but my editor said that rumours themselves were justifiable news, so we went with that.  Come Friday morning, I received a visit from the local postmistress who explained in no uncertain terms just how mistaken we had been, and that I was a disgrace to journalism in general and the elderly Post Office users in particular.  I think she would have given me a journalism-ASBO if she could. 

Needless to say, we printed a clarification/apology the following week, I realised that being the local reporter meant taking verbal punches with the glory no matter who was ultimately responsible, and began to walk the extra mile whenever I needed to post a parcel. 

So is it terrifying to face the prospect that the people ‘formerly known as the audience’ will soon be brought that significant step closer to the journalists themselves?  No.  Not really.  Because another point I picked up from Claire’s words, as well as those of the many respected journalists who spoke at Friday’s Tomorrow’s Journalism Conference, was that quality journalism stood to be enhanced by the future, not damaged. 

I agree with this.  I think that there is a level of security facilitated by distance from the consumer which the weekly newspaper journalist/ columnist/ TV and radio reporter has when delivering a story in a controversial way.  Users who can comment directly and immediately on journalism provide a challenge to the journalist to step up their game.  There is no room for error or complacency anymore, the bar has been raised, and that is why it is so exciting to be training right now.  Because in some ways we are training to be multi-tasking journalists of the juggling-small-children-while-riding-a-camel-on-roller-skates calibre.  

Having said that, try not to aggravate the local postal workers.  The buzz is no match for the looming realisation that you’ve run out of stamps.


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