Journo student: Thoughts and exploits

Is Twitter the saviour of online journalism?
April 5, 2009, 10:52 am
Filed under: journalism, journalism student | Tags: , , ,

A few weeks ago I blogged about my lack of understanding of the concept of Twitter. Since then I have become a fully fledged member of the tweeting revolution and am embarrassed to say that I now check Twitter with the same avidity in which I used to check Facebook. However, the thing is, I do feel like I’m taking a whole lot more from it than I’m actually giving.

 I’m ashamed to say that my use of Twitter is purely for selfish, journalistic reasons and that I get so much more from those I am following than any of my followers are getting from me. I have, in all honesty, only contributed four tweets to the global Twitter explosion, all of which have been either totally inconsequential or shamelessly self-promoting.

 On the plus side, I’m definitely starting to see the benefits of Twitter from a journalistic point of view. Twitter now makes it much easier to stay in the media loop, instead of having to trawl through various websites to get news, you just have to use one. So basically, it’s the antidote to being a lazy journalist- it does all the work for you. I follow Media Guardian, Press Gazette,, and various other fountains of insider knowledge.


Twitter icon for Fluid

Twitter icon for Fluid

The thing about Twitter is that it is so simple. A couple of weeks ago at City university we had a roundtable discussion in practices in online journalism. This featured heavyweight online aficionados such as Pete Clifton, head of editorial development for BBC multimedia and Jemima Kiss, Guardian reporter and blogger extraordinaire.

 They all saw Twitter as a potentially excellent journalistic tool. Jemima, who is an avid tweeter herself, made the point that it is the way that people use Twitter that makes it great, not the actual site:

 “We shouldn’t obsess about Twitter as a stand alone concept- it is the power behind how it is being used. The skill with twitter is learning how to use it and how to filter it. It is a tool of communication.”

 Workshops are now actually being established to help journalists get the best out of Twitter. Matthew Ingram, communities editor at the Toronto-based globe and Mail newspaper recently ran a workshop for his colleagues and blogged about his efforts:

 Of course, there are dangers with Twitter, as you would expect with anything that is seemingly so easy to use. You need to know how to determine what is rubbish and what is actually worth something. Learning how to filter the information is surely the key to using Twitter successfully.




As the end of my journalism course becomes slightly more visible, panic is definitely starting to grow. Whispers of “job” and “internship” can be heard floating around the department and that niggling little worry that there are actually no jobs to be had in the media is beginning to surface.


Anxious questioning of fellow students reveals that, in fact, we are all in the same crammed and nervy boat. Hardly anyone has anything lined up for when they finish and everyone is still pretty clueless about how to go about finding anything. Far from reassuring me that I am not alone, I am acutely aware that there will be 46 of us released into the job arena at the same time, vying for minimum wage internships and editorial assistant jobs at Total Karp. And that’s just on the City magazine course.


While we are reassured by tutors that jobs will indeed materialise, I am becoming more unnerved by the day. An event held by Women in Journalism last week in Islington made it clear that coming straight out of a postgraduate course and into a job is becoming more unlikely. Maureen Rice, editor of Psychologies magazine commented on how internships are fast becoming the only way to get into a paid job on a magazine.


This may be the case for many magazines but I wonder how much of a waste of time it is to do an internship that doesn’t lead straight into a job. I did some work experience at Easy Living magazine over Christmas and was working along side a six-month-er who was coming towards the end of her minimum-wage internship. She told me how she was struggling to live in London on minimum wage and was hoping that this internship would leave to a permanent position at the magazine and a pay increase.


While I was there she was called into a meeting and told that they would not be taking her on after her six months were up as the magazine had no positions available. She was suddenly completely jobless and I don’t think my interjections of, “at least it will look good on your C.V” did much to console her.


So, even if you manage to get into an internship, there is no guarantee that this will lead into a job. A friend of mine from my course has decided to turn this job-drought into an opportunity to go abroad for a few months and take some journalistic work in Shanghai. This is starting to sound enviable. Ruth Gledhill told us that if we ever wanted to go travelling for a year, this is certainly the year to do it. Either that or, as Maureen Rice said that many young journalists are doing, turn from journalism to PR. God, I think I know which one I’d prefer.



Do you need to be religious to be a religious reporter?

As part of my journalism course, I specialise in world faiths. At the beginning of the course I quickly began to realise that I knew nothing about religion and started to question my place on the specialism. I was studying to be a reporter of world faiths, training to convey important religious issues to those who knew far more about it than I did. I failed to see to how my coverage of or opinion on religion was worth anything. I mean, I have never been religious and grew up in a secular household.

Once into the course I began to realise that I was wrong and that you don’t actually have to be religious to be a religious reporter. World Faiths has turned out to be one of the highlights of my course. Religious site visits and interviews have actually taught me a lot about different religions and through these I have begun to develop my own opinions of them.

Last Friday, one of our tutors Ruth Gledhill, faith correspondent for The Times, gave us a crash course in becoming a religious reporter. She explained that objectivity is key when reporting on religion so not belonging to one doesn’t make you any less likely to report accurately. Ruth told us that being a good religious reporter is not about being religious; it’s about following certain rules like in any other area of journalism. It’s about doing the right research, not using a story to teach or preach and letting people label themselves.

Religion, in our community,is much more than believing, or not believing in something. People are all motivated by faith, in one way or another in their lives. The point is, religion provokes opinion and activity and activity provokes news.

“Journalism is power-must be”
March 5, 2009, 12:26 pm
Filed under: journalism, journalism student
Flickr image courtesy of Johnthurm

Flickr image courtesy of Johnthurm

This Monday, our Roy Greenslade lecture dealt with the hefty issue of political journalism. More specifically, the media domination of politics and how the British political system is little more than a cowering victim under the thumb of the callous British media who are ‘ravenous for conflict.’

Of course, these weren’t Greenslade’s views but those of John Lloyd- contributing editor at the FT and author of ‘What the Media Are Doing to Our Politics.’ Lloyd thinks that the media completely dominates politics and is only interested in power and conflict-finding it and making it. If this is the case, he thinks, then our freedom  is severely compromised. If this is the case, then Lloyd might just be right.

But, is the public mistrust of government due mainly to the spin of hungry journalists? Can it really be said that British journalism, as an institution is primarily concerned with the destruction of polititians for the sake of sales? And, as one person commented in the lecture, why are politicians becoming so enraged and upset if it is so easy to see through the media anyway?

There is no denying the competitive drive of the British media but the salient question is- what should journalism be? Lloyd wrote an article in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago saying: “Journalism is power-must be, if it is to hold other powers to account.” Holding powers to account should surely not the aim of the media. As Greenslade noted, informing about all kinds of powers should be the aim, so that the public can hold them to account. 

Whether this is true of the British media today is an entirely different question.

Who’s got the best trauma?
February 26, 2009, 5:08 pm
Filed under: journalism, journalism student | Tags: ,

We all knew that we were going to have to sell our souls at one time or other on the road to becoming a journalist-but we didn’t realise it would be quite so soon.

A few weeks into our second term we were coached on ‘sensitive interviewing’ techniques and were then told to interview someone who had been through the ‘best of times’ or the ‘worst of times’. Predictably the majority of us chose to find someone who had been through the ‘worst of times’ although some sunnier souls went for something a bit lighter.

Trawling through organisations and charities, looking for the victims of trauma, the bereaved and the emotionally scarred became commonplace in the City university journalism department that week. For some, it became an arduous task and eventually the inevitable desensitisation set in and calls of , “I think I’ve got an ovarian cancer-what have you got?” or “I’ll swap you an HIV for child bereavment” could be heard over the computer screens.

OK, so it wasn’t quite that bad but we are all becoming aware of just how ruthless we were going to have to be to get a good story. We were beginning to think of these unfortunate people in terms of who would give the most sensational interview.Sitting in a class and discussing ‘sensitive interviewing’ is one thing but actually interviewing a trauma victim is entirely another.

I found someone relatively easily-a great subject who was easy to interview and seemed to be entirely open to all lines of questioning.However, I think some of us found it hard and an altogether unpleasant experience. Some, on the other hand, discovered a new passion and talent for interviewing ‘real’ people.  

I found that all feelings of guilt and apprehension about motives slipped away as soon as the interview began-I became involved in the story and realised that I would be able to write a truthful account about an interesting individual.

After initial uncertainty, I found that sensitive interviewing and writing real life stories is OK. Actually, I enjoy it. Spending your time interviewing extraordinary people and having the chance to tell their story in a truthful way can be pretty rewarding-and hell, it pays well.

Interview with a nun

A group of cynical journalism students descended en masse upon the unsuspecting nuns of Tyburn Convent in Marble Arch. Actually, they were suspecting and pretty shrewd with it. They met our intrusive questions with dignity and rich tea fingers. The only way to meet intrusive questions I’ve come to realise.

Sister Mary Chanel was our kind interviewee who explained to us what it meant to be a benedictine comtemplative and how exactly she came to be one. Sister Mary seemed more inclined to talk about the general principles of being a contemplative,  but we later steered her around to discussing more personal issues.

The fundamental principle of the order is to become the ‘perfect Christian’- as was established by St Benedict, who is generally considered to be the founder of western monastisiam. The aim- union of the soul with God.

What seemed to be the most interesting part of the interview with Sister Mary was the description of all the things sacrificed to be there. Seemingly trivial things perhaps, like television, radio, internet. One visit a month from a family member, lasting only for an hour. No real contact with the outside world. Complete obedience.


The strangest thing of all was the absolute silence. Being one moment on a central London street, centre of touristy chaos and the next inside a contemplative convent was alarming.

Sister Mary just seemed to find our looks of apprehension amusing: “A little voice told me long ago that this is where i was supposed to be.”

Flickr image courtesy of Krissie P

Flickr image courtesy of Krissie P