Jack hath returned

Two years ago was the last blog post I produced on this WordPress site. Now, I feel the time is about right to return. Why the long absence?

Coincidentally, my last blog post was about being an active student and how you could make the most out of distance learning; I am an Open University student and, contrary to wide belief, there are ways to get out and have some fun. In 2015, I set up the Open University Students Association Young Students group. The aim – a platform for OU students at the lower age of the spectrum. Around 25% of all Open University undergraduates are 18-25 years old. Add in to the equation that the OU has the largest number of students at one institution and you soon realise that’s a vast number of students. Many thousands, infact.

The focus of the group has been on making the OU more accessible for younger people and allowing students (those who may have previously not engaged with the university) to interact with the students association. Alongside, I created the blog site @YoungOUStudents which was another way to allow younger students to express their feelings and thoughts on the university experience through writing. I’ve not exactly been away from blogging.

I have, however, been practicing my presenting voice. I have been presenting on the OU Students radio programme (STUDIO) over the past 18 months or so. It’s a brilliant exercise and something that I am passionate about. Plus it is a laugh…not so much when things go wrong!

Two years later and my student life is drawing to its close; my final module concludes in June. Part of the reason for not blogging about my personal experiences and thoughts was simply time – it’s a fickle thing. You either have too much or too little of it. I had to focus on my studies and now I can return from the hiatus/wilderness/sinkhole to do something I love – writing and offering thoughts on one thing or another.

A lot has changed in the world in two years. Half of those faces who were ‘iconic’ – Corbett, Wogan, Rickman et al. have left us. The world has changed. In the UK, the land is led by women – May and Sturgeon. Though, heads seem to be clashing frequently. Cross the Atlantic and one finds a celebrity businessman at the helm of the “free world”. I use inverted commas since most times the media try to report on the “free world” they are accused of not doing so. It is an unusual and, at times, largely uncomfortable set up.

Television has changed too. Top Gear, possibly the most important programme in history, has undergone massive changes. It evolved in to The Grand Tour when Jeremy Clarkson and co left the BBC after THAT altercation. Back at the Beeb the rush to get the new Top Gear on screens,  the defensive mite was confident it didn’t need the self-diagnosed loudmouth. It was a poor show. Things have progressed but the BBC Top Gear is simply a car show now.

I have also read a book. The first in a couple of years (except university text books). It was written by Peter Sissons, a fellow proud Liverpudlian/Scouser. I liked his take on Liverpool of days gone-by and his first-hand accounts of reporting from war zones, and creating them in the newsrooms he has worked in.

An obsession (not a sadistic one) has developed too. I’m now a self-confessed gym-goer. Nearly 4 times a week. Though on beautiful spring days, I wonder why I am driving to a large, converted warehouse to run on a treadmill when the world and environment around me is so appealing. One of the psychological benefits of sport and fitness is how positive and fresh your mind feels after a workout. So much so that I do not feel guilty about an Indian or Chinese takeaway and thus I need to return to the gym to burn off the consumed calories. It’s a vicious circle.  Then again, without the gym, I wouldn’t be able to clamber in to the slim fit jeans I now occupy.

Feel free to follow my (not so) interesting thoughts on Twitter – @jackjevons_ – that’s another change. I’ll be updating this blog with my observations as and when they happen (or shortly after).

 

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Who is an OU active student?

Open University Student Association

Open University Student Association

Are you an active student? What do you think an active student does? In your mind who is an active student?

When I tell people, subtly, I am part of the Open University North West Regional Assembly Executive they look at me with confused and dazed expressions. ‘Oh right. What is that?’ they say.

Let me tell you, it’s a great title and it is a great role. There are so many ways you can get involved with student life, even though you are probably a million miles away from campus and fellow students. Well not entirely. In fact some of your fellow students could be right on your doorstep.

For me, I wanted a challenge. Take a role and stick at it. I have done so far. Plus why not make the most of the distance learning experience by going beyond studying. Effectively, the Regional Executive is a group of elected students that helps in running the region. Whether it be the North West or East Midlands, there are groups across the UK and the world.

It can be a little daunting at first, getting involved and not quite know what you are doing. Getting your feet under the table is step number one. Step number two is knowing what to do. Maybe I haven’t quite mastered the latter just yet.

In the few months I’ve been in the role, I’ve held an online meeting, welcomed students to a face-to-face meeting, set up the @OUstudentsNW Twitter feed and things seem to be taking some sort of shape. There are lots of exciting things ahead – consultative meetings where the student voice is heard; training sessions; and some more social events and discussions.

How can you get involved?

You can do anything to become an active student. Writing for the OU magazine, coming along to a meeting or posting in the forums, engaging on Twitter, helping out at graduation ceremonies or even volunteering to help other students.

There are societies and groups at http://www.open.ac.uk/ousa which you can join. If none take your fancy then why not set one up yourself. You never know, it may just catch on.

Your ideas

To me, the student voice is very important. I enjoy reading comments on the forums about ideas and suggestions for the region. Better still it’s great to interact with some of the OU’s newer students and show how anyone can get involved.

If you have any ideas about events, groups or ways to raise money for charity then feel free to contact me or the OU Students Association.

Interact online

You may not want to meet face-to-face or you may simply not have the time. Head over to the online forums at http://www.open.ac.uk/ousa and you can chat with students from your area, take part in lively debates, or even just say hello in the Welcome thread.

On Facebook, there is a great presence as well.  http://www.facebook.com/OUstudents is the place where you can interact with the student association. A simple Facebook search can reveal lots of groups set up by fellow students where you can chat  in a less formal set-up. You may just find groups for your local area, some online clubs or people from your own age group.

Head over to Twitter where you can simply be overwhelmed by the thousands of students who have an online account. @OUstudents is the one to follow if you want all things from the OU Student Association. There you may also find others interacting and following. Why not give them a follow and build the student community.

You’ll also find dedicated accounts to certain subjects such as the arts faculty and the sports department. The Open University Student association in your region also have accounts. @OUstudentsNW, for example, is OUSA in the North West.

What next?

For you – why not visit http://www.open.ac.uk/ousa for all information on getting involved or simply say hello in the online forums. You can also follow the Twitter accounts and Facebook to join the growing OU community.

For me – I’ve got a newsletter to plan, students to listen to and ideas to gather.

If you have any ideas or thoughts please contact me.

Twitter: @JackJevo

Student Email: jack.jevons@my.open.ac.uk

A week at the Liverpool Echo

liv echo
As one of Britain’s most popular regional titles, the Liverpool Echo is far from simply a local newspaper. It is an institution and is regarded highly amongst Merseyside culture. Last week I had the grandest of pleasures by spending a week in their newsroom.

I am no stranger to the newsroom. I had spent two weeks at the newspaper a few years back and so I was fascinated to find out if anything had changed.

In short, not a lot of changes. Reporters come and go, the office carpets are still the same colour and there is a distinct lack of natural daylight in the newsroom. Nevertheless, I set about a weeks work placement. Here’s my account.

MONDAY

I was apprehensive. Near enough every time I head on a placement I run questions through my head about certain eventualities. What if this happens? What if? Soon, these questions simply vanished as I made my way to meet with Chris Walker, Trinity Mirror North West Managing Editor, knowing that as quick as the week starts it will be over.

The first day was consistent of the great health and safety story. But soon I was sat amongst ringing phones, tapping keyboards and slurping coffees.

Much of the day was simply spent writing press releases in to short pieces that could be printed out. I knew from previous experience that it would be good to create my own stories and put them forward to the editorial team. So I did.

TUESDAY

Before leaving the office the day before, I suggested to the editorial team that I could write an article about The Open University and perhaps a short panel about my experiences. They were happy to oblige.

As morning came and soon disappeared, I was glued to sending emails to The Open University press office regarding the number of 17-25 year olds taking choosing an OU course over a traditional university. I checked facts, took quotations and prepared an interesting story that I had created.

WEDNESDAY

Midweek had arrived. The final pieces were put together for my Open University articles and send to a queuing order where their publishing date would be determined.

I followed up two different leads on this day. One about Miss Teen Great Britain and another about noisy engineering works close to a local railway station. It was a case of ringing and emailing for more information so I could at least write a few hundred words.

A few press releases later and few chats with reporters in the office and I was off home again.

My piece on The Open University was published on Monday 5th May.

My piece on The Open University was published on Monday 5th May.


THURSDAY

Nearly the end of the week. A week where I had to beg members of staff to swipe me through various gates and barriers to reach the ECHO newsroom.

I had some responses to the emails I had sent the previous day. The morning was spent detailing and preparing a story about noisy workers on a local railway line.

Quotes from the man who had contacted the newspaper included how “residents were up in arms”. After a discussion with the editorial team, it was deemed there wasn’t any real need to head down and get photos of the angry residents and so I put in a call to Network Rail for a response.

They were happy to help and so another story was added to the queuing batch.

The PM was spent writing some more shorter articles. One about a scarecrow competition in a local village I had spotted on Facebook and the others from the Liverpool City Council website about young people’s bus fares.

As Thursday drew to a close, tomorrow would be the final day. And it would provide real excitement.

FRIDAY

I had spent a few minutes reading through various articles on the Jeremy Clarkson racism row which had erupted the night before. The presenter had issued an apology but many were calling for him to be sacked.

Amongst those who had commented on the case was Liverpool Walton MP, Steve Rotheram. Initially I thought that it would be a pointless exercise telling the editorial team about his comments. Surely they would have followed this up already.

They hadn’t. There were some confused faces. Questions were asked about what he had said. Soon, “Rotheram has called for Clarkson to be sacked” was ringing around the editorial desk.

I was given the assignment of speaking to the MP, gaining some reaction exclusive to the ECHO and filing a report in a quick turnaround.

The buzz was fantastic. I had found a real newsworthy story which the editors wanted. Soon I was on the phone to Steve Rotheram. I simply said I was from the Liverpool Echo, although now he may know I was simply a twenty year old work experience student.

Within minutes, I had quotes of “gross misconduct” and that the BBC should be taking the allegations “very seriously”.

I sourced the information on the case from what I had read about earlier and from the video I had watched the night before.

500 words later and the report was online. BY JACK JEVONS read the tag and I was immensely proud.

Returning after lunch, I made time to thank the editorial team for their time, patience and efforts over the duration of the week. I was told my articles would be printed in the Liverpool Echo over the bank holiday weekend.

Clarkson makes the headlines.

Clarkson makes the headlines.

A short article and a chat with a senior journalist later and I was off. Heading home after a week experiencing the true lights of a multi-media newsroom.

The pace can change quite rapidly and so I knew I would be in for a few quiet periods. However, the excitement and buzz of preparing and writing a major news story which I had found was the greatest highlight of my week.