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.

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My time at the BBC

media

For any journalist, aspiring or qualified, the opportunity to work at one of the worlds most renowned and recognised broadcasters is simply one too good to be missed. For me ambitions and aspirations of seeing the ‘beeb’ in its full glory were fulfilled on a two-week work placement earlier this month. And what an exciting and thrilling two weeks they turned out to be.

There is something simply surreal about walking into a glass-fronted office tagged with the famous BBC logo from the outside throughout to the inside of the MediaCityUK building. The complex in Salford is superbly stunning. Visually, the array of BBC and other media buildings create a modern and fresh environment. On the inside, the offices are minor in comparison to the stunning panoramic views of Salford Quays. It truly is a wonderful working environment.

Having had experience in newspaper journalism, it was an opportunity to see how television news and journalism actually works. So often, as a viewer, we take for granted the end product of a news programme, forgetting the long hours that have gone into producing a regional programme. I approached with moderate expectations – journalism is an industry where deadlines must be met and where journalists often have their own job to do. However, I was surprised at how warm and engaging some of the staff, producers and journalists alike, were in talking about their roles and offering sound advice.

Much of the fortnight placement involved research, a key component in the journalism and media jigsaw. Working with the BBC’s Sunday Politics team, it was an eye-opener to understand how much research has to take place in order for a report or programme to look and sound professional. Doing research, to some, may sound boring, yet it doesn’t have to be. Selecting and compressing opinions, ideas, facts and figures really helps understand a particular story and in turn gives the average viewer a broad sense of the story they are interacting with.

My enjoyment of simply working in an office and doing something I am passionate about made what could be a tireless and repetitive role become alive. So you would understand my overwhelming joy of shadowing some of the journalists of leading regional news programme North West Tonight. My time spent with the reporters was invaluable. Never before could I ever guess it would take up to three hours to simply film and interview for a 1 minute 45 second piece. Visiting a man who had collected one thousand music albums, an urban artist in Manchester and the cast of Peter Pan certainly gave me flavour of the lighter side of journalism, whilst input, discussion and research into stories such as fracking and ‘troubled families’ emphasised the variation in this fascinating sector.

I did begin to learn and understand some interview techniques. Simply asking questions in everyday life is evidence of probing and journalistic skills. In the modern multimedia environment, I was both surprised and un-surprised at the changing roles that journalists have to play. Surprised, I was in awe that journalists, reporters and correspondents are simply more than the question asker and the person who speaks to the camera; their roles consist of editing their pieces, choosing library footage, adding music and writing scripts, something I presumed was conducted by another member of the team. The journalist of today also plays the role of the editor and, at times, the role of the camera person. When reflecting, it wasn’t really a surprise at all. The level of new media and technology must be used and so it makes sense for editing to be done all by one multimedia, cross-platform journalist.

Work experience at the BBC is notoriously hard to get and so I was very surprised to have received a phone call from the recruitment centre. The way to succeed on any journalism placement, not just at the BBC, is to show passion and interest in the sector you are working in. Ask questions about a journalists role, speak to the producer and ask about doing specific things, such as sitting in the gallery of a live news programme. Always ask for advice on how to make a good career out of the industry, but know when to take a back seat. Engage in ordinary conversation. It could be as trivial as something about the weather or as serious as a little bit of input into a production meeting. If you are assigned a piece of research, go above and beyond what you’ve been asked, and if there is a deadline to meet, then meet it.

I talk of asking about advice and what follows is the general consensus of advice I was given by a whole host of journalists and producers.

Work Experience. Possibly the most important factor. The more experience you have, the more shaped you are to the job and perhaps the more passionate you appear.

Qualifications. Previously not really essential, but today journalism postgraduate courses are highly recognised by a number of universities and courses by the NCTJ. Some undergraduate courses are good, but are perhaps a little too narrow.

Connections. Using social media and emails to connect with journalists, editors and producers. Sometimes having an email contact you can update can make all the difference.

Above all, to me, aspiration and passion is what is essential. Being persistent, determined and strong-minded is all essential not just for a career in journalism and the media, but for anything in any walk of life.