Idea for Shorthand practice
April 12, 2012, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Journalism

It’s coming up to my first weekend manning the Bracknell and Wokingham news desk. I’m excited and nervous but it’s all about being thrown in at the deep end.

There’s loads of good stories in this week’s Bracknell Forest Standard out today and here’s one story that’s online written by moi.


I also came up with an idea for anyone practicing Shorthand.  Every day the Reading Post pops a 60 second news update on the site http://www.getreading.co.uk/ and I think these would be good for anyone wanting to get 100+wpm as you always run out of dictations.

For lower speeds, a friend of mine recommended I watch Newsround as they talk a bit slower for the kiddles.  It’s pretty handy.


Second deadline day done
April 11, 2012, 7:55 pm
Filed under: Journalism

Today was the second deadline day for the Bracknell Standard while I have worked there and it was a bit tougher getting the paper together having missed two days with the bank holiday weekend.

I am still loving my job but very very busy.

Here are pieces I wrote for last week’s paper that I haven’t already added to the blog.








I’ve got a job! My ten top tips for getting a job in journalism

When they say a lot can happen in a week, they ain’t lying!  The past week has been a whirlwind.

A week ago I went for a job interview in Reading and the next day I was delighted to find out I had got the job.  Four days  and 11 room viewings later I had found a great room with nice housemates, walking distance to work and today my deposit is paid and I’m all set to move in a week on Monday.

I’ve been given details of my job – trainee reporter on the Bracknell Forest Standard and patch – Crowthorne.  I can’t wait to get stuck in to my patch and build my contacts book.  There’s another trainee reporter starting the same week too and he’ll be working on the Wokingham Times.  Any stories send them our way.

Here are my top tips for getting a job:

1) Apply for every role and be prepared to move to get a foot on the ladder – if the job is far from home then point out you are willing to relocate on your CV or cover letter.

2) Make your cover letter sparkle and your CV clean without mistakes.  The editor or news editor will be sifting through potentially hundreds of applications so you want to make yours stand out.  This is the first chance for them to read your writing so make sure it is concise, engaging and without mistakes.  Get someone else to proof read it as a spell check doesn’t pick up the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ or whether you’ve used ‘your’ or ‘you’re’ correctly.  For a cover letter, read the job description and then use the cover letter to explain how you fulfil each of the requirements.

3) Get your 100wpm and have a full, clean driving licence.  For one job that got more than 100 applications recently, the first way they narrowed down CVs was to cut out anyone without 100wpm.  Also, I would say it is essential to have a driving licence as so many newspapers have relocated to out of town offices that you need to be able to use the pool cars.  If you have a car, even better but not essential.

4) Use your blog and Twitter regularly.  If you want to work on a local paper, they will be interested in what input you, as a young journalist, can give to the newspaper’s future, which is increasingly through digital and online content.  Being proficient with Twitter and other forms of social media shows that you can bring something to their paper.  Your blog is an extension of your CV and you can use it to collate all your published work in one place and showcase your writing.  If you show you have the discipline to regularly write a blog and keep it up-to-date then you show you have the capacity to work independently on copy for their paper.  When I went for my job interview in Reading, I had handed my portfolio in to be marked, but I directed them to my blog, which has all my published work and more.  I think this worked even more in my favour.

5) Fill your job seeking time with as much work experience as possible.  My opening line for my cover letter was: I finished my course on a Thursday in December, and on the Monday I was sitting at the news desk of my local paper with a pad full of story ideas.  The Reading Post people liked the fact I showed I was actively seeking experience from the word go.  I know it is sometimes disheartening to be uncertain of what happens next but trust me, I feel so ready for my first job after four work placements one after the other, since the course.  In fact, I am grateful to have worked on four very different papers already as it has built up my confidence and has thrown me in at the deep end.  (I feel I could walk up to anyone with the number of vox pops I have done in two and a half months!)

6) If you get a call for a job interview, remember this is the first time to demonstrate your amiable telephone manner (an essential journalism skill.)  Make sure you get all the details correctly as you would as a good journo and if it’s somewhere out of your area, ask them to post you copies of the paper to read and study before your interview.

7) Read the paper.  Although some employers may be aware that you might have picked their paper because that’s where there’s a job, make sure you read the paper.  They might ask you what you think of the paper and they will want you to have a grasp of the news that they cover.  This completely varies.  For example, when I did work experience on the Western Morning News, there is a big interest in farming stories and breweries are common.  Whereas somewhere like The Argus in Brighton has a very mixed demographic and would cover everything from the gay community to Brighton and Hove Albion, as a promising football team.  Remember though that the most important thing is stories that affect the most people, especially if it affects their back pocket (money).

8) Story ideas will come from reading the paper, but I would definitely prepare a list of story ideas to take to interview.  Think outside the box.  Facebook and Twitter are great sources of stories if you search through Tweets.  I also check the small ads in the paper and council websites as starting points.  I would also arrive early to the interview and look around the area for story ideas.  The best way to find stories is to be out and about in the area.  You might spot an ad on a community noticeboard or something might be right in front of you.  On work experience on the Surrey Mirror I saw piles of strewn donations outside charity shops and wrote a story on that, and on the way to my interview last week I saw a police car and ambulance attend to a motorbike crash, so I took the details of that with me to interview.

9) Lose your inhibition and showcase yourself.  Give a confident handshake, smile and be yourself.  If you don’t get it, maybe it’s just not the right job for you.

10) Come prepared with questions and be prepared to be tested on your media law on the spot and even sit a reporting test.

Good luck!

Ten top tips for journalism work experience
February 22, 2012, 8:25 pm
Filed under: Journalism | Tags: , , , , ,

I am doing work experience at The Argus in Brighton at the moment.  It’s my third work experience since my NCTJ finished in December and I am loving it.  I’m working on lots of my own stories and trying to find new leads all the time.  Shorthand has been invaluable to me when I’ve gone to court and when I’ve interviewed people.

Here’s my top tips for work experience on a local paper.

1) Go in there with at least three story ideas a day, minimum.  Otherwise you’ll be stuck re-writing press releases and hardly get anything for your portfolio.

2) Be creative with where you look for stories, think outside the box. Ask your friends.  Follow up every potential lead.  Utilise Facebook and Twitter to search for stories and ask questions.

3) Be confident.  You might feel like you’re in the way but you have to get through that and make yourself known.  If you have your own story ideas, ask the news editor or another reporter whether they think your ideas would make a good story.  Ask to sit in on conference.  Introduce yourself to everyone.  Remember their names.

4) If you don’t know ask.  Ask questions and listen to the answer so you don’t have to ask again.  Write it down so you don’t forget.

5) Take opportunities.  If another reporter is going to court, ask if you can go with them.  Listen out for news editors looking for someone to take a story and you may end up going to court on your own and getting a cracking piece for your portfolio.  Always answer the phone at every opportunity.  Smile when you talk and be confident and get the details right.

6) Get a copy of the style guide and use it before you ask silly questions.  If in doubt, look for an example in a recent copy of the paper.  For example: do they say Maureen Fisher, aged 50 or Maureen Fisher, 50, it’s quick and easy to find a story that will give you the answer.

7) It may sound obvious, but read the publication.  Get a feel for what stories they are doing at the moment and how you could develop those stories.  Even if the reporters are following something up, you can always ask the news editor if you can check your news nose is working by running past them what you think are the important follow ups.

8) Look at national press every day and think how a national figure or story can be localised.  The news team will be able to help you with advice on who to contact for local figures and statistics.

9) Ask for feedback.  Look at how your stories are tweaked and learn from it.  Write down everything you learn and take note of how they make any changes for house style.  If in doubt, ask for an explanation.

10) Smile, be polite and make tea.  It’s important to get your face known so make sure it’s for the right reasons.

Work experience at Radio 1’s Newsbeat
January 26, 2012, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Journalism | Tags: , , , ,

I was lucky enough to have a day at the BBC this week and it taught me a lot about the wonder that is broadcast journalism.  Although I have little experience on the broadcast side of things, the day was very helpful in thinking of interaction, audience and multimedia.

My day started at what seemed to be the crack of dawn, and it was the first time I have been out of the house, before a glimpse of daylight, in a long while.  I made my way to broadcasting house, taking time on the tube to digest as much of a free newspaper as humanly possible, with an eye full of sleepy dust and a tummy lacking breakfast.

I was pleased that I was early but my heart sank when I had arrived at the wrong BBC.  A panicked taxi journey dispelled the belief that London taxis are expensive, as it was £3 to find the right BBC, but then again she did just drive me round the block.

The working day at Newsbeat begins for most at just before 8am, although there are journalists and production staff who work all through the night.  When I arrived I met the editor and duty editor and had a look through all the nationals to come up with some story ideas relevant to a Radio 1 audience.

What I liked about the news process was that about 20 staff were all part of an ideas meeting first thing – this was the chance to determine what news stories would be used that day and in what order.  Everyone was asked to contribute and one tip I would say to anyone going on work experience is come with loads of ideas and don’t be afraid to voice them.  You have nothing to lose.

A good way to approach it is to ask the editor or news editor wherever you go, if they have a moment to have a look through your ideas, say that you are sure they probably have them already, but you want to test your news radar is working.

The great thing about this meeting is that the editor and duty editor provoked lively discussion, asking questions such as: “How is that relevant to a 19-year-old hairdresser down in Devon?” and “How can we make it relevant to her?”

Following the meeting, one of the reporters gave me a tour of the building.  As we went through to where Chris Moyles and the team were broadcasting live to millions of people Dan told me: “Be cool.  If you see any celebrities don’t stare.”

Of course, I pretended I was cool, but I was actually really excited.  The sound of radio 1 is pumped out all over the building, including the toilets, so to watch Chris Moyles live and animated was pretty exciting.  I shook hands with Dom and said hi to all the production people, still pretending to be cool, while my eyes darted about for a trace of Fearne Cotton.  Oh, and I was standing in the Live Lounge at this point, still trying to keep cool.  Breakfast is a key time for radio.

Then I saw JD from Scrubs but thankfully the lift doors were shutting so I just had to focus.  It was then straight into the entertainment meeting with Nesta, who you can hear everyday on Radio 1.  They decided who was going to go and meet up with certain celebrities and then got on with their stuff.

Everyone has their passport to hand at Newsbeat as the BBC covers such worldwide news that you have to be willing to drop everything and get on a train or plane.  I wouldn’t mind that at all.

The duty editor showed me the BBC system that allows all the different BBC programs to communicate and make sure they aren’t each sending a reporter to the same thing.  There’s a place where you can look at all the scripts for the radio and TV and future planning of features etc.

While I was talking to online and suggesting a couple of story ideas, Fearne Cotton came on air, with guest Dermot O’Leary.  At this point it was my time to go into the news studio with the news presenter and sit there while he spoke to Fearne and did the news.  It was just me and him in the news studio and I wore headphones.  As soon as his voice came through the headphones I suddenly recognised his voice and then got a bit giddy as I was sitting near so many switches and had a massive microphone the size of my head, in front of my face.

I then spent some time with planning.  The news reporters get to spend time on planning which is the dept that is a bit like the features desk of a newspaper or magazine.  They make sure there’s a feature for each news program and sometimes do a whole program on a topical subject.  For example the day before they did a massive feature on PIP implants as 150 listeners had texted in, voicing concerns.  It was really interesting and the planning editor was great and really helpful.  He used to work on NME and I have work experience coming up there (if I don’t get a job first) so a very useful contact to have.

It was then back in the studio with the 1Extra news team, speaking to Trevor Nelson.  The production staff plan in all the sounds and mix all the sound clips into the live broadcast and they make it look easy even though it’s very skilled and complicated.

I was there for a while and was shown how they have sound beds categorised as up, medium and serious, so they can fit in with the news story.

The great thing about Newsbeat is the network of the BBC can cross-network radio listeners, tv viewers and web visitors to BBC.co.uk and the newsbeat site to each other.  Then, there is interaction on Facebook, Twitter and text messages.  Broadcast journalism is fun.  And everyone at the BBC is unbelievably down-to-earth.

When I walked out the building, I wondered why all these paps were waiting for me, then I realised, after a dreamy split-second, that they were waiting for Fearne.  Silly me.

Later on the afternoon I was lucky enough to be showed around the BBC newsroom at the BBC TV centre by the planning editor from Newsbeat.  It’s unbelievably vast and really buzzy.  But again, I pretended I was laid back and cool.  I managed to ruin my cool facade by mentioning: “I’ve been here before – about 12 years ago, when I was gunged on Live and Kicking.”

On the train home I wondered if the phrase ‘Becky Barnes from the BBC’ would ever be a reality.

Work experience on a local weekly newspaper after a fast-track NCTJ journalism course

I’m about to finish my first work experience placement after my NCTJ course in Brighton.  I finished the course on the Thursday then on the Monday I was sitting at the news desk with my pad full of story ideas.

It was good to get stuck in so quickly and I have been very lucky to have worked with a small and friendly team, where the editor and all the staff make tea for the whole news desk.  (I expected that to be my job!)

I’ve done work experience before but it was completely different now that I understand media law and the structure of local government (well just about.)

I spent my first day in court and here’s the stories I scraped from the barrel that day….enjoy! (It was nice to sit at the press desk as opposed to the public gallery.)

P.S. In other news, I have got access to This Festival Feeling to fulfill my recent role as news editor so daily news stories have been going up for a few days and will continue to do so.

19/12/11 – Story 1:

A Parkinson’s sufferer who smashed into the back of a police officer’s car was fined £48 and given six penalty points for careless driving.

Anthony Patrick Lea, 49, of New Ruttington Lane, Canterbury pleaded guilty to the July 22 incident at Canterbury Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

Julie Farbace, prosecuting, said Mr Lea hit the vehicle when it was behind a bus stopping at a bus stop.

The emergency services were called but there were no serious injuries.

In a letter to the courts Mr Lea said: “I didn’t mean to have an accident.

“I apologise for my actions and to the officer who got injured.”

Mr Lea has since stopped driving on the advice of his doctor but has retained his licence.

19/12/11 – Story 2:

A man on licence for possessing thousands of pounds worth of drugs was ordered to pay £85 costs for two charges at Canterbury Magistrates’ Court on Monday, December 19.

Ahab Halim, 35, of Downderry Road, Bromley pleaded guilty to having 13.6g cannabis resin and 10.27g cannabis with intent to supply.

Julie Farbace, prosecuting, said Mr Halim was seen on a bicycle with no lights by two police officers in Herne Bay High Street at 11.30pm on March 17.

He beckoned to them and when they smelt cannabis, he admitted possession of the Class B drug worth £150 and said he had sold £40 of the drug that night.

Anton Walden, defending, said Mr Halim had “left his old life behind” and was reconciled with his partner and nine-year-old daughter.

The charges were made before he received his current sentence and since then he had taken on the role of house-husband.

Mr Halim received a 12 month conditional discharge with £85 costs as the magistrates recognised “a change in home circumstances and attempts to turn your life around.”

More to follow!

Brighton Journalist Works student wins award

A 22-year-old woman from Burgess Hill, who toured Europe and Japan as lead singer of a band before becoming a journalist, scooped a prestigious award last night.

Scarlett Wrench, who spent sixth form at Varndean College, won Student Journalist of the Year at the NCTJ Society of Editors’ conference.

She said: “I’m very flattered. I’ve brought my Grandma to the awards to thank her for paying for my journalism course.”

Scarlett recently completed her NCTJ certificate at Brighton Journalist Works and now works on Men’s Health Magazine.

She said: “I love it. It feels slightly surreal sometimes, to have landed this job at a time when finding work is so difficult for people my age.”

Scarlett was lead singer of band The Malchicks and featured in the Argus four years ago when her band released an album in the UK and America.

Although journalism isn’t the Hemingway and Hunter S Thompson that Scarlett imagined, she said: “I love it and I don’t even remotely regret going down this path.”

Scarlett was one of two members of the journalism society at school and recalls drafting press releases about Varndean College and sending them to the Argus.

Scarlett’s advice to aspiring journalists is: “Get out there and do it. Don’t just learn about it. Get some real-world experience.”