A Thousand Words: Persistence and an attention to detail

It’s been a fun week of journalism this week, as I went to the for work experience whilst also receiving some exciting news about an application I submitted last month. Both situations reminded me of the two skills mentioned in the title of this blog post – skills that are essential for a career in journalism.

Thank you to the team at the i for a great week of work experience. Here’s yesterday’s issue of the paper, which featured a couple of pieces from yours truly.

One thing I have always admired about the is its focus on concise, to-the-point news stories. Page two of their paper sees a ‘matrix’ of short, 50-word articles summarising news from a variety of different areas – be it foreign affairs, politics or something else.

The short pieces, known as nibs or ‘news in briefs’ present a fun challenge to the typical journalist. With the right story, reporters have quotes, statistics (of sorts), backstory and facts to hand, which they then need to squeeze into such a tight word count. It’s a case of prioritisation and they have to ask themselves: what is the most important information which needs to be included?

It was a craft I was able to hone throughout my week at the i. Alongside an exciting visit to the Saatchi Gallery to help out a press photographer, writing some business nibs and writing a short piece for the arts section, most of my week was spent assisting the Foreign Editor with articles. Every day I had the opportunity to write up about five or six stories to go in the aforementioned ‘matrix’. Some could quite easily be summarised in such a limit, but others proved more of a challenge. Nevertheless, it helped build upon my love of the news form and my attention to detail. It was great to get some editorial insight into the style of the i too.

Then there’s persistence – that came during one particular lunch break. After spotting a message from Sky’s Early Careers department in my voicemail, I was quick to return the call when I had a minute spare. It was about my application for a placement at Sky News under their Diversity Scheme, and it was third time lucky. I had been offered a place!

I fell in love with Sky HQ – based in Osterley – last year, when I was offered two weeks’ work experience at the firm’s Product and Brand PR team. A vibrant atmosphere complete with a just as positive work ethic meant I had to get a placement at Sky News, and return to Sky Central once more. Now, that day has come. Well, in November, to be exact.

I can’t wait. Bring it on!

Thoughts on Future News Worldwide 2017

There’s something extremely humbling about Scotland: a sense of community, of collaboration, and of life just getting on.

Group photo of delegates from Future News Worldwide.
The 100 delegates from over 40 countries who were selected to be a part of Future News Worldwide 2017. Photo: British Council

I was in Edinburgh this weekend for Future News Worldwide 2017 – an international conference where 100 student journalists from across the world gathered in the Scottish Parliament to talk all things news with media professionals. After visiting Glasgow in May, it was great to be back on Scottish soil so soon.

The adventure began on Wednesday. After landing arriving at Edinburgh Airport, I was quick to jump on a bus – along with fellow delegate, Veronika – straight to our accommodation for the week: Brae House.

The room was by no means unfamiliar to me. As a student accommodation block (run by a company which used to be the landlord for my flat in Lincoln) it was a pleasant environment to call home for the next 5 days.

Scottish Parliament
One of my favourite photos from my time in Edinburgh. The Scottish Parliament hosted us for our conference this week.

Bags were unpacked, then it wasn’t long before we all made the short walk towards the Scottish Parliament for drinks and networking. Nestled under the shadow of King Arthur’s Seat, the very post-modern building was such an amazing venue for the conference. Also, as a devout political nerd, stepping foot in the place responsible for Scottish democracy left me buzzing throughout the event. It’s needless to say that I was quick to take up the offer of a free tour when that became available on Friday…

A quick change of clothes and I had another opportunity to get to know some of the other 100 delegates (chosen out of over 2,000 applicants) that won the competition. It was a night filled with drinks, good music, and good company.

Then came the two days of the conference, which were so jam-packed full of insightful talks that this post would become an essay if I mentioned them all in detail. Journalists from The Sunday Times, The Economist and BBC World Service were just some of the people to speak to us – highlights included an interview session with an award-winning BBC documentary maker, a data report from the Reuters Institute and workshops with Google and Facebook.

The conference ended with plenty of new business cards, two new tote bags (which I just managed to squeeze into my suitcase), plenty of new friendships and some opportunities to pursue in the future.

After two days of receiving a lot of information from media professionals, a day of tourism yesterday offered some respite. It started with a walking tour of the city, stopping off on The Royal Mile, Parliament House, and a graveyard which inspired famous Harry Potter characters. I spent the whole of yesterday and Friday with Neil, a good friend of mine who I rarely get to see because of long distance.

Sadly, I couldn’t make it out for one last party with everyone, but I still had time for some celebrations on the Friday night. I also had time to explore King Arthur’s Seat, which boasted incredible views.


As I get ready to board my flight from Edinburgh Airport, my mind flashes back to what was said during one of the opening speeches at the start of the conference about the aim of Future News Worldwide. Whilst the actual speech itself has slipped my mind, I believe the event was all about collaboration, breaking down barriers, and campaigning for change through the world of journalism.

The past two days were the start of some wonderful new friendships around the world. Looking ahead, now is the time for me to learn more about their countries, educate myself, and collaborate with others who are also passionate about reporting.

As the British Council said on Twitter: “The future of journalism is in good hands.”

At the centre of the action: thoughts on covering the general election

Journalists can have two results to the news of an election. For most of us (excluding those in Scotland) the news of a third vote in the space of three years can stir up fatigue as a voter. However, it’s the reporter within us that gets excited, knowing that UK politics is about to change once more, and we’re at the heart of the action.

My set-up for the evening, as I reported on the count in Mid Bedfordshire.

Annoyingly, with the EU referendum taking place on the week of Glastonbury, I was unable to cover it. So, naturally, when the surprise general election was announced, I was quick to ask the local media if I could help out.

This led to me working with the Broadcast Journalism Council and Radio LaB in Bedfordshire on their programme, The Vote. I was sent off to the Mid Bedfordshire count – an ultra-safe seat for the Conservatives and their candidate Nadine Dorries.

The night started with me heading into the offices of Central Bedfordshire Council, worried that a mere student reporter would be turned away by the security guard or the receptionist. Thankfully, I was quickly handed my visitors’ pass and escorted to the press room.

There’s always a sense of community that comes with hanging out with other reporters in a press room. A feeling of mutual stress (in that we are all rushing to meet deadlines) and excitement fills the air as I get settled down – laptop powered up, shorthand notebook open and mobile phone fully charged.

It was 20 minutes later that I had my first ‘two-way’ (a radio term for having a back-and-forth discussion between a reporter and presenter). I painted the scene of the constituency and gave details of some of the candidates, before it was back to work.

It wasn’t long before the Liberal Democrat candidate came in to say hello, and I had my first interview of the night. Due to the rules in place around the count, reporters weren’t able to go into the marquee where staff were counting the votes, and so a member of staff had to go in and track down candidates on our behalf.

Once the first interview was out of the way, then things started to pick up. I had to edit the recording to get a solid 30-second clip, whilst also grabbing a quick snack (a sweet chicken sandwich which sadly, wasn’t too pleasant), composing tweets for Twitter and doing the occasional two-way. Much like in a normal newsroom scenario, work was starting to pile up, and the night started to pick up pace.

The Labour candidate was next to come into the press room for interviews, and it was whilst transcribing the recording that the news came through: the result was due to be announced shortly.

Plenty of Skype calls and phone calls were made to the studio as I sprinted into the marquee. A particular highlight at this point of the night was the fact that I posted news of the result ahead of the BBC – get in!

After that, I was able to speak to two more candidates and do a final two-way before packing up for the night. On the whole, regardless of the party allegiance, everyone was up for a chat – even when a serious election was taking place.

I was in a position which was new to me. My Friday Article posts on this blog are pretty reactive to political events, and save for my work experience at the press office of the Department for Work and Pensions, everything else has seen me respond to politics, as opposed to experiencing it first hand.

Being at the centre of politics during a general election is intense, fast-paced and exciting. Given the current state of affairs and the possibility of a second election, I can’t wait to return to heart of the action again in the near future.

If you fancy a look at what I got up to on the night, you can see my tweets on my Twitter profile, and listen to interviews with some of the candidates on my Facebook page.

Nearly 28,000 incidents of fare-dodging took place on the Underground last year, new data reveals | The Friday Article

Over 27,900 cases of fare evasion took place on the London Underground last year, a Freedom of Information request has found.

Photo: tseyin on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode.

The figure is higher compared to last year, where 27,413 occurrences took place.

The number has been increasing year-on-year except for 2012 – when it fell by over 2,500 to 13,825 cases. It then rose by nearly 8,000 to 21,810 the next year.

The statistics combine two different ways in which fare evasion is reported. Penalty Fare Notices are when people are charged for their first offence (such as failing to touch in their Oyster card), whilst Irregularity Reports are when individuals are considered for prosecution for repeat offences or other issues such as using a forged ticket.

Steve Burton, Transport for London’s Director of Enforcement and On-Street Operations, said: “The overwhelming majority of our customers pay the correct fare, however there is a minority who do attempt to travel without a valid ticket.

“We take fare evasion of any kind extremely seriously and we have reduced fare evasion on our rail and bus networks to around two per cent of all journeys, which is low compared to other transport authorities around the world.

“We widely communicate the consequences of being caught without a valid ticket and anyone failing to pay a Penalty Fare Notice is referred to a debt recovery agency.

“We are also working towards measures that will improve our ability to pursue those who don’t pay,” he said.

The data also revealed that from 2010 to 2014, over £2.6 million was collected in court costs for successful prosecutions for fare evasion for the underground. These costs are one of many sources of income used by the Transport for London (TfL), with money also coming from penalty fares and maximum fares income.

For the past two years, the most fare evasion offences took place on the Jubilee line, with the highest number of incidents before that (between 2010 and 2014) taking place on the Victoria line.

The request also discovered that there are currently 13 underground stations with one or more gate-free entrances. These include:

  • Chalfont & Latimer
  • Chorleywood
  • Finchley Central
  • Kensington Olympia
  • Mill Hill East
  • Pinner
  • Roding Valley
  • South Kenton
  • South Woodford
  • Woodside Park

The other three stations have ungated entrances temporarily. Euston Square will have a new gateline layout this year, whilst Crossrail enabling works at Moorgate has caused there to be gate-free access at the station. Bromley by Bow currently has no gates at present due to improvement works being made.

Despite not having a gate line, these stations do use card readers at entrances and exits for passengers to tap in and out.

More information about the penalties and enforcement procedures for fare evasion can be found on the Transport for London’s website.

Where I stand on sport…

It’s a typical ice-breaker question I don’t like to be asked: which football team do you support?

SINCIL BANK
Lincoln City Football Club made history in their match against Burnley this weekend. Photo: blogdroed on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode.

England is the easy answer – everyone unites over patriotism. It’s when you’re forced to name a local team that I struggle, because sport doesn’t interest me.

Well, that is when it’s a sports story. When a football team transcends the back page of a newspaper and becomes a news story, that’s when I pay attention.

This shift from sports to news happened yesterday, when Lincoln City won against Burnley and became the first non-league club to get to the FA Cup quarter-finals since 1914.

As a second year journalism student at the University of Lincoln, there’s that ‘second home’ feeling which really makes me proud to be studying in the city at a time when history was made. Talk of an ordinary match would probably remain with football fans, but greater success often leads to the whole community getting behind them, regardless of how much they like football.

So whilst I’m not the biggest sports fan, I have reported on football news whilst in Lincoln and as with any skill, it’s something I’ll look to improve upon when opportunities arise. But for now, it’s worth saying a big congratulations to Danny Cowley and the players at Lincoln City Football Club. Up the Imps!

Teaching children BSL can end the poor deaf awareness in our society | The Friday Article

British Sign Language (BSL) holds the key to breaking down the misconceptions, mystery and mockery which surrounds the deaf community in the UK today. It is the gatekeeper for Deaf culture. Once a hearing person is able to learn BSL, they can access new resources and meet new people who can share stories with them, telling the individual the truths about being a deaf person. Anyone should learn the language, but it’s particularly important that children learn BSL at school.

 

Photo: Jen Collins on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/#.
Photo: Jen Collins on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/#.

Yesterday, the government responded to a petition with 10,665 signatures, entitled ‘Make British Sign Language part of the curriculum’. Jade Armstrong, who created the petition, said: “It’s compulsory for students in England to take a language to 14 but signing isn’t listed along with French, Germany or Mandarin. With one in 60 brits [sic] profoundly deaf and 11m others with hearing problems, this is a glaring omission is it not?”

The Department for Education replied: “BSL was recognised as a language in its own right by the UK government in 2003. Whilst it is not a mandatory part of the curriculum, schools are free to teach it if they choose to do so.

“The teaching of a foreign language is statutory at key stages 2 and 3 for pupils in maintained schools.

“The government accepts that British Sign Language (BSL) can be a beneficial subject that schools might choose to teach in addition to foreign languages. However, the national curriculum programmes of study for languages contain a number of requirements that could not be met through BSL; for example at key stage 2 the requirement to describe people, places, things and actions in writing. A maintained school would therefore be unable to meet the curriculum requirement solely by teaching BSL.”

This is understandable. Of course, a foreign language is important in an increasingly global world. Yet, it’s also worth learning a language which belongs to a huge UK community and subculture, that 24, 326 people aged three or over use – according to an estimate by the charity Action on Hearing Loss.

At the moment, the main provider of British Sign Language courses is Signature. However, with courses costing hundreds of pounds, it’s a price young people simply cannot afford. For children and young people, the only option is through school. Thankfully, at the moment, the organisation is trialling a GCSE in British Sign Language across six secondary schools and this could be an option for children in the future.

Support needs to be given to this programme, and to schools who want to teach British Sign Language alongside Modern Foreign Languages. Whilst the debate about whether children can learn languages easier than adults continues, teaching children about deafness and British Sign Language will lead to a future generation free of prejudices and misconceptions regarding the disability. Communication between the deaf and hearing worlds will improve and will lead to a more integrated world.

Whilst British Sign Language may not be made a compulsory part of the curriculum just yet, the government should encourage and support all schools to teach BSL as a secondary language.

It’s time to create new avenues which can get rid of the poor deaf awareness which is rooted in our society.

Liam

Apple’s iOS 10 goes back to basics, but lacks a monumental change | The Friday Article

It may just be down to me being a fan of milestones, but Apple’s iOS 10 – revealed at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) – is a little underwhelming. For the tenth upgrade to iPhone devices, I expected substantial upgrades, as opposed to tweaking individual apps. The big change in design happened with iOS 8, meaning there wasn’t anything too exciting for Apple to boast about this time, in terms of the user interface.

iOS 10
The full, public release of iOS 10 is expected in the Autumn. Photo: iphonedigital on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode.

Instead, iOS 10’s most exciting upgrade is the changes to Messages – suggesting that this update to the iPhone’s operating system is one which focusses on the main functions of a phone: calls and texts. Of course, Apple revealed changes to Apple Music, Siri and Notes, but it’s these changes to messaging which has defined this year’s new operating system, and dominated reports on tech websites.

Aside from the new plans for iMessage, I like to think that iOS 10 offers something exciting for the deaf community. The new upgrade will see voicemail messages being transcribed and read, rather than being listened to. It can certainly help those who struggle to hear phone calls on the phone, and may provide an alternative for profoundly deaf people as well.

Emojis for iPhone was one of the main steps for Apple in terms of making messaging more personal. Text messaging has always been problematic when it comes to communicating emotions or tone of voice. Sarcasm is usually implied through italics, but whilst the option to italicise text is available on Notes, it’s yet to make the move to iMessage.

Facial expressions were communicated with emojis, and now bubble effects will help communicate excitement and sympathy. On top of that, hand-drawn messages also add personality to texts. Now, it’s about more than just the message.

It’s also worth adding that there are some changes I hope to see in iOS 10. As a Mac owner as well as an iPhone user, I’m a bit confused with the Calendar app. Whilst on the MacBook, users can set custom appointment times such as 10:21, events in the iPhone app can only be set at five-minute intervals. It would be great if there was some continuity on that front.

Apple’s tenth upgrade to the operating system is one which centres on a key function of any phone – messaging – but lacks something substantial to define such a milestone.

Liam