Journalism skills / Work Experience

Work experience at SO Magazine

This week I was on work experience at SO Magazine in Tunbridge Wells: http://tunbridgewells.so/ . It was strange not being at college this week after being there full time since September. I was so tired after driving back and forth every day that I have become very behind on shorthand and my college work, and had a panic this morning that I had to get up and be productive! Unfortunately, instead of crossing college work off my to do list I have decided to do a blog post, much more interesting than revising PA.

Having managed the first hurdle of finding the offices, finding a place to park and getting there on time, I was pretty chuffed come 9am on the Monday morning! Instead of doing a list of the general things that I learnt from work experience that I usually find, I tried to think of what I have learnt specifically from this week and the most interesting things that happened.

“I’m not telling you.”

The editorial director was called Richard, and spoke to me about what I was writing, and what my course was like, etc. I was researching the architects of Tunbridge Wells town and he asked me if I had heard of Decimus Burton. I hadn’t. So I said, ‘No who is he?’ ‘I’m not telling you’ he said. So I began typing it into Google then realised I didn’t know how to spell the name, ‘How do you spell it?’ ‘I’m not telling you.’ he said. I wasn’t offended, and it’s a lesson that I’ve come across before in journalism. You need to use your initiative. He then told me an interesting story about when he was the editor of the Mirror. He had two new boys working for him, I think they were trainees. There was something happening at Big Ben. He told them to go there, get a story and write up a copy for him to bring back. One of them went straight away and the other boy came up to him and said ‘How do I get to Big Ben?’. “I sacked him that day” Richard said. Sounds harsh, but he explained that if a journalist doesn’t take his initiative to jump in a taxi and say take me to Big Ben, then how will he survive in the industry? It’s the harsh reality of the industry, but some valuable advice. (In the end, I found out that Decimus Burton was the first architect of the town, and included him in my piece.)

Feedback

This was the first time that I’ve been on working experience and got feedback on my written work. It’s hard going into an office on work experience because everyone in there needs to carry on with their jobs and meet their deadlines. So when a work experience student comes in, they can’t cater for you and ‘look after’ you the whole time. But seeing as I’m currently doing my journalism course that requires me to improve my written work in features and news, it was great that I could use their advice for my course. I did a feature for the ‘In the Archive’ section of the magazine, and the editor printed it off, and went through my words with me. She gave me an edited copy, where she had cut down some of my wordy phrases and gave me points to develop further, so I could compare how my work may be edited in the real world. It gave me a good grasp of the skills needed that I maybe haven’t been aware of before. I was also asked to write the news stories for their news pages. I was quite chuffed that I could put what I’ve learnt from reporting into it! I was remembering everything I’ve learnt from the structure, to word count of sentences, to introduction and I was pleased with what I did. The next day the editorial director came and sat down with me to show me the copy and how I could improve, with small pieces of advice that were really valuable.

Monthly Mags.

This leads on from the previous point. When I was finding news stories for the news page of the magazine, I had to think up news stories that would be relevant when the magazine came out in the December issue. That was the tricky part, because even though there was interesting news about the town coming out, would it be dated by the time the actual magazine was published? The news had to be timeless in a sense, an ongoing news story, or something quite entertaining and strange. I was looking for ages on the internet for things that will be relevant to the December issue, one of the stories was about commuters to London who will be affected by the London Bridge refurb next year, but still, quite a challenge!

Searching for stories.

One regular feature in the magazine is a look back at the town in history and interesting things or secrets or mysteries that happened that people may not be aware of. This is hard, as when it is a regular monthly feature, the topics are exhausted and it’s hard to find something new. When I was first given this task I spent ages trying to find something quirky about the town but Google was just giving me nothing! Later on in the week when I took on the search again, I decided to go for Google books to help me, and it was that which gave me my story I wrote about. Sometimes I think you need to search in other ways for stories, not just the web as it will give you the same things that everyone knows about.

Images.

In the week, I had to ring up the press office at Network Rail to send over some images for my news story. Magazines need high resolution images, 300 dpi, so that they don’t look blurry on a page. Even though the images may look good on your screen, you need the highest resolution possible for print. I found out that the dpi for websites is a lot lower and therefore taking images off them may not always be practical. It’s always good to contact the source where the image came from to see if they can give you a higher resolution picture. Unfortunately in my circumstance, they weren’t able to do this, but it’s a lesson learnt for the future!

All in all, a good and helpful week. I got to write a valentine feature which was 2000 words and is hopefully going to be featured in the Feb edition, as well as the new stories and In the Archive features 🙂

I’m going to Brussels on Monday!!!!

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