My work experience with the Kent Messenger group gave me a fantastic insight into the workings of a local newspaper office. My office in Canterbury produced five newspapers, which meant there was a reasonably broad scope of stories. I was surprised to find I was thrown in at the deep end – while I largely had to ask for stories to be given for me, I was allowed – and expected – to get on with them with minimal supervision, unless I specifically asked for help.
My biggest fear was with making phone calls to members of the public, such as victims of theft. Even though I wasn’t asking about particularly sensitive issues, it still felt odd to call up a stranger and take up several minutes of their time, sometimes having to convince them to let me use their full name and age as well.
At the start of the week, I was worried to the point where I would write out my end of the conversation before making the call. By the end of the week, I was much more comfortable, especially when talking to press officers, and would only write down the questions I wanted to ask.
I also learned the value of making sure I knew the full details of a story before calling someone up about it; on one occasion I called a press officer, oblivious to the fact he was also a reporter for the paper, and another time I called a property developer about a planning application that had been approved, only to quickly realise that the application had only been validated, not approved and that all but one of my questions were therefore irrelevant.
By a lucky coincidence, I was, on one occasion, able to use my specialist airshow knowledge, as this is my area of interest. My ability to provide some detailed and useful information for an article on the Herne Bay Airshow was seemingly appreciated by the writer, and, given that it was only my second day at the time, hopefully, showed the rest of the office that I was a competent and valuable addition to their team.
Towards the end of the week, I also received some useful tips on my writing, including not giving too much away in the introduction to encourage readers to read the whole article.
All in all, it was an enjoyable and interesting week in a friendly office, which has taught me a lot about how local newspapers function.
– Adam Landau is a 1st year Journalism student
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