Goodbye J Week 2015 – here’s what we learnt…

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by Elizabeth Archer
4 Things journalists DON’T tell you about their job
As Journalism Week 2015 draws to a close, here are a few trade secrets we learned along the way.

  1. The story comes first, the reader comes second, and nobody gives a flying f*** where you come
As you might expect from a tabloid-hack-turned-blogger, Susie Boniface taught students a thing or two about grabbing people’s attention. In a whirlwind lecture which turned the air every shade of blue, Susie explained what she wished she’d been told at the beginning of her career.
The message to budding reporters was:  “Nobody gives a flying f*** about you”. The police are biased against you, the public hate you, and your employers will fire you if you have the slightest disagreement.
Despite this, she told students, a career in journalism gives you a front row seat to history in the making. Plus a lot of free booze, and the opportunity to travel the world at your employer’s expense. So it’s not all bad.
  1. Your career-defining moment will probably be in the pub
It might be a cliché to say that journalists drink a lot, but clichés are such for a reason. Susie told students that she hadn’t bought a drink for herself since becoming a reporter at age 18, and Channel 4’s Paraic O’Brien did little to dispel the stereotype.
After a long stint of filming in Romania, Paraic and his team were spending their final night in Bucharest “to get p***ed” when a local in the pub told the team that there was a community of drug addicts living in the disused heating pipe spaces beneath the city.
This revelation set Paraic’s journo-senses tingling, and he returned to Bucharest to film Bruce Lee: King of the Sewers – a documentary which recently won a Royal Television Society award.
  1. All you need is a charger, some wellies and a sock
Yes, a sock. Well actually, three socks: one for each foot, and a clean one to go over the end of your iPhone. That’s what BBC reporter Nick Garnett told students on Monday, as he explained how technology has changed the game over the years.
Now more than ever, he said, you need to be able to do ‘fast and dirty’ journalism by recording a quick video or soundbite on your phone at the scene of a big event. In the absence of a proper windshield for your mic, a sock makes a great substitute.
And the wellies? Well, like a good scout you always need to be prepared. Nick said he once found himself stood behind a wheelie bin in a puddle of urine on the streets of Paris, as he reported live from the scene of the Charlie Hebdo shootings. Clearly a journalist’s choice of footwear has a significant effect on his or her inner peace.
 
  1. Working for Newsround might be the best move of your career
One thing aspiring reporters are often surprised to learn, is that journos aren’t as snobby as most people. Seasoned hacks will confirm that good journalists really do work for the Daily Mail, and experienced reporters might tell you their best career move was presenting news bulletins on CBBC.
Sonali Shah was one journalist who said exactly that: although she has worked for prestigious stations like BBC World Service, and BBC Five Live, she said her best experience was reporting for Newsround between 2006 and 2011. In her own words: “If you can explain the economy to a nine-year-old, you can explain it to anyone.” Enough said.
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