Many of us read, watch, listen or tweet the news every day but what happens before that news reaches us? Last Monday in the computer rooms of the Bancroft building a group of Queen Mary students and GradClub members got a bit of an insight.
The Journalism Workshop hosted by News Associates was a mock-up of a local newspaper’s newsroom responding to a news incident in the city that morning. Each student was a news journalist, taking direction from a watchful editor and writing an article as new press releases, interviews and other updates came in every five minutes. The students had just over an hour to write and edit a 250 word news article. At the end of the session they emailed their article to their editor (the News Associates speaker) who will respond with individual feedback.
The session was a great way to understand the practices of news journalism such as time pressure and being aware of PR – both the audience and authorities involved. The event was an interactive session so to know exactly what happened you would need to come along to next year’s event! In the meantime here are some interesting snippets from the session.
Bring a pen and notebook with you
Yes shorthand is still vital to journalism; a journalist will not always have permission to use a Dictaphone in all situations and may not have time to transcribe it before a deadline.
Basic English writing rules
Throughout the session the editor reminded her colleagues about the importance of things like spelling names correctly and writing numbers one to nine as words not numbers.
Evaluating sources is not just for historians
There was a lot of new information coming into the newsroom but not all of it was used unless it had been confirmed by a reputable source like the Ambulance Service or it was a key item of interest.
As well as evaluating sources, a news journalist had to be aware of small but significant details. For example, removing the telephone number of the police press office in an article, selecting sensitive but informative photographs and describing place names depending on the geographical area the newspaper serves (neighbourhoods and road names for a local newspaper, cities and regions for a national newspaper).
Not quite the same as essay writing
Skills from academic essay writing like analysing and cross-referencing sources are useful in news journalism. However there are also many differences. You may have to write short and snappy paragraphs of 25 words so it is important to practise journalist writing skills. How about writing for the Queen Mary student newspaper QMessenger?
Students had the chance to ask News Associates questions after the newsroom. They were reminded about the need to make sure journalism courses are accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) to involve a large practical element.
For more information about journalism careers please see the Prospects website.