[Shelby Loasby | News Sub Editor]
“Journal of a Journalist”
Back in February Julie Palmer, Editor of Hertfordshire Mercury, came along to the Student Publication Association Conference at Hertfordshire Students’ Union and shed some light on the professional world of journalism and local news.
She spoke about her editorial journey and offered advice to budding journalists thinking of following in her footsteps.
Trident Media were invited to the Hertfordshire Mercury offices soon after, where we were shown around the newsroom before sitting down to discuss feedback on our own publications, UniVerse and Bluemoon.
We were given praise and constructive criticism, which has been applied to our most recent editions. We were also able to secure links with the Mercury, including our own portal on their website for some of our popular news and features pieces, which you can take a look at here!
I was then lucky enough to get a week’s work experience with Julie and the Hertfordshire Mercury team and was given a taste of life at a local newspaper.
The Hertfordshire Mercury Team
For the next week I will share my experience at the paper with my little ‘Journal of a Journalist.’ Hopefully this will give prospective journalists, like myself, an insight into the professional world and provide you with tips along the way. If you want to find out more or have any questions you can tweet us @TridentMediaUK or find me at @ShelbyLoasby.
DAY 1: Tuesday 26th May
The first day. I had no idea how to get there, didn’t know what to wear and had no idea what to expect. I ended up wearing a very short skirt and a jumper that constantly fell off my shoulders, so I can only imagine what they thought of me on the first day. It is also worth mentioning that I had one of the worst colds I have ever had and sounded like a thirty-five year old man.
I ended up getting the 641 UnoBus from the town centre to Hertford Bus Station. Arriving with plenty of time to spare – a whole 40mins – I sat in the coffee shop of a nearby supermarket waiting for my 09.30 start.
When I arrived I was welcomed by reporter Martin Ford, who gave me a tour of the newsroom and the building, which is shared with other Hertfordshire and Essex local newspapers like the Harlow Star.
Inside the Hertfordshire News offices
I was immediately thrown in the deep end for my first challenge, and was sent out into Hertford town to do a vox pop.
vox pop (voks pop) n. An interview in which an average person is asked for his or her opinion on a matter of general interest
I was given the task of asking traders and shopkeepers their opinion of the Women’s Cycling Tour which is running through Hertford high street on 20th June. I approached various cafes and high street shops, introducing myself as a reporter for the Hertfordshire Mercury, and explaining what I was doing. I asked people for their name, age, place of residents, a photo and the all important quote.
I failed this task miserably and was turned away by most of the people I asked. Many simply did not want to talk to the paper, others had no idea what the Women’s Tour was, and the rest didn’t want to say anything without their bosses permission. However after a sad hour or two of pestering people I was finally able to score a few quotes and reluctant photos.
My vox pot in the Thursday Mercury
When I returned to the newsroom I realised just how manic everyone was. With the bank holiday on the Monday, and the deadline for the Midweek Mercury being on the Tuesday, the office was hectic.
I tried to keep out the way as much as possible but also wanted to help out with any little jobs that needed doing. Once I had typed up my quotes from the vox pot I was given an hour lunch break, which I spent in the offices’ kitchen/dining room.
After lunch, I was tasked with creating a list for the Mercury website; Top 10 things to do this weekend. I had to have a little Google of the area and find out about any events, music gigs and afternoon teas that were happening that weekend. After an hour and a half of browsing and sourcing images I was finally done. Once I had sent over all my work I was free to leave early
That was the end of my first day. Although It didn’t seem like much, I had already learned a lot. From how to approach the public in a professional way, to the general work environment of a busy, local newspaper.
TIP OF THE DAY: If you are ever sent out to do a vox pot or talk to the public, always approach them with a positive attitude and introduce yourself and where you work. You must also explain clearly what you are asking them and what details you need from them. It is also handy to have business cards of the company you are working for, or your own personal cards.
Check back in with the website tomorrow for Day 2 of my week with the Hertfordshire Mercury!
If you’ve got a story to share for the Hertfordshire and Beyond blog series please email firstname.lastname@example.org.