So: I’ve decided to give freelancing a go.

This is something that terrifies me, just ever so slightly; in July, I would have completed my NCTJ course. (Out of education, and into the big wide world! Gah!)

The thing is; competition for jobs is fierce. And, at the time of writing, I am still not NCTJ qualified. So, what can I do? My back up plan was to be a freelancer for a little while-save money, plan for moving out to live independently, and focus on trying to get that staff job. (It’s also likely that meanwhile I’d also have a job-such as stacking shelves, etc.)
(As not to be boring, I left out the admin side of things-such as taxes.)

Pitching and writing for freelancing:

I’m going to pitch for more paid opportunities. (I’ll also be looking for more.) I have been writing for free for a long time now-ever since the age of twelve. (I’m now nineteen.) There’s websites like Medium .  I also have a habit of continually creating lists of stories in my jotter.
There’s even places like The Huffington Post. (Oh, and check the paragraph about resources-there’s some crossover.)
There’s also awards, like the Anthony Howard Award; I’ll be entering in if I have any work that’s worthwhile.

Contacts and resources: 

Sometimes I go to events; these are the perfect opportunity to network! (Hopefully I’ll have business cards soon..)
Due to the internet, there is also a wealth of resources available. So, there’s the wonderful Journo Resources; they also have a dedicated section to freelancing. (Oh, and there’s also the NUJ website; as soon as my student membership runs out, I’ll be signing on as a freelancer. They also have a freelance rates section.) I also linked to a few resources when writing about how to formulate story ideas.Rebekah also has a Pinterest board relevant to this. And Ann Friedman wrote this essay with plenty of resources. 

Developing the blog: 

I have fallen out of love with this blog, big time. (It seems so mawkish, constraining, and above all, it has lost its appeal to me.) But I think there is an opportunity for development.
Once my personal plan runs out, I would like to go self hosted; that way, I can use Plugins, download a nicer theme, make it look a bit more professional, develop my portfolio of writing.
With that, I’ll also begin to start pitching for things such as sponsored posts; I would also add affiliate links. If anyone has any advice about how to go self-hosted, I would be very grateful.

Lydia x

 

Charlene McElhinney is my pen pal; for a little while now, we’ve been planning a blog collaboration, following on from our Christmas guest post exchange. Over the course of her letters, I gradually came to know more about her; she’s a Blogger, Poet, Student, and Lifestyle Editor for Strathclyde Telegraph. How does she do it? So, I emailed her questions to find out.

Hello Charlene, thank you for agreeing to this interview. First of all, how did you come to be involved with blogging?
I was blogging for about 6 months before I discovered that there was a whole community out there; I actually started blogging as a way of taking my journal online. I’d always kept a diary, and after suffering with mental health issues for some time and seeing a counsellor, we decided I should start a blog. I put the feelers out there and I fell in love. I found my safe haven.

Growing up, where you interested in writing?
Always. At primary school, I had 3 of my poems published. I would go on to win Star Writer more than the average kid. I’d write songs, plays, stories. I spent a lot of my time at home writing stories. And of course there was my journal, where I shared my life in writing. I was always passionate about writing.

It’s been just over a year since you published your first book; congratulations! What made you decide to publish it?
I was working on a poetry anthology for my graded unit at college (I was studying professional writing skills in the creative industries). My lecturer and I had aimed for a total of 5 poems – I ended up writing 80+. I decided I was going to share these with the world. I wanted to share my story about my mental health journey and reach out to others. I’d always been curious about the self-publishing process and so I just went for it. I bit the bullet. I put my words out there in to the world in the form of a book.

Why did you go for poetry?
The reason I went for poetry was because it was what I had chosen to do for my graded unit at college; it was something I was always passionate about at primary school and fell away from in my teenage years. I wanted to try it. Nobody else in my class was really doing it and I thought I’d go for it. I’m so glad I did.

Who influences you as a poet?
Sylvia Plath. But also Rupi Kaur, who I feel is a very modernized poet, who is having a hugely positive influence on poetry in this day and age.

You’re also a lifestyle editor for your University newspaper; how did you get started on this?
I was ‘head-hunted’ by the editor-in-chief who had discovered my blog via twitter (using the hashtags that my university encourage us to use) and she was really eager to have me on board. I took a day or two think about it and then I accepted the offer and went for a brief ‘interview’ with her. It’s very seldom a first year student becomes an editor so I’m extremely proud of myself for taking this on.

What does your job entail?
I’m the lifestyle editor, my main role is to come up with ideas and pitch these to the contributors of our paper. I also write at least one story myself every month. Once I’ve pitched my ideas people approach me conveying their interest in writing about my ideas and I’ll select who I want to write them. I set them deadlines, they send me their stories, I proof read and edit. I also help out with the social media aspect of the paper. I attend socials. I go to meetings with The Strathclyde Telegraph team and we discuss going forward with the paper and future editors. It’s very time consuming but I love it. It’s great experience.

What are you currently working on for the paper?
We have a meeting coming up this week, actually, discussing the upcoming edition. One of the editors suggested having a ‘theme’ every month which has been working well thus far. Last month it was about exams and ‘crunch time’. This month we are thinking ‘summer’. I’ve got a few ideas but I haven’t pitched them yet!

For aspiring poets and journalists, what would be your advice?
Poets – write from the heart. Don’t think in to it too much. Let it come naturally. Share your work. Read, read, read. And have fun with your writing.

Random: if you had to dye your hair, would you go for bright read or glitter pink?
I’d love glitter pink hair actually!


Thank you to Charlene for answering my questions. To read more of her writing, be sure to visit her blog. And Melancholy Mind is available to buy now. 

Outside, the world is cold. Later the streets would be frosted with snowflakes, back for a second time; I’m outside the building, not knowing if I’m allowed inside. It’s the day of our Court ‘field trip.’

As part of my NCTJ qualification, Court Reporting is a module; with this-under Essential Journalism-we were told that one Saturday, we would be going to the local Magistrates. (Or “Mags” as we call it.) The idea would be to take notes-Shorthand pads at the ready!-in order to write a story.
I was slightly worried; due to the potential snowfall, I knew that the trains would be a nightmare. So.. I was up early, having laid out my ‘professional’ outfit the night before, complete with a map of where to go. (I don’t know Brighton as well as I should do by now.)

First: security. Think Airport-style security; you go through, emptying your pockets, and having your bag searched. You’re also scanned.

We then went through to the Public Gallery in Court One. (It has a glass screen-meaning that we would be allowed to talk. We would also have the view of the court-whereas if we were in the Press box, we would be in the court, not behind a screen.)
I think it was clear that the public gallery is very rarely in use; at times it was like we were an object of curiosity. (Occasionally there were roaming eyes-and I remember blushing when looking up, only to meet the eye of the district judge.)

In total, we heard the grand total of five cases. I found it hard at times not to be judgemental, recoiling with disgust at the alleged crimes; focusing on taking notes was made difficult by this at times. (Focusing on the facts, and not recording impressions, is what’s best to do; that’s the crucial thing I learnt.) However, the sixty words a minute Shorthand was definitely an asset; this enabled me to get down details of the offence, the ‘scope’ of what can be reported and more.

Throughout, I was also thinking in terms of Law; Section 52A came in to effect a lot. As a general rule of thumb, you can’t publish prejudicial information in particular circumstances (i.e “Not guilty.) So: you cannot report what has been said as evidence, the background to bail arrangements (like if it is opposed), etc. It could be a little bit tiresome at times-knowing that some of your notes, carefully taken, were now redundant.

But it was fascinating-maybe that’s not the right word. I had never been inside a court prior to this; rather, my impressions and knowledge were largely based on Judge Judy and the occasional Judge Rinder. This court was not hyper-stylised; neither was there the gloss provided by careful, selective editing.

Yet.. it was in real time. These are actual people with their fates being decided before your very eyes. (I also thought it kind of chilling, when there was a guilty plea-the cuffs come out, and then it’s back to cells.)

One thing I struggled with slightly was the continual rising; the public gallery was not a comfortable environment. By the time we had to rise, sit down, the rise again, I could barely feel my legs or feet; the cold outside had contributed to the numbness, yet the physical logistics of getting up was not working for me. (Lesson learnt; wear warmer tights!)
This was a useful trip-something that I will always remember-and it’s a way for extra copy, if needed. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be visiting the Old Bailey next.

Hello, readers of Lydia’s blog!

Lydia has very kindly asked me to guest post on her site, and this month, I’m going to be talking about my experiences broadcasting on volunteer-run radio stations, first on student radio while I was at university and now on community radio.
I have always been interested in radio as a form of media. When I was a child, I used to use a kid’s battery-powered cassette player, complete with a small mic, to record my own radio show about my local area (a show that featured my younger sister as a contributor numerous times and often consisted of me going to my own news reports — BBC News should have hired me there and then for that journalistic determination! 😉 ).

I was also familiar with different radio stations growing up and would often listen to the radio when I went to bed (and still do!). When I was 15 (I think), I did try and get involved with an initiative for young people with the community radio station that at the time existed near where I live, but I think I was slightly too young to participate and whatever the reason, it didn’t come off.

C/O: Kate Jones.

When I moved to Exeter to do my English degree at the university there, the campus radio station, Xpression FM, was something that I was interested in. At the start of the second year of my three-year course, I took the plunge and got a membership that made me part of the station. The society regularly runs training for those wishing to learn how to present on air, and near the end of that first term of my second year, not long before Christmas, I started the “course”. A few months later, just before the Easter break, I took the test that the station requires you to pass in order to be allowed to present your own show, and I succeeded. The test involved me having to do things, in a mock show set-up, such as playing a station ident over the intro to a song, putting a CD out through the presenter desk, playing a vinyl record out over the system and putting a caller on air.

Once I had passed my presenter test and the Easter holidays had passed, I got started presenting for real quickly, managing to get a two-hour daytime slot which I presented live on a weekday each week. I remember that the first time I went live with my own show and it was coming close to the time to start, I thought: “What am I doing?!”. Thankfully, student and community radio stations are great places to cut your teeth in the world of radio. You have to be realistic in knowing that you’re very likely not going on air as the next Nick Grimshaw and that unless you or the station are known to a significant amount of people, the chances are that your listener-count will be very low. In your early broadcasting life, this is a good thing, because it is highly likely that you will make mistakes with all the different things presenting a show might involve — playing the right track at the right time, playing idents, putting callers on air, etc. A low-listenership was reassuring for me — at Xpression, we had a program on the live studio desk that offered an estimation of sorts of the amount of people tuned in to the station at any one time, and when I saw that my debut show-listeners were numbering somewhere around 10, I was a lot less nervous!
I presented in different weekday, daytime slots while I was at university. My student radio shows took the form of lifestyle and music shows that featured topics relevant to students — often to students at Exeter. I always tried to have a guest on my regular show to keep the conversation flowing. I also presented some one-off shows — one night, I did an 80s music show and another time, one Saturday when my younger sister was visiting, we did a show together. My friend and I also once did a one-off show based around the theme of sass — featuring things like sassy music and quotes!

I’ve talked about this in my interview with Lydia available on this blog, but after I had left university, one of the things I really missed was having a radio show — I missed being able to play the songs I wanted to on air and broadcast what I wanted. I liked the feeling of people being able to hear me broadcast live! I considered getting involved with a hospital radio station near me, but given that I don’t yet have a full driving licence, it wouldn’t have been the easiest place to get to. Thankfully, my Mum saw an email designated for my sister that was looking for college students to get involved with a community radio station in Gloucestershire, Corinium Radio.

The station, which broadcasts online 24/7 and is run by a network of volunteers, offers programming of various genres for listeners to enjoy. I investigated further as I was sure the station would be happy to take new volunteers of all ages, and I think the website confirmed this. I emailed the station and the station manager replied, suggesting we met to chat about the station. I actually ended up having the meeting with my Mum present (at 21!), because she had driven me over to the town where I was going to be meeting the station manager and it was a freezing-cold evening! Thankfully, the station manager was happy to have me on board, and we quickly discussed my intention to have a show on the station. I had a few training sessions with the presenting desk before going live with my show for the first time in January (because I had already been trained to use a presenting desk, I think I was able to start my show quicker, though two volunteers still supervise me and without them, I’d be lost!). I present my music and lifestyle show, Podcast Live With Kate, every fourth Friday of the month from 4 to 6pm, though it is repeated at the same time every week and you can catch up on their website. 

Student and community radio are great places for those interested in the radio industry (and indeed, podcasts) to gain experience. Though there are a few basic rules to abide by (e.g. not swearing on air), there’s a lot of freedom when it comes to these sorts of radio-broadcasting. You often have the opportunity to experiment, with different content, genres and styles of presenting and shows, which you wouldn’t get on a commercial station/station with employed staff. As previously mentioned, student and community radio are also great places to make mistakes. I’ve made a plethora of errors over my time broadcasting so far — mucking up songs while they’re being played and saying “see you next week” instead of the correct “see you next month” are just some examples. One notable time, when my sister and I were doing that one-off show, I accidentally left the mic on temporarily when I put on a request, “Axel F” by Crazy Frog, and all my listeners were treated to my sister making the off-air comment of “Turn it up. I wanna hear it”!

Still, errors like this make for funny anecdotes, and it resonates with what one of the volunteers at Corinium Radio says: it’s about having fun.

Overall, broadcasting on volunteer-run radio stations is a great experience. You meet new people and make fantastic memories. It’s also a great opportunity to gain experience for your CV if you’re interested in working in radio or the media industry. All in all, what’s not to like?


Kate Jones is a journalist, radio show host, and Blogger. You can hear her live on the fourth Friday of every month from 4-6pm. Meanwhile, be sure to check out her blog. 

From my viewpoint as a trainee journalist, this blog post is probably at odds with the majority of my industry. I know that Leveson Two is a controversial subject.But more and more, I think it should go ahead. Reasons? Numerous. This post is merely a select few.

Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder. Although this is a podcast, there’s a true story at the very heart of it. And yet, to be blunt, I still think that this story (because there are many threads of events)  has yet to be completely sorted out. The alleged behaviour of some of the journalists in this podcast and book  is disgusting; I reviewed the book a little while ago.

Again, continuing with the thread of Untold; In The Belly Of The Beast.  This is a new series that is currently being crowdfunded for. John Ford alleges that he was a blagger for The Sunday Times; once the crowdfunding page has reached its limit, the podcast will (hopefully) revel more about his allegations.  (You can view the trailer here. To donate to the crowd funding campaign, click here.)

The Manchester Arena Report. When this report was released, I was ashamed to be training as a journalist. The behaviour of some journalists mentioned in this report was horrific. (It’s worth noting that The Manchester Evening News was praised for its coverage.) Click here to read what IPSO had to say. And if you want to view the entire report, click here.
Continuing on from that; see this piece by Brian Cathcart, concerning popular misconceptions.

I wrote this post about going to a Hacked Off event at Parliament. What was striking about this as that there were several press abuse victims; they’d get up, addressing the room: “My name is X, and because of Y, Z is outside my house, photographing me house” was the sort of thing they’d say. How is this at all acceptable, let alone legal? This may be me just being empathetic, yet these intrusions were almost treated as being a mere fact of life. That needs to change.
The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jefferies is a Netflix documentary.

Jefferies, seen as an eccentric character, was named in connection with the murder of Joanna Yeates by newspapers-as in “he did it!” The documentary goes into detail about this; there was a large settlement from various papers in the end. Want to know more? Read this.  But events like this should not be allowed to happen; additionally, he wasn’t someone famous, or regarded as a ‘celebrity’.

These reasons are not exactly in depth; neither are they complex, concerning legal issues, etc. But these are just a few of the stories that interest me, and which I care about. To support Hacked Off by signing their petition, click here. And to donate to their judicial challenge, click here.