Local journalism is so much more than chasing down runaway ave


Having just about recovered from a brief stint at the Observer, I spent a week preparing for a placement at the Ham & High – my (as referred to by morons) local rag. I’d been told to put together three news pitches, and three features. But tougher still was having to deal with the wild preconceptions my mind had somehow conjured.

‘How much of my time would I have to spend chasing missing wildlife?’ for instance, and ‘Would working at the Ham&High be anything like guest starring in an episode of The League of Gentlemen.

No, to both. Although the fact that the reporter sitting beside me spent his entire working day (on my first) chasing down leads for a particularly rebellious peacock that had escaped from a zoo, did little to quell the alarm bells.

I’ve been at the Ham & High a little over a week now (at the time of writing) and it has been something of a unique experience.

The Seven Lessons I Learned from Local Newspapers | Natasha Lunn

It’d be easy to suggest the week has opened my eyes, that I have had to think on my feet, that I have been flung into the deep end, that I now have some ‘perspective’ – or use any other headbangingly-irritating newsroom work experience clichés to describe my week thus far.

Working I have not yet been subjected to this elusive epiphany that countless other work experience blogs have thus far led me to believe I should expect. But the experience has taught me several important skills, including how to cover different sorts of news stories; those with a sentimental impact, or human interest pieces.

It’s a concept that still remains alien to me, given my previous experience (and entire journalistic pursuit) has been centred on writing things that other people don’t want me to write, not things that other people do.

But what about student news? Surely, that’s a sort of ‘local journalism’?

Well, there isn’t actually much call for human interest stories at student newspapers – largely because the student experience involves a large degree of apathy. Students barely caring about the moderately interesting occurrences in your their lives, let alone anybody else’s.

Can Student Media Fill a Gap Left by Closing Local Papers? | Joshua Hollis

While the differences are stark, there remains one central parallel between the two forms of journalism; that is having to cope, on a daily basis, with an army of spineless, propaganda-spouting human husks. Satan’s footsoldiers with access to a telephone.

There is no escape from the press officer, trained to spread the Gospel of Goebbles.

Trying not to throttle yourself or those nearby while chatting with these vapid human wind-me-up dolls on the other side of the line is as important a skill as you could hope pick up.

Overall, my time at the Ham & High has been fantastic. And in case you were wondering, they did find the peacock in the end; milling about on a roof.

Also see: Revival of Local Journalism Conference: 13 Themes Which Matter for the Future | David Higgerson


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