I was lucky enough to be offered a work placement at the Manchester Evening News. The paper is based at Trinity Mirror offices in Chadderton, Greater Manchester.
I was, as anyone would be, nervous and excited for the placement. I knew I’d be working on three publications: the Rochdale Observer, Middleton Guardian and Heywood Advertiser.
I took a (handy) tram from the City Centre which took me straight to the Hollinwood station, just outside of the offices. I arrived at 9:30 as told, and was escorted up to the newsroom shortly afterwards. In the tour I was shown The Mirror’s online newsroom, and was finally handed over to the team I’d be working with for the remainder of my placement. The newsroom was quite a lot bigger than I expected, and I noticed that I was next to the entertainment reporters from the Manchester Evening News, as well as sport.
On my first day I shadowed the small team of reporters who I’d be working with. I took phone calls and put my shorthand to the test, which I got a lot more comfortable with over the week.
I was also given my first story: a taxi driver whose cab had been vandalised by a group of young teenagers. They shattered his windows and really scared the man – who I spoke to over the phone. It felt quite good when another reporter said that they ‘could’ give me a press release, but they wanted to give me something more.
On my second day I carried on with covering the story of the taxi driver who’d been attacked. I had to confirm with the story with the police, and see what their response was. I spoke to another eye-witness and got more meaty quotes to spread throughout the copy.
By the third day of my placement I felt very comfortable. I was being given an outline of a story, researching it, interviewing people, and writing it up.
I dealt with some very positive stories, such as a woman who’d celebrated 25 years at Marks and Spencer, and a young football team who were fundraising for Cystic Fibrosis, a condition which their trainer’s son suffers from.
The woman who rang up about that story actually emailed me on the day of publication saying that the write up was ‘fab’. I felt really good that she’d taken the time to do that, given that when she rang in she said another papers write up was not very good.
We also had people ringing into the newsroom and I had to deal with some of those people, so had to think on my feet, get the main elements of the story, and of course do my best to write up great copy.
Day four was by far the busiest for me, where I wrote about six stories all in a very time-consuming atmosphere. It was our deadline day, and whilst the day began with a council’s press release, it soon became much more hectic – which I loved.
I struggled to find somebody to speak about the council story, but at about 4pm that afternoon, I finally heard something back – I’d been given a lengthy quote. I had to turn around that quote and fit it into some copy I’d began to write earlier.
In between hearing from the council I spoke to a Detective Inspector who’d rang up the newsroom to speak about a number of burglaries in a specific area of Rochdale. Again I had to think on my feet to get a bit more information him, make sure the quotes I was writing down were correct, and write up copy.
I was also given a story from a fellow reporter about a young boy whose condition was still undiagnosed. He suffered from seizures and sleep apnoea which caused him to stop breathing at some points in the night.
His story had been published in the local papers and in the Manchester Evening News in the past, however the angle of this story was that his parents had decided to set up a charity to help special needs children have days out with family, taking their minds off hospital appointments.
This was the most rewarding story for me. I spoke to the boy’s mother for quite a long time, and she gave me quotes which were personal, and emotional. She talked of the struggles of being the parent of a special needs child, and the public judgement that goes with that sometimes. I felt very strongly that I had to really excel myself with the copy, and I was so pleased when it was given a full page spread in the Rochdale Observer.
On my final day I did something a little different, and travelled into Rochdale to speak to some of the public. I was covering the fact that a popular Rochdale street had been used in a number of scenes for the BBC drama ‘From There to Here’, focused on the Manchester bomb of 1996.
I spoke to a number of residents who were all helpful and really felt like a proper journalist introducing myself and getting some good quotes. I really enjoyed being on my feet, asking questions on the spot and creating a bit of rapport with the people I spoke to.
When I got back to the offices I wrote up copy about the story, which would be published the following week.
Overall, I loved every minute of the experience. It was rewarding in terms of putting the things I’ve learnt at university into practice. Working everyday in that newsroom atmosphere was fantastic, and by the end of the week I was really happy with the stories that I’d written up. The Rochdale Observer which was published on Saturday had around seven stories of mine in, including the full page spread about the young boy River Wardley.
The editor of the paper said he was very happy with how I’d done over the course of the placement, which is all I wanted to hear!