As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, Guardian Beatblogger Hannah Waldram talks about her education and experience leading up to her job, and what it involves.
I graduated from the Centre for Journalism at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies with a diploma in newspaper journalism in June 2009. During the course, I followed developments in online journalism – spurred on by my tutor Glyn Mottershead – attended journalism and hyperlocal conferences across the UK, started a personal website to showcase my work (hrwaldram.co.uk), played around with new online tools and invested in some new tech (Flip cameras, netbooks), blogged a lot, as well as various bits of work experience including the technology desk at The Daily Telegraph and Media Guardian.
I also bought the domain name bournvillevillage.com and began brewing ideas for a hyperlocal website for my hometown area in Birmingham.
After completing the course and while sending off applications for trainee reporter jobs, I continued to set up Bournville Village. There’s a vibrant network of bloggers in Birmingham who gave me advice, support and ideas, and the blog launched just in time for some unusual gun shootings in the area.
Bournville is bursting with local news and history and is poorly covered by the regional press – so the blog was well-received by the community. It was also a great way for me to practise my skills as a journalist. Soon I was offered three jobs – two in traditional media and one in new media. I went for new media.
I started working as a social reporter for Podnosh and online editor of westmidlandsdance.com for Meshed Media – in these roles I learnt a lot about civic engagement, online communities and multimedia journalism.
I am now the Guardian Beatblogger in Cardiff. You can read more about the local project here and Local editor Sarah Hartley explains the role of a beatblogger here, I also recently published some tools I use on the job here.
I’ve since passed on bournvillevillage.com to Dave Harte who is a runner in Bournville and helped out from the outset. Under his editorship the site continues to thrive and unravel the hidden stories of the area.
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I’m old compared to you Hannah but I should do one of these because I’m new to ‘online journalism’.
My advice would be to blog often, go out and do stories on whatever – to some extent you can do perfectly decent work by behaving like a drifting ship along a coastline which happens upon things of interest by mere virtue of its traversal over a given area. The biggest problem in journalism – which can work to your advantage – is that most journalists won’t even stray out of port to do any proper investigations.
I said on Sarah Hartley’s blog the other night that hyperlocal is just what the local press did back in the day. I stand by that sentiment; it isn’t new, it’s just a buzz-term that crops up and masquarades as such. A bad habit is getting into writing without thinking about what you’re doing; fatigue and fostering laziness does this to most people in the profession over time. They end up writing vacuous, stupid or otherwise subpar prose and even making fools of themselves – seen it happen a lot over the years.
My own site focuses on what I’ve liked doing alongside stock and trade in-depth stuff…that would be satire. http://www.dirtygarnet.com is a new website with a small staff that focuses on satire together with quirky pieces.
Oh yeah, and if you can…try angering at least one of those bullying, lazy editors that reign over a good proportion of local rags – stating the truth is often enough to get these wasters in a huff. It’s satisfying to not be under their control and bring them down a peg particularly in public; out of their dictatorial lock-in that is the office over which they rule. Don’t be abusive and just state facts, keep calm etc…come up smelling of roses! 🙂
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