Did I tell you about that time I met Johnny Depp? What about the time I taped a person getting a filling? No? Well, it’s safe to say work placements can be a mixed bag. None more-so than my fortnight with Sky News Radio.
My arrival at the Sky News centre in Osterley was marked with an air of desperation, after weeks of temping and unemployment. I’d been put with the radio team as I’m a bit obsessed: radio journalism is my dream job. With radio, you get the whole package. I love the creativity of editing your own audio, as well as writing and interviewing.
A quick introduction to Sky News Radio: it supplies news to commercial client stations, who don’t always have the resources to provide their own news. So whilst there isn’t a dedicated station, their output is broadcast all over the country.
After formalities, I was let loose in the news room. I was introduced to the friendly, professional team and told to get as involved as possible – always a good sign. Following a bit of shadowing, I was given a radio training manual, and my own log in and email address. I learnt how to navigate iNews and their audio editing software, and then progressed onto helping out/getting in the way.
On my second day, I conducted an interview over ISDN about fuel poverty. I edited it down to a cut, and was challenged to write the story up for bulletin. I gave it a bash, and with guidance (“get to the point, keep it chatty”) I had something useful.
Following that, I was given my own projects. Fuelled by plenty of tea, I researched, made contacts, conducted interviews, edited audio and wrote copy. Whilst everyone was very willing to help me out, they let me get on with it. I didn’t exactly get the scoops… there was a lot of press release scouring to find something half interesting. But treat every story seriously: don’t think anything is beneath you.
I got an illuminating insight into the process. I attended planning meetings, which required impressive restraint on behalf of my Twitter account.
It wasn’t all glamorous. I collected (NB: ‘begged for’) vox pops outside Morrisons about dentistry charges in the freezing cold, and recorded excruciating sound effects at a surgery. Then again, I also met Johnny Depp at a press junket. Swings and roundabouts, I guess.
This happy meeting was part of a day shadowing Joe, the showbiz reporter. We headed to a posh London hotel for an interview with the cast from Mortdecai. The film’s shocking, but the experience certainly wasn’t. After lots of waiting around and free food, we had three minutes in heaven with the celebs. The short timeframe meant Joe had to keep it snappy. Both Johnny Depp and Paul Bettany waved at me and said hello – best ‘hi’ of my life.
The placement’s practical focus sharpened old skills and taught me new ones. All the advice will stay with me, and it’s given me a renewed determination to pursue my career. If you’re looking for work experience, Sky is definitely worth a shot – they even covered expenses, and the canteen is dirt cheap. Honestly though, you are taken seriously, with plenty of opportunities to develop yourself.
Apply on their website, where there are a variety of placements. Be sure to emphasise evidence of your commitment and passion for journalism. Next stage is a Skype interview, and if successful, you’re set. When there, say yes to it all: you can learn from everything.