Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Work Experience: Basingstoke Gazette

After breaking up from University for the summer, I arranged two separate work experience placements to keep me occupied over the break.

The second of these placements was at the Basingstoke Gazette office in Basingstoke. The Gazette is released three times a week, with the main paper being released on a Thursday. The Monday and Wednesday editions of the paper are smaller in size than the mid-week edition.

On my first day, I was introduced to the team that I would be working with. I was welcomed by the Basingstoke Gazette's editor, Mark Jones, and news editor, Hugh Cadman. I was told that during the week I'd be helping out the Gazette's local reporters, who cover stories ranging from round-ups of local community events and news to court reports and trial summaries.

My first task involved putting together a news story about a charity film competition. Working at the Basingstoke Gazette gave me a strong idea of the importance of working to deadlines on a small, local newspaper. I think one of the most valuable lessons I will take away from the experience is how to write quickly in such a manner that ensures what you're writing still makes sense and is valid to print.

I completed my first story and submitted it to the Basingstoke gazette's news story database, before beginning work on my second story, which involved arranging an interview with a local couple who had just celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary.

I was told to call up the couple and arrange an interview for some time that week. I also needed to book out the Gazette's freelance photographer to accompany me and take a picture of the couple for the article, which would feature on the Gazette's website. Once I had arranged a time for the interview, which would take place on my second day at the Gazette, I competed my third news story.

My third story was about SERV Hampshire's newest edition to its vehicle fleet. The company provides out of hours blood transport to the NHS and was particularly interesting to write about. I was asked to complete the task as quickly as possible and again, once it was finished, submitted it to the Gazette's computer system.

My final task of the day was another news story, this time discussing a historic train that would be passing through Basingstoke later in the year. My news editor asked me to do some research into the event and report back to him. I did some extensive research online and put together a fact sheet, which he was very glad to receive.

On my second day at the Basingstoke Gazette, I got to leave the office and do some work out in the field, which was a refreshing change of scenery, and something that I was used to from my time as a news reporter at WINOL, Winchester News Online.

At the start of the day, I was asked to write another two news stories, the first of which was on the upcoming 'Make a Difference Day'. The second story was a short NIB segment on a local community-run event that involved a walk through the countryside, titled the 'August Amble'. I finished the stories and submitted them to the database. After that, I went with the Gazette's photographer to the house of the couple I was doing the diamond wedding story on.

We arrived at the couple's house and I asked them a couple of questions so I could put together a story of a decent length. I was at their house with the reporter for about an hour, conducting the interview, taking pictures, and having an informal chat about their lives. Once I had all the information I needed, we made our way back to the office and I began to write up the story.

My diamond wedding story was published in the Thursday edition of the Basingstoke Gazette, on August 30th.

Once I had put together the diamond wedding story, I began work on another two stories, one of which was on the Paralympic games, and the other of which was on a local world record attempt.

My third day at the Basingstoke Gazette was perhaps my quietest. The biggest edition of the newspaper goes to print on Wednesday evening, so the news team were particularly rushed. I continued working on press release stories throughout the day and finalised my diamond wedding piece so it was ready to submit to the system.

Thursday at the Basingstoke Gazette was my favourite day. Schools in the local area were releasing GCSE results to students. The entire news team were each assigned to different schools, and I was paired with reporter Richard Garfield to travel to two Basingstoke schools and interview staff members, and students getting their results.

We travelled to the first school on our list and spoke to the headmistress, who took us on a tour of the school and discussed with us her thoughts on this years results. Our chat with the headmistress gave me the opportunity to practice my shorthand, and I jotted down some key quotes which I handed to Richard later in the day.

We got all the information we needed from teachers and pupils at the first site and then repeated the process at the second school. It was great to be in the centre of such an exciting atmosphere gathering content for the Gazette.

On my final day at the Basingstoke Gazette I travelled with chief reporter, Emily Roberts, to Winchester Crown Court. We sat in on two separate trials. I've been to Winchester Crown Court multiple times so I had an idea of what to expect in terms of court proceedings.

Emily was taking shorthand notes as she was running separate stories on both of the trials. I took the opportunity to practice my own shorthand during each trial. It was a fantastic experience to be able to sit in the press box at the trial taking down notes and I thought that considering It had been a while since I had practised my shorthand speed, I did well to jot down vital statistics and quotes.

My experience at the Basingstoke Gazette was invaluable. It taught me of the processes involved with putting together a small local paper, from choosing the stories in the first place, to conducting interviews on location, and submitting them to be looked through by the news editor.


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