London Trip: Lords, Commons and Journalists. Part 2

This is my Part 2 of the London trip I took with my classmates from the University of Sheffield. After Part 1 which was a bit more focused on the newsroom and the journalists we’ve met in those places, the second leg of the journey consisted in the big, bad houses of the British Parliament.

“Hats Off, Strangers!”

Huge, impressive and traditional – are the key terms to describe what I’ve seen. For me, coming from a country with 21 years of freedom from the communist era, the traditions and history of the British Parliament are pretty unusual, yet interesting and dazzling. I’m sure many British people could contradict me on that, but I’m looking at it through the eye of an eastern-European ๐Ÿ™‚


Westminster Hall

Westminster Hall was completed in 1099

Anyway, the House of Lords seems to have some incredible rules and traditions – which I respect, but I also find them a bit odd and tooย snobbish, while the House of Commons is a perfect scene for the staged “controversial” debates involving the Prime-Minister, his party and the opposition. Unfortunately I was not lucky enough to get a ticket for the PMQs questions, but we watched it live on TV in a room in the Parliament and it looked like a really bad comedy ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I was glad to hear the fire alarm and then have a walk to the Trafalgar Square. But, overall, it was a good chance for me and my colleagues to discover and understand better how the Parliament works (or sometimes doesn’t) in this country.

However, our guests were some popular and influential journalists/politicians in the British media (this applies also for the term “politician”). ย Kevin Maguire , a political journalist, seems to me as the typical political journalist who’s best friends with some politicians and takes all his stories from these internal, personal sources. Actually he admitted that he has not done a proper interview in an office since the 1990s. All his stories are written after meetings in pubs, restaurants, official dinners and probably some other friendly circumstances. I liked the way he talked and his style, but you could easily notice that he was like a character playing the political journalist role in a movie at Hollywood…

“Blogging is a way to get yourself noticed”

Our second guest was Iain Dale . Quite famous in UK for his blog. I loved him, really…he seemed more honest than the others and he talked as if he really cared about…his job, journalism and politics. Maybe he was just a better actor than Maguire..then he fooled me ๐Ÿ™‚ He gave us some good tips about blogs, abusive bloggers, blog stalkers and the use of social media. But what I really enjoyed was his talk about the LBC Radio show he’s doing and how easy it becomes to empathise with your listeners. ย He was right when he said that anyone would comment on a topic which involved Iraq, homosexuality, abortion, war and some other key terms. There’s always a show where these topics are mentioned…See more on Iain Dale on (my classmate) Christina’s blog.

Veni, vidi, vici style

Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of our third guest and I really feel bad about it because I liked him. He didn’t spend enough time in the politics to lie without blinking, so he was frank, concerned and excited about talking to us. He was asked to meet us instead of Luciana Berger, who had to attend some other urgent event. Anyway, I hope someone will remind me his name..a young boy, former student at the Uni. of Sheffield who got a good job at the Parliament.

Last but not least was Paul Blomfield , MP for Sheffield Central. Not too much to say about him..he’s a politician. He came, he voted, he answered his questions as a politician and then he left.

All the four encounters were an interesting experience for us, as future journalists, even though some of us might never practice journalism in the UK, I still consider it has been a great trip with loads of things to learn. Plus, not too many people have the chance to meet in flesh and talk to these journalists, politicians and media people.

Sure, maybe not everything was perfect during our trip, but most of it was.ย So it was an honour in a way, for me, to be there, to represent the University of Sheffield together with all my classmates and to take part in such a great experience. Plus, we really had a good time between and after the official schedule ๐Ÿ˜€ whoop whoop!


London trip: constructive, impressive, innovative. Part 1

I’ve been to London for three days of tours of three different newsrooms and the two big Houses of Parliament. It was a trip designed and paid for by the University of Sheffield for the Web and Magazine journalism students. I will describe it using one word for each place I’ve been to during these days in one of the most busiest and tiresome cities in the world.

This is also a form of a feedback for our great tutor Bill Carmichael who had the patience to wait for all of us and the energy to answer our questions and even to have dinner with us in China Town! ๐Ÿ™‚

Group picture in China Town

Group picture in China Town

First of all, I want to emphasize on the importance of this trip, especially, to the Newsrooms because they have offered us a good taste of the real world of journalism. It’s not fake, it’s not an exercise, it is what it is: journalism in some of the largest newsrooms in UK or in the world. We could have never learned about them from staying in Sheffield.

1.BBC Online – impressive
2.The Independent – constructive
3.Daily Mail Online – innovative (yet realistic)

Tour of BBC

Tour of BBC

BBC Television Centre is the name of this huge newsroom with thousands of people working for it. It is impressive to step in a centre where you can actually feel the journalism in every bit of it. TV studios, live broadcasting, phones ringing, tweetDecks refreshing chaotically, TVs on each desk, people typing frantically and a real town underground with shops, pharmacies and cafes. How cannot this be impressive?

BBC Television Centre

BBC Television Centre

The tour just gave me chills. I think it’s every journalist’s dream to have at least some months of work for the BBC. Though what sort of discouraged me was Matthew Eltringham‘s frank response about the hard chances a journalist has nowadays to get a job with the BBC considering the cuts they have suffered in the past six months. However, a man can dream, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

The Independent newsroom is, obviously, much more different and smaller. Still, journalists act almost the same: Stamina and nerve all the way. Jack Riley was our host at Northcliffe House, a building that gives home to several newspapers such as Daily Mail, London Evening Standard, Metro and some others which I can’t really remember now. We mostly talked about social media and the roles it plays in the life of a newspaper, in terms of marketing and newsgathering. Hmm, actually I reckon we talked more about the marketing side of social-media and how it helped the newspapers (the 20p “I” too) gain more readers.

Anyway, it was a constructive talk with good questions coming from my classmates. I believe it is also important to mention here that the Independent looks to find an efficient way of payable content like the Times. It is an interesting challenge, but I consider there are too many ways to read the news for a paper to earn money through this system. It should probably upload online some great, exclusive materials worth to be paid for.

Finally, the Daily Mail Online, the newsroom which seems the perfect place for web journalists. It was the ONLY newsroom that gave me the feeling that the WEB Department really matters for a newspaper. I say this because for BBC and the Independent the online seems to be the “necessary evil” (apud Hanne). The web is just an auxiliary tool fed with information coming from TV, Radio and news agencies. It just seems boring to me…but I pray to God to be wrong.

Northcliffe House

Northcliffe House

Unlike many other newsrooms, Daily Mail cares about its website, it might be because it’s the second read/largest in the world after the New York Times? Although they opened their website later than all the others competitors in the UK, Daily Mail tried to change the traditional, sometimes boring, journalism. I know Daily Mail does not have the most qualitative news in the media, but its way of writing them (online) triggers millions of readers per day. I loved it the most maybe because our speakers, Sarah Graham and Claire Bates (former student at Web Journalism, Uni of Sheffield) expressed a really realistic view on what readers want from a news website.

Long headlines that explain the whole story, a catchy teaser, many photos with short captions, some more photos, bullet points, photos again and in the end, a big section of commentaries moderated by people hired especially for this job.

A 24-hour newsroom, with night-shifts and people updating the homepage sometimes within seconds. They have reinvented the traditional journalistic titles. Because this is online and that’s the beauty of it: no space limit. Sure, most of the people skim through an online text and that is why Daily Mail based its strategy on the big, long headlines that would attract a reader and not deceive him with some short, lacking (almost) sentences.

There are definitely different views on this – they don’t teach you this in school; I know some journalism teachers who would die from heart attack if I wrote such titles for my patch stories ๐Ÿ˜€ – however, it works for them, and it works pretty damn good too. Daily Mail has recently opened two offices in New York and Los Angeles, going after the first place in the world by overrunning the NYTimes. Fingers crossed!

They spoke the truth: rewriting stories is vital for web journalism otherwise you could never get 400 stories a day for your online version. There’s no shame in that as far as journalists use their own words and dig for some more info. In-depth research comes when it’s time for that. Phones are best friends with these journalists and so are the Picture and Video agencies, those which provide them with great content. And on top of everything is the unique style they are using for writing these stories.

Inside BBC

Inside BBC newsroom on Wood Lane

Overall, I think the trips to the newsrooms showed us that web journalism is not as evolved as I thought. I mean, as a web journalist you have to do broadcast and print at the same time, but by using twitter and your multi-tasking phone. Matthew, from BBC, said there is no such thing as a “specialised web journalist”, therefore I ask myself if the online reporters are really doing a journalistic work or if the web will ever become more important than the print? Because, obviously it hasn’t yet or at least most of the traditional journalists don’t see it like that.

My second part on the Houses of Parliament and our political speakers will be published soon ๐Ÿ™‚


Tour of Houses of Parliament

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