Who? What? Where? Why Bother?

Biting the hand that feeds and all that, but deary, deary me – if what I have just endured for the past fifteen minutes constitutes the cutting edge of local journalism, then blimey – we may as well be reporting Cat Stuck Up South London Tree rather than genuine local issues.

I sent out a press release to various local media, hoping to raise some support for the Stockwell Stories oral history project. Two weeks later (must have been a busy month for Cats Stuck Up Tree stories) and yer man from the unnamed local newspaper organisation got round to putting a call in.

Fifteen minutes of reading out the press release once again, repeating answers and suggesting questions that he might like to ask – it’s all left me extremely confused. There’s probably even a Stockwell Stories recording in itself to be made out of the Q & A farce.

We didn’t get off to a good start with the journo’s first question of:

“Where is the borough of Stockwell?”

Um… Yer man from the local media works for a newspaper that has Lambeth as it’s flagship borough. It’s not giving too much away either to state that yer man was sitting in an office in St Reatham, overlooking the Rotten Borough.

“Why would you want to talk to local people?”

This was his second question, and not a statement lifted from the local journo handbook.

Oh, you know – I thought that in order to get a sense of the area and what is going on, it might be useful to actually go out there and try and find some stories.

“Can you play me one of the recordings, please?”

Well… if you go to the blog url that I included in the press release (something that you have obviously failed to do before putting the call in,) then you can listen to the entire archive we have published to date.

“What is a blog?”

If my dear old Gran came out with such a question, then I would helpfully explain. For a person who is employed in a profession that is supposedly involved in the collection, analysis and then distribution of news content, then this equates to professional suicide.

Um, it’s an online publishing platform that will probably put you out of a job within twelve months, unless you and your BIG media news organisation actually get a coherent online strategy in place.

“Can you give me the contact details of one of the people you have interviewed?”

Ah, that’s getting slightly better. Yep, I can see you want to get your hands dirty, but you should know by now that you never give away your sources. Plus the whole point of the recordings is for the lovely local people to put across their stories via the blog.

“What’s a blog again?”

Blimey.

“Why would you want to use the internet for this project, rather than publish a book.”

Because in less than the time it has taken you to transcribe, sub-edit, publish and distribute your hack of a finished piece of copy, I have already blogged about how painful and tiresome the whole process was.

Time to move on…

I’m sorry to diss Mr local journo, and I really am grateful for any support on this project. But if that’s how BIG media play the game, then it’s no surprise that you’re spunking away £500k per year.

7 thoughts on “Who? What? Where? Why Bother?

  1. Did it ever occur to you that maybe you were talking to an intern? The South London Press takes on weekly work experience students, who may not have English as a first language let alone a familiarity with the geography of South London. You’ve just publically [sic] torn apart the efforts of a teenager, trying to get their foot onto the first rung of journalism. Nice.

  2. With apologies to the intern involved. This suggests then that it’s a structural problem, which arguably, is more worrying. Why allow someone to objectively report a local news patch, if by admission, they are unfamiliar with the area and struggle with the language?

    Thanks for the NIB, anyway.

  3. It’s a very, very difficult industry to get into and not everyone has an Oxford degree and £8,000 lying around to get onto one of the really good journalism courses that offer a backdoor onto the nationals. The SLP take on these interns to give them a chance and overworked staff try their best to supervise them and pass on stories they can manage. But there’s only so much staff can do. It’s unfortunate that this kid made such a hash of the story and they should certainly have told Mr Cobb they were doing work experience.

  4. Agree totally with the closed network of going down the Nationals route. But is there really any need for this antiquated form of training now? It’s as simple as here’s a blogging platform, find your story, press publish. If the kid is good enough, he or she will get noticed.

    You need to write about what you know. This will then shine through in your copy. Starting a blog is the best route for any budding journo to go out there and get their hands dirty.

    I write about Stockwell because it’s all that I know about. I’m sure the poor intern that is caught up in this sorry saga has plenty of ideas and enthusiasm around their own interest.

    Start a blog, or you’re burnt toast.

  5. Just to clarify – out of curiosity, is this an “intern” (free labour) or someone on work experience as part of a course or their schooling? I did the latter at the SLP in the early 90s and did a lot of really unsexy stuff that actually made me think about proper newspaper skills that blogging won’t teach – writing style, subbing, that kind of thing.

    I don’t know if you’re from the SLP, Lindsay, but if you are, hiding behind the “he’s only a kid working for free” is a sorry excuse which does the paper no favours at all. If local papers like the SLP can’t reach out properly and honestly to smaller operators working in different media, then they will die out.

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