A week ago my classmates and I had our very first ‘live rolling news day’. Many journalism students would rejoice at the idea of working in a real-life newsroom situation, bringing original news stories to the table, getting quotes, writing it all up and posting the finished product on a news website before the dreaded deadline is up. I, however, did not.
The very first Multimedia Reporting lecture I attended can easily be summarized in one word: scary. Being in a room full of second year journalism students really made it obvious how much my class and I had missed out on. Doing a joint degree sounded like a great idea a year ago, but it was just then in that lecture that I realised that every time I was happily sitting in an English class discussing19th century England and Jane Eyre, somewhere, those journalism students were learning about how to gather, write and edit news. A skill I very much missed a week ago.
Last Monday, I saw this live rolling news thing more as an opportunity to find out what we are actually supposed to be doing, rather than an opportunity to post serious news stories on a serious news website that serious people will be reading and are supposed to take seriously. I did not find anything newsworthy to report in the preceding week so I arrived pretty much unprepared. The fact that our guest lecturer told us off for not taking a class that is not in our curriculum only made my anxiety and discomfort rise. I never felt much like a proper journalist, but on that particular day I felt like I could not report a news story if it was happening right in front of me. If you had asked my why, I would have told you that I did not have the skills, the cockiness, or the talent and that really, there is no point in forcing something that simply is not there.
Three o’clock sooner or later arrived, and we all met in the classroom. Since I did not have a news story, nor wanted to conjure one out of thin air, I volunteered as a sub-editor. It was enough responsibility to make me feel important, yet I was not important enough to make any of the big decisions.
The work was easy; while everybody else was writing away and calling important people, I looked at pictures to be used alongside the stories. I did not have much to do, as I could only start doing my part of the work once all the stories had been written. I was quite happy with the work, that is, until the actual work began. I did not feel comfortable editing my peers’ work without at least giving them a reason, so I decided to go over every news story with the person that wrote it; that way, we could decide where sentences needed to be changed and agree on the final version. In my situation, it was probably the nicest way of editing something, however, it certainly was not the fastest. I quickly got swamped with work and while still trying to stick to one format for all the news stories, I only had time to skim through the articles and could not look at them properly, as I had wished. Things quickly became chaotic; we were approaching our deadline with what seemed to me ludicrous speed, and people were starting to get concerned that they would not make the deadline.
But deadline or not, I still had to go through every article before it could be posted on the Edinburgh Napier News website. The people who had already submitted their work started leaving, and things got a bit quieter. Eventually everybody had left, safe three of my friends who were lending me a helping hand and me.
In the end the deadline had been crossed, of course; some news stories did not make the cut; and the ending was chaotic at best – but we survived.
What have I learned from my first live rolling news day?
I might not be a proper journalist, but I am pretty good at faking it.