Sky News Day 5: Reflections on a Week in Murdoch’s Empire

I find it hard to believe as I board my train to Paddington from sunny Devon that I’m already into my second week of my placement. I probably should have written this blog somewhat earlier than I did but after learning that Mr Murdoch can set up an impressive bar tab, suffering a night plagued by fire alarms and Don Mclean (honestly, don’t ask, it felt like I was in a horrific movie of mind games) and drinking far too many stress relieving cocktails than I probably should have, my weekend at home has just evaporated into a hazy blur and I seem to have woken up more tired on Monday morning than I did on Friday.

For the record, I spent my Friday immersed in the planning department once more, researching lots of Olympics related pub-quiz style trivia for a graphic they’re planning on running. Now I now exactly how many button’s will feature in the opening ceremony, how many portaloos there will be and exactly how many LEDs will be used, which strangely I feel could be a good party trick when I return home this weekend. I would tell you the answer, but I guess you’ll just have to watch Sky on Friday to find out. Nothing like a good plug for the work you’ve been doing, hey?

Wild guess? Answers on a post card please.

However, the wonderful six hour commute from Devon did finally give me the chance to reflect on my first week in the land of Rupert Murdoch and I’ve come to several conclusions about my first week in the big city, some more trivial than others;

Sky is a actually a really nice place to work, albeit a bloody hard slog

I’ve spoken to a lot of Sky employees this week and a lot of them seem to have been at Sky for a very long time and we’re not just talking a year or two here – eight, ten or even fifteen years seems to be perfectly normal here.  Whilst I understand that the jobs market is very much stagnated at the moment, surely the fact still stands that if it was a horrible place to work people  would leave. There also seems to be a lot of movement and progression if you’ve got talent and the drive. I’ve met so many people who were runners or something lowly who are now editors or cameramen. This said, it is a hell of a lot of work. Even as the work experience girl I’ve come to appreciate the fact that long hours are just part and package of the job. Strangely though, even as a person who finds any time pre-8am abhorrent, this hasn’t put me off. I’d get up at 6.30am any day of the week for a job like this.

London really isn’t that bad..

I’ve got to be honest, I’ve always avoid London like an onset of the plague, and it’s been one of the things that’s caused me the most anguish about my choice in career. But it has to be said there is something in the city that gets you, even though I’m not quite sure what it is yet. I don’t think they’ll ever be anything quite like a Devonshire summers day, but a life in the fast lane isn’t half as bad as I’d first thought. My favourite game, smiling at Londoner’s and looking at their confusing faces, is even coming to fruition. I’ve yet to find someone in a good mood on the tube yet, but the people on the street seem to have cheered up no ends from the grumpy, heartless stereotype. 

I should swear less in this blog, my lecturers read this.

Finally, after revisiting everything I’ve written this week, I’ve realised I must sound like a raging alcoholic with an acute swearing problem. I also had the realisation that I think some of my lecturers are reading this. That said, I’m pretty sure that the head of planning found my comments on how everyone wears too much blue at Sky pretty amusing and he did come in wearing a white top the following day. But uhm, sorry guys. I’ll make it stop. Maybe. 

(PS. I’m on a personal mission to make Sky a more colourful place to work. I’ve even gone on a weekend shopping spree to buy as many  coloured pairs of trousers as you can on a student budget; I’ll give you a photo by photo update as soon as humanly possible.)

Sky News Day 4: A double gin on you Murdoch? Well if you insist I’ll take three…

Before I start this, it’s worth warning you that writing this blog without coming off like an excitable Justin Bieber fan is about as likely as telling a child that Father Christmas is outside and expect them to stay indoors. After a less than productive start at the planning desk yesterday, I was determined to make a good impression today and it seems like simply being nice to people and engaged in the discussion can get you a long way, even if it’s just the security guard slipping you a few hot chocolate vouchers. As well as the regular humdrum of meetings and news consumption that takes place in the planning office, I was tasked to help the team find someone who’d been affected by the draconian Olympics branding rules. First up they thought of looking for someone from a chippy, an area which just happens to be my area of expertise and something I would never have come in handy at Sky News. A quick call to the trade magazine Fry and the editor was more than happy to give me a list of names and numbers, whilst we didn’t run with the idea in the end, I felt like a useful part of the team.

I wonder if the brand police will have me for this…

Later, as they were trying to work out to contact a torch runner in Kent, I helpfully pointed out that I knew Alan McGuiness, the first Sky scholar, so was able to find them the details they needed. I also suggested the use of a knitting granny; the only reason this one  didn’t make the grade was that one was after tracking her down we found out she’d already been used in someone else’s package.  None of the team found anyone in the end; although I’d rather someone had been found, it’s make you realise that even professional journalists can’t make the impossible arise and that you can’t be totally useless after all. They even used the holy grail of words “you’re doing really well” and pressed me to come to their drinks later.

I’m still very much split over the most exciting part of today after being approached to work both on the iPad app for the American elections doing actual real work AND being told that Sky are happy to get me accredited to help on their opening ceremony coverage next week. Both are absolutely amazing opportunities to work on and I’m really excited to be a part of such massive world news. I don’t think it’s really properly sunk in yet. I would write more but a bar tab with Murdoch’s name on it is calling me and who am I to resist free gin?

Sky News Day 2: “We’ll blag it, we are fucking important”

Getting up at 6.30am was always going to be painful, particularly if your name is Jem Collins. The bandwagon of late risers is one that everyone claims to be part of, but I’d just like to give you a little context on the issue. I will shower in the evenings, pack my bags in the evenings and generally prepare in every conceivable manner to maximise morning sleep time. I’m even willing to sacrifice my TravelLodge all you can eat full English for some fruit on the go for more duvet seconds (but to be honest, after trying it yesterday I’m not to fussed about that last one). So with that in mind, consider the unfathomable pain I felt after getting a call at 7.20am to tell me I could have had an extra FORTY FIVE MINUTES in bed. That’s a least another good couple of dream cycles right there. Nonetheless it’s not every day you find yourself working for a multi-national news organisation and it is most certainly not every day they tell you you’re going out with a reporter to White Hart Lane on your second day.

Well, I can’t say I was expecting this when I woke up…

When I got selected for this whole thing, the big boss man in charge (Rob Kirk, if you’re interested), made me promise that I’d gen up on my current affairs more and even though I’ve become even more of a newspaper freak than I was before, I’d still say that sport is one of my weak points, along with reality TV shows, which really are the most pointless things to grace the earth. Yet even I understood how big of a deal this was as I walked through the players’ tunnel with Ledley King and sat in the manager’s chair and I guess it’s fair to say I got a little bit star struck by the whole situation. Luckily the “OH FUCK I’M IN WHITE HART LANE WITH LEDLEY AND HIS WIFE” moment only set in in after the job was done and everybody had left so I could gawp around the place in peace without anyone wondering who’d brought the village idiot along.

I AM the reason Harry was let go.

The whole gig itself was extremely uplifting, with the hook being that a year on from the London riots, local school kids were “reclaiming their streets” with a massive carnival type parade, unveiling of a plaque and a special song sung in White Hart Lane. I’m sure I’d think a little differently if I was a die-hard Spurs fan, but for me the most fulfilling thing was getting out and meeting real people who are doing really positive things and showing the world about it. The children of Tottenham were amazing; so many bright and articulate young people who were genuinely passionate about the area and making a better place for themselves. I’ve always thought that I wanted to go into print journalism before university but today was just another example of why I feel I might be changing my mind. So often in newspapers you can find yourself chained to a desk rewriting wire copy and it’s such a refreshing change to actually go out and do journalism as it should be done.

*insert another football related caption here*

And whilst I’m sure you’d love to be enlightened further about the ins and outs of my day and my philosophical views on news gathering, not only do you have better things to do but I supposedly have to be up at 6.30am tomorrow, though knowing Sky News, that’s liable to change again by 7!




Sky News Day 1: The Man Isn’t After Me After All…

This post is to be the first of a series,  detailing my time at Sky News this summer after winning the Bob Friend Memorial Scholarship in February. If you’ve been lucky enough to escape my relentless spamming  on the matter then you can check out what all the fuss is about on the Centre for Journalism website. Whilst I appreciate it probably isn’t that thrilling to read about things other people are doing whilst you’re sat at home staring at a computer screen, seeing as every other winner has found the time to chronicle their exploits, I’d hate to be the one to let the side down. 

The last thing my friends said to me when I left for London yesterday was a somewhat hesitant whisper about how I’ll be working “for the man now” and I that I must not get corrupted and instead do some good “journalisming”.  I laughed at them for a good thirty seconds, but I’ve got to be honest, I was pooing my pants and not just because scary people might scream in my face and force-teach me to hack phones. The last newsroom I was in was a small paper in the Kentish town of Deal; it comprised of two full time reporters and an editor in a room which may even be smaller than the TravelLodge I’m currently sat in. Whilst I have the upmost respect for the job they do, it’s also fair to say it’s almost like comparing an elephant to a mouse, with regards to Sky News. Oh and did I mention I come from Devon? I mean honestly, we’ve only just caught up with the idea of toilets on trains, let alone international multimedia news companies ( I really wish I could say I was joking there).

On the subject of TravelLodge rooms, how is it possible to make one so messy in so little time?

In respect of being one of the most gob-smacking places I’ve ever been to, Sky News definitely fits the bill. Even the outside is like a maze with massive building after massive building, each with their own gatehouse and security and even one with a giant windmill on top.  And then you go inside. It’s hard to describe how truly incredible the place really is, and as my predecessor Dan May put it, it’s like an “assault on your eyes” from every possible direction.  Everyone has two screens and a Freeview TV, making it damn near impossible to miss anything, and the control room has more lights and flashy things than Lapland at Christmas.

But what got me the most is the fact the entire thing is open plan; nowhere is off limits. As I gingerly walked in and attempted the water cooler, Eamonn Holmes causally strolled out. The set which they’re broadcasting live on right now  is just a couple of metres away from me and there’s physically nothing to stop me running across the screen naked and shouting “HEY MUM” if I wanted too. Not that I’d do that, I’m far too enamoured with the idea of actually staying here and working.

I was quite pleased it didn’t say 212.. But look, I’m STAFF!

I was also pleasantly surprised in terms of big nasty people who shout at you and bang there fists on tables; I’ve yet to observe a single raised voice in the entire building. Seems the man isn’t coming after me after all. And whilst I’ve yet to do any proper “journalisming”, as it was mostly a day of tours, health and safety and getting to grips with the software, I’m excited to learn that I’ll be on the planning desk tomorrow and I should be going out with reporters by the end of the week. That and the fact I’ve already been invited out to office drinks; it seems my alcoholism will serve me well here. If I didn’t feel like I could fall asleep on my feet, I’d be unable to contain my excitement. As it is I think I’d better get some shut eye for that 6.30am start…

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