Sky News Day 20: That’s all for now folks…

Something very distressing has happened. I’ve finished my placement at Sky News and can no longer bend the truth when speaking to rich men in cocktails bars about where I “work”. There”ll be no more looks of outraged horror from those who believe they work for “principled” news companies (he worked for a bank, I think I had the moral high ground personally) or free shots from those who’re willing to take the ethical gamble. No longer can I have sophisticated chats about my “occupation” with business men on the train or expect the Devonshire taxi driver to exclaim “you’re the lady from Sky!” as I attempt to stumble home after one too many ciders. But perhaps even more distressing than all that, is that my time at one of the forefront international news operations in the UK has come to a close.

How best to follow a month a Sky News? Holidaying in the South of France of course!

Working at Sky has genuinely been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I’ve got to spend four weeks not just residing in the amazing environment that is Sky News, but actually doing things and seeing the end result. I’m quite concious that throughout these blog posts it might have appeared as if I haven’t done a lot, as I’ve been very aware that an “I’ve done this today” list would make extremely dull reading. Seeing as this is the last one, I thought I’d break the rules a bit, just to prove I haven’t been sat on my bum eating Wispas and chocolate cake.

I’ve booked scores of interviews, made so many phone calls I started to think the phone was an extension of my ear and researched until I thought my eyes were bleeding.  I’ve written scripts for radio, for Kay Burley and even today, the last day, I wrote a script to accompany the Olympics summary graphic. I’ve made things to go in the iPad app, I’ve commissioned graphics for on TV and even told the graphics designers how to do them. I’ve worked at the Olympics, accepted the title of general dogsbody and rushed bottles of water to more famous people than you can shake a stick it. And I’ve loved every single second of it.

Alright, there have been days where I’ve felt so tired and ill I’ve wanted to cry, working a part time job on the side hasn’t been easy and there have been times when it seems like nothing working and I’ve wanted to bang my head several times against a steel reinforced concrete wall. But absolutely none of that takes anything away from the absolutely insane experience I’ve had these past four weeks.  It’s been no secret to people who know me that I haven’t always been sure I’ve been doing the right thing but this whole process has really shown me that this is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. And looking back, the only thing I can say with any certainty, is I’ll be back.

Keep up with what I’m doing next on my Twitter or have a look at The Medwire, my student newspaper!

Ps. I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who’s been reading these blogs. I’ve been stunned by the number of people who’ve checked them out and even left me messages to say how proud they are of me. I just hope I haven’t bored you all too much!

Sky News Day 19: There’s an app for that (and I made it)

I hate iPhones.  I hate Macs.  I hate iPads. And I especially hate the iFags who do absolutely nothing else with their lives other than stare at an Apple manufactured screen, occasionally prodding it in the smug self-satisfaction that they have enough Apple products to start an extended family, whilst still craving more. I, on the other hand, have to make do with a “mere” Nokia and you can almost see the distaste flowing from every orifice in their body as I pull it from my pocket. I’m not quite sure where my hatred came from, or where it started, but I can feel my heart sink whenever a new acquaintance reveals an iGadget.  Upon discovering that my boyfriend is the proud owner of  an iPad, iPod and currently lusting for both an Mac and an iPod I nearly ended it there and then. Restraining myself slightly I settled for a rant in front of most of his family about how’d I’d never shell out the best part of a grand on some hyped up piece of metal. Then I went to Sky’s iPad department.

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Whilst it probably goes without saying that there are a lot of iPads floating around in the Sky News iPad department, I was a little bit surprised to handed my own for the day, as a seemingly necessary prerequisite for the job.  I mean, you can’t spend ALL your time working on one app? After I’d got over the fact that I was holding the devil itself and had a bit of prod around myself, I finally had a chance to look around. There are at least 15 people working on content for one app which only works on one device which was only launched a few years ago. They even have their own news reader who records specific bulletins. Either Sky have gone clinically insane or I guess this must be kind of a big deal.

The whole place is like a mini newsroom in itself. They record and upload live TV onto the app, run two separate unique bulletins from their own mini studio, supply a constant stream of articles and create more interactive slideshows and features than you can shake a stick at. Whilst none of them really get the chance to leave and do any proper on the ground journalism, there’s a really nice element of creativity with app building which you don’t get elsewhere. It doesn’t really get more creative than being asked to make a fact file on a Russian cult leader no one know anything about or has ever seen. By the time I’ve made my second feature (a pictorial history of women’s boxing if you’re interested), I find myself absently mindedly checking how much the damn things cost and wondering why more of my friends don’t have one so I can show off what I did. Just no one tell my boyfriend.

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Sky News Day 18: Olympics conversion complete

I must confess, I’m an Olympics convert,  though I’m not quite sure if it was by choice.  I started off two weeks ago unable to muster the enthusiasm even to watch the opening ceremony,  probably muttering something along the lines of “pissing non-existent money down the drain whilst cutting actual benefits”. Then I spent a month with Sky. They seem to have spent their entire working and resting lives with another screen open, frantically checking just in case some more tickets drop and huddled around the BBC big screens every time something big was happening. Or in fact even when something big wasn’t happening. In the end I gave in and bought some Paralympic fencing tickets.

At least the boyfriend was happy with my weak willpower…

 Now I’ll happily sit there, glued to the screen and watching something I don’t really have the faintest clue about, crying as they belt out the national anthem and squealing at just how cute everyone involved is, (I blame you for this Murdoch). Yet if you thought the transformation stopped at just throwing aside all of my cherished left wing views, oh how wrong you’d be. Royal Mail, our beloved national post service, have pledged to paint a golden postbox for every single golden winner at London 2012 and what’s more they’ll even get a special stamp with their name, picture and event on. My task for the day at the online desk – find out everything you’d ever want to know about every single one of our golden athletes and a couple of groovy action shots and hey presto – we can make a golden postbox map of the UK!

The idea itself is actually pretty swish and seeing as we’ve accrued some 29 gold medals, you wouldn’t think it to be that lengthy of a task. Then you realise that a lot of these medals are won in team sports and you can fit a hell of a lot of people in one boat. Suddenly your number of profiled personalities jumps to 42 and you realise just how hard it is to find an action shot of just the one guy in the boat of four. Thus my day in online evaporated into a flurry of research and all of a sudden it was coming up to six o’clock. Now, not only do I have the pleasure of looking at the gallery map on the Sky News website and thinking, “I pretty much did that” I also know everything there is to know about our top performing athletes. If you’re going to be an Olympic geek, you’ve got to at least do it properly.

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Here is the gallery in screenshot form, just in case you’re interested.

Don’t forget you can still follow me on Twitter for all the latest updates!

Sky New Day 14/15: I wrote it, Kay Burley said it

Whilst I’d like to think I’m not one to brag about my achievements, if any, I’m also not ashamed to admit that I do like them to be known. It can sound a somewhat contradictory notion, but to me it seems perfectly achievable. I want my byline on the piece, so I can prove it’s mine and justifiably slap it down on the table mid job interview and say that was mine, I did it, all by my little old self. But by the same token I’m not looking to ram it down anybody’s throat. One of the things which has always left me slightly dubious about working within broadcasting is that though I’m not searching for the limelight and gagging to get in front of the camera, I’m not quite comfortable with the idea a lot of hard work goes generally uncredited and is completely untraceable.

I guess she can be the star of her show if she wants too..

Working with a production team was always going to be a test of that attitude; everything you do goes into the programme and there’s not so much of a closing credit to say what you did and getting to work on some of the NIBs to be read out in the bulletin was perhaps one of the weirdest experiences I’ve had at Sky so far. They’re hardly substantial; about 15 seconds of text to be read out over the top of some live visuals by the presenter, who just so happens to be Kay Burley. Having edited and written a few myself I didn’t really think much of the whole anonymous affair until whilst rushing around like a blue arsed fly trying to get graphics for the latest  British golds (oh yea, GO TEAM GB!!! The Olympics makes into an excitable and hormonal teenager all at once) I happened to hear Kay Burley reading something that I wrote earlier on. And, I have to admit it made a bit of a funny feeling in my stomach and I felt kind of proud; something I’d never have expected.

This blog post is verging on the territory of deep and meaningful, which I’m concious to avoid like a runaway lion, but it seems to me there’s merit to being part of the bigger picture. There’s no way that journalism on a large scale can be achieved by one person alone and being just one of those tiny cogs that help make it all happen can actually feel quite rewarding, there’s even a weird sense of pride found in the fact that no one else know what you did. Perhaps sometimes, it’s alright to leave the limelight to Mz Burley.

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Four pairs have been disqualified from Olympics badminton, and very rightly so

When was the last time you saw the entirety of Manchester United football team decide they’d had enough, refuse to break out even the most feeble of jogs and take turns at kicking the ball into their own net? Or perhaps you were disappointed last time you saw Usian Bolt when his famous sprint was downgraded to a sauntering, hands in pockets jaunt, just as he got to the final straight? Or maybe you found yourself paying £80 for an Olympics badminton ticket only to find that apparently even the tops seeds don’t need to actually play to win any more.

Badminton china South Korea

Make no mistake, I’m not so naive to think that no form of throwing matches has ever existed in sport, but what spectators at London 2012 saw yesterday was a complete and utter farce. It’s not so much a thin line between playing tactically and “conserving energy”, but a massive big black marker pen sprawled across the courts. It’s easy to see why the Chinese, Indonesian and Korean’s would want to lose their matches; it provides them with a much easier passage through into the finals and improves their overall chances of grabbing the gold, but that doesn’t by any means make it okay.

Regardless of whether the teams actually did anything “technically” wrong and the supposed “tragedy” that some of the world’s greatest players will no longer be in the running for the number 1 spot, let us not forget the very crux of the matter; the spectators. People have shelled out in excess of hundreds of pounds in anticipation of watching some of the world’s finest players battle it out on court, only to be faced with a quartet of people who struggle to even get a shuttlecock over a net, let alone complete a four hit rally. Whether or not it a loss would have made their next draw easier, sportsmen and women should at least show an ounce of respect to the people who not only turn up, but pay up, to watch them.

These competitors seemed to have absolutely no understanding that their actions were essentially the same as sticking their middle fingers up at their fans and shouting “we couldn’t give two hoots about you”. Neither did they appear to comprehend that what they were doing could potentially jeopardise their future sporting careers. That’s not say they weren’t given their chances; how more obvious can a referee be than brandishing a black card in his hand?

All in all, whilst the incident might be regrettable for many reasons, it’s gratifying that the sports world has at last taken a firm stance on match throwing. Whilst the athletes of 2012 will neither be the first or last to be barred from the games and this is undeniably not the last fixed match, at least future sportsmen and women and take some lessons in what’s acceptable moral behaviour and what clearly is not.




Sky News Day 12/13: Let’s all tune in to the BBC…

Working for the Sky during the Olympics has got to be one of the weirdest experiences of my journalistic career so far and not just because it’s only one of the biggest sporting events ever and just, y’know, that massive news powerhouse that is Sky News. Even with my own meagre experience of filming for television, it has always been a case of find a story and asking yourself “do these pictures work?” Pictures are paramount to television news; who’s going to sit watch and watch the same voice simply read a couple of headlines  over and over again, only to be intercepted by some dullish men in suits saying equally dull things. They really do make or break a story; things that barely get a look in on radio are instantly bumped up the running order due to amazing footage and vitally important updates are glided over when there’s truly no hope of a good visual; hence the trouble in covering the EU financial crisis.

I’d probably have found it more weird that all of Sky HQ was glued to these two on the beeb if I wasn’t so gripped myself

And whilst you make the think the Olympics poses little problem, with every possible coverage right afforded to the BBC, Sky is faced with a massive conundrum; how to keep the viewers watching when you can’t show ANY footage of the events at all. And it’s not like the Olympics is one of those things you can just shunt off to the side. It’s an exceptionally weird feeling to be sat in a Sky newsroom watching almost the entire room huddled around a screen with the BBC on. Yet whilst many reporters, including myself on occasion, have sat and bemoaned some of the more ridiculous regulations around the event, I think there could actually be some good to come of it. I’ve spent pretty much the entirety of the last two days, along with the rest of the team at Sky, chasing alternative locations, different guests and brainstorming creatively to try and achieve the best possible output with what we’ve got. Whilst I’m not for a minute suggesting that our coverage wouldn’t immensely improve if we were to have some live shots or that things won’t instantly change back after the games, I can’t help but think this catalyst for creativity must surely be bringing some good for the broadcasting future.

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Sky News Day 10: Jem Collins, Olympics Runner

Ever since I started at Sky people have been asking me what my best day has been so far, but I’ve held off answering in anticipation of today. When I’ve explained that I’m waiting on Sky’s Olympic coverage I think I’ve probably, and somewhat inadvertently, given a false impression of glamour and living the high life. That’s not to say that my day at Tower Bridge was not, quite frankly, amazing but it’s probably one of the longest and hardest slogs I’ve ever experienced. The day was always going to be an interesting one, particularly given our rather alternative choice  in venue, but I don’t think even I predicted how I’d be practically passing out on the way to Cambridge on Friday evening.

If only I’d have had my camera. . .

 Luckily, and somewhat exhaustingly for me, it seemed Sky News were short of a runner for the day, which unlike the title’s glamorous Olympian counterpart, basically consists of becoming a general dogsbody for everyone who happens to show up. It’s one thing running “as much water as you can carry” down to Kay Burley and her team on a normal day, but trust me, running it down to the middle of a tower bridge so crowded you start to question if you actually had had claustrophobia all along from the eighth floor of a hotel on a stiflingly muggy London day is an entirely different kettle of fish.  I’ve lost count of the hours spent queuing in Starbucks getting vanilla lattes and bottles of coke and juggling them through posh hotel lobbies and the number of guest’s I’ve shown to the green room and poured tea for.

Whilst I never really had a “star-struck” phase, I’m now starting to find it almost the norm to see Jeremy Hunt and Ken Livingstone just causally rocking up and I’ve even started to develop a “Sky voice”. I’ve always been hugely influenced by accents, which I discovered the hard way after coming out of a summer school with a strange mix of welsh and Mancunian and now it seems I’m sounded more and more like an Oxford posh boy every day. All the same, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that I am actually enjoying myself, somewhat comforting to know in a world where you’re guaranteed to start at the bottom of the pile.