Work experience in Gravesend Messenger

10:46:00 PM Elaine Loke 0 Comments

Hey my lovely readers! I'm finally taking some time to update my blog after such a long time.
Don't get me wrong. I didn't abandon my blog or stop blogging. Updating a blog actually requires lots of time (usually it takes me 2~3 hours to write a single blog post) because there's so much to do such as transferring pictures, editing pictures, drafting blog posts and editing blog posts. All require lots of effort so I always end up writing a topic halfway and put it into draft instead.

Today I shall endeavour to finish this blog post. It's a story I wish to remember so let's go! WOO!

I ended my one-week work experience with Gravesend Messenger today! Lots of bittersweet memories from this work experience.

FYI: My work experience with the Gravesend Messenger was allocated by my university and it a great opportunity that came to me easily because I didn't have to submit any CV or go through interview and application process to get it. It was all handled by my lecturer and everybody in my class was confirmed a place with the KM Group. 

So here comes the confusing part. Whenever I tell people I'll be working in Gravesend Messenger, they get so confused. 

KM Group consists of many smaller 'groups' where each 'group' covers stories from their own area. 

For example, Medway Messenger covers Medway area, Gravesend Messenger covers Gravesham area and so on. And all of these 'groups' come together to form KM Group. 

Rewinding back to day one ...

I woke up at 6am and dreaded the day. It was sunny outside and I felt it was such a waste to be spending it in the office. I have to walk 20 minutes to the train station, pay £10.10 a day for a return ticket and walk a further 5 minutes to the office. What a pain!

On the first day I was bombarded with 10~15 emails all requiring me to write nibs (short story). Nibs aren't that bad. Most of the information can be found online so there wasn't any problem. Time passed fairly quick in the office to be honest. Noon came and I was sent out to do some vox pops.

Crap! Not the dreaded vox pops. As easy it vox pop seems, it's a pretty poo thing to do. There's so many things that actually runs in your mind when you prepare for a vox pop. For example:

1. What about that guy? Oh no, he's on the phone.
2. That lady! Okay! She it is. Oh wait did she just say 'fuck' to her young son? 
3. The man there. Oh wait he just went into the shop. 
4. Okay this lady here. 
     Me: Excuse me, do you have a minute? I'm from the Gra-
     Lady: Serry I no Ingelish
     Me: It's alright then. Thanks.

5. I'll just ask this guy. *Guy stares at me with evil eyes* NOPE... Turn and walk away. RUN! 
6. Fine. This girl. 
    Me: Hi, do you have a minute. I'm from the Gravesend Messenger and would like to ask you a simple question. 
    Girl: Yeah sure
    Me: How do you feel about the EU referendum? Do you think Britain is better off in or out of EU?
    Girl: I think it is good 
    Me: Sorry, good what? 
    Girl: I think the referendum is good 
    Me: Sorry, I would like to know if you think if Britain is better off in or out of EU? 
    Girl: Yeah

Okay girl... 

Indeed, vox pops can either go really well or really shit, but most of the time it ends up with you being shouted at, lectured by residents or spat in the face.

As soon as I got back to the office after doing my vox pops, I opened my email to see another bombardment of emails. This time, longer stories which require me to make phone calls. My weakest spot. I can never conduct an interview well. I decided to leave the phone calls all for the next day.

Woke up day two contemplating if I really want to continue pursing Journalism. Defo not a joke.
I went in to work and started writing down questions to ask before making phone calls. True enough, I had to re-call a few because I forgotten to ask the interviewee's age, which is a total embarrassment because c'mon guys! Just imagine someone calling you, saying: "May I know your age please?" 

Tuesday was a fun day for me. I was working on a story about a man trying to raise money for leukaemia research. Anybody can donate money and then send him a challenge where he will then complete it and post the video on Facebook as proof of completion. He happened to be doing the challenge of waxing his chest and legs, painting his toes pink and getting HD eyebrows on Tuesday and as I found out about it last minute, no photographer was available so I personally went to take a few pictures to go with the news story. It was an amazing experience. Elliott (pictured) was really friendly and easy going. It was worth it sacrificing my lunch time to cover his story.

Wednesday marks my first time ever in an inquest. I shadowed a reporter, Julia to the Gravesend Old Town Hall for a few inquests where I tried my hands using shorthand to get down as much information I could. It was definitely not an easy task because shorthand wasn't a huge problem for me, but rather trying to hear what the coroner was saying. He was proper mumbling and speaking quietly. Most of the time I heard things like "Smith... 14 April... reported dead... Going to... Called the police... Hospital... Post mortem... Death was due to" 

Yeap... If you can just repeat that again, Sir. 

Julia was really helpful and she taught me many things about inquests- How long each inquest lasts, what kind of story, how inquests are decided or adjourned and how to confirm information.

When I got back to the office, I was shocked when my editor, Nikki, asked me to write up an inquest.
I was proper "OH MY GOSH" because I had no idea how to transcribe my shorthand and I can't trust the information I got. I had to confirm with Julia so many times just for a 9-line inquest news.

Went out for a drive to Meopham with Lizzie in the KMFM car to an event in the village hall on Thursday where old people who are 90 years old or above get together for an afternoon tea as a celebration for the Queen's birthday.
It was an incredible experience seeing how Lizzie covered the story so naturally. She spoke really comfortably with everybody, hoping from interviewing one person to the next. It's absolutely amazing to see how she can conduct an interview while writing all the information down at the same time. The elderlies were very friendly and I have to admit, they were all in great shape. Being 90 and still able to walk and chomp down scones. It makes me think if us Chinese are overly superstitious.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not reprimanding the Chinese beliefs. It just got me thinking how Chinese have so many superstitions such as:

1. Can't wash your hair for 3 months after giving birth
2. Having to eat specific food after giving birth
3. Can't eat food which has high water content if you have arthritis 

It is believed that breaking the superstitions is the reason why you get sick, but Westerners don't go through 3 months confinement and they still live healthily with their womb still intact? SMH

Today marks the last day of my work experience. I was wrapping up some remaining nibs when Nikki said I'll be going out with Lizzie to cover the St. George parade!

A lively event with young kids from various junior schools taking part in the parade. I went on to do some vox pops and my first one definitely didn't go well. It was absolute bullshit!
I had no idea why Britain celebrates St. George's Day. What's the purpose of it?
Basically, I was trying to bullshit my way with nonsense questions which ultimately backfired when a parent corrected me and I said: "I apologise. I am not familiar with the celebration." Thankfully he was understanding and told me about it so I had a clue later on.

Picture quality not the best because it was taken with my phone and the weather was gloomy so the lighting was bad.

My work experience with the Gravesend Messenger is such bittersweet. I struggled and got back on my feet, shadowed amazing journalists to events and inquest hearings, learn from my mistakes and worked with a small but fantastic team. I was worried at first when I found out my editor is a lady because my mom used to say lady bosses are the worst, but she was absolutely amazing and helpful. She talked me through the style of news writing, the mistakes I did and the aspects to pay extra attentions. Lizzie, who brought me along to cover events and showed me how things are done. Oh and not to forget the British superstition about magpies!

One for sorrow, two for joy, three for girl, four for boy, five for silver, six for golden, seven for the secret never to be told

It was a coincidence because I happened to spot two magpies togethers on top of a shiny bin outside my accommodation. I was staring at it because it looked so beautiful- long tails and a blue highlight under their wings. It got me thinking how nice UK is to have lovely birds when Malaysia has... Crows -.-

Thanks to Julia for taking me to the inquest hearings and taught me some bits and pieces about court reporting as well as helping me out with my first inquest report. It was an eye opening experience.

Not to forget the other team members as well! Lots of laughters everyday in the office. It is indeed a different working scene than I thought. I was expecting strict and quiet working environment and some scoldings from the editor but there wasn't any! It feels like working with friends instead of boss and workers.

Oh and up till today, I still have no idea what is my working hours and when is my lunch time. Hahaha

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