Home > Comment, Personal, Rants > My first week as a journalist – work experience day 2 – Vox Pop

My first week as a journalist – work experience day 2 – Vox Pop

My second day at the South Wales Argus proved to be an exhausting experience. But becoming a journalist has always been a dream of mine, and now that I am getting closer, it will take a lot more than exhaustion to stop me…

The 6am starts really don’t help much, catching two trains to Newport, which takes an hour and a half, then a brisk 30 minute walk from the train station to their offices. The morning heat this week has been extraordinary, and I need a quick fag break before I go to cool off, even at 8:30 in the morning. This is the one thing I’m really not used to, a shirt and tie everyday. When you sweat a little in a shirt it really shows, and suit trousers stick to your legs – maybe a bus would be more convenient, but I would arrive 40 minutes early, and, as I’m about to embark upon my NCTJ (National Certificate of Trained Journalism) next month I need to save my pennies.

The morning started like it always does, reading yesterdays paper, then going over today’s broadsheets to see what’s been happening. The office starts to buzz as reporters get calls and emails detailing the comings-and-goings of the day, but because I’m only work experience and there’s no internet at my computers, I have to wait to be told my task.

The no internet really irritates me. I can’t check the news online, I can’t tweet, and I can’t do very much research when it comes to writing my pieces. There is, admittedly, one computer with full access (the rest have ethernet), but it is usually busy. You’d think, with the ‘Arab Spring’ being orchestrated via Twitter, and the amount of trouble some people have been in for internet libel, that it would be readily available in a news office? Personally, I find a lot of my comment articles from Twitter posts, people recommending me pieces that are well written or thought-provoking, so being cut off is a little unsettling, and makes life very quiet.

After moving from the papers to my textbook, trying to fit in a bit of early reading about current affairs for my looming course, I am approached with my task for the day – to go out and do a vox pop. This, I learned (uninitiated as I am), is when you go out into the local streets and pick people’s brains for short interviews, like what do you think about x? Why? Etc. My topic was to find out about people’s favourite superheroes as part of a piece concerning the recent avalanche of superhero movies like the Mighty Thor, Green Lantern and Captain America.

Walking into town and starting to try and get people to answer I realised this wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. I have been charity fundraising for a year over the phone now, and, because I am quite successful at it, I thought getting people to answer a few questions would be a doddle. “I’ll back in an hour or two,” I confidently declared as I left, but how wrong I was…

Firstly, due to my subject matter, people of the older orientation simply weren’t interested. Every time I eventually got one to stop and agree to give me a minute for the Argus, as soon as I asked who’s your favourite superhero, they said something like, “I don’t know these things any more love,” or “Not interested son.” I very quickly understood that, predominately, my audience was male, 18-30. But, because I was new, I really wanted to get a good variety of demographics into my interviews. I managed to get a few girls and their boyfriends to answer the questions and was growing in confidence until the second problem arose: no one wanted their photo taken!

Aaaargh! I had been told that we needed ten interviews, all with names, ages and an image. But this was tricky, because some people didn’t want to give their full name (“call me Mr Smith”), but mostly they refused to be photographed. And, obviously of course, due to my subject matter, you could rarely appeal to anyone’s vanity (“do you want your photo in the paper”) because if they were girls they didn’t know any superheroes.

The last problem I had, with the public at least, was when I found a true virtuoso of comics. When I thought I’d hit the jackpot, kicked off a wee rapport, as soon as I asked, “So, who’s your favourite superhero then?” I got either consternation of indignation from them. “I couldn’t possibly choose!” or, “They’re all great, aren’t they?” with that challenging question thrown in at the end.

After hree hours of this, my final, and most painful problem kicked in – my smart shoes are old and decrepit. Not only were my legs hurting because I don’t usually spend so long in one go on my feet (remember to include my half hour walk from the station to work, then back again), but I was developing some fantastic blisters on every inch of my feet.

Limping on, and after four hours, with only eight out of the ten interviews and photos I needed, I retreated back to the office to write up my findings. Another half hour back down the road…

I’ve got to say that they seemed very happy with my work, which cheered me up a little, after I sat down of course. I wrote up the short interviews in 15 or 20 minutes (most of the answers to ‘why are they your favourite hero?’ were, “Because they’re cool, aren’t they…”), and was let off early at 4:15. Luckily, because I knew I would have a bit, but not a lot, of walking to do, I had a spare set of shoes in my bag – which I’d left in the office. This made the walk home more bearable on my feet, but the acid was flowing through my legs and getting on the train and sitting down was oh so pleasurable. Not as pleasurable as finally getting home and into a nice warm bath though.

All things considered, I think I was humbled today. I thought a vox pop would be easy, I was wrong. I thought my shoes would hold up, but I was mistaken. Both of these lessons have been taken to heart, and my one biggest resolution at the moment is, at the first available time, to buy some new shoes if work experience and smart wear are going to become a larger part of my life.

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