Sunday, 11 March 2012

Big London trip

On Tuesday everyone on the Broadcast Journalism course went down to London.  Every year the department organises a trip to the capital so the students can visit various organisations and hear from a selection of speakers.

After arriving in London around lunchtime we dropped our things off at the hostel the department had booked for us.  It was actually my first time staying in a hostel.  I've visited friends at hostels but never stayed in one myself.  There was ten of us in a room and we decided to spend as little time as possible in that room.

In the afternoon we went to the Guardian offices at Kings Place.  The foyer was adorned with props and costumes from this advert, and we ended up hearing a lot about the paper's concept of 'open journalism' during the afternoon.  We heard from the Deputy Editor, Head of Multimedia Production, and from the Mobile Editor and Web News Editor, both of whom are ex-Sheffield University students.  Now I am doing a course in broadcast journalism and the Guardian is a newspaper, but they do place a lot of emphasis on audio/visual content.  Also, they're generally at the forefront of online journalism and are looking to halt production of the physical newspaper and move to exclusively online within the next few years.

As I said, we discussed the idea of 'open journalism', which is basically a style of journalism that places emphasis on interaction between the journalist and the readers.  I was impressed by the speakers, as they all seemed to be wanting to create great journalism above anything else, and the fact that they are owned by a trust rather than a private company gives them the freedom to do this.  They may not be the most profitable newspaper at the moment but it seems like a great place to work.

On Tuesday night we had dinner at an Irish pub, then, as one of the group was an Arsenal fan, we went to watch the Arsenal game at a pub on Euston Road called The Euston Flyer.  There was a great atmosphere and great beer and food.  After that we returned to the hostel and had a few more drinks in the bar there.  The whole place felt like an episode of Byker Grove as it was filled with 17/18 year olds and the decor was extremely bright and garish.  There was a table football there though and we enjoyed playing that.

The next day we were up early to visit the Houses of Parliament.  In the morning we got a tour, then watched prime minister's questions (on TV), then heard from a variety of speakers including MPs and political editors/advisors from the broadcast industry.  I'd visited once before in secondary school, but I really enjoyed visiting again, and especially learning about the storied history of Parliament.  We take the practices of Parliament for granted, but they're actually a result of centuries of various events and evolution.

In the evening we returned to The Euston Flyer to watch the Tottenham game as one of the group was a Tottenham fan.  After it finished we returned to the Irish pub for a few more beers, then back to the hostel bar and played some more table football.

On Thursday morning we visited BBC Television Centre in White City, and while this was probably the part of the trip I was most looking forward to, it turned out to be the most disappointing.  Compared to the Guardian offices, the BBC offices felt quite dull and a bit shabby.  This probably wasn't helped by the fact that many of the BBC's employees are in the process of relocating to MediaCityUK in Manchester.  We got to see the desk used for the BBC News at Six though and heard from a few different employees.  But again, compared to the Guardian there was less of a sense of creativity and innovation.  More than one speaker said the BBC is traditionally slow on the uptake of new ideas and that meant they hadn't fully implemented systems that use things like Twitter yet.  The Guardian has and is ahead of the curve on such things. We were also told that landing a job at BBC Television Centre could take years and a lot of working for free, which is not something I'm necessarily prepared to do.

In the afternoon we were free to do as we pleased and a group of us went to Regent Street.  We went to Nike Town and played on their massive table football and then visited Hamleys, and played more table football.  We then travelled to Covent Gardens and had a beer before returning to The Euston Flyer in the evening to watch the Sporting Lisbon game, as one of our group is a Sporting Lisbon fan.

We all caught a train back to Sheffield around 9 and arrived back in Sheffield around 11.  On the way back my mate realised he'd left his suit jacket at The Euston Flyer, so he gave them a call and told them he was part of the group who'd ordered lots of sandwiches and beer over the last few days.  They said they'd gladly post the jacket to Sheffield for free. What a pub.

All in all it was a great trip, but it's funny how good it felt to be back in Sheffield after only being away for a short time.  Maybe it was the lack of sleep I'd had or the fact that I knew I wouldn't have to pay London prices every time I went out, but as soon as I stepped out of Sheffield train station I could smell the fresh air and it was great.

And then on Friday I had some good news as my voice was heard on BBC Radio 6.  The Forge Radio station manager was on the Steve Lamacq show to take part in a feature called 'Universities Challenged' and they played a highlights package from the station, which featured myself.  You can hear it here.  Pretty cool.

Finally, today marks one year since the Tōhoku earthquake.  I was lucky to be in Aomori and not experience the damage and destruction that other areas of the country did.  You can read the post I made after the quake here.  It still amazes me just how well Japan pulled together after the quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, and hopefully the lessons learnt will make the country safer in the future.

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