My September resolution: to make amends for my ‘scary’ past

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions.

But I do like the idea – floated by Sara Cox while sitting in for Chris Evans on Radio 2 last Thursday – of the new month resolution.

These are eminently doable, short-term goals for the next 30 days.

And for those of us in education (get me….), September ain’t a bad time to start.

It just so happened that the day after the concept of the new month resolution entered my psyche, I was at the Wiltshire Times in lovely Trowbridge.

After a really useful meeting with my old friend Gary Lawrence and his news editor Alison Phillips, I stepped into the newsroom.

It had all been going so well. And then came the slap in the face with a wet haddock.

“She reckons you used to be really scary,” a former colleague now working on the sportsdesk announced, pointing to a young reporter.

The reporter confirmed this, with her views echoed by a second reporter who looked vaguely familiar.

It turns out that both had had work experience stints at The Bath Chronicle while I was running the newsdesk there.

Now, my memory can be elephantine when it comes to stories, contacts and pub quiz trivia.

But that elephant’s giant achilles heel seems to be workies.

If I had a quid every time someone in a strange newsroom reminded me they’d done work experience in mine, I’d be able to buy them all something in Poundland.

(I’m very late to the party on that subject, by the way. What an amazing treasure trove it is of things you never knew you needed. Like car boot liners. But I digress.)

I don’t mind forgetting that people spent a week in my corporate company.

But I do mind that they found me intimidating.

Ok, I was crazily busy.

But – as the parent of a teenager and as someone now trying to pave the way for work placements for my students – I am not proud of my performance.

And I issued a public apology in that Trowbridge newsroom, there and then.

I was in another newsroom earlier this year where a student (not one of mine) cut short her placement because she felt neglected and unwelcome.

Grow a pair, you might say. Welcome to the real world, you might say.

But – as with the learner drivers who slow us down when we’re in a hurry, we’ve all been there.

So my new month resolution is to do my best to ensure that both sides of the work experience divide get the best out of it.

I can’t think of a better place to start than by highlighting two pieces I’ve already written.

There’s this advice for editors and news editors on making the most of your workie.

And there’s this list of tips for people about to go on work experience.

I’ve spent an awful lot of time this summer visiting newsrooms and offices to ask my industry friends what they want from would-be journalists.

And it’s clear that work experience remains an incredibly powerful way to get a foot in the door of this hugely competitive industry.

The devil you know is always going to trump an unknown quantity.

The more work each party puts in, the more openness that is shown on both sides, the better it is for everyone.





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