As some of you know I was fortunate enough to spend the last two weeks working with Sky News at their studio in West London. Here are four broad lessons learned in that time (*spoiler* none involve making coffee).
Embrace the unexpected
“So we need you to find someone who owns a pet monkey to come in for an interview tomorrow, preferably in London and able to bring the monkey in…”
This was genuinely the first task I was given, some 20 minutes after joining the planning desk at Sky News. I’d just finished a tour, been hastily introduced to a rather stressed looking team when someone asked if I had anything to be doing yet. My brief was going to be to start planning for the junior doctors’ strike (more on that later) but keen to get started I said no.
I’m glad I did. Though we’re lucky enough to have the message given to us on a regular basis that if we want to get ahead in a newsroom nothing asked of us is impossible, being given seemingly random tasks like this one in real life brings it home. Believe it or not I found a man via an exotic pet shop in Camden within the hour who had been keeping Marmosets for years. Eventually he was passed on to the Sunrise team and was due on the next day with Eamonn Holmes!
Do the boring tasks well
As mentioned my main work for the first week surrounded the latest round of junior doctors’ industrial action over the pending ‘imposition’ of their new contract by Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt.
As the intern all glamorous tasks of course headed my way. On this occasion ’phone-bashing’, is the technical term I believe. Sky wanted to secure as much access for filming as possible and the nationwide body normally approached for requests, NHS England, were not playing ball. The solution? Get me to ring every acute hospital trust in the country (there are over 150) and try to convince them to let us in.
To cut a very, very long story short, two and a half days of pleading later Sky’s Health correspondent was on his way to Blackburn to film in A&E and speak to doctors and officials.
My reward for being relied on to take care of it myself was a day out on the picket line at St Thomas’s in London, where I spoke to Dennis Skinner and saw Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. It would appear reliably getting the boring stuff done to the best of your ability really endears you to colleagues.
Social media matters
At the end of my two weeks I went to thank Neil Dunwoodie, Sky’s Head of News Output who also oversees work experience placements. He very kindly suggested that having young people in at Sky is as much of benefit to them as it is a great opportunity for us. The reason in part, he said, was observing the way we use social media.
Now being able to work your way around Twitter has its benefits. I managed to find someone with a cancelled operation we could interview with a simple search, but as we all know social media is about much more than Twitter and is always moving on.
It was striking at every conference meeting I went to how focussed Sky are on pushing content online and on social media. Facebook is their focus and part of this, is their adoption of ‘Facebook lives’. Out on the picket line the responsibility for setting this up fell on me, simply because there is an expectation that being under the age of 30 I know what I’m doing. You can judge whether that is the case or not for yourself.
Placements pay off
Without turning this blogpost into a full diary entry it is safe to say I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Sky, learning more about the production of high quality broadcast journalism for multiple platforms. Moreover on the whole I felt fully equipped to handle whatever I was asked to do.
Of course all placements are learning experiences though and there was plenty of new things to pick up on. Chief amongst them was the use of iNews, an ageing and slightly clunky piece of software that was central to the production and management of work at Sky.
On my final day of placement I went for a meeting about at a potential job with ITV in Central London. When I was asked about my previous experience in newsroom organisation I mentioned being comfortable with this software. Turns out their team are similarly reliant on iNews and the role in question would see me use it heavily. Placements pay off!