Interning with Heart News

My internship in the news team at HeartFM has been great fun and an excellent opportunity to develop my experience in broadcast journalism as it involves researching, writing scripts and presenting local news in a fair, accurate and balanced way for radio news bulletins.

IMG_5640My internship began in June and three months later I’m still really enjoying it. The team are lovely, some are freelance journalists and work at other radio stations and others have worked in TV news before. They’re all keen to share their knowledge and are also very down-to-earth and approachable.

When I started, the first thing I needed to get a good understanding of was HeartFM’s script writing style. Meticulous attention to details are needed. Each story is well researched ensuring the facts are accurate. Additionally, the news bulletins at HeartFM are extremely short (2 minutes) and scripts need to sound natural and interesting to the listener while containing the key information. I soon discovered that telling the story well, in very few words, is quite a skill.

Tim, the news editor asks me to write short scripts using press releases and then checks, and sometimes edits them. He always gives me feedback which is really encouraging. At first I had to keep remembering to write “police say the thief is thought to be average height…” rather than stating it as a fact that “the thief is average height”. That was a bad mistake I made a couple of times in the beginning and Tim was gracious enough to point it out and show me the importance of truly concentrating! Now I enjoy finding my own stories, writing them up and sending them to the rest of the team as suggestions. It’s great when they find them interesting and add them to his bulletin which they then read live on air.

IMG_5644Secondly, it was important to spend the first day or two getting to grips with the the tight deadlines. The news bulletin is live each half hour during the breakfast show (6-10am) and each half hour during “drive-time” (4.30pm-7pm). During the day, in between those peak times, its pre-recorded and played every hour. Every moment of the day the team is working towards a deadline. I find that I thrive in this fast paced environment and I find searching for stories, updating them, and especially following big breaking stories, extremely interesting.

Lots of local news stories are needed for Heart Sussex and Surrey as well as national ones so the news team say it’s helpful to develop and maintain a diverse range of contacts. It also a good thing to have curiosity for whats going on in the area and a keen desire to produce original journalism.

Highlights

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My favourite aspect of the internship is reporting and getting the opportunity to go out into Sussex and Surrey to interview people, attend events and collect vox pops (recorded informal opinions from people in public places to play on air). I love the variety and the challenge that comes with reporting. You have to quickly get a good grasp of different issues and have to be able to adapt and understand experts and different people in diverse professions and situations.

So far I have interviewed:

  • England rugby player, James Haskell
  • Double olympic gold medalist and professional cyclist, Laura Trott
  • Architect of the London Eye and Brighton’s i360, David Marks
  • Eastbourne residents who witnessed the pier burning down on 30th July 2014
  • Brighton’s Director of Public Health, Dr Tom Scanlon
  • The children who met Prince Charles’ during his Royal Visit to Wiston House
  • Euromillions winners, a married couple from Kent
  • Firemen from East Sussex Fire and Rescue service
  • Police men, and victims served by, Sussex Police
  • Managing Director of Brighton Pride 2014, Paul Kemp
  • Chief Executive of the Sussex Wildlife Trust, Dr Tony Whitbread

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Once I have recorded interviews on the microphone, I then take this content back to the office to upload it to the computer and edit it using the software, Burli. Normally I ask a lot questions during interviews and so then it becomes a challenge to make the editorial decision as to which part of the interview should be cut and edited ready to be played on air. The other journalists are always keen to work with me and give me advice, they taught me how to use the editing programme and the kind of audio clip they are looking for.

It is brilliant to hear something I have worked on be played out on air. Especially when its a breaking story like the fire on Eastbourne pier. The situation was changing extremely quickly and so content had to be put out on air quickly without sacrificing accuracy. It was demanding yet exhilarating to report on it as the story was unfolding. Heart Sussex won Global Radio’s bulletin of the week for its coverage of that disaster.

Using computer software like Burli is great as I can read the provisional prospects for the afternoon or the next mornings shows on Sky, LBC, Capital etc.. Something I learnt today was that Ofcom will strictly govern tomorrow’s reporting on the Scottish referendum. While the polls are open there can be no discussion of referendum issues. Sky wrote in their handover notes in Burli that due to election day regulations they will only report the basic facts without any analysis until 10pm tomorrow. It’s interesting to see what each channel’s top story will be and who they will interview.

Editing the Heart news page on the website is something I also had the opportunity to do. Headlines are important here as they have to be worded similar to what the public would type into google. I also update the social media accounts and during the Eastbourne Pier fire I was using twitter to monitor the situation by reading witness accounts and I also sent out updates via Heart News’ twitter account.

IMG_5684I would like to improve my knowledge of media law and also my presenting skills. I definitely want to apply for training schemes and/or get a qualification in broadcast journalism.

This opportunity has confirmed that I’d like to work in broadcasting full time.

My colleagues recommended the broadcast journalism masters at City University but I also have my eye on a major channel’s graduate programme! Applications open in January I think.

Fingers crossed!

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