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Volunteers' Stories




Journalism Work Experience  Internship on a Newspaper in Auckland, New Zealand


On a conventional working day, I would set my alarm for 6.45 am, to have breakfast and a shower and make my way along the 20 minute walk on a sunny day (or on the bus on a rainy one) to the office.

I had been informed about how the computer system worked, my login details and how to file/store stories etc on the first day, so after that, I would head straight to the Newspaper website to see what had been covered in the news over the last couple of days, or would continue working on a story that I had either pitched, or had been allocated. I would usually wait until after 9am to conduct a phone interview or call a contact, but would begin writing up my story immediately.

I would often be approached by the Chief Reporter or News Editor with a request to look into something, be it to telephone the local authorities (police, fire and ambulance departments) to see if anything of note had happened to report, or to head to the District Court to read the charge sheets. I was usually given around three or four stories at a time; sometimes these wouldn't come to publish, and sometimes they would, but I would always complete them for submission regardless.

On Tuesdays, all team members of the office would head to a meeting at 9.30am, to discuss last week's publication and to analyse it in comparison to any competing Sunday papers. After that, each member would pitch any ideas they had to the editor, and the editor would discuss any pre-existing ideas of his own. All members would then head back to the office to begin either the stories they had pitched, if they had been approved, or stories they had been assigned.

During the first couple of days, I was also sent to shadow a reporter on one of their own jobs, such as witnessing a press conference of a long-time murder investigation, which was incredibly interesting. Afternoon duties usually consisted of continuing the morning ones; there were no specific, set regulations as to what time to undertake anything, as long as you completed your research and story-writing before the deadline on Saturday.

I always ensured that I stayed until 5pm at the earliest every day, since I wanted to make the most of the routine and schedule, and fully see how everything worked at all hours of the day.

Everything during the week was relatively calm until Friday and Saturday, the two days before publishing on the Sunday. I would be suddenly called upon on a Saturday to cover anything the editor or Chief Reporter needed, so it would always be a good idea to have finished and submitted anything I was already working on earlier in the week. If I hadn't, I was working from 8.30am until around 10/11pm on Saturdays!

However, during the final Saturday at the Herald on Sunday, I specifically stayed until closing on the Saturday night to witness how the headline was chosen, and how the paper layout was edited before it went to publish after deadline at 1am on the Sunday morning. It was incredibly hectic, but very worthwhile to watch, as the pressure under which the staff worked created an adrenaline that stopped at nothing except what they considered to be perfection for each publication, every week.

Over the placement, I gained an understanding of the dynamics of a 'corporate' newspaper environment; until now, I have only worked in freelance journalism, so to see how the office system of a weekly print publication is run from the inside was extremely beneficial.

I learned how to pitch ideas to editors, and grasped an understanding of the type of content the Herald on Sunday focuses on; if coming up with my own ideas, I tried to concentrate on nationalistic stories and messages that were specifically relevant to New Zealanders.

I also gained a knowledge of the type of fieldwork required on the job, and the variety of locations to which I would be sent or topics that I would be required to cover.

I found the most enjoyable thing about my placement to be meeting Black Sabbath at their album playback session and press conference in Auckland. Due to my background in music journalism, the opportunity to pose questions to a group as prestigious as Sabbath, of whom I am personally a big fan, was unbelievable, and due to the status of the Herald on Sunday as a leading publication in New Zealand, it was a chance I would likely not have secured in the UK without working for the likes of The Times or The Guardian.

I believe the placement would suit an outgoing, extroverted and intrepid type of character. The distance from the UK to New Zealand alone is enormous, and the flight is enough to test your strength of will!

The publication's throwing of the intern straight into the deep end by sending them to locations around the town that they have not heard of, in an unfamiliar environment, alongside their requirement to conduct phone or face-to-face interviews with people who may display volatile reactions to the press, was a very gratifying task, but no easy one. It required the use of lots of initiative and instinct, and a priority of finding out as much as possible for a story: a drive which must be instilled in the intern before they even arrive.

It would suit someone with an adventurous and curious character, who has a passion for pursuing and investigating.

I would definitely recommend the placement to other budding journalists. While, as mentioned, I had not worked for a corporate newspaper before, I wanted to test my skills when applied to a more regimented style of journalism than freelance music writing. The reporters and editors were extremely friendly and accommodating, and made me feel welcome right away.

The opportunity to have some bylines published was also very insightful as to the required writing style of a newspaper and the research needed to create a story, while the finished articles are something I can utilize as demonstration of experience for future job interviews of this nature.  

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