X-Factor? I’m A Celeb? They’re all much better on Twitter

Reality TV is the pop culture people love to hate. Beyond hate.

People revel in performing intellectual snobbery upon its formulaic structure and money-grabbing associations. And yet it’s one of the main reasons behind the readerships of glossy weeklies at this time of the year. More interestingly, the entertainment level of this years’ crop of weekend shows has risen for those who watch with an accompanying laptop: Twitter has made the un-watchable essential viewing.

As a culture, arts or comment journalist, you should already be aware of this networking phenomenon.

Picture courtesy of Shane Chapman

And so much more besides. The secret behind any good comedy quiz show is the banter that surrounds a few irrelevant questions. The same principle applies to Cher Lloyd, Anne Widdecombe, and Stacey Solomon’s antics. What they have in common, beyond the fact they have subjected themselves to the scrutiny of millions of TV viewers is they have also all got hashtags on Twitter (#cher, #widdecombe, #stacey) and are now under the examination of millions of fans, viewers and – essentially – journalists.

The witty tweets about them become more important than what they do on the show.

Because on weekend evenings, these four hours of often underestimated reality TV bring together critics professional and unprofessional alike. With a transatlantic time difference I have been gaining my X Factor experience across the pond by following them since September. Now back in Britain, I spent this past Saturday night in joining the Twittersphere and voicing my opinion, minute by minute, alongside thousands of other 140-character comments.

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You will want to learn shorthand after reading this post

There aren’t many topics within journalism that divide opinion like shorthand. Some think it’s valuable, others a waste of time. UK journo degrees place a lot of emphasis on it; those in the US don’t really teach it at all.


We could debate till the cows come home about whether or not it’s a useful skill in the context of 21st century journalism. Yes, journalism on a wider scale does not rely on it every day but covering courts and councils is still important locally. Both sides have very strong arguments.

What is perhaps more pertinent is whether we should be spending as much time on learning shorthand as journalism courses currently demand? At City, we spend six hours a week in the class (and countless others practising outlines and speed tests) whilst short courses like the News Associates NCTJ course at Wimbledon spend between 3-4 hours a day on it. Even if shorthand is worthwhile skill, is it so necessary that we spend half of our working hours poring over a textbook, trying to learn little squiggles?… Again debatable.

What is beyond debate though is the following two stories I was told recently, which go some way to underline the importance of shorthand.

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Don’t expect to be an expert in a new job

Edited Obama

An edited Obama speech - he certainly wouldn't claim to be an expert at his job

You’re experienced right? You’ve got an internship (or two or three), some work experience under your belt and a little bit of student media (or a lot) so you know what you’re doing. Right?

Or not…

Now, while I might be one to honk my horn from time to time, I like to think such honking is backed up by lots of very hard work, a careful, thoughtful approach to all I do and a tendency to throw myself into things without always checking someone put the safety mat out. (Disclaimer: recommended, but not my fault if you get hurt)

What I have been reminded of during my first full month at the Guardian is that you are always learning. Not a massive revelation I know, but one worth reflecting on so you can make the best of it.

It’s been a while since my copy was properly edited and challenged, since my decision making has come into focus and it has been utterly refreshing and a bit of a shock at the same time.

Let me ask you: How carefully do you consider the wording, meaning and tone of each sentence? How often do you waste words and therefore your reader’s time with your copy?

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Go Photo: If I can do it, anyone can

Following on from the photography competition we launched last week I thought it only fair that I offer some examples of my attempts at photography. I want to prove that it really is easy to get involved in photography (note I didn’t say it was easy to be a good photographer before all you pro snappers get angry) and reiterate again how important it can be as a journalist.

After my references to my sports photographer in this morning’s post I thought I would continue with that theme…. Read more of this post

Me, the Student and some big time boxers: The big blag

Being in the right place at the right time may be a well-worn cliché but it is one which still holds great relevance for all us aspiring journalists. Being on work experience as a massive story breaks, having a camera as you spot someone dropping a fire extinguisher off a roof or bumping into a drunken celebrity in a dirty backstreet bar – all of these kind of situations give us wannabe hacks a chance to make a name for ourselves. But being in the right place at the right time often isn’t enough.

It is how you use your chance that counts and often you need to be able to blag.

One of my shots of the young boxer

Whilst at University both myself and the Student had the chance to interview a fellow student who was also a young boxer for Great Britain. After what I believe was a hotly disputed rock, paper, scissors contest it was decided that he got the interview, I would take the pictures (still a little bitter, I’m not going to lie). So off we went, knowing in advance that this Olympic hopeful would be accompanied by his agent/PR/bloke in a suit who funnily enough had some shaving foam still on his face as we shook hands. Still it was nice of him to make the effort.

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Too proud to write for “The Daily Fail”?

When you’re looking for something, you’d be amazed how quickly your standards lower. We’re talking about jobs here as opposed to that desperate 4am scanning of the dance floor…

On Sunday Giles Coren wrote a column much like those he publishes in varying parts of The Times of a weekend: witty, touching, cleverly structured and a delight to read. Except it appeared in Femail: The Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday’s girl-friendly colour supplement. The flocks of @gilescoren fans (myself included) sycophantically tweeted their appreciation hours after ‘Oh my God, I’m turning into my father’ appeared on Mail Online.

Daily Mail

A 'typical' Daily Mail front page

However, it was clear that many of these compliments were more than a little backwards. @henweb tweeted: “Nice. @GilesCoren’s article in the Daily #FAIL is literally the first good article I’ve read in the DM for… well, ever! http://goo.gl/hWJCh”. I was alerted to the piece by @samparkercouk, advising that “If you only ever visit the Daily Hate once in your life, make it for this article by @gilescoren.” Even if he wasn’t such a candid tweeter, it’s obvious why Coren took the controversial commission: it’s his job.

Daft as it sounds, it’s all too easy as a young and/or wannabe hack to imagine ourselves taking the Guardian offices by storm, rather than realising that writing for a living is as much about paying rent as it is ‘changing the world’. When I was job-hunting a fellow intern scoffed, “Gas and Power Magazine? Seriously?” It’s easily done, until you see what journo job listing sites really look like and your specifications broaden considerably.

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It’s lovely to meet you… I’m the new Hack

The Maverick

Well hello…

I’m Alice Vincent, a.k.a The Maverick and newbie Wannabe Hack.

More specifically, a Wannabe magazine Hack. Starting at the lowest rung of a publication I intend to gain my trade the old school way: hands on, learning from my mistakes and being in the right place at the right time.

I’ve spent the past three months being the new girl in town, in New York so being the rookie in Wannabe Hacks feels like an excellent next step – except here my Home Counties accent is unlikely to get me into as many parties. On the flipside, I won’t have to talk as much about the Royal Wedding, either.

When I was a 16 year old kitchen monkey in my village pub the chef said, ‘you should be a music journalist’. In hindsight, taking advice to commence a rocky career path from someone who stuck a picture of his Weimaraner above the stove maybe wasn’t the best idea. But here I am – I’ve been writing solidly for three years, working in publications when I wasn’t studying and received less cash than the tips I did as a teenager for it.

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The Daily and some fancy apps aren’t going to save journalism

In the last few days we have seen the announcement of some sort of new Murdoch iPad/tablet-only paper ‘The Daily’ and Richard Branson has also thrown his hat into the arena with his announcement.

The Daily

The App icon for the new newspaper

It is good that people are experimenting – I don’t believe in Murdoch’s approach or philosophy towards content and the Internet – but people do have to try things out – news and journalism needs a new business model.

Yet apps, programmes and software are not the answer to the problems that journalism faces, they will not encourage people to pay for a low quality product just because they are on a touch screen. Especially not when we have to suffer the kind of inaccurate and agenda driven journalism that we have seen regarding the student protests of the last two weeks.

What has happened with reporting in the last few weeks, months and years has highlighted the problems that journalism currently faces. Our news is less accurate, rushed and lazy – if the Guardian had not pursued the Ian Tomlison case, would anyone have been held to account? If the New York Times had not pushed the phone hacking story (Wall Street Journal motivations aside) would the police be investigating again?

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GSMA – Kingston Uni: we won “because we took risks”

Lara O’Reilly is former editor of Kingston University’s River newspaper + now a reporter at Marketing Week…

Winning is sometimes far sweeter when you are not expecting it at all.

Hours before the event two nights ago news was spreading around Twitter that there had been an apparent leak of the Guardian Student Media Awards results.

According to the rumours a press release was sent to current editors of the nominated student publications asking if they would like photos of the event – oh and revealing the winner and runner-up of each category.

Kingston Uni Team

Lara O'Reilly and Callum Hornigold

We didn’t know the result for sure; everyone on Twitter was respecting the embargo, but there were plenty of smug-sounding tweets from certain students who seemed to already know the result.

We practiced our gracious losing smiles on the tube to the Guardian offices, still overjoyed that we had been nominated at all.

The ceremony was small, fun and informal – more like a networking event than an awards show, with everyone chatting to students from other publications and introducing themselves to a few of the journos associated with the event.

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Seven great ways to pimp your blog from Karl Schneider


This week I went to Pimp my Blog: an event held at City University about ways to use social media, widgets and apps to get your blog noticed (much more effective than a t-shirt, that’s for sure)…

The panel – including FT journalist Martin Stabe, TheMediaBriefing.com editor Patrick Smith and Tim Glanfield (editor of Beehive City) – all agreed that the trick was publishing good content on a regular basis whilst having the mindset that it is a public and professional site not a ‘blog’ about your cat or other such trivialities.

Karl Schneider – another panellist and the Editorial Development Director of RBI – came up with a nice little list of widgets and apps that are free to use and which make the experience of visiting your blog a bit more exciting. So, in no particular order, here are seven greatways to soup-up your blog:

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