News and nerves: Work experience at The Argus

WORK experience is vital for young people to start their careers these days. I’ve certainly had a great time on my first week.

My first day of work experience at The Argus went a little like this: I’d forgotten how to write, irratated those around me and I’d been sued for libel and contempt of court – and all this before I’d woken up #nightmare.

Setting off on my real first day of work experience at The Argus, I had enough butterflies in my stomach to impress any lepidopterist. I was expecting my first day to be relativly slow, who wants to give a work experience student serious work to do? In fact this was quite the opposite. After a friendly welcome chat from news editor Lee Gibbs, I was emailed over lots of press releases to cut down to 100 word panels, which I spent most of my first day doing.

At the end of the day I said my farewells and was told by Lee that he liked my style – which is good because until then I wasn’t aware I had one.

The next day involved more words, this time with pictures; but first, I had a look through a copy of Tueday’s Argus to spot my handiwork. The sense of acheivement I felt on that Tuesday morning felt really good; and it was only Tuesday.

Then came phones. Somewhere in my life I’d developed what can only be described as telephonophobia; not to be confused with phonophobia which is a fear of loud sounds; or mobilephonophobia, a fear of moving sound or sound hanging from the ceiling. Seriously though, the prospect of calling up complete strangers and asking them questions made me a  nervous wreck.

I was inspired by the confidence and professionalism of the reporters working around me. With the added fact that I would never suceed in journalism if I was scared to talk on a phone. It turns out most people are more than willing to talk to you and my phobia is weakening with every call.

A special thank you must be made to Mike Reinstein, the music teacher I had to call to write a feature on. Mike was very supportive and even took the time to call me to say how pleased he was with my article on page 38 of Friday’s Argus (kaching for me). I’d also like to thank Brighton Journalist Works for arranging this fantastic experience and prospect of oppurtunity.

Saturday was extra special. Flicking through The Argus while at retail work and seeing two by-lines for three stories, with an honourable mentoion on another, left me feeling  sense of achievment

My first week has really helped my confidence. I’ve gone from writing 100 word panels to phoning MPs to ask about their expenses claims. I’ve learnt a lot and enjoyed every nerve-shredding minute of picking up a phone. I’m sure I’ve made a few mistakes along the way, and I apologise now if this is the case.

I can’t wait to see what my last week brings.

Fortes fortuna adiuvat – Fortune favours the bold.


Brighton journalist works: an obituary

Class of April 2012

A brilliant, funny, intelligent, diverse and incredibly outrageous group. Widely regarded as one of the greatest BJW classes of its generation.


Nearly five score days ago, 14 journalism students began a course that would impact their lives in so many ways. Little did we know what was in store for us.

My time at BJW has been one of the best experiences of my life. Not only have I further expanded my knowledge – bringing me one step closer to world domination – but also being introduced to some of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet and, I sincerely hope, to remain friends with for a long time – I can only hope the feeling is mutual.


Trying to pick out some highlights of our 14 week course is proving somewhat challenging, there are so many to choose from.

Every Shorthand lesson would degenerate into some giant form of in-your-end-o while drilling Marie’s passages. (Chortle) This was made even more hilarious by our brilliant teacher, Roxanne, and her interactions with Neil, our non-Cornish Cornishman. It’s a testament to Neil’s character that he didn’t snap after being asked to repeat himself on numerous occasions.

At the start of the course many of us, myself included, thought reaching 100 words a minute was an impossible task; requiring assembling a team of mighty heroes, legendary weapons and a stash of energy drinks and doughnuts to tackle this Herculean task.

We have a lot to thank Roxanne for. Not only for getting us to respectable speed in shorthand, but for being able to sleep easy knowing Caroline got an eye test – something she tells me she revised hard for – and as a result, now has to wear glasses.

I’m sure I didn’t help Peoples’ concentration in many situations, but some opportunities can’t be passed up.


Roxanne- “How do you write arrange?”

Ben – “I think backwards.”

Me – “I always worried about you.”


The air conditioning battles waged by Natalie – who strangely managed to position herself near the air-con controls in every classroom.  These battles made the atmosphere so tense you could cut it like butter – provided it hadn’t melted first.

Christie’s endless noise. This isn’t a bad thing, I have to thank Christie for keeping me insane throughout reporting lessons. If I’d actually gotten into some kind of normality who knows what might have happened. If I see or hear the name Radston ever again I’m going to commandeer something big and dangerous and wipe it from the face of the Earth. Although at the rate the town is going, it seems inevitable.

Spending my 25th birthday in a Magistrates Court was another memorable experience as was buying tasty snacks for the group in celebration. Having Richard Lindfield, our charming Public Affairs tutor with a voice for radio, present me with a cake added to the pomp and ceremony of reaching quarter of a century. The fact that some people towards the end of the course asked when my birthday was ripped this feeling of grandeur from me faster than Catholic rabbits reproduce.

I’ll miss my daily pool games with Philip and the unstoppable Jimmy ‘the saint’ Cutler. I’ll also miss trying to solve the cryptic crossword with Phil. I have him to thank for giving me a starting point on these, though I fear I’ll never be able to solve a whole puzzle without his Kiwi accent to navigate me through this intellectual labyrinth.

Media Law was great was it not? Media Matt and his fantasies of what could occur over in ASDA car park.I’ll never forget: the three tests of public interest, three criteria for libel, four criteria for defamation, five for contempt of court and the partridge in a pear tree of numerous defenses to each aspect of media law. Any legal situation I come across in my journalism career – provided I get one – will be subjected to the ASDA car park test:

“Look, look. If you go over to ASDA car park and see two politicians performing a blouse busting, skirt rumpus act behind the recycling bins, what are you going to do? You’re going to take a picture are you not? And who owns the copyright of said picture?”

All this, of course, after the alarm bells have stopped ringing in my ears.

Closing statements

I am loath to close. There are many memories  that will be preserved in the dusty museum that is my mind – free admittance on Sundays. I’d like to say I have a photographic memory but I fear it needs developing. Perhaps I should write more while I can still remember but I’d rather continue the journey with my class mates and everyone’s favourite friend, alcohol.

Now I must don my safari hat and elephant gun and begin the job hunt once again. In the meantime, I intend to practice for the sofa jumping Olympics, something I feel isn’t getting enough coverage. I suppose I could continue giving Frisbee lessons to gypsy kids. On second thought no, just no.

“Look, look. All I can say is it’s been an absolute privilege”


It most certainly was. All the best folks. You all deserve it.


P.S. When is the reunion?

Teeline Impressions: Life in the middle lane

The only margin in my shorthand notebook is the margin of error.

This currently stands at around 26.4%  and sits uncomfortably on my mental well being, like a Walrus atop a hedgehog.

We’ve now moved away from 60 word a minute passages and moved into the middle of the road speed of 70-90 words a minute.

I’m surprised at how much I’m able to take down at this speed. Its just a case of getting your brain in gear to bring the relevant outline instantly into your mind, only for it to be discarded a nanosecond later for another one.

Everyone else on the course seems to be coping with this increase in speed. Hopefully by the time of our exam next week we’ll all feel confident about taking down a 60.

(That’s not some modern slang for performing a hit on a pensioner, just in case you were wondering)

Speaking of old people, the world of Teeline does not sound like a very nice place to live.

Young people are constantly causing trouble, whether its vandalising parks or getting drunk in town centres. Various types of Councils are accused of mucking things up and there seems to be an awful lot of flooding.

When the residents are moaning about their lives they are often to be found at the Rose and Crown Pub, although this is now being knocked down to make way for housing, which will inevitably be flooded.

There is a thin silver lining to Teeline-ville however.

One of the numerous Councils put on new bus service for children, a new community centre was opened and a local history group had grown in numbers. Something which one would hope would prevent all the bad events from being repeated.

I know these passages are designed to test our shorthand vocabulary but would you like to live in a place like this?

Perhaps some follow up stories could be arranged for the passages.

Our homework for today concerns the decision of a county council to build more houses on a field. But not just any field, a field that has been in the conservation area for more than 100 years.

Why does the Council want to develop here? What sort of housing will it be? Will the badgers rise up to defend their sets from these foreign invaders?

If you have any suggestions to how this scenario could end, no matter how they range on the scale of sanity, leave a comment and we’ll see what can be done.

Teeline Impressions

Having blogged about a lot of serious events recently, I thought I’d relax a little and write about every trainee journalists favourite subject.

For those of you who aren’t trainee journalists, the answer is Teeline Shorthand a.k.a hand-slayer, mind-boggler and the plot line of LOST’s adopted cousin.

Teeline is said to be the easiest form of Shorthand to learn, which is good considering that you have to sit a 60 word a minute exam after 10 weeks of a 14 week course. But if this is the easiest to learn then the other forms must be like trying to ride a unicycle up Mount Everest.

In fairness I’m finding the theoretical side of Teeline relatively straight-forward. The majority of the system is based on the alphabet whilst many outlines are based on common sense and context. Something we are constantly reminded of in class.

You wouldn’t write “I want to bad light lost note” for example, unless you were Arthur Bostrom rehearsing for a line as the linguistically confused Officer Crabtree in Ello Ello.     

“I was pissing by your door”

Having now finished all 20 theory units of Marie Cartwrights wonderful book (kaching) we have now begun speed building exercises.

Speed building is the Batman of Teeline. A darker but practical and effective entity for journalists to have.

It is something which, at first, I can only imagine feels like having your brain extracted through your nostrils whilst your hand flaps around like a dying fish; desperately trying to remember the special outline for vandalism (VN blend, D, S, M).

By the time you’ve remembered this, the dictation has ended and you’re left feeling like the Marie Celeste, empty, alone and adrift.

But have no fear! Now we’re being told not to worry about getting the correct outlines provided we can read our own outlines back.

Common sense and context rides in on it’s white horse once again. Albeit leaving clumps of manure over 20 theory based units.

Having said this, I’m amazed at everyone’s progress after six and half weeks on the course. Our outlines have evolved from single-celled amoeba to complex, and in some cases, diverse lifeforms.

With three and a half weeks until the 60 word a minute exam, we can only endeavour to advance our shorthand skills. Otherwise it may be the end of teeline for us wannabe journalists.

Dreams of Here

‘Oh great’ cried my inner monologue. ‘I have to write a review. Not just any review but an ART review.’

This internal outburst was brought about as part of our reporting sessions for Brighton Journalist Works (BJW). Part of the course involved going to the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery to look at an exhibition called Dreams of Here.

So, after a while, I came up with this:

Art for art’s sake is not the case with Dreams of Here. A collection of work by three artists linked to Sussex that is currently on display at the Brighton museum and art gallery.

The gallery uses three rooms to display the work of Julian Bell, Tom Hammick and Andrzej Jackowski.

On a conscious level this approach appears normal. But reality is not the intention of this exhibition. It aims to take the viewer on a journey through the human mind. Each room subconsciously representing different regions of human thought.

Bell states that they share: “a belief in painting as a space for reflection, a space for giving substance to our sense of how life is shaped.”

Bell paints imaginary works but blends them with vivid details that add a touch of reality. His use of colour instantly draws the attention but it is the style in which it’s used that gives the impression of dreaming. A world that looks real but upon closer inspection becomes unfamiliar.


Next comes the work of Hammick, who uses brightly patterned paintings depicting the impact of modern-day life. On another level, it shows the encroachment of modernity clashing with mankind’s primitive nature. The dark walls and dim light further reinforce this element of the unknown.

In complete contrast to Bell, Andrzej Jackowski adopts a vague sketching style to take us into the dark recesses of the human mind.

The Voyage consists of 60 unframed paintings pinned to the walls. Scenes range from animals to dismembered corpses, each contained within small boxes; representing unconscious areas of the mind that can harbour comforting thoughts or disturbing ideas.

So if you want to examine the human mind from a completely different angle; go and check out this stimulating display.

Dreams of Here is on display until the 10th of June.