Last week I completed my month-long placement at Sky News as part of the Bob Friend Memorial Scholarship. Over the four weeks I kept a diary of what I got up to, and you can read my account of the experience below.

 

July 5th

After months of anticipation, I’m finally on the verge of starting my placement at Sky News. Tomorrow is the big day.

On Saturday I made a speech at the University of Kent’s Scholarship Benefactors Garden Party in Canterbury, expressing my thanks to the people that have funded the scholarship and given me such a wonderful opportunity. I hope that came across in what I said. It may sound like a cliche but I don’t think words can properly convey my gratitude.

Right now I have butterflies in my stomach – the nerves are beginning to hit me. I suppose I’ll be fine once I get stuck in to things. From the sounds of it I’ll be doing just that, working at Five News, Sky News Radio, the Sky News website and also in various parts of the television operation.

Anyone that knows me will by now know that I’m a sucker for nerves – I’m a serial worrier. But right now I feel excited more than anything.

I cannot wait to get started.

July 6th

I’ve just got back from my first day at Sky, which pretty much served as an introduction.

In the morning I was given a tour and also brought up to speed on Health and Safety.

After lunch I met a few of the people I will be working with over the next four weeks and spent some time on the Home Planning desk, which is where I’ll be working tomorrow, shadowing the team and setting things up.

July 8th

I spent my second day at Sky shadowing the Home Planning team. It was a relatively quiet day due to the Michael Jackson memorial service, but I still spent some time searching out interviewees and contacts for stories and also looking for any stories that might have slipped the net.

One such story appeared in various papers yesterday was a modeling agency were advertising a job as an adult television presenter on the Jobcentre Plus website. I thought the story had some potential so I suggested it to online, who checked it out.

The Sky News studio

Today I shadowed a cameraman on various jobs. First up we were at Chatham House covering the Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth’s speech on Afghanistan, his first major speech in his new role. Afterwards he was interviewed by Sky’s defence correspodent Geoff Meade.

Then we headed to Sky’s studio in Millbank where we were given our second assignment of the day. I also managed to spot Robert Peston walking down the street. I wasn’t exactly starstruck but seeing someone in the flesh when you’re so used to seeing them on TV is quite weird.

Anyway, Joel Hills, business correspondent for Sky News, was interviewing two city bankers about Alistair Darling’s proposals to reform the banking sector, which were revealed today in a white paper.

This was on the roof of a building right in the heart of the City which offered spectacular views and shots for the piece. Thankfully the torrential rain that had been falling for most of the day held back while we were up there!

11th July

It has flown by – my first week at Sky News is over. So far it has been a very enjoyable experience, with plenty of variety.

On Thursday I shadowed the Live at Five team from planning the programme to it being broadcast. First up I attended the meetings and watched the producers start to lay the foundations of the programme: the running order, timings of the headlines and other segments etc.

I also wrote 3 NIBs for the programme – a shooting in Manchester, a Chinese man dangling his baby from an eighth floor window, and a man dying in rather unfortunate (and morbidly comic) circumstances by falling into a vat of chocolate in the US.

Then I spent some time with Enda Brady while his package on phone tapping was put together. He’s a thoroughly nice guy and passed on plenty of tips. I finished my day by going to the gallery and watching the programme being broadcast.

Yesterday my time was divided between radio and online. I was on radio in the morning, and helped out Verity Geere, Magic’s news reader, by recording an interview with Cllr Alan Bradley of Westminster Council, which is selling off 30 of its road signs. This was used in the 1pm bulletin.

My afternoon at online proved to be particularly fruitful. I managed to get an article on the Sky News website, about Brits tipping on their holidays, and a 17-second NIB about a man being killed in the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

They say time flies when you’re having fun, and in this case it definitely appears to be a truism.

18th July

My second week, like my first, has gone very quickly. I’ve been on the Home Planning Desk from Monday to Thursday and with Sky News Radio on Friday.

At times it has been quiet, but I’ve managed to get a few pieces of content done. On Thursday I did an interview with Jay Nagley, a motoring analyst, and this was used on Sky News the next day as part of graphic wall presentation. You can view the interview here. (Nagley is the first person).

Yesterday I was tasked with producing a package on Swine Flu. The angle was the effect it is having on businesses and I interviewed a spokesman from the Federation of Private Business, and also did some digging and found some statistics to add some meat to the story. I’ve got an MP3 version of the file which I will upload when I get the chance.

This week I also managed to set up an interview with Will Greenwood, the former England rugby player, for a package about Manchester City. Turns out he’s a City fan. Alan Carr, however, is not. A quick Google search informed me that he was, despite my suspicions. Anyway, I gave his agent a ring and it turns out Google was wrong.

This week I also spent a day shadowing reporter Sara Merchant. First we went to a briefing on swine flu. It didn’t really herald a new angle on the story, just what we have all heard before. A number of journalists at the briefing tried to get a discernible new angle amidst the deluge of statistics, but it wasn’t there.

Afterwards we headed back to Osterley where I shadowed Sara and helped out as she produced a package on the assisted suicide of the composer Sir Edward Downes and his wife Lady Joan Downes at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland

Next week I’ll be at Five News, which should provide a bit of contrast to my first two weeks, owing to the difference in styles between the two. The only thing I’m not looking forward to is starting at 8:15am every morning!

24th July

This week I’ve been at Five News, which is produced by Sky News and based in the same building.

The difference in terms of what makes up a Five News bulletin compared to a Sky News bulletin is stark: there is hardly any international news and the stories are much lighter and fun. Despite these differences I’ve had a great time working there and got heavily involved.

On Monday I did two interviews which were used in the 5pm bulletin. The first was with Rich Cline, a film critic, on the news that Harry Potter is set to overtake James Bond as the highest grossing film franchise of all time.

The second interview was with Leigh Purves, a showbiz journalist. This was for a piece on David Beckham and the travails he has experienced since his return to LA Galaxy from AC Milan.

Natasha Kaplinsky of Five News

For the rest of the week I’ve been office bound – one of my colleagues remarked how quiet it was – but I still managed to set up plenty of interviews, move stories along, help the planning desk out with research and pitch ideas.

I also spent some time in the gallery watching the 5pm show and also shadowed Simon Vigar as he put together a package on some very generous children.

One story I worked on this week was regarding lottery winners who have not necessarily experienced happiness as a result of their windfall.

I read up on some cases and managed to track a number of them down. One of them was Mark Gardiner, who won £11 million in 1995 and was happy to be interviewed for the piece. He is being interviewed on Monday and it should air sometime in the near future.

On Monday it will be three years until the 2012 Olympics starts. To mark that date I arranged an interview with Rachel Christie, niece of Linford, who has just won Miss England and is aiming to compete in the games, to talk about how she is preparing for them. That is on Monday and fingers crossed it will air in that day’s show.

1st August

Well, that’s it. My four weeks at Sky News are over. It seemed to go much too quickly but I had a wonderful time and it was a great experience. I’m certain it will stand me in good stead for the future.

My last week was spent with the Sky News website, and after I managed to get my head around the content management system, it proved to be a particularly fruitful week – I managed to get two bylines on the site.

The first came from an idea that popped into my head when I read about civil servants and politicians being advised on how to use Twitter: if Gordon Brown was on Twitter, what would he tweet? So I pitched the idea to my editor and was told to come up with some funny material. I went away and racked my brains and came up with a few mock tweets and to my delight they ran with it and it was put up on the website.

My other byline was a story on a survey from the travel firm ABTA which found that over half of Britons prefer to send and receive postcards, despite the abundance of new technology. I spoke to Brian Lund, a postcard collector and the editor of Picture Postcard Monthly magazine who also very kindly sent me some funny, saucy and historical postcards for a picture gallery to accompany the article.

In addition I had three other pieces published. The first was regarding David Beckham’s latest run in with a fan in LA. The second was concerning Thomas Cook offering German tourists the chance to book their sunbeds early. The third was a story on the advice from Bresstfeeding Network charity that women should continue breastfeeding their children if they have swine flu.

My last day emphasised just how exciting and unpredictable being a journalist is. The day started like any other, I was set to work on a few stories when I got called downstairs.

I had just seen the sad news that Sir Bobby Robson had died aged 76. My editor Jon asked me what my footballing knowledge was like. “Pretty good,” I replied. And with that I was set to work moderating and updating the Sky News CoverItLive blog on Robson’s death.

I didn’t have previous experience with using the software and was to an extent thrown in at the deep end, but I enjoyed getting to grips with it and being involved in a big piece of news, which was evident from that amount of comments that were sent in.

In between updating that I also wrote an article bringing together a collection of the tributes to the man from the likes of Alan Shearer, Tony Blair and Jose Mourinho.

And with that it was time to leave. I will certainly miss Sky, but it had to come to an end sometime. One thing I certainly won’t miss is the 6am starts!

Comments

I think you should do a presentation.

To tell us second years how good it was and tell the new first years what could be in store for them if they work hard.

Great idea, Rob! Why thank-you Rob.

And you're very welcome, Alan! :)

...and I think the presentation should also include:

*Analysis of where you used the link economy during your time at Sky.

*A power point presentation on how twitter was useful during your time at Sky.

*A speech honouring Rupert Murdoch and News International.

Stuart awaits much frowning, verbal abuse and utter contempt from Alan :).

The presentation should also be at least 2 hours long...

The sky's the limit: my time at Sky News