Monday 22 July 2013

Help Me Investigate Testimonial

After completing my two week work placement at the company, Help Me Investigate's Co-founder, Paul Bradshaw, gave me some positive feedback:

"Abbey expressed an interest in learning more about finding angles and leads in information, and subbing stories. A large part of her experience, then, was based on sub-editing submissions from contributors so that they were more compelling and easy to read. This she did increasingly well, developing a strong sense as well as skills in structuring longer narratives such as real life stories."

Paul went onto say:

"It's been good to see skills developed significantly over a fortnight and I hope Abbey continues to get involved in the site."

I am very happy with these comments and am very pleased that Paul saw my skills improve and develop. I am also flattered that I am welcome back to work with Help Me Investigate.

Abbey Hartley

Help Me Investigate Work Placement Report

Between July 8th and July 19th, I gained work experience at Help Me Investigate - a website which helps people and journalists investigate topics in the public interest. After conducting investigations as part of my university degree, I wanted to experience this practice in the working world. Investigative journalism is a possible career choice for me so it is important to build up knowledge in this area.

As part of the placement, I helped sub-edit a number of stories. This involved me improving the writing of other Help Me Investigate contributors so the work was more interesting to read. Click here to read an investigation into the London 2012 Olympics, which I edited.

Furthermore, I attended the CIJ Summer School (discussed in my previous post) as part of my work placement. I live-blogged and tweeted for Help Me Investigate during the investigative journalism course. Click here to see my live blog. I believe this exercise helped improve my social media skills and gave me an insight into conducting live blogging. After returning, I wrote up the classes from the CIJ Summer School and summarised them into 'top tips' and 'how to' posts. Click here to read my finished articles from the CIJ Summer School.

Attending this event as a Help Me Investigate contributor also helped me with my communication skills. I used the CIJ Summer School to network and create contacts in the investigative journalism industry. I handed out business cards and discussed Help Me Investigate's work with various individuals. This made me more confident to speak to others and really pushed me out of my comfort zone, which I found exciting and intriguing

To add to this, I assisted Help Me Investigate with ongoing investigations. This involved me chasing stories and quotes from a variety of individuals and companies. I found that this task helped improve my telephone communication, which I feel I need practice in. I believe my confidence has grown when speaking to professionals in regards to retrieving quotes and information.

Overall, I really enjoyed my experience at Help Me Investigate. I think my knowledge of investigative journalism has significantly grown and conducting investigations outside of university has definitely benefited me. I wish to gain more experience within this industry in the future.

Abbey Hartley

Monday 15 July 2013

The CIJ Investigative Journalism Summer School

This weekend, I attended the Centre of Investigative Journalism's Summer School at City University London. The three day course focussed on high risk investigations such as taking on greedy corporations, secretive governments, cheats, criminals and predatory celebrities. I learnt a lot at the CIJ Summer School which I believe will benefit me in my future journalistic career. 

Workshops I attended:

- I took part in a workshop led by successful journalists Melanie McFadyean, Robert Miller and Martin Tomkinson, which taught me the tricks and tips needed to conduct serious interviews for print and broadcast. They also demonstrated to the class what necessary skills are needed to avoid pitfalls when interviewing.
- I also attended classes about company accounts. In these sessions, I learnt how to access company documents and what to look for in them when writing a news story. I found this extremely helpful and will definitely come in useful.
- Professor Mark Lee Hunter led a workshop about story-based inquiry where he explained how to frame, sell, write and promote a story. I learnt how to use hypotheses in the method of investigation and how to write up the best story possible.
- To add to this, Court Reporter, Paul Cheston, taught me how to do court reporting and get the best stories. This class was a practical guide on everything you need to know when doing court reporting. I now can't wait to put this new knowledge into action!
- Famous journalist, Andrew Jennings, led a workshop called 'How to Write Stories Readers Will Remember'. I found this workshop very beneficial and believe I have gained crucial knowledge to help me improve my writing.

Keynote speeches I attended:

- As well as workshops, there were a number of key speeches from guest speakers which I found extremely inspiring. There was a panel discussion, speaking of the case of Jimmy Savile. This gave me an insight into how stories are broken and how they are brought to the public domain
- US Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, offered tips on how to make news stories more important. He shared his own personal experiences of how he dug deeper for a news story.
- Ioan Grillo talked about investigating Mexican Drug Cartels. He discussed reporting on dangerous subjects and the personal risk involved, which I found very fascinating.

Overall, I am pleased that I spent time and money on attending the CIJ Summer School. I learnt many more skills and gained crucial knowledge from the industry's top professionals. I am looking forward to putting my new found expertise into action.

Abbey Hartley

Thursday 13 June 2013

Sixty Nine Degrees Testimonial

Sixty Nine Degrees's Chief Editor, Jonathan Fraser, provided me with some positive feedback after I completed my work placement at the magazine:

"Abbey managed a five hour round trip daily to get to us. When she arrived she was bright and enthusiastic. Abbey listened to instructions and worked effectively without supervision. She has been offered another work placement with us because of this."

I am extremely pleased with this feedback and ecstatic that I've been invited back to gain more experience. I am also glad that Sixty Nine Degrees acknowledged my ambition and determination to attend the work placement, as I traveled for five hours a day from Kidderminster to Leicester. Overall, I believe this work placement was crucial for my professional and personal development and I cannot wait to go back to Sixty Nine Degrees and learn even more.

Abbey Hartley

Sixty Nine Degrees Work Placement Report

Last week, I completed a work placement at the fashion and lifestyle magazine, Sixty Nine Degrees, as an Editorial and PR Assistant. I was very excited to gain experience at this company, as it was shortlisted for 'Magazine of the Year 2012' at the Midland Media Awards

The week started off with a team meeting where I gained an insight into the structure and organisation of a magazine company. A printing deadline was due at the end of the week so it was crucial for the team to discuss work loads. Magazine deliveries were also arranged between the colleagues.

After the team meeting, I performed many tasks to good standard whilst on my week long placement. I posted print stories from the magazine onto the online platform, so Sixty Nine Degrees's website was kept up to date. I completed the whole magazine as well as an issue of Dluxe, which is Sixty Nine Degrees's sister publication. The team were pleased with how quickly and efficiently I delivered this task. To add to this, I learnt new skills from posting online features. I gained knowledge in using WordPress and Adobe Photoshop, which are soft wares I needed extra practice in. I now feel confident using these programmes.

Another task I was assigned included to write 'diary' features for Sixty Nine Degrees's next issue. This involved me writing 50-100 word summaries of up and coming events in the Midlands. The team were impressed with my work and emphasised how my writing would appear in the next printed issue. It's very satisfying to think my work will be used in the magazine and read by thousands! Furthermore, I transcribed interviews Sixty Nine Degrees had conducted with winners from the Birmingham Young Professional of the Year Awards. I had to complete this task under pressure as the work had to be finished before the printed deadline. I transcribed the interviews to high standard and prior to the required deadline. I got a taste of what working to magazine time frames is like and I loved the rush and excitement of this office situation.

During my work placement, I worked alongside Sixty Nine Degrees's PR professional as well as the editorial team. I am eager to gain experience in the PR sector as I believe it compliments journalism well and also further opens up future opportunities for me. I attended PR meetings with Sixty Nine Degrees's clients, where negotiations and deals were discussed. One of these clients was another magazine in the Midlands area. Sixty Nine Degrees were proposing editorial ideas to them and would therefore be paid for writing articles for the client. The meeting went well and many editorial features were agreed. 

The second PR meeting I attended was with a hotel client in Brindley Place, Birmingham. This time, Sixty Nine Degrees were discussing advertisement and competition opportunities. The magazine wanted to advertise the hotel in return for revenue. After negotiating for an hour, myself and Sixty Nine Degrees's PR professional secured an A4 page advert, a competition and an editorial review of the hotel. This provided Sixty Nine Degrees with some significant extra income and loyalties with a client. 

I learnt so much in just a short space of time at Sixty Nine Degrees. I gained insight into the organisation and structure of a magazine company; I learnt how to use WordPress and Adobe Photoshop more effectively; I experienced working to deadlines and under pressure; I learnt what PR negotiating with clients is like. Overall, I believe that after completing a work placement at a fashion and lifestyle magazine, I am one step closer to securing my dream job in this journalism sector.

Abbey Hartley

Thursday 16 May 2013

Investigative Journalism: Concluding Article

Myself and a group of aspiring journalists have conducted an investigation into the issues surrounding universities, tuition fees and Access Agreements. As Editor, I was responsible to sum up our investigation by writing a concluding article, which can be read below. Our full investigation can be found at

University students missing out on financial support

University students are missing out on crucial financial support because of poor
communication, suggests Birmingham City University’s Financial Advisor, Harj Singh.

For universities to charge students higher tuition fees, an Access Agreement must be set up. This is a document put together by universities, which include targets and milestones. The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) then approve and monitor these documents. Sean Beynon, OFFA Officer, gives a brief overview of how Access Agreements work:
“Every year, universities publish an Access Agreement in the summer which covers what the university plans to do within the upcoming academic year.”

Birmingham City University have set targets relating to their financial support sector. The Access Agreement states that the university will promote the initiatives and support services available to all students.

Whilst discussing how the financial support services are publicised, Harj Singh acknowledged the need for further promotion of services and schemes for current students, briefly skimming over the university’s Access to Learning Fund.

The Access to Learning Fund is a hardship fund, which means students who are in need of extra financial support can receive it. However, students must apply for the funding to be assessed, but making this request is something Birmingham City University students are finding difficult. This is because many are completely unaware of the scheme.

Harj Singh uncomfortably stated:
“Not many students are aware of the programme.”

A recent study by The Independent Commission on Fees suggests that this lack of financial support promotion is deterring working class youngsters, boys in particular, to apply to university. The number of socio-economically deprived males taking a place at university fell by 1.4% between 2010 and 2012.

David Willetts, Universities Minister, stated that the OFFA should be targeting disadvantaged groups in regards to economic class:
“I don’t see why they couldn’t look at white, working class boys.”

He went onto imply that universities should be encouraging socio-economically deprived individuals to apply, by focussing on them in Access Agreements. It has become clear that Birmingham City University are failing to take part in this notion.

David Farrow, Director of Marketing at Aston University, commented on the issue of a lack of financial support deterring working class applicants. He stated that the university will be keeping a close eye on the situation. When asked if Aston University are doing all they can to promote financial support to socio-economically deprived youngsters, David Farrow said:
“Probably not… I don’t think we do as much as we feel we could do.”

A representative from the National Association of Student Money Advisers (NASMA), Harj Kallu, helps deal with students who have financial problems.

NASMA is a charity which trains people in supporting and advising university students in financial strain. The association then sends these trained representatives into universities, where they put their skills into practice.

Harj Kallu is based at Birmingham City University and has supported some of their students who have money issues. He emphasises that:
“There are people really struggling out there.”

Randel Brookes, who is studying second year Law, is just one of Birmingham City University’s students who are worried about finances. He felt disappointed in the university for not publicising the Access to Learning Fund to continuing students:
“I had never heard of such a thing before and by talking to colleagues, neither had they. The thing is I am actually eligible to apply for this but because I didn’t know, I haven’t.”

Other Birmingham City University students have significantly suffered because of the poor communication. Jenna Jarrett is dealing with financial worries while living away from home. She explained that student life has not been what she expected:
“My mum always told me to be sensible with money at university and I can honestly say I am, but sometimes there just isn’t enough financial support.”

The second year student at Birmingham City University feels like she has not been provided with enough financial knowledge:
“I have learned a lot through mistakes at university, but I do think that universities should have equipped us with better financial knowledge during our first year or before starting university.”

Jenna is finding the price of living a constant worry. She maintains her lifestyle by having a part-time job, just like around 50% of university students across the UK. She works long hours behind a bar at weekends, which is still not enough to avoid her overdraft. Jenna is also concerned about her work hours replacing the time to complete her studying:

“I work at a local club, it is long hours and sometimes I don’t get back until early hours of the morning. It’s hard to have this as well as my studies. I find I don’t sleep much because I haven’t got time due to assignment deadlines. I’m starting to wonder why I’m actually at university if all I do is work to live.”

Birmingham City University’s failure to communicate their financial support has had a negative impact on many of its students. Sean Beynon, OFFA Officer, has spoken of what action is taken when universities do not meet milestones set in their Access Agreements:
“If universities do not meet their targets, we would look to understand why and provide them with challenge and support to help them to progress.” 
Abbey Hartley

Saturday 4 May 2013

New Employee At Matalan

On Thursday I had an interview with the clothing store, Matalan, hoping to receive a part-time job. Yesterday I was offered a position as a Sales Assistant

I'm very excited about this opportunity, as it will help improve my communication skills, team work ability and interaction with the public. To add to this, a part-time job will keep my CV up to date in regards to employment. Matalan also provides the chance to progress into different departments such as fashion PR and marketing

I have my induction next week and then part-time hours will commence. I'll keep you updated on my experience at Matalan.

Abbey Hartley