Saturday, 20 February 2010

A slight hitch.

There has been a slight complication in proceedings, as I didn't even realise at first, but this complication could mean the death of this blog in its current guise.

Epic story short: I had an interview for a pretty neat PR job at a charity - and I got it. Yep. Me. My job.

Trumpets sounded, angels sang and I made myself a massive cup of tea.

BUT. Now I feel committed to a blog of some sort, but perhaps the adventures of my unemployed self will have to be put to bed for a little while - hopefully for a long time, if they like me enough and keep me past the contract date and and and and...I'm getting ahead of myself again. Ah well.

So. I've had a hell of a time since graduation, and I've lost track of how many jobs I've applied for. I stopped counting somewhere around 80, but I'm fairly certain it was quite a few more. There have been tears. There have been tantrums, absolute facepalms, and a significant proportion of tax-payers money spent on the jukebox. But things have been learnt, a lot has been written, and I may have forgotten how to transcribe my own shorthand. At least I never caved in to watching Jeremy Kyle.
Unemployment in itself has been an education, but a pretty rubbish one nobody asked for. A bit like general studies, only you can't skive it and hide in the science block. It's a crushing, soul-sapping experience that I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy. Except for maybe one. Yes, you know who you are.

Well, this isn't what I expected. But I think it's starting to become something brilliant and exciting and hopefully a new adventure.

Bye for now,
Your narrator x

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Accusations and acquisitions.

It was reported today that as of 28/03/2010, Trinity Mirror plc will have completed the purchase of Guardian Media Group Regional Media, the company in charge of a huge swathe of newspapers and online 'products', as which I believe we're supposed to refer to websites as now, including flagship north-western daily the Manchester Evening News - a paper launched by the Guardian group in 1821. 'Fair enough', you might say, but you're not me, and I don't say fair enough. This will get a bit long, so grab a cuppa.

Apparently, GMG Regional has been making next to no pennies* for the 12 months December '08 to '09, so the guardian (no pun intended) angel of Midlands local media, Trinity Mirror plc, has swooped down and very charitably offered to 'release GMG from their long-term printing contract'. Aaw, how sweet. According to the figures (see below for all useful links) the MEN has been somewhat carrying GMG Regional for a little while, but staff have already relocated to different premises thanks to centralisation which has been happening across the board for around two years now.
Meanwhile, Guardian Media and News has been offering voluntary redundancies for several weeks now, and is reportedly making a daily loss of an estimated £100,000. This all sounds a little familiar to me, although it clearly doesn't to Sly Bailey.

Let me tell you a story. It's pretty long, but that doesn't mean you can get away without reading it all. I'll only pin you down and read it to you and do that thing to your eyes until Beethoven makes you sick and...oh, wait...

Once upon a time, in a land not so very far away - on this very bus route, no less - I used to work for Trinity Mirror on a couple of weekly newspapers covering a reasonably large area. While I can't actually say where thanks to Auntie Libel, let's just say it was on a series of papers under the Midlands and North group - including the Liverpool Echo, Birmingham Mail, Birmingham Post and Coventry Telegraph. Again, I must stress it wasn't actually any of these papers, which I know are quality newspapers written by some of the hardest working people I know. It was just in a similar vein. Okay? Glad we've cleared that up.

The year was 2008. It was a heady, hot summer and- wait, we can't begin like this. Who am I kidding? It's the Midlands. You know what the summers are like here.
I was starting out as a cubby with no NCTJs - but we know how that story branches off, so I won't repeat myself. All was well, except that big nasty thing being poked with sticks and vaguely called the credit crunch was emerging, and we noticed that fewer and fewer houses were being advertised in the paper, and fewer companies could afford to advertise anything, full stop. Even still, we ignored it and hoped it would go away. It didn't. As you know, newspapers are hit pretty hard by recessions - the first in and the first out, as I was told at the time. I left to go back to Uni.
On my return for working over the Christmas break, I noticed there were fewer staff day by day. Centralisation was pulling a lot of the subs kicking and screaming to the flagship offices and print works in the cities. While this was reasonably pleasant to not have some jobsworth breathing down your neck about the unconventional spellings of towns in the 'local area' - (see what I did there? No...probably not. I thought it was funny, and that's all that matters) - while this was pleasant, it also meant there were fewer people to make tea for you. And, you know, check your work.
Long story short, an awful lot of fuss was being kicked up over Trinity Mirror not really having an awful lot of money. 'Voluntary' redundancies were flying about, claiming some of the best reporters, photographers and sub-editors I have ever met. Those who didn't take them up would be sacked anyway. Centralisation. Cutting down on costs. Fucking up lives.

And so the story continues. Papers closed. Small, local papers often serving a tiny but incredibly loyal readership. A greater online presence was launched. Fat lot of good that is to the little old lady reading The Weekly Giant Cheque And Kittens who probably thinks the 'internet' is northern fly-fishing slang. Trinity Mirror closed papers and removed people's livelihoods, jobs and quite often, the only trade a lot of writers had ever known - as well as removing the readership from the print product loop - which is most arguably The Point of newspapers.

And now, as if by magic, they've acquired £44.8 million in order to ACQUIRE the GMG Regional - 32 newspapers and several associated websites. I can't help but wonder how many of my ex-colleagues wages have contributed to this amount, and just how many 57 pences you need to save in order to justify closing some people's only lifeline on local news. This may well just be business as usual in a business environment, but it smells like dirty money to me.


Details concerning the GMN are available here:

Some regarding the take-over of GMG and potential further centralisation are available here:

*Including gross assets of £8.7 million.

(I ought now to stress that all opinions expressed in this blog are mine alone - I'm just one out-of-work journo having a whinge about a company or two. It's not worth suing me for my JSA, honestly.)

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Hi. Can I give you my (statistical) number?

After a glorious six months of official unemployment and claiming job seekers' allowance (yes, I am dole scum, a queue monkey, a drain on public resources - and any other terms you can think of, don't let me stop you), the Department for Work and Pensions, or DWP, or from hereon in - Those Wankers - have decided to place me on yet another different scheme. Because it was clearly obvious what the first two schemes were. Yeah. I now attend fortnightly interviews with a real life person - I've been assigned a really lovely woman who I can't fault at all - in order Job stuff. I had the first of these this morning with my woman and for once, someone actually took the time to sit down with me and explain whereabouts I am in the system and what's what. Lovely stuff.

Anyway, the interesting part comes in the form of a tri-folded booklet - of course it does, what else? (Plus it looks wonderfully like a murder scene with footprints outlined in chalk and Poirot on hand - to never be wrong, Madame.) This form offers my prospective new employers £500 from Those Wankers if I am employed for over 16 hours a week, for over six months, and a further payment of £500 after that six months. At first glance I thought this looked great, an incentive for someone to finally employ me for their own good! Other than the good I can supply in the form of being a fully functional and grammatically correct human being. Worker. Person. Whatever. It looked like something interesting to put in my nigh endless conveyor belt of cover letters, something to grab the eagle eyes of whichever poor bastard actually has to read my swarm of self-important adjectives.

I took a second look. And a third, just to check for any typos.

Nope, this is not a good thing.

This is a label on my shirt, a price on my head and a massive fucking pound sign stuck to my face. I might as well have my national insurance number tattooed to my forearm. This isn't a work incentive for anyone; it's the DWP pawning me off and essentially forcing a company to hold me ransom for their grand, then dumping me back on the pavement to rejoin the great unwashed. The booklet and initiative is called Recruitment Subsidy - Self-Marketing Voucher. I really don't want to go into how this title makes me feel, but basically it involves a lot of swearing and waving my arms around. I am a number; a statistic and an insignificant yet irritating rash on the government. A bit like herpes, only with a better haircut.
And yet, I can't help but wonder if this amount is merely cheaper than Those Wankers having to keep me for another six months - and after calculating once on paper, and twice on a calculator as I trust these much more - it turns out the DWP are saving themselves around £250 just to get rid of me. I feel so special.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Can self-referencing bullshit become a happy medium?

A report recently published from a study in the US revealed that a large proportion of journalists use social media and blogs et al. for research. Hands up if you're surprised? If so, there's some Lego and juice at the back, so go and play quietly while the grown-ups talk.
Of course we're not surprised, any hack with half a brain will happily turn to public resources and blogs etc. to see what the masses are rambling on about, so as to not have to actually talk to real people. I joke. You can read the findings of the report here: and here: but only after I've finished, okay?

Now. I am in two minds about the staggering 61 per cent of reporters using Wikipedia (WIKIPEDIA IS NOT AN ACADEMIC flashbacks) and so on to do research - and I am definitely not sure how I feel about using Twitter and Facebook for genuine research purposes.
Wikipedia should be treated like a dictionary or encyclopaedia that an idiot child has been turned loose on - I wouldn't trust it, but under the crayon scribbles and bits of crisps, there are often some useful pointers to other sites and books and real-life resources. Generally these lie at the bottom of the page, and the more cunning among us will make a note of these and trot down to the library post haste, but nine times out of ten you will find yourself suddenly and completely intrigued by the etymology of swear words or whales or and how the hell it is that babies can breathe underwater. Honestly.

Facebook and Twitter, while public platforms, are not actually intended to be public platforms - stay with me - but as interpersonal public platforms. It's a podium to stick your views and opinions and favourite music on, but not for strangers to throw rotting vegetables at, but for your friends (be they real or Internet Friends) to admire, agree, sycophantically mention in real life (sorry, IRL) - and sometimes give their real opinions on as well. However, if you did this in public - you would be branded as socially awkward. Or just, you know, a twat. There is a dreadful sketch about this by a comedy group who I will not name (for fear of acid reflux burning the words as I speak) but it is available here: As much as I hate them for even existing, they raise a good point. Would you think about using Facebook as a resource now?

Twitter, while it hurts me to be such a fucking hipster about this, is actually more useful in this instance than Facebook or public news blogs. Brevity is king, and an accurately-worded statement or opinion is infinitely more useful and relevant to current affairs - and, conversely, it's significantly easier to ignore the rubbish. These will generally consist of people being a waste of bandwidth and supplying the inane: "@littlefluffybunny is doing the washing up lol" or it'll be a mad sprawling mass of inaccurately placed apostrophes and capital letters, or everyone's friend - Britney Spears pr0n.
All these issues taken into account, Twitter and microblogging - or useful RSS-style feeds like Reddit can be pretty damn helpful for finding out what people are genuinely talking about.

On one hand, social media can be used quite efficiently as a shortcut to public opinions on current affairs, and has been used by yours truly on occasion when deadlines have been looming and I need a quick events NIB. Also if you ignore the virals about bra colours and something to do with money and sex (yes, I feel uncomfortable about that, too) then social media can be used when appropriate, but I don't think 65 per cent is a healthy amount of journalists to be using it regularly. I don't think these sites should actually be used to see what 'people in the street' are talking about. That's what actual people in the actual street are for, savvy?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Oh look, it's snowing.

The title is as far as I am going to stretch as concerns talking about the weather. It's winter, and this is what happens in winter. Full stop.

Yesterday, my friend had to visit The University so I tagged along and thought I would take my recently (somewhat) improved CV to the graduate careers advice centre, as they offer a guidance service and help you make it all better and probably give you a cup of tea and a biscuit at the end. Nope.
I looked across the waiting area of forlorn-looking students and graduates milling about in ironic knitwear. It looked pretty busy. They were fully booked up, the buck-toothed but pleasant delta kindly informed me. Oh well.

I took what remained of my love for humanity and my mittens off as I went into the warmth of my very own building; the structure that had been my educational home for four years. Surely now I was in there, I could find someone to help. My tutor I needed to contact wasn't there - quelle fucking surprise - but one of the slightly less useless and considerably more friendly ones was there to helpfully point out that my CV was grammatically correct (yeah, CHEERS) and either one or two pages is fine - or isn't - or is. Thanks, as they say, for nowt.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

A little positivity with your boredom, sir?

I think it's high-time I actually outlined what it is that I would like to do, rather than just rubbishing everything.
Having become more than a little disenchanted with the world of newspaper journalism (but holding a pretty decent portfolio of work from the sector), I've decided to put my skills and experience to different uses and explore the different avenues of work that I could pursue. I can always return to reporting and working as a trainee reporter (tea monkey/photocopier/Pensioner-Approved Non-Threatening Young Person) at a later date. Don't get me wrong, a lot of my friends from my post-grad are now working as PANTYPs and seem to love it, as I did when I was one for a few months - but it just isn't for me at the minute.
Without wanting to oversimplify or misjudge any types of jobs from the image I currently hold of them, I like to think I could adapt my knowledge to do something to the effect of these:

PR. Lovingly referred to as "the dark side" by journalists. I've gained a little experience of acting voluntarily as a press officer for, oh, the UK Computer Nerds Committee, for the last six months. I've been to positively thrilling meetings, talks and day outings to Other Universities, made press releases and generally collated information and been a useful go-between for the UKCNC and the people they are dealing with. It's fairly simple and enjoyable enough, and looks like something I could have a go at. I know there's an awful lot more to the job than just talking to people and banging out a couple of press releases now and then, but I've enjoyed these bits so far and shouldn't mind having a closer look at the ins and outs of the industry. Plus, my friend Annie works as the press officer for a Successful Midlands Rugby Club and is having a ball. (No pun intended, honestly. It just sort of happened.) I think working as a junior press officer or editorial assistant could suit me quite well.

Publishing. I would love to get into publishing, specifically into marketing or promotion for children's books. I read the local library inside-out, back to front and page to page when I was a nipper (before I realised how to read books properly) and always had an obnoxiously high reading age as compared to my actual age. I still love kid's books now, as well as regular fiction, especially bad teenage horrors (no, not that series) and anything with talking animals is always a bonus. I think how books are marketed towards children is incredibly important, and there's one publishing house in Scotland who are doing an excellent job producing easy to read and accessible books for kids who either struggle with reading or are dyslexic, or just don't fancy books that much. I've picked up a few of their short stories before and they really are great and not patronising in the slightest, which I think is vital for helping kids to not stand out for the wrong reasons. I can't empathise with struggling to read, but I can definitely empathise from a mathematical viewpoint, as maths may as well be a foreign language to me. If I could be involved with a company helping kids to love reading then I would feel like I was doing something useful and important as well as working with something I love.

I'm keeping it short and sweet today! These two job sectors are the main ones I'm having a peek at at the moment, I'm doing my research like a good little journo - I guess that part will never lose its appeal.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Concerning the job hunt.

As I previously stated, all my training, interest and knowledge is in the media field - not that I can claim to know a great deal or have the most experience possible - but I'm far from dense. I can generally fit myself to a job specification quite happily, or just reword the advert to make it sound like I'm what they're after. I tend to use agency websites because I find them the most useful, and I use industry ones on a weekly basis to try to hunt for the most applications I could send.

Sometimes, I use national job websites, such as - oh, let's call it 'The Protector' newspaper's jobsite. I like to read The Protector because it makes me look intelligent on public transport and, well, I like to read the supplements and do the crossword. Anyway. I have found that a lot of people in my position find the website imposing and somehow, full of grown-up's jobs which we feel far too young and underqualified to begin to comprehend.
The following is a selection of real jobs I have found using The Protector's jobs website.

Generally the mysterious and confusing world of graduate jobs is filled with "Sales" positions, and The Protector's jobs site is no better. I did not go to University for four years to sell old ladies on the unprotected electoral roll information or advertising space. Next.

Ooh, this looks good: a "TV, Online and Radio Editorial Campaign Executive". You know me by now, and I call a spade a spade - and this spade is a PR Officer if ever I saw one. This is just one example of The Protector's love of calling a spade a handled garden-related digging device.

In the Creative sector, an "Information Architect". I can vaguely recall my web coding tutor banging on about this, and I didn't understand it then, and certainly don't now. (Sorry, Simon. You really were dreadfully boring, and far too old for that haircut. Sorry again.) As far as I can work out, it's a web developer with a nicer title, but to me those are two very separate words that have no business being together. Next.

Also in the Creative sector, a "Senior Actionscript Developer". Unfortunately, this isn't the superhero position I had hoped it was, and seems to be something far geekier and more fun, judging by the amount of acronyms in this badboy: " familiar with Zinc and or SWF studio and have knowledge of database driven systems using XML & SQL and PMT." I may have made that last one up.

Finally, my favourite find: "Director - Audiences and Media Division". The role is being advertised at the Very Famous Art Gallery on the south bank of a Very Famous river, somewhere - I assume - in between the residences of Ratty and Mole. Anyway, being a fan of the VFAG myself, I decided to have a proper look at the advert, just to see what they were after. The following is a direct quote from the ad:
"Make the audience journey through the VFAG's collections more textured, driving strategic audience engagement, particularly with those whose cultural preferences may yet be unformed."

Yep, I made that face too.

I can only assume making an audience journey more textured would require blindfolding some poor unsuspecting tourists, dragging them through a damp corridor lined with woodchip and crackling strip lighting, smelling vaguely of pot pourri and despair - filled with broken down boxes and dead flies - before dumping them in a back room between a Matisse and a Hockney, in front of a "challenging" and "subversive" massive sculpture of the VFAG owner's genitalia, whipping off the masks and yelling "What is this?! Tell me what your cultural preference is now, huh?!"

I like to think that the role is available to whomsoever can figure out what the fuck any of that actually means. Maybe you win a prize, too.

I would really quite like a job now, thanks.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

A summation of June-January.

All businesses, workplaces, University and personal names have been changed. Except London, because it's pretty big. I'm not stupid enough to get libelled at this stage.

You can consider this an introduction of sorts. There is so much more to this story than education, but it's a good place to start - and no-one's that bothered about all the David Copperfield details really, are they?

I graduated from The University in June 2009 with a PG-Dip in Journalism, on top of my undergraduate degree: a joint honours BA (Hons) in Journalism and Media Studies from the same institution. I had completed several months of work experience at The Weekly Ennui in Hometown during my degree, and was employed there as a trainee reporter on both The 'Ennui and The Sister Paper prior to my Post Grad. I re-enrolled at The University to better myself and get some training under my (real vintage) belt which Tricorn News - the company in charge of The Papers - couldn't provide for me. I was chomping at the bit, ready and raring to go. The course had provided me with all sorts: rudimentary shorthand (mainly practised with how to swear and write amusing words), a few more people skills, greatly improved interviewing skills and a genuine new-found (and perfectly logically held) fear of Big Estate in University Town.
In all honesty, I had returned to The University in order to escape the jobs market for nine months as well as to gain better and further qualifications. Silly girl.

This move has since turned out to be a bad one for various reasons which I will now skim over in the briefest of details.

- Jobs. There aren't any. Well, that's not entirely true - there are some, but the majority are on very small town newspapers with little to no future prospects, and are mainly editorial positions to replace the prematurely grey former madman who somehow flung together The Despair Express and Star with his merry band of trainees too scared to use adjectives for the first few months. So, yeah. Jobs are a major problem.

- ...That's about it, actually.

- Interviews. I have had two (count them) since graduation in the summer. One was positive, fun, exciting, in London in June and would have been perfect - a music reporting role! My inner 16 year old reviewer was rejoicing. The only downside was that it was only an internship, and an unpaid internship at that, but I had plans for that. The other slight issue that may have swayed the interviewers against me was being half an hour late after I lost my sheet with directions on it down the tube - not in any romanticised gust of wind blasting through the tunnels - I just dropped it, like a twat. So I was lost, in east London, but it may has well have been Mozambique, as I got fantastically lost and had my only panic attack of the year in the street. Nice. I didn't get the job, in case you were waiting for another punchline.

The second - Hometown is getting a branch of Popular Coffee Shop! How exciting, I thought, I could definitely do that; it's waitressing, not rocket science. The interview in October goes well; I am one of around 20 applicants, and there are around 15 positions available. This is in the bag, I thought. Interview goes well: I am punctual, charming, can work all the hours available and more, and just sycophantic enough for them to raise an eyebrow at my pious "employ me, you idiot" smile. I got a call a day or so later - I didn't get it. Why? I'm not available for enough of the required hours. I put the phone down before I got violent.

So that's it, really. That's where I am so far.

I am currently putting my mind to other things I can do with my currently redundant skills, other than writing long rambling notes in shorthand, forget to transcribe them, then find them a few days later and find they have rapidly become ancient Greek. I am working on my first novel (ha, I've always wanted to say that) and investigating into publishing, which I think looks quite interesting and not beyond my skills at all. I will keep you updated.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Part I

My name is not actually so important, but it's Ruth, if you're in any way interested. I am 22 years old (23 in 9 days), an NCTJ journalism graduate and I am unemployed. This blog is about changing that.