The future of PR

Earlier today I was contacted by a PR student at Southampton Solent University and asked to contribute with a short blog post on the future of public relations for an e-book they’re producing. 

I’m a PR student as well and coincidentally, this year I’m studying a module called Reputation Management. If we were to look at this through a dessert analogy, reputation management would only constitute a wedge in the public relations pie. Traditionally, PR is meant to be about managing and directing a successful flow of information between companies or individuals and their audience. Through the cases we’ve analysed and looked at in class so far during this module, I am strongly inclined to believe that the future of public relations lies within online reputation management. Numerous cases of disastrously timed attempts of companies with their audiences are a solid proof that a great number of people take to their social media and online accounts – predominantly Twitter- to vent, rant or praise customer service or overall policies of a company they’re interested in. Companies have taken the first step towards building stronger audiences by increasing their presence on social media, but this can easily backfire if not properly managed and coordinated with their internal communication policies.

Let’s take a look at this example I plan to use for my final assessment in this module, of the company I’m following – JP Morgan and Chase bank. Their involvement in the Libor scandal has gathered a great deal of media coverage (most of which is negative) and they’ve been criticized for their $13 billion settlement for mis-selling mortgage-backed securities. In the light of this, it’s not quite hard to discern that planning a Twitter Q&A with the #AskJPM is probably not a good idea. Nevertheless, JP Morgan attempted this and it completely backfired, prompting a ‘tirade of abuse’ from users asking satirical questions. Out of the 80,000 Tweets sent prior to the Q&A itself, two-thirds were reported to be negative, which led to the bank cancelling their planned Q&A through a rather embarrassing tweet. 

This is why I believe the future of PR will focus on online reputation management. Social media is powerful when it comes to reputation, but it’s up to individuals to decide whether this power is beneficial or damaging in the long run. 

London is always a good idea

Twelve is the amount of hours I’ve spent on Megabus and National Express buses in the past month (although I managed to in the space of just two weeks). Two is the number of people that have sat next to me on the bus even though the bus was not full (and of course they had to fall asleep and invade my personal space). But one thing I’m absolutely, positively sure of – I love London.

Image credit: Weheartit
Image credit: Weheartit

The reasons I came to know every milepost and road sign on the M4 were mostly professional. It’s true some of my trips were pleasure, but most of them were business. I had an interview selection morning at Freuds for a work placement and then I luckily bagged two weeks of work experience at Esquire magazine. But coming from a relatively small city (around 300,000 inhabitants) that I lived in for 19 years (there’s only so many times you can go bowling in that one place before you get bored of it) I’ve always thought of myself as a ‘big city’ kind of girl and I’ve always wanted to live in one.

Image credit: Weheartit
Image credit: Weheartit

Almost a year and a half ago I moved to Bristol, which is not that small and there’s always something to do, but still – it’s no London. I know I’m not by far the only fan of the hustle and bustle, crowds of people swarming on the sidewalks and incessant buzzing of voices in the air, but I still get the occasional odd look when I confess that I love crowded places. It might be because I’m young and I don’t tire that easily, it might be because of my repressed teenage wish of living in a capital of the world (the downside of growing up with American films, 95% of which happen or involve NYC in one way or another) or it might be that I haven’t yet  lived in one in order to realize I actually hate it. But I do remember my first encounter with the Big Smoke- the first time I went on the tube (yes, people might have pushed me a bit or stepped on my foot); the first time I stood in front of the Big Ben for half an hour in cold January weather, mouth agape and wide-eyed; the first time I came out of the underground in the middle of Piccadilly Circus and I was surrounded by a sea of people and I felt a sudden rush of adrenaline (and it was not caused by the bright ad lights). I know, what’s the big deal, right? Most people feel that way the first time they visit London. “Tourists”, (read “you naive, stupid person”) I’m sure someone would say, sarcastically shaking their head at me in what seems like the slowest of slow motions (it has happened).

So when I had to pack up and move to London for two weeks for my placement, I was utterly excited. The area I would be living in was in Zone 2, so only a 30-40 minute commute from Oxford Circus, where the Hearst Magazines building is. I’d say that’s pretty lucky for London, as I know people who have to commute for one hour or more every morning. My friends who had coveted the precious Londoner life before warned me this was the moment I’d fall out of love with London; “It’s all milk and honey when you play tourist in London once every couple of months, but wait ’til you LIVE there”. The moment I’d start to notice the tube during rush hour is one’s worst nightmare and that a 40-minute commute can seem endless after eight hours of work. That no matter how glamorous swiping your Oyster card might feel, there’s only so many times you can get knocked in the stomach by the revolving little doors because of a system error (it only happened once, but man, did it hurt). I laughed it off,  positive that nothing could make me feel that way, no matter how hard the City would chew me up and spit me out.

But the worst thing that happened was that I got a tiny bit fed up with this

tube

 

 

after two weeks and two daily rush-hour commutes. Hooray for being tiny and squeezing through the doors of the Central line tube carriage before it leaves the station. Although at one point waiting for five minutes for the next one seemed like the smarter choice. And there’s always the famous underground rats darting everywhere at your feet (not quite, but in the nearest vicinity).

Maybe I was lucky or maybe I wasn’t there long enough, but I never felt like this:

tumblr_m328l1FH6L1r82bbmo1_500

 

So..yeah. Chapter one of my love affair with London has happened and I can’t wait for the second (and third, and fourth..you get the gist). Until then, this Buzzfeed article is good. And quite funny. But you might not want to read it if you’re planning a permanent move to London.

 

 

Work experience: The Bristol Post

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, social media networking plays a vital role in securing useful connections from within our chosen industry. There are many social media platforms and we have to choose carefully which one is the best for a professional approach. I mostly use Twitter and LinkedIn to connect and follow people of interest, such as journalists and PR representatives.

About a month ago I connected on LinkedIn with the assistant editor at Bristol Post, one of the local newspapers (the media conglomerate Bristol News&Media owns a couple of Bristol papers) and I decided to send him a message to thank him for accepting my invitation and introducing myself. I think it might be slightly tricky to approach a stranger on LinkedIn to do this, but it can also be a fruitful attempt. After introducing myself, I inquired about work experience opportunities at the Post and underlined how much I would appreciate the opportunity to spend a few days with them. He kindly replied that they offered work placements to students and gave me the contact details of the right person to send my application to. Surely enough, a few weeks later I got a positive reply and the chance to spend three days at the paper.

I was meant to arrive at reception at 9am on Tuesday the 12th and ask for the editor and the feeling of nervousness persisted throughout my 30-minute walk from home to the imposing Post building in the centre of Bristol. About to enter a real newsroom for the first time, – as I had only spent time filming, editing and recording in our broadcast newsroom on campus – I was rehearsing conversational topics in my head, as well as best ways to keep out of everyone’s way and not be a burden, but determined to get as much possible out of the experience.

The reception desk at BNM.
The reception desk at BNM.
Titles published by BNM
Titles published by BNM

Day 1

The editor introduced me to the Crown court reporter and announced my first day would consist of accompanying him to the Crown court. On our walk there he explained more about his job, how it worked and which cases we were going to sit in on during the day. I spent all day in court and even though I had been once before to the Magistrates’ Court, it was a great experience. I had the chance to sit in the press lounge and take notes of the cases, which some of  my fellow Journalism colleagues are not allowed, even though they have to write court reports as part of their coursework. We attended three or four cases, one of which was highly serious and they anticipated it would be going on for a couple of months. I have always found Law fascinating and found myself eagerly awaiting the judge’s verdict and constantly trying to feel the pulse of the room – although I took almost as many notes in longhand as the reporter did in shorthand, I realised once more how important shorthand is to a journalist.

Bristol Crown Court
Bristol Crown Court

Day 2

My second day began at 9am and I was assigned a desk and a computer in the newsroom. As the previous day, before being given any tasks, I quickly perused that day’s paper, of which individual copies were assigned to each desk. I mostly interacted with the Education editor on Wednesday and after a quick look at the online headlines on the BBC, Reuters and Guardian websites, he assigned me a number of press releases, based on which I had to write short articles of 200-250 words each. Apart from this, I was ask to contact by phone or e-mail a couple of PRs or institutions in order to require more information or inquire about photo opportunities. I was pleased most of them got back to me, as I feared a non-company e-mail will seem dubious, even though I specified I was writing on behalf of the paper. Even though I am not sure whether they’ll be used or not at some point (as some of them were for upcoming education events), it was really good practice writing the articles and practicing the ‘hook the reader with your first line’ rule.

Something that I sometimes struggle with while on work experience is talking to people next to me – I know it can’t be stressed how important this is for making contacts, apart from seeming civilized and interested in the workplace -, but everyone was so busy writing or talking on the phone, that I felt I would just bother them. Nevertheless, I struck up a conversation with the Politics editor sitting next to me and he was really nice, we ended up talking about politics and Romania.

Wednesday's edition of the Bristol Post.
Wednesday’s edition of the Bristol Post.
Board
Social media -valuable for driving and monitoring audiences.

Day 3

I didn’t know what I was meant to be doing on my last day at the paper, but the evening before the Business editor (the one I had spoken to on LinkedIn) wrote me on Twitter and I offered to accompany him at an innovation and technology conference the following day.

I arrived at the venue at 9.30am and it was already packed with people interested in VentureFest, as well as start-ups and companies which had their own exhibition stand. I was told the plan for the day was getting to know some of the companies and possibly write a few stories about the most interesting and local ones, as well as updating a live blog throughout the day.

Artists

A 'humanized' robot created by the Bristol Robotics Laboratory.
A ‘humanized’ robot created by the Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

 The Mayor opened the conference with an inspiring speech on innovation and Bristol and spoke about “bright, young people who need their eyes opened towards a brighter future of work”. After this, we set out to speak to people about their innovations, because as Gavin wisely remarked, that’s what he enjoys about journalism and ultimately what it is about – getting out there and talking to people, finding the human angle of a story, even if it’s a business coverage. We still used some of the press releases provided in the press room to write short updates on the live blog, and I chose to write about an app that helps you find sporting buddies and a ‘magic’ cocktail dispenser.

The day was not an ordinary one, but I enjoyed meeting people and discovering their projects – I was kept busy during the day and given the task of writing a short feature on an exhibition of my choice, which I’m currently in the process of writing. If it’s good and interesting enough, it may be featured in the paper or online, which would be a nice way of rounding off my short stint of work experience.

All in all, even though I was at the Bristol Post just for three days, I enjoyed it very much and there was even talk of me going back in the future for another placement.I met great people (the staff at the paper were really good, I didn’t feel once like I was there to make tea and coffee), wrote articles and made invaluable connections. I had the chance to attend an event, visit the Court and spend a day in the newsroom – a taste of what real journalism is about, when no two days are ever the same.

I am off for another work placement in London on Monday – two weeks at Esquire Magazine!

Interview: What is the best route into journalism?

A while ago I posted on Twitter about my struggle with finding and applying for work experience. I didn’t have many followers back then (not that I do now) and I got a reply from Tiffany Francis, wishing me ‘good luck’ and stating she was going through the same thing.  Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and while browsing ol’ Twitter, something caught my eye: Tiffany had posted a picture of a building window..but not any window – a newspaper building with the name The Guardian majestically adorning it in its oh-so-familiar font.

‘My workplace for two weeks’, said Tiffany’s photo description. Credit: Tiffany’s Instagram page

I was impressed. Work experience nowadays is hard to come by as it is, but gaining a two-week placement at The Guardian – which is the publication every aspiring journalist well, aspires to at least intern at – must require a sort of special ability!  I was happy for Tiffany, because she is a fellow UWE student, although she has just graduated.  So finding out that someone remotely close to me, a person I (will) share my alma mater with, had gone through this experience, I thought why not let other journalism students in on how she succeeded? 

In terms of background, Tiffany chose to study English Literature at UWE (University of the West of England) because her sister had studied there and she also heard Bristol was a lovely city. “I’ve always had an interest in arts, languages and the written word, having studied Art, Spanish and Latin before my degree. I chose to carry on with English because it was my best subject and I really love reading and writing. I had no idea what I would do for a career!”

Many students go down the same route as Tiffany did, choosing to focus their degree on the subject they were best at in sixth form or A-Levels. But it’s important to choose something you are also passionate about, keeping in mind that you’ll be studying it for at least three years and hopefully turning it into a lifetime career.

I decided to study journalism at an early age because of my passion for writing. But when I started researching universities and degrees online, I hit a brick wall – a considerable amount of people, experienced journalists and students equally, were being critical, incredulous or dismissive of Journalism degrees. They argued the fact that these degrees are not worth it, that most reputable journalists had a background in a classic subject (such as  English Literature, History of Economics) from a top university and that the skills it takes a journalism degree three years to teach can be learnt through a Master’s degree, work experience just ‘on the job’. 

As someone who has been in this position, Tiffany’s take on English Lit versus Journalism degrees is they both offer advantages and disadvantages. “A journalism degree provides you with so many skills that are difficult to find elsewhere, and because of this I have had to work very hard to gain experience in the field alongside my degree. However, studying English allowed me to refine my writing and language skills, and since studying it I have decided to specialise in literary and arts journalism, so I needed that graduate level of knowledge to be able to write about it. When applying for jobs my degree has proven very useful, but I think any successful degree in which you are assessed with written essays and dissertations will prove to employers that you can write“.

Having this in mind, I asked Tiffany whether or not she would change anything in terms of her degree/career choice if she had the opportunity of going back in time three years. “No. I was so lucky because I actually chose Birmingham as my first choice, but I didn’t get the grades. I only chose it because it was higher up in the league table, because actually the course looked really boring compared to the one at UWE. I think it was fate! I realised that UWE had a much more enjoyable course to offer with a high standard of teaching (mostly)“. What she would do different if she had the chance is trying harder in her first year, as she found the transition to the second and third ones slightly traumatic in terms of workload.

The Guardian and Observer have roughly two application slots per year for their editorial work placements. These are unpaid and they range from a few days to a maximum of two weeks. Tiffany managed to secure two weeks of work experience on the Guardian Books desk, which is highly competitive. She says: “The application really emphasised that it wanted people who showed dedication to journalism, so I suppose because of my jobs and work experience I was good enough! I would advise students to be very enthusiastic, but back it up with solid evidence that you are committed to the industry. Depending on which placement you go for, it’s also important to show passion for your department. For example, as I worked on the Books desk, I wrote about how much I love books! There are lots of different placements so make sure you pick one you know about“. Her previous work experience included  two weeks at Countryfile Magazine in Bristol, and three months on a social media internship at the clothing company Motel Rocks. She chose the latter because she wanted to build on her journalism skills, and because she knew about the huge role that social media plays in modern journalism.  Aside from that, Tiffany worked as the Assistant Editor of WesternEye (UWE’s student newspaper) and the editor of UWE English Society’s illustrated literary magazine Cellar Door. That was both fun and a huge challenge for her, as the society was brand new so she had to  create the magazine from scratch. Since graduating she has also done some freelance editorial work for the Student’s Union.

Tiffany's worked was showcased on The Guardian website.
Tiffany’s work was showcased on The Guardian website. Click to read.

During her two weeks, she was involved in a range of different activities and had the freedom other placements hadn’t offered her. ” I could come and go whenever I liked, and I felt like I could absorb the atmosphere and watch the whole building work. Every morning I went to the editorial news conference where we listened to people like the Executive Editor of the New York Times talking about the Snowden case. I also met Ruby Tandoh from Great British Bake Off which was superb! I sat in on podcast recordings and wrote little articles and quizzes for the website, and I attended the Guardian Children’s Fiction Awards one evening where I ate lots of delicious cakes. I learnt so much and made lots of contacts so it was an incredible experience“.

Tiffany (left) and Ruby Tandoh. Credit: Tiffany's Instagram page
Tiffany (left) and Ruby Tandoh. Credit: Tiffany’s Instagram page

In terms of career plans, Tiffany is planning on starting an MA in English in London next September, in order to specialise in literature. She thought about doing a course in journalism, but she didn’t think it would be as enjoyable.” I can’t really afford to make the wrong decision. In fact, I’m not quite sure how I’m going to afford it anyway, but I’ll cross that awkward bridge when I come to it. I’d like to work for a magazine or newspaper writing about the arts, and eventually I’d like to be a freelance writer. I’ve also thought about perhaps doing a PhD, but that will be a long way off if I do. My dream job would be a freelance writer and novelist, visiting National Trust properties at weekends and eating cream teas. Lovely!

Thank you for sharing your experince, Tiffany, and I wish you the best of luck in achieving your goals! Maybe not that far in the future we will have the opportunity to read a review of your novel on The Guardian website.

Read Tiffany’s blog here.

An endless streak of CVs and Cover Letters

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been warned numerous times before my fresher year ended a few months ago that my second year will be the bane of my existence, to put it nicely.  If I were to, say, complain about the difficulty of an assignment, having too little time to finish a task or be disappointed in one of my marks, my elderly friends would jump in immediately – “Don’t complain, in your second year your lecturers will judge your work so much harsher, you’ll be happy to get a 60%!” or “You have eight contact hours per week?! You’ll eat and sleep on campus next year”. The last one turned out to be fairly true, as I now have double the amount of contact hours I had last year, but that is not relevant.

The most frightening thing about becoming a second year student is the sudden realization that you’ve actually reached the middle point of your degree. You’re halfway there (there being that defined moment in the space time-continuum where you walk out of University for the last time, wearing a cap and gown, and you hopefully wake up the next morning and enter the adult world by having an actual job).  Suddenly you’re forced to consider your future (if you already haven’t), career prospects and life choices, you can’t just hide behind the fresher emblem anymore and you can’t afford to postpone it, as much as you’d like to run under your covers and hide or sleep it off as you did a bad hangover.

An article published by The Guardian in July 2013 talked about a 4.6% rise in graduate hiring, with graduate recruitment being at its highest level since 2008, but just one month earlier in June 2013, the BBC brought a cold, harsh dose of reality – nearly one in 10 new graduates is ‘unemployed’. Where does this leave us? You can pluck up the determination and motivation to start applying, or you can add to those numbers.

I was keen on applying for work experience and internships since my first year, which I did, but most employers expect you to have acquired some theoretical knowledge  or even have previous experience in the field you are applying for. I reckon this is a tricky two-way street, because obviously nobody would risk their business by employing someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing, but at the same time how can you have experience if nobody would hire you in the first place? I got involved with a University society, the student newspaper, had an article published in ‘The Independent’ and managed to secure a one-week work experience placement at BBC History magazine, so I can say I didn’t slack off. Yet it didn’t feel like it’s enough and it isn’t, which is why my life is at present time, apart from focus on my degree, a whirlwind of CVs and cover letters.

One day during the summer, I sat down on a warm,sunny day, birds tweeting, sun shining blissfully through my window – I was at home in Romania, hence the good weather- in front of my laptop, with the Word cursor blinking annoyingly at me. I was a woman on a mission. I kind of dreaded the moment of sitting down and compiling a list of companies/places I wanted to apply to for internships and work experience this year, not because of the prospect of research (I had a clear idea of what type of places I was looking for), but for the having to choose part. People have to make choices everyday, I know, and it’s fairly easy for the most part (chicken or beef?) – but when your whole career and future lies within those choices, you have to choose carefully. It’s especially difficult if you have to make a choice between similar companies/organizations, because you can’t just apply to everything relevant to your degree. In my specific case, I had to choose between a plethora of PR companies, based on reputation, size and location (all of them are in London, one is in Bristol and a couple are in Bucharest) and it wasn’t easy. My list ended up containing names and deadlines for applications for roughly 30 companies – both PR and Journalism oriented. Doing this actually made me feel more positive, confident and decided and it helped set a time-frame,as well as underlining how many applications and cover letters I had to fill in and tailor for each internship.

It’s almost the end of October and I’ve already made contacts and sent applications to some of the companies on my list (as well as adding some new ones  – list is getting bigger). I know it seems daunting if you try and take it all in at once, it is hard work but it’s definitely exciting and challenging. I’m afraid of failure, but I’ll do my best to reach the goal I have set by the end of May 2014 – to secure a summer internship.

I have a couple of articles planned for the next few weeks about interviews and networking from a personal experience, which I hope you’ll find useful.

Meanwhile, have a look at the infograph below, which I found informative and useful.

An internship infographic (not as daunting to read when colorful) Credit: visual.ly

‘Food porn’ and semantics

I would dare betting (perhaps even my first born – ah, Rumpelstiltskin) that when most people hear the intelligently coined term ‘food porn’, they’re a bit thrown off, to say the least. You don’t need to be a semantics guru to realize that ‘food’ and ‘porn’ aren’t the most common of associations, yet this minor issue hasn’t stopped people from spreading this idiom around – and it’s caught on really well.

According to the almighty World Wide Web, food porn is a ‘glamorized spectacular visual presentation of cooking or eating in advertisements, infomercials, cooking shows or other visual media, boasting a high fat and calorie content, exotic dishes that arouse a desire to eat or the glorification of food as a substitute for sex’. The concept was first mentioned in the book “Female Desire”, written by British journalist and writer Rosalind Coward, the mastermind behind this term.

It’s not a secret to anybody that today’s young generation is dubbed as “the Facebook generation”. We are growing up in a world where social media has replaced a neighborly face-to-face chat or a friendly cup of coffee in the morning. Now we wake up and Tweet, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, Pinterest whatever we consider relevant for the world to know first thing in the morning and throughout the day. More often than not, these are pictures of food, accompanied by the famous ‘foodporn’ hashtag (#). On Twitter, the account @ItsFoodPorn, also in posession of a Tumblr page, has over 300,000 followers and the search results exceed thousands. Instagram’s same hashtag encompasses no less than 2,225,900 photographs of all kinds of food, ranging from vegetables to deserts and beautifully crafted menus.

Indeed, pretty pictures are pleasing even to the untrained eye and they have a way of putting a large smile on our faces when our Primark umbrella has surrendered to the rain outside or the Starbucks barista forgot the cream in our latte. But we ought to ask ourselves: why do we feel the need to display our breakfast on a social media platform for the whole world to see, and name it in such an inappropriate manner? Are we aiming for our culinary results to awake certain desires in our peers? Or is it just a cleverly masked way of showing off? I have no objection towards being proud of any kind of personal achievement – especially since cooking is an art not many of us can skillfully master-, but I’d rather tag my lunch or dinner as exactly that. #lunch and a decent quality picture are worth a thousand words, especially since individuals seem to forget the whole idea behind this concept were good quality images and they now use iPhone-quality photographs with a bad filter slapped on.

All in all, I’m inclined to believe that there will be much debate in the future about the actual fairness and accuracy of this concept and whether or not it has actually brought something useful in the food photography field. Until a consensus is reached, let’s keep our food PG-13.

Are clichés embedded in our DNA?

Two weeks ago I woke up to receive some unfortunate news about somebody I care for more than I could express through words (and that says a lot, seeing as it’s my [future] job not to run out of words). Surprisingly enough, almost immediately I felt compelled to answer the questions that were buzzing around in my head, like flies about to hit the windshield at 100 mph. Why did this happen? How did it happen? Why did it happen now? etc. Image

It was then when I noticed that, in my feverish attempt to soothe my subconscious, the first phrase that popped into my mind was “Everything happens for a reason”. This is probably one of the most used clichés, at least between myself and my closest group of friends. Even my mother and my grandmother use it and you’d probably expect older (and presumably wiser) generations not to make appeal of these overused phrases, lacking in personality and fundamental sense. According to Wikipedia, a cliché is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning, or effect, and even, to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.

In our daily life, we’re surrounded by them, as I’ve more often that not heard people saying ‘I’m not watching that new romantic comedy film – it’s probably full of clichés’. And it’s true. All of them have the same tarnished approach to ‘love’ – two people (of course, both very good looking), one of which is usually career-focused/doesn’t care about finding love/has had his heart broken and has sworn of men or women meet by accident/through a mutual friend, fall in love, get together, split up because one of them is an idiot and get back together at the end of the film, courtesy of a cheesy gesture. I, for one, am a big fan of these romantic comedies (guilty pleasure) and it’s become sort a game contest to see which one comes up with a new angle of the same story or dare I even mention, an original one. Of course, it rarely happens that they succeed.

I remember that episode of Sex and the City, when Berger so kindly hands Miranda his precious knowledge of ‘he’s just not that into you’, and hoping to save others the painfully long process of deciphering mixed messages, she lets two young women in on the secret. Instead of going ‘oh, right, it hasn’t crossed my mind that a guy might simply not like me, regardless of my probably good physique and witty banter- cheers for this!’, those two girls start coming up with excuses for the guy’s missing phone call and how he is probably going through something and he’ll definitely call.  Why is it that we’re willing to come up with less than likely excuses when things don’t go our way, instead of simply accepting them?

But when it comes to serious aspects, I think we’re trying to use clichés as a glass partition to hide behind, which ends up not working and allowing insecurities to bubble up to the surface. We’re trying to find a motive, a reason with the ability to encompass an explanation of why something has happened. But sadly, we have no idea what’s written in the stars (see?) for each of us and what tomorrow may bring. If something less than fortunate of plain disastrous happens, it’s not necessarily a punishment, we needn’t start making lists of what we’ve done wrong in life. Some things don’t happen for a reason, people just happen to stumble into something and be caught somewhere at the wrong time. Or they might even have brought it upon themselves by doing something that turned into a chain reaction and led them to a certain moment.

It’s in the human nature to look for answers and question everything – that’s why humans have brains. But sometimes we should let go of pop culture explanations, stop trying to find that reason which everything is happening based on and just say ‘well, this happened’. How hard can it be?

Fast forward to the end of my first semester

In academic terms, my first semester at Uni is over now and it’s been great (I’m almost done with my second one, but I’ll fill you in on that in exactly two weeks) . Not quite what I expected at first, but I grew accustomed to the new system, the fancy and expensive journalistic equipment, the library loan system and thinking, dreaming and breathing in a different language. I’m quite happy that I went from being an introvert when it came to speaking in English to being able to speak it coherently, without stammering. But I’d still take writing over speaking anyday now, and I guess that’s good, since I’m on my way to becoming a journalist.

In my Newsgathering module, we started uploading our articles, NIBs, vox pops etc. on a WordPress platform I think in the beginning of November, whilst working on our remaining pieces for the InDesign templates. The templates were pre-set and we were allowed to change only minor details, such as the picture position or size and some of the fonts, so it wasn’t that difficult pasting the articles I’d written in them. I struggled with my review templates because I kind of, slightly, only a teensie tiny bit, exceeded my word count and then I had to chop a whole lot off and rephrase stuff in order to fit it in there, but I did it, with some help from my tutor who was extremely helpful. I ended up reviewing ‘Ladies of the Street’ for my journalistic book review and I enjoyed it more than I had thought. As for my film review, I did ‘The Perks of being a Wallflower‘, as it was the only movie I went to during that term and plus, I really liked it. My other template was a news template, which comprised of 4 articles of different lengths, 3 NIBs and 3 vox pops. My ‘main’ news story was about the Romanian and Bulgarian students’ work permit situation and seeing as this is a fairly close topic to my heart, as I’m facing those hardships myself, I tried to get it as much coverage as possible, so I ended up being awarded the great opportunity of publishing it on The Independent’s website. Click  here to read the article and in case Tom Mendelsohn, the editor of the Student section ever reads this: thank you so much, Tom! Apart from these InDesign templates (final versions of the .pdf will go down below), I also handed in a 1,500-word essay about the Leveson Inquiry (which was not released at the time of writing) and which regulation I’d implement for the British press.

Book review: Ladies of the Street by Liz Hodgkinson
Book review: Ladies of the Street by Liz Hodgkinson
Film review: The Perks of being a Wallflower
Film review: The Perks of being a Wallflower

For Journalism and Society, every week for the duration of the term we had a one-hour lecture and a one-hour seminar, which covered topics such as the origins of the press, photography and news, the arrival of television, gender and power, news and racism etc. Seeing as this was a 100% academic module, our only assessment was a 2,000 word essay one of this topics. I chose the following statement: “Outline the main factors explaining news definitions of gender and assess the evidence that journalism contributes towards the alienation of women within society”, because I was truly fascinated with the books I read for my research and the issue of gender discrimination in our society then and now.

Lastly, my Professional Craft Skills module didn’t end in December, as it’s a year-long module and it ends on April 12. Our broadcast portfolio (which I’m feverishly working on these days) should contain a 1 min 30 sec TV package, a 3 minute radio news feature and an online multimedia slideshow. I’m 80% done with filming for my TV package and I’ve recorded my radio package (these still need to be edited and burnt to a disk), but I’ve yet to find anything interesting to tell in pictures for my slideshow.  I think this is the module I’m feeling most edgy about, because although I’ve enjoyed it and I don’t completely reject the possibility of working in broadcast one day, it’s just not as enjoyable for me as writing is.  Nevertheless, I still aim to put together a good portfolio and be as satisfied as I can with the work I’ve done.

 

Judgy-wudgy was a bear

My name is Mădălina and I judge people. A slightly humorous AA joke there, because I feel there should be such a therapy group called ‘Those-who-judge Anonymous’, since there are so many of us who do it, either unintentionally or out of pure maliciousness.

 

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Photo from Google

I know this topic is frowned upon by many. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the verb ‘to judge’ equals ‘ to form an opinion or conclusion about’ something/ ‘to decide upon critically’. Why is it then that our parents (well,at least mine) teach us and even warn us not to judge people as soon as we can make use of our cognitive capacities? What constitutes judging and why is it perceived by many as a bad thing? I reckon judging is an innate human ability, so I can’t see why we shouldn’t exercise it and develop it to its full potential. Granted, we should not do it in a gossip-y manner, by sitting behind the crystal clear glass at Starbucks, with all the ‘posh’ people (I personally don’t believe Starbucks favours this kind of behaviour, but let’s put it there for the sake of the argument) , sipping Caramel Macchiato and passing superflous judgment on passers by, such as looking down on them because they’re not wearing the latest trends in fashion or because they accidentally tripped and fell bum first onto the sidewalk. That is the wrong kind of judgement. People are different and unique in their own way. That’s the beauty of this cold-hearted monster called ‘ society’, in which apparently you can either blend in and become as faded as a summer flower , or stand out and be seen as a pariah. It’s a constant battle of egos and what is perceived as normality. I don’t judge girls on the street because they’re wearing skirts too short for their figure or for the general common sense – de gustibus non disputandum. I don’t judge men who are gay or lesbian women – it’s their choice. Their choices do not inflict upon me and who am I to say what’s normal and what is not? Yes, God intended for women and men to fall in love, marry and have children, but isn’t it an individual’s choice to seek for his happiness in every way possible? Again, as long as it’s not hurting me or other people, why should I act disgusted and grumble ‘This is a moral sin’ ? Is that going to make me feel better or sleep warm and fuzzy at night? I think not.

What I do think deserve to be judged within society are stupidity, arrogance and ignorance. At the risk of sounding morally uptight , I can honestly say I’ve worked pretty damn hard for what I have achieved during these 19 years of my life. Nothing’s been handed to me on a silver platter, except for the common sense and priceless education my family has kindly instilled in me. I’ve learned nothing should be taken for granted and luck has pretty much avoided me my entire life. Sheer dumb luck that is, so I came to believe that luck is handed to dumb people to compensate for their lack of intelligence. Yes, that’s a bit unfair, because if a hard-working, deserving person had only a fraction of the luck other people have, he or she might get that big break they were unfairly denied in their career, let’s say. But no, smart and hard-working people have what it takes to make it happen for themselves, so they get nothing, which is quite fine by me, since I’d rather have the satisfaction I’ve gotten to where I am (or will be, in the future) through my own strength, but it kills me to hear daft people having so many benefits at their doorstep and in their gold-lined pillowcases , and STILL make a mockery of their lives and everybody else’s, might I add. Yes, you have money, good for you . Use it with purpose, find out on your own how difficult it is to actually earn that money by sweating 40 hours a week rather than spending them in the blink of an eye on useless things (that is, if they can even remember where exactly the money have gone; how can you not have a sensible notion of where your money has gone? it’s not like they vanished into thin air). It makes me scream in frustration when I’m being confronted with little, precious ‘mommy-and-daddy’s-girls’, who act like money can be just xeroxed day after day in their basement, while I am struggling to cope with my financial difficulties of getting through higher education, and I would give anything to be able to work (except I’m not YET, so thanks for that, UK legislation, but that’s a whole different issue which I won’t get into). How can I not pass judgement on these brats’ way of thinking and this utter disrespect they have towards life? I’ve earned my right to judge them and I won’t feel bad for it even for a second.

People have told me numerous times that I consider myself to be superior, and I am indeed. Not because of my IQ, not because I’ve been a very good student my whole life, but because I can appreciate the important things in life and I can value what’s been given to me and what I have to do in life to accomplish myself. Nobody can tell me that judging a person prohibits you from seeing its true nature – his or her actions and words speak for themselves.

PS: I’ve recently become a contributor for JumpforJournalism! It’s a great read for aspiring journalists and I’ll be updating weekly(ish) with my journalistic endeavors and the challenges I’m being confronted with in Uni.
Vox popping in the rain
Lights,camera,action