Posted by: Ciaran | July 17, 2010

Balancing act

I’m three weeks in to working at Media Wales, and loving every minute of it so far. It’s been hard work, and I’ve already been able to try my hand at a lot of new things. For instance, I’ve learnt a whole lot more about the Battle of Britain than I knew this time last month, and I’m now something of an expert on the history of golf in Wales.

When I was on work experience at the Telegraph Media Group a couple of years ago, a very well-known figure there told me: “Journalists can come in for a day knowing nothing about a subject, and leave being experts in it.” It’s part of what makes every day so exciting and different – you never know what you’re going to have to do when you walk through the door.

One of the only things I don’t think any level of training can truly prepare you for, though, is the number of plates you have to keep spinning as a reporter. I’m quite a methodical person and I like to work through things one at a time if I can.

But when you’ve got a few stories on the go at once and the phone keeps ringing, you have to be able to switch your focus very quickly – and I’m surrounded by top-quality journalists that make it look easy.

That’s been the main level of adjustment so far, but I’m loving the challenge and the rush of the work.

I’m also thinking of pitching a blog to WalesOnline – I’m coming up with ideas but if anyone has any suggestions then let me know.


  1. But WHO was the well-known figure? Don’t tease us, Ciaran! Seriously, that’s a pretty innocuous quote: why not attribute it?

  2. “Journalists can come in for a day knowing nothing about a subject, and leave being experts in it.”

    I like that, but I would add that the very point of any factual writing or photography, is to learn a subject well and become something of an expert…

    The side bonus should be that of being able to make a trade from it, not vice versa.

    Then you are passionate about what you do first, and paid second. 🙂

    Good luck with the blog idea, but be careful not to spin too many plates at once!

  3. “[T]he very point of any factual writing or photography, is to learn a subject well and become something of an expert” – I probably should have qualified what I meant a bit more.

    The comment to which you refer was made in a conversation about a plane crash in Spain, and we were talking about how journalists would have dredged up every detail on the type of aircraft it was – I suppose we were talking more about microscopic details, areas which are subsets of broader topics.

    But in some ways I think it is impossible to be ‘something of an expert’ in the field of journalism. Clearly there are many reporters with a specific brief – be it health or politics, culture of foreign affairs – and they will end up specialising in that subject.

    The extent of their expertise, though, is always going to be constrained by developments in that area (there are always ‘new’ news stories which mean assimilating fresh knowledge in to an already existing corpus), and the manpower and resources available to a media organisation.

    If they can afford to have a dedicated correspondent for a city, or a football club, or a council, then yes I would expect that person to be very authoritative in their field.

    But for journalists at many organisations – and especially news reporters almost anywhere – then the beauty of the job (in my opinion) is the opportunity to take on the unexpected and learn new things.

    It makes it more of a challenge – but if journalists do their job right then telling the difference between a specialist and a novice shouldn’t be too clear cut.

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