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Visiting the Echo

by Millie Banks

We have been doing a bit of work on reporting and wanted to see how the professionals do it and present their stories in an interesting and eye catching way, so where better to go and learn than the South Wales Echo.

We were met by Pat English who showed us the site of the old Thompson House which had been demolished, you could see the hole in the ground where a huge printing press once stood and around which the offices had been built. If you are quick you can still see the old building on Google street view. With modern technology the printing press does not need to be next to the reporters anymore so it can be located on the outskirts of Cardiff (Eastmoors) where delivery is easier.

When we got inside Pat showed us the different parts of the newspaper, explaining what some of the terms meant such as a headline or a 'puff' or 'plug' was (To try and get you to read inside stories) and what was inside the paper not just local news but adverts and diary stories (Council meetings, court appearances, features (such as TV or letters, fashion and human interest). She explained that in order to put the paper together you needed different teams. An advertising department to sell space; Reporters to write stories; Photographers to illustrate the stories; Designers and Layout artists to set out the paper and managers to oversee the various elements and make sure they all work together. Even then you still had a number of outside agencies like the weather etc who had an input and of course the printing and distribution too.

The office was laid out in different sections in the centre of the room was 'the hub' where the managers worked, and behind them was a meeting table where several times a day they would turn around and meet to discuss progress on the various parts of the paper. That way everyone knew what work had been done and what was still needed. We saw Tim Lewis briefing his Manager about a job that he was working on. Paul Abbandonato the head of sport came over and chatted to us about his work and the importance of good communication in the department so everyone knows what is happening and what they are working on.

Madeline shows us her shorthand notes about her story on health, and told us why shorthand was so important even today. Graham Henry told us he was working on a story about bumble bees in Cowbridge. Abbie told us that she was writing a story about drug dealers being caught by the police. She also told us about the importance of being accurate in what was printed in a newspaper so it would not affect any court case and also about libel and making sure what you said was factual.

Peter Morrell was showing us how he keep the hugely popular walesonline website up to date. There are lots of different papers not just the Echo.

Marc White is the specialist Graphic designer and was showing us the layout for the next days Echo that he was working on. He told us about using computer programs like Adobe Photoshop to cut out images and 'feather' next to him was David Hurst who had an image of some boxing gloves on his screen these were going to be used to illustrate a story about a political fight. David told us that he got started in photography as a hobby and soon learnt that he could make money out of it.

Pat then showed us her desk and the letters page that she was working on. she told us that she has been at the paper for 30 years and is the 'editorial training manager'. She showed us how the library system worked and brought up some images of pupils at Millbank on the Pc straight away. There was even one of Abi Jones (who had o volunteered to help Chaperone us on the trip to the Echo) from when she was in Millbank in from 1992.

We went upstairs and met the Editor of the Echo Mike Hill to ask him the following questions which had been submitted by the children and parents at the school. We took it in turn again to take more pictures.

Then we saw the media studio that the reporters use to make online news reports. Pat showed us the photography studio and Richard came in to take some photographs of us as a memento of our visit before we left to get the the bus and go back to our parents at school.

INTERVIEW WITH EDITOR Mr Mike Hill

1.) Why are bad news stories more popular in Newspapers? Friday was UNICEF’s ‘DAY FOR CHANGE’ the school council worked with the children to find something that they wanted to change in the world, and they organised bacon butties, cake sales raffles got the whole school dressed up raising £320 themselves for the victims of the Haiti Earthquake. That was not mentioned in the Echo, but the minibus being burnt had almost a full page.

    I do not think that bad news stories are that popular, at the Echo we try and do good news stories or we at least try and balance the bad news with good news. [Pat had also told us earlier that it was a quiet news day when the minibus story was printed and would not normally have had such a large amount of space]

2.) Mrs Brown produces a newsletter every week for parents. What tips can you give her?

    When doing a newspaper you need to make sure the stories are as interesting as possible with a good headline, a story with a picture or graphic and easy to read.

    The first sentence and paragraph should be 'who, what, when, where & why'. When I was learning to be a journalist I was told that the story needs to be' like an arrow, straight to the point'. The first few lines are the most important and need to convey what the story is all about. Once you have done that you can expand or flesh out the story.

3.) One of our jobs in the School Council is to try and stop bullying, were you bullied at school and is bullying a problem in the workplace? What do you think we should do to help?

    No I was not bullied, the teachers at my school were pretty good at dealing with bullying. I certainly hope that there is no bullying going on at the Echo, it does not help anyone and would not be tolerated here. As for what you can do, I think you should encourage anyone being bullied to talk about it and get help from their friend family or teacher.

4.) What were you like at School- “girlie swot” or trouble maker? What was your favourite subject? Were you on a team? Did you ever get sent to the head teacher?

    All I ever wanted to do when I was at school was win the FA cup for Barnsley. I loved football and sport ... cricket, running anything sporty. I always enjoyed writing stories so I was good at English and later on I became interested in history and politics too

Yes I did get sent to the head teacher and canned too for arguing .....over a football game.

5.) When did you decide you wanted to be a journalist? What did you want to be when you were our age?

    I got into Journalism quite late and did lots of other jobs first. I was a football coach worked in a bar, as a salesperson then in an insurance company before I took a temporary job selling advertising in a newspaper for two weeks. I was then taken on as a football reporter and trainee.

    When I was your age I wanted to be a footballer or maybe a train driver, but my father and grandfather had been miners and I had assumed that I would follow them into the mines but they started to close them by the time I grew up.

6.) Who is your hero or role model? who do you most admire?

    Lance Armstrong the cyclist who overcame severe cancer and -against all the odds- went on to become a champion by sheer determination and hard work. I admire anyone who can overcome the odds and do well even if they come from difficult backgrounds.

7.) What exactly does an Editor do and what is the hardest part of your job?

    No CaptionI am responsible for every single word in every article we print in the Echo and on the website too.

    I have to decide what stories we will cover in what order what goes on the front page, what photographs we will use. I have to check that everything we say is accurate and I need to keep all the reporters and people who work for the Echo happy.

    I also help out on the website and do a lot of work outside the building meeting people.

8.) Last week was National Storytelling week and we all dressed up as our favourite book character. Who would you have dressed up as? Do you read to relax?

    No CaptionWilly Wonka, I loved the book as a child and read it six or seven times. I loved going to the library when I was your age, I remember first going there and discovering the children's section.

    Yes I still enjoy reading a good book and I normally read 2 or 3 books a week.

9.) What football team do you support? Any other sport you like golf, squash tennis?

    Barnsley and Cardiff City Football clubs.

    No CaptionYes I like all sports, football, rugby union and rugby league, cricket, cycling, running handball in fact I like watching anything sporty and drive my wife crazy as I am always watching some obscure sport on TV. I find golf a bit boring but even then like watching the Masters' or 'Ryder Cup.'

10.) How do you see the future of newspapers in 10 years time and beyond? Will it be printed on paper or downloaded, how will we pay for it?

    No CaptionWell that is the question that everyone in newspapers is asking at the moment and no one is sure of the answer. We have all been looking at new technology and how it affects what we do. It has No Captionalready had a big impact in the way the paper is produced today.

    I think in 10 years time we might well all have roll up screens and get newspapers downloaded automatically and constantly updated.

11.) How has the recession affected the Echo?

    The recession has affected us a lot, it has meant that fewer people were buying the paper and there has been a drop in advertising revenue too. There are a lot of people to support here and we had to let some reporters go recently.

12.) Are any of your reporters mild mannered and named Clarke Kent? If you were superman for a day and could change one problem in the world what would that be?

    No CaptionNo not that I am aware of, but they all do some super work!

    If I were superman I would go to the rich countries and spread the wealth around more evenly around the world ... and get Barnsley to win the FA cup!

13.) Do you think journalism has a bad press? Why do you think only 22% of people think Journalists tell the truth, yet 63% believe news readers ( Doctors top 92%, teachers second 87%)??

    Reporters can have a bad press and whenever you see them portrayed on the soaps -such as Corrie or Eastenders, or films like Die Hard- they tend to behave terribly, they tell lies and bully people. Some of the national newspapers may behave badly sometimes, but as a local reporter you could never behave like that and get away with it. I think the figures for local newspaper journalists being trusted are far better than those quoted.

14.) How do you think Britain has got the balance between press freedom and privacy compared to other countries? How do you balance a person’s Right to privacy against a good story. Have you ever regretted publishing a story? Or regretted not publishing a story?

    I think we have got the right balance here in the UK, you need a system that allows people to challenge what the press has written regardless of how much money you have to pay lawyers.

15.) Every week we put a series of green tips in our newsletter do you think that the Echo should have features like that? What do you do to promote recycling at the office?

    No CaptionWe have our "Go green" page every week in the Echo. We recycle a lot here I am sure that you saw the many different types of bins around the office to recycle different materials.

    Of course the Echo itself is printed on recycled paper and therefore encourages recycling of paper by providing a market.

16.) If we wanted to change the world for the better should we choose a career in politics or journalism?

    I think if you were to become a Prime Minister you could do far more good in the world but we will always need journalists to balance the power of politicians and make them accountable to the people that voted for them and remind the politicians to keep their promises.

17.) When doctors go to parties they keep getting asked about people’s bad backs. When you go to parties do people tell you about their story ideas -or do you not get invited to parties?

    Yes they do sometimes but they also ask about recent headlines that they have read thinking that we know juicy secrets, scandal or gossip that we cannot print. Of course some people get worried and move away in case you write a story about them - but that's not going to happen in most cases.

18.) What has been your proudest achievement to date? What would you most like to achieve?

    No CaptionWhen I started as a reporter I got sent to cover the hurricane in Honduras and write how it had affected the country and the people living in it. I sent many reports back and campaigned with a local charity to get teddies for the children filling an entire plane. You No Captionshould have seen the faces of the children who had lost everything, they were so happy just to have something as simple as that.

    I would like to run a marathon and a triathlon. I would also like to go on a world tour and visit China. Professionally I really would like to be able to take the Echo forward in the next ten years.

19.) As an evening paper the Echo used to have several editions during the day as news stories developed. Why change it to a morning paper to compete with the other dailys and free newspapers? Has it affected sales of the Echo?

    Yes we used to have three editions, but the whole industry has changed with fewer people buying newspapers, the circulation, which means the people who buy or read it is about 40,000 a night. But when you take into account the online figures we get about 1,000,000,000 a month looking at our work.

20.) Is TV news a completely different world from newspapers? Were you surprised that the Media Wales bid to provide news coverage for local Welsh news for ITV, was not taken forward last month?

    Yes the TV does the stories far quicker but do not get to do the depth or quantity or that you can find in newspapers. We could not find the right partner to provide full coverage for all of Wales.

21.) Is there place for a young people’s section in the Echo?

    Maybe- it depends on what it was, we are always looking at new ideas and the way forward. At the moment young people in their 20's are not reading the Echo much it is when they get their own home and settle down with someone they start to buy the Echo.

22.) Do you think the paper would benefit from a new Gren? Is the age of the political Cartoon over?

    Gren was before my time at the Echo and maybe the age of political cartoons are over for the Echo, but it depends if it was as good and really funny who knows. As a local paper we tend to look more at local issues and what goes on in Cardiff Council than even what goes on at the Welsh Assembly so it needs to be about local issues.

23.) What qualities would we need to be a journalist? Would you recommend it as a career?

    You need to be able to get on with people and be naturally curious. You also need a good standard of English, writing & spelling, be able to write 100 words a minute shorthand and have studied law.

    I would certainly recommend it as a career it can be a brilliant job, I have got to meet some really interesting people and interviewed 4 Prime Ministers. As a journalist you get to see things no one else would.

24.) How has journalism and the Echo changed over the last 10 years? With an increase in online webcasts etc do you think that ‘good looks’ will be a quality needed for journalists in the future?

    There has been some massive changes in the industry. I think our staff will do fine.

25.) If you were sat here what questions would you be asking the Editor?

    No CaptionProbably I would ask 'What is the hardest part of your job?' and that is having to balance the story that will sell against what effect it will have on someone, and having to say 'is it fair?' and not write horrible stories about anyone who does not deserve it. We want to be nice to people.

THANK YOU TO ALL THE STAFF AT THE ECHO

We thanked Mike and Pat for their kindness and all the staff at the Echo they seem really nice people who despite being very busy were all eager to help us learn. What we did learn from the day was that they are all very nice people and a lot of hard work and skill goes into making the newspaper so easy and enjoyable to read.

So buy the Echo and look at the way it has been laid out; look at the way the stories are written; how the headlines and sub headings are written and the way the photographs have been used to illustrate them, it really is clever stuff ... or of course you could just read it for the news!

You can see some of the photographs the children took themselves of their friends and some of the 'pop interviews' that they have done in the Echo by clicking on the two thumbnails. There were some from 2006 too, but the children did not take those photographs. Again some of the school council talking about their decision to change the tuck shop to healthy eating. The educational correspondent at the Echo Moira Sharkey also did a piece about the club in the Echo in January last year.

 

There are some articles in the Echo about the launch of the Fantasy stamps launch of Remembrance Day stamps at Cardiff Castle,The Potato Council, some of our work on Global Education from 2007 There is a bit about when the whole school worked together on industry week 2006 and each child got a gold medal construction award. Also about the work we did in Enterprise week 2006 too. and the superschools project. The solar Eclipse and many more on the old website too which we hope the council will put back online soon. We have also written articles in the local community newsletter the Ely Grapevine about interviews with the Chief Constable, Member of Parliament and Children's Commissioner

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