This weekend, I was booked on journalism course as part of the Bauer Academy, a great scheme to get aspiring young journalists experience in real and prestigious stations and newsrooms. When I booked it a month ago, little did I know I would be learning about radio journalism on the London streets the day after the biggest, most tragic news story of the year, and that I would be talking to real people who had been there and had experienced the terrors of that night first-hand.
The Bauer Academy offers these free courses across the year and around the UK. In the course I took, called ‘Journalism in Today’s World’, participants work towards creating their own radio news bulletin, learning important skills about interviewing, editing and production along the way. You can hear ours here:
Usually, those who take the course spend the first half of the first day thinking up the stories they want to report on, but the day we arrived there was only one thing we could possibly make a program about. With a vigil planned in Trafalgar Square and the first wave of people coming from and going to Paris on the Eurostar following the re-opening of the French borders, it was clear there could only be one top story. As such, my team headed to St Pancras.
Whereas usually the radio bulletin made during this course was more about gaining experience than it was about any particular story, ours quickly took on a power of its own. After all, we were interviewing real people who had been there, or were heading there. We spoke to one lady who had heard the explosions and ran to her home, and a man who had actually been watching the Germany/France match that was one of the epicentres of the events.
In fact, us being on a course meant we actually got more access than many real journalists were. St Pancras was in media blackout, allegedly following the bad behaviour of a Sun journalist, but as we were designated as trainees we were allowed to continue taking interviews and capturing impressions of the tense and somber air at the station following the horrors of the night before. On the broadcast, you can hear me talking about exactly that at around the 5 minute mark.
It truly was a humbling experience interviewing these people, sharing in their fear, horror, and even their joy as they arrived in London and were reunited with loved ones who had spent anxious nights worrying about them.
More than that, though, the whole experience was an edifying example of the importance of journalism at times such as these. It is a discredited profession due to the actions of some, but my experience really showed me the positive role journalists and journalism in general can play in the world. The alleged behaviour of that one Sun journalist by the Eurostar notwithstanding, there is a real importance in journalists going and simply collecting testimony from eyewitnesses to moments in human history both dark and light, building an oral history of an event that can seem totally unfathomable to many of us. These are the stories that are a testament to human endurance, and a reminder of the very human costs of world tragedies. If nothing else, I am forever thankful to this course for showing me that, and dedicate this article to those we spoke to and those they spoke for.