Interview: Catherine Hancock – Freelance Multimedia Reporter at Worksop Guardian Newspaper

Catherine Hancock

Going from working part-time at Costa Coffee to finally getting her dream job in journalism. Catherine Hancock reveals all how she became to be the Freelance Multimedia Reporter at the Worksop Guardian Newspaper and emphasises the importance of having a blog.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background. 

I’m 23-years-old and I’ve lived in Nottingham all my life.

I have always wanted to write in one way or another. I think it runs in the family because my dad is a writer!

As a child I never really had any confidence in my ability at school. For example I had to take my maths GCSE a whole FIVE times!

Maths wasn’t for me, but I always did well in English. Despite this, after school I decided to go onto college and study English Language, Geography and Media.

At the time, I kind of tried to push the idea of Uni to the back of my head, because I knew I wanted to go, but I wasn’t sure I would get the grades I needed to get in. I applied to go to Uni anyway and I went to the University of Chester to study a journalism degree.

They were truly the best three years of my life. I did work experience at the Liverpool Echo and Chester Chronicle whilst I was there.

When I graduated, I moved back home and thought it wouldn’t be too long to find a journalism job.

I was wrong. The first problem was that my degree wasn’t accredited by the NCTJ so, I decided to teach them myself from home because it was the cheapest option.

Then I was told I wasn’t experienced enough, so I spent over a year doing various free work for companies such as the Nottingham Post, Leicester Mercury, Wannabe Hacks, Journograds and the Newark Advertiser.

I did all this whilst working part-time at Costa Coffee and studying.

I eventually got to my dream job though.

What one word would you use to describe yourself?

Driven (I was going to say determined but I think that can sound a bit aggressive sometimes).

How did you keep yourself motivated, when you were faced with rejections?

I have always wanted to be a journalist so there was no chance of me ever giving up because there is nothing else I want to do.

I’m a Taurus so can be quite stubborn sometimes!

After job rejections I would always get feedback on the interviews which helped a lot.

I carried on writing and kept getting work published, which gave me the confidence that I could write and everything is about timing.

If you’re not ready then it won’t happen.

Tell us about your current job? 

I’m a full time freelance multimedia reporter at a weekly newspaper called the Worksop Guardian, which is owned by Johnston Press.

I write all kinds of stories from charity events, court stories to council stories.

I don’t just write stories though, I have to make videos, update the website frequently, update the social media sites and occasionally have to do the odd review!

What do you like most about your job?, What do you like least?

There is a lot I love about my job and I could go on forever, but I won’t!

I love going out and meeting all different types of people.

It’s just the best feeling in the world, talking to people who you wouldn’t perhaps get the chance to talk to in everyday life.

There is also no better feeling than seeing the end product when the newspaper comes out and seeing your name in print, I’m not sure that feeling will get old anytime soon.

Oh and the occasional freebie too – I’m off on a press trip to Poland in a couple of weeks time!

I least like the fact that I’m freelance. Even though I work full time like everyone else, you don’t get the same benefits or security as the fully employed people.

Unfortunately more and more reporters are being employed as freelance these days because it tends to be cheaper – but I’m just so pleased I have a job.

What has been the happiest day of your life?

The happiest day of my life was graduating.

I graduated in Chester Cathedral on Halloween and it was incredible.

It was so nice to celebrate everyone’s achievements together with their family and friends.

I never thought I would graduate or get a degree, so it was an emotional day and one that I will never forget.

What do you hope to achieve in the next 5 years?

Naive me would say in five years time I would love to be working at a national, but I think that is probably more of a ten year dream.

The next best thing would be working at a daily newspaper in a big city like Manchester (I’m not sure I could ever afford London).

What would you advise someone who is wanting to embark on becoming a journalist?

First an foremost get two of the most important things you need to be a journalist – the NCTJs and a driving licence.

If you look at job descriptions for trainee journalists it is so rare for companies not to mention that candidates should have their NCTJs.

If it isn’t on the job description they will more than likely bring it up in the interview.

The NCTJ exams show that you can write a court story that is legally safe, you understand how the government and local councils work and that you can write news stories up to the standard of a journalist.

Driving speaks for itself. As a journalist you need to be able to get out of the office at the drop of a hat.

If you have both of these things and a bit of experience, then I don’t see why someone can’t at least get a job interview.

Get as much work experience as you can. Do it once a week at the same newspaper, if you can.

This way you familiarise yourself with the team, get the chance to build up great contacts and you will get to hear of any vacancies that may arise in the company before everyone else.

I think weeklies are a good training ground because the teams are smaller and there is less chance of you being forgotten about.

During your work experience make sure you have a good at everything and not just writing for the newspaper.

Have a go at making a video, updating the website and social media sites.

Also get a blog! I cannot stress enough how important having a blog is for someone who wants a career in journalism.

I didn’t have a blog until about a year ago, I thought they were a bit pointless.

This changed when I went for an interview at the Nottingham Post and the editor told me I needed to get a blog and update it regularly, because that is what my competition was doing.

I took his advice and have never looked back since.

It has given me a lot of different opportunities. So PLEASE get a blog!

Catherine Hancock is a writer, blogger and a journalist. You can follow her on Twitter @catherineha1991 and Instagram @catherinehancock91. Her blog can be found on catherinescolumn.com.

Interview: Natasha Asghar – Writer, Presenter, Radio DJ

Natasha Asghar


Natasha Asghar
is a writer, radio Dj and presenter. Graduating with a Master’s degree in Politics, she got a taste of media by chance, and has not looked back since. She offers her pearls of wisdom on getting into the media industry.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background.

I’m an only child of an accountant/politician and a doctor. I was born in Newport, South Wales and studied there until I completed my A-levels. After school I moved to University in London. Whilst at University, most of my friends were working in the student union or doing temp work to make extra cash as a weekend job. I began hosting a show on a channel called Vectone. After nine months I began studying for my master’s degree, so I could not continue with researching, presenting and doing all of the running around for the show by myself and fulfilling the course requirements.

After completing my Masters in Contemporary British Politics and Media, I took up a job as a banker. But I missed the media buzz, so I started doing little bits here and there on the weekends.

I then left the job at the bank and decided to give media my all. It was at this point I started working for Buzz Asia, Asian Woman Magazine as their Agony Aunt and also B4U Music. I won’t lie, there was a lot of struggle and difficulty as there was not much stability, so I chopped and changed jobs from 2012-13; moved and travelled a lot for work, then out of the blue, I went for an audition at ZEE TV.

The rest is history.

You made a huge change moving from politics into media, do you have any plans going back to politics?

My father (Mohammad Asghar) is still in politics (as the Conservative Regional Assembly Member for South Wales East). I have and always will stand by him, in each and every way I possibly can. I do have a keen interest in politics and with the role I do choose to remain impartial to all political parties.

As for my political ambitions; right now I love my job and have not thought of doing anything along those lines.

But as for the future, who knows? Never say never right?

How difficult was it to present, produce and research your own radio show?

I had never worked in radio, until Buzz Asia and although I knew how to present, I had no idea about the technical side of it?

Admittedly I was very fortunate to have a wonderful station Manager ‘Raj King’ who was really supportive and my fellow presenters Zee Khan and Doni Brasco both very patiently trained me on the technical side of radio.

I quite enjoyed the freedom to talk about things and was able to help countless people through the show with issues they were going through. Although I was getting inundated with emails from listeners for help, it was hard to juggle that with other jobs, but time management is one of my strong points. Plus I really loved radio, so I made time to juggle my other responsibilities too.

There is not a doubt in my mind, radio is a fantastic medium, which I had never really considered before I became a part of it. However when I became more involved, I honestly never looked back and it will always have a very special place in my heart.

What do you like most about your job?, What do you like least?

I love the variety of each day; every single day is different. One day, we may have a top Bollywood celebrity, then a self made billionaire followed by a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) representative talking about a really important health issue. Plus I love everyone at Zee, they are such a friendly bunch of people, the least favourite part of my day is when we have to go home! (As sad as that may sound!)

What has been the happiest day of your life?

There are a few but I would say the most recently was when I hosted the ZEE Bollywood Rockstars concert, at Wembley Arena. It was in front of 6,000 people and my parents were sat in the 3rd row. Their facial expressions were priceless.

What do you hope to achieve in the next 5 years?

World domination – You can interpret that however you like!

What one word would you use to describe yourself?

Blessed

What would you advise someone who is wondering whether or not to go into media? Say there own radio show?

I will never glamourise the media industry to anyone. I have had a mighty struggle over the years and some of my nearest and dearest can vouch for the times I used to get highly emotional out of sheer frustration. There is a dark side and a wonderful side and I’ve been incredibly privileged to have met some people along my journey who have supported me and stood by me, when I was totally new in the industry and we are still firm friends even now.

For anyone who wishes to get into media, here are some of my pearls of wisdom,

  1. Don’t expect to become Neeve, Bobby Friction, Nihal overnight. It takes time, practice, patience and effort.
  2. Be prepared to WORK from the ground up. I see so many people wanting to get into the media industry, thinking they are already born stars and should be given what they want. It is a SLOW process so be prepared to work for it.
  3. Don’t expect media to pay your bills straight away. It is very hard to find a full-time, well paid job in media and the competition is fierce. My father always taught me, when it comes to work – to have a plan A, B, C and D. It’s something I have never forgotten. When I worked in radio, I worked freelance at B4U, and at the online shopping channel, I hosted various events, then helped my father out with the accountancy whenever I could and also wrote for Asian Woman in my spare time. So if you want to get into radio or TV, make sure you have a few back up plans up your sleeve.
  4. Be prepared to make time for your work TV/radio you may get the role however you won’t be given a researcher to do all the leg work, so be prepared to run around A LOT.
  5. Don’t see any job as small. Some people turn down great opportunities and experience because it’s not a BIG NAME in the industry. Don’t make that mistake you never know, you may end up working for what is to become or will be one of the biggest companies in the media industry.

Natasha can be found on Twitter @natasghar and on Facebook.

Interview with ‘Head Honcho’ Heidi Semple

‘Work Hard, Play Hard’ – Heidi Semple

Heidi Semple’s job demands that she spent a lot of her time on the phone or on her laptop typing away.

The 45-year-old Market Deeping resident is the Managing Director of Scene Marketing Ltd and founder of Scene Publications. She launched the Scene magazines in 2007 with just one Deeping-based magazine. Today she has added five successful titles to the Scene portfolio.

Heidi has accomplished quite a lot in a short amount of time. So for her, running a magazine is not difficult.

Her first job was working as a Pharmacist Assistant. She does not have a degree just the usual O-Levels.

Once she began her career in publishing, she became hooked,

“It just got into my blood really, because once you understand it; it is such a fast pace,” said Heidi. “Every day is different, you never know what you are going to be working on. It is being proactive, imaginative and I quite enjoy that.”

At Emap, she started at the bottom as a telesales person and came through the ranks. Over the years, she relished the changes. Heidi spoke about how frustrating it became working for a big company.

“It took ages for a decision to be made. We had a meeting about a meeting, back-to-back all day,” she said.

However with Emap being taken over by Bauer Media, she began looking at other options and working for herself sounded like a better idea.

She initially got the idea whilst working with a colleague who also embarked on doing something similar elsewhere.

“It was meeting and talking to people that I realised there was a huge need for community information,” she said. “Nobody knew what was going on in their community and I was able to deliver that kind of news with the Scene.”

So that is how the Scene magazine was born.

“Now I work harder than I did before that it doesn’t feel like work.”

Kimberley Evans, fellow colleague and Advertising Executive at Scene Publications agrees, “Heidi knows her stuff, she is very proactive and a very likeable person.”

With multi-media journalism coming in, Heidi said it hasn’t had much impact on the magazines they do.
“We have multi-media, we can view our magazines online, they are interactive and we have to go more and more down that route,” She said.

Her training from Emap comes into good use at Scene when dealing, managing people and deadlines.

Heidi said, “Emap were very good with their training and I took every opportunity I got. So in that sense I know how to deal with people and hopefully know how to get the best out of them.”

Heidi has a wide range of skills but would like to add more to her repertoire. She wants to experiment with having a magazine that would be placed on a newsstand and which is a paid for publication.

“I have worked on national magazines but only one element of it. So as much as I had editorial, marketing and even subscription experience to a degree, actual paid-for distribution I don’t have experience of,” she said.

Any advice?

“You got to be so imaginative and you have to be more creative as it is more accessible now.”

To read more on Scene, visit magazine website: http://thescenemagazine.co.uk/

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