By Figen Gunes, bursary recipient, 2012-2013
Yes, I am finally here. Having worked as a reporter for mainly Turkish media for the past seven years, I became a student journalist at the London headquarters of the Press Association.
I thought about it long and hard before I gave up my full time job on a Turkish newspaper in London. I wanted journalism training that was highly interactive and practical, and Press Association was just that.
Tutors are experienced journalists and, with their help, we have already posted our first freedom of information requests to gather facts from different public bodies. Paul Jones, head of foundation course, gave us a talk about news introductions and story construction. He is highly amusing with the rules he created.
FMD was the first rule we have been taught. An introduction should be catchy and grab readers’ attention: a man comes back home after work and shows The Sun story to his wife asking can you believe this? Woman says, in shock, “f#@k me Doris” (FMD)! Then they start reading the story together.
On the first day, we started with shorthand training. During my pre-entry selection interview, the tutor jotted down her impressions about me in shorthand. I was keen to know what she thought of me. The paper was in front of me. I was having my sneaky looks but no luck. It was almost like a coded language. That made me very curious to find out more about shorthand.
During the first three weeks, the Press Association training covers the theory, then the speed-building comes until everyone reaches the industry standard of 100 words per minute. English people are known for keeping their emotions in. However, due to the difficult nature of shorthand training, I see my normally cool classmates looking puzzled before it is followed by rolling eyes and, of course, huffing and puffing.
Afternoons are more chilled. Our communication skills were tested with perception games. The training continues with current affairs and journalistic jargon lessons in the second half of the day. As part of the course, we will have a whole session about ‘death knocks’ and handling stories involving bereaved families. We will also be taught how to approach families sensitively while still getting the story.
The days always draw to an end with a news quiz done by two of our classmates. Quiz results are put up on the board as a league table. There is a keen competition in the class to be on top of the league since the weekly prize is a lottery ticket.