Working from Home
I was delighted to be invited to speak to journalism students at my former university, UCLan in Preston, about how I work from home for BBC Radio Cumbria. Also, how the broadcast industry has adapted to the changes we’ve seen this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
I’ve been working from a back room in my house for more than seven months due to underlying health conditions. In keeping with the topic of the talk, it was delivered via video call to the students who were watching in their own homes on Microsoft Teams. An enjoyable session with about 40 people watching, who asked excellent questions at the end. Some of the salient points of the discussion are included here.
As a key worker, it’s a privilege to continue to contribute to the radio station throughout the pandemic in an important role. There’s a wide range of things you can do in the broadcasting industry, while working from home. I mostly produce items for the breakfast programme but can also record and edit reports as well as broadcast live, using specialised apps and software.
Here’s political correspondent, Paul Rowley, doing exactly that on BBC Radio Cumbria. Even with disruptions, it turned out to be a memorable moment and Tweet!
Without a commute of over an hour each day, I have a lot more time. I’m able to read for pleasure a lot more than I used to. There’s also more time to spend with family and pets… Even if my cat does seem to know when I’m on an important phone call because that’s exactly when she’ll meow for Dreamies! For parents, arrangements can be flexible to allow for childcare and appointments.
Technology has increased our connectivity; people from across the organisation can connect in an instant with the likes of Zoom. That’s something I do weekly for a diversity and inclusion steering group that I’m part of. I’ve had training sessions, without the need to travel or meet face-to-face, and even taken part in a Pilates session during a lunch break.
One of the main aspects I miss is the social side of going to work. Those ‘water cooler moments’ where you get to know colleagues personally in the little chats in the kitchen or corridor. Bouncing ideas around with others and having a banter in the office is great… it’s not quite the same over email! Our weekly team Zoom call to catch up with each other is something I look forward to.
The amount of screen time has, understandably, increased. Usually face-to-face meetings provide a break from this, but not so on a video call. It can be tempting to avoid taking breaks and just plough through but it’s actually even more important to do so when working from home, to prevent eye strain. Try to move around, rather than stay completely sedentary, too.
It can be difficult to ‘switch off’ from work when there’s no commute to provide a mental break and a chance to assimilate all that’s happened. My tip is to try to have a separate workspace that you can leave at the end of the day. If you only have something like a dining table to work off don’t sit in the same place to eat as well. If you use a laptop, pack that away once you’ve finished using it.
When the computer is only in the next room it can be tempting to “just do a little bit more” work – something I have been guilty of on occasion! Set boundaries so that you will only work the same amount of hours as you would, if you were physically in the office.
Our ability to work from home will probably be with us, long after this pandemic. It would be a shame not to take the positives of what has been learnt to become more effective in future. Without the need for as much travelling, it gives us more productive time in the day – and it’s better for the environment too. Our homes are now the equivalent of district offices.
As broadcasters and journalists working in the media, being adaptable is what we do. It’s how the industry has developed into what it is today and we shouldn’t fight this. We’re currently in a period of great change at the moment anyway, but the possibilities of what can be achieved when we put our minds to it are still limitless.
A recent example of how working from home has become a ‘new normal’ was evident in how the latest episode of Strictly Come Dancing was broadcast. Showbiz reporter, Betty Redondo, Tweeted that it was actually directed by crew members from home. You wouldn’t have known any different while watching the show live on Saturday night either:
Finally, you can claim tax relief of £6.00 a week for job expenses, while working from home. More information is available HERE.
Results day – the end of academia and onto a new start
Today students across the country got their A Level results but it’s been 6 years since I opened my sealed envelope from Parrs Wood Sixth Form college in Didsbury. It meant I was off to study a combined studies degree of English Language, Linguistics and Film Studies at The University of Manchester. From that moment, my life’s direction had been decided… I just didn’t realise it back then.
I’m writing this to say whatever academic results you achieve, whether they’re good or not quite what you hoped, it should not stop you from achieving your dreams. My graduation was bittersweet; I was the first person in my family to go to university, so my parents were thrilled, but I wished I had done better. I was disappointed because I achieved excellent A Level and GCSEs results but didn’t feel I was leaving university with a grade that reflected my true ability.
The reason I didn’t do as well as I hoped was actually because I was spending too much time in radio studios! Ironically, this would eventually work out to my advantage. I didn’t enjoy the subject I was studying and couldn’t see the point if it wasn’t going to correlate with my career ambitions of working in media.
A university tutor told me that I would never be able to go on to study a masters… how wrong she was! This comment initially put me off applying for postgraduate study at UCLan but course leader, Caroline Hawtin, saw I had potential with my range of experience. (Spending all that time in radio studios WAS worth it after all!) Hopefully, anyone who knows me will know I’m completely dedicated to my career and was delighted to be offered a place on the broadcast journalism MA.
I took a chance coming out of working in the media industry to go back into further study, but enrolling was one of the best decisions I have ever made! I achieved distinctions for all my TV and radio practical work and digital modules, with merits for everything else. This shows that anyone can do well when you get the opportunity to study subjects you enjoy. That’s what made the difference to me and I appreciated my time at UCLan all the more because of it.
I still look back at my undergraduate degree at Manchester with fondness though. Academically, the course wasn’t right for me but without being there I would never have been bitten by the radio bug, by getting involved with student radio. This therefore wouldn’t have led me to qualifying as an accredited broadcast journalist. Maybe things do happen for reason?
Academic results, whether they’re good or bad, are only black ink on white paper – they can’t convey the true colour of what someone is like. Ultimately, they can only take you so far; it’s what you do after you open the envelope that really counts…
The test for success – finding the right revision method
Today I got my exam results for my journalism masters at UCLan… and I’ve passed! The hard work has been worth it, especially as I got distinctions for all my practical work and digital assignments (which this blog played a part in.) I potentially won’t have to sit another exam again but I know there are many with exams still in full swing or maybe you want to have some tips so that you – or your kids – are better prepared the next time they get their heads down to revise.
Recently, I interviewed revision expert, Patrick Wilson, about exam tips and it reminded me of an article I wrote about revision techniques back when I was doing A Levels It appeared in our Sixth Form magazine and I know it helped people there at the time – so I thought I’d post it here on my blog and it could help you too…
I’d love a photographic memory, wouldn’t you? In reality though, not many people actually have this gift – anyone who says they don’t need to revise for an exam is probably lying! Also – you are unique – how your mate is revising might not be the best method for you. There’s still time left to try out some different techniques and see which you like best.
You’ve probably heard this mentioned a lot: There are three main ways in which people learn, visually (through seeing), aurally (through hearing), and kinaesthetically (through doing). It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what type of learner you are; most people are usually a mixture of these styles. If you revise using a variety of methods for each style you are more likely to remember that vital information in the exam. Varying techniques is also a good way for your revision to become a little less tedious and boring too.
Visual is exactly what it says on the tin – learning by seeing things. If a teacher writes a task on the board are you more likely to remember it than if they had just told you? These types of learners will probably like to look at pictures and diagrams. In Science, you might like to draw a flow chart to help you get to grips with an experiment you have just completed. For History, why not write a certain year in the middle of the page and draw lines to all the different events that happened in a mind map? Whatever you do use plenty of colour – this will help for things stand out and become prominent in your mind.
Aural or auditory is leaning by hearing things. Do you like it when a teacher explains things by talking about it? If you have a big wad of notes that seem to go right over your head when you read through them then you might be an auditory learner. It may be of benefit to you if you actually record yourself reading key points out loud and you can play it back any time you want. Voice recorders come standard on most mobile phones now, so this is easy to do – if you don’t like the sound of your voice then get someone to read your notes to you. Hearing words rather than reading them might make you understand information better.
The final of the three common learning styles is kinaesthetic or tactile – learning by doing things. Do you like it when a teacher demonstrates something? This method will probably suit those of you studying more practical subjects, such as Drama or Technology. However, tactile learning is not limited to these types of subjects and everyone will be able to utilise the benefits of this method. For instance, you could make a model of a DNA structure for Science. If you’re studying a Shakespeare play for English, try acting out a scene from the play – you’re bound to remember what happens then!
With the right revision techniques that suits you and the subject you’re studying, you will be on the path to success. You can never do too much revision but remember that you need to take regular breaks from study too. You need to find the right balance between revision and social time – you can always tip that balance when exams are over!
Here’s my Grange Hill themed chat with revision expert, Patrick Wilson, who gives his tips for exam success…
2012 – A look back on my year…
As we begin a new year I’m looking back on what made 2012 so memorable for me. There have been far too many things to list in one post, so I’m going to do a Top of the Pops style look back on my top three milestones of last year. (If you want to read my blog’s annual report then Click Here.)
3) Chilled Pure on Pure 107.8 FM
I was listening on the day that Pure 107.8 FM was launched across Stockport in 2005 but would have never imagined (bad choice of word!?) that my voice would be on its airwaves. Now I have my own slot on the radio station that broadcasts to my home town and it’s a dream come true for me. I’ve been involved with the station in many different ways over the past three years – from wearing the panda suit to the end of year parties – it’s been great!
To be given the chance to present the Chilled Pure slot on the station was a great honour for me, not only because I appear on the schedule alongside seasoned broadcasters, but also because I get to play the easy-listening music that I’m passionate about.
I loved broadcasting on Christmas Eve into Christmas day; it was the icing on the cake for me to be on “Santa Watch” across the Stockport sky last year. I look forward to presenting more Chilled Pure weeknights from midnight in 2013!
2) Making Mental Health Positive
It might seem obvious but one of the best things about community radio is that it puts you in touch with some of the wonderful things that happen in your local area. Through my Chill Room show on North Manchester FM a listener, Dawn Perry, got in touch to tell me about her Making Mental Health Positive campaign and during 2012 I’ve enjoyed getting involved with this.
I’m the campaign’s media co-ordinator and part of the admin team that moderate the Facebook page, which acts as an online peer-to-peer support network. To see content featured on my radio shows have an impact in the community as well as a positive affect on people’s lives is wonderful. The campaign’s monthly meet and create events have been a success at The Lowry last year and these are continuing in 2013. With the campaign’s member count growing every day we go into the New Year outreaching to more people than ever.
1) Broadcast Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)
The turning point in my year came in September when I enrolled onto the Broadcast Journalism masters course at UCLan. Journalism had been a career path I’d considered for a long time but taking the plunge and starting the course was the best decision I made in 2012.
My family’s roots are in Lancashire so I’ve enjoyed exploring Red Rose County and getting to know the people in the area, especially in a year as special as the Preston Guild. Being a broadcast journalist means that I’ve had the opportunity to meet people and try out things that I would’ve never had chance to otherwise. I love the spontaneity of it; no two days are ever the same. I’ve met the man who designed a Preston CityScape out of MDF wood, sparred in a Blackpool Boxing Gym as well as eaten a battered mince pie…. and that’s just some of the places where my reports took me last year!
When I write my review of what a year 2013 has been, I will have graduated. It’ll be interesting to see what I’ll be doing then and look back at how I got there. I’m dedicated to my career and determined to achieve my dream of becoming a broadcast journalist. I know this year’s going to be hard work but it will also be exciting. I hope you’ll stay with me and follow my blog throughout 2013.
To be continued…
Back to school and into virtual reality
“Never again!!” I screamed as I threw my cap up in the air when I graduated with my bachelors degree in 2010. I loved the university experience – it was where I got my first taste of radio. Although, having studied an academic subject, I found it difficult to relate the theories I was learning to real life situations. Never say never though; after all, my high school motto was “Learning for Life”. I’ve found that to be true, especially now I’m a student again, this time studying for a masters degree.
After graduating first time around I worked for two years in the media industry. It was a big decision for me to go back to studying again; revising and completing assignments. I’ve took to it like a duck to water though – literally, considering all the rain we’ve had in North-West recently! I’m now at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) training to become a broadcast journalist. What’s great about the course is that it’s practical, so we learn by doing the work ourselves… Have camera and radio OB kit will travel!
Digital journalism is a key area that’s being used prevalently by news outlets. It’s not completely new to me; I’ve been using social media to enhance the content of my radio shows for years. I’ll always try out interesting new platforms but the three I use frequently are probably the most common: Facebook, Twitter and this blog.
When I first looked into becoming a journalist, I was told that it would be a good idea to have an online presence, which is why I started blogging. This will still be my personal blog, written in an narrative style rather than using journalistic convention. It’s a way to record my thoughts and maybe even write something that you’ll find interesting. Not much will change here; I aim to update it at least once a month by publishing a new post.
Then there’s my journalism blog, about the ‘beat’ that I’ve been assigned on science and technology. Rather than personal thoughts, I post there weekly about that area of news. I’m now also one of the contributors on the UK Journalism Review website, where I comment on industry specific news. There’s exciting times ahead, all of which involve lots of writing – especially blogging. The letters are already starting to wear off my keyboard. I will judge how successful this year has been by how visible they are at the end!