There’s often moments in your life when you reassess whether you’re on the right track. Affirming moments. Being on a journalism course, within the last month I’ve had two of those moments, for very different reasons.
Little under a month ago, I was in Westminster on the journalism department’s postgraduate trip to the capital, to visit news organisations, meet editors and journalists, ask questions, and by extension, to affirm whether it’s something we really want to do. You may think by spending £8,000, that the certainty may be there, however there’s always times along any journey that you can waver. Question whether you can make it to the end, or if you even want to.
As fortune (or misfortune) would have it, we were visiting Parliament on Wednesday 22nd March. The day of the Westminster attacks. I’m not about to pretend that this was the affirming moment, where I stood tall amid the panic and was able to report. It wasn’t, and I didn’t. Not only because I was unquestionably a simmering wreck (one where the lid wasn’t blown off, but underneath it there was furious bubbling), but I’d also left my notebook in my bag, ages away from where we were evacuated to.
Rather than being the affirming moment, it was one that made me question whether I had the bottle for it. While my instinct was to run, I saw the BBC’s Laura Kneussberg standing in the chaos reporting on her phone, cool as ice. Enviable.
I’ve written about it elsewhere, it wasn’t a pleasant experience, but it’s one that does show you how important reporting is. While we were locked down for several hours, we weren’t getting any information from the police. We were having to rely on snippets from social media and from TVs in MP’s offices. Aside from being the medium to inform the nation of events, it informs those who are caught up in those incidents, terrified, wanting to know what is going on. The experience has given me a heightened appreciation for the power of journalism in events like that.
The second experience was for self-indulgence, away from the big-picture ethos type stuff. Last weekend I had the pleasure of doing some work for Forge Press on the World Snooker Championships. Not everybody’s cup of tea, in fact to some, it’s Horlicks. Yet it’s something I’ve had an affinity for, for years. My Grandad’s played for decades. I remember as a young boy him taking me down to the snooker club where the walls were adorned with Embassy Snooker posters of yesteryear’s players.
From there, I’ve watched since. Not addictively, I dropped out for a few years in the 00s, but getting to report on it was a privilege. Interviewing players who have earnt millions of pounds from the game, Barry Hearn who managed 80s sporting icon Steve Davis and who has turned the game around since taking over at World Snooker. I even got the chance to have a chat with Ronnie O’Sullivan, a genius on the baize.
Walking up to the press conference beforehand was an experience that reduced me to a state not dissimilar from how that young boy decades ago would have reacted. As we got to the top of the crucible stairs, I recognised one player, then another, and another, before realising we were stood with a who’s who of the top 16. Players I’ve watched countless times.
Where else would you get that type of access? That sort of an experience? Nowhere, perhaps a competition win, but even then, it’s unlikely. By virtue of reporting, you can experience things that you would have no chance otherwise. A privilege, and it affirmed that journalism is exactly what I want to do.