Monday, 29 December 2008


It’s time to look again at the three major media events of 2008. Two involve sex, namely Jonathan Ross / Russell Brand and Max Mosley. The other is more probably a lack of it for one man because he’s spent all his time over the last few months on every BBC network available - Robert Peston is your man.

So Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand - the “he f****d your granddaughter” episode with Andrew Sachs, formerly Manuel (right) in the classic sitcom Fawlty Towers. It had got to the stage that after so much abuse against Sachs by Basil and Sybil Fawlty over the years, the Daily Mail felt a line was crossed on BBC Radio 2. Seriously though, the journalism ethics behind this broadcast were horrendous - nobody will forget the now-famous “Yes” sent by Lesley Douglas in response to a concerned email from the BBC’s head of compliance, Dave Barber, about whether to run the show uncut. How you can justify calling up an elderly man to tell him about your sexual exploits with his daughter is beyond belief, but many young people did find it funny, and the fact that only two listeners complained at the time shows the BBC may have got its audience expectations just right. However this type of comedy has got to stop - it’s not funny, and Jonathan Ross should leave the BBC (as well as Brand) right now. Perhaps they could spend his wages on employing 1,000 new journalists to improve the output of BBC News? But no, that would be a silly idea. He’s worth 2,000 journalists, don’t forget...

Max Mosley’s victory against the News of the World for the ‘Nazi orgy’ story they ran about his S&M sessions last year was a disastrous result for all of the tabloids. However the NotW did show that kiss and tell journalism isn't all but over, with their dispatch on Gordon Ramsey’s exploits just a week later. However this is not good news on a wider scale (as noted by Paul Dacre, Daily Mail editor), because the ruling by Mr Justice Eady means that freedom of expression comes below privacy in European Human Rights law, which is a serious issue for investigative journalism. It is perfectly justified that the public should be made aware that a man in high office (as the head of F1) has had his bottom spanked in a Chelsea dungeon, as he could be considered a role model to younger people - and so therefore the News of the World were right to print the story. Well done Colin Myler; keep up the good work.
PICTURE: Daily Telegraph

Robert Peston doesn’t get much sleep. Up before the 6am slot on Radio 4 and then back to bed after a two-way with Huw Edwards on the 10 o’clock News. He is an incredibly gifted journalist, with possibly the best contacts book in the industry. I thought Evan Davis was brilliant as a BBC economics/business editor, but Peston takes things to a whole new level. From his scoops on Northern Rock to LloydsHBOS to the government’s bailout plan, this man is an inspiration to me and many other young journalists across the country. His book, Who Runs Britain?, and Panorama documentary last Monday are just a few examples of how he uncomplicates the complicated and makes finance so much more interesting to the common man.

Two ends of the spectrum: Peston and Brand/Ross. The BBC’s certainly fulfilled its remit of plurality of voices over the last year, hasn’t it?

Monday, 22 December 2008


Sometimes it's hard to know who to believe in times of economic woe. Let's compare the Metro and The Independent today. In the latter, we hear: "Retailers still hope for late rush as shoppers stay home". But in the Metro: "Last-minute shoppers come to stores' rescue". Two contrasting reports that left me completely confused on the way into work this morning. The Metro based its report on national footfall going up 7.1% year-on-year, whereas we hear from the Independent that footfall is down 8.4%. Surely these footfall results are coming from different companies, and doesn't that just show how you should never believe statistics? How can two newspapers get such different results, and who is right? There are lies, damn lies and then there's statistics. Winston Churchill was right all along...

It's that time of year again. Christmas Day is upon us this Thursday, and it's an extra special day for me as it's my birthday too. So let's clear a few things up: I do NOT get one set of presents and it's NOT annoying! In fact, I have a half-birthday on June 25th when I get presents and I suppose I've got used to having a birthday on December 25th, as I've done it for 19 years already. And it's actually really good, an excellent party piece to drop into conversation every now and again! Happy Christmas, by the way - and Happy Birthday to anyone who shares their birthday with me, like Jesus! Apart from the fact he was actually born sometime in September, but not to worry...

By the way, I'm currently working back at Premier Christian Radio in Westminster after getting back from a good term in Sheffield. I'm also going to be at The Week magazine for six days next month, which will be fun too! Looks like it's going to be a busy Christmas...

Tuesday, 16 December 2008


It's been a weekend of drama on Strictly Come Dancing, in another typical overreaction from the BBC and the great British public. First there was Ross and Brand, which despite being unethical and vulgar in content, was actually seen as quite funny by most of its target audience - I don't like either of them but lots of people I know think they're hilarious. Now we have a voting 'scandal' on Strictly, because the production team were not prepared for a tie between two candidates from the judges' scoring. Whilst this should have been forseen and avoided in planning meetings, these "exceptional circumstances" are certainly not "unforgivable", as the BBC's Jon Beazley said today. Unfortunately every time there is a slight issue at the BBC it's blown into a full-scale disaster and Mark Thompson is rolled out to give a public apology. The BBC needs to delegate power more efficiently and keep things in proportion.
PICTURE: BBC Entertainment

The departure of newspaper groups Mecom, Johnston Press and Trinity Mirror from the FTSE 250 underlines the concerns for media organisations during the economic crisis. Shareholders in Johnston and Mecom have been concerned about their debts for some time, but Trinity Mirror's crash out is just as surprising as ITV falling from the FTSE 100 in September. Trinity (which owns many regional papers and nationals such as the Daily Mirror and The People) has traditionally been a market-leader under the direction of Sly Bailey [pictured], but falling circulation and advertising revenues are starting to take their toll on the business. It's ironic that at a time when there is such a huge interest in news - specifically financial and business - so many newspaper groups are in big trouble. How long until the market turns round? Who knows. (Disclosure of Interest: I hold shares in Mecom and have previously worked for Trinity Mirror).
PICTURE: The Guardian

There's was a great story in today's Daily Mail about how romantic comedies can have an adverse effect on your love life. They give people "unrealistic – and potentially unhealthy – expectations about real-life relationships", say researchers. Well it wouldn't be a good film otherwise though, would it?! Imagine watching Love Actually and everyone falling out with each other some insignificant issue like what to have on their toast... at least Romeo and Juliet didn't quite go to plan.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008


Karen Matthews isn't exactly the tabloid's most favourite character at the moment, and this story does highlight some interesting questions about areas like Dewsbury. I've got nothing against northerners - it's not their fault they were born above Watford [as noted by the Policy Exchange think tank during the summer] - but some of these slum estates are rightly said to "form a picture of a broken-down Britian propped up on benefits" (The Guardian, 8/12/2008). The viscious circle of crime and poverty that engulfs some parts of Yorkshire isn't helped by pictures of local residents standing outside their houses drinking cans of Carling - not very impressive when seen by the average Briton. This town has been called "a small pocket of working-class life that politicians and the chattering classes know exists but prefer to ignore" (Daily Mirror, 19/3/2008), and that's spot on. But should politicians care? Aren't these sort of areas always going to be like that? I knew the tale of Shannon was a chav story right from the start - and look what's happened. The poor girl would never get a chance in life, simply because of where she is brought up - and her mother's inability to be a parent. People like Karen Matthews need to sharpen up and get a job, as it's not fair on everyone who earns an honest living. She's received a lot of criticism from the media recently - and I think they're right.

Before I get slated by my northern friends [who, for the record, are all very nice people, and not in any way like Karen Matthews], I'll move onto a more happy note. There was a hilarious financial article in today's Daily Telegraph which I must share with you: A woman who wanted to extend her overdraft from £200 to £250 ended up getting an overdraft of £84,480,090. That's certainly one way to beat the credit crunch! I liked the way an Alliance and Leicester spokesperson said: "We apologise for any inconvenience or upset caused" - as if you would be distressed by getting £84 million more than you asked for...

Best wishes to Bobby Robson, who received the Freeman of Durham yesterday, on his road to recovery from cancer. He is a footballing legend, and a great man off the pitch too. In his own words: "I'm eating, sleeping and going to football — I'm trying to get as much enjoyment out of life as I can." And he's managed to find the time to raise over £1 million for charity too!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


I've had a bit of a manic week since I started court reporting on my course, but it's been very interesting and great fun. In Sheffield, we've got a Crown Court, Coroner's Court and Magistrates Court, so there's plenty going on. Over the past few days, I've heard about a 38-stone alcholic woman who died from scalding because she couldn't get out of the bath; a Kurdish man who rammed into another car and was traced because he left behind his numberplate on the road; and a man who sprays graffitti wherever God tells him to. Fascinating. Court reporting is very undervalued in local and regional newspapers today due to cost cutbacks, but I still think it's a superb source of stories - even though there is a minefield of legal restrictions on reports.

Student papers are an interesting phenomenon. The Guardian have recently held their Student Media Awards 2008, and the best newspaper gong went to Felix (Imperial College London). Their ex-editor, Tom Roberts, described the operation as 24/7 before print deadlines - and it was him doing the 24/7 bit... This reminds me somewhat of our own operation in Sheffield, called Forge Press - and I speak from experience, as I am the news editor! It involves around 32 hours a fortnight, and this is all voluntary. Why do I do it, and why does the team do it? Quite simply, we love journalism - and it's great to work with people like me, in that way.
PICTURE: Teri Pengilley, The Guardian

Many thanks to Trevor and Ray for picking out Chelsea v Southend United in The FA Cup third round draw. That is going to be one heck of a game, and I can't wait - the atmosphere will be tremendous with 7,000 Shrimpers planning to make the journey from Essex in early January. I'm off to Leicester City this weekend, which is a fitting stadium to be the 30th ground I have visited out of the 92 in the Football League. I've also got trips to planned to MK Dons and Leyton Orient over Christmas - alongside the small matter of a visit to Stamford Bridge...yes, I know we will probably get hit for six, but let me enjoy the excitement and anticipation for the moment!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008


Many congratulations to The Journalist, magazine of the National Union of Journalists, which has just released a centenary issue. It's been standing up for hacks over 100 years, and does so in the current issue with an interesting insight into the Press Association's Yorkshire base in Howden. A former worker describes a "battery hen atmosphere" with "the air of alienation and control freakery", which is highly amusing seeing as I recently spoke to Margaret Hicks, PA Head of Production, who said her organisation is "fast, fair and accurate" and that Howden is a great place to work. Don't think I want to end up there, then, but stranger things have happened...

Anna Politkovskaya, the Russian journalist murdered in 2006, is a benchmark professional for her trade. The judge ordered the court to be closed to press and public for the trial over her death, but now it has reopened again and we hear a Russian politician was behind the assassination, according to a defence lawyer quoted in The Guardian today. If this is true, we have a prime example of how censorship can get out of hand - yes, military D-Notices are a pretty good idea so as to protect tactics and weather forecasts from the enemy, but look at how many countries still rely on the BBC World Service for their news, as they know it's impartial. If it weren't for investigative journalists like Politkovskaya, we'd never get to find out what goes on behind closed doors. She has had a fair amount of publicity since her death, but deserves even more.

And finally, there's a bunch of young lads and lasses in my very own Sheffield who are upset because they've been handed Acceptable Behaviour Contracts for playing football in the street. But their parents have refused to sign the contracts because they claim their children were doing nothing wrong. Look at the kids in this picture, they would never step outside the law - it's not as if they come from a council estate in South Yorkshire or anything.
PICTURE: Dean Atkins (The Star)

Monday, 17 November 2008


Last Thursday I got paid £20 for a 40-minute prospectus photoshoot, so I am going to be the next 'face of journalism' at the University of Sheffield! The department got some good news this week too, as The Times have said it's the best place to study journalism in the country. My 200 mile trip up here was worth it after all... Meanwhile, I've finally finished an essay on alternative media for a course module, which I was quite relieved about in the end. I'm certainly enjoying broadcast work much more than theory this year, as we've already had the chance to go out and interview people - and camera work starts next Friday, which will be good fun!

The case of Baby P is shocking, and the News of the World did some good investigative work yesterday with a good witness interview. But why can we see the baby's photo and not their name? Surely the picture identifies it, and you're allowed to identify a baby/child in the media once they're dead anyway. But I couldn't believe the Haringey council leader showing the media 'performance graphs' at a press conference to show how well they'd done - what a joke!

Am I too young to get some business cards? Well I finally gave into the temptation of buying 250 "free" from VistaPrint, despite the fact that after all the extra costs it actually came to £4.78, but not to worry. I only hope I didn't make a spelling mistake and have to correct them all with a marker pen.

It's back home for the weekend this Friday to see (the family and) Southend United v Oldham Athletic - a good chance to pick up three points, and remind Lee Hughes that he should still be in jail...

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

THE WEEK THAT WAS (according to China)

I've just returned happily unsoaked from a great week at Soul Survivor Momentum, held at the Royal Bath and West Showground in Shepton Mallet. I say 'happily unsoaked' because last year was so wet that I never wanted to go back again - but after a bit of persuasion from friends I was back under canvas. I really hate camping, but I suppose it's a suitable sacrifice for a great Christian student conference. Loads of teaching, worship and single women desperate for a nice Christian husband - what could possibly be a better way to spend a bank holiday weekend?

The Olympics have got nothing but praise in the national press, and although Team GB's achievements were pretty good, there's no doubt that it highlighted some serious flaws in China. There was the allegedly underage female gymnast, the etiquette sheet on how to clap and cheer, the free tickets given to students in order to fill up stadiums which clearly hadn't sold out, the computer-generated fake fireworks - and, of course, the singing little girl who wasn't. Now whilst I don't think it's right we impose our own right-wing system on this country, I think the Olympics have shown how far behind China still is. But then again, you've got the great media facilities, fantastic stadiums and tight security that show it wasn't all bad. And I just want to celebrate Britain finally succeeding in the majority of sports that we invented anyway.

Whilst the Olympics have dominated the papers because it's been a bank holiday weekend and there's no other news anyway, I would like to draw your attention to an article in the Daily Mirror on Saturday, about the most violent cities in the UK. You can view it here:
I go to university in Sheffield (which is the second most violent) and work in Westminster (which is the fourth). So this report certainly got my attention! I feel safe in both areas to be honest, but that's perhaps because I frequent the nice parts at the right times. Still, it wasn't the most reassuring thing to read over the weekend, and I my mother doesn't know about it. Yet.

Monday, 14 July 2008


Highlights this week definitely being the start of pre-season for my beloved Southend United, which has already resulted in trips to such amazing grounds as Great Wakering Rovers (Burroughs Park) and Thurrock (Ship Lane). OK, 'amazing' is overstating it somewhat. But it's started pretty well, with 2-0 and 4-0 wins in those games - and a 0-0 draw against Canvey Island that I'm glad I missed, after reading the match report. It was only a 10 day wait in between the Euro 2008 final and the start of pre-season, but that was hard enough. It's good to be back on the terraces anyway.

I've been busy at work at Premier this week on Radiothon analysis - which has actually been really interesting. It's basically been correlating what was happening on air during the week with when phone calls were coming in. I'm producing a very cool PowerPoint presentation at the moment, which should be useful for the team when they do another Radiothon. And to be honest, it's just great to work with such great colleagues and a brilliant radio station - so I don't care what they make me do really!

My results for my first year of Journalism Studies at The University of Sheffield came out today, and I got a first (woop woop!) which I was very pleased with, as I had to work pretty hard for it. Much harder than I imagined I'd have to actually - but the reward is insignificant in the long run really, as only the second and third years count towards the degree classification. Looking back, perhaps I should've enjoyed myself and worked less - I could've probably still got a first, but I suppose I'd rather I was further into the grade boundary.

The weekend was brilliant, as my brother got baptised at Leigh Road Baptist Church on Sunday, in a very moving service that was enjoyed by a packed congregation. It was good to get all the family and close friends together in the church, and I was very proud of my brother. I finished off the day meeting with some friends at The Peterboat in Old Leigh, with a pint of Carling in the sunset. Lovely.

Prospects for this week? I've got two days off from work on Wednesday and Thursday, which'll be nice, but I've got two musical engagements which will keep the revenue stream flowing! Then I'm back at work on Friday, although I'm going to see Spamalot with my good schoolfriend Adam - which I've been looking forward to for ages! And it's my half-birthday on Saturday - for those of you who don't know, my birthday is on Christmas Day so I always celebrate it properly in June or July as it's hard to get friends together on the 25th! So lots of fun ahead - and hopefully a good game tomorrow night as Southend take on Fulham in a friendly. But I wouldn't bank on it...


I think it’s right about time I blogged again. I can make all sorts of excuses, but I’ll spare you those and get on with the important stuff that you might actually be interested in reading about. I’ve decided I’m going to update this much more regularly now - hopefully once a week.

So over the last few months I’ve almost been killed, fallen in love three times and interviewed Jonathan Aitken (the latter two are not connected). I finished my exams at university in June, which were a bit crazy as there were so many of them and everyone else thought I was really unlucky to have eight in two weeks. But it was five in three days that was indeed quite ridiculous. Anyway they’re all done and I get my results next Monday, which will hopefully be just fine.

I’m currently working in both production and marketing for Premier Christian Radio in London SW1, which is the same place I worked last year - but in the news department. It’s an absolutely great place to work as everyone’s so friendly, and I’m earning way more than any of my friends at university for a summer job - so that’s an added bonus, although it’s reduced quite a bit after travel expenses are taken into account. Most people say travelling 80 minutes each way (Leigh-on-Sea to Fenchurch Street then Tower Hill to St James’ Park) on a daily basis is crazy, but I don’t mind it as long as I’ve got a good paper or puzzle to be getting on with. This is why I have unfortunately bought the Daily Mail on some occasions. But enough of that - it’s fantastic to be back at Premier, as I’ve got such great colleagues and it is actually quite exciting at times. Over my first two weeks of a 10 week contract, I was working on the Radiothon - which was a big please-give-money-to-Premier drive - and sourced 48 ‘drops’ in six days. These were quick snaps from well-known (and very hard-to-track-down) Christians on why people should support Premier. Whilst actually recording this was quite straightforward, getting hold of these household names was pretty tough. But after much perseverance (and chasing-up PAs who didn’t get back to me) I was quite pleased with my efforts - which were described as ‘stirling’ by the deputy programme controller. So a good start to my job indeed. The remaining four days of the first week were spent manning the phones, which eventually led to me almost going insane - although I came second on the staff leaderboard for donations, with over £16,000 taken in around 220 calls. So that wasn’t bad either, but I was annoyed I didn’t win, thanks to my colleague processing a £5,000 donation. But it wasn’t a game - it was all in aid of Premier, and we were working as a team, weren’t we?! Since then, I’ve been working on various marketing projects such as Coffee Break and Big Church Quiz, and some other things too. Anyway, I think that’s brought you up to speed, so here goes my review of my last week...

After such a busy two weeks working for production on Radiothon at Premier, I was put onto the marketing team to work on various projects. One of these, Coffee Break, successfully wound up everyone in my department by trying to get numerous supporters of Premier to hold a coffee morning for us. My conversation went something like this EVERY time for two or three days: “Hi my name’s Mark and I’m calling from Premier Christian Radio. Have you heard about our new Coffee Break initiative?” Then either “No? Well it’s basically where we’re asking our listeners to hold a coffee morning and I wondered if you’d be able to help us out with this?” or “Yes? Well that’s fantastic - would you be able to hold a coffee morning for Premier?”. Yes, it was that samey - and after going through 1,000 people on the database, I had spoken to almost 194 and got 23 to hold coffee mornings. Apparently anything over 10% is a good rate, but I was glad I didn’t work in sales as if I did, I would no longer have my job intact. From that monotony to the slightly more interesting aspect of the Big Church Quiz, where I had to write a script for a DVD we’re making for churches to use on a quiz night (and then support Premier). This was slightly more fun - in fact, a lot more fun - and I look forward to filming in a few months. Following all that, I’m doing some analysis on Radiothon audio - basically establishing what was happening on air when lots of calls were coming in (and vice versa), so our next Radiothon can be even better! That’s my working week sorted...

Away from SW1, I greatly enjoyed what was going on at SW19, and didn’t realise I liked tennis until watching Murray v Gasquet and then the men’s and women’s singles finals at the weekend. Really tense sport of a high quality, and it coincided with around 15 consecutive wins for yours truly in table tennis against the three other members of my family. Not a chance, I tell you. Thursday was a very cultural evening, what with an open-air opera concert in Canary Wharf followed by a private viewing of one of my mum’s friend’s pieces of art in an exhibition called SS9, in Southwark. That was very interesting indeed and rather high-class for a young man like me, but I enjoyed myself. A TAGS (The Almost Gospel Singers) concert followed on Friday at my old junior school, West Leigh, and that was very interesting as it wasn’t really a concert, but rather an ‘exposition’ whilst other people were looking at art. So we had to sing extra loud, but it was OK - check out for details of our next concert in September! My weekend wasn’t too busy, aside from helping my brother write his testimony ahead of his baptism next Sunday, visiting our friends in Finchley (and getting horrendously lost as usual) and meeting up with some friends at the pub to celebrate two birthdays at the same time - very productive indeed. Added to that, I couldn’t get to sleep very easily on Saturday as there was a live steel band playing in the next-door neighbour’s garden until midnight. It went through my windows and earplugs, but it’s never usually noisy so I wasn’t too annoyed! Anyway that’s enough for now - if you’ve read down this far, well done. I’d like to meet you one day (in a public place).

N.B. This post's actual date is Monday 7 July 2008, not Monday 14 July 2008 - as stated above

Friday, 14 March 2008


I was incensed to read an article in The Independent from Andreas Whittam Smith ridiculing the study of journalism at university. I therefore decided to write into the paper, and sent the letter to my tutor, who forwarded it around the Department of Journalism. The original comment piece from Whittam Smith can be found here:
"Media studies is no preparation for journalism"

My letter was as follows:

SIR: I am afraid that Andreas Whittam Smith is simply out of touch ('Media studies is no preparation for journalism', 25 February). I’m reading journalism at a Russell Group university, and feel incensed to hear his claim that journalists "cannot believe that what they do is worthy of academic consideration". What would he say about the wide variety of media journals and texts, and are media critics just wasting their time? That seems slightly contradictory in a paper with a weekly media supplement. Things have changed since Smith was at Oxford, and it would be interesting to find out how many of his younger colleagues on The Independent read journalism at university before arriving at the paper.

Smith has got his facts wrong too. The assumption that "journalism has no formal training that is a condition of entry" is clearly false, as most journalists have to pass a range of NCTJ exams to write for almost every newspaper - whether these come from a 12-week or 3-year course. Perhaps he has a point saying “media studies is no preparation for journalism”, but this is because media studies is a theoretical subject. However what harm can studying and practicing journalism at a top university do to your writing ability? I’d like to say that it has certainly improved mine.


So that was that rant over. Otherwise, I was very pleased with a story about a Sheffield student who ended up with titanium plates in his jaw after being punched at Union night, Tuesday Club. Not pleased about what happened to him - pleased that it was a good story. This made the Sheffield Steel and also The Star newspaper - see below for more:

"Tuesday Clobber" (Sheffield Steel, 22/2/08)
"Student's jaw shattered in club attack" (The Star, 28/2/08)

And here's another story about government proposals that could drastically change freshers' week as we know it...

"Freshers' week bingeing binned" (Sheffield Steel, 22/2/08)

Saturday, 23 February 2008


Nothing quite as glamorous as my last post, but I've had a few other things published since appearing in The Guardian (see below).

"Books clean-up reveals volume of rich works" (The Star, 13/2/08)
"A Rare Find" (Sheffield Steel, 9/2/08)

This story got an outing in both the Sheffield Steel (student newspaper at The University of Sheffield) and The Star (Sheffield local paper). I was in the library of Stephenson Hall, which is now disused, and came across six volumes of a book series over 200 years old. After some research, I found that original volumes of the set sell for up to £2000, so I thought I'd write a story about it. The Sheffield Steel put it on their website front-page, and The Star said they wanted it for their paper, and it got printed with a picture and by-line, so I was very happy with that!

"Uni praised for water plan" (Sheffield Steel, 12/2/08)

Not the most exciting of stories, but it was reasonably interesting and shows that The University of Sheffield is an institution at the forefront of energy conservation (in this case, water conservation). Great stuff.

Details to follow of articles in the latest issue of Sheffield Steel (22/2/08) - “Tuesday Clobber” and “Freshers’ Week Bingeing Banned” and “Whose Degree Is It Anyway”. I’m currently waiting for the weblinks so I can post them on this blog, but you can check out all these stories in this week’s Steel paper, available from the Students’ Union at the University of Sheffield! There may also be an appearance of the “Tuesday Clobber” story in The Star this week.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008


Monday was a great day. One of my university tutors emailed me at 8:44am with the following message: "Congrats on getting your eloquent letter in the Media Guardian...You tell 'em!" Suddenly I remembered that I'd emailed The Guardian last week with a comment about an article by Peter Wilby, not expecting anything to come of it, and they ended up printing it as the lead letter! I ran down to the newsagents, got two copies, and couldn't believe it when I saw my name on a national broadsheet newspaper for the first time in my life! How exciting. I emailed round many past journalism contacts, friends and family members, and it was great to hear some of their comments.

But firstly, here is my letter reprinted in full, sourced from the following address:

The importance of being well-informed
I must disagree with Peter Wilby's comment that students are only at university "to get a degree which will be a passport to a good job" (Academic exercise reveals a scary truth, January 28). I am thoroughly enjoying reading journalism studies at a great university, and this is mostly because I've tried to get involved in the subject by reading media journals, a different newspaper every day, and consuming a good variety of television and radio. Perhaps I shouldn't bother, as Wilby believes Sunday papers are "doomed" anyway (October 29), and my chosen vocation is neither "a profession" or "a skill" (December 10).
But our tutors are constantly reminding us how important it is to be well-informed. Along with most of my fellow students, I believe that I can make my course far more fulfilling by doing more than just essays and assignments. Our tutors are certainly still "highly engaged with public affairs" and thankfully seem desperate to ensure that an "instrumental attitude to university life" (January 28) will be the antithesis of their students' higher education experience - including mine.
Mark Duell, BA journalism studies, the University of Sheffield

I received many comments about the letter from various people, and here is just a selection of these:

“I think his crushing criticism here demonstrates the success, in his case at least, of the selection criteria and process for admittance to the top institution in the country for journalism.”
Malcolm Hiscock (Company Watch)

“A good point well made!”
Jayne Deacon (BA Journalism Studies, The University of Sheffield)

“An interesting response”
David Duell (Barclays Capital)

“You tell 'em!”
Tony Harcup (The University of Sheffield)

“Skills, bro!”
Phill Dolby (Regional Magazine Company)

“Good Stuff!”
David Elcock (Leigh Road Baptist Church)

Kay Duell (musician)

Maria Toth (Premier Christian Radio)

Hopefully this will be the first of many more appearances in the national press! Watch this space...

Friday, 11 January 2008


I've just finished a week's work experience at the Echo, a local paper which covers south-east Essex, including Southend and Basildon. It was great fun and I got to write lots of stories - three of which had by-lines - and also went to the West Ham press conference yesterday with Alan Curbishley, as well as reviewing a Southend reserve match. Well, that's great fun in my eyes anyway. And I won a bet with all the sports journalists at the Echo, over the attendance in the Essex Senior Cup game between Concord Rangers and Southend United. I said 222, and it was 230. Not bad, I think.

Anyway, after all that fun I relaxed today, knowing full well that there's often very little news on a Friday. Well, rather like Christmas Day (see below) I was wrong, and found two fabulous stories today on BBC News.

Britons 'want Del Boy TV return'
I love Only Fools and Horses! It's absolutely great, and it would be fantastic if they could make another one. So agree many other people in the UK, as this survey shows. Faulty Towers, on the other hand, would not be so good for a remake. You see, it was such perfect comedy in 12 episodes that it would be a shame to make any more. It would ruin what John Cleese acheived, even though there was only 6 hours material. So let's see Del Boy back on our screens quicker than you can say menage a trois. S'il vous plait.

Parted-at-birth twins 'married'
This has got to be story of the year (although it's only 11/1/08 so far). I quote the first paragraph: "A pair of twins who were adopted by separate families as babies got married without knowing they were brother and sister, a peer told the House of Lords." And then their marriage was broken by the law. Unbelievable. This is such a fresh and rare story, and although it's not exactly certain how and why they met again (all Lord Alton said was: "They met later in life and felt an inevitable attraction") it seems a bit farfetched. Still it's a super tale, and one I'm definitely going to tell my 9-year-old twin cousins next time I see them, to ensure it doesn't happen again!

Friday, 4 January 2008


Right then, one of my Journalism Studies course-mates at The University of Sheffield has put together a rundown on 2007, and I thought I'd steal her idea. So here we go (the headings are hers):

Journalism students. They know how to drink, and are good fun to hang out with. Well, most of them anyway.

2) YOUR SONG FOR 2007?
That is so hard! I've really got into drum 'n' bass and dance music this year, but one song I've fallen in love with in the clubs is Jump Around by House of Pain. However, best song of the year? Probably the phenominal I Still Remember by Bloc Party, still my favourite band. As this shows, I also like indie (and classical and jazz and R&B)

My parents, for putting up with me this long, and backing my every move to get to university.

Definitely a chap called Chris, who I met at Spring Harvest, Soul Survivor and then in Sheffield at St Thomas Church Philadelphia. He is a legend and has been so helpful as I settled in up north.

Working at Premier Christian Radio for 10 weeks. It was brilliant, I loved it.

Southend United getting relegated from the Football League Championship. All that money, all that excitement for nothing. As Adrian Chiles said: "It's the hope that kills you".

Spring Harvest was really great this year. It was fantastic to meet so many Sheffield Christians, months before I'd got there. And as a location Butlins was brilliant, I must add.

8) MOVIE FOR 2007?
Not a big film fan, but I thought The Bourne Ultimatum was exhilarating. And my friend was in it. Seriously, he was (an extra)...

My French textbook.

For getting me through university so far, that award has got to go to the man upstairs - thank you God!

Sorry, don't do Halloween. I went out to meet some friends for a drink which was much more fun.

I'm still a big fan of Ask, but Bella Italia is brilliant and I'm loving Nandos. However, for the amount of money I spent at their Westminster branch in the summer, this award goes to...Subway. Their sandwiches are out of this world.

When I went Speed Dating, a girl asked me if Southend was in Essex, or if Essex was in Southend. She didn't get a tick, needless to say...

Going to The University of Sheffield to read Journalism Studies. I hope to prove wrong everyone who told me otherwise.

Helping Southend United to promotion (somehow), getting a first-year first-class pass at university and relying on God for a lot more than I currently do. And 120wpm shorthand.

I try not to get drunk so as not to embarrass myself.

Deal or No Deal. An unbelievably simple but yet so addictive game show. Noel Edmonds is brilliant.

My good old school friend Adam back in Southend.

Working full-time over the summer, going to university after that - enough said!

To answer truthfully when anyone says to me: 'How are you?' If I'm not 'OK', then I will say so! It's something that annoys me, that's all...

Good, that was fun.