Monday, 11 January 2010


It was a privilege to work at one of Britain's biggest selling newspapers for a week. I learnt so much behind-the-scenes at the Daily Mail simply by listening to editorial conversations and speaking to journalists, but I was also given a wide variety of researching and writing to get on with. The Mail are based at Northcliffe House, near High Street Kensington tube, which meant a three-and-a-half hour round trip on the train everyday from Leigh-on-Sea. It's not too bad when you've got a good newspaper and plenty of reading. I was pleased simply to have been offered a placement at the Mail, seeing as I didn't previously know anyone who works for DMGT, but made some valuable contacts in a great newsroom by the end of it. Everybody I met was helpful and supportive, so I would imagine it to be a great environment to work in all the time. Exciting, to say the least...

I arrived in Kensington last week in eager anticipation of what awaited me at Northcliffe House. The building looks pretty simple from outside, but fantastic when you go inside - it's even got a water feature on the first floor. On arrival, I was taught how the Mail uses a variety of databases and sources for researching people and places, and got to see the vast online and physical libraries. I later did some researching for a story on cheap ski holidays and wrote a story myself about British people's regrets over throwing away items. This story made it onto page three of Tuesday's paper, so I was pretty pleased with that for a first day's work.

I was given a call on Monday evening to tell me that I should get to Luton Magistrates' Court for 10am the next day. There was a very interesting case going on about a group of seven Muslims protesting against the war on Iraq during a soldiers' homecoming parade in Bedfordshire. I got to court and had a chat about the story with the BBC local reporter, who was soon joined by journalists from the Press Association, ITV and a local paper. All of us took up a place on the press bench in the court and listened through a fascinating case, which included lots of CCTV footage. I learnt a lot about court reporting just from speaking to the other journalists there and getting together some facts and quotes on the case with Lucy from the Daily Mail. The end product was my first national newspaper byline, which I was very pleased with! Today, five were found guilty and two not-guilty.

I was grateful that although all the trains across the country were being cancelled last Wednesday, I was still able to make it into west London from south-east Essex. Once I had battled through the snow, I spent the rest of my time in office writing about it. I was putting together what become known for the week as 'snow shorts' - snippets of funny events or statistics that had happened around the country. The majority of these came from PA or local wires, but I also found a few by scouring local newspaper websites and eight of the 12 that were eventually published on Thursday were mine, which was pleasing. It formed part of this story, which was being constantly updated throughout the week.

I had been working with the newsteam from Monday to Wednesday and moved to the sportsdesk for my last two days. What interested me most about working with the sports team was their reliance on data, and the need for accurate number-crunching. Finally my maths A-Level was coming in useful! I researched parts of an 'Ultimate Guide to the Angola Action' feature on the Africa Cup of Nations, which started on Sunday, and my first prediction of a game to watch wasn't bad at all. The opening match, Angola v Mali, finished 4-4! I was also tasked with doing some statistical research on England and South Africa's cricket test record in Johannesburg, as well as compiling a factfile on former Newcastle midfielder Lee Bowyer, for a feature in Saturday's paper.

My last day at the Daily Mail was a hugely eventful one, although it started pretty calmly. I was researching Tottenham's abysmal record away at the top four - they haven't won a league game at any of the four grounds since August 1993 - and put together some statistics using Soccerbase. I also put together a small feature as a boxout for the Patrick Viera story [pictured], on footballers who have played in England, gone abroad and come back again, which made Saturday's paper and online - 'Five Other Players Who Returned to England'. But later in the day, we heard that a bus carrying the Togo team to the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola had been attacked by rebels, killing the driver and injuring players. This was a massive story because of its implications for football around Africa - including the 2010 World Cup in South Africa - and I immediately started researching a history of football-related African violence, as well as some statistics on Angola itself and transcribing quotes from a Eurosport player interview. These were sent through to the journalist for his story, which was rushed through for the first edition. Two later editions followed, where the story was given more prominence, and by the final edition I saw next morning, it has taken up the whole back page with an in-depth spread inside. A great example of how a story develops and another good experience during a great week.