29 Hours in the Life of a PA Trainee Reporter
When I first joined the Press Association Training course, I expected that long hours would be part and parcel. (10 weeks in and yes, I can confirm that is the case.)
Law, shorthand, government, it all adds up and keeps you busy. Every now and again, you just need to take a break and cool your jets.
Well, maybe – or you could just keep ploughing on with it regardless.
Another approach is just ‘learn by doing’. On the weekend of October 17 and 18, I decided to try and learn a lot.
Work started for me at 1 pm on Saturday 17 October at Gateshead International Stadium. I’m going to clarify now that ‘work’ is going to sound far more tedious than it actually was.
I was writing the match report for Gateshead v Altrincham for the club website – my first proper match report.
Ready for @GatesheadFC v @altrinchamfc - big game for both teams at the Gateshead International Stadium. KO: 3pm. pic.twitter.com/dFoRJrxD26
— Sean Douglass (@Sean_Douglass) October 17, 2015
With 450 words to play with, the bulk of it was completed with a quarter of an hour of the game to go. Gateshead were in control and 1-0 up. Nothing to this live reporting business.
Five minutes later and somehow it was 2-1 to Altrincham. All of a sudden, my first three or four pars? Ruined. As full time approached though, a frantic edit set the story straight.
Right up until Gateshead equalised one minute into injury time that is. Another last-gasp rewrite was finished just as the referee blew the final whistle – much to my relief.
With the match finished and my report filed, an interview with the club’s new loan signing George Honeyman was in store. Within half an hour, my post-match player piece was wrapped up.
My match report as @GatesheadFC escaped with one point against Altrincham - but really should have left with three. http://t.co/99O2238A8o
— Sean Douglass (@Sean_Douglass) October 17, 2015
By 6 pm, I was finished and heading home – but not for long. No, later that night, I was at the Tyneside Cinema to review the Great Cult Classic All-Nighter.
A quick bite to eat and a bit of the Rugby World Cup and I was back in Newcastle city centre by 10:30pm, with free tickets for four films.
It all started off at 11.15 pm with Kevin Smith’s Clerks and by 1.35am, it was the turn of vampire (supposed) comedy What We Do In The Shadows.
Come 3.30 am and the first dilemma of the night was at hand. Would it be Japanese action thriller Battle Royale or John Hughes’s Pretty in Pink? (In case you’re wondering, it was the latter and it was wonderful.)
An interview at 5:45am and I was ready to go for the highlight of the night: Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Commando. I chatted about his best films with a delightful usher before we got underway for the final act – which started at 6 am.
After the last movie finished, it was straight to the office – at 8 am – to rattle off 350 words.
My recap of last night's Great Cult Classic All Nighter at @tynesidecinema for @EveningChron. http://t.co/6TK281cNsv
— Sean Douglass (@Sean_Douglass) October 18, 2015
More than 24 hours after waking up, I was heading home to my bed. After as bedtimes go, 10.30 am is a bit of a late one but whatever, grab a few hours and then onto the main event.
Back up at 1:30pm on Sunday 18 October and I was heading to St James’ Park, home of my beloved Newcastle United. I was on my way to sit in the press box, ready to strike that one off my bucket list.
Set the challenge of writing a 250-word match report for the match against Norwich, I took a seat in the front row, right behind the away dugout at the halfway line. Not too shabby.
A week prior, I had described St James’ Park as a ‘factory of sadness’ because, well, Newcastle hadn’t won a league game all season and make watching football a terrible experience.
3-2 up at half-time, the fan in me was stoked but that said, I had 250 words of room and there were five goals in the first half alone. Hmm, challenging.
When Georginio Wijnaldum made it scored the final goal of the game to make it 6-2 for our first win, all I allowed myself was a little squeak. That’s a little thing called professionalism.
260 words completed on the whistle so into the belly of the stadium for the manager press conferences. My perfect weekend was almost complete.
After listening to those, I got the bus home at 6pm and reflected on what I had actually done that weekend. Two free football matches, four free films, four hours of sleep, three published bylines and some incredibly valuable experience.
The moral of the story? Learn by doing.
"I chose the PA intensive course in my late-30s to broaden my career options in the marine industry, where I had been working for more than seven years. After looking extensively online for a 'no-nonsense' course that would build hard skills in journalism as quickly as possible, I was left with just one option: the PA. I chose the Newcastle course and spent some of the hardest and most rewarding months of life learning to sharpen my analytical skills, take shorthand, interview different all sorts of people and turn it all into excellent hard news stories."