I recently had the opportunity to attend the Community Reporters Course run by South Leeds Life spending ten weeks learning skills in news story writing, opinion pieces and how to write the perfect headline.
Held at the new South Leeds Community Radio headquarters we were quickly thrown in the deep end on week one with an introductory piece of work about who we were and why we were there. Some people like me wanted to improve their writing skills while others had been pushed into it through work. Never a good thing they were gone by week two. But for us wannabe writers this was just the start of a hyperlocal (see Jeremy I’ve been paying attention!) adventure.
For week two we had our first visit and a chance to look at the local library in depth, the idea being we could practice our photography skills, trying to take that perfect picture to enhance our latest blog. For me I got to discover what was hiding on the mysterious first floor which turned out to be a music library and the rather fantastic Leeds Tapestry. Surprisingly I’m not the only one to not know it was there which is a shame and it’s something I’d like to go back and look at in more detail in my own time. Writing about events is the part of the course I enjoyed the most. I like getting out and about and sharing what I’ve seen and one of my own blogs is about local travel so this was a good way of enhancing my own work.
The next couple of weeks allowed us to practice our interview techniques and vent our opinions. Never shy at saying (or at least typing) what I think I loved writing about my local shops and what I think she be done with them and shocked myself at feeling slightly nostalgic. Less interesting for me on a personal level was the interview piece not because of any issues with the course but rather because as I’ve discovered as we’ve gone on I’ve no interest in local politics so interviewing a local politician was the work I struggled most with. Rather than writing up straight away I left it until the very last minute as I just couldn’t find the enthusiasm to write about it. For those that do enjoy the cut and thrust of local politics this would probably be an enjoyable week.
The final weeks show the budding blogger ways of promoting their work on various social networks and there are a huge number of them besides the usual Facebook & Twitter accounts although on close inspection there’s a reason why most of them remain unknown and unpopular. The course also shows you how to interview using the radio station’s Edirol recorders so if you have the urge to chase a local politician down the street asking questions you’ll be guaranteed to have the answers to hand for your write up afterwards!
And then finally a mock news story of an event you’d been to and a chance to review each others work. Useful to see where you may still need some work and I’m sure my friends would have loved to have seen their wedding reviewed for the whole of South Leeds to read but this was a piece of work meant for the classes eyes and ears only.
So all in all a great little course if you get the chance to attend one, the next being 25th September. I’ve met some really great new friends, polished my writing skills a little bit, loved trips out and playing with social media, hated politics and the sound of my own voice on a radio playback. I especially liked the home made cake! I think it’s something all budding writers should have a go at if they have the chance.
This article was written by Kirsty White using our Community Reporters website