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Saturday, November 13, 2004

PTC Awards

Advance warning: This is long, and probably a bit boring, especially to anyone not involved with journalism in any way. However, it does involve David Beckham, sweat marks, the origins of Maxim, and drunken cleaning ladies, tho not necessarily together.

On Friday, I went to the Periodical Training Council Awards with a few classmates and my program coordinator (Angela). Three of her students from last year (Stuart, Ryan and Will) were nominated for awards in the same category.

For an awards show, this was an astonishingly entertaining day.

Emily, Marc, Denise and I arrived a little early, and hung around drinking coffee and eating pastries while waiting for Angela to show up. Emily and I were looking at what people were wearing, and feeling woefully un-posh, especially compared to this one group of fashion-model looking girls, each of whom had absolutely perfect looking shoes. When something like that's actually noticeable, it really stands out.

Angela shows up, and starts pointing out people to us. Angela's an interesting person, who I won't even try to explain here, but she's not the typical teacher-stereotype. Suffice it say, she's kinda cool. Anyways, she points to the group of girls with good shoes, and says someting to the effect of: "They're from City University. Can't you tell?" To which Emily and I nearly died laughing. You really could tell the difference... they're just more put-together than the rest of teh student journalists in the room, and likely, the world.

Anyways, two of her award-nominated former students show up. One of them, Ryan, works for a Chinese sports newspaper in London. The previous day, he interviewed in person, David Beckham. Pretty damn cool. Ryan complained that he couldn't really write anything interesting, because if he wrote anything negative at all, he'd get in shit with Adidas, who set up the interview, so it was nice to see such things worry the nation's sports writers. And, to see such journalistic integrity in the face of such celebrity.

We went into the main room to hear a bunch of journalists talk. Most of it was a bit dull, but there were some highlights and some interesting points.

There were two useful speakers, or, I should say, two I found useful. The first was a guy named Simon Caney, who runs a magazine called Match, which is a football weekly aimed at 12-year-old boys. Remember that.

He said a few things of note about what it is to be a good journalist, including:
  • Never write for yourself or your mates--no in-injokes that only you will get. Write for your audience. (keep in mind, this is from a sports writer.) He also said, at this point, that since working at Match, he'd become "obsessed with 12-year-old boys." Ha, ha, ha.
  • The best way to succeed is to always hand in clean copy, on time.
  • Learn how to do everything on the publication you work for, and learn how the marketing and advertising side works. That way, you know how it's marketed and who it's marketed to--in other words, who your audience is.
  • If an editor tells you to write a story, no matter how benign it seems, ask questions. Make the editor think about what they're asking you to do.
  • Don't ever get cynical about your job. If you do, as he says, "get out and go be a welder." If you can't handle it, you're not meant for it. Journalism is, as he says, "not even proper work," so if you're not enjoying it, you're doing something wrong.
  • Have passion for what you do. Nearly every speaker said this, so I think they might actually mean it.
  • Care about everything in your publication. Everything--every period, every comma, every story, every caption.

He also made a few suggestions for people applying for jobs:

  • Be enthusiastic, which sounds stupid, but is true. You'll likely only get jobs that you truly actually want.
  • If they ask for ideas, like story ideas, always give more than they ask for. If they want five, give seven or eight.
  • Always read the publication you're applying for, and not just the current issue.
  • Come with confidence and strong opinions. Care about issues generally, and care about the topic of the magazine/newspaper, and have something to say that you actually believe.

Caney then said he had a job opening, with the deadline for applications that was closing that day. Stuart, the other of the three previous students, had shown up a few minutes before. Upon hearing this--and knowing that this was probaly Stuart's dream job--Angela essentially made him leave and go write a resume to give to Caney. So, after only being seated a few minutes, Stuart bolted, mid-Caney-speech, out of the room in search of a computer.

The other good speaker was Sam Baker, the editor of Cosmopolitain, who was the least poshly dressed person in the place, with jeans and a basic shirt. She also looked fabulous.

Another interesting thing I learned was about a company called Dennis Publishing. Owned by one man, Felix Dennis, it's the fastest growing publishing company in the US--all because of a little magazine called Maxim. Crazy.

Anyways, after the speeches, there was a half-hour for drinks while the hotel set up lunch. Two things of interest happened. First, Denise went to the washroom, which is hardly interesting in itself, but when she came back, she told us the girls from City had Cosmo editor Sam Baker cornered, and were asking her all sorts of questions. The second thing that happened was Stuart returned, with an application letter, that started something to the effect of: "Dear Mr Caney, this is likely the most exhausting and most expensive application letter I've written..." and ended with: "yours sincerely, with small sweat patches." Very funny stuff. So Stuart went up to Caney, talked to him, and gave him his application. A few minutes later, while settling in for lunch, one of the announcers said, to the entire audience, that while many people, especially students, use the awards to network, this is the first time someone's actually applied for a job... After all that, he has to at least get an interview...

The three ex-goldsmiths students who were nominated didn't win any awards, but we were all at least entertained by the "celebrity" host. She's the presenter on some show called How Clean is Your House, and was very clearly drunk. She kept making comments on how good looking people were, and said some pretty crazy things, all the while making constant, weird tisking noises into the microphone. I couldn't stop laughing.

Angela snuck out after the student awards, with Marc and Denise following soon after. Emily and I and the three former students went for beer after, and it was cool to see what types of jobs they were doing and to gossip about our teachers. Apparently, John, our news writing prof, took Ryan to an Arsenal game last year, and for beer before and after--just so Ryan could have the full British experience. And Angela has a party at the end of the year for our class, which I'm already looking forward to...

Anyways, this is long enough already, so I'll stop writing now. If you've read this far, good for you. And, get a hobby. Kidding.


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