Journalism Alumni panel brings optimism from career highlights to University of Gloucestershire’s Media Festival

By Ollie Chard

The fourth day of the Media Festival brings together seven Journalism alumni for an hour-long discussion about their careers and time at the University of Gloucestershire.

The makeup of the panel covers a broad range of areas from travel writing to marketing. Hosted by lecturer Erika Barnes, Martin Harris is the first to be introduced. Having found his feet as a radio journalist, Martin now works in digital marketing as a social and content strategist. He initially touches on his line of work with a fondness: “It’s just being able to lose yourself in it, and do something you love.”

Getting glandular fever is far from an ideal way to start your post-graduate career, but this is exactly what happened to Colleen Relle. To top it off, she adds; “once I recovered, the recession hit!” After moving between jobs to get by, Colleen found her way into an entry level job at the BBC, eventually ending up as a vision mixer on shows such as Newsnight. Since facing the realities of Coronavirus and being made redundant in October, Colleen is freelancing but maintains her optimism: “It’s just been trickling in dribs and drabs but hopefully it’ll pick up soon.”

Jason White, Head of Marketing & Communications at LiveWire Sport, switched to sports journalism after feeling that writing ‘top tips to stop your bird bath freezing over during the winter’ “weren’t really for him…” For those wondering, Jason kindly broke the secret of the article to a chuckle from the zoom attendees: “It’s a tennis ball.”  Jason left the news desk in 2010 to pursue sports, crediting his time here saying: “There’s definitely certain elements that seem completely separate but there’s always a route that comes back to some form of journalism.”

This sentiment was echoed by Alex Hamilton, Head of PR and social at Manchester-based agency, One Brand Magic. “Journalism is the art of telling a story.” Alex enthuses, discussing his time studying at the University. “You’re so on brand!” Erika quips, as Alex discusses the versatility that journalistic skills have given him.

“Know your audience and put yourself in their shoes.” is wise advice from Alice Lloyd, who currently works in marketing for a lead packaging company in Wales. Alice took a Journalism Masters at the University and went on to freelance as a travel writer, saying that her time writing about sharks in Fiji was a personal highlight.

Milo Fisher arguably brings the most left-field presence to the panel, having worked as a YouTuber, content writer, social media creative. Milo now freelances as an art assistant, humorously remarking: “The worst time to go freelance is probably during a pandemic, so don’t do that.”

Levana Hayes is the most recent graduate and works as a reporter for the Swindon Evening Advertiser. A power cut takes this final member of the panel off the zoom, emphasising the overwhelmingly digital context we find ourselves in. Despite this tech disaster, the panel is very optimistic of the inevitable digitalised future; “There’s an opportunity for the younger generation to completely reshape the world in digital.” says Martin. Milo goes onto agree, despite their vastly different careers; “More jobs are being done from home than ever before… You can just get a microphone and start.”

As the discussion begins to wind to a close, highlights of each career are shared. Colleen, with a gleaming sense of nostalgia, remembers her first Newsnight show as a vision mixer: “I came off and had this huge Cheshire grin and [my senior] told me ‘It took me 8 years to break Newsnight and it took you 8 months.’” Colleen stories were arguably the most thrilling, as she recalled moments such as covering Obama’s election in 2008: “The status quo goes out the window…You’ve just got to keep up with it. There’s a lot of thinking on your feet all the time and just following the story… It just goes absolutely bonkers and it’s an amazing feeling. You get a real sense of satisfaction knowing I’m at the heart of this story.”

The most heart-warming highlight may be Milo’s, leaving the budding Journalists watching with a real sense of openness and ambition: “I’m going to get paid to talk about The Simpsons for a living… and I thought that’s kind of mad! You can kind of get anything and do anything and make it work for you.” He goes on to finish, saying: “Talk about things you love. No matter how weird it is, there will be an audience for it.”

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