My engine started reasonably easily considering the issues it had been having and the sub zero five a.m. start. It spluttered into action as I rolled off down my street to collect Josh and Jamie from Christchurch train station. Next stop was Jim’s before we could begin the journey.
Today all MA Journalism students from Bournemouth University are to visit London to tour some of the most prominent newsrooms in the country. BBC, Sky, MSN and Bloomberg are going to welcome us and show how their daily operation runs.
After the final pick up it was open road to London, it wasn’t. I had forgotten one thing. In an attempt to run a transparent taxi service to London I had left filling up until I had collected all my passengers. This was the first of many stumbling blocks that a higher entity had placed in an attempt to keep us entertained on what should have been a rather mundane drive.
Just short of junction six on the M3 my internal petrol gauge went off in the absence of a working one in my car. The sudden loss of all power was my first reminder to fill up my tank. As miles per hour dropped quicker than Saville’s reputation we found ourselves within walking distance of a petrol station. The only dampener on my spirits was that it would have been a two minute walk if it wasn’t for a 12 foot fence.
Jim and I set off promptly after being refused a helping hand by some Highway Patrollers. The walk was surprisingly pleasant despite the conditions and a small scratch on Jim’s forehead. After filling up the jerry can we had the genius plan of getting a taxi to the bottom of the slip road. Thankfully a helpful taxi driver agreed an extortionate price for a 1 minute drive and dropped us at the motorway.
Back at the car and sunrise had blessed us in our absence. The petrol glugged into the tank, but I felt strangely nervous. I got back in the car and with the utmost optimism I turned the key. ‘Click, click, click’ was the only sound my started motor could muster. The need for music to while away the time while the fuel was retrieved proved costly and the battery was now dead.
The car I have landed myself is of a notoriously unreliable make and with nearly 140,000 miles on the clock I feared the worst but hoped for the best. A reputable provider of roadside assistance was on their way and the longest half hour of the trip ensued. While we all attempted to stay positive the mood was sombre.
The problem, it emerged, was just the battery and the engine was revived with a simple jump start. I could not have been happier and having lost just over an hour we were optimistic. The hour lost though meant we were to hit rush hour in London. Something I would not wish on my enemies. Time ebbed away as we sat, bumper to bumper, in slow moving traffic.
We had to make the decision to abandon the original plan to get to the hotel to wash and change and ditch the car. Time was running out and so was my patience for driving in the capital. Especially after receiving a rear end shunt from a woman in a new Audi, who claimed it was a new car and she didn’t know how to drive it. Despite temptation we had no time to discuss how stupid that sounded or exchange insurance details.
We headed to Hammersmith in the hope of leaving the car in a car park and heading to the BBC on the tube. After finding a space we all bundled out and started quickly putting on our smarter attire in the comfort of a shopping centre car park. Bladders bursting we made our exit and found the local Underground station.
From here our journey actually went reasonably well. Beading with sweat and out of breath we found Broadcasting House just in time for our 10.15 meeting time.
The building was a very impressive mix of the original 1930’s building and the new development. Once inside we were chaperoned by Chris Hamilton, the BBC’s social media editor. We had a tour of the new BBC News 24 studio and newsroom. The design had been developed around collaboration between journalists in the newsroom and had carefully selected departments to be placed together. We were asked to refrain from taking photos as they wanted the layout and plans to remain secret before its TV launch next year.
The tour gave useful insight into how newsrooms really look, live and operate. The enormous newsroom was buzzing with activity as we got our first tour of the trip. I admired the logic behind the open layout and the ethos of collaborative work. We then moved to a conference room in order for Chris to tell us more about what role social media plays at the BBC and the challenges and benefits social media holds for the future of journalism.
We then moved onward to lunch and then Sky News building in Osterley in the west of London. The layout and ethos here was very different to that of the BBC, unsurprisingly, but was equally impressive. There was a definite “anti-BBC” air within the complex of studios that made up the centre but being their main rivals it was expected. They run their operation with far less staff than the BBC but the television output does not suffer. They have made every effort to make Sky News the bold brash and bright network that is the trademark of the Murdoch empire.
It was again very interesting to see the way they work and the differences between Sky and the BBC. Sky had far more distinct departments each inhabiting their own space around the newsroom, less open and interconnected than the BBC. Despite a tight budget they did have foreign correspondents around the globe and got good original news from far reaching places. Not to the extent of the BBC, though this was expected.
After a useful discussion about how to market oneself to Sky in order to gain placements we made our way out into the freezing capital once again and made our way back to the hotel via a car park in Hammersmith. With literally the worst car journey I have ever endured through central London in evening rush hour ending an already bad travel repertoire for the day we were about ready for a beer and shower.
We woke late the next morning suffering slightly from the exploits of the previous evening, some more than others. We got ourselves together and vacated our rooms only to begin the second day of problematic travels. Breakfast was sacrificed in order to get to Victoria station in time but the over ground station we required proved elusive. Nonetheless, once again with mere minutes to spare we found our way to the MSN newsroom.
MSN was vastly different to the previous days’ two visits. MSN is a company which takes the majority of its news coverage from outside sources. In fact on top of using news agencies they have also introduced a new feature to Windows 8 phones, tablets and PC’s. Their news app curates stories from many sources including the Guardian, Times, Sky News, Telegraph and more. This, says MSN, frees them up to create a very entertainment heavy package of original content including exclusive chats with celebrities, an original motoring section and more of the like. We were also given a sneak preview of all the ways in which Microsoft hope to revolutionise their platforms in order to tackle the giant that Apple has become in the market. They have definitely taken big steps to narrow the gap between the two companies. It was interesting to see the way a completely different style of news and content gathering is done and MSN seemed a very modern place and an interesting and lively working environment. Though very different to traditional news services MSN opened my eyes to other possibilities within the industry.
After MSN came Bloomberg. This was a company I really knew almost nothing about aside from the small amount of research I had done prior to the trip. Due to my severe lack of interest in financial markets I had never really come across them. Although that was to change as we were about to embark on a very informative tour of the offices of the largest financial newswire in the world.
Our tour began by being put through the heaviest security process of the trip so far, with name badges with our photos printed on arrival and security personnel guarding the escalators this felt like a very serious workplace. Come the top of the escalator the feeling changes dramatically. Faced by an enormous and intriguing tropical fish tank we are then led into the food hall to sample the complimentary food all staff are entitled to.
With a wider choice than any staff canteen I had ever seen I felt rather lost but the employees seemed right at home. They darted about knowing exactly what they wanted and where to get it from. The place was alive with activity and everyone seemed happy and content. Not what I expected from somewhere dealing purely with finance and financial news.
As the tour developed it became clear that Bloomberg truly value their staff. Transparency, respect and a flat management structure all make this an incredibly attractive workplace. The workforce seem to be happy to be working there and the building itself is a wonder. Art installations are scattered about the building. Interesting lighting and walkways inhabit every floor.
We were taken through the newsrooms and then received a talk on the ways in which Bloomberg started and then developed as a company. It was in interesting story and the innovation of Michael Bloomberg was astounding. We were told the ways in which Bloomberg news operates and the ways in which news is gathered. Including scouring of the vast ocean of information contained within the Bloomberg Terminal, the double screened computer system which is the main product of the company.
The company seemed amazing to work for from the testament of a former Bournemouth University journalism graduate and our tour guides. There is a great deal of respect going in all directions within the company and care is taken to ensure the wellbeing of employees. I left with one feeling; that I wish I had the slightest interest in finance or learning the markets. Bloomberg was the building we left with the majority of the group having fallen head over heels for. There was rampant chatter around the application for internships and enthusiasm for reading up on financial markets in preparation.
We left Bloomberg and headed again for the underground in dusk and we were on a high. It may have been the hangover fading but I think it was the excitement to see the types of places we potential graduates could inhabit in the coming years. My mind was alive with new prospects and a changed outlook on career paths post masters. Along with that I was unavoidably tired. It felt like far more than 36 hours since we set foot in the BBC and that is testament to how much we had learned and experienced.
The journey home began and I was again subjected to London rush hour. With lanes being decided ad hoc and almost no scope for recovering from one wrong turn leaving the smoke behind seemed like an impossible task. We did however with many wrong turns and one flat tire eventually make it back onto the M3 and the trudge home. It was never going to be an uneventful trip though was it.