Capital concerns: reporting London with the PA news agency

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is interviewed about the capital's new congestion charge
Portrait of Jess Murray

by Jessica Murray
MA Journalism

A murder trial, a motorbike protest, an interview with the mayor of London and the arrest of one of the most controversial whistleblowers of all time – my week at the PA news agency in London gave me a real sense of the excitement and variety of working in a fast-paced newsroom.

Through a combination of shadowing reporters and getting stuck in to stories myself, I developed loads of new skills in news gathering, interviewing and working to deadlines that have proved so valuable since.

From the very start of the week, the reporters and editors at PA made me feel welcome and were always happy to take the time to answer my questions and show me their work. They were also really keen to get me out and about as much as possible covering stories, which made the week really fun but also meant I was able to develop lots of new skills.

Here’s how the week played out.

Day one: The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, unveils a new congestion charge

I was sent along to the press event with a reporter to interview the mayor about the new charge, picking up tips on how to skilfully interview politicians and find the top line in an interview. I was able to work alongside the reporter to write the story up, before seeing it published in newspapers around the UK.

Day two: The opening of a murder trial is taking place at the Old Bailey

I headed to the court with a reporter, and took pictures alongside other photographers of a defendant as they arrived. I was given a tour of the courthouse and introduced to the barristers and clerk in the case, before sitting in on the opening of the trial.

I was able to contact the reporters at any time using WhatsApp, so I never felt out of my depth, but it was great to be given the responsibility to write up a court story by myself, and then see it covered in publications like the Evening Standard. It was also good to be able to put my previous court reporting experience and shorthand skills to the test.


As soon as the Assange story came in, the newsroom went into overdrive to co-ordinate a response as quickly as possible, with reporters, photographers and camera operators all mobilising into action to get the best coverage


Day three: Background research and long-term projects

Today was a quiet day in the office, mainly helping reporters with research for long-term projects and helping to come up with interview questions. It was a good chance to catch my breath after a hectic couple of days!

Day four: Julian Assange is arrested from the Ecuadorian embassy

I’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to be in a newsroom when a major news story breaks and I got to taste that for the first time today.

As soon as the Assange story came in, the newsroom went into overdrive to co-ordinate a response as quickly as possible, with reporters, photographers and camera operators all mobilising into action to get the best coverage of the story.

I was based on the social media desk, tasked with finding any multimedia content that could be used to enhance coverage of the story. In the morning the social media editor gave me some great advice on how to use Tweetdeck effectively to find stories and content, and I was able to use this new knowledge immediately as soon as the story broke.

I found some great images that they were able to use and distribute worldwide. It was an amazing feeling to be at the centre of covering such a high-profile story.

Day five: Thousands of bikers protest against the arrest of Soldier F in London

For my final day I was sent out with a reporter to cover the protests against the prosecution against Soldier F, a British soldier who was involved in the Bloody Sunday massacre in Northern Ireland.

Working alongside the reporter I headed out among the bikers to get quotes and interviews to put into the final piece. Once we’d gathered enough we sat together to write up the piece and file it – before watching it make headlines in a number of news outlets around the country.

My week at PA was a great opportunity to use everything I’d learnt since starting my Journalism MA course, and made me feel much more confident about my ability to navigate a big newsroom. I developed some great contacts which I’ll be able to draw upon in the future and just genuinely really enjoyed every day – making me excited about getting out into work full-time.

Sheffield is independently rated as the UK’s number 1 university for studying journalism and media – by the Complete University Guide for 2020 and The Guardian university league tables for 2019 and 2018. Want to see journalism’s bigger picture? Study with us.

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