Lois Swinnerton

Multimedia Journalist

"With the Westminster terrorist attack a few weeks ago, halfway through the day all of our stories got scrapped because something massive was happening and we all worked together to get the news out as quickly as we could."

By Alexandria Dale, Intern

10th July 2017

SOCIAL MEDIA

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School History​​​:

  • Stafford Grammar School, A Levels: English Lit, Theatre & Drama, Business Studies, History

  • Lancaster University: 
    BA (Hons) Theatre Studies, 1st class

  • City University London:
    MA Television Journalism (BJTC accredited)

Employment History​​​:

  • Press Association, work placement (July 2014, 1 week)

  • ID2 Media, Assistant Producer (July 2014 – December 2015)

  • Big Centre TV, News Reporter and Presenter (January 2015 – August 2016)

  • ITV, Freelance Journalist (September 2016 – October 2016)

  • Trinity Mirror, Multimedia Journalist (October 2016 – Present)

How did you end up in your current job?

I was working in the TV broadcast side of things and realised there was a shift happening in the media industry. You kind of need to have all skills – not just be good in front of the camera or behind the camera – you need to have good writing journalism skills and that’s something that I hadn’t really looked into, I hadn’t really got any writing journalism skills for myself. I saw on the Trinity Mirror website an opportunity for a multimedia journalist, which for me was perfect as it incorporated the filming aspect that I had already experienced but also the written aspect that I was trying to work on. I’ve been there six months now and writing stories everyday is a big part of my job. I think it’s really great to do that for me, it’s really spun me forward and made me more employable for the future.

    I definitely looked for the job. It’s rare that opportunities fly at you in journalism, but if they do – take every single one!

 

What is an average day like in your role?

There’s not really an average day. Normally I’ll come into work and check the news, with news you need to always be aware what’s happening. After I’ve checked the news, I’ll pitch stories to the editor and see if they’re okay to write. Sometimes I’ll write 4 a day, sometimes 5, 6, or 7.

    With the Westminster terrorist attack a few weeks ago, halfway through the day all of our stories got scrapped because something massive was happening and we all worked together to get the news out as quickly as we could. In that situation the day completely changes.

    Tomorrow, for example, my day is different again. I’ve set up filming at Kew Gardens in the morning, so my plan is to head there for 9am. I’ll be doing Facebook Live, then I’ll bring my footage back to edit and write an article to go with it. But obviously, if there’s another breaking news story, that story gets scrapped and our resources are directed elsewhere.

    Everyday you start you never know what’s going to happen, it’s exciting! There’s never a typical day.

 

Did you always know you wanted to be a journalist?

I always thought it would be great to go into TV news and I was initially thinking of doing journalism for my undergrad degree at university, but all of a sudden last minute I decided to do theatre to give myself a broader degree. I thought if after that if did want to do journalism I could, but if I wanted to go elsewhere I could as I wasn’t as honed in.

    When I was going through my degree, I realised that actually yes, I did want to do journalism, so in my second year I really started actively working towards making that my career. I joined LA1:TV [Lancaster University’s student-led television station] and got work experience - which is absolutely key.

    It’s definitely always been a passion of mine, I do love presenting and being front of camera, but as I’ve gone along I’ve realised I love just hearing about other people’s stories. Some of the stories you hear are incredible, some are really saddening, and it’s just amazing to be part of that and to share those stories, to make sure those stories are heard.

 

Is there a particular news story you’ll always remember?

One in particular that really stands out to me, it was a story about a gentleman who ran a chip shop and he was working when someone came into the shop and basically attacked him. They started stabbing him and he was on the floor basically dying, but his daughter was there and she phoned the ambulance. The ambulance got there and saved his life in the end, but all the community came round to help, and the people from the shop next door too. I went to interview him around 6 months later and sat with him to hear him tell his story and hear how it had affected his family, but it was the love of the local community and how they’ve all supported him, how that’s what’s actually made him carry on. That was a brilliant one, a great thing to be part of and a great story to tell!

 

With journalism an incredibly competitive field, did you find entering the media industry daunting given your degree isn’t in journalism?

I found it completely daunting! I was in my third year thinking, “I really want to do this but have absolutely no clue how to do it” so I think my Master's was absolutely key. Before doing that I didn’t know where to go, I didn’t have a skill set in place. My Master's gave me all the skills and gave me contacts. For me, I personally don’t think I would have got where I am today without doing my Master's.

What advice would you give to university students or graduates looking to go into journalism, but who may also not have a specialised degree in journalism?

More than anything – work experience. Now in journalism, most jobs do require you to have an accredited degree related to journalism, but that’s just a marker. You’ve got the Master's, you’ve got the degree, but where’s the work experience? What have you done in the real world?

    A lot of the interviews I’ve gone to, a lot of time is spent talking about what I’ve done at work placements and what I’ve learned there. I cannot say how important work experience is!

    And student media is vital as that’s work experience in itself. You don’t have the same contacts going into the media industry as it’s at uni, but it is still really key.

What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of your career?

I’ve had to merge all my skills into one, you have to be able to do everything now, which is challenging. Media platforms are completely merging; most people get their news from social media, through Facebook and Twitter. When we do a story now we’re not just thinking what’s going to work well online, we’re thinking what’s going to work well across all platforms. We have to find a way of making that article interesting to our social media viewers, so that may be Facebook Live rather than just doing a video or an interview. When you bring it online, everyone is in exactly in the same playing field. Every one is writing articles online, every one is posting stories on social media, so the competition then multiplies as you’re competing against so many more media outlets.

    It’s all about getting the story first and the way you tell it. You have to think about how are you going to do this story for a written article, how are you going to do this story for a video article, and how are you going to do the same story so it’s attractive on social media? That can be quite challenging as sometimes you’re given a story, and quite obviously there’s nothing going on video wise, but you have to make it interesting.

    Also, time management is really key for journalism. So many times you’ll try and create a beautiful article when a story breaks, and you’re put onto that one. Being able to manage your time properly is something I’ve found really challenging.  

 

Which women personally inspire you?

Someone I’ve personally been inspired by would be Sophie Rayworth, she’s a BBC news Presenter, because she did the same course as me at City University. She’s been there; she’s done that course. Seeing where she is now is something that I really aspire to and obviously being a woman as well is always tricky. She’s made it that far and that makes me think why couldn’t I make it that far?

 

Do you have a final piece of advice you’d like to pass on to young women interested in any career path?

A lot of the time, being young and female, going out into often male dominated environments you can feel quite intimidated. If you find yourself in that position and you think, “oh gosh, I shouldn’t be here,” just believe in yourself, be prepared and be confident. I think confidence is absolutely key, if you can fill yourself with confidence and you are prepared and well rehearsed, people will take you seriously. Being professional and confident will go a long way.

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