We are taught to question everything.

From why a council-run leisure club is spending hundreds of thousands of tax payers money on new equipment, whilst running at a loss. To why a homeless man living in a tent isn’t deemed ‘homeless enough’ by the people who have the power to secure him a roof over his head.

We are taught to recognise when a case switches to ‘active’. To not disclose that the man just arrested for allegedly burgeoned his mother to death with a spoon has a history of violent crime. Or that the green grocer saw a 6”2 dark haired male with a spliff-smoking rat tattoo on his neck, fleeing the scene with said spoon. It’s a little case of TMI.

We are taught to be fair. To give the council-tax dodging councillor the opportunity to reply. To defend himself. Despite the evidence on the magistrates charge street, despite the overwhelming urge to do the complete opposite.

We are taught to be reactive. To watch a situation unfold and instinctively understand that this is news worthy, and the public gotta know.

We are taught to have a thick skin. Even when a someone wants to throw you under a bus in a public Facebook group for ‘not doing your job’ when in fact, the shoe was steadfast on the other foot.

We are taught to understand the legal restrictions and allowances placed on journalists in a court of law. To understand that we cannot include in our report the heckling cousin of the alleged murderer in the public gallery, unless Mary-sue has given evidence. We must understand a section 45, and an 11. Never forget an 11. We cannot record, but we can tweet.

We are taught to observe-only. Keeping our opinionated brains on sleep-mode. Record the facts, but more importantly, record the balanced facts. Don’t judge the woman who stakes out abortion clinics with posters of unborn foetuses to ‘help’ pregnant women. Don’t judge, but listen. And tell her tale too.

We are taught that we are the voice of a community. And we must not take advantage of that position. We must be approachable, and take the time to listen to Barbara tell us her life story. And as we listen we discover Barbara climbed Everest, blindfolded, and won the Nobel peace prize. Because you just never know.

We are taught the mechanics of the country. From how the queen is funded, to which council organises grass verge cutting. Elections and by-elections. District, county, borough and parish. Committees and Select committees. Political parties and independents. We learn it, so that we can translate the minefield of bureaucracy.

We are taught to protect our source. M15 style. Don’t give up their identity, keep mum. Article 8 of the European Court of Human Rights will back you, it backed the other guy.

We are taught that shorthand is gospel. A dictaphone can only do so much, and in court or caught out on the hop, it is useless. Teeline is gruelling. It takes dedication, and hundreds of hours of practice- just to get good enough for our CV not be ignored by potential editors. It is a mountain to climb.

We are taught accuracy, honesty and integrity. To maintain our reputation by recording the facts, just as they are. “It’s Mandy with an ‘ie’”

We are taught that donning a wig and specs combo to catch the taxi firm that has reportedly discriminated against blondes with aviators, is a last ditch resort only.

Above all we are taught to be brave. To have faith in our direction.

To tell people’s stories is a privilege, and we are taught never to loose site of that.

Get A Life, Not A University Place.

Maybe it’s just me, but… 
I need to talk about results day. 

On Thursday, hoards of rabbit-in-the-headlights teens will be opening envelopes up and down the country, which they believe will dictate their future. 

To a degree those results will. No pun intended… 

But I want to make a suggestion:


There is more to life than university

I saw a bonkers statistic yesterday: the average student will leave university £57,000 in debt. What the… 57,000 quid! 

It begs the question: why are we pressurising our naive and confused young bloods into taking up university places as a matter of course? 
There is more than one way to skin a cat.
This is going back 15 years, perhaps things are different now that university fees have sky rocketed, perhaps the consideration IS that much greater nowadays…

However.

Every one of my peers went to university. (Apart from the one who went off with the boyfriend who set the station on fire…) The question on everyone’s lips wasn’t, “Are you going to university?” It was “Which university are you going to”. 

I fear that in a lot of schools this is still the case. Adultlets signing up for insurmountable debt to study a course in basket weaving at the bottom of the ocean. 
Because, Clearing. 

Shouldn’t tomorrow’s advice to those on the fence be more WAIT, less, “What can 3 C’s and a smile get me thank you very much?”
If you are unsure: Hit the pause button. Please. Because Miss 18+ you have time on your side. 


18 won’t even buy you a beer across the pond yet

So how about this for a piece of advice:

University isn’t going anywhere, but your #lifegoals will. Aspirations change, and the ability to carve out your own path will develop with a little more life experience under your belt. 

After all, a degree can only take you so far. Spending time on figuring out what makes you tick as a person is surely time well spent. Find out what you like and don’t like about the world. Dabble in the land of the grown ups, try it out for size. Go and live a little. Take a job. Find out just how much a quid gets you in Lidl. Travel. 
Meet people. All the people.

And I don’t just mean take a Gap Yar. 

If you’re not sure: Don’t rush in. 
Getting the grades or not getting the grades is one thing, it’s this next move which is the clincher. 
By the time I left university I had been doing exams every year for 12 years. 

That’s a long time. I was at one of those schools that held annual exam weeks in the summer (along with Shakespeare week, urgh the memory). 

The usual front page “Exams are getting harder / easier / pointless” continued to be printed throughout my GCSE’s, AS levels and A levels, dampening spirits on results day and occasionally exam day, if the press were feeling particularly hedonistic.
I see that nothing has changed this year. Gove’s ‘exam shake up’ (Don’t they just LOVE that phrase the most?!) has been splashed about once more. No doubt sending parents and teens into the pits of anxiety even before they have got their results. It doesn’t seem fair. 

Finishing the conveyor belt of education was terrifying. At the age of 22 I had never had a ‘proper’ job, my stint in Starbucks as a thirsty student doesn’t count. 

I’ll always remember my first day in my debut ‘grown up’ job. I was shown my desk, and told to settle in. Lovely, I thought… 
I stared blankly at the screen. I looked under it. I looked around it. Hmmm. The blank monitor was mocking me. I had another look around my desk, panic was beginning to take hold. I knew what I was going to have to ask…
“Excuse me, but how do I turn on the computer?”
My new boss stormed over, flicked the switch on the tower under my desk and loudly said,
“And that’s why I don’t like hiring graduates!”
She was a charmer. But she had a point, I was clueless!

when those results emerge, why not take a breath. Perhaps hit that pause button. 


Time is on your side. All is to play for.


Oh and never, ever underestimate the University of Life.


-It comes without the £57,000 gift tag too.