Recording for Radio 4 with Bridget Jones author Helen Fielding by Cleo Anderson and Katie Bevan

Recording for Radio 4 with Bridget Jones author Helen Fielding by Cleo Anderson and Katie Bevan

                                   

Bridget Jones was introduced to us in the ’90s through Helen Fielding’s newspaper column and later novel. Bridget’s funny, insecure and honest diary chronicles her love life, career, parents, friends, interests – a true snapshot of what life was like for women in their early thirties right at the end of the millennium. Yet it still chimes with women today, whether that’s with her disastrous cooking skills, enduring interactions with the ‘smug married’, or disappointing love affairs as a singleton.

Podium.me were lucky enough to be invited to the Radio 4 book club recording at BBC Broadcasting House. We were joined by a diverse range of other readers from all generations, as well as James Naughtie leading the questions and Helen Fielding herself.  

Despite being recorded, we were allowed open questions to the author, covering everything from why she chose the diary format, to how Bridget (and Daniel Cleaver) would fair now in light of the #MeToo movement and why Helen Fielding has no idea what Bridget Jones actually looks like. All of us were struck with how friendly and approachable Helen was; she made sure that she answered everyone’s question thoughtfully and was able to smile and interact in a relaxed way.

Before taking our seats for the recording we all reflected on our love for the book, or our new found ambivalence towards Bridget Jones as a character having re-read the novel in our early twenties. Many of us felt that we could always compare moments in our own lives to those of Bridget Jones – she in many ways is an anti-hero in that all women can (and should be proud to) be themselves.

As a group representing Podium.me, we were all lucky enough to ask questions based around our own reactions to the book. Gareth asked whether Helen Fielding had always planned to write the book as a diary or whether she had tried other styles. She said that she had tried different styles but had eventually settled on a diary format. Fielding, an English graduate, regularly referenced works of literature none more often than ‘Pride and Prejudice’. She unabashedly described how she had mapped the entire novel to mirror that of the Jane Austen classic.

Alice asked if she ever thought that Bridget Jones would be such an iconic character all these years later. The idea of the novel now passing through time was touched on repeatedly. Whether it can stand the gaze of the #MeToo movement or indeed the obsession about calories and weight throughout the book.

Cleo asked if she felt that Bridget Jones didn’t pass through time as she had little that she cared about unlike the activism that the millennium has become to be defined by. What was interesting is that Helen agreed that whilst Bridget may not be as passionate or outspoken as we are today on certain issues, her goodness and kind heart is always present in her character.

Katie then rounded up the entire event asking how it feels to have created a character that is so well loved by multiple generations; despite the changes in society that we had discussed, be it the #MeToo movement or the introduction of social media pressures with platforms such as Instagram, there will still be people picking up ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ for the first time today and relating to Bridget’s narrative. Helen clearly remains extremely proud to be associated with what is becoming one of the classic chick lit books – she said that people often ask her if she is tired of talking about Bridget, to which she responds, with a huge grin, that she could never feel that way.

A few top ‘networking’ tips that we learned at the event…

  • Approach someone who has come to the event alone – you never know who you may meet and how interesting they could be!
  • If someone says that they’re interested to have a chat – make sure you follow up! They’ll often be busy and may not approach you, so be sure to make the move to initiate that conversation.
  • If you want to speak to someone and they’re already busy, stand in their line of vision but to their side so as not to interrupt. This way they can see you and will come to you next after they have finished their current conversation. 
  • Remember to exchange contact details so that you can speak to them again – asking for their email address (make sure that the spelling and punctuation is correct!) is the key bit of information.
  • Send an email within a few days, reminding them of your meeting and letting them know how you can help each other.

 

 

Why do we watch Love Island? Antonia’s story of a week at Podium.me

Why do we watch Love Island? Antonia’s story of a week at Podium.me

In essence I wanted to go to Podium.me for my work experience because I didn’t want to be involved in the monotony of paperwork, filing, photocopying, printing, coffee making, biscuit snapping… the office life. The idea of being free to produce and present my own podcast, on what I wanted to talk about, and be potentially listened to, was like music to my ears. I came prepared with an idea, pen and paper, and an open mind.

Camilla wasted no time in getting us into the nitty-gritty, as we dropped our bags, started speaking, she said, “Hold that thought, let’s record this!”.

From that we learned the first lesson of the day, but also the main principle of this experience: young people are worth listening to. Therefore, once we got into the sea of journalists at the Charles Wheeler Awards Ceremony, it was highly ironic that we were two 17-year-olds, in what another mature journalist termed, “a bunch of dinosaurs”.

Whilst, many journalists acknowledged the lack of diversity as well, they claimed this was not the face of journalism today. However, I can’t deny that it was off-putting to see one demographic that was tasked with the responsibility of relaying the stories of the people for the people. Camilla asked the keynote speaker, “How can you get young people involved in politics and current affairs, who are so disillusioned by it all, that they watch Love Island?” (i.e. Me, guilty as charged). I sensed the eye rolls amongst the laughs, however, whilst the majority of the journalists looked down on my affliction, when I reflected I realized that on Snapchat all of the major news outlets, like the Metro and the Daily Mirror have either the Kardashians, Emily Ratatowski in a bikini or Love Island. So, are we inherently shallow, and frivolous, or is that what is expected of us?

Walking around the room trying to network, I spoke to this woman who was a retired journalist, and she said, ‘Oh, journalism created sexism’. She went onto explain how appearance and age were highly important factors in the longevity of a woman’s career in journalism. Coincidentally, sexism was something Alfie and I, spoke about earlier that day, in which he declared he was not a feminist and explained why (what a shameless promo: check out Alfie’s podcast).

Therefore, in hindsight, I see that working as a journalist, you never really stop working, everywhere you look there are people, and therefore there are stories. 

 

The next day reaffirmed this to me, as Camilla and I went to a Ted Talk master class, in which a bunch of random strangers from all walks of life amalgamated because they want to tell their stories. From an old age pensioner, referred to as the banana lady as of course she is bananas for bananas, to a man who seemed to be a character out of The Office as he was as enthusiastic about gas boilers as I am about Love Island. Whilst, again I was the youngest amongst them, unlike the previous event I did not feel out of place, nor do I think anyone did. This demonstrates that diversity, in London at least is natural, and journalists should reflect that. 

Therefore, as the week went on these ideas informed how I wanted my podcast to be. I knew from the start that I wanted to do it on Love Island, but because of my embarrassment that I watch the show, I wanted to get to the bottom of why I watch Love Island? As Camilla said, ‘Why does Antonia, an intelligent young person watch something like Love Island?’

Consequently, because Love Island is such a cultural phenomenon, I took to the streets of Islington to see why do people watch it and why people don’t, as I can understand both perspectives being only a new Love Island convert. The idea of approaching strangers on the street was a daunting concept but with the help of Camilla I managed to get a substantial amount of interviews. From a girl vaping to a newsagent, it was the only way to get an insight into public opinion. 

Whilst, my week at Podium has ended, Camilla has assured me that I am now a part of the network of Podium journalists and it is something I am already putting into practice. During the week I was also inspired to interview people I know that are mixed race, because I realized that sometimes I forget that I am. In addition, I found an event on eventbrite about tackling serious youth violence, and as I signed in, one of the organizers asked for my background, and I replied, “I’m going to say I’m a journalist”. With that label I’m more inspired than ever to listen and to relay stories because in the words of George the Poet, “Telling your own story is the secret to survival”.

 

 

 

 

Beth’s Podium Journey

Feeling sad posting this last blog from our wonderful features editor Beth Young

Beth has moved back to Australia
Beth has moved back to Australia after writing the features brief as an associate editor at Podium

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a journalist.
But I wasn’t so interested in the news, I was more into talking to real people and discovering what made them tick.
That’s why I was so excited to come across Podium last year.
I’d been in London for a year, working at a bar to earn the cash I needed to travel Europe.
I’d moved from a little town in Australia where I’d worked as a reporter for a local paper.
The break was much needed, but I was starting to feel that itch to tell stories once more.
But to be completely honest, I’d lost a little confidence about my ability to be a journalist.
Print journalism had always been my passion, but I absolutely loved listening to podcasts.
So I went online and searched for work experience and volunteer opportunities.
Rocking up at the Pod that first day, I was so surprised to find that Camilla ran the entire operation out of her home!
I was thrilled when she asked if I’d like to be Podium’s news/feature editor.
It’s been such an honour writing the brief each week since then.
I’ve enjoyed getting to know our amazing team of talented journos. You’ll all go far! I’ve no doubt about that.
I’ll still be a part of the Podium team, but I won’t be writing the brief anymore.
I’ve moved back to Australia and I’ve got a job fas a features writer for a national weekly magazine called That’s Life.
We tell real-life stories about Australian people. Exactly what I love doing!
It’s the Aussie equivalent of Take a Break in the UK.
I just wanted to say a huge thank you to Camilla for bringing me on board.
You really helped to restore my confidence as a journalist.

The podcast I’m most proud of: https://soundcloud.com/podiumme/im-a-stripper-and-i-have-rights

Thank you Beth! A true example of a long-standing and very loyal journalist.  She will go far, lucky Australia

Thinking positive

by Sian Williams  @sianylouu

I’ve actively avoided the news for as long as I can remember. I’m the type of person who averts negativity at all costs – I have ‘positive quote’ boards galore on my Pinterest and preach the power of positivity to my friends so much so they’ve started calling me the ‘positivity fairy’! It’s not that I don’t want to know what’s going on in the world, it’s just – like so many others – I’m sick to death of hearing about what’s going wrong with the world. So when I was asked to attend Positive News’ Constructive Journalism course on behalf of Podium.me, I was excited that actions were being taken to shape the news as we know it.

I’d not heard of Positive News before and I won’t go in to too much detail (because we all have Google) but in short, it’s a ‘constructive journalism magazine’ that reports ‘with a focus on progress and possibility’. Imagine a magazine that looks at the amazing progress we are making around the world. Instead of reporting the wholly negative, Positive News might look at solutions to global challenges and how we can move forward from them. Their second quarter (2016) edition contains articles surrounding body positivity, the future of clean energy and alternative approaches to the failed ‘war on drugs’. It’s a complete breath of fresh air.

It was an intimate (around 10 of us), seminar-style day session of brainstorms and discussions. I learnt invaluable lessons about the nature of the news, the media industry and how both of these shape the way we view the world. These lessons aren’t solely useful to journalists alone (I don’t consider myself a journalist at all!) but are widely transferrable and useful to anyone interested in our human potential, progress and the future – so I hope this might benefit you too, in some way.

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Constructive Journalism is defined as ‘rigorous, compelling reporting that includes positive and solution-focused elements in order to empower audiences and present a fuller picture of truth, while upholding journalism’s core functions and ethics.’ (http://constructivejournalism.org/about/) When looking at ‘constructive journalism’, it helps to look at the news as we know it. We watch/read about shocking events in the news day-in and day-out, such events are normalised, we become used to them and de-sensitised, the news is exaggerated/becomes even more shocking, we are de-sensitised further… and the cycle continues.

During the course, Jodie Jackson, a psychologist and associate of the Constructive Journalism Project, gave a presentation about the impact that this kind of negative news has on our mindset. Jodie explained that, not only does negative news affect us psychologically by triggering feelings of anxiety, sadness and helplessness, but behaviourally and socially it encourages feelings of contempt, anger and hostility. If we begin to think of the world as a dangerous, scary place full of risk, we are less likely to be trusting and compassionate towards others, which has a whole host of negative implications.

To fully grasp how the news is shaping our world view, Jodie spoke about a recent episode of the ‘Secret Life of 6 Year Olds’ on Channel 4 (a series that studies how young children interact with each other). In Episode 6, the children can be seen role-playing as news broadcasters. The news stories that they report (though only make-believe) are about international terrorism and violence  – “there was a train attack on a French train to Paris. They got the knife and got the guard and stabbed them.”  We see this kind of news on a daily basis, as do our children. So how is this shaping their view of the world? (Watch the clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLXGuonEi0k)

One thing the course clarified is that constructive journalism isn’t just positive, happy news stories or ‘fluff’ as they called it. It doesn’t mean ignoring all the terrible things that are happening in the world. Instead, it’s news that focuses on solutions and progress – stories that ask what next? and how can we grow from this? It’s reporting the news in a way that inspires and motivates us to take action, to be more active in our society; a type of journalism that makes us want to engage, instead of disengage with the events around us. This is why constructive journalism is so important and it seems now, more than ever, there is a need for it.

At the beginning of the course, we drew a mind map of ‘how the news makes us feel’. Common key words were powerless, anxious, sad, angry, confused…You get the idea. Constructive journalism aims to leave the reader inspired, motivated, informed and empowered. As the next generation of journalists, creators and leaders, it’s important to remember that the news, the media and the messages we are sending out are shaping our world view, and ultimately our world. If we keep sending out negative messages, our world view and perspective will be negative. If we can begin to inspire feelings of hope, empowerment and change, maybe the next generation of six year olds will have a kinder world to re-enact.

 

Blog: http://www.theadventurethatislife.co.uk

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/c/SianLouiseVlogs