‘How do I become a journalist without a degree?’

I was fifteen when I decided I wanted to be a journalist. I bloody loved the news. I would wake up at 5:30 most mornings to watch it with my dad before school. I also had a fascination for documentaries. Louis Theroux was my icon and I longed to tell stories the way he did it, with empathy and curiosity for everyone he spoke to. It was my mum who taught me that everyone has a story. Since becoming a journalist, no truer word has been said. My passion is for story-telling and for people. 

I didn’t know if I was ever going to get here. I wasn’t traditionally academic in school and I don’t think many of my teachers thought I’d make anything of myself. I was the quiet and slightly strange girl at the back of the classroom who’d rather daydream whilst looking out of the window than read another chapter of ‘An Inspector Calls’.

The truth is, I didn’t really ‘fit in’. I wasn’t even one of those teenagers who’d say they were ‘misfits’ but were actually really cool and mysterious with their box-dyed hair and facial piercings. I was actually painfully uncool.

I wasn’t smart enough to hang out with the nerds and I wasn’t bad enough to hang out with the rebellious kids. I was a wallflower, and not of my own choosing. I’d learned it was better to keep quiet and be ‘undetectable’ as not to draw too much attention. Children can be cruel sometimes and I learned the hard way in middle school. 

I didn’t do well in my GCSEs. Unfortunately, my high school would often nurture highly gifted children. You know, the ones who were going to sail through their exams regardless of how many extra hours of tuition they received in after school club.

Children like me were encouraged less and so, we spent much of our school years wondering if we were actually any good at anything or if we had talents at all.

I scraped just enough passes to go to the sixth form, and although it was a bit more independent in comparison to school, it still felt like I was in the same system, my knowledge, and understanding of the world questioned in an exam hall, compared against hundreds of other young people who didn’t learn the same way I did. 

I was quite disruptive and argumentative during my first year of A levels. My teachers would often write home with words of warning, informing my parents that I had a bad attitude to learning or was too opinionated during classes. I was actually just finding my voice after years of feeling unconfident and awkward, blending into the background.

And surprise, I failed my A Levels. At that point, I’d written myself off as being awful at exams. Nobody has encouraged me to be better. I didn’t consider myself to be academic or ‘smart’. I just couldn’t do it, or so I thought.

Looking back, it was actually a blessing in disguise. I started searching for journalism courses in local colleges, still determined to get to where I wanted to be. I found a creative media course which offered journalism as a unit. For the first time in a long time, I was excited about education. This was probably the first time I remember a teacher seeing real potential in me (apart from my Maths teacher Mr. Coleman from middle school and my form tutor Mrs.Ewing who were both proper Gs). I felt like I’d finally found something I was really good at. I felt like I had a purpose. 

In those two years, I was inspired to learn about the industry and encouraged to achieve more than I’d thought myself capable of. I still remember the day my tutor turned to me and said; “Georgia, if anyone can do it, you can” (Big up Jonathan). I still think about that moment when I’m full of doubt and imposter syndrome creeps in like some shadowy menace hanging over my shoulder. I learned a lot from that place. I learned to film productions and take professional photos. I learned to write and script articles. I even became one of the editors for the college magazine. It wasn’t long before I was being encouraged to apply for universities and take the next step, an option I thought I’d never have when I looked at those A-Level exam results the previous year. 

Sadly, in my last few months of college, the worst thing happened. My younger brother Elliot died suddenly and unexpectedly. It tore my life apart in an instant. Everything took a back seat and I didn’t know if I’d survive the year, let alone go to university.

Although I’d passed my college course with the grades I needed to get into Salford, my chosen university, I wasn’t in the right mindset to live away from home. I could barely get on a bus without having a panic attack at this point.

In hindsight, I should have taken a year out but I felt a pressure to go, thinking it was what people expected of me. I had it in my head it was the only way I could become a journalist.

I pushed myself on to a course at a local university so I could still live at home and be near my family. The course hours were sporadic and the entire experience was lonely as most of the people on my course had met during freshers week or lived on campus, so had seen each other around. It felt like school all over again. I needed routine, support, and stability. I also needed to be around people, to talk to other human beings on a regular basis.

I dropped out of the course a few months later and I felt like such a failure. I’d been placing all my hopes for the future on this one opportunity, and it had come crashing down on my head like a tonne of bricks. I felt my vision for the future slip from my grasp and felt I had to let it go. I was never going to become a journalist without a degree.

The next year or so, I got some odd jobs doing social media marketing for small, local businesses, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do in the long term. It was all about the money and the creativity was limited. During that time I decided I didn’t want to give up on becoming a journalist. I set up this small blog, writing a few articles on a weekly basis which focused on mental health, grief, and wellbeing. 

It wasn’t long before I was writing articles for Huffington Post and my blog posts were picked up by local newspapers and eventually, the local BBC radio station Three Counties. The lunchtime presenter, Nick Coffer, invited me for an interview on his show to talk about my writing as well as my experience with grief. Whilst I was there, he encouraged me to sign up for work experience. Nick could see I was knowledgable and passionate about the local community, so he put me in touch with the news editor who told me how to apply online. 

I spent two weeks at the radio station in 2016, getting to know the newsroom and the different teams on the shows and I loved it from the moment I stepped in the door. I knew this was where I belonged.

After my two weeks had come to an end, I was told I should sign up to the freelance pool as a Broadcast Assistant as it was nearing the summer holidays and lots of the staff needed cover. I freelanced for a few months, working as a BA on the afternoon and mid-morning shows.

Whilst I was there, the BBC’s Digital Journalist Apprenticeship was advertised. It meant I could get my journalism qualification and train with the BBC. I submitted my application knowing hundreds of people would be applying for the same opportunity, but I wanted it so badly I was willing to work my ass off to get there. I became a dog with a bone I wasn’t going to let go. I was going to do it all off my own back, no matter what.

I remember the day I got one of the seven places available. After the phone call, I asked myself ‘is this really happening? Am I really going to get a job working for the BBC?’. It was a real ‘pinch me’ moment and it seemed a long way from the memory of thinking I’d have to say goodbye to the career I’d always hoped for. I’d somehow overcome the obstacles.

I trained up for 22 months in local radio, studying for my NCTJ exams (the ones I thought I could never do) and got a gold standard certificate at the end of my course. During that time I made hours of digital and radio content, learning from some of the best journalists in the industry who taught me so much and supported me through my studies. My confidence grew. I went from someone who couldn’t leave the house to traveling around the country and interviewing strangers on the street about their lucky pants.

Since then, I’ve worked for Radio 4’s Today programme, getting a daily podcast commissioned as well as reporting and producing episodes for the award-nominated Beyond Today. I’m currently a producer on a BBC News podcast for youth audiences, and I work in London, a statement I never thought I’d say a few years ago.

I’m from a working-class background. I went to a mainstream comprehensive school. I wasn’t privately educated and none of my family were either. I didn’t know if journalism was for people like me, but it is. The industry needs people like us, people who can speak for working-class communities and shine a light on issues which are sometimes overlooked. It needs people who come from deprived areas or places with a bad press because we have the ability to change perceptions, to gain people’s trust and tell their stories. We grew up in those communities. 

So, if you’re reading this and you want to become a journalist, don’t give up because you think it ‘isn’t for you’. Don’t ever think you don’t deserve to be here or it’s too late to try. As long as you’re passionate and determined to get there, you’ll succeed. 

Don’t get me wrong, some days I still doubt myself and wonder if I’m good enough, but doesn’t everyone? I just have to remind myself how far I’ve come.

Just remember, you’ve got this!

‘Let’s get married?’ Said no one ever who met on Tinder.

Ah, remember the good ol’days. The days where a young person might meet an eligible beau down at the dance hall. That a young woman might be asked on more then a couple of dates before her suitor even pursued the idea of asking her hand in marriage. And of course he’d ask her father’s permission before doing so as all well mannered gentle men would do.

But who has time to do that nowadays? I hear you question.

Well, nobody by the looks of it. That’s where internet dating comes in, or more specifically an app called Tinder.

So what is it exactly?

Tinder, it’s the match making mobile app that’s on everybody’s lips. Officially launched in 2011 but made more popular in recent years, the app allows users to navigate through hundreds of potential romantic matches in the local area. It uses the geographical location of it’s users, number of mutual friends and common interests through Facebook to narrow down the more then stressful task of finding your soul mate. This method of ‘online dating’ has paved the way for many new dating apps such as ‘Hot or Not’, Plenty of Fish and Grindr (for the men who are looking for a romance more Elton and David then Brad and Angelina).

If you don’t know anything more about Tinder then the information I have just shared then you are probably wondering what’s the big deal? It does seem relatively innocent and the idea of whittling down eligible partners through the likelihood of them actually having something in common with one another is almost innovative (could you imagine!? A relationship based upon common interests?)

But Tinder has a slightly more narcissistic side to it’s appearance. The reason being is that when you are first introduced to this eligible matches, you can only see their picture. You can choose to ‘like’ an individual based upon your physical attraction to them or swipe to reject them. If both of you have selected each other for a match you will gain access to the messaging service which allows you to communicate with the person or should I say picture you ‘liked’, allowing you to also access their personal interests as well as personal details such as their work place or educational history .

Now don’t get me wrong, physical attraction to an individual is one of the important factors to finding a partner. After all, without physical attraction you can’t really have much chemistry. But an individual’s personality can be more of a deciding factor then anything. By choosing a potential partner based purely on looks, you will more definitely meet an obstacle in the fact that said person will most likely have no common interests nor a personality you’d be willing to sign a life long commitment to.

Many people would probably argue that Tinder was never originally invented with the same intentions that a dating website such as Match.com may have been founded. It could be described as more of a ‘hook up’ app, a modern phenomenon in which physical attraction is deemed as being an important factor mainly seeing as conversation really isn’t on the menu of the day which such a relationship *a hook up to anyone who may have been shielded from knowing of such activities is when two individual meet up for sex with no intention of calling the other the next day unless it’s for another hook up. ‘You won’t believe who hooked up with Linda last night? She must be regretting that decision’

So seeing as Tinder wasn’t known for creating ‘serious relationships’ I assumed that in my research it would be made pretty clear to me that the intentions of the app were primarily to find ‘one night stands’ or ‘a quick flirt’. I did however stumble upon an article in between the stories of celeb sex scandals and casual encounters turned ugly, in which a young couple who met through the app with very little expectations had gone on to pursue a serious relationship and are even set to be married. Did it change my perception of such apps? I’m not too sure. Regardless the couple still choose to ‘like’ each other and were matched based upon their initial feelings towards the others appearance. It was maybe luck that they did turn out to be a perfect couple, with a lot of common ground and compatibility. However, if it had been that one of them had posted a picture that was not as perfectly posed or polished, the sad reality would be that neither would have ended up meeting or having each other in their lives. It’s a cruel society that we live in where a single person should be ostracised for not meeting the aesthetic expectations of others. And why should companies play up to this by creating products that only heighten people’s self esteem issues? Why should an individual feel unworthy or ‘ugly’ because some douche on a match making app didn’t like their picture?

I am really of mixed emotions about this types of sites/apps. I understand their initial purpose. We live a lot busier life styles then we have in previous years. We often don’t have the time to meet partners like we did previously and it seems so simple to be able to find that special someone through the comfort of our own homes, allowing us to communicate for as long as we choose before making the next step, it can save a lot of hassle and heart ache in the long run if it turns out the person in question is just not the one.

But that also leads me on to my next worry about meeting someone through technology such as Tinder. Do you really know who you are talking to? Do you know what this ‘strangers’ intentions are when you message them through a device where they are, in many ways, almost anonymous?

The internet allows us to create our own persona. We often find that we come cross very differently on the world wide web then we do face to face. Our anonymity allows us to be the people we always wanted to be. You can’t see the same facial expressions of another person like you would do during a face to face encounter. Most people can read the emotions of an individual through their face and behaviour. Whether the person in question is lying or maybe over exaggerating. If they are uncomfortable or maybe hiding something. The internet allows us to mask our true emotions, it allows us to hide behind a computer screen and mould ourselves like a fresh piece of Playdoh that others can fall for. And this is always more prevalent in the online dating world. I’ve heard many a story of people who meet through online dating, ‘fall in love’ with the words that manifest on their screens and therefore make decisions, that in hindsight are more then a little foolish, such as sending money to a recipient with the intentions that the money will help the personality they have fallen for. It usually becomes clear that the individual was a mask for a scam of some sort and the victim is left heart broken, left totally distrusting of the online world.

But just like any relationship one will have in the real world, you put yourself out there to experience love, with little thought of the heart ache you may feel when that relationship is over.

Of course, there is always positives to such discussions. Many have gone on to meet their soul mates through the forum of the internet. But my thoughts on specific forms of online dating, like Tinder, in which a picture is all you have to lead with, is still unchanged. I can’t seem to get my head around how such a form of introduction can ever really lead to something more then a sleazy meet up.

However, I’ve never tried this app. And in many ways I have no intention of trying it. But I suppose it’s true to say you can’t have a true opinion on something you don’t have much knowledge of. How does a ‘Georgia Investigates’ series sound?

I might just see if my expectations of such technology are really met. But until my mind is changed I have no reason to see these apps any differently. Until I get my first invite to a Tinder wedding day then I shall stay of this mind set.

 

Georgia 

 

(P.S. If you have any experience of using apps like Tinder, negative or positive, please drop me an email or a comment on this post. I’d also really appreciate any suggestions for topics on future blog posts. Just email me or drop me a tweet!)

@thatgeorgiacoan

thatgeorgiacoan@gmail.com

“Eat a Burger or something!” The Truth Behind Skinny Shaming

Since when did it become acceptable to insult a fellow female based upon her body mass?

Last time I checked it was never.

But for some reason, unbeknown to myself, woman appear to have emerged in their masses with the objective of publicly revealing their hostility towards anyone within the female species who does not meet their own hypothesis of what a woman should look like. This isn’t a new occurrence of course. We know woman have been publicly slamming each other for many a year. You only have to flick through Hello magazine or some other celebrity magazine to see woman criticising one another based upon aesthetics. Hey, who knew that celebrities got cellulite too? And surely Kiera Knightly can’t just be naturally thin so let’s accuse her of suffering from a mental disorder?

But more recently woman appear to be more obvious about their abuse, expecting the female population to applaud their obnoxious teachings.

Take Meghan Trainor’s All About that Base as an example of the recent popular trend of skinny shaming.

Whether Meghan is oblivious to the fact her words are harmful or not is a question only she can answer. The song starts out as a positive message aimed at young woman.

I see the magazine workin’ that Photoshop
We know that shit ain’t real
C’mon now, make it stop
If you got beauty, beauty, just raise ’em up
‘Cause every inch of you is perfect
From the bottom to the top

However, Meghan then goes on to tell woman that she’s ‘got that boom boom that all the boys chase’ and how ‘Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.’. I may be right to assume that Meghan doesn’t know of the sexual preferences of the entire male population. And to make such an assumption about what ‘boys chase’ is damaging to both young females and males. Such popular songs are surprisingly influential over the younger generations like most of pop culture. Numerous studies have been undertaken in America to prove that violent music and lyrical content increase the likely hood of aggressive behaviour in certain children and adolescents, so what’s to say that other types of harmful music won’t have as much of a detrimental effect on young people when it comes to personal relationships and self esteem.

But these lyrics could still been seen as somewhat playful and just pocking a little fun at naturally slender females (though I assume if the shoe was on the other foot it would be classed as straight up bullying). That is until Trainor really let’s herself down with the following lyrics which were kindly pointed out to me by my friend, Alice, on Facebook.

Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that
No, I’m just playing. I know you think you’re fat

It’s not until you observe these lyrics more closely you actually realise what they truly mean and it morphs from a little name calling to a more serious subject matter.

  • Do you feel fat even though people tell you you’re not?

This question is one that I just copied and pasted from helpguide.org about the signs of one of the world’s most serious mental illnesses, Anorexia Nervosa.

I realise that in a few paragraphs I’ve gone from slamming a young singer song writer for criticising woman of a smaller figure to discussing the seriousness of Anorexia, taking the mood from light to dark in a matter of a few sentences. But is that not exactly what the song’s own lyrics have done?

I don’t pretend to be an expert on mental health but it’s always been something that’s interested me from a young age. And since going through my own mental health issues , I’ve realised how important it is to be honest and open about it’s effects on people of all ages and backgrounds.

It’s a scary fact that ‘an estimated 0.5 to 3.7 percent of women suffer from anorexia nervosa in their lifetime’, statistics taken straight from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

And it’s even more worrying that ‘20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems’.

So, as much as Megan Trainor probably did not intend nor set out to insult and discriminate against thousands of mentally ill young woman across the world, that’s exactly what she has done.

It’s a serious topic and not something anyone should ever use as an insult or a jibe, especially someone within the public eye who can be seen as a role model.

I’ve personally have never been a large girl and from the moment I hit 10 I was considered to be underweight. It was never really an issue. After all I came from a slender family and it was never in my genes to be over weight. I never really noticed how skinny I was until I was in middle school. People would often throw the odd insult and I was none the wiser, content with the assumption that I might grow into myself and wake up with a pair of humongous tits and an arse the size of the London Eye one morning. Sadly, I continued to stay extremely thin. I ate regularly and there was never any doubt as to whether I had a good appetite, but maybe, due to what I can only assume is a high metabolism, I have maintained a slender figure.

And as I’ve mentioned previously, this was never so much of an insecurity to me until my mid teens. High school was the worst. I hated PE. Not just because I hated the cold (that’s one of the negatives of being so small, your fingers/toes will turn to ice in the winter and it’s not so cool when your name isn’t Elsa) but also it was usually the time of the week I got the most unpleasant comments about my weight.

‘Wow, your so skinny! Do you not eat very much?’

‘Look at your wrists compared to mine, they are so skinny’

‘Are you anorexic?’ to which I would reply ‘no’ and they would look at me with a judgmental look before saying ‘Are you sure?’

Oh well now you come to mention it I’m not sure if I have an eating disorder which would consume the majority of my days and ruin my entire childhood.

That question is not just an insult to me, it’s an insult to anyone that’s ever battled an eating disorder.

I hate to think anyone would starve themselves to be skinny but it’s a harsh reality that woman (and even a percentage of men) suffer from eating disorders.

Yet skinny shaming, without actually thinking about the impact the words have, has become a common practice in recent years. We don’t know other people’s stories. We can’t assume that someone who is extremely thin is choosing to be that way of their own accord. The same also applies to anyone who is of a larger build. Everyone has struggles and worries we cannot necessarily see nor understand.

We also don’t know if they are naturally skinny, like myself.

Skinny shaming is almost being held as some triumph within society, as if by criticising woman of a slender build it will somehow hold a beacon for woman of all shapes and sizes to accept and love themselves. Some may even say that skinny shaming was a long time coming. We have seen in previous years curvy woman criticised for embracing their body types, such as the incident in which Karl Lagerfeld called singer Adele ‘fat’ in less obvious terms.

But as you’ve probably heard your parents utter at least once in your childhood, two wrongs don’t make a right.

Without trying to sound like I’m quoting Mean Girls, why can’t woman just accept one another regardless of shape or size? Is it not possible to be beautiful in all forms?

Criticising other woman will not make you feel good about yourself. It will just make you sound bitter.

You wouldn’t dream of pointing out how large someone is when walking down the street, so try not to mention how skinny someone is like it’s some kind of compliment to be admired.

Due to the comments I have received about my weight, more recently a comment in which someone begged me to eat more, I can’t help but feel insecure about the way I look. I hate wearing bikini’s, find it hard to wear figure hugging clothes and most importantly, can’t help but feel it effects my relationships with the opposite sex. So it’s even more upsetting to hear female singers slating anyone who wasn’t born to be curvy.

Please think before you applaud the likes of Meghan and Nicki Minaj for their ‘inspiring lyrics’ which intend to make woman feel better about themselves, because their messages can be just as harmful as the models on a Victoria Secret’s runway. Skinny shaming in the form of song lyrics or magazine comments is just as bad as shaming larger woman. It intends to turn woman kind against each other, with bitter words and indoctrination, and that’s the last thing woman kind needs.

(P.S. I’m pretty sure that anyone who believes that the lyrics ‘I wanna see all the big fat ass bitches in the motherfucking club, fuck you if you skinny bitches’ is inspiring might just need to book themselves a reality check of some sort)

Peace!

Quote of the Day:

CHECK YO’SELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF

(aka. don’t speak badly of others and accept that people come in all different forms)

Georgia