Withington In The Media Event

Our ‘Withington In: The Media' event, jointly hosted by the Careers Department and the Development Office, was held in Withington's Arts Centre on the evening of Monday 29 November 2010.

At the event, over forty pupils, parents, Alumnae and former staff listened to guest speakers Laura Yates (1998 Year Leaver), Judith Moritz (1995 leaver) and Emma Hardwidge (née Duckworth, 2000 Year Leaver) speak informally about their own careers in the media, before mingling with guests at the intimate canapé reception that followed.

After a formal welcome from Headmistress Mrs Sue Marks, Judith Moritz spoke to those gathered of her career as a TV Journalist. Confiding first to the audience that it was lovely, albeit ‘weird' to be back at Withington following a fifteen year absence, Judith spoke of her first brush with journalism in the Lower Fourth, when she was involved with Straight From the Horse's Mouth, a magazine published by pupils which included crosswords and school gossip. Judith's love of English meant that Journalism was a natural career choice.

Following her time at Withington she studied English Literature at UCL, where she was heavily involved in the university newspaper. Judith decided to pursue a career in TV journalism, preferring the immediacy of the format to print journalism, and following work experience at Granada Reports prior to her graduation, she then faced the choice between continuing her studies with a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism or accepting a place on the BBC Journalism Training Scheme, opting eventually for the paid one-year BBC traineeship.

Withington in the Media speakers (L-R): Laura Yates, Emma Hardwidge and Judith MoritzJudith joked with the audience that, despite her dreams of the ‘cut and thrust' of TV journalism, the reality of TV news in East Anglia was much more staid! Despite this, the scheme gave her an excellent grounding in how to produce news stories ready to air, and how to generate creative, issue-led stories that could be included on the daily news programmes. Judith continued with the BBC, moving between regional news programmes in Norwich, Cambridge and Essex, and sealed her reputation with her award-winning coverage of the 2001 Foot and Mouth Crisis, where she appeared nightly on the BBC's national news programmes.

Judith is now the BBC's North of England Correspondent and produces news items for the internet, TV and radio channels. During her time in this role she has covered many major stories, including the Raoul Moat shootings, the Shipman Enquiry and the 2004 Morecambe Bay Cockle Pickers Disaster. Describing how there is no ‘average' day in her role, she explained how she instead has to react to news as it happens, preparing pieces simultaneously under extreme time-pressure for the BBC News Lunchtime and Evening broadcasts, for the radio news, and for the BBC News website.

Judith's enjoyment of her role, which, she says, gives her the opportunity to meet a wide-range of people and to witness history first hand, was clear to all present. She concluded by explaining to the audience the skills required to succeed in the profession, along with her advice for anyone consider a career in broadcast news. Judith described how time-management, organisation and the ability to work under extreme pressure are all skills she employs on a daily basis in her role, as are stamina and a strong bladder! Advising anyone interested in TV Journalism to gain as much experience as possible, to work hard and be prepared to start at the bottom, and above all to show enthusiasm for all tasks undertaken, Judith's final piece of advice – to ‘Go for It!' – was a positive end to her candid insights into her profession.

The evening's second speaker, Emma Hardwidge, spoke to the audience both of her previous career as an Art Director in the Animation Industry, and of her latest venture as co-owner and Strategy Director of a boutique digital advertising agency based in South Manchester.

Following excellent examination results Emma considered studying sciences at University but, after leaving Withington, she instead followed her love of ‘making things' and embarked on a degree in Art at Manchester Metropolitan University, a course she praised for its fast-pace, high standard of work and cross-discipline structure. During the summer vacation following her first year at MMU, Emma completed an unpaid work experience placement at an Animation Studio in Wales, which led to the offer of a full-time post. Faced with the choice between continuing her studies or taking up this once in a lifetime opportunity, Emma chose the latter, and took up a position as a Propmaker. Working her way up swiftly, Emma was then a set dresser before becoming an Art Director at the studio, where she worked for six years.

The event's three speakers with Headmistress Mrs Sue Marks, Development Director Ms Clare Flynn and Head of Careers Mrs Pauline GavanEmma gave the audience an insight into the nature of the animation industry, discussing the impact of economic foreign production on British firms and the marketing and retail considerations involved when launching a new children's animation programme, as well as the hopes the BBC's move to Media City in Salford have raised for the re-invigoration of the industry in the UK. She spoke also of her involvement on programmes such as Bob the Builder, and of the close-knit team of which she was part.

Emma then recounted how, in 2007, redundancy meant she decided to return to university at Salford to study Advertising Design. Emma explained how Advertising had always been an interest of hers, and that whilst at Withington she had kept a scrapbook of adverts which interested and engaged her, so the choice to study the subject seemed natural. Returning to university as a mature student was not without its challenges, but in early 2009 Emma graduated with a First Class degree, winning an international D&DA Yellow Pencil ‘Student of the Year' award during her final year. Following two years freelancing, Emma embarked upon her latest challenge when she launched Considered Creative, a boutique Digital Advertising Agency, with her husband in early 2010, a business which is going from strength to strength.

Emma concluded by talking to her audience of the impact digital marketing has had on the advertising industry, where the ‘days of the Mad Men are no more'. She showed those gathered an example of the power of social marketing, a humorous Old Spice advert which went viral on Facebook and You Tube and increased sales by a massive 107%. The audience were left in no doubt of Emma's interest in and knowledge of her subject, and her presentation, interspersed with fascinating and funny examples of both her animation and advertising work, proved most popular with the audience gathered.

The evening's third and final speaker, Laura Yates, joined those gathered in the Arts Centre straight from her role as Health Correspondent for the BBC's Northwest Tonight. She too commented on how strange it felt to return to Withington, and recalled memories of plays performed in the same Arts Centre she was addressing.

Having always known she wanted to be a journalist, Laura graduated with a degree in English from Edinburgh University, where she edited the student newspaper. Her graduation from the University of Central Lancashire's renowned postgraduate course in Broadcast Journalism led to work placements at Northwest Tonight and Radio Manchester, before she eventually secured her role at Northwest Tonight.

As Health Correspondent, Laura is expected to be an expert on her brief, and to generate her own stories for broadcast, as well as advising other correspondents who may have an overlapping story. These stories can be in a variety of formats, from a ‘Big Screen' where Laura has to speak about a story in the studio using graphics, to developing a ‘strand' of stories revolving around a similar theme, to interviews with individuals addressing issues that matter to people on a smaller scale.

Laura's brief as Health Correspondent means she covers both serious and more light-hearted stories, and through her work she is often able to bring about positive outcomes for her subjects whose voices may not otherwise be heard. Laura spoke openly to the audience of the realities of her job, recounting how she does her own hair and makeup for her broadcasts, and how she often writes, films and edits her pieces herself. Laura's advice to her audience was simple: gain as much experience as possible, be confident in your own abilities and go all out to impress those whom you meet in the industry.

Following Laura's words of advice, all three guest speakers took questions from the assembled audience, many of them current pupils considering similar careers to them. Laura and Judith compared the varying pressures and demands of producing content for regional and national news respectively, whilst Emma talked those gathered through her decision to set up her own business, and all three speakers advised on the subjects they thought important to pursue a career in their respective fields. Mrs Marks then formally thanked all three guest speakers for giving up their time to attend the event, before all gathered enjoyed further discussion over the drinks and delicious canapés provided by Mrs Cartledge.

As guests took their leave, and headed off into the wintry night, it was agreed by all that the event had been a great success, and further similar events are planned for 2011.