News UK has big plans for young people. They have shown their investment in the future of journalism through establishing the News Academy - the mechanism in which any young aspiring journalist in any part of the UK should aspire to get involved with. I was lucky enough to have been selected alongside 19 other young journalists for the News Academy's Summer School for a week this August in the News UK HQ in London. The Summer School was a new experience for all of us, who were all prepared to create our very own newspaper for young people in that week; with the help of brilliant journos at The Times, The Sun and The Sunday Times.
Arriving at what is commonly known by Londoners as the 'Baby Shard', the News UK building glistened in Southbank's pristine atmosphere. However, we were straight to work. Throughout the week, we were lucky enough to be supervised by Paul Clarkson, Editor of the Irish Sun, who would help us with the ins-and-outs of journalism and also make sure our newspaper came together.
We had a clear collective vision for our newspaper. It's only fair to note that the old News Corp branch in the UK did receive much hostility due to the hacking scandal, and the instalment of Rebekah Brooks as CEO has caused slight controversy amongst some journalism circles. What we experienced of News UK was nothing like the old grumbles from the pessimists. However, we still had to convince young people through our newspaper thay tabloids specifically could be a brilliant source of news, and therefore opted to create a new tabloid that was 'straight to the point', dubbed The Edge.
Situated on the 14th floor of the building, it was hard not to be distracted by the superb skyline outside the magnificent facilities we were working in. All of what a journalist could need was there; computers, notebooks and even a guideline from The Sun on journalism (even though I am probably the only guilty one of the 20 young journos who didn't read it fully). I was glad to be on the political and current affairs team for the week, and was privileged to head off to the Treasury to interview the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, in his office. Any other teenager would be nervous, but I was fortunate enough to have the support of the News Academy team through how I should approach the interview.
Gauke's office was a typical one for a Minister at the heart of Government - the old 17th century painting here and there. In spite of this, the old decor didn't reflect the modern Minister I would interview. We spoke at length about the Budget this year and what it delivered for young people. Many media outlets have published at length the problems of the Budget for young people. In spite of this, what Gauke outlined to me was the vision the Government had for young people as 'economically independent', with 'higher wages, lower taxes'. It was a great scoop for The Edge, and I was looking forward to writing it up.
And so; I faced the dilemma of writing up my interview with a Treasury Minister. How do you do that to make young people relate to it? I wasn't short of support and advice. Throughout the next few days, we were joined by journalists such as the Political Editor of the Sun on Sunday, David Wooding, and News UK's director of Communications and former 'Spin Doctor' to Boris Johnson, Guto Harri. There was a journalist on hand for each section of the paper - showbiz, fashion, sport: the News Academy could provide it all.
What I think I learnt the most from all the fantastic journalists was the need to keep in contact with different people in your line of work. For example, David Wooding emphasised the need for political journalists to keep in contact with politicians. I realised the true importance of this when one of our interviews for the political section fell through. We took the initiative and contacted David after he spoke to us and wondered whether he could work his connections for an interview in the House of Commons the next day. And lo behold, a couple of hours later, David Wooding had found me an MP willing to talk.
While other were interviewing the Irish football manager Martin O'Neil, Strictly's Tess Daly and all sorts for their respective articles in The Edge, I ushered around Portcullis House with David Wooding, waiting to interview John Spellar MP, a former Minister in the last Labour Government. Getting down to the interview he was very vocal against the Foreign and Defence Secretary about handling so-called ISIS, as well as the problems we face with Russia. Following the interview, my experience being a member of the News UK team wasn't over yet. I'll never forget the private tour that David put together for me in the Commons - bumping into the likes of Dennis Skinner and Jeremy Corbyn's worst nightmare; Harry Cole from the Sun. The excitement didn't end there. Back at News UK, we had Welsh TV crews waiting to film us and ask me about our experience at the Academy - a surreal experience for me as a young journalist away from home in Wales.
The newspaper began to come together after a long hard week at the News UK building. We had teams of graphic designers, subbers and journalists helping us out to make sure we met the deadline for printing. Our 16-page tabloid looked the part, with major interviews with Andy Burnham and Fran Kirby also included in the paper. All we could do now is wait for the next day until we could actually see it hot off the press.
Every day at the News UK building, we would head in below the scribbled 'News' sign and make our way past a columnist for the Sun here, an Editor at The Times there. We didn't feel scared to approach them - quite the opposite! However, on our last day we headed up to Broxbourne printers to see The Edge for the first time. We were all bustling with excitement and eager to see if we actually had got it right - which we think we did!
The week was a surreal one for all of us. Being at the HQ of the UK's most famous newspapers and being surrounded by some of the most talented journalists in the country was superb. I'd encourage any contributors and readers at the Huffington Post Young Voices to apply to next year's Summer School, as well as attend the News Academy conferences throughout 2015 and 2016. The News Academy and my fellow young journalists developed me not only as a young journalist, but also as a person - something I can never truly repay them for.