NCTJ Olympic stories

Back in the summer we featured a number of NCTJ students who had secured sought after roles during the Olympics and Paralympics. This week we caught up with a few of them to hear about their experiences.

Jermaine Haughton, a Journalism Diversity Fund bursary recipient from News Associates, spent two weeks with the Press Operations team at Wembley Stadium. He said: “I couldn’t help being swept up in the euphoria and fascination of working alongside a welcoming, warming and diverse group of people. My last shift at Wembley felt like I was abandoning a newly-formed family.

“One of my main motives for taking on the role was my love of football, and the Olympic tournament fulfilled my hopes producing some fantastic performances – both male and female – at the grandest of all settings, the home of the beautiful game.

“Interacting with the world’s press, with media representatives from all corners of the globe, I learned of the assorted customs and approaches different cultures attribute to their work (as well as a few choice terms in Korean and Arabic).

“Each day was as unpredictable as the last, and it truly tested my ability to pragmatically meet the demands of the role – from helping Japanese journalists buy internet packages over the phone to organising the Brazilian photographers at the pre-game team photo on the hallowed turf.”

Emma Paton from St Mary’s University College worked with the British Olympic Association (BOA). She spent six weeks before the Games working at the BOA head office in central London and then worked on their news service during the Olympics.

She said: “I can’t put into words how unbelievable my experience over the summer was, I had the time of my life! Working on the BOA’s news team I was based at Team GB House in Stratford and at Olympic venues where I produced press releases on all Team GB performances as well as the daily newsletter, both of which were sent to all media outlets. I worked closely with broadcasters to co-ordinate interviews with medal winners and organised the pre- and post- competition press conferences.

“Working with a team of great sports journalists I gained invaluable experience on the news desk and witnessing the greatest show on earth first hand is something I will certainly never forget.”

Mitch Sayers, a student from Staffordshire University, worked with ITV during the Paralympics.

He said of his experience: “I was based at Stratford for the majority of the time and got to join in with the ITV News Paralympics team as well as the Paralympics crowd.

“My main role was to watch the entirety of the Paralympics coverage across all the channels, prioritising news-worthy action and log the events as they happened. I also had to do a lot of administrative work, liaising with reporters and making sure that all essential action was readily available.

“I also managed to get a ticket for the Thriller Thursday in the Olympic Stadium, which was great.

“I got the chance to engage with professionals and see how it’s done on a national basis… and earn some money at the same time.”

Jon Vale from the University of Brighton secured a position with LOCOG during both the Olympics and Paralympics

He said: “I was part of the 600-strong Olympic and Paralympic News Service, which was basically a news agency covering every aspect of both Games. My main job was covering media conferences in the Main Press Centre with the likes of Seb Coe, Jacques Rogge and Paul Deighton, but I was also sent out to cover loads of different sports over the duration of both Games – from athletics and swimming to equestrian dressage and freestyle wrestling.

“Our main service was providing quotes from the mixed zone that media all around the world could use. The service filed more than 14,200 stories over the 30 days that the information system was live during the Games, and the material was used in newspapers worldwide: from the China Daily and the Chicago Tribune to the Sydney Morning Herald and the Salford Gazette.

“It was hard work and long hours – I worked over 90 hours in my longest week, and had to sleep in St Pancras station after missing my train home one night – but it was completely worth it. I got to stand in the broadcast mixed zone at the Olympic Stadium, which was right on the finish line of the athletics track, and ask questions to the likes of Michael Phelps, Oscar Pistorius and Ryan Giggs.

“What’s more, I was also rubbing shoulders with some of the best sports journalists in the world, seeing how they operated and picking up some invaluable tips and contacts along the way.”

Jon Waring, who studied at News Associates, worked with the British Olympic Authority (BOA) for three months. He produced and distributed official Team GB press releases, arranged press conferences and liaised with print and broadcast media. He also worked closely with the UK national governing bodies of all 26 Olympic sports and helped with the official Team GB media guide.

He said: “I had an absolutely incredible time and it was easily the best job I have ever done. It really was an honour to be involved with and work with the Team GB athletes and help to contribute in some way to their success. It was three months that I’ll never forget, and probably never experience in my life again.”