My apprenticeship story: Megan Baynes, Isle of Wight County Press

National Apprenticeship Week is taking place between the 4th and 8th of March, and the NCTJ is proud to support the campaign. Each day throughout the week, we will be sharing first-hand accounts from apprentices and employers to demonstrate how apprenticeships work for them.

Megan Baynes, apprentice with the Isle of Wight County Press and Highbury Collegeand NCTJ Apprentice of the Year 2018, shares her story below:

My second day working at the Isle of Wight County Press I was sent to a bat hospital. I spent an hour meeting the residents (yes, I did stroke a bat) before filing my first article as a trainee reporter.

Needless to say, in the past 18-months, life in local news hasn’t gotten any less eclectic.

I began my trainee position a month before officially graduating university — I handed in my final assignments on the Tuesday, and by the following Monday had moved from Norwich to the Isle of Wight and begun my first full-time journalism job. Most of my family and friends thought I’d lost the plot.

I began rewriting press releases from the local donkey sanctuary before being trusted with bigger stories.

Four months later my editor asked if I would be willing to work on a Saturday evening. Sensing my trepidation, he said: “Well, Judi Dench is coming to the island and I thought you’d want the chance to interview her.” I’ve never changed my tune so quickly.

When I began, I had originally expected to follow the path of previous reporters and do a four-month NCTJ fast-track course. However, shortly after I arrived, I was told I would be the first trainee to do an apprenticeship, where I would be sent across the Solent every week to Highbury College.

This is not what I had hoped for, mistakenly believing it would take me longer to finish my qualifications and move on to my seniors.

However, without having to take a four-month break from the newsroom, I am now on track to take my NQJ senior exams this Friday — I hope finally to be able to call myself a senior reporter soon.

During my first ten months I spent time covering an unusual mix of stories, from trekking through fields of mud to visit neglected ponies, to covering local fetes and fayres. I loved speaking to people and finding out their stories.

Staying rooted in the newsroom allowed me to put everything I was learning at Highbury College into practice on a daily basis. I have always loved learning, but I really enjoyed the time spent working towards my gold standard diploma. Through learning shorthand, public affairs, media law and court reporting I found a new confidence in my abilities — I trusted myself to go to court, or a parish council meeting, and transcribe what was said accurately and report it back fairly.

I am lucky that throughout my training I had a great support network at college, and in my newsroom and a team who were always willing to answer my (endless) questions.

Halfway through my training, I found my public affairs exam more useful than I expected as I was promoted to the role of local democracy reporter. I was thrown into the halls of County Hall, complete with enough jargon and egos to make my head spin. I began covering the Isle of Wight Council, NHS Trust and CCG with a determination to put a human face on these thick agendas.

My first big scoop to be picked up by the BBC was about a council decision to put more cameras in the local library because people were caught having sex in the stacks. I don’t think my Mum has ever been so proud…