International Women's Day 2021: Charlotte Vowles, Devon Live

Monday, 8 March 2021 marks International Women's Day, and the NCTJ is proud to support the campaign, which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Throughout the day, we will be showcasing some of the fantastic Community News Project reporters who have been using their roles to support women in their communities.

Charlotte Vowles from Devon Live shares her story:

Why did you want to be a journalist?

I wanted to become a journalist because I wanted to know more about how the world works.

When I was five, my primary school teacher said she could see me becoming a journalist. I’m not sure how she came to that conclusion, but my grandmother always wanted to be a reporter but didn’t get the chance, so perhaps it’s something in the blood.

The media sometimes gets bashed, and that’s not always unjustified, but it’s crucial people remember the countless journalists helping to bring issues to light that would otherwise remain hidden in the shadows. Many of them risk their lives doing so.

What is your favourite thing about being a community reporter?

Applying to become a part of Facebook’s Community News Project was an opportunity that was just too good to miss.

Saying that, I nearly didn’t apply due to lack of confidence, I think, but in a strange twist, I happened to meet a former radio presenter who encouraged me to go for it.

Through the project, I’ve learnt so many skills. It’s a role that definitely challenges me.

The week I was offered my job, I had actually just received my student loan to start a journalism MA, so to have the chance to get NCTJ accredited training and work where I’ve grown up is phenomenal.

I love having the opportunity to speak to people every day who have led incredible lives and who hold interesting views. Because I’m working at a local level, I’m constantly learning more about my home county of Devon.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

International Women’s Day is a chance to celebrate the women who have had an impact on the world and the ones who have supported us in our everyday lives.

I’m fortunate to have some amazing women in my life, from friends to my fellow trainees. My mum has also always supported what I’ve wanted to do in life and actually has an excellent nose for a good story!

Tell us about some of the ways you have supported and celebrated women in your community.

I regularly work with the Women’s Wellbeing Club founders in Devon, who are working wonders for women’s mental health. I’ve also enjoyed writing a piece showcasing 50 of Devon’s inspirational women.

Do you have any advice for women starting their career in journalism?

My advice would be the same as to anybody. Get as much experience writing as you can. For me, this involved writing everything from play scripts to press releases, theatre reviews, to sketches.

Watch the news, read your local paper, become familiar with journalists in your area.

I started to contact journalists in my teens, asking for their advice about getting into the industry. The vast majority were more than willing to help me, reading my stories and even inviting me along to see an ITV news studio.

I’m not suggesting people start sliding into journalist’s DMs, but a polite email to their professional address could be a step in the right direction.

But a word of warning there, people who genuinely want to help you will do so willingly, and journalists are extremely busy, so don’t hound them.

One of the biggest realisations for me as a reporter and a woman is how important it is to know and trust in yourself.

Journalism is a difficult job, but if you can prove you’re genuinely interested through work experience and taking an active interest in the industry, that’s a great start.