Below is a compilation of some of the best pieces of journalism I have curated.
Level One TV Package, May 2016.
News writing portfolio:
ARTICLE 1: POLICE SEEK VOLUNTEERS AMIDST NEW MONEY-SAVING SCHEME
Cambridgeshire police have placed two adverts online in a bid to recruit volunteers in a new money-saving scheme.
The force placed adverts for a vehicle tasking volunteer and a property recovery volunteer at the start of December.
The vehicle tasking volunteer role involves performing safety checks on cars whilst keeping them clean.
Should anyone volunteer for the second position of a property recovery officer, they would be expected to trawl car boot sales and antique stalls to recover stolen property on behalf of the police.
The force say that they are extremely short of cash and that this will not only save money, but will help the community in the long run by easing pressure on police and by helping to enhance the skills of those who volunteer.
Campaigners have hit out by saying that the police should not expect volunteers to be doing the jobs that the force are trained and paid to do.
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s good that the force is seeking help without costing taxpayers’ more money. More forces should be thinking along these lines to help ease pressure on their budgets so they can spend money on new equipment and catching criminals.”
Cambridgeshire police maintain that volunteers are ‘vital’.
ARTICLE 2: LINCOLN CASTLE TO HOST CENTENARY POPPIES
Lincoln Castle is to display some of the ceramic poppies from the Tower of London to mark the centenary of World War One.
The poppies are going on a tour of the UK and are expected to be on display in Lincoln from May 28 – September 4 2016.
Following Lincoln, the poppies will then be shown at Black Watch Castle and Museum in Perth, Scotland, and at Caernarfon Castle in Wales.
Nick Worth, the executive member for culture and heritage at Lincoln, said, “We’re thrilled the poppies are coming to Lincoln Castle. I’m sure people will travel from far and wide to see this iconic work.”
Feature writing portfolio:
Feature 1: Hyman Strunsky – 102 years later
One hundred years ago a middle-class Russian man living in America published perhaps one of the most daring pieces of journalism that year. Hyman Strunsky did something few men dared to do – or even wanted to do for that matter. He wrote an article for Vanity Fair magazine acknowledging the fact that women were being unfairly treated by their male counterparts, and routinely beaten down by their female ones too. He posed the question: “Are odd women really odd? Or is it merely that we are odd for thinking them so?”
What Mr Strunsky was referring to when he coined the term “odd woman” was not what one might think given his social class and gender. Although his opening paragraphs did describe this woman as someone who “lacked woman’s love of frills, her thirst for gossip, and her aptitude for useless occupations”, he went on to say, “it did not cry nor did whimper; it did not pout nor did it frown; it did not cuddle with weakness, or even crouch with fear”. He spoke of her “spirit of independence”, and, whilst in 2017 that might not make up for the controversial stereotypes he made about frills and gossiping, in 1915 it was almost revolutionary to contradict those societal ‘norms’.
This was written half a decade before women got the right to vote in America, and in the year that the American Medical Association had only just began to admit females. In a time when women were considered to be so politically and educationally inept as to not be trusted with a vote or the opportunity enter every field of work, it was a revelation that they should be called independent – especially by a man.
Strunsky even went as far as to compare this new type of woman to “Madame X”, of whom he described as “the old fashioned woman, who has been slumbering under the impression that there was nothing at all odd about her own type of womanhood”. Madame X was the type of woman to love frills and gossiping, and also the type of woman to condemn another for trying to rival a man with regards to work and pay.
It has been 102 years since Strunsky first acknowledged these attitudes, and whilst we would like to think we have moved past this entirely, the reality is we haven’t. Madame X still exists, but she has evolved. She no longer traditionally loves frilly things and useless occupations; instead she takes the form of a playground mum. She has a group of friends with whom she sniggers to and shoots sly looks at when the “odd” woman who has a full-time job is five minutes late to pick her child up from football practice. Yet these same Madame X praises the man with a full-time job for picking his child up from football practice, dismissing the fact that he too is five minutes late.
Madame X jumps on a man for commenting a derogatory term about a woman who is wearing a ‘skimpy’ outfit, yet Madame X sneers to her friends those same terms about the “odd” woman for daring to show off her body. Madame X passes negative judgement on the “odd” woman who chooses not to marry and start a family but to instead focus on her career and her own life goals. Yet the same Madame X would not bat an eyelid for the man who chooses not to marry and start a family in favour of furthering his career for the benefit of his own self-fulfilment. The matter of fact is women constantly talk about raising each other up, yet they routinely fail to realise they bring each other down more than they would care to believe.
It is not solely Madame X who is responsible for the notion of an “odd” woman still existing though. One of the major points Strunsky made in his article was that men did not treat women right; regardless of whether she was traditional or not. He said, “We very chivalrously called our wife our “better half,” but always regarded her as an inferior and kept her in strict subordination.”
“She was not a partner to the man, but an auxiliary, she was an extension to man, man, the gigantic structure; the centre of the universe.” It would be unfair and untrue to say that what Strunsky wrote a century ago still stands tall regarding this issue because women are now seen as equals to their partners. Their skills are valued and relationships are based on the foundation of teamwork. In fact, men disrespecting their partners is condemned by almost everyone these days.
Although we have moved forward in one respect, we have barely moved in another. One of the key points Strunsky made was about women’s employment. This is something that is still highly contested 100 years later, with the gender pay gap only just beginning to close.
The 1920 American census showed that roughly 23% of women were in work, with the majority being employed in domestic work or teaching. It was unheard of that women should venture out of these zones, let alone earn the same amount as men.
Comparing this to modern times when 47% of the American workforce is female and over 10 million businesses belong to women, it’s easy to see that women are beginning to take control more. But the gender pay gap is still not 100% equal. A report by the Senate Joint Economic Committee Democratic Staff last April showed that on average women earn 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. Hopefully it won’t take another 102 years for women to make one dollar for every one dollar a man makes.
With any luck, in the next few years Hyman Strunksy’s feature will hold no relevance at all and will simply be regarded as a reminder of times gone by. Until then, it’s a wonderful piece of journalism to see how one man in 1915 had more compassion for women than some men in 2017.
Feature 2: Skinny-Shaming
We live in a world where, increasingly, people accept that the human body manifests itself in all shapes and sizes. We are beginning to recognise that not everyone looks the same; nor should they. We acknowledge that body positivity is something that should be drilled into each and every one of us because how we see ourselves is vital for our mental health and wellbeing.
However, these messages only apply to the heavier people amongst us. Example: if a person said to an overweight person, “Oh my goodness, you’re so large!” they would be heavily condemned because body-shaming is never okay and it ruins people’s self-confidence.
Except, body-shaming is okay because it’s done daily to petite people. Example: if a person said to a thin person, “Oh my goodness, you’re so skinny!” no one would bat an eyelid because skinny-shaming is not yet recognised as a legit form of body-shaming.
We have this idea in our heads that being thin is desirable and therefore you have no right to complain if you fit that description. What people often forget though is that there is a difference between maintaining a healthy weight and toned body through choice and having a painfully high metabolism as a result of genetics.
What people fail to realise is how constantly calling someone ‘skinny’ and comparing them to an anorexic sufferer may impact the way they view their body for the rest of their life. Imagine being told how small you are every day for the entirety of your youth, to then start putting on weight and being told you’re getting ‘chubby’ and you’re ‘really starting to fill out’. Imagine being told every day to ‘eat a cheeseburger’ to then being told ‘you can pack a lot away can’t you’. Some people can brush it off and move on, but some people can’t, and that’s where the problems arise.
Marissa Channing-Bates, 20, encapsulates every aspect of being skinny-shamed and the lasting consequences of it.
“My whole life I was underweight. I remember looking back at a video someone took of me playing Just Dance and thinking how awfully thin my legs looked prancing around in shorts.”
“I was pretty disgusted with myself.”
Like most underweight girls, Marissa craved nothing more than to be a healthy weight. She recalled how her hip bones, spine and ribs would protrude from her skin, and yet how so many girls would say how lucky she was to be so small.
One of the biggest factors of being underweight is the inability to develop a feminine body. Breasts and a bum are primarily made up of fat, and if you don’t have any body fat, you don’t have a feminine figure. This can be a huge factor in terms of how attractive you see yourself. After all, we’re always told how men prefer women with meat on their bones, not a stick.
Marissa was no exception to this. “With regards to boys, lots of comments were made about my lack of boobs. This definitely affected how I viewed myself and I desperately wanted to put on weight to fill out my body more.”
She ended up being assigned to CAMHS, the Children and Adult Mental Health Service. Here she saw a doctor about her eating habits, but it didn’t help her at all. She eventually stopped going to her therapy appointments.
In February of 2014 Marissa dropped out of college and spent six months at home. She rarely left the house, instead opting to stay in and eat whilst watching TV.
“Slowly I put on weight. First I got stretch marks, then my jeans started to get too tight and soon enough the scales went up.”
“I was devastated. It’s what I had wanted for so long but for some reason I wasn’t happy. For the last four years I’ve tried to bring my weight down because I don’t feel good enough. I feel too fat.”
This is something that is all too common with people who have grown up underweight; going from being told constantly how you’re so small and skinny and basically anorexic, to being told you’re getting chubby and you’re filling out. It makes you feel fat, even if you are only a size 10. It becomes an unhealthy obsession with how you view yourself, and the damage can last a lifetime.
Marissa said, “People don’t realise that pointing out a person’s back bone, hip bones or putting their hands around someone’s wrists to show how small they are affects the way someone sees themselves.”
“It can make your self-worth rapidly drop.”
Being skinny isn’t just about looks, it’s about the extra pain it causes. This is just another reason why many people wish to put on weight, but it’s a reason nobody understands unless they’ve experienced it. She expertly made the point that being so underweight has its physical drawbacks; like not being able to do sports without getting out of breath and feeling weak, and how painful bashing a bone by accident is when there’s no fat to cushion the blow.
“People really need to be careful with what they say, just like they are when they speak to overweight people. You would never point out how big their wrists are or how they can’t do much exercise without being out of breath. It’s the exact same thing.”
There are millions of people out there who are skinny-shamed every day. It’s so easy to tell someone who is a size 6 to eat a burger, but no one has the audacity to tell someone who is a size 18 to eat a salad.
It’s a double standard where people forget there is a stark difference between choice and genetics.
Marissa said, “You can insult skinny people in the same way you can insult fat people. You can damage someone with the words you say, regardless of size. This is something everyone needs to be more aware of.”