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How journalism training can open up the world for disaffected learners

Dan O’Hara was one of a group of teenagers that worked at the recent Glasgow Commonwealth Games as press attaché for seven countries from Oceania. The opportunity came about through The Reporters’ Academy, which works with disaffected learners, young people in care and those it describes as “needing a leg up”. The Manchester-based charity provides training in journalism and media skills . Here, Dan explains what he got out of the experience.

Our responsibility was to produce and co-ordinate media for seven small countries in the Oceania region – Solomon Islands, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Norfolk Islands, Vanuatu and Kiribati – writing positive news articles and taking photographs to send back to the islands.

As part of the role, we had the honour of attending several spectacular and unforgettable sporting performances. The standout ones for the countries we were managing – including a gold medal for Kiribati weightlifter David Katoatau (being interviewed above by my fellow reporter Gemma Martin) – almost turned us into agents for the athletes we were representing, as they quickly became celebrities and we had to handle an unprecedented amount of media requests as a result.

We attended non-sporting events with the teams, too. I was at the Solomon Islands’ welcome ceremony, their gift-giving ceremony to Prince Imran – president of the Commonwealth Games Federation – and was privileged to take part in the opening and closing ceremonies.

I was also given an exclusive opportunity at the games: to photograph the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry to the games village. I was one of only four photographers given access and I was lucky enough to capture a memorable moment for Team Fiji when Prince Harry played video games with them.

Away from the track, we were part of BBC TV's Tonight at the Games audience, where I saw stars that I had photographed winning medals hours earlier.

The whole experience was incredibly useful. Aside from developing my media skills – and processing over 150GB worth of photographs – I have learnt about other cultures and ways of life, and found out exactly what sport means to people from some of the world’s smallest nations.

The Reporters' Academy will soon be launching a BTec in sports journalism, a hands-on course that offers the chance to work at the 2016 Rio Olympics Games or 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia's Gold Coast.


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