Carolyn O'Grady joins students as they discover that teamwork is required for successful journalism
The first and only issue of lifestyle magazine Urban Hype is nearing completion. The editorial team, aged 16 to 19, conscious of a fast-approaching deadline, are hard at work.
Fashion editor Amina is homing in on a red leather jacket as her main picture; Tia is doing music reviews and covering the Europe Music Awards in Lisbon; Tahnee, features editor, is dashing out an article on happy slapping and gun crime. Tulay is answering a letter for the problem page from a boy who can't get on with his mum. "Try writing your mum a letter.
Maybe she's really stressed out," she counsels. Editor Gemma is holding it all together and doing a page on celebrity gossip.
They are taking part in a workshop run by the Newspaper Education Trust, a charity based at West Ferry, a huge print works in London's docklands.
All are on an entry-to-employment course on magazine journalism, so they are to some extent used to this work, but this is the first time they have worked as a team, having to produce a whole magazine in an industrial setting.
Anna Pangbourne, a former teacher and founder director of the Trust, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary, says: "What we offer is a mini work experience. It's a real-life experience and they have a product at the end of it. They have to finish it in one day, and meet deadlines as though they were in an work environment."
The Newspaper Education Trust's centre is equipped as a newsroom or magazine office, with about 20 computers, a whiteboard and clocks on the wall showing the time in cities throughout the world. Most weekdays there are two school or college groups of eight to 10 students doing projects.
The day doesn't start well for the students from Waltham Forest College.
The majority are late, and the first editorial meeting, held to assign roles and distribute tasks, is subdued. "A big challenge for them is working as an editorial team," says their tutor, Simon Das. And certainly at this stage, teamwork is not much in evidence. However, as the day progresses the students begin to warm to their task.
The day begins with a discussion with Fay Blake, the Trust's secondary co-ordinator, on the style and content of lifestyle magazines. The students then get down to trawling the internet for ideas, material and pictures.
Content for the magazine is downloaded or the young people write it themselves. Fay then explains how to use the Publisher software to lay out their pages. "Lots of colour is what we want," she suggests.
After lunch, the pace hots up. Everyone is now fully engaged and working hard. Students are collaborating. A decision is made on the cover picture - the band Pretty Ricky, who are also given a feature page.
As the students work on the design, Fay gives them tips on elements of graphic design and advice on the use of colour. Finally, the pages are printed. They look colourful, lively and interesting, and the students are obviously pleased with their work. The session ends with a discussion on the day and its ups and downs.
Simon Das is pleased. "We'll build on this; it's been a very good group-based task."
l The NET offers newspaper, magazine and advertising days to primary, secondary and special schools and an advanced newsroom programme for more able and gifted and talented students. Teachers take part in a teacher training day to enable them to prepare their class beforehand. Other training days are also available.
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The Newspaper Education Trust
235 Westferry Road
London E14 8NX
Tel: 020 7531 5092