Why taking a chance on hiring me is a great idea
Being a 21st century journalist is no easy task: newsrooms expect multimedia-ready multi-tasking journalists who can adapt at a moment’s notice. I love the challenge of figuring out new technology and relish the opportunity to teach other people to use them as well. I have a found a second passion in teaching our students how to navigate technical problems, while reflecting on the democratic importance of their role in society. My experience, both as a teacher and a lecturer, might not be as extensive as other people’s, but my ability to learn and teach multimedia skills in a changing media landscape has made me stand out both as a journalist and an educator.
From cub reporter in Mexico to politics producer
My path through journalism has taken me from photographing Mexico’s lucha libre wrestling, through American newspapers, to national broadcast television in the UK with a bit of freelancing in between. I’m fascinated by politics, both in the UK and abroad, and produce a weekly politics chat show on KMTV. Since 2016 I have also become “Brexit/London” correspondent for various Spanish speaking outlets in Mexico and the USA.
Speak Spanish? Why not watch my latest explanation of how the EU and the UK agreed on a Withdrawal agreement and a much shorter political declaration.
If Spanish isn’t your thing, here’s my contribution to KMTV’s flagship programme “Kent Tonight” talking about proposed immigration changes for a post-Brexit UK.
I’m part of what I believe to be a golden generation that grew up analog but had a digital adolescence: I’m old enough to remember Beta Tapes and Floppy disks, but my phone is my most important work tool now and I’m dying for a smart watch. Teaching, and practicing journalism, in 21st century newsrooms requires a wide range of skills. Newsrooms expect multimedia-ready multi-tasking journalists, equally ready to whip out a notepad or a 360 degree camera, depending on what the story needs. And it gets harder. Whatever software or production technique they learn in a lecture theatre or a workshop, will probably be obsolete in 10 years. Remember MySpace? Or ICQ? Dare I say Snapchat? We cannot expect our students to be renaissance journalists if we don’t give them a solid foundation and an abundance of technical tools.
As a broadcast journalist, I have helped organise breaking news coverage for a national audience, do live reports overnight during elections, managed multiple teams of cameramen and reporters for a national broadcaster, directed multiple camera live programmes and created online interactive stories that reach audiences worldwide. I love gadgets, technology, combing through spreadsheets, experimenting with new formats, and breaking down stories for different platforms. Click on the image below to explore a multimedia feature I did in collaboration with Charlotte Stafford about the Batwa tribes in Uganda.
I can quickly switch from writing a tweet, to scripting a cue, and then turning to a spreadsheet to try to unlock its secrets. When I was little, my father would make me help him programme macros and functions into his spreadsheets to calculate the heat balance of an energy plant or how efficient a recycling process was. I hated it as a kid, but it made me an Excel fiend, a skill hard to find amongst a profession full of people who “love to write but hate maths”. Our students no longer have the luxury to make that kind of statement.
Data, big and small, is a huge part of a journalist’s life: from interpreting stats in a press release to visualising electoral results. The devil is always in the details (or in the mass accumulation of details). Some of the most important stories of the last couple of years have come out of huge data sets like the Panama Papers and or Paradise Papers. The President of the United States and the rise of misinformation across the world have triggered a growth spurt in fact checking, both human driven and automated. Google’s DNI Fund invests millions of pounds yearly in projects that explore how we can use data to illustrate new stories, verify information and present it to the public in new ways. The UK is a particular hub for such organisations: Factmata, First Draft News, the Centre for Investigative Journalism, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, The Bureau Local, etc. But why tell you about how much I love data? Let me show you. (In case the embed gremlins aren’t showing the visualisation underneath, please click here)
But can she teach though?
I have worked as a teacher in one way or another for last 5 years at the Centre for Journalism. In my 3 years as a GTA, I was allowed incredible freedom to teach supplementary lessons for our Convergent Journalism and Practical Multimedia modules. My hybrid role as a PhD student/teacher meant that students felt like they could talk to me. I tracked their concerns, their worries, and figured out where our teaching gaps where. I tried different formats, different styles, different ways of getting students to interact with their stories and each other.
In 2015 I received the Barbara Morris Prize for teaching in recognition for my role as a GTA. How we teach and what we teach, has changed since my arrival in 2013 and I am proud of that. We now offer employability workshops to recognise that being a good journalist is not the same as being good at getting a job.
I teach radio, tv and online journalism on our BA and MA courses alongside Ian Reeves and Richard Pendry. I have also supervised third year students’ final year projects and help deliver other bits of practical training at the Centre. I’m incredibly proud to say that some of my students now work for major national and international media outlets. I’ve designed and delivered a new module on TV production, at MA and BA level, that nurtures our relationship with KMTV. We teach VR and 360 video as part of the curriculum now, and we purchased headsets and cameras to make the technology more approachable. I also completed my PGCHE last year and focused my studies on how to teach international cohorts and use technology to improve my lecturing.
As part of my job at the Centre for Journalism, I also manage our social media channels and digital presence. That includes everything from Instagram to instructional videos on youtube for our students to have as reference. I also organise our group of interns at KMTV, scheduling their shifts and making sure they’re trained and ready to do their jobs. We currently have 23 interns working alongside a team of 10 professional journalists.
My geographical journey through journalism has also given me skills to teach cohorts of international students. I have worked as a journalist in Mexico, the US, and the UK. I understand what it’s like to learn about journalism in my second language and have seen different styles of journalism on display. I also learned the geopolitics of each region back to front: I can hold a discussion on the rise of populism in Latin America, or the Far Right in Europe, or how a new wave of democrats are shaking up the US Congress through Instagram. I regularly consume journalism in different languages and formats: the Middle East is experimenting with podcasting (Kerning Cultures) in different ways to Latin America (RadioAmbulante) but both formats can learn from each other.
I love teaching with multicultural examples, to show my students how wide and varied their journalistic diets can be and what we can learn from other countries’ experience. Some of the best examples of collaborative fact checking came from Mexico and Brasil ahead of their respective presidential elections. The Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers further prove how 21st century journalist have to be multi-skilled and know how to work across geographical boundaries. Collaboration and transmedia storytelling are the names of the game: I am thrilled to be teaching the next generation of journalists how to tackle this incredible opportunity head on.
My latest teaching project is with the Centre for Investigative Journalism. I am one of their “Access to Tools” trainers and travel the country teaching journalists and students how to use the internet to find and visualise data. My next session will be with journalists at the Liverpool Echo in 2019.
— Laura Garcia Rdz B (@lauragrb) September 29, 2018
What about projects and research?
Even though my publications list isn’t vast, my research interests translate into incredible projects, and collaborations with huge impact. During my time as I PhD student I was able to immerse myself in data research surrounding social movements and how journalists cover them. My PhD thesis was centred around how online mainstream media outlets cover social movements: what we’re getting wrong and what we could be doing better. I attended and presented papers at conferences in the UK and abroad.
Recently, my supervisors and I decided that for personal and professional reasons, it’s not the right time for me to dedicate the next 10 months writing up my thesis. We decided to close that chapter of my life, but I have learned so much from it. I had never done self directed research before on such a massive scale and I look forward to a future point in my life when the time is right for me to finish my PhD. I have thoroughly enjoyed researching and have quite a lot of work done, that will now be published as different journal articles.
That doesn’t mean my research activities have stopped. Every term or so I deliver guest lectures in the politics department where MA and BA students get to ask questions about we cover politics and bust many of their myths of how the “media” works. I am involved in overlapping simultaneous projects that aim to increase diversity in the media and public engagement with the work that we do. In all the projects I am about to mention, my students are at the heart of it all. They help to film, edit content, organise material, manage websites, participate as volunteers and more.
I organised and got funding for a conference at Cumberland Lodge tackling fake news and how truth is defined in journalism, politics and philosophy. The philosopher Julian Baggini and journalist James Ball delivered an incredible keynote questioning our relationship with truth and facts. We also recorded a podcast talking about why we decided to organise this event.
I have turned my passion for diversity in newsrooms into co-founding PressPad, a project that matches out-of-London journalism interns with people who have spare rooms. The idea is that if we lower the financial barrier of entry into the industry, over time our newsrooms might reflect better the audiences we serve. We are currently in a fundraising and development stage, hoping to expand our online platform so we can help more interns complete the placement of their dreams.
I also became one of the core organisers of the XXIII Congress of the Worldwide Association of Women Journalists and Writers and brought over 300 delegates from more than 40 countries to the UK for a 4 day conference on the many challenges that women journalists face around the world. I redesigned our logo, our website and created promotional material. I also managed to secure almost 10,000 pounds in funding for the event as well as outside sponsorships. We have also founded AMMPE’s UK chapter, and will start organising events and mentoring schemes as of January 2019.
— AMMPE World (@AMMPEworld) November 9, 2018
Why City and I are the perfect fit
I admire City’s ambitious journalism programme. When I was freelancing at ITN most of my colleagues were graduates of the Broadcast Journalism programme and their professionalism was admirable. I am ready for the next challenge in my career and I believe that I can bring a plethora of multimedia skills and enthusiasm to the department.
I am also very excited at the prospect of working with a lot of incredible senior women who have practiced as journalists and now teach. My current department is a bit lacking in female role models and mentors. I relish the opportunity of teaching across multimedia journalism and focusing on data: a subject I love, and have a firm grasp of. If you want a hardworking, dedicated colleague who will make try her hardest to inspire her students and work together with other lecturers, I’m your girl.
“Laura’s dynamic, can-do approach to everything she turns her hand to has an infectious impact not just on students, but on other members of staff too – including those in more senior positions.”
Deputy Head, Centre for Journalism
Still not convinced? Check out my professional profiles online
***All the pieces of multimedia content in this piece are produced and edited by Laura Garcia.