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Drama graduates help journalism students by posing as hostile interviewees

Paul WiltshireDrama graduates have posed as hostile interviewees in a university journalism department’s pioneering scheme aimed at boosting its students’ confidence.

The University of Gloucestershire’s Confidence Tricks project aims to develop self-esteem and self-belief among the 67 students on its BA journalism course.

The project has seen some of the university’s drama graduates leading workshops tailored for the different needs of the three year groups at the university’s Cheltenham campus.

Sessions revolve around role play and exercises which reflect the challenges of difficult conversations and persuading reluctant interviewees to open up, as well as the reality of work placements, networking and job interviews.

Situations explored in the sessions range from making introductory phone calls to dealing with unexpected hostility when speaking to interviewees, and the drama alumni draw on techniques they use themselves in auditions and when pitching for other work.

Lecturer Paul Wiltshire, pictured, said one of the overriding aims was to “encourage student journalists to ask challenging questions”.

He added: “There’s never been a greater need for journalism that asks the sort of questions that can lead to positive change in society. But it’s clear that our students need to develop the confidence and poise to feel comfortable about sticking their heads above the parapet.”

HTFP recently reported on a Twitter debate on newsroom diversity and journalism training prompted by a post from journamism trainer Richard Horsman.

Richard said he was “terrified” by the number of journalism students who “won’t pick up a phone or challenge a press officer”.

But Paul cited the Confidence Tricks scheme as an example of how his department is combating this issue, saying: “Confidence in engaging with outside world is at heart of our teaching.”

The project, launched with £2,500 from a university fund set up to encourage sustainable education, was also shortlisted for the National Council for the Training of Journalists’ new annual innovation award last year.