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Office closures could hit work experience, journalism trainer warns

Paul WiltshireA journalism trainer has shared concerns about the challenge posed by office closures to students seeking work experience.

Paul Wiltshire, pictured, who teaches at the University of Gloucestershire, has warned of a potential impact on recruitment in the regional press industry unless the issue is addressed.

Paul made his comments after Reach plc confirmed last week that it was closing offices in Truro and Exeter.

The move means journalists working for the company in Devon and Cornwall will now either work remotely, from Reach’s Plymouth hub or hot desk in shared working spaces.

In a post on his blog about the closures, Paul wrote: “We shouldn’t get too attached to bricks and mortar, particularly when the choice is between axing building and axing jobs.

“The new world presents a lot of challenges – including a very selfish one for those of us involved in helping to set up work placements for our students.

“Hooking up the journalists of the future with the journalists of today will be a far more complicated process when there are fewer offices.

“That’s the least of Reach’s short-term worries, I know. But it is in its long-term interests to ensure that the flames of interest in frontline journalism get the oxygen of real newsroom exposure.

“For now, I wish everyone working for Reach in Devon and Cornwall the best of luck. I’m still sad that the feel of working as a journalist will be different in future.”

Speaking to HTFP, Paul said work experience placements had the power to be “utterly transformational” for journalism students.

Of the issues posed by office closure, he added: “It’s something I suppose is going to be a challenge and it’s something I hope the industry recognises as well.

“Having to have people on work placements can be hard work and a commitment, but I hope in the long-term it’s realised that this is needed, otherwise the number of those available in terms of recruitment in the future is going to dry up.”

HTFP has approached Reach plc for a comment.

2 comments

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  • December 6, 2019 at 3:42 pm
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    Well said Paul.
    I did work experience on my local paper from school and college. The office is no longer there meaning children that went to the same school I did will never have the same opportunity.
    Very sad.

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  • December 9, 2019 at 12:48 pm
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    Why this constant obsession with the bigger four/five publishers?
    They’re no longer the future of regional news publishing.
    Many of the most talented and experienced journalists now work for the smaller independent publishers where true community reportage happens day in day out via the trusted route of good local contacts, knowing and working the territory and direct face to face interactions.
    Trainees would learn much more about the business by working hand in hand alongside these ex regional press staff than they would sat at a (hot) desk in an office or cafe scraping Facebook or Twitter and rewriting PR handouts for potential click attracting story leads.

    The industry’s changed beyond all recognition and trainers need to adapt and change with it or the claim by many young people that they’re being ‘released into the wild’ totally unprepared for the realities of a job on a local paper and quickly end up disillusioned will continue to be made

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