IT has been nearly three years since I began my first paid internship at a national paper. I was brimming with excitement and I didn’t know what to expect; in hindsight, I was probably terrified because I was almost two hours early.
The crime reporter, Graham McKendry, gave me the opportunity of the placement following a chance meeting at a family barbecue. I jumped at it and carried his business card around with me for weeks, brandishing it to anyone and everyone.
When it was finally ten o’clock, I entered through the grand mahogany doors of Guildhall in Glasgow. I gazed around, clutching at the business card. In the middle of an impressive, shining white foyer was an oval desk with two burly men behind it. I nervously asked them if they could call someone from the paper down since I didn’t have a security pass. They kindly obliged.
What felt like a lifetime later, a young woman, who I would come to know as Jacqueline McGhie, gave me a smile and escorted me up to the newsroom.
There I was, in the busy bustling newsroom of the Scottish News of the World.
Jacqui organised me a seat and a computer and told me to read a couple of back issues to get used to the house style and the kind of stories they publish.
Minutes later, after getting to know everyone around me on the editorial desk, I was asked if I could phone interview a woman in Inverness for a feature. I was so shocked, I mean I genuinely thought I would be making tea and coffee and asking for a ‘long stand’ in the supply cupboard.
This was the start of a long line of surprises in the months to come.
Everyone was so kind and eager to help me. My article writing was a little shaky in the first couple of weeks, I was still getting used to the house style and how to refer to things and my overall structure… well, I was fresh out of first year.
When I got used to the style of writing, I was on a roll, I couldn’t be stopped! I was helping with stories, accompanying journalists to photo shoots and a Scottish Cup final, getting out and about with other reporters, meeting famous people, churning out my first bylines in a national Sunday newspaper, everything was going great!
July had rolled around by this point and I arranged two weeks off to retreat off to Skye with my fiance.
I was actually choking to get back to my work. Where I was now working full-time during the summer for £100 a week, it was the dream gig for a journalism student .
Then, on the drive home, I was listening to the radio.
“The Sunday newspaper, News of the World, is to be shut down in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.”
My jaw dropped, I couldn’t believe it. I knew that the London office was in hot water with all the accusations put forth against them, but I had no idea that they would actually end the paper.
I arrived back to the office. It wasn’t the same as it once was. All of the jovial reporters were now solemn and deathly quiet.
I took my seat, not wanting to disturb the layer of silence in the room.
The editor came out from his office.
He told us that a man from London had come to speak to everyone. Staff from The Scottish Sun joined us to listen; the office was so full, you couldn’t move. The man from London took the floor.
In a short, blunt manner he swiftly told everyone at the Scottish News of the World that they no longer had a job. They would be paid for a further three months and they were expected to have removed all of their things from from their desk, and from their hard drives, by the end of the week.
There was a moment of complete silence. The story-hungry Sun journalists momentarily stopped writing, the staff looked to the Londoner as if expecting him to say more. He didn’t.
Some people began to cry, men and women. On the editorial desk alone was a woman who was about to have twins, another woman about to get married, a lot of people in the office were very young and had just begun their careers. How were they expected to continue?
There are no words to express how unfair this was.
The Scottish office had absolutely nothing to do with the phone hacking. The majority of the newsroom would have still been in high school or university when it is said to have taken place, in London.
It is horrible to have a mob protesting outside of your work, telling you how awful you are while you are packing up all your belongings and having to head home to a dependent family, blamed for something that wasn’t your fault.
Lisa-Nicole Mitchell is a third-year BA in Journalism student at Edinburgh Napier University.