Q&A with Lydia

Hi Lydia, could you please introduce yourself and tell us briefly what it is that you do? 

My name is Lydia and currently I am an Autism Blogger at mademoisellewomen.com. I am also a trainee journalist-meaning that I am undertaking an NCTJ qualification. (NCTJ stands for the National Council for the Training of Journalists.) I’m also a pen pal of the inimitable Charlene.

 Have you always aspired to be a Journalist? Where did the passion come from?

No, not at all. It was an accumulation of things that came overtime; for instance, I love to write, it’s my favourite thing. But I am not good with fiction-which linked back to my Aspergers Syndrome diagnosis. I was also curious-always having to question things-and I had a fascination with words and people from history. (There’s a bit more about it here) As to passion: it developed over time-with every editor that I worked with, feedback on the blog. There’s always the story-the people at the very core of something-which is the main reason for me being in this industry.

 What is your top tips/advice to budding journalists?

That’s a tricky one; I’m not quite qualified yet, so I don’t regard myself as being in a position to! But if I had to..‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get’; it’s something that a relative would say to me a lot. You may feel silly asking “can I do this feature?”, “can I interview you?” but you have nothing to loose.Networking is important; life, in a way, is about connections. (It’s who you know, etc.) So: get in Twitter, speak to people at events, hand out business cards.

Read everything-books, papers, magazines. That’s where ideas come from. Or: consume media-websites, tweets, podcasts, leaflets.Keep a notebook with you-as well as something like a diary to keep you organised. Inspiration is everywhere-and since I’ve started training, I keep a rolling list of story ideas. Organisation is also key-as well as punctuality. (Cristina at Criddle Me This had a wonderful post about this)

Finally: be curious.

 Besides Journalism, what are your other hobbies and passions?

 Blogging is something I love, and I have been doing it for nearly six years now. (Though I deleted my early mawkish posts.)

Although connected to being a trainee journalist, I love going to events-whether panel events held by Byline media at the National Union Of Journalists’ HQ, concerts-Lissie and Anastacia are incredible!-or plays. I also enjoy reading-being away from my worldly cares-and listening to podcasts. (I even wrote about my favourites for The Growing Up Guide). Apart from that, Netflix boxsets are also a favourite thing to watch all at once; Orphan Black anyone?

What would be your dream gig as a Journalist? 

 That’s a hard question-and it’s something I’m still working out how to answer. I love interviewing people-purely as I’m nosy. I also love going to concerts and performances to review them. (War Horse is amazing!) But I also like the idea of investigative journalism-honing in on something, enough to write about it in detail. So: anything incorporating all of this!) In all seriousness, I’d probably go for investigations.

What’s the most rewarding thing you have done in your career as a Journalist so far?

There’s three different things-for different reasons-as I consider myself to be lucky. They all acted as “turning points”, later influencing me.

First of all: meeting Queen Extravaganza, the official Queen tribute band (https://mademoisellewomen.com/2015/11/04/meeting-quex/). (I am a massive Queen fan, as I love rock music.) But I had interviewed the lead singer, Marc Martel, and asked to meet the band-which was an immense experience for sixteen year old me. I was talking to a band frontman! Then: meeting Anastacia (we remember the song, “I’m Outta Love”, right?), where I asked for an interview. https://mademoisellewomen.com/2016/08/22/anastacia/ She said yes! She’s also a lovely human being-and gave me prompt answers via email. The third thing I can’t talk about publicly just yet-as I’m still writing it up. (But I’ll probably tell you about it in our letters, Charlene.) 

 You are currently working on your shorthand skills, is this a necessary requirement to be a journalist? Is it difficult to learn?

Shorthand… is a very controversial subject. I think it depends on the sort of journalist you wish to be-as it’s a dying skill, and isn’t used in all sectors necessarily. But I think it shows versatility, as well as tenacity; it’s also useful. It is difficult to learn in the sense that you can’t pick it up all in one go; it takes a while. (My impatience was not good at this time! I was frustrated, thinking: “I’m a terrible journalist if I can’t do this!”) But: practice makes perfect. 

 If you could sum up journalism in three words, what would you say?

 News is addictive. People are interesting. Stories are vital. The Public interest matters. (Oh, that’s four!) 

Is there any books you would recommend to Journalists (and writers alike) to read? 

Books are important; this Fleet Street Editor says it best. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fvw6NYECd00 It’s something I could go on and on about. So.. (drum roll please!)

My Paperchase by Sir Harold Evans is a pretty hefty book, but it’s about Evans’ career as a journalist. (He was the editor of The Sunday Times when it uncovered Thalidomide.) This is one of my favourite books-I can’t recommend it enough. Untold by Alistair Morgan and Peter Jukes. Without giving too much away, this book details press abuses; I think that how not to be a journalist could be made clearer. I have had the pleasure of meeting both authors-and they are wonderful people. https://mademoisellewomen.com/2018/03/12/untold/ Journalism by Anna Mckane. This book is like the ‘cheat sheet’ of all cheat sheets; it’s the essential handbook. The Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown. This is the story of an English woman, barely put her thirties, who goes to New York, to turn round a flagging magazine. It’s glossy, witty, and a good book. The Dairy of Anne Frank. This is one of my favourite books-and I think how the writing develops is quite something. In my opinion, everyone should read this. Journalistically, simply put, when I leave this world I’d like to leave it in a better way than when it was when I was born; this reminds me of that. (It may be idealistic, but that’s not a crime.) The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron. This book is a materclass in how to tell a story, and how to tell it well.

 Is there anything else you would like to add?

In interviews, use a dictaphone; the clearer the recording the better. ( I learnt this the hard way recently.) Also: don’t write people off; they surprise you at times. Be curious about everything. Persist. Be kind; the story is the means for the people, not the other way round.For all the ‘bashing’ journalists get, we aren’t all that bad. And don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do anything you want to do (as long as it’s legal!)  

If you want to ask me ask questions, you can always send me an email at mademoisellewomenblog@gmail.com.

It’s been a pleasure having Lydia over on the blog, a real breath of fresh air, and she always has loads of insightful things to say! Thank you so much, Lydia!

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Email: charlenemcelhinney@icloud.com

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5 Comments

  1. April 23, 2018 / 10:59 am

    It’s always nice interviewing and getting to know other bloggers! I remember not long after I started, I did a fair few blogger Q&A’s on my blog, it was always fun to read everyone’s answers!

  2. April 23, 2018 / 4:18 pm

    Really enjoyed this. I love getting to know more bloggers xx

  3. alohalola
    April 24, 2018 / 9:05 am

    Ah a fellow journalist! Although I did my NCTJs many years ago I love hearing about the passion and love people share for news, human interest stories and writing! I wish Lydia all the best in her studies x x x

  4. May 5, 2018 / 1:16 am

    This is so interesting! Definitely going to check out her blog now! 🙂

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