Last week, five colleagues and I were lucky enough to be picked to attend the PTC New Journalist Awards in Westminster. Held at the decidedly swanky Millenium Mayfair in Grosvenor Sqaure, it was hopefully a taste of things to come for us budding journalists from little old Cardiff. After a rather dazed coach journey - four hours next to a stinking toilet is not my favourite way to travel - I straightened out my new Topshop pencil skirt and trotted along to the hotel. By this point we were pretty starving, and also late, so when we were immediately split up and siphoned off into different panelled rooms we really were confused.
However, once we were in it was a different story. I really wish I was in one of the other groups, as the first speakers I got to see were Tom Dunmore of Stuff Magazine, and Michael Harvey of TopGear who were talking about multi-platforming and 'brand'. Strange man-jargon aside, this was a great session and I would have liked to have seen the start of it!
Michael Harvey is, to be honest, a bit of a legend. Hints suggest that he is slightly renegade in his post at BBC Worldwide and he certainly seemed so in person. He swore - to be expected - and mumbled a bit, but was generally entertaining even *gasp* without a powerpoint presentation! I watch Top Gear religiously so found it interesting that he was talking about how the brand relies somewhat on Jeremy Clarkson, and how personality is so tied up in brand. Especially when my favourite is the Hamster. But I see what he means, as Top Gear without Jez would be a bit like Russel Brand with a No1 cut, or a shake-free Ozzy Osborne - OK, but without its USP.
Tom Dunmore (quite apart from being surprisingly fit, and reminding me of Ollie Rowe the Urban Chef, another crush of mine) was really entertaining, mainly because he too swore and showed us funny videos. He said that they had really had to pull their socks up at Stuff with the advent of online, particularly as their first attempts at a website were, as he noted, pretty shitty. I did wonder though if with a prevalence of women in the room and his repeated appearances on Radio 1's Jo Whiley show, whether Stuff was having to revolutionise itself and move away from the lad's mag persona. A quick look at the magazine or website will tell you this hasn't happened too much, but I'm sure that with more and more pretty gadgets out there, the female interest will be growing every day. Unfortunately I didn't have much time to ask my question, as we were hustled along to the next session, a pattern which was to continue until lunch.
Next it was on to the imaginatively titled "What do high heels, building design and thrashing rock music have in common? No, not an architect dressed in drag at a Metallica gig!" session. This was led by Scott Rowley of Metal Hammer and Classic Rock, Ali Hall, who launched Look this year, and Amanda Bailleau of BD, an architects B2B mag. They all said pretty much the same thing - that you have to know the reader and learn by trial and error - except Scott Rowley who sort of contradicted himself by saying all this and then saying that the reader doesn't really know what they want. So I think we had to draw our own conclusions out of that session, but I did enjoy seeing Ali Hall as I read Look quite a lot. I was surprised that she said that they expressly have no sex content in the magazine, to concentrate solely on shopping, until I realised that I buy it for exactly that reason before any clandestine spending spree. Again, there was no time for questions, as we were shifted on to session 3.
Session 3 was the ethical bit. John Sanderson, director of Environmental affairs UK, at UPM kicked off the session with a talk which revolved around a strange but effective metaphor - that ethical printing and sourcing of a magazine is like the 'balanced food plate', with a 'healthy' amount of virgin and recycled fibre. He compared fully recycled paper to a diet, and said that you cannot live on recycled paper alone. This was interesting and thought-provoking but of course, as a cynic, I couldn't help but wonder how much his business would lose if print disappeared. Next was Alison Carter of Printing World, with a short talk which contained a lot of figures and therefore left my un-numerical brain flailing a little. However, then we were on to lunch, and my, was that an affair.
Bearing in mind we had been up since 4.30am and not eaten anything, 1pm found us a little dizzy. Several free glasses of champage, rose and bucks fizz later, and we were even dizzier. We spent the meal playing a drinking game by betting on a winner, if you won the others had to drink...you get the gist. Lunch was quite nice apart from the coconutty/eggy concoction pretending to be a creme brulée. My tutor Jane was nearly sick. All in all it was very fun, and one of those uncanny meetings with someone I used to vaguely know at uni who was sat at my table just compounded the hilarity, and drinking.
So, a little sozzled, and with a slight telling off from a pompous man at the tube station (if you will sit in a train station pub, what do you expect apart from drunk people in suits? Its hardly a private members club) we were back on the coach with the fetid loo. Unfortunately this time we were sitting nearer to it, so I spent most of the journey straining to do the crossword and three sudokus over the shoulder of the man next to me, and trying not to be that annoying person on public transport who butts in to your private puzzle. By the time we got back to Cardiff he was practically tenting his jacket around the paper to hide it, and I had started to get a tiny hangover.
All in all a great day out!!