Journalism student gets head start with help from the Hartlepool Mail

Gemma Hirst with managing editor Gavin Foster (left) and digital editor Ross Robertson (right).
Gemma Hirst with managing editor Gavin Foster (left) and digital editor Ross Robertson (right).

An aspiring reporter is on the path to success after completing a unique partnership scheme aimed at giving journalism students a better taste of the industry.

Gemma Hirst, 20, is the first student to complete Johnston Press North East’s summer placement programme as part of a link-up between the company and the University of Sunderland.

Gemma worked alongside reporters to produce stories, videos and live coverage for the Hartlepool Mail and sister titles the Sunderland Echo and the Shields Gazette.

She said: “It was the best four weeks of journalism experience. I have learned so much in the time that I’ve been here and I am so grateful for it.

“The skills I have gained I will be able to use not only when I go back to university, but also in my future career in journalism. My confidence has definitely grown.”

Gemma was the first of two second-year journalism students to take part in the scheme this summer.

The second, Matt Riggs, has now begun his placement.

Students applying were subject to a full recruitment process involving a written application and tough interview with managing editor Gavin Foster.

Successful candidates must then complete logbook during their placement, similar to that given to trainee reporters.

Gavin said: “We wanted to give the students as close as possible an experience to that of a full-time reporter, and something to show for their time here.

“We also wanted to ensure the placement gave the students a real taste of what it’s like to work in a modern newsroom, and give them the skills they really need for a career in the industry as it is today.”

He added: “We were very impressed with Gemma. She was keen, enthusiastic and a great self-starter who brought in stories and embraced our digital ethos.

“She even took part in a pilot video project we were undertaking to trial for Johnston Press nationally.

“It was great to have someone with her hunger and passion.

“We are hoping to develop this scheme further as part of our partnership which we believe will be of benefit to our business, the students and the university.”