Journalism veteran inspires students

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The Universal Journalist author David Randall talks to JMU Journalism students. Pic © Natalie Townsend / JMU Journalism

The Universal Journalist author David Randall talks to JMU Journalism students. Pic © Natalie Townsend / JMU Journalism

Veteran newspaperman David Randall came ‘up north’ to give LJMU journalism students an engaging and inspirational insight into the world of reporting.

David, who has news edited three national newspapers and written The Universal Journalist, delivered a refreshing and honest account of what it takes to be a working reporter to a crowded lecture theatre. His hour-long talk was full of entertaining anecdotes, invaluable tips and advice for his audience of budding journalists.

The 64-year-old looks and talks like a man who’s seen and done it all, and didn’t fail in giving shrewd guidance, not only on how to write imaginatively, but how to conduct yourself as a journalist, explaining ‘the best journalists are the ones who blend in’.

David described the importance of the journalist’s role as a storyteller as he prowled the packed lecture theatre, often involving the audience in scenarios as examples of how to conduct oneself in an interview – or the ‘I’ word, as he likes to call it.

His gravelly voice implored the audience to embrace their individuality and think of alternative ways to convey a story, as well as how to prepare and sell yourself for life after university.

“Never call it an interview, it’s unnerving. Shape the questions to get the answers you want, chat to them, be natural and never get your notepad out and wave it under their nose!”

“Don’t use clichés and puns. Recognise your purpose here is to tell a story so use a narrative chronology and detail … you are a storyteller, so tell it!

The Universal Journalist author David Randall talks to JMU Journalism students. Pic © Natalie Townsend / JMU Journalism

The Universal Journalist author David Randall talks to JMU Journalism students. Pic © Natalie Townsend / JMU Journalism

“You’re a brand and a product in the shop window. You have to make yourself as attractive to employers as you possibly can. When you leave here with your degree this is just the beginning, your training doesn’t stop.”

And his biggest piece of advice?

“Be a compulsive reader. You can’t be a great reporter if you aren’t a compulsive reader.”

Ipswich-born David received appreciative applause at the end of the talk, which concluded with a stirring story about Chris Brasher, Great Britain’s only athletics gold medallist in the 1956 Olympics, with whom he worked at The Observer.

“When we asked him how he won, even though he wasn’t the favourite, he said the most inspiring words I’ve ever heard. He said: ‘Because my heart wanted it more than their legs’, and I promise you if your heart wants it enough, you will do it!”

About Josh Kelsall, JMU Journalism