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Five graduates – codenamed “The Freelancer”, “The Intern”, “The Detective”, “The Student” and “The Chancer” – all, as their names suggest, trying to get into journalism by different means. So how have some of our own chosen to deal with audio journalism? And how far have they succeeded?
To date, the Hacks have produced three podcasts, building on their first attempts at the Redbrick student paper with these “brief ten-minute-ish chats” chaired by “The Freelancer” Matt Caines. Starting out with student journalism, the group then went on to tackle the rights and wrongs of unpaid work experience. Their most recent podcast plunged into the biggest news on the student radar at the moment – the student protest at Millbank, and specifically the media’s coverage of it.Straight away they win on interest value. You can’t help but want to listen to three young guys with a passion for their job that really comes out in their discussions. The enviable do-gooder ethics of The Intern set against the cheeky northern charm of The Student (you can almost visualise the scene as The Intern snaps “don’t you give me that cheeky grin”), and the cringeworthy quote “what’s important is your friends” get a groan of “you cheesy sod”, produce an engaging mix that Radio 4 could learn a thing or two from.
The Hacks also get top marks for structure and – at least in the first two posts – clarity. The debates are broken down into one or two topics, separated by catchy pencil-scribbling and typewriter-tapping sound effect nuggets. The first podcast was a great blow-by-blow list of student journalism “top tips”, with their reasons for getting into student journalism, what they had enjoyed, and also some downright honest criticism and different opinions.
Both the first two debates were excellently chaired as well. Listening to three guys’ voices for then minutes, you run the risk of losing track of who’s saying what, but in the second post in particular, Matt Caines kept us in the loop by introducing the speaker regularly.
The third debate on the media coverage of the student attack on Millbank at the protest against tuition fees tackled a controversial subject. The Hacks made some brave points – notably their criticism of Kay Burley’s “facts” – “they distort the truth!”.
However, in terms of clear radio broadcasting, it seemed less prepared than the first two posts. In the first chunk they debated whether the media had hyped up the event – debated in a loose-ish sense, as it turned into more of a row. The Freelancer, previously so adept at chairing the debate, turned was not quite up to the heated atmosphere, found himself shouted over by the others and forgot to introduce them. However, it calmed down in the later stages, before winding up on a tidy and ironic look at modern journalism – check out the podcast to find out who won the debate and you’ll see what I mean.
So do the Wannabe Hacks cut the proverbial mustard as audio hacks? Judging by their efforts so far, the answer is a resounding yes. They give us a clear insight into the trials and tribulations of the trying-to-make-it young jouro; the debates are generally balanced; and apart from the odd occasion where they get a bit carried away with the excitement of a subject – they are well structured, well chaired and – the most importantly – a joy to listen to.