Back into the Newsroom – kiddie-style

As anyone knows who knows me well, or who regularly follows my blog, I spend a lot of time planning stuff – and a bit less time actually doing stuff. I have made an art out of procrastination.

I have even got my own Homer-style bum groove in the settee; evidence of my recent inertia.

For a few years now I’ve had excuses, in the shape of two beautiful little boys. Somebody once suggested I had them five years apart to string out the time I could stay at home guilt-free. They might have a point.

But now my littlest fella has started school. Time for Super Jane to fly into action!

From about May onwards I prepared for his September school start by doing yet more planning.

In fact, I planned a crazy, impossible workload.

By Christmas, according to my schedule, I will have relaunched my PR company Rock House Communications, made a success of two new business ideas, had a series of features published in national newspapers and magazines, become thin and super-athletic, and my house will be fit to grace the cover of Beautiful Homes.

Well, it’s been three weeks. I am, incredibly and to my complete surprise, not doing as badly as I thought I would.

That Christmas deadline is, of course, completely unachievable, and I don’t see me turning much of a profit on the work front for a few months yet, but things are beginning to fall into place.

I am actually DOING SOMETHING – and am all the happier for it.

As a wise man once said, the longest journeys begin with a single step. Well, I’ve taken a few small steps.

One of them has been to persuade a local head teacher to let me work with a group of kids at her primary school once a week to write and produce a school newspaper.

It’s a little something I’ve been meaning to do for a long while and now have the time to actually put into practice.

As an ex-hack, I’d almost forgotten just how incredibly brilliant it was to be at the heart of a newsroom. The buzz of knocking round story ideas, coming up with quirky angles, giggling over silly headlines, teeing up interviews and photo opportunities…

Okay, I might be getting just a teensy bit carried away. It’s a lower school classroom, after all, not Canary Wharf.

Our newsroom consists of four unreliable computers, Publisher (2003 edition), a point-and-shoot camera and a photocopier.

But I can’t help getting caught up in the excitement of it all. It takes me back to some of the best years of my working life.

I’ve already filled the kids’ heads with the more memorable bits of my own time as a daily reporter and news editor.

Like the time I spent covering the major news stories of the 90s and early noughties, including 9/11, Princess Di’s death and the House of Horrors.

Like the excitement of interviewing famous criminals, prime ministers and celebrities (if you count Mark E Smith, Noddy Holder and 5ive).

The buzz of seeing your name on the front page.

The joy of meeting inspiring and passionate people from all walks of life.

The free travel around the world.

I don’t think I’ll bother to tell them about the hours and hours of boredom in magistrates’ courts and council meetings; of wading through dull press releases and meeting some of the most boring people ever.

Nor about the long, long days, early starts, late nights and threats of violence (and that was just from my bosses.)

As a result they are enthusiastic, uber-keen, funny and really happy to give up their own time – including their playbreaks and lunchtimes – to pursue stories, carry out interviews and be right little nosey parkers.

At the first session we drew up our first news list, the children telling me what they knew about what was going on at school.

The school chickens have had new chicks. “Great,” I said. “Let’s get a picture taken,write a pun-filled caption – include the word egg-straordinary. Next!”

Giant white carrots have been pulled up at the school allotment. “Ditto… Next!”

One boy’s just returned to England after living in Spain and another girl has come back after living in Canada. “Lovely – let’s get a nice interview about the contrasting lifestyles and schooling, accompanied by a spread of pics from Spain, Canada and here. Next!”

There’s a fundraiser being held next week for a poorly pupil. “Let’s tell his story, find out what else we can do to help him. Next!”

The mayor’s coming to a coffee morning at school. “Ooh, let’s interview him about his own schooldays. And get a picture of him with the reporting team. Next!”

I think I might have got carried away, barking out orders. I think I also forgot they are only nine and ten, and that I might be expecting just a tad too much from them.

A few days after this meeting, one of the cub reporters approached me in the playground, proudly took out his reporters’ notebook and turned the page.

“Look at this,” he murmered, furtively looking around.

It was a list of boys and girls names. “What is it?”

“That,” he said, “has taken me all lunchtime to put together. It’s only a list of who is going out with who in Year 5! What do you think?”

“Er, what do you want to do with it?”

“Print it. In the first edition. I think we could run a regular column. We’ll call it Young Love and do a list of all the couples, with their pictures, and then everyone will know who is going out with who. I’ve already asked everyone and the ones with a tick by their name say they want to be included.”

I read through the list again. “Your name’s on here. It says you’re going out with J. But last week you told me J got on your nerves.”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t want to be left out of the list so I asked her to be my girlfriend again.” Mmm. Kid logic.

I suggested it might not be, well, appropriate for a school newspaper. And most of the couples would be split up by the time we printed the first edition in a few weeks. And people not included might be sad. And I was pretty sure the head teacher wouldn’t want it included.

“But,” he retorted, “everyone’s really excited about being in the paper now. And you did say it was up to us, as editors, to decide what to include.”

He has a point. I think I did say that.

So, will they publish and be damned? It will certainly be interesting at our next get-together to see if I can use my years of experience to successfully persuade them to do the right thing.

Here’s to doing stuff, whatever it may be. Enjoy doing your stuff this week!

PS: My camera is at the insurers being repaired and I’m missing it a lot. I love taking photographs, finding it a nice way to be alone, to chill out and to really appreciate the world around me. I particularly love taking pictures of my beautiful kids. You can see my attempts on my flickr pages at

However, they pale into insignificance next to the amazing pictures being churned out currently by an old pal Mark. If you want to see some lovely landscapes, check out his flickr pages at or see his blog all about his adventures as an amateur photographer here

  1. Brilliant – can’t wait to find out whether journalistic integrity wins out… How long before the teachers get papped on their way back into school from the pub on Friday lunchtime?!

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