Hello hello, I'm Clare - a 20 year old Journalism and Film studies student at Coleraine. I’m currently on a gap year (expanding the mind, etc) with my final year still to complete.

Writing, music and film are all passions of mine and so combining them all was something I was really keen to do. Despite not being in University and thus away from the obligation to do anything productive, I am an avid writer for local music site GiggingNI and a contributor to student blog SocialStudent.

Discovering Cool Choices was something really exciting for me because it was the perfect opportunity to make my gap year both productive and relevant to my degree. Not only can I apply what I already know, it's a chance to expand my knowledge and experience and learn how a proper media environment works. It's a really great start to something that will hopefully help me on my way to a career in the media industry.

All the Emotions 9/03

11 March 2016

Today I arrived under the assumption that the broadcast was over and it was time to concentrate on blogging and OCN work…I was wrong.

Throughout the morning we sat down together for the head-melting task of filling out the OCN helpbook, the answers of which we would transfer onto the proper one. It was moreso a chore than anything but we got through with only minimal insults thrown at eachother.

During lunch I took to blogging because I’m an absolute STAR (some may also call it very, very behind). While I was typing away, smoke coming out my super-fast fingers, Steve asked me for help with the broadcast. Turns out when Conor and I were recording my voice is a lot quieter than his because of either the position of the mic or me…naturally, I’m blaming me.

He said the options were either deal with it and edit it as much as possible or…re-record all of my lines. Honestly this was the last thing I wanted to hear – while I wasn’t completely happy with my voice I was relieved the recording was over and done with. Steve consulted David etc who said if it would improve the broadcast it was better to re-record my parts. Honestly I knew this was for the best too so after sitting around and avoiding it for a bit, I got over it and went with Steve to re-record my parts.
I guess you could say the opportunity to re-record was a good thing because I could improve on the things I didn’t like last time. However, while this is true – I’m never going to be happy with my voice on the broadcast. Now that Steve had everything he needed we were informed the broadcast would be ready to listen to tomorrow, much to my dismay. Again, dramatic – but I’m certainly not looking forward to it.

To finish off the day I returned to the OCN work. Filled with brownies and relieved re-recording was over, it wasn’t too much of a task. However, it was certainly a lot of work and it was going to need to be completed tomorrow before we had any sort of fun day.

If I don’t get the opportunity to blog tomorrow because I’m so busy having too much FUN then I want to take the time now to say how fab an experience this has been. I was soso excited to start this programme and I’ve honestly enjoyed every minute. This is the first sort-of work related thing that I had to get out of bed for that I actually genuinely enjoyed. The experiences, opportunities and even qualifications the Academy has given us have been so special and I’m so thankful to everyone involved.
FEELINGS ETC. But honestly – I’m so sad this experience is over and I will be recommending it to everyone that will listen – my friends, my mum, the old lady next door, my dog. It’s been fab.

If You Could Kindly Mute My Parts… 8/03

10 March 2016

Now that everything was pretty much finished it was really just a waiting game until Conor and I recorded all of our links. That added bit of pressure really made my dread of recording even more enjoyable, really.

In retrospect, again, I’m being dramatic. It’s not a lie that I genuinely was dreading going into the studio after recording the initial intro (now changed). However , after a brief read through the script on my own and a further read through with Rebecca I suppose my dread was slowly fading…not completely though.

The actual recording only took about half an hour to get through the whole script. Once complete, I realised it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought and I actually quite enjoyed it.
However – it wasn’t the recording itself I was dreading, it was how it turned out. Conor and I waited in the studio with Steve for a bit while he edited our links briefly and therefore got to hear a few of our lines. Naturally, I hated hearing it back and immediately noticed things I could have done differently. I genuinely don’t know if this is valid or I’m always just too hard on myself – I hope it’s the latter but it could well be the former.

Recording took us up until lunchtime, after which we tackled our blogs. I certainly had a lot to do because between working on the actual broadcast and going straight to my job after I honestly didn’t have the time.

Now that the links were recorded the work on the broadcast was complete. It’s bittersweet – it had definitely been an intense few weeks and a break was appreciated but I’m honestly sad our time here is coming to an end. I’d make a bloody MILLION broadcasts if it meant staying!!! (hyperbole – I’m not that committed).

While we waited on Steve piecing the broadcast together we planned the next few days. Today is Tuesday and our work on the broadcast was complete. What followed on the agenda were both our OCNs and blogs which Rebecca etc seemed to believe we could have finished tomorrow for a fun day on Thursday and surprise day off on Friday. The news of the day off on Friday was met with more silence than cheers – we genuinely don’t want to leave.

There was a boring day of paperwork ahead but there was also a promise of brownies courtesy of Lynsey so can we really complain?

Shaking Hands and Politics 7/03

I got a cheeky lie in this morning since a few of us were hitting Stormont for some serious FUN.

Despite the lie in, my mind wasn’t alert enough to realise I should probably at least wash my hair before going to such a fancy building. Alas I did not, and thus I bounced into Stormont with messy hair and a hole in my leggings…woops.

More immediate regret followed as at least 3 politicians of sorts (I’m clueless, honestly) suggested we get a photo for them to put on their Twitter. How I didn’t realise that today would be a photoshoot day is beyond me but I certainly won’t be instagramming those photos in a hurry.

The purpose of the Stormont visit was to meet with SDLP MLA Fearghal McKinney and give him an update on the Academy since his last visit at Start 360. It seems Fearghal is a very busy man with all his politics and the like so we got to go into the Chamber while we waited and watch them…decide on things (really, really clueless guys).

Once Fearghal was free we went to a nice room to have some tea and a chat. He asked us our thoughts on the Academy and general advice on what can be done for young people in Northern Ireland. It was at least an interesting visit even if I did feel completely out of place.

Conor, Tara and I returned back to the Academy for the last 40 minutes or so. It seemed we missed a really productive day and we arrived back to the news essentially everything was finished minus the recorded links
(no pressure eh).

It was all systems go for the last half hour while Conor and I both wrote the concluding link and typed up as many scripts as possible. Rebecca reminded us of the urgency to be completely ready to go into the studio tomorrow to record and so the scripts needed to be typed up. As I’m working tonight Conor kindly took them home to hopefully get them ready and printed.

The Scripting Goes On 4/03

Since Conor and I had got a little distracted from scripting yesterday while doing other things/waiting for help, today was to be solely dedicated to getting it wrapped up.

We began the day with a meeting from Rebecca who emphasised the need for everyone to be working constantly. She explained that Conor and I had to solely concentrate on writing today as opposed to listening to interviews and vox pops – there were others in the team that could do that like Caprice and Jonny since they were in the scripting department anyway.

With that in mind, Conor and I took our place at the table where we were to stay for the whole day. However, staying in one place doesn’t always minimise distractions – but we were in need of a break every now and then anyway.

Rebecca kindly sat with us for some assistance if we hit a wall and also to confirm that what we were writing was good enough. Despite 5 links needing done it was an enjoyable day – the sun had its lil hat on and it was fridaaaaayyy.

As the day dwindled on and everyone seemed to finish their tasks, the table became a bit more crowded and thus it was harder to work. However – we had everything up until our conclusion finished and ready to record so it was definitely a productive day.

Lynsey approached Conor, Caprice and I to inform us we would actually be paying a visit to Stormont on Monday instead of coming here. Between my lack of interest in politics (A* journo student eh) and my desire to be in the Academy to get things done this wasn’t a very exciting prospect for me. However, I was happy to attend anyway and see what would happen.

Our visit to Stormont meant we would be gone most of Monday and thus recording should take place Tuesday for all our links. The scripts were now written, minus the conclusion, and ready to be typed up with what little time we would have on Monday. If I’m honest I was still kind of half dreading getting in the studio on Tuesday but my attitude was I had the weekend to enjoy before that, even if I am working. See y’all Monday!

Scripting 101 3/03

As instructed yesterday, today was to be about scripting with Rebecca’s assistance. Ideally by the end of today, or realistically by the end of the week, all links had to be scripted and ready for recording in the studio come Monday or Tuesday.

Since thus far only the intro, Jack Graham’s link and 30% of a vox pop link had been scripted, we certainly had a lot to complete. Writing hats on boys and girls and pens at the ready.

However, Rebecca and her wisdom were in demand today from a variety of different people. Perhaps most significant was her necessary presence at our interview with Aodhan Woods that was taking place today along with Caprice. Accepting that we were perhaps lower on the list (story of my life </3), Conor and I took it upon ourselves to type up final drafts of existing links for Rebecca to review.

Once that was complete it was onto whatever else could be done – there was no time to be wasted lingering around waiting. Thomas from editing asked if we would listen to his edited vox pops to see how he was getting on. It was really exciting to hear some essentially finished content and see some evident progress.

An interview listening session followed, during which we were able to hear Jack Graham’s edited interview and the raw Aodhan Woods interview that had just taken place. Both pieces were incredibly strong and it’s great that everyone had faith in the work that had been done. Pats on the back for all!

After lunch it was finally time for some scripting. Conor, Rebecca and I tucked ourselves away in a separate room aiming, perhaps too ambitiously, to get all links scripted.

I say perhaps like I’m unsure – it was definitely too ambitious. However, we definitely made progress and it was incredibly helpful getting Rebecca’s guidance.

She was able to give us a better idea of the length of link we were able to produce. The scripts that had already been written, including the intro which was also recorded, were too brief. Once Rebecca helped us beef out and reword the intro to be re – recorded, we realised the kind of thing we should aim for for each link.

Again, Rebecca’s advice was incredibly helpful and while we didn’t get everything scripted we were able to change and perfect what had already been done – ready to be recorded.

We got 3 out of 8 links scripted and ready for the studio which may not have been the aim but tomorrow was ready and waiting to be filled with productivity. Rebecca ensured we realised how important it was to get the scripting completed tomorrow and with a better insight into what is expected I believe this is achievable. Believe, achieve etc. I’m starting to sound cheesier than the skits.

Less Hands Work Just as Well 2/03

After yesterday’s attempt at putting some order into today, we were feeling motivated to get things done. I know I was anyway!

10 am has always been the start time at the Academy but everyone just kind of danders in as close to that time as possible. Therefore, we took half an hour to blog while everyone arrived and we could get started.

I say everyone but realistically it was less than everyone – we had a significant amount of missing heads today. However, while this means less people to lend a hand it actually meant it was easier to organise everyone into different tasks so silver linings eh???

So as planned, the scripting team who were all present (high fives to us), meaning Caprice, Jonny, Conor and I, sat down with Karl from editing to listen back to Jack Graham’s interview. Jack was interviewed the day before and we thought it was best to listen as a group and pinpoint the essential parts to include in the broadcast – with this knowledge we would also find it easier to script the introducing link.

I really enjoyed listening back to Jack’s interview and it’s a shame it had to be cut down because everything he said was really informative. However, we are running on a tight time slot and so we had to be ruthless before passing the content onto Karl to be edited. It’s tasks like these that I’m really keen to do because it’s productive and makes you feel like you’re making progress.

With the aim set that we would have the interview listened to and the link scripted before lunch, we concentrated on some writing. With our trusty file of research, also known as The Bible, we quickly scripted a short link that would lead into Jack’s interview. One link down – seven to go!

After lunch we got to listen to the vox pops that Thomas was in the process of editing, again to give us an insight into the content we should script around. We made some notes of everyone’s different answers that we could incorporate into the script so the links would flow properly.

With this information at hand Conor and I attempted to script link 4 which would lead into one of our vox pops. I’d say we got it about 30% done as motivation and inspiration were running low at this point. Evidently this was obvious as Rebecca picked up on it and said tomorrow would be spent scripted with her to make a lot more progress. She explained that by jumping across a variety of links to script as opposed to doing them in chronological order was probably where we were going wrong, but tomorrow we would dedicate to ticking all the scripting boxes.

With that plan in mind David summoned us all together and called upon me to have a little concluding meeting, discussing today and organising tomorrow. It seemed by injecting some order into today this was going to become a daily thing, which I was happy to do. Everyone seemed happy with what they had achieved today and the more progress we made, the clearer the agenda was for the upcoming days.


While a lot of my morning was wallowing in the fact that it’s already MARCH and I’ve still not fully committed to my healthy eating resolution, there was no time to feel bad about myself – there was stuff be done.

First thing I made sure to do was to remind the news team of the concluding vox pop that we had forgotten about the day before. This was to be completed today along with the stray vox pops that were not recorded yesterday.

Liam, Conor and I then went to a separate room to practice the skits and intro that had been written when I was absent. This included two possible versions of the intro to the broadcast which was also a skit, and another to be placed in the middle.

Luckily, this was redundant since Rebecca and Steve ended up scrapping the skits anyway. They sat us down to review what had been written and honestly I was relieved they didn’t think the skits were necessary. The skit placed in the middle was done away with completely and the intro one was changed so it wasn’t cheesy enough to make your skin crawl (guys I really don’t like skits).

Once the intro script was amended to Rebecca and Steve’s standards it was time to record. I guess you could say we kind of rushed into recording this as opposed to just waiting until everything was written and recording all in one go – hindsight eh.

Recording in the studio was something completely new to me. It was definitely exciting and the whole point of this programme is to get new experiences but if I’m honest I’d still rather someone else took my place.

Because it was completely new to me I needed a lot of guidance and things like that make me uncomfortable – I like rehearsing and perfecting something before I have to put it forward in front of people. I’m probably being dramatic but this brief recording session kind of made me dread having to go back in rather than look forward to it. It was moreso the level of responsibility more than anything else – I didn’t want to ruin everyone else’s hard work with my presenting, since I was part of the bridge to the listener. I was never going to actually bail on presenting but I definitely wasn’t looking forward to going back in the studio.

To finish off the day Caprice, Conor and I got together again to finish off summarising the research, finally getting it down to a few points per sub-topic. We then transferred it all onto 1 A4 sheet that we could easily refer to for scripting (see below pls).

One thing that was definitely easy to notice from today was the only way we were going to make proper progress was if we planned ahead for the upcoming day. Without a plan, the first hour was always wasted with everyone just wondering aimlessly or discussing lunch until David or Rebecca eventually told us to do something.
Caprice and I talked about this and decided we really didn’t have the time to waste in the morning and throughout the day people needed to know what to focus on or nothing would be done. We therefore gathered everyone at the table (after many attempts and an eventual intervention from Rebecca) to discuss what needed done. I always kind of find myself doing this in some form or another in group work and I really don’t like to be the one to do it in case people think I’m trying to take charge. However, when it came down to it – someone had to. A few people made comments about us telling them what to do but we brushed them off and eventually had a rough outline for tomorrow – whether everyone would follow it or not was another matter altogether.

Let’s Get Down to Business 29/02

(If you were the type to sing the title appropriately in the tune of Mulan, you’re my favourite.)

This week marks the start of a very busy, busy, busy few days – we had the structure of our broadcast as of last week which has to be completed by Wednesday next week. That’s 7 days to organise, script, record and edit it completely, if you’re wondering.

As a result there was no time to sit around and chat and the like – we had to take it upon ourselves to get things started. However, this proves quite difficult when there’s 8-12 (our numbers vary depending on who decides they’ll come in that day) to organise and motivate.

Eventually we all sat down to a brief guide to using H4s, which would primarily be used by our news team Garth and Claire A for recording vox pops and interviews. I briefly recalled using such equipment in uni for vox pops however a refresher was definitely necessary and very helpful.

After we were all pros at H4ing (it’s a verb, look it up) courtesy of Steve, we split up into different groups for some practice. Caprice, Claire A and I scuttled off into another room and gave Claire A the H4 to get some practice since she was part of the news team.

Now we were all so knowledgeable it was time to put it to use and record our vox pops. We had three to be covered – one in the introduction, in a middle link and in the conclusion. However, as sometimes happens everyone was a bit distracted and flustered and completely forgot about the existence of the last vox pop.

Therefore, all that was recorded was MOST of the first two, the rest to be recorded tomorrow. It was by the end of the day that I actually realised we had the concluding vox pop to record too, so I made note to remind Liam and Claire A of this.

While the vox pops were ongoing, I went with fellow presenter Conor to type with the scripts and skits they had written on Friday in my absence. If I’m honest I’m really not a skit kind of gal, especially when I felt we had enough interesting and engaging content without forced humour. However, I accepted that they maaay be necessary so typed them up to at least be reviewed by Rebecca and Steve (see below – definite possibility of cringing – don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

The last task for the day was to get together with the scripting team to look over the research that had been done on each topic by different groups – covering homelessness, disability, LGBT, sexual assault and mental health. This meant there was a loooot of research, of which we only needed a few concise points on both statistics and charities.

It seemed a few people got a bit research happy so it was definitely a task to cut it all down, but once that was complete we would have some guidance for scripting. Another day down – some progress made!

Sick lil gal

Today was the morning after the very calm, non-alcohol filled night before. I’m not one to brag but I generally never really get sick. However, it seems my immune system and any existent germs conspired against me and left me rolling around on Thursday night whimpering for sympathy from my mum/unable to move.

As a result of this horrible betrayal by my body I unfortunately had to miss today. Of course the day that I miss is also the day the group get to meet Molly from a previous cohort, chat with the Regional Managing Director for Bauer academy in Northern Ireland aaaand get their photo taken for a two page spread in the Sunday Life – no biggie.

The group were able to learn a lot from Molly, who was in cohort 3 of the Academy and has actually gone on to do some voice-over work for the station. Afterwards they got to grill the big important boss man Mark Mahaffy, learning about his background and his no doubt long list of responsibilities that come with the job.

Lastly, The Sunday Life came in to take a photo of the group and interview Jonny and Karl to get more of an insight into the benefits of the Cool Academy. The finished product is included below – nice group photos and all while I lay bed-bound. Life is hard, pray for Clare.

Google is our friend 25/02

Opening for this fine Thursday was a very helpful insight into what was expected of us, in the form of previous broadcasts.

We were able to listen back to the broadcasts of both cohorts 3 and 4 to give us a better idea of the finished product we should be aiming for.

Cohort 3’s broadcast was aired towards summertime and thus appropriately covered the issue of body image. This was the broadcast that Rebecca, Steve and all the Academy tutors kept referencing, particularly for its hard-hitting, concluding interview.

Since the 5 interviews in our broadcast acted as a sturdy foundation from which we would branch our links and music, the interview aspect was something we definitely had to focus on. I found that particularly in this broadcast, cohort 3 did really well in both introducing and concluding their emotional interview without overshadowing or taking away from its content. Tips noted.

Following body image was cohort 4’s broadcast, covering social media. The main lessons we were able to take away from this particular broadcast was how important editing is in the creative process. A few people in the group had their opinions on this broadcast that we were able to turn into notes to follow when creating our own – it was a really beneficial morning.

Now that we had our structure in the form of a storyboard and our guidelines for content in the form of interviews it was time to beef it all out a bit. We decided the best way to start this was to divide our interviews into different topics to cover – disability, homelessness, LGBT, mental health and sexual assault.

Each topic was given to a group of us who took to Google (naturally) to get some facts and statistics. I worked alongside Conor and Caprice to look into homelessness, moreso summing up the notes into more concise bullet points with the help of my trusty highlighters in PANDA FORM might I add, courtesy of Mummy Hogarth (see below for an absolute treat – stationary is EXCITING right???)

Now that this was complete we would be able to start a new day with more information to add to each topic, thus contextualising and making each interview relevant. Moving swiftly along the process as each day goes by!

Journalism Fun with Nigel 24/02

I was more excited than usual for today because we had got a heads up we’d be getting a little visit from head of news Nigel Gould. While all the other visits were really beneficial and taught us a lot of new information, I was genuinely excited to get chatting to Nigel and refresh my Journalism knowledge (degree smarts seems to have an expiry date).

Nigel came equipped with no snazzy powerpoint and no list of facts and statistics – just his wisdom that apparently goes beyond Journalism and into a matter of topics. This meant our talk covered more topics than just Journalism which meant everyone stayed interested in what he had to say.

I was able to pick Nigel’s brain with a few questions which I really appreciated but there was definitely more I could hound him with. His visit really gave me a kick up the butt and reminded me of why I was really excited about this programme and my motivation for being here.

Following on from this fresh wave of motivation was an extra burst of excitement when Clare sat down with me to tell me about potential placement options. Once we finish up at Cool FM (so many EMOTIONS) there is an opportunity for a 4 week placement of our preference – be it in youth work, cuisine or remaining in media.

We were aware from the start that a number of people from previous cohorts had the opportunity to actually remain at the station for their placement but we obviously understood this was down to slim possibility and whether it was the right time. This perhaps made it even more exciting when Clare informed me there was a chance I would get the opportunity to stay in Newtownards (not overnight – no slumber parties) alongside the News team.

I genuinely had no preference for my placement and was honestly happy to go wherever they thought would be best for me. While it is unconfirmed as of yet, I was obviously happy to jump at the chance if possible. If the opportunity to stay at Cool fell through my backup was placement writing for Belfast Live, something else I was happy to jump at. I had actually previously been in contact with Belfast Live for voluntary work but with full time work (and getting lost on my first visit – classic me) it never really worked out.

Now that a rough outline of whom our main content would include was complete, it was time to storyboard. Once the storyboard was done it meant we would be able to start making progress on completing the broadcast, so this was an important task to complete.

Surprisingly, everyone was really keen to put forward ideas and we barely struggled to structure our broadcast (probably what a good feed does to ya – props to Cilla).
If you would kindly divert your eyes below you will see our storyboard, which was fed back for David’s approval at the end of the day and will remain up until we have our broadcast ready for the air!

All the Emotions 9/03

Today I arrived under the assumption that the broadcast was over and it was time to concentrate on blogging and OCN work…I was wrong.

Throughout the morning we sat down together for the head-melting task of filling out the OCN helpbook, the answers of which we would transfer onto the proper one. It was moreso a chore than anything but we got through with only minimal insults thrown at eachother.

During lunch I took to blogging because I’m an absolute STAR (some may also call it very, very behind). While I was typing away, smoke coming out my super-fast fingers, Steve asked me for help with the broadcast. Turns out when Conor and I were recording my voice is a lot quieter than his because of either the position of the mic or me…naturally, I’m blaming me.

He said the options were either deal with it and edit it as much as possible or…re-record all of my lines. Honestly this was the last thing I wanted to hear – while I wasn’t completely happy with my voice I was relieved the recording was over and done with. Steve consulted David etc who said if it would improve the broadcast it was better to re-record my parts. Honestly I knew this was for the best too so after sitting around and avoiding it for a bit, I got over it and went with Steve to re-record my parts.

I guess you could say the opportunity to re-record was a good thing because I could improve on the things I didn’t like last time. However, while this is true – I’m never going to be happy with my voice on the broadcast. Now that Steve had everything he needed we were informed the broadcast would be ready to listen to tomorrow, much to my dismay. Again, dramatic – but I’m certainly not looking forward to it.

To finish off the day I returned to the OCN work. Filled with brownies and relieved re-recording was over, it wasn’t too much of a task. However, it was certainly a lot of work and it was going to need to be completed tomorrow before we had any sort of fun day.

If I don’t get the opportunity to blog tomorrow because I’m so busy having too much FUN then I want to take the time now to say how fab an experience this has been. I was soso excited to start this programme and I’ve honestly enjoyed every minute. This is the first sort-of work related thing that I had to get out of bed for that I actually genuinely enjoyed. The experiences, opportunities and even qualifications the Academy has given us have been so special and I’m so thankful to everyone involved. FEELINGS ETC. But honestly – I’m so sad this experience is over and I will be recommending it to everyone that will listen – my friends, my mum, the old lady next door, my dog. It’s been fab.

All Dat Hype 23/02

7 March 2016

Day two of our intense three weeks straight in Cool FM began quite nicely. We were lucky enough to get a visit from Adam McPeake – a friend of Steve and founder of The Hype Factory.

I wouldn’t have been able to explain who The Hype Factory were at the mere mention of their name but I had definitely come across a lot of their work without realising it – if there’s a video from an event or club chances are they’re more than likely responsible for it.

Adam was another nice story to add to the list of people who have started from something so modest and got to where they want to be. Starting with a group of friends filming themselves playing Halo, Adam is now responsible for an incredible collection of videography across the UK with 10 photographers and 3 full time editors working alongside him.

After lunch it was back to focusing on the broadcast, specifically our potential interviewees. While we are obviously going to be sourcing and providing a lot of information, a lot of the content for the broadcast is interview and people focused.

Because of this, we set aside the afternoon strictly for interview research. After a brief brainstorm of potential interviewees, we split off to do further research to find other young people around Northern Ireland that we feel are amazing role models with untold stories.

While others took to Google I decided to ask my friends and family instead to see if they knew of anyone with a story that could inspire other young people. This was good as it meant when we came together we got a good mix of both heard and unheard of people, all with great story potential.

After feedback we took a top 5 vote that resulted in a really solid list of interviewees for our broadcast – Michael McKillop, Tanya Lavery, Aodhan Woods, St James’ Forum and Jack Graham. It was really great to get this done because it is our interviews that make a sturdy foundation for our broadcast on which we can build the rest of our content. Get us – being productive and all. Not a bad bunch eh.

The Time is Nigh 22/02

24 February 2016

After parting ways with beloved Newtownards for 2 weeks it was an emotional reunion today filled with kisses and warm embraces (or grunts and growls as we got reacquainted with the tedious journey on the number 5 bus.)

The Cool Academy was now our home for the next 3 straight weeks – by the end of which we will have a glittering broadcast to play to the public’s sweet ears.

It was down to the studio individually to record voiceovers that were to be played back to the group and assist with the voting of presenters for the broadcast.

Despite the fact I hate everything about my voice and hearing it back is the stuff of nightmares, either way I had to do the recording and I may as well have tried my best to make a good impression. I found myself actually quite excited to get into the studio and apply all the feedback I had been given previously on presenting, hopefully improving on my performance.

While the group were doing their individual voiceovers we sat down to specify the roles that needed to be filled to create our broadcast. This is split into 3 categories – Programming, in which we have 2 presenters, a scriptwriter and a department head; the News Team made up of 3 reporters and a department head and the Editing team with 3 editors and their head of department.

Taking into account the specific set of skills needed for each role, each member of the group made it known if they had a preference. Personally I genuinely had no preference between any of the roles in programming or the news team because I knew I would try to play to my strengths and experiences in either.

During our two weeks back at Start 360 David kindly dropped the bombshell on us that Programming had actually rejected our broadcast topic of safety on nights out.

As mentioned in multiple previous blogs, spending a lot of time debating on the broadcast topic was definitely a skill of ours. While a healthy debate is good now and then we definitely didn’t have time for another bloody fight to the death so we ensured to make a decision today. It was a win for my past self as well as Caprice and Thomas because it was a unanimous decision for the ‘unsung heroes’ topic we had previously debated in favour of.

Now that all the voiceovers were complete it was time for my voice to intrude on the ears of everyone in the room. Had this had happened at the start of the course this would be cause for sweaty palms and a red face but now I feel like I’m over that (especially since I’m yelling in everyone’s ears daily anyway.)

We took a vote before hearing the clips and after to see if anything had changed. After a tally of the votes it was announced both Conor and I would be the presenters of the broadcast, both of us narrowly winning the vote before the voiceover playbacks too.

If I’m honest, while presenting is something I’ve always wanted to do it’s probably the role I’m most apprehensive to take on. I can barely tolerate hearing my voice in brief Snapchats never mind presenting an hour long broadcast. However, it’s definitely a challenge and I’m here to push myself out of my comfort zone and gain some experience so I’ll take it more as an exciting opportunity.

Another vote then cast Claire A, Garth and Misky as our News team and Liam as the station imager. Rebecca and David then announced the decided roles of the rest of the group which everyone generally seemed pleased with.

Today we kind of came in disorientated and blind in what direction we were taking on the broadcast, but after a decisive day it was definitely a lot clearer and I’m excited to get started!

Friday Mornings in Da Club 5/02

My lack of willpower and resentment of missing out on any sort of fun meant I was feeling slightly…under the weather Friday morning. Nevertheless I made it in ready to tackle whatever was lined up for the day…perhaps a little more slowly and delicately than usual.

We were split into two groups in which we were visiting two departments throughout the day – engineering and the studio to DJ with Steve Turnbull. First up for my group was engineering and thus we started on our journey to the deep depths of all things technical (and incredibly confusing).

William Gallagher was our engineering tour guide of the day, taking us round several rooms filled with things I know I should keep a safe distance from. It was obvious William was incredibly experienced and very knowledgeable in regards to what actually makes the station function and it was really interesting to learn about a department which I previously had absolutely no knowledge on.

I’d like to say I could repeat everything back that I learned but there was a lot of technical jargon thrown around that I will probably go another 20 years without hearing again. While I learned a lot of new things I can safely say engineering is certainly an aspect of the station I will happily leave in the safe hands of anyone more capable than me. I even felt intimidated just looking at the wires – so much power, so much responsibility.

Next up was a DJ masterclass with our very own Steve Turnbull. This was probably an activity that would be bottom of the list of ideal things to do with my…tender head today but I was still really keen to get involved.

Djing is something I have never really done, unless you count assigning myself as chief song-selector at a party and throwing on some Westlife tunes to finish off the night (never a mad one without Westlife is it?) However, radio and Djing obviously go hand in hand and since music is a huge passion of mine I was really excited to see how Steve works his magic.

While Steve makes handling the decks and making something really impressive and worth listening to look easy, I can safely say it is not. I’m not sure if it was my apprehension in touching such intimidating/expensive equipment or my general inability to grasp something without studying it for at least an hour, but I certainly could not see myself doing what Steve does.

Imagine seeing the incredibly rigid girl in the photos below trying to get a crowd going with some sweet tunes – I can’t see it happening in the near future (or at all), but that’s okay because we have incredibly experienced DJs like Steve that I’m happy to leave it to instead.

Meme Masterclass 4/02

I’d like to say I’m one of those people who don’t have Facebook because they ‘just don’t need it’ but alas I am not. I used to read books – now I read my Facebook newsfeed with a constant restlessness and frequent giggles at puppies.

The importance of Facebook and social media in general can’t really be denied and we were lucky enough to get a visit from Paolo Ross to highlight its uses. Breakfast Show DJ turned social media guru, Paolo now single-handedly runs Cool FM’s Facebook along with Snapchat and Twitter to name a few.

After taking over in April 2014 with the Facebook page at just 124, 000 likes, Paolo began posting multiple times a day and increased that number to half a million. We were able to learn the different categories of updates, such as website links or nostalgic posts, that are responsible for the page’s 1500 new likes daily.

It is safe to say we were in the presence of a Facebook-ing god of sorts (I’m buzzin’ with a mere 20 likes on my profile picture) and it was really interesting to see how Paolo has made Cool FM’s social media platform such a success.

It’s all well and good Paolo throwing some glittering facts and figures at us to paint the increase in popularity of Cool FM’s Facebook page but it is even better to prove it. Inspired by a nostalgic meme posted by KISS FM that only gained about 17 likes, we put Paolo’s set of skills to the test. We posted a similar meme in the usual style of the Cool page and gave it 15 minutes to beat the likes on KISS. It was an intense time but we made it – despite not being posted at the peak times Paolo likes to update, the meme reached thousands of likes.

In keeping with the theme of media, David Corscadden blessed us with his all important presence to explain the significance of all forms of media within a business. This was after giving us the chance to learn a bit more about him and his place within the Cool Academy. It was really interesting to hear his background and how he got involved in essentially starting the Academy, guiding and shaping it with what seems to be infinite wisdom on an impressive amount of areas.

Great Beards and Editing Genius 3/02

5 February 2016

Wednesday began with a talk from founder and head of Cash for Kids Darren Fowler. Previously and more commonly known as ‘the man with the great beard who walks through our room on occasion’, Darren got to teach us more about him and the great work that Cash for Kids do.

I definitely wasn’t clueless about Cash for Kids having done some work with them before, in the form of an assembly sized ‘concert’ with A-list celebs Twist and Pulse in my school about 5 years ago (the biggest event to hit the UK ever if you hadn’t already guessed). However, I was able to get a much deeper insight into not only the amazing affect the charity has on Northern Ireland, but also the work behind the scenes that achieves this.

What should definitely be highlighted is the amazing contribution of 80p to every pound that Cash for Kids are able to give to disadvantaged children all over NI. This is raised money that is never shipped off but stays in NI to help those in need – be it through individual applications or other charities – amounting to figures such as £700,000 in 2014.

Another group meeting to wrap up our ideas for the Food and Drink 2016 pitch was up next and my group got together to meet in our room as before. We only had a certain amount of time to form these ideas properly and while I’m normally quite good at keeping people on topic it was definitely a task getting 3 boys to pipe down and concentrate.

I took it upon myself to put the notes down on paper so we could present them back properly (and because nobody else thought to – boys eh) to Rebecca and David. We got some good feedback to work on and hopefully come Friday I’ll be able to get the group only straying from the relevant topic once or twice before we have to pitch to Richard Ross.

Steve very kindly shared his expertise on editing with us to finish off the day. I found that this is the first thing that was almost completely brand new to me since starting the course so I was excited to get started. I say essentially because I used the same software (Adobe Edition) in first year of Uni to edit Vox pops…or at least tried until my friend took over.

While it isn’t something I need every day for my work, editing is definitely a skill that is always good to have under your belt, especially in media. I made as many notes as possible that will more than likely make little to no logical sense when I look back on them, but I definitely learned a lot and I’m excited to hear more.

Big Screen Debut 2/02

It was back to the normal wake up call for an eventful Tuesday morning in exotic Newtownards. To start off the day we had a visit from Richard Ross – the on air sales manager across all three stations.

I’m not sure if it’s my ability to be quite dim at times or the fact that it was still technically morning but I found it difficult to quite pinpoint the difference between sales and sponsorship and promotions, which Simon Mann had talked to us about previously. We’ll go with the time – let’s blame it on that.

I soon realised they were two separate departments but importantly go hand in hand. Both Simon Mann’s presentation on Friday and Richard’s today complimented each other incredibly well and together gave us a really interesting overall picture of the commercial aspect of the station.

Similarly to Simon, Richard set us with a live brief to work on in groups. However instead of football, this was one I could definitely relate to on an incredibly intense, personal level – food and drink.

This year is the year of Food and Drink in NI, with each month based on a different theme. In our groups we were to choose a month and use it as a foundation on which we could build with creative ideas, to encourage the country to eat, drink and be merry.

My group consisted of Liam, Misky and Matthew and we all cosied together for a while in another room to deliberate until lunch (see below for cosiness).

In the morning it was briefly mentioned that our dreaded videos from yesterday were going to be played back on the big screen for all to see. Let’s rewind back to last week when the world was essentially ending because our photos were broadcast for the whole group to feast their eyes on. Add to this my squeal of a voice and my hair that I can recall was sitting particularly terrible that day and we had a nightmare even worse than the week before.

You’d think I learn from my dramatics previously but again admittedly it really wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it would be. To be fair – I didn’t really look so to speak, moreso glanced a few times. I did however listen and I thought my nerves would have been a lot more evident than they were. It was definitely really helpful to have them played back and get some comments from everyone and I think that’s something I need to work on doing. While I’m never really that nervous mentally to do stuff like presenting, it’s always my voice that betrays me. However, now that I know how it comes across it’s definitely something I am keen to work on and strengthen.

Up and at ‘em at 6.20 (1/02)

2 February 2016

I’d like to say the sun was shining for a brand new week at Cool FM but instead there was billowing winds and bad hair. We were asked to come in an hour earlier today to have a nosy in the studio while the Breakfast Show was broadcasting and while a 6am wake-up call isn’t ideal it was as good a reason as any to drag myself out of bed.

We got split into groups and tip toed down into the studio while the Breakfast Show were working their morning magic. It was a really, really good opportunity to see the equipment in action and it soon became obvious how fast-paced a live broadcast has to be. While we were only in for about 15 minutes it was really nice to meet Pete and Paolo and get yet another amazing insight into what really makes the station. Opportunities like that are why I’m so happy to be involved in this programme and we are lucky enough to get them every day.

Once everyone who was capable of getting up before the sun had been down to the studio, we had a bit of time to prepare for Pete Snodden’s imminent visit. I feel like I’m using positive adjectives so much that I’m beginning to sound insincere but to get such a great insight into someone’s life, who has been broadcasting on Cool for 15 years, was something I really appreciated. We were able to add this to our catalogue of people we have been meeting with so many different stories and I find myself being able to apply their advice and experience to my own life more and more.

It had been a while since we were all made to feel uncomfortable so who would have guessed it was time to throw us out of our comfort zone again, eh? Again I’m being more dramatic than necessary but even though we’ve been spending so much time together (best friends, etc) it’s still always a little nerve-wracking presenting in front of a group. Add to that a camera, a microphone dangling above you and the set task to talk about yourself and you could almost feel everyone’s palms getting sweaty at the thought.

Rebecca asked us to make a 1-2 minute presentation on who inspires us, complete with a quote to conclude. Tasks like this are always daunting but its purpose was without a doubt beneficial – we were to record ourselves now which we could then compare to a later recording we will take at the end of the course. I can always try and talk myself out of being nervous but my body always betrays me – shaky hands and forgetting to breathe probably don’t come across the best in front of a camera (as well as the latter being a little life-threatening). After our delivery, in front of both the camera and the group, Rebecca and Steve were able to give us individual feedback which is always helpful.

To wrap up an earlier than normal Monday it was time to deliver our ideas surrounding the brief Simon Mann had asked us to do. Again the aim was to think of ways the station could support the NI football team on their journey to the Euros 2016. Having thrown out enough ideas on Friday as a group it was really just down to us dividing up different sections to deliver it to Simon. Conor very kindly took 10 minutes of his morning to lay out all of our ideas onto a powerpoint presentation, which seemed to be one of the main things to set us apart from the other groups. That combined with our creative ideas and sparkling smiles meant Simon chose our group as the winner of the pitch. The prize, to my benefit, was two tickets to The Vamps which the others seemed slightly underwhelmed by – luckily enough the 12 year old boyband lover in me was able to be excited enough for everyone!

I’m baaack boys and girlz

After missing a day I was genuinely really keen and excited to get back and see what was on the agenda, even if I was operating on a less than desirable amount of sleep.

Today we were lucky enough to get a little visit from Simon Mann, head of sales and promotions. If what he was ready to share with us wasn’t interesting enough, Simon also had a few lil Friday treats up for grabs for the person paying the most attention which is always fun.

Having worked in sales for Vodafone UK the first thing I could say I learned from that is I am simply not a sales person. I will happily talk to anyone about anything but essentially entering into every conversation expecting to get something out of the other person is simply not what I’m about (I’d rather talk about puppies or food and be on my merry way). However, from Simon’s talk I learned that S and P (abbreviations and all, get me) doesn’t always need to be like that and there is an incredibly significant creative element that I had not experienced in my sales job.

It was maybe one of my favourite talks so far because we were able to learn all the elements that go into not only make Cool FM the biggest commercial broadcasting in NI, but also why it has reached that success. It definitely changed my position on sales and made me realise it could be something I would be really happy to get involved in.

Luckily it seemed this was going to happen sooner rather than later, as Simon set us with a task to get involved in an already ongoing, live brief. We were split into 4 groups to come up with creative ideas that would ‘support the Northern Ireland football team’s Euro 2016 campaign.’

Simon was apologetic from the start to the girls of the group (a whopping 3 in total) since this was so heavily football related. However, it seemed I was the only girl that this would affect while Caprice and Claire sat there with all the football knowledge in the world. While it may have taken me a while to find my bearings (especially after hearing the brief for the previous cohort was DISNEY), I was eventually just as keen as everyone else to get started. Caprice, Conor, Thomas and I worked really well together and judging by our feedback had some really good ideas, soon to be delivered back to Simon on Monday.

To finish off our first week at Cool, we all sat down to once and for all decide what our broadcast topic would be. To Rebecca and Steve’s surprise this was easier than expected since the group had more or less decided the night before. Despite having just spent two days deliberating on whether to choose unsung heroes, addiction or mental health everyone had ditched their arguments and all decided on doing safety on nights out.

This was an idea that had been pitched previously yet didn’t make the cut (despite me voting for it in the first place, might I add). My argument from the start was this was an incredibly relevant topic that could be both lighthearted and hard-hitting, while keeping an audience interested throughout. While this was not what most had their heart set on, it was a really good compromise and everyone seemed happy to do it.

Now that it had finally been settled, we had a quick brainstorm on the content of our broadcast. Everyone was able to throw out some really good ideas and it was evident we were going to have a lot to work with when the time came to get this into production.

Consult me via Whatsapp

Due to other arrangements I was unable to attend on today and thus made sure the group whatsapped me before making any drastic decisions. Luckily I was able to catch up on what happened fairly easily with a lend of a few notes and helping hands.

Luckily I only missed David McCammond, the head of programming, coming in to shower everyone with all his knowledge :) :) (maybe we aren’t well acquainted enough to recognise whether this is sarcasm or not – it is) Learning the ins and outs of essentially how a radio show is built and broadcast isn’t really the same coming from a file page but I dealt with it anyway. From this I was able to learn the importance of statistics in building an appropriate radio show and the different things that it adapts to for success such as the time of day or year. Despite not being present I could tell it was a really interesting talk and I was genuinely sad to have missed it.

As well as this I missed valuable blogging time and the opportunity to hear the broadcast of the last cohort. We have been told on multiple occasions how the broadcasts have really improved over time and thus the expectations that the station has for ours. This is a welcome challenge and it would have been really good to be able to sit down with my group and listen to an older one together to see what could have been improved.

Lastly, I was told the group debated the broadcast topic…to no avail. If I’m honest I wasn’t really surprised to hear that – trying to get 13 different young people to decide on a topic that may not have been what they had their heart set on is not an easy task. While I was disappointed I couldn’t have my input, I had already witnessed everyone arguing over this and to miss it wasn’t a huge disappointment.

The Day the Bus Took Forever and a Day

Today was the day my bus that should take 10-15 minutes took an hour and a half to reach Belfast. Combine this with a crying baby and freezing temperatures and my normally pleasant bus journey had turned into something that made my face a permanent scowl.

Thankfully I made the second bus possible and was only an hour late. I walked into a health and safety talk from Florence Ambrose and soon learned she was the lady to approach with any possible problem. Florence has been with the station since 1980 and acts as the health and safety office as well as first aider and fire marshal with Richard Hoey. While I missed her talk and activity I was able to absorb the information from the others.

After allowing some time to get down all the information Flo had provided us with it was time to at least start to tackle the all important broadcast topic. Despite there being no other set time before now to discuss our broadcast topic, the group had somehow managed to make it a significant part of some conversations (tangent ability, again). From this it was evident multiple people already had very strong opinions on what they wanted to do – which is great. However, this meant it was also evident getting everyone to not only agree on a topic but agree on one that would be most suited to the limited time we had was not going to be an easy task.

We sat down as a group, with a few members down, to shout out some ideas to lay a rough foundation on which we could work on. If I’m honest I found this the hardest part of the brainstorm – I knew from the beginning not only how difficult it would be to tackle any issue facing young people in such a short broadcast, but also how many of these ‘let’s help young people’ things are done. The main thing I wanted from the start was to completely avoid the cheesy, almost condescending and pretty much unhelpful way issues so typical of young people are addressed.

I guess my role was thus a good one to have – I was able to absorb the suggestions others seemed to be really passionate about and logically think of how these would be tackled to not only fit in an hour long broadcast but also actually hold an audience’s interest.

Once we had enough to go on we all ranked our top 1-3 and justified to each other why we thought these would be the best to do. The votes were then gathered together to see which issue had the most votes. I found that once people had their eyes on a topic they had already ran with it in their mind and were not going to budge easily. The topic I voted as my number one actually lost to the vote and didn’t rank in the top three (soon to be revisited). The three that came out on top were addiction, mental health and unsung heroes of youth.

The next round of decision making was then an all out battle to the death to see whose topic would come out on top. There were chairs thrown, tears shed and blood up the walls (metaphorically, I swear). Together with Caprice and Thomas we worked out our argument for the unsung heroes of youth which I thought from the beginning was the only topic we could actually tackle in the length of time provided for us.

Our individual arguments took us to the end of the day and while there were a lot of logical points offered – a decision still was not made. Prepare for round 2, folks.

Where the Magic Happens

Monday allowed us to get more into the swing of travel and timing so a majority of us were in and ready to tackle the busy day planned.

Deep, deep down I knew that the photos we took the previous Wednesday were more than likely ready to view. As much as I’m not one to pass up a good photo op, I hate getting my photo taken purely solo – put me in front of the most historical landmark in the world and I’d drag an unwilling stranger in before I’d pop my hip and smile alone.

Not only were the photos ready in all their edited glory, it was apparently a fab idea to go through them individually on the big screen for all to see. I enjoyed seeing the rest of the team’s photos and helping them pick the best photo for the site but time ticking on only drew mine closer and I felt the darkness creeping in…
Realistically I’m being incredibly dramatic and while I downright refused to look at my photos while they were up on the screen, by the end of the day I made myself glance and they were at least…tolerable.

Going hand in hand with the review of our photos was a talk on blogging and building our profiles on the Cool Choices website. HNH Digital employee Luke Gill and builder of the Cool Choices website kindly paid us a visit to talk us through the layout of the website and how to add our contributions day to day.
I have found that our group have a very active gift of straying away from any given topic that kind of crescendos into a conversation completely irrelevant from the initial talk. Occasionally this has its benefits and it allowed us to get to know Luke and his background in web design. While this may not be wholly relevant to me and my chosen career paths, a lot of the group seemed to enjoy it and I’m always a sucker for a good success story.
Rebecca took over from there with a really engaging talk on blogging and its huge importance in today’s world. This was a really good conclusion to all the info on our blogs and a big motivator to put the effort in because it was evident this brings results.

My favourite part of the day was definitely the studio tour and meeting Matthew Murdock. Blogging has always been something familiar to me so I was already aware of its use. The good and necessary choice to split us into two groups to take us around the station was made to my relief – the thought of 11 of us parading round such cosy place made me nervous. I was genuinely excited to get a picture of how the whole station ticked and I found the more I saw the more I felt properly motivated to make this a really beneficial experience. Radio hasn’t been a significant part of my journalistic experience so it was all kind of new to me and something I really hope to continue.

Warm Welcomes n Hugs

After a brief day at Cool Fm last week to find our bearings, ensure we didn’t get lost in the wilderness etc, we returned on 26/01 to begin our first proper week.
It was warm welcomes and hugs all round and we were introduced to Steve Turnbull who has been involved with Cool Academy from the start.
Rebecca informed us of a brief outline for the week as well as our whole time with Cool FM which was helpful – we were able to get a better idea of what was expected of us and it was exciting to hear.

The middle of the day was time for an activity of sorts to work on our presenting skills (what’s teamwork without an uncomfortable ice breaker, eh?). We each stood up and answered three questions in front of the group and while everyone typically internally sighs at the mention of something like this, its benefit to bring everyone together can’t really be denied.

After lunch (props to Cilla for the spag bol) the attention was turned onto Rebecca and Steve as we got a chance to interview them as a group. It was really helpful not only to hear their stories but get some responses that could be applied to us and guide us along our way in the course.