VSJ masterclass with UTV reporter Gareth Wilkinson

The Verbal School of Journalism (VSJ) has had another inspirational visitor  - UTV reporter Gareth Wilkinson who hosted a masterclass for our students. Watch out Gareth, these guys could be after your job!

Picture for blog story VSJ masterclass with UTV reporter Gareth Wilkinson

All you need is a video camera, a laptop and a notebook and you can basically report from anywhere, UTV reporter Gareth Wilkinson, has told Verbal Young Journalists.

After an overview of his career followed by a Q&A, Gareth called on some of the AS Level students to try their hand at recording a mock news story, during a masterclass in the Verbal Arts Centre.

St Columb’s College student Josh stepped into Gareth’s shoes as the interviewer, also doing a piece to camera with the microphone, while Katie (St Mary’s College) and Amy (Lumen Christi College) stepped up to the plate as the interviewees.

The merits of the Verbal School of Journalism’s mantra of “learning by doing” were well borne out by how quickly the rookie reporters got to grips with their assignment.

No sooner had the students got their interview sorted, and Gareth was on the laptop editing the news clip before playing the finished piece to his eager-to-learn teenage audience.

Omagh native Gareth was hugely impressed by the insight into ‘A’ Level Journalism at the Verbal Arts Centre, telling the students: “There was nothing like this when I was your age.”

He always knew that he wanted to be a journalist and quit his History and Politics degree course at Queen’s University, Belfast, in his second year to pursue a career in broadcasting.

He gained valuable experience working with Visionworks Television Company in Belfast, and credits his media course in Leeds for giving him solid, practical training for the cut and thrust of the job.

Gareth worked at BBC Radio Leeds before joining Highland Radio in Letterkenny for four years, then applying for a newly created video journalist post at UTV.

Gareth said the “craziest story” he had covered in terms of the sheer reaction it received from the public, was that famous weather report from the village of Park, featuring “Frosbit boy”, which quickly went viral and became an internet sensation across the world earlier this year.

What started off as a serious story for UTV Live about the impact of heavy snow on local farmers, took an unexpected turn after a chance interview with schoolboy Ruairi McSorley, who commented in his unforgettably broad Co. Derry accent: “Oh God, you wouldn’t be long getting frostbit”.

The story was viewed 10m times on social media overnight, and even received a mention on the Jimmy Fallon Show, one of the biggest chat shows in America.

On a more serious note, Gareth said the biggest story he had covered was the publication of the Bloody Sunday Report after a public inquiry lasting 12 years at a cost of almost £200m. The eyes of the world were on Derry as he joined world famous journalists such as Channel 4’s John Snow to report on the event live from the city on June 15, 2010.

“That was really an amazing day to be a local reporter,” said Gareth.

There have also been the tragic hard-hitting stories and as a dad-of-two, Gareth said that cases involving the deaths of young children were always the most difficult to cover.

While people might have the impression that journalists are a hardened bunch, unaffected by human tragedy, his view was that to be a good journalist you have to have empathy and sympathy with the people you are dealing with.

Gareth said it was important for journalists to try to “switch off” from work when they came home, but in reality you are “never off” as you are always looking for your next story.

Listing the main qualities for a journalist, as well as being multi-skilled for the digital age, he told the students: “You need to be nosey, have empathy and be able to tell a good story. If you can do that, you are well down the right road.”



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