Journo intel: Amy Gibbons, from TES tells us about investigations, drum ‘n’ bass and birdwatching
Amy covers primary and early education at the TES. We spoke to her recently to find out more about her background, and tips she has for people looking to get in touch with her.
How did you first get into journalism?
When I decided to pursue English at university, it was more for my love of writing than anything else. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do for a career. It wasn’t until I spotted the university newspaper in my welcome pack that I considered trying my hand at journalism. I went along to one of the introductory meetings and ran for deputy comment editor shortly afterwards. It was great fun and really helped boost my confidence. I went on to be elected deputy editor in my second year. I had a fantastic time managing my team, battling through gruelling production weeks that introduced me to black coffee (since ditched) and gallons of diet coke (sadly, still a staple part of my diet). I made friends for life and acquired the skills and contacts that would allow me to bag work experience placements – and, later, a place on the training course that paved the way to my first job in Ipswich.
What do you enjoy most about the job and what advice would you give to a teenage Amy who is just starting out?
I’ve always really enjoyed the creative process associated with journalism. Anyone who knows me will say I love a good investigation – especially if it involves spreadsheets, graphs, and charts. But I think my favourite part of the job has to be the rush of uncovering a good story and bringing it into the public eye; it’s excitement and nerves in equal measure.
What would I tell my younger self? Stay motivated and soak up all the knowledge you can. Also, I know you’re having fun, but you can’t hand in a copy of the student newspaper for your dissertation.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
As you can probably imagine, work has been very different since the pandemic hit. As I’m now based at home, my neighbour’s drum and bass music is often the soundtrack to my day – which is great when you’re questioning the Education Secretary live at the Downing Street briefing!
My work will vary hugely depending on what’s on the agenda that day: I might be covering a select committee hearing or virtual conference, sifting through new government data, recording a podcast, planning a radio interview or laying the groundwork for a long-form investigation. There’s never a shortage of stories at the moment, so once we’re done with one project, it’s on to the next. It’s pretty intense, but always exciting!
What makes a good story for you?
I work for a specialist publication, so the best stories for us are carefully tailored to our readers. They must be relevant, meaningful, and interesting. And they must push the news agenda – it’s fine to build on what we know, but we don’t want to be confined to old ground.
How do you prefer PRs and brands to work with you?
My favourite PRs to work with are open, friendly, and honest. When it comes to which approach works best, that depends on the purpose of our relationship: are you pitching something to me, or am I seeking a response from you? If it’s the former, please take the time to tailor your pitch; don’t send me stuff that bears no relevance to our readers. I do appreciate the effort, but I can guarantee you that my editor won’t go for a story about a tattoo parlour, furniture and pottery up for auction, or National Teddy Bear Day 2020 (yep – all emails I’ve actually received).
If I’m seeking comment from you, then responding quickly (even if it’s just to say you’re looking into it) really helps me out. Don’t be afraid to ask if you need clarification. It’s absolutely fine to flag any concerns, but the worst thing a PR can do is make demands of the journalist. I often have people tell me they want to check the copy before it goes live, so they can ensure it’s reported in a way they deem fit. To protect the integrity of the story, we verify all the facts with an impartial eye. To run the final version by a brand before publication would ultimately compromise our independence.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a journalist?