Tuesday, 29 January 2013

We're all guilty of it

Facebooking someone you've just met or are due to meet, to get a bit of an idea of who they are. Facebook is basically the Google of all humans. Well, most anyway.

It's fairly harmless, usually all we're able to find out is where they're from and if they're single or not, and largely we don't use their profiles to formulate our opinions on them.

But what if your future boss was to have a snoop at your page? Photos of you falling out of a club with your knickers on show, or a raging status update slagging off someone or something that has pissed you off. Are these things you'd openly share with prospective employers?

Obviously, that's a no. However it doesn't stop them poking around your social media presence anyway, and even worse; there's nothing to say they can't discriminate against you after seeing something YOU posted on YOUR page. But is it fair?

Just because you like to go out on a Friday and get insanely drunk, doesn't mean you're an unprofessional person who wouldn't be an ideal candidate for that dream job. In a way I think it's unfair that employers are searching through social media to get a better picture of a job candidate.

However, in the same way, if there does happen to be a seemingly endless amount of photos of your latest drunken escapades on your page - where you also clearly display the name of the company you work for - employers aren't going to want to associate themselves with you.

Fair or not, it's easy enough to stop potential bosses getting to know you before you've even met, just check your privacy settings. And hopefully if you are an ideal candidate for your dream job, you'll already have this covered!

Friday, 25 January 2013


I like to think of myself as someone who isn't a great believer of cliches - especially as a journalist - but there are certainly some that do ring true.

You don't know what you've got until it's gone.

Pretty obvious, really. In this case I'm talking about my sister. Thankfully, she is alive and well, but she just so happens to be existing some ten and a half thousand miles away from me. This isn't ideal for girly shopping trips or nights in on the sofa.

When she announced she was moving to Australia to be with the love of her life, I never thought for one minute it'd be this hard without her. We both had pretty separate lives anyway, aside from sharing the common bond that is our parents, but that doesn't mean I love her any less.

Big sisters are a blessing that not every little girl is lucky enough to have. Whilst your mother teaches you the valuable lessons in life; manners, honesty, integrity, sisters teach you the things you really need to know as a girl. Your makeup, clothes, hair, how to dance, get drunk, even flirt. All of these fundamentals come from hours spent watching my older sibling do it best.

But it wasn't all adoration and niceties, she also taught me how to be tough. Let's face it, you have to be when your sister's favourite past time is to yank your feet from under you as you're carefully making your way down the stairs. Or hiding in the dark dining room and jumping out as I toddled past into the kitchen. It wasn't all fun and games.

I miss her a lot now. I miss her on nights out; the getting ready, conversing on what to wear, her nicking half of my wardrobe for so long I forgot I even owned the items. I miss her whilst I'm sat on my sofa with my duvet eating biscuits - something our mum never allowed us to do as kids, so we'd indulge in the rare luxury on the odd occasion she was out for the night. Even when I'm eating cold pizza for breakfast, or picking my nose and wiping it on a piece of kitchen roll (gross, I know!) - all things that she taught me to do.

Just as people say a father is a little girl's first love, I think as sister is very much a girl's first best friend, expect she always will be, because she's irreplaceable.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Take a walk down the Green Mile

There are very few times my flatmate and I can sit on the sofa and give a programme our full, undivided attention. But amongst the drivel that crowded our television screens last Thursday night, there was a hidden gem. 

ITV’s new two part documentary, Inside Death Row, saw acclaimed broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald venture inside one of America’s most notorious maximum security prisons, Indiana State. Just an hour’s drive south of Chicago lays one of the country’s oldest prisons, where nearly two thousand prisoners are serving an average sentence of 52 years each. 

Not one to shy away from drama, Trevor dives straight in at the deep end, and takes his first walk down death row - otherwise known as X-row and the Green Mile. And viewers shocked by what they see. Of the 12 condemned men living – if you can call it that – on Death Row, the first they speak to is Benjamin Ritchie. He freely and openly admits in a shockingly poignant way that he’s “the kinda guy that does need to be in prison”. When questioned as to why this is, he responds: “If I can’t pay my bills the legal way, I’ll go get a gun and I’ll pay my bills.” A truly disturbing sentiment, considering our answer to a financial difficulty would most likely be to increase our credit card limit.

 The men on this wing are locked up for an unimaginable 23 hours a day, and so have to find ways to occupy their time. Diabetic redhead Paul McManus killed his wife and his two young daughters. Now he spends his days keeping his cell impeccably clean. 

Other areas of the prison where inmates are allowed to mix come as a refreshing surprise after the cold segregation of X-row, but we’re soon reminded that these prisoners are just as violent. Ronald L Sanford is 38 years old, and has been at Indiana State since he was just 15. He was convicted of a double murder of two elderly women for the measly sum of five dollars, at 13 years old. 

Sanford is unique amongst his fellow inmates. Whilst the other convicts spend their recreation time passing a basketball, sparring the air, or doing pull-ups, Ronald is sat in his cell reading about eugenics or metaphysics. He has used his time inside to educate himself into a polite, eloquent individual. Sure, it doesn’t change the fact he committed an unspeakably violent act, but it is refreshing to see a prisoner do their best to turn their life around, despite the fact he’ll almost certainly die in his cell. He is serving 170 years. 

Aimee and I sat in silence for the majority of the hour, struggling to contemplate both the crimes and the existence of these individuals. Every now and again, we’d gasp or shake our heads at the nonchalant attitude of the inmates talking about the likes of murder, rape and kidnap. But I suppose that’s just it for them; it’s no longer shocking because it’s all around them. 

Despite our country’s obsession with the death penalty and such like, it’s good to see someone taking a more objective view on the goings on of maximum security prisons such as Indiana State. Most documentaries would take the view of condemning the prisoners for their horrific charges, but what use is it condemning an already condemned man?

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Is it about time to stop horsing around?

There's been one unavoidable topic - or should I say joke - that has been overcrowding the social networks over the past day or so; of course I'm talking about horse burgers.

The news that one of Tesco's suppliers were found to have contaminated some of their products with as much as 30% horse meat, saw their market value plummet by millions overnight. But it has attracted more laughs than anger in the most part, and despite being a red hot animal welfare and food standards issue, we just don't seem to be taking it seriously.

I'm as guilty as the next person for re-tweeting and sharing various horse-related banter, and I'm not saying we shouldn't, I'm just surprised at the reaction the shocking news has received.

I can't help but wonder, if traces of cat or dog had been detected in those burgers, would we have taken it a little more soberly?

Sunday, 13 January 2013

If you don't judge a book by it's cover

then what do you judge it by? I definitely judge my books by their covers, unless of course someone has recommended something in particular to me. The cover is what draws us in, makes us reach forward and pick it up off the shelf, hold it in our hands.

I'll discard the books with the ominous looking covers; shadows of open doors, or a silhouette walking into the sunset - I instantly decide these books are not for me by it's choice of illustration gracing the bookshelf.

People are very much the same. We are often quick to judge people by their covers, without ever actually picking them up - so to speak - and reading the blurb; a glimpse of what might be in store.

That's where books have an advantage over people.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Don't tar us all with the same brush...

The journalism industry has suffered many heavy blows over the recent years, the most poignant and memorable of which was the shutting down of the News of the World, following hack-gate. Consequently, people have lost their faith in journalism, in newsrooms, in the hacks themselves, and it would seem a small proportion of journalists have given the rest of us a bad name.

Now, when I tell people I'm a trainee journalist, I'm greeted with very mixed responses, most frequently of which is something along the lines of "Eurgh, you're undercover then?" or "Better watch what I say!"

People don't think they need us. They think we don't have any place in society. And I guess as much as our job is to write and educate, it's also our responsibility to prove them wrong.

So this is just me saying, we're not all the same; we don't all want to hack your phones and break into your houses, some of us just want to write, make you laugh, inform you, tell you about the things which you NEED to know.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Journalist problems

writ·er's block
A usually temporary psychological inability to begin or continue work on a piece of writing.

There are a thousand ideas swimming around in my head put getting them out and stringing together a passable sentence is proving practically impossible! See, did that even make sense?! It's literally driving me round the bend now!
And, breathe.