We truly aren’t very different


Not many jobs require you to learn so much about a community quite like local journalism.

I’m constantly reading articles from national papers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, and our class here is focused on the BBC, the Guardian and tabloids like the Daily Mail. So when I showed up to intern at the Ilford Recorder and Romford Recorder desk at media company Archant, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

As I was given stories about the UK dealing arms to Iran, children’s hospices and knife crime, I found myself increasingly unsure of my place in this community. What right do I have to be asking these people intimate details of their communities that I don’t even fully understand?

And drawing from that, what really is this community? What do these people care about? What is local government like here? These papers cover the London boroughs of Redbridge and Havering, so what the heck are Ilford and Romford?

I felt flustered by these questions, surrounded by the click clack of reporters around me rapidly typing stories – one co-worker told me she writes up to six stories a day. So I took some time on my own to try to learn more about these people I’m supposed to be covering.

Through my frantic Googling and meeting people, I’ve been struck by great similarities between the U.S. and U.K.

Last week I covered a knife violence Q&A at a local school. It didn’t take long for the conversation to start going in circles.

As I was sitting there in a sea of British students, I couldn’t help but think if the word “knife” were replaced with “gun,” this exact conversation could be happening in America right now.

Just like in America, liberals and conservatives fight for power, and young people attempt to speak up about issues important to them, such as racism and violence at school. But in the midst of similar political rift, there’s good.

Much like my community in the Chicago suburbs and Bloomington, people here value arts and charity. They put aside monetary gain to help each other and they recognize and support charities that help the less fortunate.

Working for the local paper has given me the opportunity to literally pick up the phone and call random Londoners. I’ve talked to a 38-year-old man fulfilling his lifelong dream of playing Macbeth, a mall manager putting on a film festival and a mom who put on a fundraiser for a charity that helped her son who has autism.

So while visiting the London Eye and the British Museum have helped me learn about history, working in journalism has helped me gain a deeper understanding of London and its culture, and given me a first-hand look at how we truly aren’t very different.