Finding the positives - Manchester Met journalism graduates spreading smiles in the lockdown
- Man Met Uni journalism graduates taking it in their stride and making the most of the situation
- Livestreaming classical concerts from musicians' living rooms
- Distributing donated food and drink to hard-working NHS staff
- Sharing heartwarning stories to bring comfort to audiences stuck indoors
Siân Hamer's job often sees her rubbing shoulders with celebrities in the Leicester Square offices of Smooth Radio and Classic FM. But this week, the on-air content editor who graduated from MMU with a BA in Multimedia Journalism, is working from her parents' home in Lancashire. Her mission is to find the most feel-good content that will make her music-loving audiences smile in these difficult times.
"There are no more celebrities coming in to the offices. The concert halls have closed, music events are cancelled so the musicians are all at home.
"But they're doing home performances and being really creative with it. We've had tenors singing from their balconies and we put the videos on FaceBook and Instagram.
"We have a resident violinist who did a live concert from his home and that was livestreamed on our website.
"It's just what our audience on Classic FM want to see because they're stuck at home too.
"And it’s great to work on it because we’re tired of it as well so it gives me some escapism."
It's much harder for MMU journalism graduate, Maddie Leivers, to escape from the reality of living in a pandemic. She works as the communications officer for an NHS charity, Blue Skies Hospital Fund, and sees first hand the pressure medical staff are under. Normally, she'd be writing press releases and updating social media on the charity's work to enhance patient care in Blackpool's hospitals. But that's all changed and now she's distributing donated food supplies to NHS staff.
"That's what the nation wants to do at this time - anything to help keep NHS staff going. And we’re trying to make sure it happens in the safest way possible."
Morrisons supermarket, Fox biscuits and Pizza Hut are just some of the local businesses that have brought donations to Maddie's office.
"A local fish and chip restaurant have six premises across Blackpool and they’ve had to shut them down, unfortunately. But the owner said he wanted to do stuff for staff. So he kept bringing fish and chip meals to the hospital and we were handing out fish and chips to staff for 3 hours.
"We’ve been taking pictures so that we can look back on this time and remind ourselves that it really did happen."
Olivia Baron has been a news reporter for Lancashire Live since January 2019 and is now working from home updating the site's live blog.
"We're really trying hard to do positive stories and people are loving that, especially stories about the NHS.
"It’s quite an exciting time to be a journalist because it’s such a major story. We've got a lot more engagement because people are coming to us for Lancashire specific coronavirus news. It’s nice to be working for the go-to site for Lancashire. People are coming directly to us for their news so that’s quite exciting."
It's also important to look after your own mental health in these difficult times. Bryony Hiscock is the social media content specialist at Strong and Herd which provides specialist training for import/export businesses. She's helping to promote a virtual learning platform now that the usual training events are cancelled.
"I found Monday and Tuesday this week really tough. I'm a worrier. But I've got things more in perspective now.
"It's OK working from home but I prefer going in to the office. I'm sitting next to my dad at the dining table but sometimes I just have to go and sit as far away as posisble from everybody else. It might be in the garden or in my room."
Working with great people makes all the difference, especially when you're the newest member of the team, Siân says:
"I’m so fortunate to have a chatty, friendly team looking out for each other. We do video calls. It’s a chit-chat, a chance to offload especially if you’re not leaving the house."
Working from home when your job is producing live radio programmes is more challenging. Mia Abeyawardene is a Masters graduate who is now a freelance producer for the BBC Radio 4 consumer affairs programme, You and Yours, which is broadcast live every week day from Dock House in Media City.
"I've spent most of today trying to sort out all the technical aspects. I've had to set up access to the library where all the audio clips are stored, access to the newsroom computer system, OpenMedia, so I can write my scripts in to the shared database and get access to the audio editing software.
"Right now, I'm working on a story about how coronavirus is affecting the housing market.
"I like to think the work we do is important because it raises awareness of what people are going through and gives them a voice at a time when they feel people aren't really listening to them."