Student chases her story to No 10
May 28, 2009 by admin
MA Journalism student Laura-Jane Hawkins describes her biggest scoop to date after chasing her coursework documentary on the Gurkhas campaign to a meeting with the prime minister on the lawn of 10 Downing Street.
A strong Northern Irish accent shouted out: “I give you your Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown.”
Then right in front of me, Gordon and Sarah Brown walked down the steps of No 10 Downing Street into the back garden. I had to pinch myself as I was standing there with Joanna Lumley on one side of me, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to her other side and Gurkhas lined up ahead of me, waiting to thank the prime minister for granting them rights to stay in Britain.
Interviewing a star
I was making a radio documentary on the Gurkhas’ campaign for my University of Westminster MA journalism project. The most I could have ever hoped for was a short interview with Joanna Lumley but to interview the lawyers of the case, chat with Joanna Lumley and then gain extra audio whilst on the lawn of the prime minister’s residence was beyond my most ambitious dreams.
Joanna Lumley, the star of so many TV dramas and comedies, was more than happy to talk to me. She was so dignified and I was impressed how well she had handled the media circus that had taken place around her throughout the day.
“Isn’t this wonderful,” she said in pure delight. “It’s truly a historic day and everything we wanted has been given to us.”
I spotted Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister standing at the edge of the lawn. When asked about the amendment of the law, he explained that all Gurkhas who have retired either pre-1997 or post-1997 can now all gain rights to settle in the UK.
An interview I conducted with Jacqui Smith added to this by saying: “I’m very pleased and proud. It’s been a great campaign and I’m glad that we have been able to find a way to do justice to the Gurkhas today.”
‘Welcome in our country’
After Gordon Brown made his speech stating that he wants all Gurkhas “to feel welcome in our country and to know, that we know, that you are the bravest soldiers of all” he took the time to shake hands and say hello to every single Gurkha present and bending down to speak to those in wheelchairs.
Photographs were taken and I was even able to get in with a sneaky handshake and introduced myself. The Gurkhas surrounding me were in shock at the day’s events but they were so grateful. “Thank you Gordon Brown and thank you to Britain” was the most popular response to the news of their victory.
The whole experience was unforgettable. When I woke up on Thursday 21st May 2009, I never imagined that at 4pm in the afternoon I would be having tea and biscuits on the prime minister’s lawn. It just shows that you never know what could happen or how your day could turn out – that’s the beauty and excitement of life and hopefully the life of a journalist.
Unfortunately, the event also taught me several harsh lessons about the world of journalism and the media. My experience was overheard by another journalist and along with information from my blog and photographs, the story was written up from another person’s point of view. This meant that many facts were untrue and my experience was sensationalised.
I learnt several good lessons. Never be too trusting of people, don’t tell anyone and everyone your story (however happy and excited you may be), always have enough memory space on your camera to take as many photos as your heart desires (mine unfortunately was lacking memory space!), always recharge your Marantz batteries and camera batteries as if you would your mobile phone and always talk to as many people you possibly can, and hang around to wait and see what happen - you never quite know where it will lead you!