An interview with…Rachel Matthews

Rachel Matthews is an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and invaluable journalism lecturer at Coventry University, having had over 15 years worth of experience working in various areas of print journalism.

Rachel has worked in newspapers on both local and regional levels. Starting out as a trainee journalist she worked her way up to be a deputy editor, via the roles of reporter, district reporter, news editor and sub editor.

Alongside this, Rachel kept herself busy by working as a freelance journalist, writing articles and features for many magazines, working for regional and national news agencies, and sub editing for daily newspapers.

Now a principal lecturer at Coventry University, Rachel gives enthusiastic and very well informed lectures on many aspects of newspaper production, including news and feature writing, sub-editing, design and public administration.

She also concentrates on researching the current shape of journalism as well as the future of the industry with a particular focus on the implications of change on the coverage of local government by the regional press in England.

Rachel was happy to answer my questions:

How did you first get into journalism?

I thought about Journalism at university and worked on the university paper, and eventually got work experience at Vogue – which turned me off magazines for life. When I graduated I applied for different jobs – and was lucky to be offered two traineeships with local papers. To be honest, I picked the one that paid the most! I was probably one of the last generation of intakes to have a formal apprenticeship but it was great – they paid for my training and I fell in love with newspapers from then on in.

How would you describe the state of journalism at the moment?

Great! You only have to look at the need people have for information in Egypt or Libya to understand how important Journalism can be. Whether it always is that important is another question.

Why do you think the public generally have a negative attitude towards journalists?

I don’t think they do. The public may not respect national journalists en masse but working on a local and regional level I have really only ever been treated with respect and enthusiasm. 

Is it easy being a journalist?

For me it was the easiest job in the world. 7am starts, 12 hour days (if not longer), carrying wellies/brollies/blankets in the car because you never knew where you’d end up,  interviewing hardened criminals with police standing on the doorstep to make sure you were okay, magicking front page splashes from nowhere while the editor yelled at you. Ok, so I was joking. It’s not easy and it’s not a 9 to 5 job. You need to be committed.

How did you end up teaching?

Children – my commitment shifted but I still dream about it. In fact I was only chatting with my old editor in my dreams last night.

Do you still practice journalism alongside teaching?

Yes – the last thing you want is to be taught by someone who once did a bit of journalism 10 years ago and is still living off of the stories.

How has being a journalist changed over the course of your career?

Very much so but the key skills of devising, gathering, ordering, writing and publicising are still there.

What do you think the future of journalism is?

Probably more individuals/small organisations providing tailored products via a variety of media. In my field, I think local will become the new USP and it will be back to the future.

What are the highlights of your career?

The bits I loved best were getting really good stories on the streets first. Nothing beats the thrill of a deadline for me!

Have there been any moments in your career that you’ve regretted?

I was once tasked with writing an obituary for a former colleague who had terminal cancer. He was still alive when I started and I meant to finish it so he could approve it, but I took so long that he died before it was completed.

Do you have any advice for potential journalists?

Find out the reality behind your dream so that you can work out how best to achieve it.

Thanks, Rachel.

Thank you.

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