Dear Reader,

My name is James, and I’m one of the reporters at the Andover Advertiser and Basingstoke Gazette. While I may have met some of you while I’ve been working on stories, there’s many I haven’t had the opportunity to introduce myself to yet, so here’s a little about me.

One of the things I like most about journalism is finding out new things. As a child (and today!) I enjoy reading about and learning new bits of information and trivia, so I’ve always enjoyed documentaries and programmes like QI.

This passion led to me wanting to become a scientist, and in particular, a biologist, because I really enjoy facts about the natural world. Because of this, I studied biology at Oxford, and didn’t really have much interesting in writing at all.

While I was at Uni, I started getting involved in a few different clubs and societies, one of which was the Oxford Student newspaper – the best student newspaper in town, despite what the other ones may claim. I still didn’t have much interest in writing – I joined because I wanted to impress someone on the editorial team!

Journalism isnt just an office job...

Journalism isn't just an office job...

However, I found that I really enjoyed doing student journalism, and it gave me the opportunity to tell people about all the interesting things I’d found out in a way that was relevant to them. While I still enjoyed biology, I discovered I wasn’t such a fan of statistics, and ended up doing more writing-based work.

During my time at the OxStu, I did everything from be a writer all the way up to editor-in-chief, with plenty of late nights putting the paper together. I also wrote for a few other bits and pieces, as well as getting work experience in local and national newspapers.

Graduating at Oxford

Graduating at Oxford

When I graduated, I then attended the University of London where I did a Masters in Newspaper Journalism. Here, I really got to hone my skills and learn more about what being a journalist is all about – as well as covering my first council meetings, which has proved very useful here in town! Alongside my studies, I continued getting more work experience, and doing some freelancing as well.

Taking part in the Lord Mayors Parade in London

Taking part in the Lord Mayor's Parade in London

While I was writing my dissertation for my degree, I started applying for jobs. It took a while, but during the period between the first two lockdowns, I got my job here in Hampshire. It took me a little while to get settled in, but I found myself learning more about the area, and getting in tune with what’s going on.

One thing I believe after having been here for over six months is that a local journalist really has to be the eyes and ears of the public. For instance, at council meetings at town and borough levels, I’m very often the only person from the press there, meaning that I’m the only one who is able to tell everyone what happened at those meetings, minus the political slants that the members themselves may give. I just write out what’s been said, and put it together to cover the meeting as a whole.

Visiting Parliament as part of my Masters course

Visiting Parliament as part of my Masters course

Aside from the cut and thrust of politics, I’m also regularly attending courts, both criminal and coronial. For the former, the basis of justice relies on it being seen to be done, and of course, most people are too busy to be able to pop in to every trial and sentencing. As a result, I’m normally there, making notes, so you can find out the truth of a criminal case, and what outcomes the courts give.

For coroners courts, I’m there to tell the final story of a person’s life, something which is quite an awesome responsibility. While there are sometimes family members present, who can give me an idea of what their loved one was like, at other times I might be the only one there with the coroner. In these cases, I think it’s very important that these people are remembered in print, even if there may be no one left to remember them in life. It’s also an opportunity to find out if anything could have been done to make sure what happened to them doesn’t happen again.

Holding people and organisations to account like this is particularly important. It makes me feel good when something I write causes a positive change for someone, no matter how small that may be. Whether that’s reporting on flooding, or writing about the inordinate amount of trollies in one man’s garden, I like to think I can make the world a better place one article at a time.

Doing squats as part of an article!

Doing squats as part of an article!

As I said, I think the local journalist really has to be the eyes and ears of the public. So while I can do my own investigations, reporting and writing, what I really like hearing from is all of you! If you’ve got a story you’d like to be told, I’d love to hear from you. There are some journalists out there who do give the profession a bad name, but hopefully, after reading this, I’ve convinced you that I don’t bite! Whether you want to send me an email (james.ashworth@andoveradvertiser.co.uk), or even meet up sometime in the future, I look forward to hearing from you.

Hopefully I’ve given you a better understanding of what goes on behind the byline, but if you still have any questions, please do get in touch!

James Ashworth

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