Why I co-founded a website to help aspiring journalists

Empoword Journalism is an online space for young journalists to express themselves and share their stories through lockdown and beyond.

Isabella

Isabelle Raikes set up Empoword Journalism, a website aiming to help young people in journalism during the COVID-19 lockdown. Below, she and writer Gabriella Nero, explain why they decided to start the website and what they’ve learned so far.

My name is Isabelle Raikes, I am 19 years old and I’m going into the second year of studying History with American studies at the University of Nottingham but I am originally from Liverpool. At university, I am an editor, podcaster and writer for my university magazine, Impact, and a co-founder of Empoword Journalism. 

When did you set up Empoword Journalism?

Lockdown has been full of useful and insightful workshops for young journalists and EJ was actually born out of one of these!

After a workshop one morning with Kay Burley in May 2020 and another workshop on the same day about inspiring women in journalism (both run by NewsAssociates), EJ was born when it was suggested that everyone on the call leave their Twitter names so that we could all support each other on our journeys into journalism.

A chat was set up with around 30 to 40 of the young journalists from all over the country that had been on the call (nearly all women) where it was suggested that we collaborate to capture our experiences under lockdown and it took off from there!

Why did you set it up?

The initial idea was to create a space for young creatives to express and capture their feelings and emotions whilst in lockdown but it has turned into so much more than that.

We now see it is a more long term organisation than a ‘project’. We also wanted to primarily focus on enhancing the voice of the unheard in journalism, with women considered lesser-heard in this industry, in particular,  which we wanted to change.

We now have an online zine on the way as well as a podcast series in the works on top of our rapidly growing social media accounts and content on our website.

What do you love about it?

The thing I love most about it is the network that has been created. Before setting up this project I didn’t have many friends who wanted to go into the same industry as I did so I didn’t have much support or help around. Now I have multiple group chats where I can ask questions and ask for help from others who are at a similar stage to myself. 

Another aspect I love about it is the positivity surrounding the whole group. I haven’t met any of the other women (except on Zoom), yet have become very close to many of them. Overall creating EJ has led to a more positive and productive experience of lockdown for myself!

Where do you see your career in five years time?

This is a hard question as I am only in my first year of university so I am still uncertain about which area of journalism appeals to me most and where I want to focus my skills.

I have a podcast series at my university magazine which has started to make me consider a career in radio yet my love for talking to people and finding solutions for problems makes me lean towards a career in investigative journalism.

I can safely say that in five years I hope to have completed my undergraduate course in history and perhaps have also completed a masters in journalism but coronavirus has shown that the future is very unpredictable so I will take it as it comes and hope for the best.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

One of the best quotes I have ever heard and a quote which can almost be credited as the reason why EJ was started was said by Kay Burley in that very first Zoom call I mentioned. She said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.”

This, and also advice to be kind and friendly to everyone as you never know who you’re talking to, has particularly resonated with me! That and to never compare yourself to others and focus on your own path – which I am still working on!

Read more: How I became a newspaper editor in my twenties

What it’s like to do an apprenticeship in journalism

Why I decided to write for Empoword Journalism

 

Gabriella

My name is Gabriella Nero, I am a 16-year-old student from South East England about to start my A-levels in September, hoping to study a mix of humanities and sciences. I am a features editor and writer for Empoword Journalism, which aims to empower women from all over the country with a common goal of allowing voices to be heard.

I am interested in writing about current affairs in an in-depth and analytical way ranging from inequalities in different countries (and how this has been made worse specifically in the current climate) to issues our generation faces, such as climate change. I focus on writing about not what is happening but why, and most importantly how we can bring change by allowing people’s voices to be heard.

Have any stories featured surprised you?

As we are based on ‘the COVID diaries’, we are all experiencing the same thing, just through different perspectives. One of our contributors, Madeleine Raine, wrote an article called ‘Graduating in lockdown: What now?’ which addressed the uncertainty of these unprecedented times, such as unemployment and not being able to find a job. Not only does this impact students but also adults working in the industry. The Mirror and Daily Mail have already cut hundreds of jobs for example, and more hardship is set to come.

This leads me to my next point: how students entering a profession have been impacted by the pandemic. One article that surprised me was called ‘A nursing student’s experience on the front line’ by Amy Murray. Before reading this article, I did not realise how huge the impact of the pandemic had been on nursing students.

The courage and strength of the young nurses who had to endure this did not surprise me, but I was surprised at the lack of PPE such as surgical masks and gloves, which were limited and in many cases not provided for the young nurses.

Do you think it is important to have something aimed at female journalists?

Yes, it is important to have a platform aimed at female journalists especially within the journalism sector as there’s a huge gender imbalance in the industry which needs to change. The aim of Empoword Journalism is to empower women through supporting each other and providing a network of opportunities such as workshops and having the freedom to write your own piece of work without pitching.

Recently, I hosted a workshop aimed at journalists wanting to get into broadcasting and reporting. This helped me build my confidence and gain an understanding of this field of journalism. I would not have pushed myself to take this opportunity without Empoword Journalism.

Where do you see your career in five years time?

I am not sure exactly what I want to do in the future but this platform is definitely pushing me in the right direction. I am passionate about allowing people’s voices to be heard from communities who do not have the platform to do so.

I am grateful that I am able to have an opportunity like this in a generation fuelled by technology as you can find opportunities in a simple tap. As for now, I am hoping to explore journalism further and develop my writing skills, whilst also allowing people’s voices to be heard. I hope to complete my A levels and go to university to study a subject that I am interested in, but also one that allows me to create a change.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

The best piece of advice I have been given is to work hard because with the power of education you can achieve anything. I admire this quote from Nelson Mandela stating “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” This has definitely taught me to aim high and persevere, even through struggles, because that perseverance is what brings you that light at the end of the tunnel. It has made me committed and learn not to take anything for granted, especially in these unprecedented times. And has taught me to not doubt myself and grab as many opportunities as I can.

To find out more about Empoword Journalism, visit: empowordjournalism.com

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