Claire Hynes, writer, lecturer and former journalist, gives her biggest tip for aspiring journalists and how following her own advice led to writing her favourite piece of journalism.
Hynes went into journalism after graduating from her Masters, not for the money but instead to tell untold stories or to fill in the blanks. She wanted to bring truth and power to these stories; ‘Journalism was a way of having a voice and being able to make a change in the world’.
One way of doing so was working for The Voice, a national black community newspaper. Hynes was brought up in the suburbs of London but visited family in the city where she witnessed ‘awful things going on in the community that weren’t being highlighted in the national press’. Some examples are racial discrimination and mistreatment, such as innocent victims stopped and searching with their trousers pulled down in the streets. Thus, she went into journalism to bring a sense of justice.
One of the major stories Hynes worked on was the Stephen Lawrence murder case, in which a young, innocent boy was targeted due to his race. She first heard about this story in a short snippet on the radio which gave limited details. For Hynes this sent alarm bells ringing.
‘There wasn’t a national newspaper involved in the story at that time so I was one of the first to speak to the family,’ she says. ‘Journalists talk about intuition and as a journalist you develop sensitivity to what is going on. You notice stories that aren’t right or have gaps. So, it is really about asking questions and listening to the world around you.’
Covering this story, which she considers one of her proudest works has ‘helped people to ask questions’ whilst other major newspapers got involved in the story too.
Without curiosity, rigorous and factual information, and different viewpoints the world is left with ‘limited thinking; it’s ignorance,’ Hynes says. One can only imagine the injustice if Hynes never used her journalistic mind to tell the story of Stephan Lawrence.
Hynes advises journalists to remember: ‘Everyone gets knock backs. There will be times when you try and sell stories and try and go for jobs and you’ll be told no. Don’t give up at the first hurdle. The people that are successful are really determined.’
Ambitious writers are also encouraged to consider the long term, ‘think through where you want to go and have a vision for where you want to be’ encouraging all to ‘keep trying’.