2017 m. vasario 1 d., trečiadienis

News Gathering Part One: Find the Squatters

For the largest part of my life, I had never thought about how journalists get their news. It just seemed that there’s always someone in the scene to report on it. No matter when, no matter where the action happens. However, this is not how I see it anymore.

On Monday, my colleague and I were looking for a news story to report on for Wednesday’s radio programme. Everyone was busy with Trump’s news and we wanted to get away from that. Long search in short – a story about squatters who occupied a £15m Russian oligarch’s mansion caught our eyes. To make it even better for us, the next day there was a court hearing to decide whether the squatters should be evicted.

 The squatters seemed rather digitalised (contrary to my initial narrow-minded image of homeless drug addicts raving in the mansion) and posted about their hearing. We put some research and found out that it was taking place at 10am next morning.

Next day. 9:40. 

 My colleague and I are standing outside a beautiful building of the County Court. Snapchat. We’re trying to blend in with other journalists and cameramen (yes, they were all men). We recognize someone from ITV (because they have an umbrella with ITV logo all over it, duh). We wait. And wait. And we don’t really know what are we waiting for, because the representatives of the oligarch do not have it written on their forehead. Squatters might be easier to recognize, but there doesn’t seem to be any around. We’re not sure if other reporters know what they’re waiting for, because cameras are shooting everyone who walks into the building. We wait. 10:05 we go for a coffee across the street. 10:15 we come back. 10:30. 11. Nothing happens, we’re cold and annoyed. Is this how our lives will look like when we graduate and work as journalists? At least we would get paid for it.

Oh wait, there is this guy standing next to the court door, seems to be impatiently waiting for someone. He’s wearing a black hoody and he’s got his lips pierced. He might be a squatter. He must be, because we need one! 20mins of doubting. Why are we so shy, we look like idiots standing here and staring at the guy, who will probably walk away soon. How do we approach him? Do we just say ‘are you a squatter?’ well that might be offensive. But then if he is a squatter, he would think it’s offensive that we think it’s offensive. Let’s just go and ask him if he’s here about the Belgravia squat case.

Hello, are you here for the Belgravia squat case? 

Oh hi, right, I am. I’m just waiting for Jed, the court only took three minutes, of course we lost, all the corruption and he’s a big oligarch, we didn’t expect to win, it’s a county court, but then they only gave us three minutes and it was late as well.

I finally catch a moment when the guy breathes in and I’m able to interrupt him. His monologue is worth nothing to us, if we don’t get it recorded.

Oh, sorry, Jed will come back in a minute with the report and then we can give it to you. If you just wait here, over there, I’m waiting for him too, he’ll be out soon.

Great. We got nothing. Cheers.

We keep waiting and watch the guy from a distance. We wait and wait and wait. We don’t want to leave without nothing. Some time later another guy comes and speaks to the squatter. The first guy soon disappears back into the court. No Jed.

We’re not sure if the new guy has anything to do with the squat. He seems like he could be a beggar. At the same time we keep checking twitter. A tweet pops up, saying that the court didn’t even wait for a disabled member of the squatters group and left him behind. Now we’re sure that this guy is involved. The cold and boredom make us less shy and we go straight to the guy.

Can I just say one thing off the record? Like when we’re in the squat, we’re all together and we’re all friends and we speak a lot, spend time and do things together. But once we’re out of there, they just leave me behind. Paul left, you haven’t seen him coming out, right? No, we haven’t. You see, I’m telling you, they left me behind. I’m waiting for them here, we can wait together.

 Plus another 10 minutes of the guy's monologue. Despite the scent of homeless person coming from the guy, we’re happy. We got some good quotes. Moreover, he gives us his and some other squatters’ phone numbers, when we promise to come to the mansion at 4pm. He insists to have our number too, and my colleague reluctantly gives him hers.

We leave to get back to university, and as we guessed, soon receive a message from our new friend.