Times Higher Education World University Rankings

I spent a week freelancing at Times Higher Education, helping to create their World University Rankings. Here are links to a few of the articles I wrote while there:








Darling of Westminster dies

The death of Sheila Gunn, a much-loved political journalism lecturer for 14 years at City, has prompted handwritten letters from Sir John Major and David Cameron.

Gunn was previously John Major’s press secretary from 1995 until his defeat in the 1997 general election. Before that she was a political correspondent with The Times for 15 years.

In a letter to Gunn’s son, Ben Beardall, Sir Major wrote: “I greatly valued all she did – and the slightly shy, but charming way she did it.

“She was an attractive and able personality whom I will always remember with affection and respect.”

Cameron wrote to Beardall in a letter passed on to XCIty, saying: “Sheila was so loved and admired across the Conservative Party, and indeed, the whole political spectrum.”

Joy Johnson, whose former career as a political journalist and head of communications for the Labour party mirrored Gunn’s taught alongside her on City’s Public Administration module.

She said: “We became a bit of a double act – when we delivered levtures together we would interrupt each other – we had that kind of repartee.”

Colin Brown, the political journalist who wrote a chapter in Gunn’s book So You Want to be a Political Journalist?, remembered how she kept a sunny attitude despite being on “mission impossible” during Sir Major’s ailing 1997 election campaign.

Pictures emerged of the then Prime Minister in a McLaren Formula One car, accompanied by stories about the wheels coming off his campaign wagon and claims that a cameraman tried to position Sir Major under a shop sign that read “S.Lease”.

Brown was part of the media pack following the campaign, and remembers how she coped throughout. “She sailed through it smiling, and telling us [journalists] we were ‘very naughty’,” he said.

Sam Macrory, a student of Gunn’s in 2011 who also contributed a chapter to her book, said: “She could tell us what it was like on the front line as a lobby journalist in Westminster and at the heart of a general election.

“She was wonderfully indiscreet with her tales of her time in politics. She couldn’t help but tell us bits and pieces that we’d never have known otherwise.

She brought people into her confidence and they enjoyed her company. That’s probably how she got her stories.”

Barely two months after the memorial, her ex-husband Mike Beardall, a former regional editor who helped launch the Mail on Sunday, died aged 62. They were married for 14 years.

Sheila Gunn, MBE, journalist, press adviser and university lecturer, was born on August 29, 1948. She died of a brain haemorrhage on October 17, 2014, aged 66.

Originally published by XCity magazine.

“Win-win”: Investigative Bureau moves closer to home

New location strengthens ties and opens up intern opportunities

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) has strengthened its ties with City after moving into a new office only a corridor away from the journalism department.

Until February, the Bureau was situated several streets away from the student body in City’s Myddelton Building.

As a not-for-profit organisation, part of the bureau’s remit is to foster investigative journalism. Since its founding in 2010 it has given City students priority for internships and sent senior staff to guest lecture.

However, from its new vantage point in the College Building the bureau hopes to play an even larger role in students’ work.

Rachel Oldroyd, managing editor, said: “If we manage to encourage two or three more people who’ve gone through the journalism school to move into investigative journalism, that’s a job well done.

Geoge Brock, a trustee of the bureau and the former head of City’s journalism department, said: “It’s a win-win situation. The bureau has access to bright, inquisitive, enthusiastic young journalists, and City students get real-world experience in a challenging but ultimately very rewarding area of journalism.”

Suzanne Franks, who heads the undergraduate programme, said: “We are hoping that the BIJ will provide meaningful and interesting workplace opportunities for our students, and give them a taste of what serious investigative journalism involves.”
The bureau currently has three recent City graduates in their team of 11. Vic Parsons and Jack Serle did the Science MA, while XCity Award nominee Tom Warren came from the Investigative MA.

Vic Parsons, who interned one day a week at the bureau while she was a student, said: “I came with a project that I wanted to work on and found it’s a very supportive, nourishing environment.”
In the past, the bureau has acted as a stepping stone for City alumni to gain jobs in larger organisations. James Ball worked there after graduating from the Magazine MA, before becoming special projects editor of The Guardian.

The bureau has been talking to not-for-profit investigative journalism organisations in the US, where they are more common, to learn about how they operate.

Joaquin Alvarado, CEO at the Center for Investigative Reporting in California, which works with the journalism school at the University of California, Berkeley and the Knight Fellowship at Stanford, said: We have a really special dynamic that is only possible if you work closely with universities. Having an intergenerational newsroom allows new ideas to circulate.”

The bureau is especially keen to mentor students in specific areas, such as video, podcast, data journalism, animation and infographics, to find new ways to tell stories.

Kentish Town choir for Parkinson’s disease sufferers celebrates 10th anniversary

A choir made up of sufferers of a crippling disease is celebrating a decade of helping to boost the health and happiness of its members.

Kentish Town choir Sing for Joy was founded by Parkinson’s disease sufferer Nina Temple, former secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain before it disbanded in 1991.

The Tufnell Park resident, 57, started the group because she was determined to do something positive after being diagnosed in her early 40s. “I was quite overcome with feelings of sadness and frustration that I wouldn’t be able to do all the things I’d always wanted to do.

“One summer I went to a holiday retreat and did some singing. That made me think it was something creative you could do even if your hands are shaking and you can’t walk very well.”

While Ms Temple was mulling over the need for a choir that would be sympathetic to disability, Parkinson’s UK received a grant from the Millennium Commission.

She was able to secure some of this money, which was earmarked for the creation of community projects, and so Sing for Joy was born.

“It’s very uplifting,” she said. “If you’re ill it can be quite a lonely business, but over the years a whole little community has grown, people have got to know each other, look out for each other. And a lot of people really look forward to it as the best night of the week.”

The choir, which rehearses at the Kentish Town Health Centre, in Bartholomew Road, now has some 25 members who are all sufferers of the degenerative disorder or other chronic conditions.

It counts top jazz singer Carol Grimes as its musical director, while renowned Dartmouth Park pianist Dorian Ford provides the backing.

Ms Grimes said: “The most important thing is that the person leading it knows about the health of the voice, because the last thing you want is people damaging their voice on top of having these illnesses.”

The singer has trained specially with a speech therapist so as to be in the best position to harness the therapeutic effects of singing for the group.

Ms Temple paid tribute to the jazz star’s ability to generate amazing enthusiasm.

“Members end up singing away together with their carers and you can see it alters the chemistry of their relationship,” she said.

The group marked its 10th anniversary with a big show at Stoke Newington Town Hall. Speaking about the benefits of performing, Ms Temple said: “Suddenly on the night, with the rush of adrenaline as the floodlights go up and everybody’s on the stage, we really pull it together and it feels quite powerful and surprising that we can sing so well.”

To find out more visit http://www.carolgrimes.com/singforjoy and go to http://www.justgiving.com/singforjoy to donate.

Originally published by The Ham & High.