Mobile phone bills in The Guardian

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I spoke to parents about their children’s mobile phone bills for a feature in The Guardian newspaper and website.

I pitched the piece to the Online Money Editor and it was added to by their own reporter Miles Brignall.

Read the full article here.

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Meningitis B debate featured in The Daily Telegraph

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I wrote a feature in the health supplement of The Daily Telegraph newspaper about the meningitis B vaccination and whether or not to have my eldest son immunised.

It also featured on their website here.

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Telegraph Wonder Women: Let’s be honest about how much breastfeeding can hurt

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A common topic of conversation at my breastfeeding support group has been how much breastfeeding can hurt in the initial weeks. And yet many healthcare professionals do not talk about this for fear of putting women off breastfeeding.

As a result I wrote a piece for Telegraph Women about the pain of breastfeeding after speaking to mums and experts. Read the article here.

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Guardian Money: Debt collection harassment

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I recently noticed a number of my friends talking on Facebook about being hassled for debt that did not belong to them.

So I pitched an idea for a feature on the topic to Guardian Money and a couple of weeks later it was published.

Read the full article here.

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Winning the sugar war featured in The Telegraph

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I am a strict mum when it comes to sugar. I value my sons’ teeth and don’t want them to end up as a terrible tooth-rotting statistic. I wrote about my battle to police my sons’ sugar intake for The Telegraph’s online Women’s Section. They aptly published it on Pancake Day.

Read the full article here.

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Is the rugby world really in union?

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The World in Union. It’s one hell of an optimistic Rugby World Cup slogan but try telling it to the men and women still ostracized by their clubs, fans, and countries, for being gay.

One Guinness advert featuring Gareth Thomas talking about his isolation as one of the very few openly gay sports stars, doesn’t mean we have reached a good place for LGBT sportspeople.

A Vice News story last month, which celebrated 20 years of the world’s first gay rugby club, the King’s Cross Steelers, made the bold claim that we are living in a “great time for LGBT sportspeople”. But this subjective viewpoint depends on whether you are a glass half full or half empty kind of sportsperson.

The 2015 Out on the Fields international study on homophobia in sport shockingly revealed that 77% of participants in the UK had “witnessed or experienced” homophobia in sport – and yet we are supposedly one of the most tolerant nations in the world.

Last week (October 7) gay rugby documentary Scrum opened at the Iris Prize Festival – Cardiff’s international gay and lesbian short film festival – whilst the Rugby World Cup plays out at the Millennium Stadium.

The irony of this cultural pairing is priceless. The Australian documentary which tracks the 2014 Bingham Cup – an international gay rugby union tournament – focuses on an Irish backpacker, Canadian jock and stoic Japanese outsider, who have had to travel across the world to be accepted as gay rugby players in the inclusive Sydney Convicts club.

The Bingham Cup was founded in 2002 in memory of American gay rugby player Mark Bingham who was one of the passengers to bravely tackle terrorists on the Airlines Flight 93 during the 9/11 attacks. Inaugurated by the International Gay Rugby Association and Board, the Bingham Cup soon became the gay equivalent of the Rugby World Cup.

Yet the very fact that gay rugby exists as a separate sporting entity highlights the ridiculous segregation that still exists between straight and gay players. Could you imagine if there was a black and white rugby cup?

Scrum director Poppy Stockell, says the results of homophobia in sport survey are “pretty grim” and stigma continues to surround gay rugby as her film attests.

The most affecting scene in Scrum, which led to emphatic audience tears during its premiere at the Sheffield DocFest earlier this year, was the sight of 15 men crying in the locker room before the tournament final, as they recalled the past abuse and suffering they had endured in sport and the wider world before finally finding acceptance and unity on the gay rugby pitch.

Irishman Pearse Egan was taunted and bullied at school and was the kid no-one wanted on their team. “I was called poof and they would say don’t pass the ball to him…I was asked to leave every sports club I was in”, said Pearse. And he didn’t just face abuse from school bullies, Scrum captures his painful recollection of the horrific moment he was humiliated by his homophobic Catholic school teacher in the middle of class.

Pin-up Canadian Brennan Bastyovanszky claims he was forced out of an amateur rugby league club after they discovered he was gay. He found himself frequently sat on the bench and decided to seek out a more inclusive club landing himself a position as loose head pop in the first team of Sydney Convicts.

But Japanese player Aki Mizutani took the most dramatic steps of all, leaving his home country to find refuge in Sydney.

These individual stories capture the stark prejudice that still exists in sport worldwide and prevent players from coming out.

But at least international rugby is trying to tackle the problem – right? In March this year World Rugby signed a historic agreement with International Gay Rugby to collaborate on the continued promotion of equality and inclusiveness in rugby.

International Gay Rugby Chairman Jeff Wilson called the agreement “a momentous occasion for LGBT athletes, supporters, officials and administrators and the people who support them in the game of rugby”.

Meanwhile Andrew Purchas, executive producer of Scrum and Vice president of International Gay Rugby, said is was only the “first small step” in eradicating homophobia in sport, and there was lots more all sports could do.

With this in mind the Bingham Cup is working with the Human Rights Commission and Australian Sports Commission to develop a Pride in Sport Index.  This will be annual measure of sporting organisations, clubs and teams measure of inclusiveness. In Australia the national sporting organisations of rugby, rugby league, soccer, cricket and Australian Rules have all agreed to be participate in the in the index.

But some may argue that measures such as a Memorandum of Understanding or pride index only serve to underline the poor state of affairs surrounding homophobia in sport in 2015 and we still have a very long way to go before the world is truly in union.

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What is the value of journalism accreditation?

I recently presented a research paper at the annual Association for Journalism Education conference exploring the value of journalism accreditation to industry employers.

The findings, albeit on a small scale, indicate that employers are looking for individuals with writing and digital skills, work experience and an ability to hit the ground running, rather than a certificate stating they are from an accredited course or have a journalism qualification.

It must be noted that this research involved interviews with editors across the whole sector: TV, Radio, Online, Newspapers, Magazines from a hyperlocal, regional and national level. It also looked at all three accreditation bodies: NCTJ, BJTC and PPA.

It was not about recruitment into the regional press as this is no longer the established pathway into journalism for many graduates. It should also be noted that this research, funded by an AJE grant, was initiated in January 2014 and was completely independent of any accreditation that the institution I work for has, or is seeking.

Not surprisingly the findings have caused a bit of a reaction with lecturers under pressure to reluctantly accredit courses taking the results back to their institutions. Furthermore a story on regional newspaper trade website Hold the Front Page has caused some strong responses – both supportive and defensive.

But the reaction can only be a good thing, as it highlights the need for the topic to be discussed and evaluated. I am a graduate from an accredited journalism course myself and I am fully aware of my own institution’s drive to get courses accredited. But that doesn’t mean that as a researcher I shouldn’t be able to operate objectively and ask these challenging questions – after all isn’t that what journalists do?

You can find the slides from my AJE presentation here and an interesting and balanced response from Local World Regional Editorial Trainer Paul Wiltshire here. My full research paper will be published in the next edition of the AJE journal.

I discuss the topic in more detail in the video below.

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