Sometimes, the best lessons in journalism happen out on the street. That was the case when MA Journalism students met ITN crew Ben Chapman and Bill Jones at Birmingham Crown Court.
They were in court when the jury returned a verdict finding Daniel Sanzone, 23, guilty of murdering his baby son.
The verdict made the lead story on the ITN lunchtime news and the students watched as reporter Ben delivered a live “piece to camera” minutes afterwards.
Then he and cameraman Bill Jones spent half an hour chatting with the students, who were studying law as part of their MA Global Journalism and MA Automotive Journalism courses.
They talked about their work and even showed them inside their mobile newsroom – a converted van in which they had already cut together a video report on the trial, and filed it back to base.
The encounter came about in November 2016 when journalism tutor Simon Pipe saw the ITN crew outside the court at the start of the day and introduced the students, who were on a field trip to see the law in action.
On Ben’s recommendation, the students sat in on the cross-examination of a young man accused of sexual assault – and were still present when word came through that the jury in the murder trial was ready to deliver the verdict.
Simon said: “Ben talked through his own career and the kind of stories he covers while Bill was packing up all the camera gear.
“But then Bill invited everyone to crowd round their van and showed them exactly how a piece is cut together and relayed back to base.
“They were really generous with their time. They’d been working under high pressure but effectively gave up their lunch break to talk to us.
“And it was thanks to Ben’s advice that we were able to catch the intensity of the moment the jury delivered the verdicts.
“You see juries deliver their verdicts in films and it’s a moment of drama. It’s the same when it happens for real, but it’s more powerful because you’re in the room and the significance is brought home to you.
“But the dead baby’s mother was found not guilty of any responsibility. Her own mother was sitting with us in the public gallery and she let out a cry of relief. We saw her daughter rush out from the dock and embrace her just feet away from us.
“This was a powerful, highly charged moment being acted out right in front of us.”
Dr Fred Mudhai, the course director, said: “This was a great example of the kind of experiences we like to give our students on the MA course – real encounters with the world of journalism, out in the field.
“We’ve also had guest speakers from industry come into the classroom, including Max Mulgrew, a veteran member of BBC News website team, which is based in the West Midlands.
“We are very grateful to Ben and Bill.”