Exam results and the Media: a personal experience

In many ways, I guess I was naive…

This did actually happen – and it changed the way I view the media forever.

Some background: my secondary school was (and still is) less than half a mile away from the Sky TV HQ in west London. It was August 1994, and I’d already picked up my A-Level results and was hanging around outside the school, ostentatiously smoking and waiting for some friends. Suddenly, a Sky News crew showed up at the school gates, cameraman and besuited reporter in tow, to get some ‘reaction’ from staff and students in the usual fashion.

They asked me and a fellow student if we would like to be interviewed on camera. Excitedly (and rather stupidly – remember, I was only 18 at the time!), I said yes. In retrospect, it was obvious why they chose me – I looked like a freak. I was heavily into grunge and metal at the time, and dressed like it. Badly.

I can still remember the outfit I was wearing that day – battered black DMs with multi-coloured laces and about three pairs of socks, black leggings, a black and white patterned miniskirt, my old Pearl Jam t-shirt (covered in hot rock burns), a baggy blue checked shirt, a truly ridiculous black and white floppy hat, and John Lennon-style shades (which didn’t suit me).

Ouch. Who told me that looked good?

Anyway, the reporter explained what he wanted from us – a quick interview and then filming us going in to pick up our results. Hang on, we said, we’ve already picked up our results. But no, that didn’t seem to bother him. He’d decided who he was going to interview and nothing was changing that, despite the fact that he could have talked to any one of the people turning up at the school while we were stood there talking – people who hadn’t actually picked up their results yet.

To my eternal shame, I did it. I let Sky News film me going into school to pretend to get my A-Level results and it was broadcast on their news bulletin that evening. I’m not proud of what I did that morning, and since then I’ve tended to run away when journalists stick cameras in my face (which, considering the amount of time I spend out on the streets protesting these days, happens more often than you might think – and is usually done with fewer manners than the Sky News guy managed!).

Good luck to all of you getting your results today – try to ignore all the media bullshit about exams ‘getting easier’ and the now-stereotypical pictures of happy, attractive young ladies celebrating straight A’s (I got a B and two E’s, and certainly wasn’t a happy, attractive young lady when I appeared on the telly!).

Having met and spoken to some of the students who will be getting their results today at last year’s student demos, I know how hard all of you have worked and that the pressures you have been under are far greater than when I did my A-Levels. I wish you all well for the future – and advise you to avoid slightly devious news reporters today!

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