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29 October 2013

Jon Nurse, local journalist

Jon Nurse, local journalist

Jon Nurse is a reporter in Berkshire. After finishing his studies in 2009 he worked with Serving in Mission in Burkina Faso for two years before securing his first job in the media at the Wokingham Times. He loves football and films.

What are the main challenges you face as a local journalist?
Life as a reporter is a never-ending treadmill of deadlines. No sooner is one page or one paper completed than the editor is waiting for copy for the next. The pressure never lets off. Wokingham isn't notorious for its headline-grabbing shocks or scandals so a successful paper must be close to the community to hear what is surprising or concerning people on a daily basis.

What is the most unique thing?
At 9am you could be interviewing a phantom knitter who's decorating roundabouts and road signs with brightly coloured cosies. At 9.30am you might then be gathering details of a serious crash in the town centre, ready to fire your report immediately on the web. Then at 10am you could be on the phone with Roger Moore, asking what he thought of Skyfall for a leisure interview. It's endlessly diverse.

What do you consider to be your most successful scoop?
In June a story broke when people started tweeting that police were searching for a missing woman in some woods. From those first rumours I followed the shocking breaking story through to its conclusion, when a convicted sex attacker was jailed for life for murdering a Nepalese mother-of-three.

The killer's plea hearing was moved forward unannounced but spotted on the court list by a colleague, making me the sole reporter in court as all the details were revealed before his dramatic sentencing. The news editor held the front page as the sentencing stretched 30 minutes beyond the print deadline. I rushed the moment court concluded and immediately dictated the story over the phone for a salacious front page exclusive.

What is your personal aim at work?
It is no secret in our office that I'm a Christian. I have a predecessor to thank for that who loudly welcomed a new faith-filled friend joining the team ahead of his imminent departure.

I hope I am salt and light in my workplace. My work is driven by honesty and integrity, but I wouldn't say that's any different to any other reporters in my office – contrary to our society's stereotype.

I'm not direct in challenging people's misconceptions of Christianity but rather try to build relationships which do open doors for conversations. I pray I give a clear and confident case for the gospel when opportunities come my way.

Is it difficult to keep on top of the competition?
There's a thrill from getting a good exclusive and some real satisfaction to seeing your byline by the scoop that's got everyone in the town talking. Competitiveness pushes me to up my game, there's no doubt about it, but I've had to learn humility in that I will not always be first onto a top story.

How do you keep your head in the pressure?
I wish I could say it's trusting in the Lord always, but all too often it isn't. When facing a daunting workload and precious little time my default is to rely on my own strength. The trouble is, there's only so far my strength can go.

Faced with a mass of stories and emails to rattle through, I list the expectations of each deadline and tackle them one at a time. A marathon can seem overwhelming when viewed in its entirety, but take it a mile at a time and a disciplined runner can make it to the finish line.

I take inspiration from Hebrews 12: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

What do you love most?
I love writing – there's no two ways about it. I don't like to rush a story, I craft it.
I'm freed from the shackles of the time-pressured news deadlines when I take on features and I embrace the opportunity to inject some colour and personality into my copy.

I've become a bit of the office action man, diving into features that involve dangling from dangerous heights or tackling fitness feats. I've scaled climbing walls, slalomed on skis and paddled across country park waters - all in the name of the paper.

Any advice for those hoping to go into journalism?
It's a competitive business, so show initiative to get work experience and build a portfolio to give yourself the best chance to stand out. Be under no illusions what you're letting yourself in for. Take things one at a time so not to feel overwhelmed.

Read this and other Culture Footprint interviews on our website