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A page from his diary May 21, 2009

Posted by Paula in Lit, Webshite.
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Ferdinand Von Prondzynski, President of Dublin City University, was featured in The Irish Times yesterday, which is nothing new considering the huge amount of Irish media coverage that DCU gets. But surprisingly, the article only focused briefly on Ferdie’s views on the re-introduction of university fees. Instead, it showcased his talents as a blogger, which are considerable.

ferdinand myspace

I definitely have a soft spot for Ferdie, mainly because of the huge effort he makes to engage with DCU students. As well as having Facebook, Bebo and Myspace pages, Ferdie has been blogging at Diary of a University President since June of last year. Anyone from DCU- check his stuff out. Anyone not from DCU but with an interest in the Eurovision, the Premier League, or the running of a university– check his stuff out.

Laura Whitmore: from La Senza to LA April 16, 2009

Posted by Paula in Televisual.
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[Published in this month’s edition of The College View]

Just over a year ago, Laura Whitmore was working 9-5 for an Irish radio station. These days, she presents two shows on MTV and travels between LA and London to interview stars like Hugh Jackman, Coldplay and Kings of Leon. And it’s all thanks to a borrowed camera and a hastily put-together MySpace profile. Whitmore was one of over 2,000 hopefuls who took part in Pick Me MTV, the televised search for a new MTV News presenter in February 2008. Whitmore says she’d always wanted to work in television. “I knew I’d get there eventually, and this is my dream job… The real world’s not that bad.”

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Laura is a graduate of DCU Journalism and was asked back this month to present Style Soc’s annual Fashion Show. She found some time on her flying visit to chat with Flux’s Paula Lyne.

PL: I suppose the most unusual thing about your career is how it all got started. Your relationship with MTV just sprang up out of nothing, didn’t it?

LW: Yeah, I wasn’t in meetings with MTV or anything. They were advertising quite openly on TV and the internet for a new MTV News presenter. Anyone who wanted to could send in a video of themselves doing a news report. I didn’t even have any footage of myself to send to them. I persuaded one of my friends to film me. He borrowed a camera from college and we did my show reel in DCU’s television studio. It was really simple and to be honest, it was fairly shit.

The competition was run in association with MySpace and the video had to be uploaded from your profile. I didn’t even have a MySpace profile; none of my friends even used the site. I had to ask my little brother to help me set it all up one night; I had no idea what I was doing.

PL: Did you have to wait long to hear back from the heads at MTV?

LW: I didn’t hear back for two or three months. I wasn’t waiting by the phone. In fact when I got the call I was embarrassed more than anything – I was half naked in a changing room in La Senza so I was kind of lost for words. I was standing there with no top on and I got a call asking me to come over to London that weekend for Pick Me MTV. I was delighted, but then they said something like “what are you up to at the moment?” I couldn’t exactly tell MTV I was shopping for a bra to wear under my new dress.

PL: What was the selection process like? They must have gotten huge amounts of MTV wannabes?

LW: Around 2,000 videos were uploaded from MySpace. From that they rang about 100 people to come over to London. It happened very fast – lots of things happened in one weekend.

100 of us were put up in a hotel on the Friday night. On the Saturday, there were two rounds of heats, and it went from 100 people to 45, and then down to 10. We were judged on our interviewing skills and how we were in front of a camera. This all happened in one day, which was a bit scary. On the third day, the final five people were chosen.

I didn’t even know that the selection process was going to be aired on MTV. It was made into a five-part show, but I had no idea there were going to be cameras.

PL: When you were eventually chosen as the new face of MTV, were you nervous?

LW: Yes, I had no idea what to do. My first day wasn’t even in the MTV studio in London – it was an interview with Coldplay in LA. I made up all my questions on the spot. At my old job with Newstalk, everything was checked over, but at MTV they just gave me a microphone and said “Off you go love”. But I don’t really get nervous any more. The MTV offices are far too relaxed – there’s people wandering around in shorts and playing ping-pong. It doesn’t feel like an office job.

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PL: You’re not a typical journalist, because you don’t really have to spend time chasing people for interviews. But do you get any freedom with stories or are you told who to interview and when?

LW: Well, it’s not about chasing down stories; it’s not that kind of news. But I’m not told what to do, because most of our news is self-generated. I got some really good sound clips from an interview with Kasabian this week, and that was part of the next day’s MTV News. It all depends on who we interview.

We’re quite lucky that publicists come to MTV with exclusives. It’s an international company and most bands are dying to get that kind of coverage. I don’t have to spend my day on the phone begging for interviews, but I’m still under pressure to get interesting answers and sound clips. I never get starstruck though, because I’m always thinking too much about getting a good quote.

You’ve become quite a well-known face since you started at MTV – you now present on two daily shows. Is it weird being treated as a celebrity when your own job is to interview celebrities?

I live in London and the place is full of big names. When you’re surrounded by so many famous people, it’s easy to remember that you’re a nobody. I wouldn’t consider myself a celebrity at all. Some young presenters do become bigger than the stars they’re interviewing. A lot of the T4 presenters would get recognised when they’re out – but I’m the one recognising them, not the one being recognised.

It’s weird being back in DCU as the fashion show presenter. Three years ago, I was a model in the show and I had to go through auditions like everyone else. My friends were texting me yesterday saying “People are really excited that you’re coming”. I was thinking “Who’s excited? Why are they excited?” It’s very strange being back in this capacity.

Do MTV treat you like a celebrity?

Not at all. They set me up with interviews, but everything else I’ve had to do myself. I left my job at Newstalk and found my own place to live in London with a week’s notice. I don’t have a make-up artist and I don’t have a stylist. None of the MTV News or Digs presenters do. I do get sent lots of free clothes and products though, which is a definite perk. But sometimes we pre-record five days worth of shows in one day, and that means I have to plan at least five different outfits. I don’t get any help with stuff like that.

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Have all of your interviews for MTV gone smoothly, or are there some you’d rather forget?

I’m still getting used to all of this, and it is quite stressful when you’re sent to an awards show and expected to interview lots of big names. I haven’t had any terrible experiences, but I did an interview with the new Bond girl, Olga Kurylenko, last week which was difficult. She’s Ukrainian and there was a big language barrier. All I got from her was “Yes” and “No”, which meant most of the interview couldn’t be used. If an interviewee is really relaxed and chatty, I love it, because I can put my notes away. But that doesn’t always happen.

What would you say to people who tell you that you didn’t deserve to get this job with so little effort?

I don’t think people realise that I have a lot of media experience. I didn’t just walk into this out of nowhere. I studied Journalism here in DCU, so I have experience in TV newsrooms and I’m able to edit my own stuff. That definitely helped me get my place on MTV. My job isn’t just about being in front of a camera and I wouldn’t have gotten it if all I was able to was to read from a script. I write scripts for the shows and I write for the website. I had a permanent research position at Newstalk after leaving college, but I never really intended to stay there. This is my dream job, and I would have gotten here eventually even if I hadn’t been lucky with Pick Me MTV. I know I’m quite young and there are a lot of people who want my job. But MTV are happy with me so I’m not going to complain.

[Photos from here and here]