Marta Portocarrero, wins The Guardian’s Student Digital Journalist of the Year


Marta Portocarrero a recent graduate from the Goldsmiths MA in Digital Journalism has just won the Student Digital Journalist of the Year.  We talk to her about her promising plans for the future in multimedia journalism and her upcoming internship at The Guardian.

Firstly many congratulations on winning the award. Can you tell me a bit about the piece you submitted for the award?

For this award I submitted three different pieces, which were all my assignments on Sandbox (a module of my MA). One was a long piece of writing about how it is to live in a hostel for a long time. It’s called Settling Down in a Hostel and, apart from writing, includes photography, video and parallax scrolling. The second one is a data-driven piece on Bike Theft in South East London. I have created a WordPress blog for that and analysed bike theft in different boroughs of South East London. It was useful to understand a bit more of data and play around with visualizations. The last one, is, again, a long piece of writing on a guy who has built his own houseboat and community in Deptford (“Living in a Floating Community“). This one is more “stylish” in what concerns to digital elements. It has a video banner and different pictures displays. I tried to explore my video skills and, as a result, there are two videos which are fundamental in the piece too.

What research did you undertake for the project during your time studying at Goldsmiths?

Since all the projects were part of my work for Sandbox, I worked hard and tried to apply all the skills I’ve learned in class but also to push a bit my boundaries each time, although I was far from thinking I could submit them for any award. For the first project (about the hostel), I interviewed a friend of mine who was living in a hostel for over three years and who had a great life story and allowed me to publish it. The research was basically finding a good topic and a great character to illustrate it. The second one was slightly more technical. I have decided to write about bike theft because there are a lot of people who cycle in London and because my bicycle was also stolen once, so I could somehow relate to the topic. I looked for data and found out that Metropolitan Police have a good database on that, so all I had to do was scraping their website, querying the data, building visualizations and writing a story according to my findings. The third one was similar to the first one and based on a good community story and a strong character. I also researched a bit on data related to houseboats moored on the Thames, but ended up not including it in the project.

Can you talk a little bit about why you chose the MA in Digital Journalism at Goldsmiths?

I did my BA in Journalism in Portugal and, then, I struggled to find a job there. So I went travelling for a while to clear up my mind a bit and decided that I would like to study some more. I quickly understood I wasn’t particularly interested in politics, economics, culture, etc… so the way wouldn’t be necessarily related to the content, but more to the shape. At the same time I was feeling more and more curious about how some digital pieces I could find online were built. When The New York Times published the Snow Fall, I understood that there were people actually doing what I had in mind. So, I emailed some of its journalist and asked for advice. They told me which skills I should aim to achieve and I started researching. I knew that the UK was a country where digital journalism was appreciated and I have found some interesting universities here. In the end, Goldsmiths was the most attractive one and, so far, seemed to have been the best choice.

Where are you currently working now?

I keep looking for a job. I’ve submitted some applications, here and abroad, and I am waiting on their answer, mostly multimedia/digital positions. Meanwhile, I keep doing some freelance projects similar to the ones I have done during the MA or some journalistic videos and short documentaries. I’ve recently done an internship at the interactive desk of The Financial Times. Since I’ve finished the MA the times haven’t been the easiest ones, but they have been essential for me to understand what I really want to do and which areas are not so much of my interest.

Whats on the horizon for the future?

First, I will do the internship at the multimedia desk of The Guardian, which I am really excited about. Then, depending on the results of my job applications, and if everything goes well, I may end up working on a multimedia desk of a media company here or abroad. If nothing goes as planned, I may try to look for some funding to do a web-documentary, which is an area that really fascinates me, given it’s combination of filming and technology (web designing, coding). In any project, I tend to prioritize storytelling, so in either way I think I would be happy.