Peter Ranscombe

Peter Ranscombe - 2004 Graduate

Business Reporter, The Scotsman

PeterWhile studying physics at St Andrews, I knew that I wanted to write about science. With the help of the university press office and the School of Physics and Astronomy, I arranged work experience for myself at Scottish Television (STV) and The Scotsman newspaper during my second year at university. I had previously carried out work experience with Moray Firth Radio (MFR) while at home in Nairn, in the Highlands.

Work experience whetted my appetite for newspaper writing and so I decided that I wanted to write about science for the general reader rather than in a specialist science journal. During my time at St Andrews, I also edited Aurora, the University astronomy society magazine, which was named “Best Newsletter” at the 2003 Institute of Physics Nexxus Awards. I was also a news reporter and columnist for The Saint, the University student newspaper.

I graduated from St Andrews with a BSc(Hons) in Physics in 2004 and then undertook a master of letters (MLitt) degree in journalism studies at the Scottish Centre for Journalism Studies (SCJS), which, at the time, was run jointly by Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian universities. Now each of the institutions runs separate post-graduate courses in journalism studies. I was fortunate to be selected for one of four Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS)-funded places on the course; I also received funding from the Glasgow Highland Society and the Cross Trust.

I believe that the work experience I carried out during my time at St Andrews and the work I did on the student publications – along with my previous experience as a school newspaper and church magazine editor – helped me to win a place on the post-graduate course.

I was attracted to the SCJS course because it was accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), allowing students to complete their NCTJ pre-entry exams at the SCJS, making them more attractive to potential employers at local newspapers. I decided against studying “science communication” at post-graduate level; while I recognise that such courses are very useful for people who will work as press officers for universities or as demonstrators at science centres, I felt that studying science communication would be too narrow a field when compared with more general journalism training.

While at the SCJS, I undertook more work experience at the Inverness Courier, The Herald and again at The Scotsman. My work experience at The Scotsman led directly to shift work with the paper and then the offer of a full-time job when my journalism course ended in the summer of 2005.

My first role at the paper was as an editorial assistant, writing for and helping to edit the professional pages (which included Science & Technology, Medical Matters, Education & Learning, Law & Legal Affairs, Government & Public Affairs and Media & Marketing) and special projects, such as the Seven Wonders of Scotland campaign and our Scottish Wildlife Week coverage. I spent three years as an editorial assistant before being promoted to my current role as a business reporter.

I’ve kept up my science writing – including covering life science companies and university spin-outs on the business pages – and I was fortunate to be chosen to attend the World Conference of Science Journalists in London during the summer of 2009, with sponsorship from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

During my time so far at The Scotsman, I have enjoyed writing about science and hope to do more in the future. My career has been about small steps in the right direction, but I can see a clear link between my time at St Andrews and the work experience I undertook and the role I’m performing at Scotland’s national newspaper today.

First posted BDS 17.11.09