The supportive network of friends that graduate Reece Stafferton found at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) gave them the confidence to accept themselves and pursue an exciting career in investigative journalism.
Reece (right) with their partner, Leah (middle), and friend Megan (left) at Leicester Pride
Reece, 25 years-old, decided to come to DMU without attending an Open Day and instead jumped straight into their interview for Drama BA (Hons). The welcoming department and course content, alongside the thriving city of Leicester, helped Reece decide that DMU was the place for them.
“I was really anxious and self-conscious before coming to university but the friends I made during my degree and the support of my lecturers really helped me to build my confidence,” said Reece.
This support also helped Reece to come out as bisexual to their family and embrace their queer identity and role in the LGBTQ+ community.
They said: “University gave me a support network. My friends really gave me the confidence to come out, and I was lucky to have a positive experience because I know it’s not like that for everyone.”
The confidence that Reece developed at university gave them the push they needed to pursue journalism. After enjoying their time at DMU so much, they decided to continue studying in Leicester for their postgraduate study on the university’s Investigative Journalism MA, that is endorsed and developed by Channel 4.
“I always knew I wanted a creative career, and I enjoyed the writing I did during my drama degree. However, I was accepted onto the Investigative Journalism MA knowing it would mean I would have to have a very tight budget,” they said.
“One of my happiest memories of studying at DMU is when I celebrated with my friends after I found out I had received a Channel 4 scholarship for my postgraduate course. This wavered my tuition fees which allowed me to use some of my student loan money to travel around the UK to cover stories.
“The training on the MA is some of the best out there. The connections we made to other journalists was just so incredibly powerful and made me realise it's not all about becoming a journalist at a national newspaper. It is more about what impact the journalism is going to have, which I can achieve locally,” said Reece.
Now a graduate of the Investigative Journalism MA, Reece has seen great success in pursuing their dream career, especially with the launch of The Great Central Gazette. This Leicester-based newspaper is run by Reece and two other volunteers who are working to make it a full-time endeavour.
Reece and the rest of the team behind the Great Central Gazette
They said: “The Gazette is an exciting alternative to how news is usually produced. It’s a sustainable option that will focus on Leicester and its community, and is an opportunity to amplify marginalised, disadvantaged and underrepresented groups - including the LGBTQ+ community.
“We’re an all-queer team running the Gazette and we led the Leicester Pride parade in September, so pride is a big part of our work. We want to hear the stories of marginalised groups and tell it openly and honestly.
“Our website, which we will be launching early this year, will have typical feature content, as well as a voices section where we will support people to pen articles and tell their stories with their own voice.”
As well as working on the Great Central Gazette, Reece works as a freelance journalist and at the Independent Media Association, which represents independent media across the UK.
While freelancing, Reece has worked with Sky News to cover Leicester’s elections, written for The Private Eye, and was accepted onto the Lyra McKee Journalism Training Bursary, named after the queer journalist who was killed covering protest riots in Northern Ireland.
“It was an honour to be accepted onto that scholarship and undergoing nine months of training and pitching to editors was amazing. It meant a lot to me as a queer journalist to be awarded a scholarship named after Lyra McKee and I felt a connection there,” said Reece.
“Being bisexual, I’ve had my fair share of discrimination. Unfortunately, that's just part of being different and I wish we could eradicate it. I really hope with things like the Gazette we can help to shift attitudes and really focus on the human rights aspects which underpin discrimination.
Reece and their friend Emma, who also volunteers for The Great Central Gazette
“Being part of the LGBTQ+ community is an incredible experience. There’s a connectivity and closeness that really makes me value it and I do feel like if I'm ever discriminated against for my sexuality, or if I need support exploring my gender and sexuality in the future, there is that community to reach out to.”
When asked about their advice for recent graduates, Reece said: “I would say to take it slow. I think there’s often an urge to run before you can walk. When you graduate, you have a lot of ambition and you want to get things done and make a name for yourself, but it's not necessarily about that. Look inside yourself and think about what impact you want to have on society, or on your community. See if you can find happiness in what you're doing, even if it takes 10 or 15 years to achieve that.”
Click here to explore the events and activities taking place for DMU Pride.
Posted on Thursday 26th January 2023