Guest Post – Sarah Moore: TV journalism
November 17, 2010 2 Comments
This week – in a Hacks special – we look at a Wanna-‘be’ and a Wanna-‘been’ in the TV journalism industry. Our Wanna-‘been’ is the award-winning TV journalist Sarah Moore who has worked with ITN, ITV, GMTV and now lectures in broadcast journalism at Salford University.
Sarah is a journalist that has traveled and reported all over the world. Basically, she has bags of experience and that means there’s lots of advice… Here it is.
Lesson number 1: you do not break into television expecting it to be glamorous!
Of course elements of the job can be. It’s pretty glamorous being sent to Paris Fashion Week. It’s not however glamorous when you’ve been given just a few hours to get there and you’re not exactly dressed for the occasion or able to speak the same language as your crew.
I’ve spent the past ten years working in television news. I was very fortunate to get my first job at ITV Central in Birmingham, one of the best regional news stations. It was a big step for someone straight out of a post-grad course in Broadcast Journalism at the Cardiff Journalism School.
So how did I break into the industry known to be one of the most cut-throat and competitive of them all?
Lesson number 2: sleep is for wimps; a life is something you can have another time.
It’s true for any industry that’s difficult to break into: you have to give up everything and commit every ounce of energy to achieving your goal. I made sure when I was doing my post-grad that I was working in a radio station at the same time to clock up the experience. A small station in Wolverhampton took me on as a weekend news editor, just a jumped-up way to say that I worked alone, single-handedly producing and presenting the news bulletins in the Black Country.
When we were told to go out and find a placement I picked ITV Central and then worked every day for the next month. I was first in and last to leave. My reward came when I was given my first story on Easter Monday reporting on Britain’s biggest bunny! My commitment and enthusiasm paid off when I was given my first job just weeks later.
You have to be prepared to drop anything at the last minute for a job in news, television as well. If you don’t say yes to rushing out in the middle of the night to report on the flash floods, they won’t again. That’s just the way it goes. Say yes to everything and resign yourself to living in the newsroom.
Lesson number 3: make friends with everyone and use whoever you can.
When I started my post-grad with dreams of becoming a television reporter, I was immediately disheartened to find that a few on my course mates had parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles all holding senior positions at ITV or the BBC.
I automatically thought that they would be getting the jobs. However, you can network, meet people and talk to people. There’s nothing stopping you contacting reporters you admire and asking them for advice. I remember writing to Jeremy Paxman before I started. He replied.
So much of my success has been down to a few key leaders in the industry that supported my and gave me the courage to try new things. Without them, I wouldn’t have achieved half of what I did. Having those relationships is important and so I make sure I am always available to people if they are interested in working in television to offer support and guidance. One of the girls I mentored is now doing really well at ITN. So if you’re reading this and want to work in television, use me! Just drop me a line and I’ll help where I can.
Lesson number 4: stand out from the crowd.
You should want to break into television because you love pictures and the creativity that brings. Being of this generation, you can use technology to do some incredible things with pictures and editing. That is your unique selling point and you need to use that to our advantage. Plenty of old school reporters can’t edit and you need to make the most of that.
After two years reporting in regional news, I knew that I had to do something different to stand out from the hundreds of ‘wannabe hacks’. The glitz and glamour of premieres is great but that’s not going to win you any awards. With help and support from my incredible news editors, we came up with an idea to run a series of special reports on drug-rape. It was Christmas party season so topical. It was decided that I should take the drug used in attacks and film the aftermath. The results dominated the news agenda of the day. The story was picked up by GMTV and ITV. I picked up two news awards for the reports and landed a secondment to ITN.
Think creatively. Think outside the box. Think of something to get you noticed.
Lesson number 5: television is great and the opportunities are endless.
It’s not easy breaking into television but if you do you, it’s a great job. I spent a year in New York as the correspondent for GMTV following Obama on the campaign trail. I spent two weeks in the Caribbean working on features for Fairtrade. I’ve had afternoon tea for an interview with Dame Julie Andrews. I’ve been an extra in Sex and the City, high-fived George Clooney and danced with the Radio City Rockettes. I brought the issue of suicide chatrooms to national awareness with my investigations. And I’ve been waist deep in water more times that I care to remember thanks to floods.
Commitment, dedication and a strong creative mind is necessary to break into television.
If you can tweet as you blog and edit as you’re filming – whilst using a b-gan to send a live report – then you have a job for life.