Guest Post – Sarah Moore: TV journalism


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!
Sarah Moore #4

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.

Sarah Moore ITV

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.

Sarah Moore #5

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.

Sarah Moore #6

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.

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About Matthew Caines
Community & content for the Guardian Culture & Media professional networks | founder of @wannabehacks @withinreachmag | find him on Twitter @mattcaines

2 Responses to Guest Post – Sarah Moore: TV journalism

  1. Matt Baxter says:

    Haha good one guys!
    This was going to be a possible submission towards my three ideas for potential blog ideas, good thing i’ve got a few spare!
    Sarah will be teaching me next semester, should be really good.

  2. Peter Demain says:

    1. I’d like this and other delusions, particularly concerning the financial, to remain as strong as ever before degrees price out everybody except those who know someone anyhow. Whilst the net preventing the shallow who place vanity and cash above say passion or hard-work is pretty tight there are sadly those who slip through. It is a cost the industry must weather – for who would deny those within it cherished put-downs?

    2. Would have loved to have covered the bunny story, but other than some cute close-ups the report would be best filled with facts. Interviews with people tend to fall between the pretentious and moronic, such as random members of the public who end up in soundbites. Then we’re meant to care more than if we overheard opinions outside the charity shop or in the pub because, er…it’s on telly!

    In-studio interviews can be extraordinarily trite – recently on that plug-fest known as BBC Breakfast a PR fluffmeister in the City waffled on about the economy in fancy terms that boiled down to ‘when things are good people buy more, when things are bad they reign it in’.

    Give that man a gold star!

    3. This is a good point; I remember Francis Wheen as a student looked up Auberon Waugh’s phone number for an essay on his famed father Evelyn. Sadly despite all the facts he got over the telephone from the man – some of which had apparently not been revealed before – he got a poor grade with the teacher sniffingly pronouncing it ‘mere journalism’.

    That said it’s an esteemed fact that most journalism is far inferior to a good, well-constructed student essay. Were it not so it would not be unique as a profession. For instance what if the bunny were a mutant? Even the most humdrum bunny-expert would have trouble presenting that boringly.

    4. Forget not the truth – most in the trade do deviate from it. ‘Don’t let facts in the way of a story’ and so on. Reporters that present TV or write newspapers don’t tend to take photos for news themselves; that job is divided between wire photographers, paparazzo, and increasingly photographs from the public which often come for free.

    When taking pictures of something in a crowded area take a few photos at intervals whilst people mill past; use the parts that aren’t occupied in each shot to create a relatively person-free clear view of the subject. If done well with a tripod assumed the light doesn’t change it can appear a single photo. If you have conceit and balls there’s the option to castigate people to get out of the shot. Funnily enough a tripod can go far to accomplish this wordlessly.

    Editing done well can be very time consuming, and is a completely different job from that which you seem to recommend.

    5. Good.

    —-

    In date rape by far the commonest drug used is alcohol, also there are astonishingly high rates of false positives reported from various studies conducted in the UK. A lot of the time drunkenness is conflated with drink spiking, so evidence at this point says.

    I hope these indications were pointed out prominently in your report, as it would be irresponsible to take a sedative in a broadcast and not highlight them.

    Biggest problem I have with TV news is the pretentiousness it can’t seem to shed. In essence we’ve a stranger infront of a camera, usually well-dressed, speaking at us authoritatively. If somebody got up and did that in public, it would be frowned upon. I’d like to know how you square ‘standing out from the crowd’ with this? Appearing eccentric in delivery seems one way because people in this nation enjoy that – Dan Corbett the weatherman is an example.

    Pete, editor at Dirty Garnet.

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