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BBC journalists on breaking into the industry: “say ‘yes’ to everything” and “feed the monkey”

BBC journalists at Journalism and Media Week interviewed by journalism lecturer Darren Harper (left)

By Alice Young

Four BBC journalists have shared their tips on breaking into the BBC – from exploring all avenues of journalism to “feeding the monkey” that is the news machine.

Industry professionals spoke to aspiring journalists at Journalism and Media Week at Leeds Trinity University, highlighting the importance of keeping options open and having a story in your back pocket.

Senior BBC investigative journalist Alys Harte encouraged trainee journalists to always go into newsroom experience with a story which “challenges the status quo”.

She said: “The BBC needs you, your ideas and your perspectives.

“Don’t ever underestimate what you have to offer.”

Alys referred to bringing in a story as “feeding the monkey”.

“Don’t come in with the story you think we want – bring us the story you think we should be doing.

“That is gold.”

Charlotte Swift, journalism coordinator for BBC World Service Sport, said the key is keeping an open mind when exploring career avenues.

She said: “You can’t just pigeon-hole yourself.

“Say ‘yes’ to everything!

“Speak to as many people as you can – keep knocking and be persistent.”

Alys Harte added: “Even if you never think you’ll get a job – just go for it.

“You should take any gig you can to get a foot in the door.”

BBC Look North video journalist and presenter Luxmy Gopal agreed that an open mind is key – advising those hoping to become news presenters to remember that presenting is just one part of the role.

She said: “Don’t get caught up in thinking that presenting is the be-all and end-all.

“There is a lot of very important journalism which doesn’t involve that.

“The journalism is the thing – presenting is one facet of it.

“I love both sides of the job – I feel very lucky to get the chance to go out and report on big stories but also to do the presenting side of things – even if it means not always being there on location when something big and dramatic happens.”

BBC Leeds Sports Editor Jonathan Buchan added that for those looking to break into the industry, being nice to people will always work in your favour.

He said: “Being a decent person gets you a long way in the industry.

“People like to help people who are nice to people.”

Additional video material by Jamie Heron (Charlotte Swift interview) and Jack Walker (Alys Harte interview).

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