Where are you from?
I was born in Winchester in Hampshire, lived briefly in W.Sussex but spent the bulk of my childhood in Devon – I was at school in Exeter and my parents still live in the county. I escape there as often as I can for my fix of Ambrosia creamed rice and the beautiful East Devon coast.
How did you get started in broadcasting?
I studied Modern European Languages (French, German, Italian) at Durham University and got involved in the student radio station, Purple FM, building on previous work experiece. I then headed for the London College of Printing and spent a year on a postgraduate Broadcast Journalism course learning everything from shorthand and court reporting to digital editing and script-writing. I got the first chance to turn theory into practice straight afterwards when I joined BBC Radio Newcastle.
When was that?
I was at Durham from 1994-1998 (I spent a year teaching in Vienna) and did my Postgrad from 1998-9. The BBC took me on in 1999.
Why News broadcasting?
The variety of working on a rolling news channel is fantastic – it’s stretching mentally to be across so many issues and it’s endlessly interesting. And knowing you are the first port of call for people who want reliable, accurate information with as much analysis and context as we provide is a real privilege. Is that too pompous? How about – a highly trained make-up artist can transform you from bleary-eyed, dreadful-haired monster to super-groomed screen totty in 20 minutes?
Where else would have viewers seen or heard you before?
Reporting on BBC Radio Newcastle, reporting and presenting on BBC Look North (Newcastle), covering consumer and social affairs for You and Yours (BBC Radio Four) and handling everthing from American senators to French prostitutes on Woman’s Hour (BBC Radio Four)
What is your Best on-air moment?
I’d love to say covering the release of Nelson Mandela or the fall of the Berlin Wall, but I was still at school doing my homework. Nothing jumps out – a good day is knowing you’ve grilled a politician to just the right degree of crispiness, kept a boisterous discussion in hand and got the best out of a nervous guest who’s not at home in the studio. It’s not glamorous, but it’s the staple of the news presenter.
What is your Worst on-air moment?
Just the usual Auntie’s Bloomers fodder I’m afraid – attempts to pronouce obscure Polish political leaders degenerating into giggles; co-presenters writing rude comments on scripts to try to put you off your stride; mouthfuls of sandwich at just the wrong moment. The studio is actually a pretty tame environment – if you want really cracking cock-up stories you need to be out in the field.
What would you like to do before your career ends?
If you’d asked me when I was still in my early 20s I would have said to do a stint as a foreign correspondent – Washington or Jerusalem. But the inevitable choice arises as a woman and now I’m lucky enough to be a wife and mum my priorities have changed. So now my aspirations are a bit more modest – mind you, I’d love to veer off and present something like Restoration … see my geeky interest in old things below!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to walk, but persuading my husband and 2 year old daughter of the virtues of rambling can be difficult at the moment. The river and a pub garden lunch are often as far as we get. And I’m a real anorak when it comes to historic buildings – put me in a National Trust or English Heritage property and I’m happy as Larry.
What advice would you give to anyone that would like to get into the broadcasting world?
Show you mean business by getting as much unpaid experience under your belt as possible in your spare time. Saying – when you’re 18 – that you want to be a journalist but you’ve never spent time on a local paper or in a newsroom won’t impress anyone. Know your facts – politically and internationally – but don’t be scared to suggest new ideas and creative treatments too. News can become very formulaic and a bit of radical thinking comes in useful. And everyone says it, but you don’t need to do Media Studies … get the best degree you can and bags of work experience and then look into postgraduate courses.
A big thanks to Rachel for taking part.