WORKING IN TV NEWS: THE INSIDE SCOOP

MOTHER OF ALL LISTS, THOUGHT-PROVOKING, WORK & MONEY

 

Mother of All Lists is an opportunity to get a glimpse into how other people live. To hear their feelings, their stories, their experiences. It’s also a chance to learn more about different career choices and what its actually like doing them. From mastering auto-cue to meals behind the wheel on route to court, right through to the institutionalised sexism that still exists in the new room. Alex Beard tell us all about life as a TV journalist; a profession we are  so familiar with from the perspective of a viewer, but rarely get to hear about from the other side:


  • There is no buzz like the buzz of a TV news room. It pulses, and that really picks up the closer you are to being on air. It is a real ‘sink or swim’ environment and I thrive on that kind of pressure.

  • I started my career like so many people do in media – working for free. Those free shifts soon became paid and then I landed a coveted staff job at the BBC. I am truncating what was an 18 month process of anti-social shifts. Trying to get recognised when you are literally the only person in a newsroom is pretty hard.

  • In the early days I couldn’t understand how people could type and talk whilst ignoring a ringing phone, a shouting editor and a blaring TV but you soon master the art of the ‘tune-out’ (al skill that has served e will in motherhood!)

  • Each day begins with a morning news meeting where the editor decides what stories will be covered and by whom. There is a pecking order; top story is the coveted spot, any story that sits in the middle of the programme is not. The ‘and finally’ story could either be a great job (interviewing an ageing rock star) or doing a live with the county’s fattest rabbit. Who gets what is down to the whim of the editor.

  • Some reporters film and edit stories themselves – this is increasingly the way. One person doing all journalism and technical.

  • I did this for many years, you film all the interviews yourself and then you have to turn the camera round to face you and film a piece to camera. You feel just as much of an idiot as you look. Most of the time you sit in the front of your car with your laptop on the steering wheel and edit your piece to send back wirelessly. It can be lonely and scary at times.

  • I was covering a murder once and my presence upset some locals – before I knew it I was surrounded by ten drunk men screaming at me, snatching my equipment. Then one lunged at me and tried to punch me. Thankfully one of the group saw sense and let me go.

  • I spent about six months working as part of an undercover team. As a young, ‘unknown’ journalist it was me who would be sent into places with a micro camera in my shirt button and a microphone taped to my stomach. At the time I had a peroxide white pixie cut so I had to go to the BBC wigs department. It was EVERYTHING you want a BBC wigs department to be – everything from costume dramas to the punk era. I chose a long dark brown wig, I tested it out by wearing it to meet my other half for a drink. I sat down next to him and he apologised and shifted away. It clearly worked. Working undercover was the scariest thing I have done. On the more sinister jobs, the drug deals, I had a bodyguard within running distance if I gave the signal.

  • Everyone thinks working in TV is glamorous – I only know the world of TV news and I can tell you it’s not.

  • It can be thrilling and interesting, but rarely glamorous.

  • When you’re out reporting you do your makeup in your wing mirror. Most meals are eaten at the wheel as you try to make it to court in time to hear a verdict. As a female reporter you have the added threat of sexist hecklers, ‘Show us your tits!’ ‘Is this babe station?’ and ‘C**t!’  being a choice few that I have had shouted at me whilst live on air.

  • As a reporter doing a live you don’t have autocue.

  • As a presenter you do but you have CONSTANT chatter in your earpiece. Only about 30% is for you, you have to filter through it whilst reading headlines. Sometimes that chatter is yelling, yelling and swearing as something technical goes wrong in the gallery. The way to tell if a presenter is good is to watch how they react when it all goes wrong, autocue stops working, or they lose all video content. If they can keeping talking and smooth things over, they are worth their weight in gold.

  • I have covered many major stories including all the London terror attacks but the one that affected me the most was Grenfell.

  • When I arrived on the scene the fire wasn’t out yet and the sense of confusion, shock and loss was palpable. Families were wondering the streets shouting for people they hoped had made it out of the building. Firefighters leaving the building looked physically and emotionally exhausted. My husband was not on duty that day, I was relieved, he was frustrated. I was heavily pregnant at the time and once my day presenting from the scene had finished I met a friend and instantly broke down and sobbed on her.

  • Like many industries TV news still has issues with diversity, sexism and agism.

  • As a white female I can only speak to my experience and whilst I consider myself very privileged to have had the career I have it has not been without it’s snags.

  • A journalist should be judged on their craft but as a woman working in TV you are also judged on your looks. How many larger women or older women do you see in the news? Of course there are a few but they are in the minority.

  • Men are called ‘veterans’ when they have been in the news for years, age becomes a status symbol.

  • Women simply vanish off our screens or move to radio.

  • I once had an editor tell me my eyelashes, which he wrongly thought were fake, were ‘editorially distracting’ – I very much doubt a male reporter would be pulled into a meeting to discuss his looks. After I did a two hour live show from the cordon of the London Bridge terror attack the first bit of feedback I got from the newsroom was that my hair looks nicer down than up.

  • The majority of audience interaction I would get on social media would be to compliment an outfit or to ask if I was pregnant. There is just this constant reminder that you are there to visually please as well as inform which only serves to reinforce the notion that as a woman working in a visual medium your career will only last as long as your looks do. 

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2 Comments

  • Reply Mama kins December 16, 2018 at 11:29 pm

    Amazing that after this “deep financial crisis” you are heading to Mauritius for Christmas. In fact it looks like non stop holidays. Well done etc.

    • Reply Clemmie Telford December 17, 2018 at 7:21 pm

      Why does it offend you that we have managed to work ourselves into a good place? there’s no magic solution. No over no turn around. 3 years of very hard graft that has paid off. Something that I proud of.

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