Today’s episode of What Do You Actually Do!? will be focusing on Journalism. We interviewed Lucy Vladev, who works as a Journalist for the BBC.
Lucy is a TV reporter, producer and presenter for the BBC. She studied Bioarchaeology at university, whilst getting involved in media in her spare time. SHe then began her career in radio, before moving to investigative journalism.
For more info about working in the media sector:
For info about the NCTJ:
For more info about working at the BBC:
To hear more journalism and media related podcast stories:
Audience engagement editor at The Economist: https://yorkcareers.wordpress.com/2019/01/23/what-do-you-actually-do-episode-2-adam-smith-audience-engagement-editor/
Commissioning editor for Cambridge University Press: https://yorkcareers.wordpress.com/2019/10/09/what-do-you-actually-do-episode-15-helen-barton-commissioning-editor/
Film production and location management: https://yorkcareers.wordpress.com/2019/03/06/what-do-you-actually-do-episode-8-richard-knight-production-liaison-and-former-location-manager/
Historical film adviser: https://yorkcareers.wordpress.com/2019/01/16/podcast-episode-1-hannah-greig-historical-adviser/
Historical consultant for video games: https://yorkcareers.wordpress.com/2019/05/01/what-do-you-actually-do-episode-11-nicholas-gliserman-historical-advise-for-video-games/
You’re listening to the What Do You Actually Do podcast. Each week, we want to bring you an inspiring interview, a useful tip or an encouraging message to help you find your place in the professional world.
Today we’re speaking to Lucy Vladev via Skype, who’s a reporter and producer for the BBC.
Hello and welcome to this episode of What Do You Actually Do!? My name is Kate Morris, and I’ll be your host today. So Lucy, what do you actually do?
So, my job is very varied. Basically, I spend a lot of time going out and filming. That can be filming by myself, or working with camera crews. We do a lot of live reporting and cutting together news packages and then also on another day you can be producing shows, so that’s chasing stories, chasing guests, you know, putting together a running order, working out what you’re going to do. And that can often change, right up until the minutes we’re going on air, so, yeah, it’s very varied.
So, with that variety then what does a day look like for you? Do you get up at the crack of dawn and kind of jog to the office? Are you someone who works in your pyjamas all day? What’s it like?
I mean you never really switch off as a journalist, it’s one of those things you will be at home. Just because you love what you do so much. You end up checking the news before you’re going to bed and checking the news when you wake up in the morning because there is always something changing. But an average day normally let’s take a day reporting, you’ll come in, sometimes you will know what story you’re doing, sometimes you’ll walk in and start chasing a story, and then everything moves very quickly. So probably around 10 o’clock you’ll finish your meeting, you’ll have an hour or so to chase a story and then you’ll be out setting up guests often on the road, you’ll work with a producer who’s back at base. The office will help you put in some bids for guests as well. And it’s this kind of back and forth very team orientated effort to get something on air in the short amount of time that you have to turn around things for that six o’clock news bulletin.
So does that feel quite stressful then? Or is it exciting?
For me, it’s exciting. But that’s one of the key things I think, as a journalist, especially if you’re working in the news sector, as a journalist, you have to love the pressure. You have to love the excitement, you have to really want to chase that story. Because if you don’t, it’s the worst place on earth to be because everything shifts, nothing stays the same. I mean, I’ve gone out with stories where you are working on a story you think is, you know, going to be told in one way, and with an hour to go, everything changes, the way you thought that story was going to be is completely different. Events have moved on and you have to completely rescript, completely re-edit. And so yes, it can be pretty intense. I mean, if you consider that there’s this old adage of ‘you have to film for an hour to get a minute of TV content.’ So yeah, when you’re working with four hours, you’ve got to film, edit and deal with any ongoing things. I wouldn’t do it unless I really could handle the pressure.
It sounds like you’ve got to not only just get on with it, but not be too precious about your content as well. If you are doing that hours filming, and just getting a minute, you’ve got to be able to see right, what’s the ultimate point we’re trying to get to here, even if the other stuff is still valid and interesting, it’s being able to be really objective about what you’re doing.
Yeah, and it’s actually a real skill. And I think it’s one of those things. You either get it or you don’t. I mean, some people naturally want to do longer form things, and they fit into that much better. You do, especially when you’re working in the news environment, you have to kind of find the best line and go with that, because there were always I mean, in every story, especially ones that you do with emotional events or emotional, personal tales that people have got. There’s a million different ways you could take that story and you have to just find the one that that taps into the best way you can tell it for the audience that you’ve got.
So you mentioned different strands of journalism, presumably the investigative journalism, it’s the much longer kind of pieces. What was your starting point? And where did your interest in broadcasting and journalism come from? How did you work out the strand that you’re in is the right one for you?
I suppose I kind of fell into it a bit. I’ve done a few things in my career. So I started in radio. So while I was at university, I got my first job at the local radio station and they were really good, gave me some opportunities and I really loved radio and you know, people stay in radio their whole lives, but I think I gave TV ago just because I was curious and then started making TV packages and found that I loved it a lot more just because I was able to physically show something to a viewer. So, I still have a real passion for radio, but I think you sort of fit where you need to fit, I think.
So when you say you started making TV packages, was that something that you were doing in your spare time and then you were pitching to different production companies? Or was it a project you were working on whilst you were employed at the radio station? What do you mean by that?
Well, so while I was still at university, I knew I wanted to be in journalism. So I got involved in nearly every media society going, so that was radio papers and TV. I kind of had a background there already. And then when I started professionally in radio, I mean, essentially I just started speaking to people and asking them if I could come along and do some stuff with them and it sort of grew from there. An opportunity came up at a TV station, I had built up the contact and managed to get the job just because of, you know my experience prior to that, really.
So it’s really a case of creating opportunities for yourself with trying stuff out. But making those personal connections, keeping in touch with them, and then seizing the opportunity as and when it actually arose?
Yeah, journalism is all about contact. So, I was starting to reach out to people while I was still at university, because you need that, it is so competitive, you need to be able to speak to people and work out where you want to be. And you don’t always have to know exactly where you want to get to. But if you start something and you think, oh, this isn’t for me, then you can just start looking for other options. And there’s so many different options available. I mean, even just within the BBC, there’s so many different places you can work for, that you can test things out. And as long as you find the right people to speak to, you can pretty much get anywhere.
So you did your degree in biology and archaeology, how has that impacted on your career?
I came into journalism at a really interesting time. I started my career in journalism at a time when everything was shifting. So, nowadays, to get into a journalism career, you need some form of qualification. You need an NCTJ or you need a masters or something else. When I was about to go and get a university degree, I was told the opposite. I was told go do something you love. So for me, it was sciences. I did a lot of genetics. And I did that and got involved with the university societies and then just and I hate to say it, but it is partly luck, partly hard work. You manage to land the job at the right time, and you move on from there. Nowadays it is, I appreciate much harder. Most employers do ask for some form of qualification in journalism. So yeah I was lucky that I came in at a time before you needed all of that really.
Okay, so it was your experience that got you through rather than having the NCTJ?
Yeah, exactly. But nowadays, you know, you need both nowadays, you need a qualification, and you need the experience. So it’s a little bit more for people to get.
You’ve mentioned the qualifications and experience and the ability to sort of thrive on pressure, that kind of stuff, any other strengths or personal qualities that you say you need to have to be happy and successful in the role or working within media and generally?
The main thing is being able to speak to people. And I know it sounds really obvious. But if you’re quite a shy person, you don’t do well with strangers, you do really well with your friends. It’s going to be a challenge because most days you are meeting people who you have never met before. And often you’re walking into situations where, unfortunately, something awful might have happened. And you have to be enough of a people person to handle that situation and do it in a kind of nice and kind and respectful way. So you have to be a people person. And you have to be very motivated. Because journalism is one of those jobs where it’s hard work, and there sometimes isn’t much glamour, you know, one day you are in a courtroom, the next day you’re in a muddy field in wellies, so you have to be really up for it all the time. Be willing to do the variety of stories that you do and be willing to change something, be willing to adapt to an ongoing situation.
So what’s the best story you’ve ever worked on? What would you say is your career highlight?
I cannot pick. I couldn’t possibly pick one. It’s really hard because you get to meet so many extraordinary people, and they can be people who’ve done something truly, truly amazing. So recently, for example, this year, I was lucky enough to go to Sierra Leone. I got to film with an amazing group of locals living in really, really awful conditions in a really, really poor part of the country. And they were doing conservation work to try and protect their food supply. So they live a lot of the time off oysters for their protein, and they were just doing amazing work. We were out there for a week and it was such a lovely, wonderful experience. And with things like that, you become so captivated in it and you get such a connection. But there are so many other things, there are stories you do – one I did recently with a young musician, and you get to meet these people, you get to learn their stories. It’s very, very hard to pick an absolute favourite.
Yeah. So it must be really fascinating if you’re someone who likes learning and you’re generally curious about things, you’re constantly getting to find out about cool, interesting stuff?
Yeah, well, I always, I get to do everybody’s job for a day with none of the responsibility. You get into places you can’t normally get into, you speak to people who are doing amazing things that nobody’s ever heard of, and the next day you doing something completely different. So yeah, it’s amazing. It really is if you’re into that sort of varied lifestyle, it’s great. You don’t have to really pick a career. So I think because you’re doing every career, yeah.
Like being a careers’ advisor! What’s the worst bit of the job then?
Definitely dealing with the stories that are very hard to tell. You have this amazing responsibility that is given to you not only by your work but by the family or by the personal or by the company. And you have to be able to tell that story in the best way. And I think it’s the worst but it’s the best part of the job as well because you feel the responsibility, but when you can do it justice, when you can, you know, cause change or make people cry or make people feel something – it’s amazing.
So what do you think the key challenges will be for the sector over the next few years then for students who are sort of thinking about breaking into the sector? What should they be anticipating and thinking about?
The main thing I would say is, as much as I hate to say it, you need to be looking at placements. I know the BBC. I know a lot of other companies as well as the BBC. They’re short term placements. There’s graduate schemes. There’s obviously the NCTJ qualification. And those are in all different groups. So there’s journalism, production, design and engineering, you know, you can go any direction. They’re definitely a great place to start. Just reach out to people in the industry. Think about where you might want to go, even if you’re not one hundred percent sure. You know, I’ve spoken to young journalists who are either in work or are finishing University. And it is a very difficult time. But if you just speak to as many people as possible, you’ll find most journalists are willing to tell you a little bit about what they do and how it works. And from there, you can kind of navigate to which area you want to be in.
Okay, so it’s important to just keep plugging away to get that experience in any shape or form that you can. What’s on the horizon then? You mentioned before about the rise of digital and other topical issues. What are key topics students should be thinking about perhaps investigating?
I think there is a big drive at the moment to pull in a more diverse audience to appeal to more people. So especially as students and young people, they have this amazing network of people doing things and they have, a real chance to connect with people who the BBC often can’t get to and to be honest media in general struggles to reach because we’re not taking in news in the same way. So if you think about the way we used to consume news, it was a program once a day, maybe twice a day, you’d sit down in front of the TV, or the radio and you’d hear the news. Nowadays, it’s everywhere. And one of the big things that young people have to think about is where do they get their news? What ways do we have to adapt to make sure that we reach out to everybody where they are rather than expecting them to come to us because the world is shifting in that way. People are deciding now where to get their news rather than feeling obliged to pick up the local paper or turn on the TV. So yes, the digital age has definitely made a big difference. And it will change the way we work. And I think as new journalists come through, they have to really think about what they’re doing, and how can they make it relevant to not only a diverse audience, but also to where that audience is, you know, you’re not going to find a 16 year old watching the six o’clock news bulletin, but it might be on their phone. So it’s just thinking about, you know, where you want to be, and also where you think your story should be.
Is there anything around sort of credibility and integrity that’s becoming more prominence? I’m just thinking, you’ve got the rise of the citizen journalist, and then you’ve got all the fake news and all that kind of stuff. So how do you position yourself as someone that people can trust? I mean, that’s sort of what the BBC is known for, being a reliable source of information. So is there anything around that that’s something students should be exploring?
Absolutely, yes. especially nowadays, nearly every media organization has some way of fact checking. And you’ll see it even on the TV news that often they’ll go into detail about where these facts have come from and challenge them. And I think, for students, if they’re coming up with stories they need to really look at where are those stats coming from? Where’s that information coming from? Can you back it up? I mean, we normally have rules about two sources, can you get two different people saying the same thing and agreeing on it? And it is a big, big challenge, because there are so many different ways that you can get information and there’s so many different organizations and sometimes they’re trying to do good things, but they’re going to present facts and figures in a way that most benefits them. So it is a growing issue. An awful lot of media companies are trying to do something. And it’s just being aware of how you make sure you’re avoiding the obvious pitfalls. Normally, the main question is, what’s the story? And then where’s it come from?
Well, that’s really useful. And I think often people just focus on the story. It sounds so interesting, but really being able to evidence it and prove what you’re talking about, is equally important.
Okay, well, for more information about the career areas we’ve mentioned today, I’m going to add some relevant links to the episode description with info about the NTCJ etc. and a link to the full transcript of today’s show. But for now, I just want to say thank you so much Lucy for your time today. Really appreciate you taking time out to talk to us. It’s been really, really interesting. So thanks a lot.
Thanks for joining us this week on What Do You Actually Do!? This episode was hosted by myself Kate Morris and edited and produced by the Careers & Placements team. If you love this podcast, spread the word and subscribe. Are you eager to get more tips? Follow University of York Careers & Placements on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. All useful links are in this episode’s description.
This has been produced at the University Of York Careers & Placements. For more information, visit york.ac.uk/careers.