From the age of 15 I knew I wanted to work in broadcasting; and what a journey it has been so far!
In Year 10 we had to pick a work experience placement, and I wanted to choose one different to everyone else. So I found a local radio station; spoke to the managers to secure my placement; completed extra paperwork at school, as it was outside the box; and travelled outside of my village. That was the start of my journey.
After my GCSEs, I enrolled on a summer school course in Journalism run by the organisation Headliners. It was based in London and until then I had never travelled on the train alone! Headliners trained me in every aspect of journalism, including broadcasting, interviewing, and article writing – and they quickly spotted my on-screen skills. They encouraged me to report and present, and with them I interviewed MPs in Parliament and across the country. That is when I realised that as a journalist you can ask decision-makers the questions that people want answers to.
As you can see, the events that led me to this point were opportunities I had found myself. I do believe in searching for what you want and going for it. At the same time, I was encouraged by everyone around me and had a great a support network.
I didn’t have any contacts in the industry when I started, and despite coming from a very big Indian family I am still the only journalist in it. It means my journey has been one of exploration. While studying, I carried out placements at local newspapers, reported for LBC, worked for magazines and with BBC Science Documentaries, all so that I could explore different areas, understand shorter and longer formats, and ultimately find the area I loved. I arrived at news and broadcast, which I began freelancing in as a producer after I completed my MA in Philosophy and Literature from the University of Warwick.
I think it is really important to get experience and get going. There is nothing like doing the work and being around industry professionals. A lot of what I have learnt has been by listening and picking up the lingo, workflow and ways of thinking. I am also resourceful. At university, I was part of every publication going, and I would sometimes borrow their camera equipment to film interviews and short documentaries for my YouTube Channel – and again I was gaining a skill as I had to learn to self-shoot.
Having no contacts meant I had to build my way into the network. I found that doing work experience helped me meet people. And I knocked on doors. I remember emailing one Editor at least five times and then securing a meeting with him. We’re still in touch! Being persistent can pay off. Some of the places I have worked include ITV Tyne Tees as a producer; The Telegraph as the News Reader on Alexa; and the BBC World Service where I have produced and presented. Now, I present and report for 5 News, and report for ITV News London.
I mentioned self-shooting. Some other skills in news broadcasting include the ability to research, write, be thorough with attention to detail, story-tell and have an eye for a story, apply Media Law, source ideas and pitch them, thrive under pressure, and have an interest in people.
Freelancing means every day is different. I work with brilliant teams and working in different places means I have to be versatile, which I love because it fits with my growth mind-set. I believe it has enabled me to get to where I am today as a presenter and reporter, because I could work sideways to gain skills and knowledge to ultimately build a well-rounded package. For example, moving to Newcastle to produce the news very much informs my presenting and reporting today, because I know the thinking and skills required at every stage of making the news to delivering it. And it means I can work with a producer hand-in-hand.
And finally, it is an amazing feeling if you can figure out why you are waking up every day. For me, it is to inform people, ask the questions people want answers to, and provide a platform for people’s stories.
I hope this has given you some food for thought, and some insight into the possibilities that await you in the world of journalism!
With warm wishes, Anila