I’m Freya Chappell, Output Producer Sky News, Early Rundown & Kay Burley & this is my story about my time studying for my masters at The University of Salford | @ChappellFreya
Where it all started:
I’m originally from Leeds and I lived in Ancoats whilst I was studying for my Masters in BroadcastJournalism at Salford, which I completed in 2019-2020. I didn’t go straight to the master’s after my undergrad in English Lit. I decided to go travelling which turned from one “gap yaa” into two. I enjoyed writing so I kept a blog whilst I was travelling which definitely isn’t a pile of documents I would class as skilful but it was fun to keep up with writing fun things I ended up doing. Whilst I was living in Sydney, Australia, I started writing for a small local magazine of which I soon became the editor. I also started reaching out to people on the television networks and I met up with a journalist at ABC to chat about getting into the industry. One night whilst watching England lose their match in the World Cup I ended up sitting next to a woman who used to do children’s news programmes on CBBC – she said she studied a master’s at Salford and explained some of the basics I needed to know before anyone would entertain me for a job. So from a reasonably smelly bar and a pint in Australia, the seed was planted to move back to England and learn what I needed to know to get into journalism. I did some work experience at ITV Calendar – where I met one of my now colleagues. I also went to the West Yorkshire Police Press team to find out the other side of where some news stories come from – which is where I got the contact of one of the editors and went over to Global in Leeds for a week which I loved.
How Salford helped me:
One of the lecturers – I think either Ian Wood or Andrew Lindsey (possibly both!) told us this was the time to be a yes person – anything you get offered to do within journalism – say yes and make it work because it’s all good experience. So that’s exactly what I did – and I asked for what I wanted too. By doing this I soon found out what I liked and what I didn’t. When it came around to doing work experience again on the MA I wanted to go to Global in Manchester – I had already asked for the contacts when I was there in Leeds so I reached out and went there. I was supposed to also go to BBC Radio Manchester but that didn’t work out because of the pandemic. I actually ended up taking contact anyway through LinkedIn during the pandemic for some freelance work later on but I ended up working elsewhere before that worked out. I did some good reporting at Global and I asked for a job on my last day. They gave me freelance work on the weekends and sometimes through the week which was incredible and so much fun. Whilst I was studying for the MA I was working at Global and also doing tutoring English with a Chinese company online so things were pretty intense – I was either working or studying every day of the week with hardly any days off, I was really focused though because I knew this was the year to really give my all. I also said yes to an interview at a newspaper agency – which ended up being a free day of work for them – and I found out the style of news they were outputting was definitely not up my street so it was a good learning curve for me. It’s probably not surprising to hear I didn’t get the job! Newsday’s at Salford were the best thing for my learning because it made me feel more pressured to keep looking out for and making news stories and I felt myself develop what I considered to be newsworthy material. I really enjoyed doing the on-air bulletins too – and getting feedback from the tutors on my work. I gained most of what’s served me well until now from Andrew Lindsay – he supported me with what I was doing on the course and he advised me when I left too and is still there now to chat. He’s been a mentor to me since I first joined the course and many of the things I have achieved now are down to his guidance and help. I think he knew how motivated I was to succeed, and I really gelled with his straightforward character. He acts exactly like any boss in a newsroom would but with some extra care and understanding, you might not be so lucky to get at work. When the pandemic hit – we were halfway through the course so it was a big shock to go to next to nothing. However, in a very strange way, I actually started making some of my best work. I also felt like I had more time to apportion my time in the way I wanted to rather than having to be in class for much of the day several days a week. I worked really hard though to make contacts, send my work to news organisations and produce my own stuff at least once a week along with reporting for Global. I used the time to practice things like pieces to camera which is something you need to be good at for both TV and radio – whether on camera or ad-libbing for alive hit on the radio. I decided to produce and direct my own short documentary – which had nothing to do with uni at all – which I filmed with one other person as restrictions started to ease in the summer. I think it’s really important to show your genuine interest in stories and develop them in your own time. This documentary actually helped me get offered several positions – I was told it showed my true interest and dedication to journalism. Fast track to the end of the course and I felt like I had learned what I set out to learn at the start of it. I had learned the law ethics etc that were needed, I’d learned what made a news story and I was confident in my ability to deliver good packages. Salford definitely gave me the tools and space to build upon my learning.
Into the real world:
I ended up at Radio News Hub after an unfortunate experience at a small TV station. The long and short of that was it was a hire and fire environment and they felt I didn’t hit the spot. Whilst most people don’t want to talk about being fired because they think it makes them look bad – I think this actually showed my resilience. I was at a real low when this happened and I second-guessed my ability and whether I could really make it in a journalism career. It took me a few days but I got back on my feet and reached out to my contact at RNH (they offered me a job a few weeks before this happened). Again, the support and skills I had learned from the lecturers and guest lecturers reassured me that this wasn’t the end of the road. To put this into perspective – it was just over a year ago now, and I am now working for one of the biggest news organisations in the world – so it just goes to show that when someone tells you you’re not good enough – they never saw your capabilities in the first place. RNH is a small team of wonderful people where I started as a Broadcast Journalist and soon became a Senior Journalist. As it was a small team – it was very hands-on. A usual day would include finding stories, interviewing, cutting audio, writing scripts and reading the news for local, national and international audiences. When I became Senior Journalist I worked closely with the head of News to lead the newsroom, and make editorial decisions on stories and I also looked after the rota and the team on a daily basis. Whilst I was there Prince Philip died – so I was sent down to London both when he died and for the funeral. I’ve covered some amazing stories during my time at RNH – the Pegasus Project, the war on Ukraine, the failed SuperLeague and a lot of human rights and political stories. I then got the opportunity to move to Sky News. Andrew Lindsay put me in contact with one of the Output Editors for Breakfast and I went down to do a couple of freelance shifts and they offered me a 12-month Fixed Term Contract. Making the switch from radio to TV was challenging, and moving to such a big and prestigious company was a steep learning curve, which I am climbing every day still. I am now an Output Producer for The Early Rundown and Kay Burley, so much of what I do is scriptwriting, cutting OLAY, putting together VTs and doing graphics. I work overnight from midnight until 10 am, it’s intense but it’s really rewarding to see my work going out on TV and there’s also a lot of room to pitch my ideas and get guests on. There’s a lot of room to progress and there are a few people I’ve met along my journey at different news organisations working there too which is nice. My journey is far from over – I’m aiming to be an on-screen reporter for Sky one day and hopefully in different countries! It’s a long and tricky road to get there but I am determined I will! Salford definitely gave me a lot of motivation to keep going – and I think the facilities they have allow students to really try everything. The lecturers also are so inspiring because they have so much experience and each one of them has different expertise too which really gave me ideas about each area of their work.
My top tips for students wanting to follow journalism in any capacity are:
Don’t give up when someone rejects you or gives you criticism. If you’re in a newsroom and you’re being told how to do something better you should be thankful they’re taking the time to help and take it positively, remember it and apply it to your next challenge. It’s important to have thick skin, be tough and stand up for yourself too. Be a yes person. If you get offered an opportunity – say yes and make it work with your schedule. If you’re asked to do something in the newsroom – say yes, even if you don’t know exactly how to do it, find out when they need it and ask someone who seems friendly and not as high up to show you how to do it (speak up if you’re really stuck though because there nothing worse than something not getting on air on time). Be enthusiastic. This is not an industry to be shy in and having good positive energy about you is always appreciated and, more importantly, remembered! I’ve had people in the newsroom who just melted into the background and seem like they’re there to get their days ticked off and I’ve had people there who make me smile, ask questions, get stuck in and keep asking me what they can do to help (there’s always a task to be given out!). The latter are the people I gave shifts to and gave time to outside of work to help them improve. There’s a good balance, don’t be annoying, but make sure you introduce yourself to the right people and come up with ideas. Try to read the room too – speak when it’s needed and keep quiet when it’s needed too! Show you’re genuinely interested in the news. No one is going to take you seriously in a newsroom if you’re trying to get a job in the news and you don’t know at least the top news stories of the day. Pitch at least one idea in a team meeting, or at least suggest something to the editor at some point. I’d try to have some of your own projects going on that haven’t been assigned by a teacher or an editor so that you can explore what kind of stories you enjoy and show some colour to your professional character. Build your contacts. Both professionally and for stories. The more and more you work to meet more people who will be good for networking and you’ll build your contact book. I’m a firm believer that an interview isn’t just for that one story – you will be able to go back to them if you show them some care and do a good interview. The same goes for professional contacts too, you never know who could end up being your boss, so it’s good to do some good networking and make friends along the way. Be helpful and someone that’s needed in the newsroom.
I think a lot of people don’t want to mention the mistakes they’ve made – it makes us look foolish or unprofessional. But I think telling you about mine will show any aspiring journalists that we’re just human and it’s ok to make mistakes. I’ve had my fair amount of mishaps along the way; I’ve made a legal error on air, I’ve used the wrong royal’s name on air in an important story, I’ve sent the wrong bulletin, I’ve missed a bulletin and I’ve failed to secure a minister for an interview. Making mistakes does not mean you’ve failed. It’s how you deal with these learning curves that really define your character. It’s important to remember, that every day is a new day, hold your head up high and get back in there. If you really want this, it’s up to you to make it happen, because no one is going to do it for you.