I must confess that, before I applied for the scheme, I had been somewhat rudderless in terms of making my way into the news business. I had been tangentially involved with the industry for about a decade – both here and in the US – running small but reasonably successful web-based ventures and taking every possible work experience opportunity while completing a Broadcast Journalism degree from Leeds University, but I still struggled to gain a foothold.
Having done sporadic reports for BBC Radio Leeds and Radio 4 and written bulletin scripts for Channel 4 News, prospective employers seemed to consider me too experienced to make the tea, but not experienced enough to be one of their junior journalists – a real catch-22.
This difficulty was compounded by the fact that I have cerebral palsy and use a wheelchair to get around.
That all changed when the John Schofield Trust scheme paired me with Matt Williams, News Editor at ITV News and a fellow “Leeds BJ” alumnus. He (and a great many of his colleagues, including his delightful wife, Sally) were able to give me direct and targeted advice on how to get my foot in the proverbial door and pitch myself as a prospectively valuable member of a news team.
Indeed, I can confidently say that I think the mentorship itself is hugely responsible for the professional breakthroughs I’ve achieved in the last few months.
In April, I was invited to join PresentAble, the BBC’s new training scheme for disabled broadcasters. In October, I’ll be joining BBC Radio 4 as full-time researcher on programmes including PM and Broadcasting House. I’m particularly excited at the prospect of being part of one of the first domestic teams to regularly work out of New Broadcasting House in Central London, starting in December.