BBC editor encourages Harlow College journalism students to pursue their ambitions

NCTJ STUDENTS have received a ‘virtual’ visit from BBC’s Nikki O’Donnell. Nikki, who currently works on the BBC’s editorial policy team, was until recently an editor for BBC Look East. She has been with the BBC for 14 years.  

This week (April 21) Nikki joined the journalism students on their morning lesson via Zoom. This was a fantastic opportunity for the students to gain an inside knowledge of the industry, and quiz Nikki for advice from her wealth of experience.  

She encouraged the 10 students to share their experiences of the course, and asked which areas of journalism they are most passionate about.  She wanted to know what motivates them and what sort of career they wanted to pursue.  

When asked for advice about entering the industry, she said: “The hardest thing is getting the foot in the door,” later adding “resilience will be your key characteristic- now more than ever. 

Her main tips included making good contacts and networking throughout the industry, as well as getting involved with as much local work as possible until you are noticed for your initiative and enthusiasm. The best ways to go about this are to join local community radio stations and regional papers, as well as publishing your work wherever you can, as this will boost your prospects.  

When looking for training and apprenticeships, employers will look for individuals who are clearly passionate and interested and have  already got involved.   

Nikki grew up around the industry. Her father was a television director and this sparked something for her, picking up the potential fun broadcasting had to offer. She went into advertising at university where she was lucky to meet Fergus Walsh, the medical correspondent, who then encouraged her to pursue journalism as this would be her best way into broadcast.  

The student newsroom didn’t appeal to Nikki, but she thrived with the local radio station, Radio Cambridgeshire.  She then applied for lots of courses, and also to the BBC, but was initially turned down. However, when an opportunity did arise, she knew she had to take it: “If there’s an open door, why not walk through it?” 

Nikki stressed that the hard work was worth it, and the NCTJ students should not give up

“There is a bright future ahead for anyone who wants to be a journalist.” she said. “I don’t meet people in other walks of life who enjoy their work in the way journalists do and are passionate in the way journalists are.” 

She believes it is crucial more young people enter the industry, but also highlighted that journalism gives you skills for life: “It gives you a questioning mind and an understanding of the world around you – a passion to find out more.” 

The students thanked Nikki for her time, and thought it was a brilliant opportunity. They are getting ready to enter the workplace after the NCTJ diploma finishes in the summer, and this advice will last them many years into the future.


Photo: Nikki O’Donnell speaking to the NCTJ students on Zoom

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