Alastair Lockhart at BBC HARDTalk

Being accepted onto a BBC internship

I knew that I had the drive and passion to take on the challenge, moving to London from Glasgow presented a whole range of new obstacles, not least about where I was going to stay. Having lived in London briefly already, I knew first-hand the sorts of costs constantly thrown up that can make life difficult for a working student.

However, I had previously heard about the PressPad scheme and decided to get in touch and see what they might be able to do for me. I was given a swift reply from one of PressPad’s friendly team and just a few weeks later they had found a host for me in London with whom I would be able to stay for the two week duration of my work experience. Before I knew it the day had arrived and it was time for me to take the train to London.

Arriving in Euston station, it was only a tube ride and a short walk before I reached where I was to stay. I was welcomed by my friendly host, Barbara, an Editor at the Economist, who showed me where I would be staying and gave me tips about where in the local area was best for shopping, bars, and restaurants. There was much to see, but I quickly got myself acquainted with my new surroundings and very soon felt at home.

The Monday after I arrived, it was time to head to the BBC New Broadcasting House in Oxford Circus to begin my time there. I joined the World News Channel’s HardTalk; the network’s flagship interview program which puts difficult questions to personalities in politics, literature, science and other fields from around the world. Having previously worked with the team, it was easier for me to fall into a routine than on my first experience, but knowing the level of professionalism expected, I expected that it would still be a considerable challenge.

The show’s team met regularly to discuss who might be the best candidate for the show’s next guest and planned how might be best to secure an interview with them quickly. The next stage of the process would be to research as much as possible about the person in question, and especially the subjects which they wanted to discuss with them. These would be condensed into a brief by a producer on the programme, which finally would be passed to the presenter who formulated their questions for the interviewee before the show’s recording.

I was able to work with the producers throughout this process a number of times, and had the opportunity to sit in and watch a few of the interviews. Mostly, however, I spent my time conducting background research on behalf of a given producer in order to help them find out more about an upcoming guest’s history or views on a subject, particularly those relevant to contemporary global politics. I found this work hugely interesting and rewarding, and I have no doubt that it both expanded my knowledge of the journalism profession and motivated me even further to take it up as a future career.

Working in a full time job is always hectic, however, so it was great to get to the end of a busy day and head through the chaos of the London rush hour to my host’s home where I could rest. Being only a half an hour journey from work, this ease of access made a world of difference in comparison to living far away on the outskirts of the city in a more affordable (but still expensive) area. In the evenings, Barbara and I often had dinner together and discussed the politics of the day at length, as well as what it was like to work as a journalist. Barbara was extremely helpful and forthcoming in sharing her wealth of experience with me, and the advice she gave as to what might be best for me and my future career was invaluable. Even when not talking about work, the enjoyment of having another person to chat to and spend time with when arriving home from work was a fantastic added bonus.

The fortnight I spent in London flew by and soon my time there was over. Having finished, I had earned far more than something new to add to my CV, with the of my work at the BBC combined with the advice and warm hospitality of my host providing me with a truly memorable experience. Far more than just an alternative to London’s expensive accommodation, PressPad is a must for all budding journalists. Not only was I able to stay in close proximity to my work, but I also gained insight from the personal experience of a top journalist who was also a welcoming host.

I really appreciate hard work that the PressPad team has put in to make this scheme a reality, and I will always be grateful to them for making my time in London so fantastic!

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