Laura Garcia Rodriguez Blancas
There is no denying that the last year has been a collection of momentous political results and how we do journalism is now more important than ever. My JST mentor has been an incredible resource to navigate such difficult times. Our conversations cover everything, from how to deal with fake news, looking beyond our newsroom bias, approaching colleagues to discuss stories, managing small teams of reporters and even 360 video and its potential.
I am incredibly grateful for the conversations that James Porter and I have had. I feel that, more than a mentor, I have gained a trusted colleague who will always give me honest feedback and is willing to discuss the ideas that drive journalism. Even though our backgrounds are different, and we do different kinds of journalism, the ties that bind our profession are undeniable. I am a better manager of people because of my conversations with James, and I hope that also shines through in the journalism that I do.
My mentor has helped me take a step back, breathe and think about stories without getting carried away by technology. As a tech nerd, I think I really needed that. I would strongly recommend the scheme to anybody working in broadcast. Whether you think you need a mentor or not, once you have your first conversation I reckon you will realise how great it is to have an experienced colleague to sound ideas off with.
I've really enjoyed the opportunity to be mentored by Gill, I was keen to listen to the advice from a successful woman and having always worked at the BBC I have particularly valued her insight as someone who has worked both at the BBC and outside of it.
She has helped me to build up on my confidence and develop a strategy to move my career forward and I am incredibly appreciative. The scheme has been a brilliant opportunity to meet lots of other enthusiastic mentees and other mentors, as well as visit CNN to meet with Gill.
Steve Scott, Sports Editor at ITV News, has been a go-to man at exactly the right time in my career.
Our first few months of mentoring were mostly spent far apart, with Steve at Euro 2016 and the Olympics but in between we could catch up and compare recent experiences - he on location for ITV and me producing Sky Sports News' output from the London newsroom and gallery.
Our next few chats were even more valuable. Speaking to Steve helped me face up to the fact that, although I loved my job and was progressing well, I probably didn't want to be doing it for the next several years.
A couple of opportunities presented themselves including my childhood dream job working on ITV Racing. I quietly applied (my first non-Sky application in five years) and after a few days of hearing nothing, met up with Steve to reveal my application. The chat was really useful in consoling me that despite probably not having got my dream job, I'd finally realised it was time for a new challenge. I couldn't really have had this honest chat with anyone else and he'd have been a brilliant guide had I not got the job. However, shortly after our coffee - to our surprise - I got the job with ITV Racing!
Although he works at ITN, rather than ITV Sport, it's been good to get Steve's insight into working at ITV. Likewise, he's been able to share his previous experiences of live sports coverage, which is what I've left news to move into - and am currently loving.
If you're looking to develop your career or even just want a relaxed gossip about the industry, I'd thoroughly recommend the JST mentoring scheme to any young broadcast journalist.
Being part of the John Schofield Trust has been an absolute honour, and one I believe has pushed forward my career. It's been brilliant to benefit so much from the knowledge and experience of my mentor Morwen Williams. She is never too busy to make time for me and we have developed a relationship where I feel comfortable asking her anything.
Morwen's confidence in my abilities has been a huge boost along the way and her advice has helped guide me as I continue to find my feet in journalism. This has only been advanced by the great training courses offered by the JST and the opportunities I have had to meet, and quiz, many more industry experts. It's also been wonderful to get to know my peers and I'm sure they would agree when I say this experience has been one that will have a lasting impact!
Try as many things as possible when you’re starting out.
Since finishing journalism school, I’ve worked for four broadcasting companies, with different roles at three of them. When I told my mentor Alan I was worried that my varied CV made me appear flaky and indecisive, he reassured me that a wide range of experience – whether gathered at different organisations, or just one – is a good thing.
“Now is the time to try different roles and see what really interests you”, he told me. Are you an Output Producer? Try newsgathering. Working in general news? Develop a specialism. Give online a go, or pick up a camera again. Because how will you know where you want to work and what you want to do if you don’t try different things? Versatility is an asset in every newsroom, and Alan taught me that it’s okay to put up your hand and say, ‘I want to try something else for a while.’
You can only do your best.
As a young journalist, it’s those mistakes I made for the very first time that have stuck with me. Thoughts such as ‘how could I do something so stupid?’ and ‘I’m really, really bad at this job,’ linger long after that fateful programme has gone to air. Whether it’s a typo on a TV aston, or a factual error you let slip into a presenter’s briefing notes – if you’re anything like me, you can end up stewing over it for days afterwards.
Alan gave me some advice that helps soothe the guilt. “Sometimes, you’ve got to say to yourself, ‘I’m just doing my best.’” Some mistakes are unavoidable and come from inexperience. Some are made because you had 50 other things to do / were too scared to ask for help / hadn’t had enough coffee. But Alan has taught me that it’s okay to say ‘I’m sorry, I did my best’, and learn from it.
His message also helps in dealing with criticism. “Some of the worst things that people will ever say to you in your career will be said now, in your early years as a journalist,” he told me with a laugh.
When you’re near the bottom of the food chain, you can take comments made under pressure to heart. But Alan’s advice has taught me not to beat myself up too much. “You made a mistake. It’s telly. No-one died.” And repeat.
Your journalism career is important, but so is having a life.
In this industry, long and unsociable hours go hand-in-hand. The story doesn’t finish at 5pm, so neither do we. Hard work and a willingness to put in over-time are valued traits in most careers, and journalism is no exception. But I learnt from Alan that I shouldn’t feel guilty about prioritising my personal life as well.
A while ago, I was weighing up a job opportunity that meant fewer hours and a shorter commute. When talking it over with Alan, I told him I had been reluctant to let those factors affect my decision at all. His answer? Having more time for life outside of work makes you less likely to resent the job and helps you stay passionate about journalism.
I’m a broadcast journalist and former Arabic monitoring journalist with four-and-a-half years’ experience working for the BBC across three different teams. The mentorship scheme could not have come at a better time for me as I was trying to make a transition from media analysis of the Arab world at BBC Monitoring to more hands-on broadcast journalism in the newsroom.
The last six months have been paramount and Christopher has helped guide me through some of the most challenging decisions I’ve ever had to face in my career. As I was about to embark on a six-month stint with the BBC News World Online team, he offered me some very sound advice: “Make your presence known in the newsroom and don’t let people forget you.”
I took this on board, making real efforts to get to know as many people as possible and spread the word about who I am and what I have to offer as a journalist in the newsroom.
More than anything, this was a real confidence-boosting exercise and later helped me to make a tough, cut-throat decision which has ultimately extended my time with the BBC News website.
There are the obvious benefits of having a highly-respected mentor, such as the networking and contacts you make, but this doesn’t even come close to the benefits of having someone who can act as an impartial sounding board and offer you a sense of perspective, some words of wisdom and buy you the occasional pint at the pub!
I’m looking forward to working with Christopher over the next three months and setting some new targets together for the next stage of my career.