“I want to talk to you about Jimmy Saville.” Now that sentence would make you a little anxious regardless of the scenario, but when it’s put to you as part of an interview for the BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme, it’s an even more surreal experience.
And that’s just what I experienced last Wednesday afternoon when I travelled down to London for a fantastically intense/intensely fantastic day of assessments and interviews at the BBC Broadcast Centre.
Having been invited down just a week or so before the assessment day I’d crammed and planned for whatever the day might throw at me (using Katherine’s fantastic interview with current trainee Owen Walker for inspiration).
And while I won’t go into too much detail (as there are some assessments and interviews for the scheme still going on this week), here are some of the things I did and learnt during my afternoon with the BBC.
Multiplatform is key
A main theme of the entire assessment day was the idea of producing BBC content for a variety of platforms. Radio, Online, Social Media, long gone are the days when BBC News meant switching on your TV at six ‘o’clock to catch that day’s programme, and multiplatform journalism is clearly something key to how the BBC work in 2014.
This was apparent throughout the day, with several of the tasks my fellow applicants and I had to complete. First of all we did a group task, which was based around pitching different content ideas around a single event (sorry, no spoilers!). We had to come up with an idea for the television news, one of the BBC’s radio shows, the BBC News website and an idea based around using social media. It was a great exercise in teamwork and pitching to deadline, but also highlighted the importance of being able to come up with multiplatform content suited to the different audiences and styles of the BBC’s news coverage.
Multiplatform was also a key theme during my solo interview (which lasted for an intense but friendly 45 minutes). Both with the original story I’d been asked to prepare and another of the main headlines of the day I was asked for ideas for how to cover the stories across all BBC platforms, something I’d thankfully prepared for!
Work quickly, work live
Another recurring theme throughout the afternoon of assessments was the idea of working on a quick schedule and often in a live scenario. For example the final task I had to do was a breaking news exercise, where I was given 45 minutes to write a 250-word online news story and a TV headline from a series of statements and quotes.
Quite a long time, you might think, but every ten minutes or so we were supplied with additional updates to the story, which often prompted a total change in direction. Obviously this was designed to see how well we coped with a breaking news story and our ability to produce and reproduce live and accurate content.
Another task required us to write up a radio bulletin to deadline, then to read out our bulletin as if on the radio. We only got one shot at recording our bulletin so it was a good experience of what a live radio broadcast would be like, and thankfully I managed to get through my bulletin without tripping over my own treacherous tongue! (Couldn’t do anything about the Teesside accent though I’m afraid).
Know the BBC Values
Obviously to work as a BBC journalist you need to know and share their values and ethos, and once again this was a key theme throughout the assessments and especially in my interview. From diversity and trust to audiences and creativity it was clear how important everybody at the BBC takes these commitments, and it offered us a great insight into work there as well as forming a key part of the assessment day. Self-improvement was also a major theme (especially in my interview) and that is where the aforementioned Jimmy Saville reference came in. Without going into too much detail, I was asked how the BBC could have done more, or acted better in a number of scenarios, and the interviewers seemed genuinely interested in any suggestions I had, and again it showed the BBC’s commitment to its values and bettering its journalism.
And so in a way what seemed like a straightforward interview/assessment afternoon was actually a great learning experience and gave me a brilliant insight into the BBC. No matter if anything comes from it I had a fantastic day, and am already really proud of making it that far.
We were told that over 4500 people had applied for this scheme, and in simply getting through to the interview stage we had made it to the final 65, and that’s a good achievement in anybody’s books!