Bethan Davies graduated from Leeds Trinity University 13 years ago with a master's degree in Journalism. Now she is Global Radio's Head of Regional News for Yorkshire and the North East. Bethan returned to campus for Leeds Trinity's Journalism and Media Week, sharing her experience and giving advice for journalism students keen to make an impact on their placement.
Remember you are trainee journalists not students
Bethan's first piece of advice was to treat the placement like it's a job. "You are trainee journalists not students," she says. "It's important to treat it like a job." She went on to explain about her own experience of being on placement, including the nerves, and how she didn't make the most of the opportunity, but learned from it and then had much more successful placements.
"Recognise that it's normal to feel out of your depth. When you go on placement you will not feel confident and if you do, you're probably doing something wrong. Ask for advice. I'm a confident news reader now but in other areas of my job I still think how am I going to do that? When I took my new job I had to get to know the North East as well as I knew Yorkshire. I knew I'd figure it out. Mastering the art of being able to figure it out is a skill you'll have to have forever."
Tips for placement interview
Securing a placement is the first step and it is often competitive so you need to stand out. "Do your research on the company you'll be working for," Bethan advises. "We don't want you to know everything about Global as a company but it is important to understand the brands and listen to our output. Actively listen, pay attention to the stories and the language. Capital is different to Heart and Smooth and LBC. Think about how we've treated the stories differently and where the stories might have come from. By actively listening you will get to know a brand.
"If you walk into a job interview and have not paid attention to the brand or product you are going to struggle."
Bethan emphasised that media law is essential. "Brush up on your media law. We ask you on the spot questions. We will grill you on media law because if you make a mistake that could put us in contempt. I know media law can be gruelling but it's so important."
How to impress on your placement
Before the session Bethan asked her team what impresses them on placements. "Come in with story ideas or treatments for stories," she says. "Don't be afraid to pitch stories, give us an interview or story that we wouldn't get otherwise. Don't fall into the trap of thinking we know best. You are the audience so you'll have a good understanding, especially of technology and different Apps that could help us."
How to convert a placement into a job
Bethan revealed that every person she has hired, except one, first completed a placement with Global. "What sets a great placement student apart from a good placement student is attitude. You're not going to walk into a newsroom being a fantastic journalist because you are learning. But keep learning, be passionate and ask for feedback, and we will help you to improve. Identify what you need to work on and what your barriers are, and keep learning. There is nothing better than seeing someone develop over their placement and seeing the potential for what they could go on to do in the future."
Develop your skills for working in radio
Bethan discussed the skills needed to succeed in radio broadcasting. They included: personal skills, written skills and voice skills. "Personal skills are really important. Learn how to have conversations with anyone. You could be doing vox pops or interviewing politicians or someone whose child had died – you need to be able to talk to people. Keep working on it. Make sure you self-reflect, listen back to your interviews and think about how you can improve. Written skills are also important in radio. We write each story in three lines, and it's a real skill to summarise a story."
Work on your voice
Bethan explained that often the final hurdle for getting paid work is voice skills. "Accents are acceptable," she says. "If you have an accent it's about how to make the best of it and sound the best version of yourself.
"There are very few people who can't work on their voice. Anyone can master the art of delivering the news. You need to learn how to use your voice. Do this on placement and get feedback."