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How I became a Production Journalist

18th June 2019

The post: Production Journalist, UTV

The post holder: Eden Wilson

Determination and years of work experience helped Eden Wilson land her role as a production journalist.

Give a brief outline of your career to date.

I started out as a development researcher at a production company in Belfast called Fine Point Films. They specialise in producing investigative documentaries for both local and global audiences. The appeal of working on projects that were large-scale was a huge incentive and I learnt a great deal from my time there.

I then moved into entertainment development for a change of pace. I had a unique opportunity to develop my own TV show concept with Endemol Shine in London. It was a short-lived but thoroughly enjoyable experience and I made many connections in the industry along the way.

In 2017, I went to an event called Get Your Foot in the Door with RTS Futures where I networked with the industry experts there, getting great advice on how to apply for the ITV News Trainee Scheme. This paid off as I got accepted onto the nine-month training programme in news writing, camera work, editing, producing and on-screen reporting. I graduated from the scheme and landed a nine-month contract as a Production Journalist. Fast forward two years, and I am now a permanent member of staff at UTV.

What was your favourite subject at school?

My favourite subject at school was without a doubt, English Literature. I loved delving into the worlds of my favourite authors, playwrights and poets. I think teachers have a huge influence on how much you enjoy a subject too – I was lucky enough to have that. A close second favourite subject would be French. I’m still on a mission to become fluent!

Did you go on to further/ higher education, if so what did you study and where?

I studied Journalism Studies at the University of Sheffield. I was determined to study at one of the top courses in the UK to get the best possible education. It was there that I found out that I was really comfortable in front of a camera and I got a real buzz from delivering live TV. The course’s accreditation and reputation in the industry certainly made me stand out in job applications.

How did you get into your area of work?

The ITV News Trainee Scheme was the springboard that propelled me into the world of television news and it gave me all the tools and training to make it a career. However, if it wasn’t for years of unpaid work experience, I don’t think I would have stood out in the application or interview for the scheme. It was a necessary slog and one I’m glad that I tried hard at. The more strings you can add to your bow, the better!

Is this what you always wanted to do?

The only thing I was sure of growing up, was that I was good at talking. So much so, that in every school report in the footnote section underneath my grades it would state: “Eden talks too much and distracts others.” But it was this negative footnote that got me to where I am today. I realised that my talent was talking, and I just need to find a career that suited my love for it. At 16 years old I landed some work experience at, coincidentally, UTV, where I shadowed a reporter and watched the news go out live. I quickly realised that there was no other career for me. I wanted to be a journalist.

Were there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed?

I think the real ‘essential’ quality is perseverance. If you ask any journalist how they got their job, no two people will tell you the same story. However, the common denominator among everyone in the field is that we didn’t give up. You can have a list full of qualifications, but if you don’t have tenacity, they won’t mean anything.

Are there alternative routes into the job?

I’d say there is every alternative route into journalism. Some start out in papers, others in radio, others land a trainee scheme in television from the get-go. Unfairly, some use their connections in the industry to break their way in. In my experience, I knew nobody in the film and TV industry in Northern Ireland – so I went out and made some connections. Networking might not land you a job, but it’ll get you remembered

What are the main personal skills your job requires?

The main skill would be communication. Being able to break down complicated events into easily digestible stories is a skill. Being able to grill politicians with the same confidence as interviewing a member of the public is a skill. Being able to not choke when under pressure and deliver on a story is a skill. It all boils down to how well you are as a communicator and I suppose there’s a dash of confidence in the mix too!

What does a typical day entail?

The amazing thing about being a journalist is that you don’t have a ‘typical day: My shift patterns change from 4am rises to hitting the hay after midnight. My work patterns change from producing bulletins, updating our website and social media platforms, to reporting on-screen. I love the diversity that the role brings.

What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?

The best part of my job is that sense of achievement when you see a story you’ve worked on all day make it onto the 6 o’clock news. Being able to turn a blank page into a creative script and raw material into a nicely edited sequence brings me a lot of satisfaction. The most challenging aspect is probably finding a great story, but the elements don’t come together to make it happen.

Why is what you do important?

I think what I contribute to is important. That being a diverse programme of stories that reflect Northern Ireland and the day it’s had, for better or for worse. As a journalist, your aim is to try and understand the messy world we live in and create something that anyone can read, listen to or watch that makes sense of it all. I strive to achieve that every day.

What advice would you give anyone looking to follow a similar career path?

As I said to the students at the RTS NI Student Awards recently – don’t give up! Journalism is a competitive profession, so be competitive. Don’t get knocked down by rejection letters because there will be many (believe me)! Make a plan of action and stay motivated.

If you weren’t doing this what would you like to do?

I’ve always enjoyed project managing and working with people, so I can probably see myself running a small business.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself on your first day?

I hate spoilers, but if I could travel back in time and see myself walk through UTV on my first day, I’d give myself a wink and a thumbs up.

Describe your ideal day off.

I wake up early, fully recharged. It’s a bright, sunny day. I head out with my two wonderful dogs for a forest or beach walk. We arrive back home and have a nap on the sofa together. Or something to that effect!

And finally, what’s the key to any successful job search?

I’d say research and find out which companies you want to work for before any job search.

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