Review of the year: 2020
Covid-19 has dominated the headlines this year and will continue in 2021. Mostly unrelated to the pandemic, it has been been a year where much-loved friends and family have passed. Like everyone, social contact has been limited, unless it’s taken place over a screen. There has been a lot of sadness, that’s for sure. It doesn’t need dwelling on, which is why I thought I’d make this review a look back at things to be grateful for.
JANUARY – MARCH
Life continued relatively normally up until March, although the virus was starting to spread more widely. At work I was out and about, reporting on stories. Then, the week before lockdown, I achieved a long-held dream which was to studio produce the breakfast programme.
A holiday of a lifetime had been planned for April to visit New York City to watch a Broadway show and see the sights. It wasn’t to be this year but I’m glad to have took the plunge to book something I had wanted to do for so long. The plans will hopefully not go to waste, when life gets a bit more normal and holidays can resume.
STAYING AT HOME
I started working from home on 19 March 2020, shortly before Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked the nation to do the same, during the first lockdown. Underlying health conditions mean I’m classed as clinically vulnerable to coronavirus. As restrictive as staying at home for such an extensive period may seem there are advantages.
Not having to commute to work gave me extra time in each day. It’s been lovely to spend this with my fiancé, who has been shielding with me. When we both worked together in Blackburn we were able to take our lunch breaks together and it’s been nice to do this again, usually with our cat sitting on one of our knees!
In a busy life it’s all too easy to overlook some of the simple things that bring joy. I’d never paid too much attention to the changing of the seasons before. Noticing the plentiful flora and fauna around us and the way it transforms and continues – despite what nature throws at it – became a metaphor for the year. This enhanced awareness of the world around us is something I hope to take with me beyond 2020.
One of the best things I did at the start of the first lockdown was to set my parents up on an iPad. Something we won’t look back on because it’s been a great way to communicate. I normally visit my family in Manchester a lot and vice versa. To have this contact restricted has been difficult. Video calling on FaceTime has helped massively to feel a sense of connection, for which I’m grateful.
Using Zoom and Microsoft Teams has kept me connected to colleagues too. I was delighted to give a talk to journalism students at my former university, UCLan, remotely using this technology. Video conferencing also enabled me to be involved in BBC’s England’s Diversity Action Group. Connecting people and ideas across the north. I’m passionate about diversity, inclusion and equality and am glad I can be involved in this important area, alongside my job as a journalist.
This blog was updated more than I expected, as a way to document and diary my time, particularly as I was shielding. It’s been cathartic to do this and I hope one day I can look back on these posts when Covid-19 is a distant memory. This year has allowed me time to expand the pages on this website and very soon the content will all be able to be accessed by visiting www.katybooth.com.
A DREAM COME TRUE
In this challenging year, for so many reasons, a career ambition of mine was realised…
I’ve had such a varied career in broadcasting and journalism which has given me valuable experience. For the majority of time, this has either been as a freelancer or via fixed term contracts. I’m at a point in my life where I want to settle, which is something I can now do thanks to becoming a permanent member of BBC staff on a continuing contract. I’m delighted this can be in Cumbria – part of a talented team at a fantastic radio station.
The positive reactions to my posts on social media about this step in my career have been phenomenal. Thank you to everyone who has got in touch with kind comments It’s been nice to share such a joyous moment with so many people.
2020 has taught me not to take anything for granted – to take a day at a time. My thoughts are with everyone who has lost loved ones to Covid-19 or other causes. Just because the date changes doesn’t mean the problems of the pandemic will go away. We all need to be as vigilant as ever. However, a new year brings new hope. I wish you health and happiness in 2021. Stay safe.
Results day – the end of academia and onto a new start
Today students across the country got their A Level results but it’s been 6 years since I opened my sealed envelope from Parrs Wood Sixth Form college in Didsbury. It meant I was off to study a combined studies degree of English Language, Linguistics and Film Studies at The University of Manchester. From that moment, my life’s direction had been decided… I just didn’t realise it back then.
I’m writing this to say whatever academic results you achieve, whether they’re good or not quite what you hoped, it should not stop you from achieving your dreams. My graduation was bittersweet; I was the first person in my family to go to university, so my parents were thrilled, but I wished I had done better. I was disappointed because I achieved excellent A Level and GCSEs results but didn’t feel I was leaving university with a grade that reflected my true ability.
The reason I didn’t do as well as I hoped was actually because I was spending too much time in radio studios! Ironically, this would eventually work out to my advantage. I didn’t enjoy the subject I was studying and couldn’t see the point if it wasn’t going to correlate with my career ambitions of working in media.
A university tutor told me that I would never be able to go on to study a masters… how wrong she was! This comment initially put me off applying for postgraduate study at UCLan but course leader, Caroline Hawtin, saw I had potential with my range of experience. (Spending all that time in radio studios WAS worth it after all!) Hopefully, anyone who knows me will know I’m completely dedicated to my career and was delighted to be offered a place on the broadcast journalism MA.
I took a chance coming out of working in the media industry to go back into further study, but enrolling was one of the best decisions I have ever made! I achieved distinctions for all my TV and radio practical work and digital modules, with merits for everything else. This shows that anyone can do well when you get the opportunity to study subjects you enjoy. That’s what made the difference to me and I appreciated my time at UCLan all the more because of it.
I still look back at my undergraduate degree at Manchester with fondness though. Academically, the course wasn’t right for me but without being there I would never have been bitten by the radio bug, by getting involved with student radio. This therefore wouldn’t have led me to qualifying as an accredited broadcast journalist. Maybe things do happen for reason?
Academic results, whether they’re good or bad, are only black ink on white paper – they can’t convey the true colour of what someone is like. Ultimately, they can only take you so far; it’s what you do after you open the envelope that really counts…
BBC North West Tonight
When I tell people I did my TV work placement with the BBC North West Tonight regional news programme I usually hear something like “but we didn’t see you on TV!” That’s beside the point really; screen time on any TV programme only accounts for what viewers see. There’s a whole team working hard behind the scenes to get content to air as smoothly as possible – I loved being part of it!
There would be so much to mention about time working on the programme, and alongside so many talented journalists, but then it would become more of a epilogue than a blog post – so this will have to be a whistle-stop tour. (In no particular order, terms and conditions apply… Oops! Didn’t need the bit about T&Cs!) Here we go…
HEART SCREENINGS IN MEMORY OF JOHN MARSHALL
Having footage I shot myself air on the North West bulletins during BBC Breakfast was an honour. My footage was shown after interviewing the family of John Marshall, who died suddenly from an undiagnosed heart condition 18 years ago. His family were holding a screening session at Edge Hill University as part of their campaign for heart screenings to become more widespread and to raise awareness of heart conditions affecting young people.
NEW DRUG APPROVED TO FIGHT BREAST CANCER
A drug called Perjeta had been granted licence for use in Europe; it prolongs the lives of some breast cancer patients by over 6 months. Although not yet available through NHS treatment, the drug has been trialled by The Christie in Manchester – I was going to interview a doctor about their findings. Case studies are what illustrate news best and when I got there I was able to talk to someone who had experience of using the drug. As this was all very spontaneous I was about to do my most emotional interview to date with no preparation! This is where my initiative journalistic skills came in and I was able to come back to the newsroom with poignant footage used in a big screen presentation by NWT health correspondent, Nina Warhurst.
APPEAL TO FIND ANDREW JONES’ KILLER
Andrew Jones was killed in 2003 after injuries sustained after falling to the ground from a single punch. 10 years on and his parents, Christine and Andy, were appealing for anyone with information to speak out. I interviewed them at Merseyside Police Headquarters ahead of their weekend vigil. I found out the embargo had been lifted on this story while there and after relaying the messages to producers my work featured in Dave Guest’s top story for the lunchtime and evening programmes.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF LIVERPOOL’S RESIGNATION
One of the last official duties that Pope Benedict XVI had to approve was the resignation of Liverpool’s Archbishop Kelly. I spoke to him at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool and helped film one of his last masses in tribute to the outgoing Pope that featured on the late bulletin.
It was a privilege to be on placement with the BBC during Comic Relief . I particularly enjoyed helping Carol Lowe film her report on how some of the money was being used in the North West at Stick ‘n’ Step. A charity helping children with Cerebral Palsy, in Wallasey. I also got to shoot footage of what was happening to fundraise around MediaCity. Particular highlights of mine were the Bake-Off, Harlem Shake out on the piazza and the Zumba-thon in Liverpool, all of which I filmed and were shown in the North-West opt-out during the evening’s main Comic Relief programme.
LAUNCH OF MANCHESTER INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL 2013
Eno Eruotor and I went to the press launch of this year’s MIF, we heard about what was to come in the festival, which featured an appearance from Shakespearean actor Kenneth Brannagh! He wasn’t giving any interviews (and at that point he didn’t even know I was in control of the lighting!!) but we did speak to one of my favourite actresses, Maxine Peake. She gave me a bit of competition for being NWT’s biggest fan too!
Sadly, I can’t cover everything that happened on my placement or mention everyone, but those are the main things I talk about when people ask me about my placement. Thanks to all the NWT team for making me feel so welcome, trusting me with their content and giving me a TV placement I will never forget!
My next blog post will be about my radio placement with Real Radio… Stay tuned!
Roving reports from MediaCity…
Ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to work in the media industry and have been fascinated by the broadcast side of things. Starting out on student media laid the foundations for my radio work and when I graduated I was fortunate to earn a place on ITV’s Runner Pool. I was based in Leeds and at Granada working as a production assistant for factual / entertainment programmes and got a real buzz from working in such a fast paced environment. Since enrolling on UCLan’s Broadcast Journalism masters I’ve been able to create content for all broadcast mediums, as well as learm a new journalistic skill. Now I’m looking forward to beginning the courses’ BJTC work placement period with the BBC at MediaCity.
Any big change prompts me to get wistful about where it all began. I can remember vividly where my inspiration to work in media comes from – it goes back to when I was in primary school. My parents’ friends, Mavis and Laurie, owned a company that got commissioned to make TV sets for lots of different programmes. At the time they’d just finished the set of a new Sooty show for Blackpool Pleasure Beach. You can imagine my excitement when they said I could see Sooty’s set… Come to think of it, I’d probably still get excited about that now!
It was an amazing experience to see the sets I’d seen on TV in front of my eyes. As we walked along the shopfloor I did get to see Sooty’s new lodgings, alongside a fascia from Coronation Street’s Rovers Return and Gordon Burn’s new North West Tonight desk. When the show got re-branded there was the desk that Laurie had made on the screen! I’ve been a fan of NWT ever since. I love regional news and have watched the programme for years, so I think it must go back to that moment.
It’s been great to have been taught by a producer and cameraman from NWT while at UCLan. The packages that I’ve filmed for our news days are all available for you to watch on my YouTube channel. To quote Blue Peter – here’s one I made earlier! It’s my latest TV report about the Book Cycle project in Wigan…
More of my reports are available my YouTube channel: youtube.com/katybooth
I’ve enjoyed both our UCLan radio and TV news days, where we got the chance to broadcast news bulletins for both mediums as well as creating web content. I already had a lot of radio experience prior to joining the course but it’s definitely sharpened my skills and the voice training has been beneficial – especially in getting, what the vocal coach described as, my “lazy tongue” into shape!
I learnt new skills as well as lots about myself with our TV news days too I can now self shoot my own reports. This was an ambition of mine and I’m glad that I can say I’ve achieved this and can put it on my CV. Having made my own videos for years with a camcorder it’s been good to learn how to professionally edit reports too. These are all skills that I will be using on my work placement with BBC North West Tonight. The news desk that I saw and even the studios where the programme broadcasts from have changed over the years but I’ve watched the programme throughout, so it will be a privilege to spend my placement with the NWT team.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to sign off with my own standard out cue, but until then here’s a photo from our course trip to MediaCity…