Wicid.TV Exclusive Interview With ITV Cymru Wales’ Andrea Byrne
A couple of weeks ago I contacted Andrea Byrne, who currently works at ITV Cymru Wales as a broadcast journalist, to gain an insight of what it’s like to work at an institution such as ITV, and what the typical life of a broadcasting journalist looks like. From the interview, it is evident that there is no typical day as it is constantly changing. One of the reasons I asked Andrea for this interview is because I believe younger people, especially, are perhaps unaware of what the job entails. And hopefully, from this interview more younger people in RCT will be inspired by Andrea’s career and will hopefully want to take up a career in journalism.
When did you first aspire to be a journalist? Was it something you always hoped to be?
I was very enthusiastic about journalism at school, but when I went to university I started to consider law as a career. It was only when I started doing work experience in a radio station during my degree that I changed my mind again – my passion for news was re-ignited!
How and at what age did you first break into a journalistic job?
My work experience in local radio during my degree eventually turned into paid freelance shifts. So, I had a fair amount of experience before I even started studying my postgrad journalism qualification. From my postgrad, I was offered a full-time job as a multi-skilled news reporter and editor at a local television channel. I had to multi-skill A LOT … producing, reporting, presenting, editing. It was a great training ground.
How did you feel when you were offered a job at ITV?
I was over the moon to be offered a job at ITV. This was originally at ITV Meridian (the news provider for the South East of England). I worked on the planning desk and then as a production journalist before going on to report and present regularly. It was the television news that I had grown up watching, so it was very special to have the opportunity to appear on there.
How many years have you been with ITV Cymru Wales?
I moved to ITV Cymru Wales to take up a full-time presenter’s job in 2008. This was really my biggest break. I had applied for the job just hoping to get recognised for some on-screen skills. The interview and the screen test were both nerve-wracking and intense. There was tough competition for what was a high-profile opportunity. I was ecstatic when I was told I had been selected!
What does a typical day in the life of a broadcast journalist look like?
It very much depends on your role in the newsroom and the news on the day!
Essentially, there is no typical day as anything could happen. This is why I enjoy the job so much as each day is different. However, for me as a presenter of Wales at Six, I usually start my day at 2pm. There is an editorial meeting, followed by a mix of pre-recorded interviews in the studio and writing/checking the programme scripts. We then start rehearsing and recording other parts of the programme from 5pm. After the live Wales at Six, we have a debrief meeting and then I go on to work on the late news bulletin which airs at 10.30 pm.
What are the challenges of reading the news to Wales?
One of the biggest challenges is the pronunciation of place names. I have discovered that it is impossible to please everyone with many of them! Local people may say it one way, but people in other parts of Wales may pronounce it a different way. It causes much debate in the newsroom!
What is your favourite part about your job?
People letting me into their lives.
I have the privilege of people entrusting me with their stories. These are sometimes incredibly personal and emotional. And I also have the privilege of seeing and doing things many people could only dream of – because I am reporting on extraordinary people in extraordinary places.
How does the location of broadcasters impact the coverage of Welsh news? As one of the criticisms of Welsh Media is that it has a South-centric approach (With particular focus on Cardiff and the surrounding areas).
It makes sense for our main office – and our studios – to be at the heart of Welsh democracy in Cardiff Bay. We are a national broadcaster with a government to hold to account, so this is important. However, we have a strong focus in the north and west of the country too. We have a dedicated team who produce really strong journalism on a daily basis. The north also has dedicated camera crews and a dedicated satellite truck to enable us to broadcast live from a story. We are also using Live U units more and more, which allow much more mobile live broadcasting in all parts of the country.
A little off topic however, do you think the proposed investment for Cardiff City Centre will go ahead, and what do you think modernisation of the Capital will do for the region economically?
A great deal has changed, of course, since plans for investment were officially set in motion. We have a new PM, new Chancellor, new Welsh Secretary. And, of course, Brexit happened. It’s changed the political landscape – and that is affecting every decision that is made now. However, it’s hoped the landmark deal is expected to create up to 25,000 jobs and encourage £4bn of private sector investment – which is significant. The plans include important infrastructure projects like the Metro. Many people will see the deal as crucial for connecting areas of south Wales with the capital.
As a journalist, professionalism is key – is it hard for you to contain your emotions when you are dealing with raw, distressing or sad news stories?
As a journalist, it is very important to remain impartial. This ensures a level of trust from the viewer as they can be confident your reporting is fair and balanced on all occasions.
With regards to emotions – that is slightly different. I think we can all be affected by certain stories and this only makes us human. As long as this emotion is channelled in the right way, it has the potential to make your report all the more passionate.
Due to the nature of your work and the number of people that you broadcast to, do you ever feel nervous or have you got used to the feeling?
I get excited/nervous particularly before big outside broadcasts or major breaking news events. This is when our skills are fully stretched and we can really make an impact depending on how we tell the story. There is a feeling of a big occasion and you want to rise to it and do the very best you can for the team.
What would you say is the funniest moment of your career?
I’m not sure I have a funniest moment, but I certainly have a most exciting moment. This was interviewing Prince Harry in the days when he had rarely done a solo media interview.
Has your job been everything you expected?
I am very lucky to have the job that I do. In many ways, it has exceeded my expectation. I am particularly proud, for instance, to have presented the network News at Ten on a few occasions. Every time I present on the network news at the weekends, it also reminds me that I have managed to achieve a lot.
I have been writing for Wicid.tv for the past three years and in that time, I’ve conducted interviews, written hundreds of articles, and been the editor of my school’s magazine ‘MACS Spotlight’ for the past two years as well. I have also conducted my own personal investigation into the current structure and state of Welsh Media, as a part of my A Level Welsh Baccalaureate.
During your schooling life, did you do anything similar and how beneficial is experience to this kind of job?
I produced and published my school’s first newspaper when I was just 11 years old! I used a type writer – and an old tape recorder for the interviews. Later I was involved in school newsletters and, at university, I worked at my local radio station. Work experience is crucial. It is a competitive industry and anything that can give you the edge is invaluable. It proves your passion and drive.
Finally, what advice would you give to younger, aspiring journalists?
Don’t be afraid of rejection and criticism. It will help you to grow as a journalist. However, never believe your best compliments or your worst critics!
Always remember journalism is about safeguarding fairness, revealing wrongdoings and reporting stories that matter to people.
I would like to thank Andrea on behalf of myself and everyone at Wicid.Tv for taking the time to participate in this interview and offering readers a fascinating insight into her career.