2022 Fellow Hamish Auskerry pursued a journalism career from a small island in Orkney, crossing the water to work in Guernsey with ITV and then moving to Wales to take an on-screen journalist role with the broadcaster.
Here he describes the variety of stories he has covered in recent weeks, the challenges he’s thrown himself into, learning on the job and the realities of reporting on the road.
* * * * *
“Ease yourself back in gently.” That’s what people say when you return to work after a period of leave. However, this is rarely a genuine possibility when you work in news, and never more so than in recent weeks.
My parents are farmers in Scotland, running a business for 45 years selling the produce of a rare breed of seaweed-eating sheep. Every summer I take unpaid leave to go up to the Orkney Islands to shear sheep, repair fences and cut peat for fuel. Somehow my parents – now in their 60s and 70s respectively – keep everything going despite the huge challenges of living off-grid in an unforgiving landscape. Being home is a very precious few weeks of my year, and I’m grateful to be able to keep doing it.
I returned to my ‘day-job’ in Cardiff for ITV Wales in early August, expecting to gradually get back up to speed. Within a few days, though, I was sent to Manchester to cover the domestic abuse trial of Ryan Giggs. Court cases are different to any other story you work on, particularly high-profile ones. There was huge interest in every twist and turn of the evidence in court two at Manchester Crown Court, and it was a privilege to sit there each day and watch a story play out from the public gallery. Whilst in Manchester I caught up with my Trust mentor, Jon Kay from BBC Breakfast. We’ve had lots of conversations over video call and text but it was fantastic to meet up properly and talk through his vast experience of TV reporting. I feel incredibly lucky to have someone like him to call on for advice and tips!
Covering a trial for several days, or in this case more than two weeks, often leads to a lot of friendly collaboration with journalists from other organisations. As a young reporter still very much learning my trade, sitting alongside experienced court reporters from print, online and broadcast is a thoroughly useful and empowering experience. Collaboration can be anything from checking individual words from witness testimony and discussing legal issues around reporting to sitting by a colleague’s bag while they get a coffee. Unashamedly, I always watch and read other journalists’ output at the end of the day to see how they presented the evidence we all saw together. The joy of a varied media landscape is that everyone brings something different in technique, style or perspective in the parts of evidence they draw out.
After returning to Cardiff following the collapse of the Giggs trial, there was the small matter of the election of a new prime minister. I did a Politics and History degree, so it’s always great to work on current affairs items for our programme. In order to tell the story of Liz Truss’ election through the eyes of our viewers, I went up to the Rhondda Valley to speak to people in a community centre in Cwmparc, near Treorchy. I edited my report in the local pub, recording the voiceover under a jacket in my car: a strange sight to anyone passing by, but a regular feature of being on the road. My cameraman Jon Wilson and I then went up to the top of the town for a beautiful shot down the valley in order to report live around the package. I started as an ITV News trainee production journalist in August 2018, so to be ‘handed to’ by our political editor Adrian Masters live from Westminster on a momentous day was a fantastic, if a little surreal feeling.
In the same week, I was asked to cover the WWE (World Wide Wrestling) phenomenon coming to Cardiff, the crucial and history-making Women’s World Cup qualifying game for Wales and the news that the CPS had secured a new trial date for Ryan Giggs next year. Then, just when it looked like it felt as though there may be some quieter days ahead, the news of Queen Elizabeth’s ill health broke.
On the first Saturday after her death, I travelled to London for a freelance shift at ITN, working alongside colleagues at ITV national news. Being there amongst the tents, cameras and satellite trucks from the world’s media camped at Canada Gate near Buckingham Palace was awe-inspiring. It was coverage of a story on a scale I am likely never to see again, with thousands of people streaming into Green Park to lay flowers and leave messages of condolence. I watched as correspondents, producers and crews put into practice all the planning they had done for this moment. That was one of several days in recent weeks I will never forget.
It’s the variety of TV reporting that always drew me to a career in it. Perhaps it’s down to growing up on a farm on a small island where you could never be sure what challenge the weather, livestock or machinery would throw at you each day. Whatever the reasons behind it, I love the challenges of working in news and long may it continue!