The NCTJ’s latest featured alumnus is Anna Botting, a Sky News presenter and award-winning journalist who became only the second woman to win the RTS Presenter of the Year award in 2012.
“I still have to pinch myself.” said Anna. “I first went to the Royal Television Society TV Journalism Awards more than 15 years ago and was awestruck by the quality of journalism on show and proud of my chosen career. So to be called on stage so many years later to receive the equivalent of our industry’s Oscars was just amazing.
“My friends were fairly unimpressed until I told them who I was up against; last year Jon Snow (Channel 4) and David Dimbleby (BBC) – two of the great stalwarts of British broadcasting – and this year I managed to pip Jon Snow and Mark Austin (ITV News). Still feels great.”
Anna decided to pursue a career in journalism having worked for a year as a researcher for Granada Television. She then went on to complete her NCTJ training on a post-graduate journalism course at Cardiff University. Anna said of her training:
“Training of any kind, I think, is vital…Broadcast writing is short, punchy, easy to read, basic in some respects. The NCTJ course helped highlight the differences with print journalism (learning the art of the triple-header as a first paragraph in a front-page lead I will never forget).
“But both styles are about stripping away extraneous words and even now, reading scripts, I will delete, delete, delete as I go through them. In the end journalism is only about telling a good story, training gives you the tools to do it.”
Anna also reflected on learning public affairs and media law and how it’s been important in her career as a journalist.
“Knowing the pitfalls of the law is absolutely essential to being a working journalist. I remember one of the first elements of our course involved a father giving a simulated press conference, lamenting the fact that his “daughter had run off with a terrorist”. I duly wrote it up. Not only had I defamed the new boyfriend, but the father had also said “guitarist” not “terrorist”….lesson learned.
“I strangely loved public affairs – picking apart the bodies that run our lives was fascinating and as you start out as a journalist this gives you a much better understanding about who to talk to, about what.”
After her NCTJ training, Anna went onto to work for the BBC and later joined Sky News in 1995.
The award-winning presenter has covered many major events. Anna presented live from Tripoli on the Libya conflict; reported from Portugal on the disappearance of Madeleine McCann; anchored Sky News’ ‘Inside Iraq’ week coverage live from Baghdad; covered the Lebanon war live from Israel and in 2005 covered the death of Pope John Paul II from both Poland and Rome.
The variety of the job is something Anna loves most. “Every day is different, every hour presents a new challenge and at the end of each day you’ll have gained a little bit of encyclopaedic knowledge on a different topic.
“Breaking News is a real adrenaline rush. Trying to understand and digest the nub of a story quickly is great brain training. Travelling to war-zones, the aftermath of a tsunami or earthquake, seeing history being made through revolution, is all an absolute privilege.
“But fundamentally it’s our job to put difficult questions to Ministers and those in authority, where members of the public cannot. I think we should take that role very seriously. It really is worth going through the years learning the ropes, struggling to get a job, being paid virtually nothing, to come out on the other side with one of the best jobs going.”