Sky news boss tells how the coverage of Princess Diana’s death led to job: UPDATED

Dave Betts, managing editor of Sky News television

Dave Betts, managing editor of Sky News television

The managing editor of Sky News television failed his degree and was even rejected from Leeds Trinity University when he applied.

Dave Betts was speaking to trainee journalists at the university for the third day of Journalism Week 2014.

He is now responsible for recruitment at the news organisation.

He recounted to Leeds Trinity’s trainee journalists how coverage of Princess Diana’s death achieved him a staff job at the news organisation, explaining he was was on shift the night of the Paris car crash and working as a freelance when the news first broke.

He said: “It was the biggest story I had ever covered at the time. It was a relatively easy shift because I just called anybody and everybody in to cover it.”

The next day a manager complimented him on how calmly he’d handled the story and offered him a staff position.

He added how Twitter can be a great tool for journalists but warned of the dangers of not checking facts.

He said: “We now follow Twitter very closely, but you have to be careful. A so-called explosion on Oxford Street mentioned on Twitter was actually a manhole cover being blown off.”

Dave then stressed how important it is to have experience when trying to get into the industry.

“I like to recruite people with potential. I look for people who are a bit different. You need to have a unique-selling-point. Spark, curiosity, tenacity, good personal skills and luck are essential for a career in journalism.”

He enforced a continuing theme of the event that “you make your own luck.”  And he proceeded to offer CV writing tips to the trainee journalists.

He said: “I’m infuriated by the term ‘I’m passionate about journalism’ – of course you’re passionate about journalism, you want to be a journalist!’

He explained instead applicants should “emphasise their unique selling point and what makes them stand out”.

Speaking about the coverage of Nelson Mandela’s death, Dave highlighted that although there was an initial spike in viewers, after 40 minutes people had got their news and figures dwindled – yet intense coverage continued.

He said: “We are getting new technology so we can monitor our audience very closely. But there is a danger of pandering to the audience and super-serving a few people.”

LISTEN to Dave Betts talking about being on duty when Princess Diana died

Dave’s entire talk:


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