UPDATED: Seize every opportunity advises former Sky News manager

2015-11-19 12.45.11

By Karen Liu and Carolyn Eden

A news reporter who broadcast worldwide after hearing a bomb going off when he was in the bath said that journalists should follow their instincts.

Dave Betts talked about covering the IRA’s bombing of London Docklands in 1996 as a young reporter – he realised there was a story to cover about a mile away from his flat so he walked to the scene.

Dave, a former managing editor at Sky News, said: “I didn’t have a mobile phone or a tape recorder – I was a radio reporter trying to cover a story with no means of getting a story back to anybody – so I gave ten quid to a local shopkeeper and commandeered his landline.

“That night I did two-ways for radio stations all over the world. Seize every opportunity – if you happen to be near a news event or have an idea about a news event – take the opportunity get yourself out there.”

He joked that despite being rejected from Leeds Trinity as a prospective student back in 1984, this has not stopped him from having a fantastic career.

One of his first jobs was as coal correspondent for BBC Radio Stoke, reporting on the pits closing in North Staffordshire. He recalled how he had flagged down a miner driving away from a pit and asked what he had been told about the redundancies.

The miner replied that the only information he had was what was being reported by Dave on the radio, in his car.

Dave said: “That was a real pivotal moment for me. A real shiver went down my spine, I thought this job is actually quite important, we’re actually giving people information which could actually affect peoples’ lives.

“Journalism affects real people.”

He told students at Leeds Trinity University that job offers did not always follow your own masterplan for career progression but that it was important to being open minded and take a chance on moving in a different direction.

Originally from Leeds, he decided to relocate to London because there were more career opportunities than in the north.

He worked for Sky News until a few weeks ago and said: “I’ve taken the money and come back to Yorkshire.”

He told the audience that when he started in the industry there were no mobile phones, no internet

and journalists had to do their own research, working on manual typewriters.

Dave said: “I’d never seen a fax machine before, but that was the cutting edge of technology. We used to record people on reel to reel tapes and edit them with a razor blade.”

The talk was punctuated with advice based on his experience in the industry.

He said: “Be true to yourself – I got sacked for upsetting an advertiser, but I knew my story was right.”



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