Golden month for journalism trainee

Interviewing the Prime Minister, a live interview with three Olympians, organising a live broadcast from the Olympic Park… it’s been quite a month for BBC Academy journalism trainee Navtej Johal.

He’s currently working in radio at BBC WM, halfway through a year of paid training and work placements across BBC television, radio and online journalism thanks to the BBC College of Journalism’s Journalism Trainee Scheme.

After finishing his initial training, he completed a nine-week placement writing for News Online, and is now working for the local station where he’s racked up a number of personal firsts in the past few weeks.

"Don’t take no for an answer – there’s always another guest, another angle, another option when covering a story." – Navtej Johal, Journalism Trainee

 It began with a live reporting gig using the new HD Voice technology he and the JTS team have been trained on. And not just any live report, but interviewing three of Team GB, including gold medal-winning long jumper Greg Rutherford, for the BBC WM's flagship 5pm Drivetime show [pictured].

For the self-professed sports fan it was quite a moment. “To be interviewing these three guys, who felt like the centre of the world at that point, was just incredible,” he says. “Greg even showed me his gold medal.”

Then he was asked to set up BBC WM’s two-hour live Paralympic broadcast from the Olympic Park, when all eyes were on British hope Ellie Simmonds swimming the 200m medley. Daunting? Perhaps. But he hit the phones anyway.

“I arranged to meet Olympians, Paralympians, parents of Paralympians, people with amazing stories linked to the Paralympics,” he explains. “Everyone from gold medal rower and University of Birmingham graduate Pamela Relph to Ellie Simmonds’ dad.”

There was also a live link-up to Radio 5 Live for the race itself. Simmonds won – and the station’s ecstatic commentary formed the centre-piece of the show while the team shared the triumph with Athens silver medallist Gail Emms inside the studio in the Olympic Park.

Then three days later came an interview with David Cameron who was in Birmingham announcing changes to planning laws.

The PM’s press team said he only had time to answer one question from each of the three main radio stations in the area. Nav managed to get in three, including one about the PM’s favourite team Aston Villa – something he knew BBC WM’s listeners would love.

Thanks to the great material gained, he then found himself doing a live two-way on the BBC WM Drivetime show - not bad for a trainee who has only been at the BBC for six months.

In a previous job as a film journalist, he’s interviewed the likes of Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep on red carpets and at press junkets. But Nav says he had his eyes set on the JTS since first hearing about it a few years ago. “In 2011 I really went for it,” he explains. “I had reminders set on my phone that the scheme was opening, took two days off work to do the application, and just worked incredibly hard to try and make it perfect.”

His dedication paid off: he made it through to the gruelling assessment day, and then onto the scheme itself.

With all this accomplished and a TV placement plus three weeks work experience at BBC America during the US elections still to come, it’s fair to say his experience of the JTS has lived up to expectations.

“To work as an online, radio, and TV news reporter in the course of a year, as well as all of the training – there’s no better way I can see to set myself up for a career in broadcast journalism” he smiles. “It’s a great opportunity, and I'm grateful to BBC WM for helping me make the most of it.”


Nav’s top three journalism tips learned while on the JTS

1. Don’t take no for an answer – there’s always another guest, another angle, another option when covering a story. If you’re tenacious enough, most of the time you will find an alternative

2. Volunteer for everything – definitely don’t burn out, but opportunities like this don’t come up very often, so, make the most of them by volunteering to do more and being as helpful as you can – even if it’s not your area of expertise

3. Get the facts right – accuracy is the most important aspect of the story. It’s very easy to get drawn into the press pack mentality, but impartiality and honesty is essential to being a good journalist, especially at the BBC.