Shamaan Freeman- Powell shares her experience after winning Claire Prosser Bursary award
Shamaan with Vanessa Feltz and the BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine team
Just under six months ago I was told that I had been hand picked to be the second recipient of the Claire Prosser Bursary award. There are no words to describe just how proud and honoured I felt to be recognised for the hard work that I had put in to secure a career in journalism; I was also extremely grateful for the financial contribution, and super excited to start the placements that had been arranged for me at the BBC.
However, this excitement quickly turned into uncontrollable nerves as I strolled, slowly, towards the Houses of Parliament in the direction of the Millbank offices. This anxiety only intensified whilst walking past the likes of Laura Kuenssberg, Andrew Marr and John Pienarr, whilst I made my way to my desk for the week - opposite Jo Coburn!
‘Act like you belong here’ is what I told myself, over and over again.
Before my placements, I knew that the BBC was where I wanted to be: the world’s oldest and largest national broadcaster and a trusted public service provider. On my first day shadowing the Daily Politics team, sat in the same room as some of the most respectable journalists in the business, this dream finally started to feel achievable.
I had always admired Jo Coburn; she’s feisty, a straight shooter, who’s presence alone demands respect, and I was surprised at how approachable and friendly she was: welcoming me to the Daily Politics team with open arms and making me feel at home. I spent most of my placement discovering just how much preparation went into creating the show. I attended the morning briefs to discuss the day and weeks ahead. I got to sit inside the editing suite whilst packages were created, and I sat in the gallery as the show was going out live, admiring the hard work of all the producers, script writers and cameramen who work in perfect synchrony.
Towards the end of the week, I was sent out to Boris Johnsons constituency to help get contributions for the Daily Politics ‘moodbox’, with the week’s question being: Jacob Rees-Mogg, villain or hero? (the latter was the popular choice.) This was, by far, the highlight to my week as I had the opportunity to speak to passers-by, help the cameraman find good shots and saw how effortlessly the journalist, Emma Vardy conducted piece to cameras and interviews.
However, the week got even more interesting when I watched from the side lines as Katie Price made her first appearance on Daily Politics – raising awareness on Cyber Bullying.
Katie Price Daily Politics appearance
During this week, I had an interview for a Trainee Researcher position for the BBC the Home Affairs team, so I was able to get invaluable advice from researchers and journalists there who were happy to help - and shared my excitement when I informed them I had been chosen for the role! As you can imagine, I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to get stuck in to my next placement at BBC Radio 2, working on the Jeremy Vine show with Vanessa Feltz standing in.
The environment at BBC Radio 2 was completely different than that of Millbank. Most of the team were closer to my age and although items were prepared weeks ahead, many of the topics selected were time sensitive and picked on the morning before the show, which meant I was given much more creative input.
Whilst there, I pitched story ideas in the morning briefs. I answered calls and wrote down audience contributions for the show, picking which ones I believed would make great callers, and I helped with finding interviewees for the week ahead.
During this week, the ‘Cheddar Man’ story was a huge topic of discussion, (the fact that the first Brit had dark skin and blue eyes was apparently a surprise to many).
I was interested in the story before my placement, but felt a little nervous pitching in my own ideas on how we could run it, because I really didn’t want to over step the line. But, I was extremely grateful that Phil Jones, the editor of the show, recognised that as a the only black British female in the room I had a unique perspective on the story, and welcomed my honest opinion and input, allowing me to work closely with him and the team on putting the package together.
I loved every minute of my BBC placements, it taught me so much in such a short space of time. I was introduced to amazing journalists who will, hopefully, be my colleagues one day. The placements opened my eyes to the many different careers you can undertake at the BBC. And finally, it made my dreams become a little more realistic.