Kate Silverton

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"You've got to work hard, it doesn't come easily," says the BBC journalist and television presenter.

Raise Your Game: Can you tell us about your job?

Kate Silverton: I'm a journalist and presenter. I broadcast the national news for the BBC, and I do lots of other bits and pieces as well, which include a lot of sporty things. I did a kayaking programme last year, navigating white waters around the UK.

RYG: How did you get this job?

KS: It's been a bit of a journey. I'm really diverse and very eclectic. I always wanted to do this. My dream when I was very young was to be a war correspondent. It always felt a little bit like saying 'I want to be an actress,' or something. I just didn't think I could do it. I went to university and then I went into corporate finance. It was great but I always felt my calling was to be in the newsroom.

I went to Durham University, so I knew the political constituencies well. I walked into a news room in the North East and people were throwing things at each other and swearing, and I just thought 'I'm home, this is brilliant.' I said to the BBC 'I want to be a journalist, I'll work for free and do whatever you want, just train me in return.' That's where it all began. I think I probably did every job in the building and worked my way up from there.

RYG: How much preparation do you have to do before you go on air?

Profile

Name:
Kate Silverton

Born:
4 August 1970

From:
Chigwell, Essex

Occupation
Journalist / presenter

Achievements:

  • Completed two triathlons
  • Presenter for the BBC Breakfast and One O'clock News
  • Presenter for Panorama
  • Presented Ultimate Wild Water (2007)

KS: Tons of preparation. People always say to me 'There's somebody giving your questions to you in your ear,' and you think 'I wish,' and they always think you have things written for you. It's a huge team effort, don't get me wrong, but when you're out there, you live or die by your knowledge and your performance, and whether you know your subject.

For me it's hugely important to do my research. You need to read all the newspapers. You need to be across rolling news, day in and day out, not because you have to but because you want to and you enjoy it.

If I'm presenting breakfast the next day, I have to prepare. Sometimes you'll be doing 10 or 15 interviews during the course of a day. You've got to be across every single one of them, because there isn't somebody talking in your ear, giving you questions. That doesn't happen. You're out there on your own, so you better be prepared.

RYG: What are the highlights of the job?

KS: Everything. I love my job. I like getting to dip a toe in different worlds. I like meeting so many different people and to feel that you're learning as much as you're providing information. I'm challenged every single day. I just love it!

RYG: There must be some lowlights?

KS: The only downside is, if I'm presenting breakfast. I have to get up at three o'clock in the morning, and I hate it (laughs). I'm not a morning person at all. I inevitably go to bed at midnight and get up at three o'clock. Three hours is not good. That's the only downside.

RYG: Which is more important - attitude or ability?

KS: I always say 'It's not about ability, it's about attitude.' You can take a one kilometre run, or a five or a ten. All that matters is you say to yourself 'I'm going to do this.'

It's like saying 'I want to be an actress,' or 'I want to be a war correspondent.' Allow yourself to think big and then, if you only end up being the lead in your local amateur dramatics group, and you don't end up being Nicole Kidman, that doesn't matter. You've still done what you set out to do. Then you can realise your limits and say 'Great, I'll work within that.' You shouldn't be disappointed by that.

It's about being willing and able to step outside your comfort zone, and being willing and able to push yourself. I'm not big on looking around me and thinking 'How's everybody else doing?' I just worry about what I'm doing and think 'How far can I push myself?' If I'm in the triathlon, I think 'Keep going Silverton and you'll get there.'

You can't allow yourself to get too swayed by what everybody else is doing. If you go to the gym and think 'She's got a nicer bottom than I have,' or 'She looks great.' Well done for them but just focus on what you're doing, and you'll be okay. That's what I try to do anyway. Use other people to inspire you, not to put yourself down.

RYG: So it's the trying that matters?

KS: Absolutely, and we forget that. I think we should be competitive, and we should say to children there's nothing wrong with being competitive, but in terms of being competitive with yourself, so that you want to do better to reach the next rung for yourself.

It doesn't matter if you don't quite get to where you want to be. If you've done your absolute best, that's all you can do. Don't beat yourself up if you don't quite get there. It's like the triathlon. It was all I could do to get over that finishing line. I didn't care what the time was, I had done a full triathlon, and that meant more to me than anything.

RYG: What skills did you take from sport that you could use in other areas of your life?

KS: A sense of dedication is really good. Getting up early to go swimming and going into school after that. Then driving myself to go swimming again that evening. Going to galas and really getting psyched up, because you get very scared before races. All of those things that you get to overcome when you're younger, really help you later on in life because you learn where to draw your strength from.

It gives you balance. It gives you self-esteem. You feel good physically, you feel good mentally. Emotionally it restores your balance and it gives you something to be proud of for yourself. They have a saying in Australia 'A kid in sport stays out of court,' I love that and I think it sums everything up.

RYG: Do you get nervous before live television?

KS: I always get nervous. I think, if you don't get nervous then there's something missing from your performance. You'll see me behind the scenes, walking up and down, talking to myself saying 'Focus, focus.' Then you can go out and just be you, but I think, if you didn't have a sense of nervousness then you wouldn't have that little twinkle that's necessary.

RYG: What advice would you give to people that suffer from nerves before exams?

KS: There's a trick that somebody taught me, not so long ago. Sometimes you can feel the nerves paralysing you. They come from your tummy area and they're really restrictive. He told me to talk to it. Ask that feeling 'Are you going to help me here?' It sounds really odd I know.

I think what you're actually doing is turning your focus in on yourself and saying 'Come on, let's pull together and go out there.' Don't view that nervous feeling as a negative thing, think of it as a good thing. I try to do that.

RYG: What advice would you give to someone that wanted to work as a television presenter?

KS: Whenever I speak to anybody about what they want to do with their lives, what I always say to them is 'Follow your heart.' Ask yourself 'If I could have the power, money and opportunity to do anything what would it be?' The answer may be 'I want to be a nurse.' Follow it, do it.

You might find in five years time that you don't want to do that anymore but it's so important to identify what really gives you a buzz, what really gives you a sense of self worth, and what really gives you a sense of pleasure. If you don't enjoy what you do, you won't be good at it.

Once you've established where you want to be, just go for it. Don't let anything stand in your way. Don't let anybody bring you down and say 'You can't do it because there'll be too much competition.' That's rubbish.

You've got to work hard, it doesn't come easily. There are things I've lost out on along the way in terms of not being able to go out socially or love life, but if you're really enjoying what you're doing then it's not really work.


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