Unlike the clandestine crime fighting unit in the BBC One drama or Charley Boorman moving around the world, but without Ewan McGregor, I don’t like to achieve my goals ‘by any means.’ What I’m saying is that I’m not a psychopath. I like to think that I’ve reached the dizzying heights of moderate accomplishment without screwing people over. And most people I’ve met in the industry are the same. Having said that I’ve not met loads at the very, very top. They’re probably all total bastards.
However, sometimes you have to be a little bit cheeky, embellish the truth a little or sometimes, I guess, cheat. Just a little. While the cat’s away the mice will up-sell their skill set. There are a couple of times in my career that spring to mind, but here’s one from my very early days…
It was my interview for the Post Graduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism at Falmouth College of Art. This was a very important day. Having narrowly failed to make it onto the BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme my career was looking pretty much non-existent unless I could get a place on the course. It was very competitive with thousands applying for about thirty places.1 And I wanted this as much as an X Factor or The Voice contestant wants to get to the live shows.
On the day of the interview one element of the process was a written test. I think it was a series of general knowledge and current affairs questions, but with a few specifically about broadcasting. I was given the test sheet, but told that there was quite a long wait for the interview – it must have been at least an hour or so – and I was allowed to wander off. So I did. Sheet in hand I headed to the college canteen. I knew most of the answers, but there were a couple of broadcasting questions that I had no idea about and I feared that this could be the crucial knowledge gap that would send me back across the Cornwall/Devon border empty handed.
In the canteen I managed to find some students (I know, a difficult mission in a college). Importantly they were doing the BA in Journalism and they had the answer. They were absolutely certain I can’t remember exactly what the question was, but something like who was the first director general of the BBC2 or something to do with regional radio or television franchises.
I’ll never know whether or not getting that answer correct tipped the balance in my favour. Probably all the work experience I’d done was the main factor in getting a place, but I’m sure it didn’t do any harm. And I like to think that tracking down the students with the answer to the question was me showing the kind of skills needed to be a successful journalist. It was just research. I’m sure my old tutors Colin Caley and Guy Pannell will forgive me for what I have done. Getting a place at Falmouth was the thing that really got my career started. They can’t do to me what they did to the banks over PPI can they? You can’t take it all back now. You can take away those episodes of Mad About Shopping for Westcountry TV3 I worked on, but you can never take my freedom…
2 I realise I should have known this. I do now, obviously. Who was it? I’m not going to tell you. You’ve got the internet and all your smart phones and iPads, which we didn’t have back then so I’m being a right miserable old git about it.