The BBC journalist Fiona Bruce has urged young people from ethnic minorities eager to break into journalism to take advantage of media organisations’ desire to access their voice and use their backgrounds.
Speaking at Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College in New Cross, south-east London, the broadcaster said: “Ethnic minorities are massively under-represented in the media; use it – it will help you. Yours is a voice people want to hear. Exploit that.”
Bruce, who attended Hatcham College between 1975 and 1982, returned to her alma mater with two of her friends and former classmates – Jo Lockwood, now the picture editor of the women’s magazine Prima, and Susanna Frayn, the communications director of publisher HarperCollins – to give current pupils careers advice.
The talk was arranged as part of Back to School Week, an initiative organised by the education charity Future First, during which professionals from all fields are encouraged to pledge their support to their old state schools and colleges by helping pupils. As well as advising students to “always do more than you’re asked” and to be “endlessly curious”, Bruce surprised her audience by confessing that one of her abiding memories of the school was having “a hell of a laugh” with her friends leaning out of the classroom window to shout obscenities at boys from the school down the road.
The Antiques Roadshow presenter also recalled sneaking into town to loiter in Lewisham shopping centre and go to the pub. “That was in sixth-form, of course,” she added hurriedly.
The broadcaster’s frankness appeared to resonate with the pupils: “She was really down to earth,” said 17-year-old Louis Slater. The upper-sixth form student, an Oxbridge applicant, said he was feeling under pressure, but Bruce’s emphasis on the importance of character as opposed to simply achieving straight As when it comes to a career in the media gave him some much-needed perspective.
“It was really helpful to have someone successful who came from our school come in to speak, rather than someone who went somewhere else; we could relate to her,” he said.
His classmate Martha Lloyd-Evans agreed: “It was a relief to find out that your passion and your curiosity is more important than your grades. It makes the idea of a career in journalism seem so much more achievable.”
Bruce, 50, reassured pupils before hopping into a car to return to the BBC to present the News at Six: “If you’re not sure what you want to do yet, take heart: I didn’t either, and it’s all worked out.”
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