“Why I left the BBC”

angela_saini60.jpg27 year old journalist Angela Saini has left the BBC to go freelance. After joining the corporation in 2006 as reporter for BBC London News, Angela Seini won accolades for her work including a Prix Circom award for European regional television journalism for her report on bogus universities for immigrants.

You’ve just won an award for your work at the BBC. Why leave now?

Although I love news reporting, I always really wanted to be a science journalist. Winning a high-profile award for a major investigation opened up lots of doors, but rather than go down a route not meant for me, I decided to follow my dream.

That said, I did prepare very carefully – I spent more than a year while I was still at the BBC writing for New Scientist, the Economist and others. Because I am trained as a self-shooting and editing reporter, I also built up a strong relationship with other broadcasters and different parts of the BBC, so I could make films and radio packages for them when I left. I knew I was taking a risk, but it was a calculated risk.

Do you think a lot of people at the BBC are sometimes afraid of leaving and seeking out other opportunities?

Within the BBC I constantly meet people, particularly news producers and reporters, who would like to go freelance. Working in a big organisation can be limiting – It can take decades to climb up the greasy pole before you get to do the kind of journalism you want to do.

However, it’s a changeable market out there, which means it is often safer to stick with a secure staff job in a big media company – especially if you have children or financial commitments.

The payoff for those who do take the leap is that we exist in a more diverse and exciting media landscape, with not just more digital news channels but also Internet sites hungry for content and even big players like the BBC sourcing more material from independents. There are lots of exciting journalistic avenues for the lucky ones, not to mention money to be made.

How did you get into journalism?

I studied Engineering at Oxford University, which may be an unorthodox background for a journalist, but it has helped me understand technical topics better and see stories from a different perspective. I then went to New Delhi to work for the current affairs magazine, Frontline.

When I came back to London, after working in newspapers briefly, I was offered a coveted news traineeship at ITN. It was the only one given that year, so it really fast-tracked my career and gave me an excellent grounding in TV production.

What sort of work would you ideally like to see yourself doing?

In my first week as a freelancer I’ve been filming a documentary for AlJazeera International and recording a science feature for the BBC World Service. Best of all, I’m enjoying writing for my blog, Nothing Shocks Me, I’m a Scientist.

My science journalism career has taken off, but in the long-run I’d like to focus solely on my specialism, which is the science of security – weapons, defence, and how science impacts politics.

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