GCU Journalism students pick up top tips from broadcaster Bill Turnbull

22 February 2016

BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull shared the secrets to a successful broadcasting career with Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) MA Multimedia Journalism students.

The former BBC News correspondent discussed everything from how to cover a breaking story to surviving 3.30am starts with students of the double-accredited degree programme.

Bill will sit on the famous red sofa for the final time on Friday (26 February) after almost 15 years presenting the flagship news programme. This builds on a 35-year career in journalism which included roles as a US foreign correspondent and reporting on uprisings in Moscow and the Lockerbie and Oklahoma bombings.

He said: “I cut my teeth on the BBC News Channel which was called News 24 then and the great virtue of that was it was three hours of airtime and anything that could go wrong did go wrong, but fortunately there weren’t terribly many people watching at that time. You learnt your trade that way so that when I came to be presenting Breakfast for the first time it felt quite natural and I didn’t feel too nervous about it.

“There wasn’t a big break for me, but a series of steps. The secrets are always to be keen, enthusiastic, to know your stuff, but above all to work hard. If you produce good stories then you will get a reputation for a great body of work and talent will out in the end. You need luck to do well in Journalism, but you make your own luck by pursuing every avenue that you possibly can.”

Students on the Multimedia Journalism degree made the most of the visit, including Andy Headspeath, 25, who was given the honour of interviewing Bill. “I was excited and a little bit nervous as obviously you see him on the TV all the time and it’s unusual having someone like that right in front of you,” explains Andy. “He was really nice and had a lot of good advice, like that you make your own luck and that Journalism is about the work you put in.”

The MA Multimedia Journalism degree was introduced in 2008 and has achieved more than 100 graduates. Many return to meet the current students, such as 2009 graduate Karen Schlegel, now a Senior Broadcast Journalist with BBC Breakfast, who organised the Bill Turnbull event. 

Claire Dean, Lecturer in Broadcast and Online Journalism Programme Leader, said: “Bill is a legend in broadcasting with a wealth of experience, covering all the big stories over the years. You can’t put a price on that, for someone of that stature to come and spend time with our students. This type of experience and tips from the best in the field are just great and motivates students to do their very best. You have to have a talent, absolutely, but you have to make connections and having such a fantastic alumni network makes a huge difference. They help current students make further contacts, share tips and that leads to jobs after graduation.”

Watch the video of Bill Turnbull meeting GCU students.