TV Presenter & Journalist
ITV Good Morning Britain
"A lot of it is just breaking down your own shyness, as in journalism you are constantly talking to strangers and asking them questions. Your job is to try and bring something of interest to everyone you meet and the more you practice it, the more you get better at it."
By Isabella Ford
Interview from 2015
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A-Levels: English Literature, Theatre Studies, French, German, General Studies
Degree: English Literature and Philosophy, 2:1
University of Central Lancashire
Postgraduate qualification in Journalism
2002: BBC Radio Lancashire for work experience
BBC GMR - 2002 Commonwealth Games
BBC Radio 5 Live
2005: BBC North West Tonight - journalist and bulletin presenter
2007: BBC North West Tonight - co-presenter
2012: Daybreak - co-presenter and newscaster
2012: This Morning - newspaper reviewer
2014: Good Morning Britain - features correspondent and news presenter
2014: ITV News at 10 - relief newscaster
2015: Real Stories with Ranvir Singh
Vice Patron of Baby Beat charity
I know from personal experience that English degrees, being non-vocational, can often make undergraduates feel at a loss as to what to do with them - what led you towards journalism?
It was an odd one really, because I had always thought I would end up doing a law conversion course, but I looked into it and the first thing I thought was, ‘Oh my god, it’s so expensive and it’s going to take me years!’
At home there was only me and my mum and she didn’t work, so I needed to work really. I wasn’t prepared to do a job that I wasn’t going to love because I knew that I’d be spending at least eight hours a day, every day, there for the next 25 years.
Had family circumstances not been an issue, I might have pursued drama at the age of 16 - I was close to getting my teaching qualification for the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and I was doing really well in it. But I thought I couldn’t afford to do that either, to be in a bedsit or to waitress in the evenings, just waiting for the next audition.
The bit that I really loved was the moment before you go on, where you’re standing in the wings and it’s that ‘now or never’ - that was an adrenaline rush for me. I needed to find something that would give me that same feeling every day.
Eventually a friend of mine said, "Oh, you did English, didn’t you? A friend of mine did English and now works at the BBC." That was all she said and a little light bulb went on in my head. It’s really bizarre how the jigsaw just fits together.
I went straight into the careers library at university and started flicking through ‘Journalism’ and, low and behold, I just knew it was absolutely going to be for me. I had always been interested in current affairs, but it had never occurred to me that journalism was something I could do.
One of the best courses in the country was in Preston, on my doorstep, therefore I wouldn’t have to pay for a thing; given that I was worried about money all the way through, this was perfect. It was 100% the direction I knew I should be taking, and I just never looked back.
I’ll be honest, the truth of it is that you have to follow your passion as far as you can and then follow your instincts. A friend of mine’s dad always says, "Don’t go for the money, always go for the job you love and then you’ll make money," because then you’ll love doing it and you’ll always put the hours in. But if you just go for a job that is only for the money, then every minute of that day will feel like hard work.
How have you found being a part of the public eye and how do you think your experiences differ from your male colleagues?
Generally speaking, I’ve found it fine. The one thing I can say is that on a handful of occasions people have said, "You look smaller than you do on the telly." Once, as I was literally in a public toilets near a beach and I was at the washbasin, a woman walked up to me and said, "My boyfriend hates you, he thinks you’re really annoying. I quite like you though." I’m sure men get that too.
I have to say, the one thing about being a woman in the public eye, and I look forward to the day when this stops being the case, is the huge element of physical appearance being a very important part of it. Some people embrace it and go with it, but some people, like myself, struggle with it forever.
It’s different if you’re doing radio - I did radio for a very long time, and I would say my personal experience of it is that it has very little gender bias.
For television, in particular for women and not so much for men, you have to be able to do the job first, but you also have to look right. It’s awful, isn’t it really? But I think things are changing, and certainly in terms of age - the ageist argument of older women on TV has been very much exposed.
It is trickier for women, and thus far I’m probably an example of how you can defy those odds. You don’t have to be 5’10” with perfect hair and perfect teeth to do your job.
For the younger women who want to do this sort of thing, I would absolutely hate for any journalist to feel that she couldn’t go into television unless she fits the bill. There should be more women going into broadcast journalism and defying the odds by looking different to one another. I just think that then you change it from the inside.
Continuing the thread of young women wanting to break into the industry, obviously journalism is extremely competitive - what do you think that a graduate, with a degree that isn’t in journalism, can do in her spare time to make her look more impressive to employers?
To be honest with you, this isn’t about looking more impressive to employers, this is about genuinely wanting to learn about your industry, so sod the employers.
What you really need to be doing is volunteering - at your local paper, in evenings and on weekends, they always need people who are prepared to go knock on doors, who are prepared to go to meetings.
Try and shadow someone. When I was at university, I did the radio station and that was fantastic because it meant that you got used to sitting in a radio studio, hearing your own voice down your headphones, writing a bit of script and delivering it, and doing vox pops in the quad.
A lot of it is just breaking down your own shyness, as in journalism you are constantly talking to strangers and asking them questions. Your job is to try and bring something of interest to everyone you meet and the more you practice it, the more you get better at it.
Go to your local radio station and say, "Do you mind if I come in and shadow a few Saturdays with your newsreader?" What you gain from that is an understanding of what order stories go in and why one item is made the lead story, and another the last.
A lot of people think they want do news, when really what they want to do is travel or music journalism. I volunteered at BBC Radio Lancashire for a Saturday night Asian programme - I had the radio on and I heard the presenter saying, "If there’s any volunteers who want to come in and answer the phone, get in touch," so I immediately did.
All I used to do was find some entertainment news, then write it up and read it out. I did think, ‘Can I really be bothered just talking about Bollywood actors? Do I really care?’ But I did it and it’s a good way to find out what you’re interested in.
Do you think that having a large social media presence is important for those looking to be journalists these days?
Maybe not a large presence but to appreciate it. I think I’d be preaching to the converted if I were talking to a younger person because there is nothing you can do to stop them using it!
What is good about Twitter and various other things is that you can find stories from there. For example, if there had been a massive power cut in an area, and you’re a local journalist, the way you’re going to find out what is going on is if you’re on social media and therefore these people are basically witnessing things that are happening down their street.
That’s why social media is important and everybody is doing it, so you’ve got to be involved with it.
Which women in the world personally or professionally inspire you?
When I was younger, this was when I was 10 or 11, Zeinab Badawi used to present - I think she used to do Channel 4 News - and whenever she came on, I was utterly transfixed and I still find that now she does HARDtalk occasionally.
The woman with brown skin on the TV, that was huge when I was younger, because usually the only Asian woman you’d see on TV would be a cleaner in the back of a scene in Casualty. That’d just be it, and it wouldn’t be a speaking part, so to see this woman, sitting there holding court and interviewing and being amazing… Zeinab Badawi I would say made a big impression on me when I was younger.
What is one piece of advice that you have picked up over your professional life that you’d like to pass on to a young woman reading this?
Trust your instincts, trust yourself and, as I mentioned earlier, don’t go after the money because the money will make itself if you go for a job that you are passionate about. One that’ll make you jump out of bed on a Monday morning and can’t wait to get in. Then you have beaten the odds.
Multi-award-winning presenter and journalist Ranvir Singh can be seen on Good Morning Britain and ITV News