How you can stand out in the journalism career crowd

An interview with the winner of Best TV Documentary at the BJTC Student Awards


In December 2017, the names of three Goldsmiths MA students began to circulate in the journalism world after they won a national award. One of them? Katriona Thompson – or Katie, as she likes to be known.

As part of the annual Broadcast Journalism Training Council Student Awards, held at the BBC’s MediaCity in Salford, Katie and course-mates Vicky Double and Vicky Lo-Chi Tseng were nominated for Best TV Documentary – an award they went on to win.

The documentary was lauded as being “mature and visually creative” by the panel – something that Katie admits was a surprise. “I was over the moon when I found out! I hadn’t expected it at all, so it was completely surprising to me. My only regret was that I wasn’t there with the rest of my group to receive our award.”

Entitled ‘Church and State’, the documentary looked at the role of the Catholic Church and politicians in Ireland's mother and baby homes scandal. The homes were run like punishment hostels for unmarried pregnant women, with the children being taken for adoption, fostering or industrial schooling.

“Originally the plan was to make a documentary about abortion laws in Ireland. I noticed there was a protest happening and flew over to film it. While there, I met victims who came from all over the country to speak about the horrific abuse endured at various mother and baby homes. It was only after hearing their stories that I realised the issues between church and state were much bigger than just abortion laws.”

Having worked on Goldsmiths-based news site East London Lines, Katie had plenty of practice in making news packages. “I really threw myself into ELL+ - our broadcast part of the site. I tried to make at least one or two packages a week - getting so much practice interviewing, filming and editing really benefitted me. By the end of my degree, I was perfectly capable of making video packages on my own.”

Creating such a technically advanced piece was ambitious for students, but Katie had previously studied photography – something she feels was crucial to helping her with the filming. “For me personally, framing is one of the most important aspects. Sometimes it can be quite flustering trying set up the shot while preparing to interview someone or whatever, but it only takes a few extra minutes to set up a good angle, and it makes a world of difference. But the absolute most important aspect of documentary making is finding a good story. Research can be painstaking, but at the end of the day, a good story will practically tell itself.”

Katie is currently freelancing for The Huffington Post and hopes to eventually move abroad and continue making human rights documentaries.

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