Television News Reporter
BBC Belfast

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Mervyn J

00:02 I’m Mervyn J, I’m a senior broadcaster. I work in the BBC newsroom in Belfast, Northern Ireland and I’ve been working at the BBC since 1988.

00:11 Previous to that my journalistic career began in a local news paper in Newtownards, Newtownards Chronicle. I was there for three years as a trainee reporter from 1977 to 1980. Then I left there and joined Downtown radio which is the independent radio station in Northern Ireland and became a reporter on their news team and was there for eight years, uh before joining the BBC and I’ve been here ever since.

00:35 At school my favourite subject was English, surprise, surprise. I could write reasonably good compositions, got top marks for them, so ideally when I was at school was thinking about some sort of a career in journalism. Probably in newspapers, maybe not in television to begin with.

00:50 At that stage in Belfast large engineering industries which paid very, very well and were good careers for people, I was offered a job actually in Short’s, having gone and done their initial board and uh their aptitude tests and that stage the job was there for me and I had to make a decision at the age of, I think it was about nineteen. So I take that and go on with it as a career or do I go on with the, the writing and the journalism thing which was still in the back of my mind. So that was a big decision for me to take at about nineteen years of age. But I took it.

01:19 Mother would have been probably more of an influence, she was keen on English and she was very good at English herself and she was good at the writing and stuff like that too. Father was, was a businessman and that was the end of it, there was nothing to do with journalism in our family, prior to me getting involved in it. When I made the decision they were behind me, so that was OK and it worked out pretty, pretty well.

01:40 I’d been on a, on a youth exchange trip the year before I started work and when I came back the local paper had asked me to write something about it because at that stage foreign travel for people of my age didn’t happen very often, you weren’t flying off to Spain every year for your holidays or wherever so it was an interesting thing to have done and I came back and I wrote this article about my, my time away and that was printed and that was a big thing for me to see your name in print and that, I suppose, was in some respect, was one of the early drivers, if you like, to sort of go on and take the next step, which I did and the paper said if you go and learn shorthand, typing, all the rest of it, we’ll give you a placement or we’ll consider you for a placement as a trainee reporter, which they did.

02:20 I never had the aspirations to go on to university education or anything like that, like at school it was more of a go on and do, do what you’re keen to do and what you’re good at and stuff that you weren’t so good at you kind of pushed to one side and uh sport was a big thing, football and stuff like that, you know.

02:36 One of the more unpleasant tasks that anybody has to do at any stage, but particularly the young cub reporter, on the local paper, is to be sent to somebody’s house the day after somebody has died in that house and ask for what was called the casualty pic, which meant we’re going to write something about what happened to your loved one in the paper, we need a picture to show what he looked like. It was particularly difficult when It was a really tragic situation and it was particularly more difficult when it was a child and to go to that door with your knees knocking, wondering what the response would be, how people inside’s going to be, it was just something you had to do cos that was the job.

03:11 An old teacher of mine at the secondary school I went to, the high school it would be called now, he always said, sonny, if you’re going to do anything in your life, he says, do this live dangerously. Like at the time we were all thinking, what’s he on about. He meant like take a risk, don’t sit back with everybody else and say, oh well that’s all right, I’m not getting involved in that. If you really want something bad enough, go after it and if it means taking a risk, take the risk. Go after it. I took a risk, I turned down a very, very good job and what was probably what was going to be a very, very good career at an engineering company which had a world-wide reputation. But I ended up in another company with a world-wide in a completely different sort of employment in a very different industry altogether.

03:54 END

Mervyn J is a senior broadcaster working in the BBC newsroom in Belfast. He describes taking a huge risk when he was younger by not taking an engineering job offered by a company with a world-wide reputation. Instead he followed his heart into journalism, and has never regretted it – “go after it and if it means taking a risk, take the risk. Go after it.”

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