“I’m Just A Little Journalism Student From Wigan!”: Jess Forrester On Her Len Tingle Internship With The BBC

After sharing the news that she had been granted the BBC’s Len Tingle internship with HerCampus around five months ago, Jess Forrester (21) came back to us, after finishing her placement, to be interviewed. Providing details on her experience of working in one of the country’s most prestigious newsrooms, as well as how she intends to progress now, I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to someone with such a passion and drive for journalism. (It definitely helped that she is a fellow Wigan native, too!)

The placement that was offered to Jess is an eight week internship, set up in memory of former BBC Political Editor, Len Tingle. From the Barnsley area, Len was BBC Yorkshire’s Political Editor for almost two decades before he died in 2018. His passion for journalism, Yorkshire, and providing opportunities to aspiring young journalists has meant that students from across seven universities in Yorkshire have gotten the chance to gain invaluable work experience in the field they dream of working in. For Jess, getting this chance to work in radio, television and the BBC’s online services has meant that she feels as though she can “be the best possible journalist I can be, going forward”.

She told me that obtaining a first class BA (Hons) Broadcast Journalism degree this Summer has helped her indefinitely:

I would never have found out about the internship without it, as it was specifically tailored for journalism students. So, in that respect I felt as though my degree really helped me to get my foot in the door... My course provided lots of opportunities for me, as well as obviously teaching me the basic skills that helped me in the newsroom.

However, Jess also believes that success in the media industry is not just down to your education, stating that “if you have enough of a passion, and put yourself out there, you will make it... Journalism is like driving: you never really know what it’s like, or learn to do it properly, until you are actually doing it for real.”

The key aim of this placement was to absorb as much knowledge, and as many opportunities, as she could from both the work she did, and her colleagues there. However, her favourite part of the placement was going down to Westminster for Boris Johnson’s election as prime minister; an opportunity that, here at HerCampus at Leeds, we are incredibly jealous of! “I saw Thereasa May and interviewed lots of Yorkshire MPs for their take on the election outcome. It was so overwhelming to be part of such a global media circus”. After this, she chuckled and, in the most heartwarming Wigan accent that instantly reminded me of being back home, said: “I just kept thinking... I’m just a little Journalism student from Wigan, and I’m here!”

It was great to hear that Jess felt as though all of her abilities in working as a journalist have improved because of this opportunity. She told me that she took to writing down everyone’s details that she got the chance to network with, from other fellow journalists, to the Yorkshire MPs she met at Westminster. “My contact book is massive compared to what it used to be!” I can only imagine that this alone is going to improve Jess’s quality of journalism tenfold, and could potentially land her another exciting opportunity. After all, we so often hear about this kind of work relying on ‘who you know’.

At the time of our interview, Jess had been finished with her work on the initial internship for two weeks. Afterwards, she was offered a month of freelance work with the BBC, which was so lovely to hear. The world of work, particularly the media industry, can feel incredibly intimidating and impossible to navigate for young people, therefore it was refreshing to hear of Jess’s positive experience in finding her feet.

The Len Tingle placement, and the environment I worked in, has opened lots of doors and introduced me to so many people, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for further work. Other than that, I just feel really optimistic. I feel like I have my foot in the door, and I’m excited to see what happens.

At the end of our interview, I asked Jess what advice she would give to other young, aspiring journalists at the University of Leeds. She confidently responded with four empowering pieces of advice that I was excited to share with our writers and editors, as well as our readers... 

  1. Don’t let anything, like feeling as though you have no connections in the industry, be a barrier.
  2. Be personable, willing to learn from those around you, and also willing to make mistakes.
  3. You are never too good to make someone’s cup of tea! You never know whose tea you are making, or where that cup of tea could get you.
  4. Get your CV out as much as you can. One day, it will land on the right desk and you will be thankful you sent it out as much as you did.

We wish Jess all of the luck in the world with progressing in her career; we are sure that she is going far, and can't wait to see what she does next.

Has Jess's story inspired you? You can see all of the placements, internships and jobs that the BBC has to offer at the moment by visiting the BBC Careers Hub at https://careershub.bbc.co.uk/. Good luck!

Words by Morgan Hartley.