31 January 2017 | By Billy Dowling-Reid
Simisola graduated with a first class MA in Television Journalism from Goldsmiths, University of London in 2016. Prior to, and during her studies she took up various placements with MTV, BBC, and ITV, as well as shooting a documentary on Forensic Nurses in South Africa that had been awarded a grant by One World Media. She started in her current role as a Trainee Production Journalist at ITV Border in 2016.
Your CV is already full of interesting highlights, such as working with MTV as an Editorial Intern, a News Internship at The Sunday Times, and work placements with BBC Newsbeat and BBC World Service. What was it like transitioning from being a student to taking the first steps in building your media production career?
Simisola: It's been amazing, yet challenging! Amazing, because it's been really good to have the opportunity to apply what I learned in university to ‘the real world’ and in an actual news environment. I've met some incredible people, some of them seasoned journalists, who all came across as very supportive of emerging talent. It's been challenging because it is quite hard getting your foot in the door and getting employers to trust in your capabilities, so to speak. Once you manage to get a placement, build your experience, and remember to focus on growing and improving yourself, not just bulking up your CV. Get as many placements as you can, the more experience you can show you have, the easier it will become to get a paid entry-level role.
Having experience in a wide variety of roles, as well as your freelance filmmaking projects, what would you pick out as some of the highlights from your CV? What were your key learning experiences in these roles?
Simisola: The biggest highlight would definitely be working at the BBC (World Service) because I even surprised myself in that role, by getting an interview with one of the childhood friends of the Brussels attackers, based in Molenbeek, Belgium. Also, being able to get the son of Angolan warlord, Jonas Savimbi, on the show was a highlight in itself; even the head of department came over to my desk to tell me I had gotten some really good interviewees! Through that I've learnt to utilise contacts, be innovative and fearless. News is so fast-paced, you literally have no time to think about what you could do, you just have to DO IT. People are more likely to remember you if you keep offering to help and make sure you get the job done. And be attentive; I listened to what they wanted during editorial meetings, then used my contact to get the Molenbeek guy. The next day, I was assigned stories without having to ask. It was pretty cool seeing my name listed as a producer!
Another highlight was being able to film my own documentary (Forensic Nurses in South Africa) and having someone believe in my idea and in my capabilities enough to give me money for it. Filming on location in South Africa was not easy but I thoroughly enjoyed it and really felt like I've grown as a result of that experience. I hope the documentary will influence lives for the better.
Last, but not least, was working at MTV. It was my first proper job in the industry after university and a period in which I learnt a lot about myself. It enabled me to further develop my skills in TV production, communicating in the office, building contacts, interviewing artists etc. Going to concerts for free to write reviews was also quite fun!
Check out Simisola's most recent report for ITV Border here:
You started with ITV as a Trainee Production Journalist in September 2016. What is involved? Can you talk about what makes you a good fit for the role?
Simisola: You'd have to ask the interviewers who chose me! I'm working at ITV Border – the regional news service for Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway, and the Scottish Borders. I also got to do some work with the Border Life current affairs programme team. I assist with the production of the 6pm News programme, produce our bulletins for Good Morning Britain, write presenter scripts, newsgather, edit videos, research and plan stories, and do my own reporting.
I believe I'm a good fit because of my previous experience that includes interning at ITV London, which involved getting studio guests and filming videos and interviews (on my own!). One of my strengths is that I am interested not only in international news and current affairs but also in local news. I love the sense of community that comes with it.
Thinking back to your university days beginning in 2010, what advice would you give to your younger, student self, or to anyone else looking to build a career in multimedia journalism?
Simisola: First, everything's going to turn out okay. Second, get experience! I only got my first relevant work placement at 21, at the Africa News Network, but today, I often meet people as young as 16 doing work placements. It makes me wonder where I could have been today had I started earlier. But it is also a testament that anyone can start at any age, as long as they stay focused and get as much experience as possible.
Every single thing you do adds value to who you are – you either learn new technical skills, or build up your character, so don’t take anything for granted. If you asked me to make a cup of tea, I'd make the best damn cup of tea you'd ever drink, and serve it to you with the biggest smile, because you never know who's watching. My old boss at MTV even commented on that, how I did everything with a smile. Another thing is to be happy – happiness comes from within and reflects on the outside so if you want to get into multimedia journalism, make sure it is what you really want, and only then you will enjoy it. And when you enjoy it, it shows, and people will want you around.
You can follow Simisola on Twitter via @Its_SimiJ and check out her website here: simij.com.