UWS Journalism graduate on what it takes to make the news

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“Anything is possible, if you work hard, give everything a go and keep an open mind about the opportunities available to you,” says Siobhann Dunn, UWS Journalism graduate, who is now senior journalist and programme producer of BBC Scotland’s Drivetime show, working everyday with well-established presenters such as John Beattie and Fiona Stalker.

Siobhann Dunn (far right) and the BBC Radio Scotland Drivetime team

Siobhann was a direct entry student in year 2 of the BA (Hons) Journalism programme in 2016, having completed an HNC in Radio Production at West College Scotland. However, Siobhann’s route into journalism was less than traditional – she started out in hair-dressing!

“Although I was always interested in journalism and what was going on in the world, at school I just never imagined myself doing it,” she explains. “So, I left school and started an apprenticeship as a hairdresser, which I really enjoyed, but it always bothered me that I had not pursued journalism, so I looked into doing an HNC in Radio Production and I was accepted. I loved it!

“I then decided to come to UWS to complete my degree. I did work experience at the BBC, then I did freelance shifts while I was still at university and then the Head of News, Gary Smith, suggested I apply for the BBC Graduate Trainee Scheme. After successfully completing it, I joined the radio team at BBC Scotland initially as a broadcast journalist,” explains Siobhann.

“I love radio and knew it was the field I wanted to work in. I did everything I could to make sure I could gain experience. I arrived early, stayed late, I shadowed more experienced colleagues. I had to: I wanted their job! In late 2021 I was made a senior journalist.

“I am very lucky, I work with a brilliant team, especially my editor Julie Heekin, who is an inspiration and very supportive.”

But while luck may have played a very small part, Siobhann agrees that what she learned at UWS really helped her prepare for the demands of the job. As a full-time student, and single mum to Julian, now 17, Siobhann became expert at juggling university work, childcare and working: “What I learned at UWS studying journalism was so important, it gave me the skills and knowledge that led me to the job I have today. It gave me the confidence and the opportunity to prove to myself I could be a journalist. It also taught me to be patient with myself and to realise that everything I did, across all my modules, was relevant and useful. I learned as much about what the industry had to offer, as I did about what I had to offer, and I made great contacts and friends throughout my time there.”

Putting out a two-hour, live broadcast news programme every day is not without its challenges, and a huge level of responsibility, but as Siobhann says, it is all about thinking about your audience and what they need and want to know, something she also says he learned during her student days at UWS.

Siobhann in the BBC Scotland studio

While Siobhann clearly loves current her job, she remains enthusiastically ambitious: “I want to be an editor, I want to develop more podcasts and I’d quite like to do more work with the investigations teams here at the BBC.”

Siobhann’s advice to anyone who wants to follow in her footsteps is simple: “Just work really hard. Studying journalism at UWS was so important because it prepared me for the world of work, it gave me the confidence, and support, I needed to succeed.”

Find out more about the BA (Hons) Journalism programme at UWS.

Article by Dr. Margaret Hughes, UWS Senior Lecturer – Journalism/Sports Journalism

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