Iona Hampson in the White House, Washington DC

June 11, 2024, by Jackie Thompson

Becoming a senior journalist for BBC News in Washington DC

By Iona Hampson, BA Ancient History and History and Senior Journalist, BBC News, Washington DC

If someone had told me at university that I would end up working as a journalist for the BBC let alone in the United States, I would have probably said they had mistaken me for a far more competent and adventurous person. Yet, here I am based in Washington DC as a producer covering the biggest stories across the United States and finding ways to help audiences in the UK and around the world understand what is going on and why it matters to them.

It’s surreal to work in a role where I am part of “the first rough draft of history” and in a place where the decisions made have far-reaching global consequences.

Where it all started

The idea of a career in journalism developed at university. With so many module options I leaned more into social history and loved seeing how ideas and movements formed and filter through to the present day. One of the modules I took was American Radicalism with the American Studies department and the sources we covered and the conversations we had as a class made me see the US in a new light.

While I am not necessarily chatting to Americans in detail about the most pioneering speeches in US history on a daily basis, this background means I can quickly understand where they come from and have the confidence to navigate a conversation where they can fully articulate their thoughts and values. Prior to my assignment, I worked at the BBC World Service where every day I was reporting or speaking to correspondents around the world on a different story in a different country each day.

When international news breaks it can be very overwhelming, but the core skills I have learnt at university allowed me to know what initial questions to ask and how to verify the legitimacy and impartiality of the material we were gathering.

University Radio Nottingham

I don’t come from the ‘journalism world’ and the first people I met who were interested in journalism and broadcasting were my fellow students at the student radio, University Radio Nottingham (URN). It was a great opportunity to gain experience in journalism and a place where each other’s ideas and creativity were celebrated. Many former URN members now work in journalism and the wider media industry. As we pursue our careers, they are the people I continually bump into at work or industry events. I am so proud when I see us Nottingham alumni in the same room and I am grateful we can all be there to ask for advice and help with introductions.

A master’s and work experience

Going from covering the UoN Student Elections to the US presidential election didn’t come overnight. After my BA degree, I gained an MA in Broadcast Journalism, did lots of work experience and started my BBC career as a broadcast assistant at BBC local radio.

It’s easy to compare yourself to what other people are doing and wonder if you’re on track. Of course, my career took many twists, turns and lows and I am so appreciative of the time I spent building my skills and developing resilience which allows me to keep calm when working on the biggest news stories for huge international audiences.

If you’re interested in a career in journalism, please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn

Find out more about a career in journalism and talk about your next steps with a careers adviser.

Posted in Alumni StoriesChoosing Your Career