For most people, working at the BBC is a dream which takes many years’ to achieve. However, for Mina Joshaghani, it came just months after finishing her journalism degree at the University of Kent.
Now working as a broadcast journalist for BBC World Service and BBC Persian, she speaks to Journo Resources about her day, making it in journalism, and how the important jobs might not be what you expect…
My day starts at…
Usually, my mornings start quite early, but that’s not because of my job! I wake up at six am, I get ready to leave home around seven, I go to the gym. And, when I finish around nine, I go to the BBC in New Broadcasting House – the building in Oxford Circus. My shifts usually start at around 10 am.
My typical day involves…
Every morning, we have this meeting to discuss the output of the previous day and go through whatever we are going to cover; the news that’s happening in Iran, in the region, and also world news. We are on rota, so there are a lot of positions, a lot of shifts, a lot of jobs that people need to do – it’s not only a reporter or a presenter. A lot of people think that when you work on TV you have to be on camera, and if it’s off camera it’s not that important. But that’s completely wrong.
I love to do the headlines because they are the most important part of the bulletin, because they are the entrance – they are the headlines and everybody looks at them. And they have to be punchy and cool, so I get to be creative. And everybody’s seeing that.
Headlines producer means headlines for every news bulletin we do during the day. We have maybe eight hours of production and that includes four bulletins and a news hour, and the summary of the news is also done by the headlines producer. So it’s a really critical, important thing, and obviously stressful as well!
We work kind of odd hours because of the time difference in Iran, because I work in the Persian Service of the World Service. So our main audience is Persian speaking, which is Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. After two bulletins we get to have a lunch break, it’s about three o’clock, so mostly the food is all finished!
There is another job shift that I like, which is all writing – OOVs [short for Out of Vision]. [It’s] like a small, small news [script that] has to be between 20 seconds and 30 seconds. And providing the pictures to that is also a bit challenging because sometimes there is the news, but there’s no picture to that, so you have to get creative again.
Work continues until the last bulletin at 8pm, so we have ten-hour shifts. Although working ten hour days can be a bit painful in the beginning, there are perks, which means we get three days off during the week, and that’s really awesome. Sometimes they can be in a row, like a long weekend.
I always thought I’d be…
I always wanted to be an actress – that was my dream. For many reasons that didn’t happen. I did not want to be a journalist at all. I didn’t know, it never came into my head even to be a journalist, it was not one of the options on the table.
I did my bachelors degree in Iran in English, English Literature, so I thought I’m going to do something in that, I was already a good translator, I was doing live interpretations. But then I got this job as a fixer to a Brazillian journalist, who was based in Tehran, my city. And when I got to work with him, I just loved it.
Want to follow in Mina’s footsteps?
Mina studied the MA in Multimedia Journalism at the University of Kent. With a range of NCTJ accredited courses, access to professional equipment and the KMTV newsroom, they’re a great start into the journalism industry.
I first got into television when I…
I had never done broadcast before I started my course at Kent University. I’m not going to lie to you, it was a bit challenging at first because I had no clue. And, of course, you hate yourself, like your voice when you hear it, and then it was like, urgh, it’s not only that I had to listen to myself, I had to look at my stupid face on the camera. I was not prepared for it, I didn’t know what I got myself into!
But when I actually did my first assignment, it was a radio package, I got a lot of compliments! It was good journalism, but, of course, I never had experience making a radio package [so] it wasn’t as good as it could be. I figured if I practise more, I can do better. And then TV assignments, the same thing. You don’t know a lot at first, but I think the more you do it, you learn the easiest and most way to do it.
I got my job because…
So, I think in my case there’s a little bit of background. The place I work is the Persian Service, and the BBC is banned in Iran, so we couldn’t technically get an office inside the country, we have correspondence in countries nearby, but the major parts of coverage for Iran is done in London. I think one of the points that made me stand out is that I was really new from Iran. All my colleagues, they can’t even return to Iran after working for the BBC.
So they have been here for maybe 10 years, some of them more. But I got here less than two years ago, so it was really good for them to see a person who’s just got out of Iran, who has more connection, more recent understanding of what happens there.
I think, yeah, I did quite well in my interview. There was a two-part interview, the first part was a test, and then there was a board and an interview, which was quite similar to if people have already done the multimedia course at Kent. Morning conference is exactly what happens in the board. They wanted me to pitch ideas, to say how I’m going to approach that, what angle I’m going to take and it’s really important for them to know that when you hear news, you know which part is important and which part is news.
I’m most proud of…
I was the proudest to get [to the BBC]. I proved myself to be valuable to them and they want me. The [other] proudest memory I have was back in Iran when I was working for this Brazillian journalist and we covered elections and that was a long period of sleepless nights and extensive coverage.
It’s really, really tough as you have to be neutral, and it goes without saying you side with one or the other. And you go to opponents campaigns and people are trashing the others or people look at you and know you don’t belong there and they want to give you a hard time.
That was good practice for me for the rest of my career, because you just learn to be humble in front of people regardless of what they’re saying.
🛑'Don't be fooled' 🛑
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I’d be wary of…
I’m worried about journalists who unfortunately don’t care that much about fairness and balance. I’m not that naive to say that all media should be independent, but as a journalist on a piece, even the very small part you are playing, I’d be worried if I let my feelings take over the job that I’m doing, as I can see nowadays very well how I’m making an impact.
When I started, sometimes you’re given small shifts, like none very significant, that you think it’s ‘just’ guest producer. How important is that? How am I making an impact? Then it happened just this week that there were these massive floods everywhere in Iran and people are reaching to us and they want help from us.
Then going through all these contacts and talking to people, I realised how important that can even be, because people are basically begging you to be the only media who voices their problems. You got into this to make change, to help people, to serve people, and if I’m not doing that, what am I even doing? Just like a machine?
If people wanted to follow in my footsteps…
I worked really, really hard to get here. I’m not trying to boast, but it doesn’t come easily. If you really want it, you have to get to all those conferences, think outside the box, as they say with the air quote, air quote. I know it’s cliché, but that’s how it is.
And some people say if you don’t have the nose for journalism you can never be [a journalist], but I disagree. I think you can make a journalist. I mean, maybe not the miracle of journalism, but you can be a great journalist by following the principles and working really hard.
This piece was produced in partnership with the Centre for Journalism at the University of Kent. The Centre for Journalism offers NCTJ Accredited Undergraduate and Postgraduate Journalism degrees, with a range of scholarships available.