By Tania Chakraborti
“I wouldn’t say I’m a role model; I still feel too young!” Despite Nisha Joshi’s protestations, her established career as a successful BBC broadcast journalist would suggest otherwise.
Joshi has paved her way in a highly pressurised industry. From interviewing high profile politicians such as David Cameron and musicians like Professor Green to providing an exclusive report on the Cameroonian boxers who went missing during the 2012 Olympics, Joshi’s career has thus far been a varied and dynamic one.
Yet her passion for journalism did not develop conventionally by any means. As a teenager, she was an actress; playing the main part of ‘Anjali’ for three series on Byker Grove. As a result of being in the media from a young age, a drive for student journalism was far from the top of her agenda when arriving at university. “I just wanted to get to [university and…] have a year of being totally normal”.
This year of typical student life is arguably what drove Joshi to fall in love with journalism; this is a testament to why it is so important to pursue one’s interests at university. Joshi played for the First Team netball and captained the Second Team at Goldsmiths, University of London. She “loved sport” and had “always loved football”. Consequently “in my second year I just started thinking about sports broadcasting as a possibility”.
She has come a long way from interviewing her friends on student radio; today she is accustomed to questioning the likes of Nigel Farage and Ed Miliband. So for someone so nuanced in the world of interviewing, does she still get nervous? “Not really,” she states, “you just have to get on with it, you can’t be nervous, you’ve got to be confident […] you’ve got to have the confidence to press them on the issues that matter”.
However, in an industry as competitive as broadcast journalism, it is not always smooth sailing. In 2011, Joshi secured a position at Sky Tyne and Wear, a cutting-edge project dedicated to truly localised digital news. Her work at Sky led her to be named runner-up in the highly competitive ‘Journalist of the Year’ category at the regional RTS Awards in 2014.
Yet the website was closed down after two years, leaving Joshi to negotiate her path back to the BBC. Such disappointment, Joshi insists, is part of the process for any journalist who wants to succeed. Sky “were very open about the fact that it was an experiment. We always knew that it may not be permanent […] It’s just a lesson. Never burn your bridges, build a reputation for being good at what you do […] You do have to be lucky’ in this industry, but you have also just “got to make your own luck”.
Joshi’s ability to “make [her] own luck” was evident the day she interviewed former Prime Minister David Cameron. “He was only giving interviews to local media […] We were not initially aware that we would have the opportunity to interview [him] that day. I wasn’t sure that it was going to happen, but I wanted it to happen.” It is this drive that has served to aid Joshi’s career; she urges all budding journalists at Durham to take this approach. “You have to […] be determined. I’ve been for jobs that I haven’t got and you have got to pick yourself back up and dust yourself off and keep going”. She urges all students interested in securing a career in broadcast to get hold of individual names of contacts, “know the format of their programmes”, show “that you are knowledgeable about” them and “inject a bit of detail about yourself” and the stories you have covered when applying; this will “set you apart without a doubt”.
As a British Asian woman, some might commend Joshi for succeeding in such a competitive industry as television. But does she believe that broadcast media still needs to diversify? Contrary to critical opinions, she states that “the industry is becoming much more diverse and I do think broadcast journalists are aware that the faces on screen and the voices on air” should be “from different backgrounds. Certainly growing up, there were women from ethnic minorities to look up to […] There have been plenty of people to inspire me and to show me that it’s possible to get there”.
Student journalists at Durham can be sure to look to Joshi herself as someone to inspire them. We should be encouraged by her integrity and commitment to the role of broadcast media, which she argues is even more integral in this ever growing ‘post-truth’ society. “As a journalist it is your job to scrutinise and highlight the truth and […] things that are wrong. We have to make sure that authoritative, correct journalism gets out there” alongside the ‘fake news’ which circulates on social media.
Her advice to young women concerned about making it in the industry is equally motivational; she states that “any career is challenging […] you have got to work at it”. However, she firmly insists “it is totally possible”.
Photograph: Nisha Joshi