BBC North America editor is special guest at student lecture
UCLan journalism students conduct virtual interview with Jon Sopel
The BBC North America Editor Jon Sopel has taken part in a special guest session with news and sports journalism students from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).
In the virtual interview, Jon was asked a series of questions from students ranging from the current political climate of the United States to the peace process in Northern Ireland and future relations with the UK post Brexit.
As well as taking questions, he also gave advice to the students planning to enter the journalism industry after leaving university.
Jon’s interview was the first Greenbank Lecture; a series launched to help promote the wide variety of media and sports guests who take part in sessions with UCLan Journalism students.
Tutors have made the most of lockdown to attract even more – including TV presenter Gabby Logan, Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay Hoyle, the BBC’s sports presenter Jane Dougall, Premier League referee Anthony Taylor, Channel 4’s Clare Fallon, commentators John Murray and Jonathan Agnew, and football managers John Coleman and Simon Grayson.
In the first of the lectures, Jon told students: “You’ve got to follow your dream, you’ve got to work hard and my advice to aspiring journalists is you’re going to get setbacks.
“You mustn’t be delusional; have a realistic sense of your own skills and talents – can I do this, am I good enough?
“And if you believe you are, and look at yourself in the mirror, and think I can do this; don’t be put off.”
Jon’s first journalism work experience was at local to UCLan, at BBC Radio Lancashire, and he told the students about some of the highlights of his career since joining the BBC in 1983.
"You mustn’t be delusional; have a realistic sense of your own skills and talents – can I do this, am I good enough? And if you believe you are, and look at yourself in the mirror, and think I can do this; don’t be put off."— BBC North America Editor Jon Sopel
One particular highlight was a one-to-one interview with Barack Obama during his presidency.
Jon said he was so nervous before the interview that he took a spare shirt to work in case he spilled coffee on the one he was wearing, and he fluffed his first question so had to start the interview again.
Afterwards, Obama invited him for a walk in the White House Rose Garden and posed for a team photo with the film crew.
Jon said: “I got home that night, elated, and I also cried because I would have so loved to have told my late mum all about this unbelievable day.”
Looking to the future, Jon believes that Donald Trump will not seek the presidency again in 2024 but predicted that the Republican Party would nominate somebody in the image of former twice-impeached President, so his influence in US politics will continue for years to come.
"I admire his work and enthusiasm for American political reporting, and this discussion is something that will encourage me going forward into formal employment. It really was a pleasure to speak with him."— Second year UCLan journalism student Jack Thompson
Second year journalism student Jack Thompson took part in the lecture. He said: “I personally thought that it was fascinating.
“Prior to the interview, I was aware of Jon’s decades-long career and the work he has done as the BBC’s North America Editor. What I enjoyed the most was listening to his stories on interviewing former President Obama and how he believes upcoming journalists can get ahead in the industry.
“I admire his work and enthusiasm for American political reporting, and this discussion is something that will encourage me going forward into formal employment. It really was a pleasure to speak with him.”
The Greenbank Lectures, named after the UCLan building which houses UCLan Journalism, will continue after lockdown with the aim of inspiring all our journalism students.