Old Citizen David Saunders (2007 – 2014) pursues a career in journalism


14 June 2019
David Saunders (2007 -2014) gained a BA in Russian and Contemporary Chinese Studies at Nottingham University before starting as a Trainee Journalist at News Associates in September 2018.

You majored in languages at university but clearly have a passion for the media - how did you pursue these interests while you were at School?

At CLS, I was fortunate enough to have been involved with the writing of The Citizen under Mr Fillingham throughout my seven years there. The level of respect given to the paper, which most felt was warranted given how much work goes into creating it, definitely helped encourage boys to join in and also those not involved to help - either by being interviewed or providing access or in some other way helping The Citizen produce content. 

When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in the media industry?

In truth, I haven't decided to pursue a career in the media industry! I'm still searching for a long-term job. In my current placement, I’m working as an assistant at Love Sport Radio and studying for the NCTJ Diploma - the industry recognised qualification. But it is certainly true that my recent experiences, being fortunate to have volunteered in the media centre at both the World Cup and the Confederations Cup in Russia, as well as some other less exciting experiences, have pushed me towards the journalism/PR side of life. All these experiences have been enjoyable, or at least worthwhile, so it's a self-fulfilling loop to want to continue working in that industry. 

Was your role as Presenter on University Radio Nottingham instrumental in you gaining the position as trainee at News Associates?

Having some experience from student radio was certainly something which looks good on a CV, but the course I'm on at News Associates does not require any prior journalistic experience (though, whilst not required, it is expected and tested before they accept you). The Multimedia Sports Diploma I’m working towards will, as of next year, require a minimum qualification of an undergraduate degree, but not in any specific field. Scientists are as welcome as English students, and as I've seen this year, there's a lot of language students. We don’t actually cover much more sport than trainees doing the main Multimedia Journalism Diploma. Sport, and sports knowledge, is compulsory, but we focus on news first and sports second. Politics, entertainment, international affairs, they're all as important as sport.

Have you always been interested in sports?

Whilst I do love sports, to be a good sports journalist you have to be able to properly detach yourself from sport. Having opinions is encouraged, and supporting teams is of course fine, but you are still mostly expected to be neutral. I played football almost every day at City, whether at Games or on the Upper playground. Even on a recent visit to the Old Bailey with course mates, I couldn't resist pointing out the upper playground and its history. I was never really good enough to ever get into a team, no matter how much I told myself I could. In fact, I ended up being forced down a path of refereeing instead. Like sports writing, many referees are people who love the sport but aren't good enough to play. So, I've always been involved in sports in some way shape or form.

You seem very relaxed in front of a camera - is broadcast journalism an area you want to go into?

The key to being relaxed in front of a camera is to pretend it isn't there. Even if it's an on-camera interview, it's not the same as a job interview. If a role in broadcast journalism pops up, I'll certainly apply for it. I've enjoyed that aspect so far, so it seems silly to not go for it.

What does your role as a trainee entail? 

As part of the training we have recorded news style bulletins, done Facebook live videos, and as part of the portfolio at the end of the course you are required to provide some different kinds of content. We've covered print, both short form and long form, TV and radio in various guises. Being a trainee at Love Sport has mostly consisted of taking content and turning it into social media output, and when necessary taking external feeds and sending them through to the on-air teams. It does mean occasionally getting to go on air, and also getting some incredible contacts. That's actually the only thing top journalists have over lesser experienced ones - a bulging contacts book. The course is 33 to 35 weeks long and we finish, coincidentally, the day before the FA Cup final. Which is lucky because we have a Watford fan on the course...

Are you enjoying the job?

I'm enjoying it a lot at the moment - I think most people would say that every day is different and that makes it exciting, but there's also the fact that I'm working in a field that I'm interested in anyway. I'd be the same with politics and international news, but not with entertainment. That's just me - a good friend is an entertainment journalist and he tells me the highs are incredible, but the lows are regular too. It's fantastic to attend a football match, a movie premiere, a political press conference and receive unparalleled access to some of the biggest names in their field. It's horrible having to write up and send over flawless copy five minutes after that ends - with no allowances for delays. From the sports side, you sort of pray that nothing of consequence happens late on in a game. No-one wants to redo their entire copy within five minutes because Team B scored an equaliser.

Any moments you are particularly proud of?

I was fortunate enough to work at the British Sports Awards earlier in the year - speaking with Lizzie Yarnold, Dina Asher-Smith, Sam Curran, Jo Harten and many others, which was an honour. Whilst at university, we regularly attended Kevin Nolan's Notts County press conferences which was a fantastic experience, but the best would probably be being trusted to be the commentator or co-commentator for three years for Varsity Football which was the most competitive and sought-after role.

What are your career ambitions?

To get into the industry and see where that takes me... A long way to go before I can worry about that. The expectation is that we are applying for jobs throughout the second half of the course. They are aware that it can be as much luck as it is quality that gets you a role, so they are hoping we all have work once the course ends, but it's not necessarily expected to have one.

Do you plan to use your language skills in your career?

If the time comes when using my language skills becomes useful then it will be a massive advantage to have them. It makes candidates stand out. Much like a shorthand qualification, it is irrefutable proof of time, commitment, effort and intelligence to obtain a good language qualification. And if studied at university, it will more often than not show independence and risk-taking too because you've had to spend time abroad.

What advice would you give a current pupil who is thinking of joining the media?

I would advise them to read far and wide. I read three newspapers in the morning (Metro, The Times, The Mail) and usually The Standard and the other late editions in the evening. I also try to read at least one of the Economist and Private Eye every week, as well as keeping across foreign language services (BBC's foreign language services are good). The more you read, the better you'll write (just ask the English department!) but it is true. Being able to read a wide range of styles, content and themes is hugely important.

If possible, try to wake up to a news bulletin on the radio or TV. The Today Show on BBC radio 4 has bulletins every hour from 6am and it's really worth trying to listen to if you can.

Other advice: Write for the school newspaper and as many external sites as will have you. A blog isn't the worst idea either if you would like to write one.