Emma Jacobs wearing her University of Leeds graduation attire and smiling

Emma Jacobs

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’ve wanted to be a journalist since I started writing for The Guardian and the Hampstead & Highgate Express age 16. 

I was initially interested in covering social issues or reviewing gigs/plays. When I was at school, I won a travel writing competition which resulted in a 3 week opportunity to travel around Europe with friends and look for new stories. 

Before studying at Leeds I had no experience in TV or Radio.

Studying Journalism at Leeds and being involved with LSTV, LSR & the Gryphon really confirmed I wanted to be a journalist. 

What have you been doing since finishing your studies?/What are you doing in terms of your career?

I finished my degree during the pandemic and moved back to London. 

While I was at uni, I did a work experience placement with Sky News. They then hired me as a freelance Output Producer, working night shifts, on the Kay Burley programme. I used skills I was learning at Leeds (scripting, package producing, briefing guests and pitching stories). It was great fun and a really buzzy newsroom. I worked there during uni until I started working at Panorama. 

I also presented the BBC 5 Live Paper reviews with Dotun Adebayo for several years. 

While at uni I did various runner/ researcher jobs including working on BBC Breakfast, a Channel 4 News OB, the Apprentice and as a camera operator for Sky News for the General Election. I also continued to do work placements eg with the Guardian, the BBC and other media outlets.

What company are you working for, what is your role, and what does it involve?

I’m currently working as the staff Digital Producer for BBC Panorama. 

The role involves pitching, scripting and editing material around each Panorama for different outlets across BBC Online, Social, Radio & TV. No two weeks are the same and I enjoy getting to work with different teams. 

I‘ve been selected to sit on BBC News Next Generation Panel 2023, working with the BBC News Board to modernise the organisation. 

While at the BBC I’ve been on attachments with Newscast, 1/6/10 TV bulls and worked on Philip and the Queen's funeral broadcasts.

What experiences at Leeds do you think have particularly helped with your career?

LSTV, LSR & the Gryphon provided a great training ground (and some really fun opportunities like reviewing gigs). 

I was Head of News for LSTV. We won a National Student TV Association (NaSTA) News Award. I went on to be elected Alumni Officer for NaSTA. I really enjoyed having a show on LSR too. I was also Media Rep for Leeds University Union. 

The course arranged various mentor schemes and careers days which were super helpful and led to good networking connections being made.

Why did you choose to study your particular course? Why did you choose the University of Leeds?

The Journalism course at Leeds being accredited and having great equipment was a big plus and it’s great the lecturers have real experience of the industry. 

I felt inspired that individuals had gone on to work in the industry. 

It’s also a fun city to study in.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?

The news days were good immersion and getting to learn some osint skills for example image identification are valuable skills. The camera and radio training is really useful too. 

It’s a good balance of practical and theory and important to have also learnt about the ethics/ legal side. 

Did you work closely with a particular tutor or member of the University’s academic staff? Tell us about that experience.

All the lectures were great. It was particularly helpful that [the academic staff] have recent experience of the industry and could share their tips.

What activities outside of your studies were you involved in?

As well as LSTV, LSR & the Gryphon, I was very involved with the Jewish Society (Campaigns Officer). I was also involved as a student trustee/ NEC member of the Union of Jewish Students. And I sat on the international division of the BoD while at uni. 

I was also selected for two international fellowships (one with ADL & one with Bronfman/ New York University). 

I was elected as NUS Rep twice which gave an interesting insight in to social issues which impact young people.

What would you say to students thinking about studying your course?

I really recommend it! The course offered valuable insights in to the industry and is vocational with a good balance of contact hours and assignments. I recommend getting involved with media/ student politics societies too it’s a good way to find stories and learn new ways to tell them. 

While you have access to it, learn to edit (specifically Final Cut, Avid, Premiere Pro, Photoshop and audio editing) and to shoot on cameras. Training on radio mics and lighting makes you helpful on shoots. 

If you can, it’s great to rack up experience in the industry as a degree is super helpful but you need bylines/ credits too. 

Also you’re not competing with your course mates – some of my cohort have ended up staying my closest friends and it’s nice to be able to have a moan or ask advice from people who get it!  

What does Leeds as a city have to offer students?

It’s got good night life but also great galleries and walks nearby. It’s worth exploring local areas on the weekends.