In this week’s 10 minutes with, PA Media’s Geraldine Scott (soon to be political reporter at The Times) talks about her beginnings in regional journalism, her three pieces of advice and an ingenious way of getting politicians to answer her questions…
How did you get into journalism?
I fell into it really, I didn’t have some long-held childhood dream like some people.
When I finished sixth-form I took a year out and saved up some money working in a pub. Then, I went travelling for a bit and after went to the University of East Anglia. I studied politics because I like a good argument and in my second year started writing for the student newspaper, Concrete.
In my third year I became the editor and had a meeting with the-then editor of the local paper, the Eastern Daily Press, to see if we could help out with some overnight election coverage from a student perspective. What I didn’t realise (and neither did my future boss Ian Clarke at the time) was this was a quasi-job interview. When I got back home I had an email from Ian asking if I fancied joining the EDP as a trainee reporter, which I absolutely did.
I started on my hometown paper, the Great Yarmouth Mercury, and was really lucky to be put through my NCTJ and training by Archant. Afterwards, I became the EDP’s health correspondent, then taking in politics too, before moving to the Yorkshire Post as Westminster Correspondent, and now as a Political Correspondent for PA.
Why does journalism matter?
It’s the first rough draft of history, isn’t it?
There’s that famous quote on journalism which is: “If someone says it’s raining, and another person says it’s dry, it’s not your job to quote them both. Your job is to look out the window and find out which is true.”
And that’s right to a great extent and with the vast majority of journalism of course, but actually sometimes it is your job to quote them both. Recording things people say – even when they’re wrong – is important too, if it means you can point to it in the future to prove they had lied or were misleading in some way.
Best scoop (yours or someone else’s)?
Despite not working in local journalism anymore I still think that’s where some of the best scoops come from.
Career highlight so far?
Being named one of the 30 under 30 young journalists to watch in 2020, especially because at the time I was still at the YP and up against brill colleagues from national outlets.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
I’ve got three:
- Don’t wear heels to work because you won’t be able to chase a story.
- You hardly ever need the word “that” in a sentence.
- But the actual best piece of advice is to be nice to people. I’m always amazed at hearing people on the phone who don’t ask how people are or have a chat before getting into your query. It puts people on the back foot and actually makes it way less likely that they’ll help you – plus, it only takes a second.
Who or what inspires you most?
Corny this is, but my mum. She brought me up on her own as a single parent on, frankly, not much money while putting herself through qualifications in the evenings in one of the most deprived parts of the country. She’s my biggest supporter, is obsessed when she sees me on TV, and my best friend.
Who would be your fantasy dinner party guests and why?
I always find this question really difficult because I have no idea what I’d have to say to anyone even remotely impressive. Maybe some of the politicians who dodge my calls so I could finally ask them some questions? Naming no names of course…
How do you switch off from work?
I don’t, really. If I do it’s mostly watching rubbish sitcoms and doing things with my friends – but they’re all journalists too so there’s no escape!
If I wasn’t a journalist, I would be…
A solicitor. I reckon a lot of journalists say that. Maybe it’s a personality thing?
Gym or gin?
The gym so then I don’t feel guilty about drinking the gin.