2 February 2021
Natalie starting by explaining how despite many of the broadcasting jobs she has worked on being seen as glamourous, working in the journalism industry requires masses of resilience: ‘It can be very stressful, but the rewards are great’.
Chronicling her time at St Helen’s and beyond, Natalie explained that she didn’t really know what career she wanted to pursue. ‘I loved school and was more of an all-rounder rather than being particularly good at science or art. I loved films, theatre and music and my parents worked in the arts, so I think that had an influence on my ultimate direction.’ She said that whilst having this passion for the arts, she was never especially confident and so knew that being in front of the camera was probably not for her. Instead, a career in journalism beckoned and after undertaking several work experience placements at local radio station, FOX FM and having secured a Saturday job at Central News, Natalie had built up useful industry experience.
After completing her degree in American Commonwealth Arts at Exeter University (a now sadly discontinued degree which she felt offered a valuable breadth of knowledge) Natalie felt she needed more specific industry knowledge and so undertook a postgraduate course in Broadcast Journalism. She then landed her first ‘very low paid’ job at FOX FM in Oxford which ‘just about covered the rent of my grotty Oxford flat!’
Her first major job was with Noel Edmond’s company Unique and came after a ‘stack of other job rejection letters, which, for a while, I kept in a folder! Getting a job in London was great because obviously it’s at the heart of the entertainment industry’. Describing her first major celebrity interview with actor Morgan Freeman, Natalie recalled a heart-sinking moment when she realised she’d pressed the pause button on her voice recorder and had to grovel with Freeman’s PR people to be allowed to re-sit the interview.
Two years later and Natalie landed her dream job at Newsbeat on Radio 1. ‘I worked with a great bunch of people but it was very competitive, you were constantly having to prove yourself.’
Some wonderful anecdotes and clips from celebrity interviews followed: on board Jay Z’s private jet; backstage at the Oscars with Dame Helen Mirren; monosyllabic responses from Harrison Ford; listening awkwardly to in-jokes between Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg; sitting on Gary Barlow’s lap; nail biting timing and tech issues with Leonardo Di Caprio on the red carpet, and Hugh Jackman’s self-deprecating description about the size of his head!
In the last few years, Natalie has gone back to freelance work: ‘I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stay at Radio 1 forever, but it was a hard place to leave after 14 years. I worked for another media company, Bauer, for two years but was made redundant. I think when that happens you seize the opportunity to change tack. I knew I wanted to write and so pursued that avenue’. Natalie has since found a literary agent and is writing her debut novel alongside writing and producing podcasts, most notably ‘Killing It’, a Spotify Original about mental health in the music industry and also ‘Bestsellers’ – a podcast in which Natalie and her co-presenter friend Phil Williams take an ‘unpretentious look’ at popular books. ‘I love that popular culture is so democratic and this podcast celebrates that.’
Natalie answered questions brilliantly from attendees on gaining industry experience, the value of journalism degrees, monetising podcasts and growing an audience for your content.