Interviews – Media – Kerry Marcus

At the age of 37 Kerry Marcus has already had a varied journalism career, doing everything from covering courts and council meetings as a cub reporter to being part of the launch team for a new national newspaper. She now works for leading UK news supplier ITN as a senior home news editor for the award-winning Channel 4 News

What do you do on an average day?
I assign people to stories, decide what stories we should cover and how we are going to cover them. On an average day 30% to 40% of our stories are general pieces with the rest generated by our own team. I get loads of pitches every day from our reporters, PR companies, etc and have to decide what we go with and what we bin.

Do you have much of a hands-on role in production?
No, I used to, but I don’t get too involved anymore.

Do you miss that?
Yes. I still have a lot to do with the actual output of a show, but I don’t physically get out there and get the stories. I spent much of my life on the road as a foreign affairs producer, especially for Channel 4 News. It is still a very journalistic job, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. It is definitely challenging.

What is the most satisfying part of your job?
When someone comes up with a really good idea, we commission it and it turns out being even better than we anticipated. For example, we got Henri Cartier-Bresson, a very reclusive French photographer, to give us his first ever interview a couple of weeks ago in Paris. We had worked really hard to get that interview and it was very satisfying.

We also get to do some very good, in-depth treatments of subjects like asylum or the National Health Service, and getting the opportunity to reach down below the headline is really rewarding.

What is the money like?
No-one works in this business for the money. The pay is all right, but you could earn far more in the City. You do the job because you’re passionate about doing it. I like to think that Channel 4 News stands for some sort of excellence.

Any advice for those on the outside looking to get in?
If you don’t have the energy and enthusiasm for news and current affairs, and a genuine interest in these things, then don’t bother. It is not a job. It’s a way of life. It is not a question of getting a load of letters after your name or a good degree, it’s the kind of job that goes beyond that.

How did you get to your current position on Channel 4 News?
After doing my O-levels I spent five months working in the foreign exchange department of Barclays International, which I hated. I left to go to secretarial college, and got a job on the Evening Standard newspaper as secretary to the City editor. That was when I decided I wanted to be a journalist.

I got an internship at the Greater London & Essex Newspaper Group, as an indentured reporter on the Dagenham Post. After 18 months, I decided I wanted a degree, so went to night school and got a couple of A-levels. That allowed me to get into Manchester University where I studied English.

While I was studying I worked for the BBC as a newsroom typist in Manchester. I left there in 1985 to set up a left-wing national newspaper, based in Manchester, called the News On Sunday. I was general manager. We lasted all of seven issues. We spent about £7m ($11m) in seven weeks. It was an experience.

Was that the low point of your career?
Not really. I was so young that everyone felt sorry for me rather than seeing it as a personal failing. I’m very glad I had the experience.

Where did you go from there?
I joined Granada in Manchester on contract as a reporter on their regional news programme at the end of 1987. And after this landed a job with the BBC in Manchester, joining the BBC regional news programme as a regional journalist where I spent the next couple of years.

I then moved to London and was a producer for four years in the BBC newsroom, working on programmes including the One O’Clock News and Breakfast News. I came to Channel 4 News about seven years ago.

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