Chicks Chat Careers with….
Charlene White Journalist/Broadcaster. Currently working for ITN as a news anchor for ITV News and ITV News London. Previously she has worked across various media platforms including BBC Radio 1 (Newsbeat), Radio 5 Live (Morning Reports). BBC Three (60 Seconds), and BBC (Look East) and much more… She also had her own late night talk show on BBC Radio London. Recently Charlene has been described as one of “The Rising Stars of TV Current Affairs”. We at Those London Chicks were so pleased to have the opportunity to catch up with Charlene to talk with her about her illustrious career so far.
Had you always known you wanted to get into journalism, or had you other ambitions as a child?
It’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was 16. News was a big part of my life growing up, I’d be watching the tea-time news programmes with the family at dinner time; or my dad teaching me to read using the headlines on the front of the Guardian newspaper. Peoples’ stories fascinated me and I wanted to tell those stories.
What was your journey after graduating from University to your first job in broadcasting?
I went straight into a Trainee Newsroom Journalist role at ITV News Meridian straight after graduating. It was based in Maidstone, and I live in South London so it was an easy 30mins drive to work in the morning.
Who were your career inspirations and why?
Obviously Sir Trevor is one of them. I grew up watching him. The way he told stories and his presence on screen was, and continues to be, incredible. But I’m also a big fan of storytellers like Soledad O’Brien and Anderson Cooper (American news anchors), and also the likes of the mighty Jon Stewart.
A career in broadcasting is a highly competitive and difficult Industry to break into. You have experience in both Radio and TV, behind the scenes and front facing. How did you make the transition into TV as a newscaster?
I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Yes that really does happen! I was doing a BBC roadshow for Radio 1 Newsbeat in Sheffield, and the compere asked a couple of us to jump on stage to make sure the autocue was working, before we opened the doors to the public. Two months later the compere emailed me, turned out he was the Editor of BBC Three 60 Seconds news. He asked me to come in for a screen-test and the rest is history.
You have interviewed a number of “high profile’ people including David Cameron, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Jay Z and Beyonce to name but a few. Have there been any potential interviewee, including the above that you were nervous or apprehensive about interviewing?
Interestingly the only person I was really nervous about interviewing was Maya Angelou. I grew up reading her books. It was important to my mum and aunt that we read a lot about black history and the black experience, both here, in Africa, the Caribbean, and the USA — so that we’d have a well-rounded and informed opinion about where it is that we come from. So meeting Maya Angelou was one of the most nerve-wracking moments in my life. She was just as wonderful as I thought she’d be, and more.
Speaking of nerves, how do you cope with live TV?
I get a huge kick out of live TV, there’s honestly nothing like it. You could give me all the gin in the world, but nothing compares to that feeling when you’re broadcasting live, especially when there’s breaking news. In the studio there’s just me, my co-presenter, a cameraman and two studio managers. So it’s quite cosy really, plus the dulcet tones of my producer, director and programme assistant in my ear. So it helps that I can’t actually see all those people at home watching!
What have been your funniest slip up’s to date?……Go on share.
To be honest it happened years ago, and was less of a slip up and more of a fashion faux pas. It was during my early days at ITV when I used to do the early half hour morning news programme. I somehow managed to the present the entire half hour with both bra straps hanging halfway down my arms. Because there were only men on my team, not a single one of them noticed (or too embarrassed to tell me??!) — so I spent half an hour on national news with my underwear on show for the whole country to see.
In April 2014 you became the first black woman to present ITV News at Ten. How did it feel to make history?
I didn’t know it at the time thankfully. I only realised days later when the former Chief Exec of ITV News popped to my desk to give me a hug and to tell me ‘well done’. It was lovely to hear and my family’s immensely proud.
What would you say are the essential qualities needed to pursue a career in journalism?
An actual love of news… If you don’t, then it’s phenomenally easy for we old-timers to tell. The understanding that it’s not a 9 to 5 job. The willingness to drop everything at a moment’s notice. A passion for writing and telling stories. And that yearning in your belly to get to the truth of something.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to get into the industry?
If you love a calm life, and hate cancelling plans then journalism probably isn’t for you!
Thank you so much Charlene