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Alumni

Sarah Kilburn-Wilson

Career Path: On-Screen Journalist, ITV News
Location: Birmingham, UK

When I arrived at Northumbria, I thought I was neither confident, charismatic or bright enough to ever be a successful journalist. But over my four years on the Journalism course, that all changed. My lecturer convinced me to do some work experience in a real newsrooom during my final year.

I went to ITV News Border (in my home region) for one weeks work experience - and I never left. I worked as a freelance Production Journalist there for a couple of years, working across digital content and on the planning desk. I finally convinced my News Editor to let me give reporting a go, and that was the start of it. I quickly decided reporting on-screen was the path I wanted to take. I worked as a reporter, digital lead and planning editor over the next two years at ITV Border. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort a bit more and really build on my reporting experience, so I made a big move to ITV News Central in Birmingham in 2018.

What are you doing now?Sarah Kilburn-Wilson

I'm an On-Screen Journalist at ITV News Central in Birmingham. No day is ever the same - I could be reporting live on the 6pm programme covering a murder, or out hiking in the Peak District for a feature on the countryside. I've covered some of the biggest breaking stories in the Midlands in the past year and reported live on ITV National News. When I'm not on-screen, I'm often working as the News Editor where I'm controlling all the news coming in and making editorial decisions on what we cover for the programme and how we cover it.

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

The variety of the course was a huge selling point for me - I had no idea what path I wanted to go down so the options to study newspaper, magazine, radio and television for the first two years was a great option for me.

What was it like studying at Northumbria? (eg. were there a mix of lectures, seminars, team projects? Was the feedback constructive?)

I always found studying very rewarding. I always received constructive feedback, even on topics that I had little interest or knowledge in. That feedback really motivated me. It was a really good mix of lectures and seminars, giving time to work on solo projects and space to be creative.

How connected was your course with industry? (eg. did you have a placement, work on projects? were there interesting guest lectures?)

I had some great opportunities to connect with the journalism industry during my time at Northumbria. I was very nervous of going into the 'real world' and speaking to real journalists, so the guest lecturers and the opportunity to chat with people in the industry were inspiring in many, which really helped to give me confidence and a bit more of an insight.

If you took on a placement during your course how did you feel this helped you in your career/ with your studies?

I worked on a placement at the National Trust during my final year - one day a week for a few months. I created articles for the website and social media, which gave me great digital journalism foundation skills that I was able to use when I first started working for ITV News, writing digital content.

What was the best thing about your course?

The best thing about my course was the support I was given. The lecturers took a genuine interest in how connected I was with my learning and how I felt about becoming a journalist. I always felt that if I needed to speak or ask questions, I had a number of senior people I could speak to and take really constructive advice from. My main lecturer knew I wasn't completely sold on being a journalist because I didn't have the confidence in myself to do it - but he supported and pushed me all the way through and I owe a lot to him for where I am today.

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/ give your career an edge?

My three years at Northumbria filled me with confidence and showed myself that actually, I'm good enough to be a journalist. Being a television reporter is so different to how I expected it to be during University - but my time at Northumbria gave me some really essential skills and confidence to make a strong start in the industry.

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now throughout your career?

My knowledge of the editing software, Avid NewsCutter, and of using a camera kit, were both things that gave me a huge boost when starting my career at ITV News. I was one of the very few graduates that ITV had seen who could already edit on NewsCutter as well as shoot my own reports. Editing is still one of my strongest skills today. My understanding of digital journalism and social media that were a huge part of my course, also put me ahead in the newsroom and really helped me get the role of Digital Lead.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University?

There was so much to enjoy at Northumbria - my course was incredibly engaging and there was so much room to be creative and to incorporate your special interests into your work - which for me, was everything. Life outside the lectures was also a hugely enjoyable. Newcastle was an incredible city to live in and whatever your niche or interest, there was always something to cater for you and a group to socialise with.

What advice would you give somebody who is considering studying at Northumbria?

Think about what you really want to get out of your time at University. For me, it wasn't just about learning a trade. It was about growing up, building my confidence, socialising and building a life in a city that I knew I'd be happy in. Studying at Northumbria was something that ticked every box.

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in three words?

Inspiring. Motivating. Life changing.

For more information about me visit:

  • Twitter: @sarahkilwilitv
  • Instagram: @sarahkilwilitv

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