Public Affairs

Meet the Media: Claire Williamson

Claire Williamson is the Deputy News Editor of the Belfast Telegraph.

How did you get into journalism?

I always knew I wanted to be a journalist and had been trying my best to get lots of experience with my local newspapers.

I studied English at Queen’s University Belfast and while I was there I was part of The Gown student newspaper. After graduating I enrolled in the NCTJ course at Belfast Metropolitan College.

I then worked freelance before becoming full-time freelance at the Belfast Telegraph. A couple of years later I moved over from print to the website before recently becoming Deputy News Editor.

Describe your typical working day?

Every day is different, which is one of the real joys of journalism. You never know what you will be working on or who you will be speaking to and as I’ve moved around print and online my day has varied accordingly.

However, the general aim of the day is the same, looking for and sourcing stories and reacting to what is happening that day.

Who would you identify as your role models in the industry and why?

I owe a lot to the then News Editor and Deputy News Editor of the Belfast Telegraph Jonathan McCambridge and Claire Harrison for their guidance when I was starting out.

I admire William Crawley’s style of debate on BBC Talkback and also BBC Newsline’s Tara Mills’ interview technique. The commentary from Brian Rowan is always fantastic – as he makes such clear points.

I am also inspired a lot by Belfast Telegraph Editor Gail Walker. From her wealth of experience to her incredible eye for stories, I learn a great deal from her on a daily basis.

What is it about journalism that you enjoy?

I love the anticipation of each day. The world of journalism is such an exciting place to work and it’s such a fast-paced environment.

For me the most incredible and rewarding part is when people trust you to tell their stories which are sometimes happy moments or they can be some of the most harrowing events of their lives. To build that trust with someone and most importantly that they are happy with the finished product is the best feeling.

What would you describe as your most notable story or project?

Journalism is a career that opens many doors and allows you to experience a wide range of incredible things and along the way I have met some wonderful people.

I said before about the importance of people trusting you to tell their stories and giving them a voice. So, one example that sticks out for me was the moving story of a woman with incurable cancer who told her story of her hospital experience, where she endured a 26 hour wait for a bed and she was so heartened when the story got a direct response from the then Health Minister.

One of the most incredible experiences so far was when I had the opportunity to go to America to cover the last two weeks of the 2016 US Presidential Election campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

To be in America on Election Day was very exciting and to experience and write about the final days of the campaign and the aftermath of the result was unbelievable.

How is journalism embracing the digital revolution?

It’s a very exciting time for journalism as the industry continues to evolve digitally and I think it is embracing it.

The need for instant news is becoming more and more important and it’s something that can be challenging but there is also a great buzz from it.

Reacting quickly and accurately to breaking news is now such an integral part of any news outlet.

It’s rare to find a big event that is not being live streamed on social media or has some form of live tweeting from it. Thanks to these advances it means you are always learning new things, because you need to keep adjusting your skill-set. For example, now it’s necessary to be able to take videos, live stream/tweet etcetera to accompany your story.

Of course, like with anything, there can also be a negative side and this comes when false information about something is shared and can be spread widely. So, it’s an area which needs to be

treated with caution but it has and will continue to have an amazing and powerful function.

What advice would you give anyone starting out in the profession?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s always better to ask for guidance or help rather than suffer in silence. Embrace every opportunity that comes your way and try to get as much experience as you can. Maintain your enthusiasm and never forget that you are telling people’s stories and they should always be at the heart of everything you do.

What are your main interests outside of work?

Outside of work my main interest is music, both going to concerts and playing the piano. I also love going to comedy shows. My favourite way to relax is a day at the beach – and of course, topped off with a trip to Barry’s Amusements in Portrush!

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