“The thing I loved the most was the sheer amount of stuff you could get stuck into outside of lessons..”
Sarah Gough, class of 2013, is a journalist & multimedia presenter at Channel 4 News, working in Washington DC!
How do you feel SGS helped to shape the person you are today?
SGS encouraged me to become a well-rounded and ambitious person. Teachers had high standards and expected a lot of you – the same can be said of the senior people in my workplace now. Looking back, whilst emphasis was placed on academic success, the school placed great importance on extra-curricular activities too. That work/life balance is still something I try to live by.
What was your experience at SGS like?
The thing I loved the most was the sheer amount of stuff you could get stuck into outside of lessons – sport, drama, music, The Egg Race, the bake off, D of E. The options were endless and I tried a bit of everything. Sport, drama and the humanities subjects were where I found the most joy. I loved playing netball, doing athletics, and hacking at a hockey ball. In my final few years, the school musical started up and it was so much fun – an amazing chance to get to know other students across different year groups. There was also such support when it came to applying to university and preparing for exams – which I am still hugely grateful for.
Were there any teachers who inspired you or made a particular impression on you?
I would be remiss not to first mention Mr Thomas, who taught me English, encouraged me to pursue it at university and whose catch-phrases I still carry with me today! Every essay I wrote at university he sub-consciously helped with. He truly loved his subject, and got everyone else excited about it too – it was inspiring. The fun had at school musicals wouldn’t have been possible without Mr Lamplough and Mr Jones – I remember Mr Lamplough saying to me once “you can sing, but it’s not that pretty!” I then was given the role of the Master of the House in Les Miserables and he made me sing an octave lower than should’ve been possible for me.
What did you do after SGS?
I studied English Literature at the University of Exeter. It was an amazing three years. I got really involved with student media in my time at Exeter – I hosted a radio show on the student station and was elected editor of the student newspaper in my final year. I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in journalism and after a summer unpaid work experience at various news organisations, I got into Cardiff University to study an MA in Broadcast Journalism.]
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Before moving to Washington DC, I worked in Channel 4 News’ digital team in London. During my time in that team, I helped launch and then produced a podcast called ‘Ways to Change the World’ with Krishnan Guru-Murthy. It spoke to high-profile and inspiring guests every week – and it was a privilege to meet so many amazing people. Meeting Margaret Atwood in a fancy London hotel on her release of the sequel to the Handmaid’s Tale was a particular highlight, and a moment I won’t forget.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to follow a similar path to you?
Persistence, patience and people. The three Ps are key to getting your foot in the journalism door. Persistence is key whether you’re chasing a story or interview. The person who hired me at Channel 4 News doesn’t even consider hiring freelancers until they email him three times! You’ll need some patience – it’s a long way to the top in this industry, and I’ve still got a lot to learn about all aspects of the job. The joy of it is that you never stop learning. And the people you talk to are hugely important. I didn’t know anyone in the industry when I started out – the course at Cardiff gave me a huge leg-up into the media world, but you’ll find that many journalists live on Twitter and are usually very helpful. Get in touch with a journalist you admire, and ask them for advice and work experience. Oh, and have lots of ideas!
What are your ambitions for the future?
I’m hoping to stick around in the US to see the 2020 election play out, as I’m sure it will be fascinating. Every journalist I know is striving to be better – to tell a more powerful story, to reveal something no-one else has – and I’m no different. In the future, I’m hoping to do more on-the-ground producing and move into on-screen reporting. TV news is fast, fun and sometimes messy – practice doing it under pressure is essential. I’m trying to learn every day, gather as much experience as I can and help do some great public interest journalism along the way.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Before my move to the US, I was playing netball twice a week for a club in London which I loved. I run 2-3 times a week, watch a lot of Netflix, and always have a book on the go. I try to catch a lot of live comedy and theatre, and did a solo trip to Vietnam last year. I’d love to travel around more of Asia and the Americas.