James Pearce – Q&A

James Pearce


Where are you from?
I grew up in a village called Pirbright in Surrey

How did you get started in broadcasting?
I was at Exeter University. One evening I was sitting in my room, listening to the student radio station, when the most appalling newsreader hit the airwaves. She stumbled through the entire bulletin. It was so dreadful that I thought, Even I could do better than that. The next day I went to the radio station office and signed up. I have no idea who the newsreader was that night, but I have a lot to thank her for.

When was that?

Why News broadcasting?
I was studying a politics degree at the time. I always fancied myself as a political correspondent. I ended up covering sports news by accident when the sports presenter at BBC South West, where I was working at the time, left suddenly, and there was nobody else to replace her. Live broadcasting is an addiction for me. I love the buzz that it gives me. I need my weekly fix. No job provides more excitement or unpredictability than that of a correspondent standing in front of a live camera on a breaking story when nobody is quite sure what is happening.

Where else would have viewers seen or heard you before?
I started my career as a TV news reporter and then as a sports presenter on BBC South West, based in Plymouth. I moved up to London with the BBC in 1995, and since then have appeared at various times on all the main BBC TV and radio news programmes.

What is your Best on-air moment?
This is a hard question to answer, as any reporter hopes that their best moment is just around the corner. Every day I go to work hoping for the big one. I am proud of all my exclusives, but in my job it is foolish to rest on your laurels. The exclusive story that has had the biggest impact on my career was the first one. When I was with BBC South West I got a tip off that Martin Pipe, the racehorse trainer, had filed a bankruptcy petition against Peter Shilton, who at that time was the manager of Plymouth Argyle. I broke the story on the BBC’s national bulletins as well as in the region, and it was largely because of this that I was invited to work in London. The best moment that day came when I received a call from ‘The Sun’ in London, who wanted to make sure that they could watch my report in their offices that night. It was the lead story on their back page the next day. I was only 23 at the time, so it was all very new to me, and incredibly exctiting.

What is your Worst on-air moment?
There have been a few, but I try to forget about them. The advantage of live TV is that once a broadcast is over it is gone. I always feel sorry for my newspaper colleagues, who, when they make a mistake, know that it is in print for ever. One incident that I find hard to forget, though, was early in my career. After covering a testimonial for a footballer at Exeter City I interviewed the player after the match. Or at least I thought that I had interviewed him. It was only later that I discovered that I had interviewed his indentical twin brother, who had been enjoying winding me up!

What would you like to do before your career ends?
So many things. The media is changing so fast at the moment that it is hard to predict what I will be doing in ten years time, but, as somebody who cares passionately about sport, there is one date that I will do everything not to miss. July 2012. The London Olympics. Hopefully the Games will leave British sport with a lasting legacy.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
What spare time? The downside of working for a 24 hour news channel is that you never quite know when you will have free time. I watch sport when I can. It is so much more relaxing watching a sports event for pleasure, rather than having to worry about filing a report. I love playing tennis, although I don’t play nearly enough these days. On a fine afternoon you can often spot me running along the Thames, enduring another desperate attempt to set a personal best time along my regular route.

What advice would you give to anyone that would like to get into the broadcasting world?
Be determined, patient and committed. It is a fantastic job. At many times it is a privilege to be covering the stories and to be in the locations to which broadcasters get sent. If you get a good job in broadcasting then never forget how lucky you are. Remain hungry for a story. It is a competitive business. Only the best survive. And above all…..enjoy it.

A big thanks to James for taking part.

Posted on Thursday 21st May 2009 by Johnnie Larkin