Jeff Randall, former Editor of the Telegraph, Business Editor at the BBC and current Sky TV Presenter began a successful career in journalism at this very institution. Graduating in the class of 1979 from the University of Nottingham with a degree in Economics, he returned in October this year to talk to students about his career, his humble beginnings at this magazine’s predecessor Bias, and underground beer production at something he dubbed the ‘Derby Hall Home Brew Society’ – the product of medical students with an eye for innovation in inebriation!
What was your student experience like at the University of Nottingham? Is there anything that stands out other than the ‘Home Brew’?
There was nice accommodation, an interesting course, fantastic sports, a great social life, booze – and girls! The academic rigour was accompanied by a rock ‘n’ roll party ethos. And I didn’t even have to pay tuition fees; I was in fact paid by the local council to go to university.
What more can you ask for! What’s your opinion on the Browne Review?
It needs to be fair but people are looking at it wrongly. Some of Britain’s universities are not much better than reformed colleges, and a student there doing a third class degree is paying the same amount of money as a student doing a degree at a top university like Nottingham – students at the likes of Oxford, Cambridge and Nottingham are doing very well out of it at the moment, but it’s not fair on others.
Being on campus again, are there any massive changes you’ve noticed?
The bulk of campus is the same. My daughter is studying here and so I have been back a few times. It’s a unique and special campus. Over the years there have in fact been changes, a number of new buildings have been added – the back of Portland never existed, it used to be cowsheds!
What’s the one piece of advice you would give to anybody pursuing a career in media?
To transition from writing to television, a good halfway house is through radio, as radio requires both great writing and the need to project a voice and understand the cadence of writing. Equally, on radio if you hesitate there is just silence, which is good practice for the high pressure of TV.
How well do you think student media has evolved here at Nottingham University?
I’ll tell you what you’re lacking – the newspaper was less professional back then, but it had a fantastic gossip section. Who did what to who was printed – it was full of scandal! There has been a great deal of improvement… when I was here there was no TV, the radio was nascent and there were cheaply produced newspapers. They didn’t have the glossy covers that we now see – it was printed on cheap thin paper.
At the moment you’re doing more visual media than writing, and obviously your Sky News programme has been extremely successful. Is there any particular reason you moved your focus from written media to visual media?
The media stations actually found me. I worked in business on BBC Radio, before becoming the first Business Editor on BBC TV. The BBC has now moved some way to allow for judgement by presenters, if not opinion, but Sky offered me my own show where I was able to voice my own opinions, so I didn’t refuse.
Earlier in your talk you did mention how quickly information is now available through the ‘horrors of the internet’. Do you think that the importance of newspapers has declined?
The circulation of newspapers has shrunk. I think that news is no longer delivered in the way in which it was because of more immediate media. Having said that, there are a number of small circulation magazines that discuss important issues and are very influential. The glamour of the media is largely superficial – with the public immediately able to publically respond, there is an open invitation to abuse from readers or viewers.