“It’s not unprofessional to get emotionally involved in a story,” says Harry Gration on murder of Ann Maguire

Leeds Trinity Journalism Week, Day 1 blog

After a gruelling interview with Prime Minister David Cameron on BBC’s Look North earlier this month, Harry Gration promises the same treatment to the people wanting to take his place.

During his talk at Leeds Trinity’s Journalism Week , the Look North presenter discussed the importance of remaining politically unbiased.

He said: “You’ve got to be careful with this, we’ve given Cameron a hard time, and we have to do the same with Mr Milliband and Mr Clegg.

“If we rattled his cage, tough.”

Harry continued to talk about British politics and said that he thinks the forthcoming election on May 7 will be the ‘nastiest in a long time’ and that the average person on the street wouldn’t know the difference between the policies from Labour and The Conservatives as they’ve become ‘too close’.

He told students that journalists need to challenge and discussed the importance of holding people to account for their comments.

He said: “Always when you’re doing an interview, make sure it is a challenging one.”

The Regional Presenter of the Year award winner spoke about interviewing techniques, placing importance on asking the right questions and wording them correctly so that the essential questions get the best answers.

Harry also spoke about his memorable coverage of the Tour De France Grand Depart.

Leah Waller reporting on Harry Gration

Leah Waller reporting on Harry Gration

He said: “I’ve been lucky, I’ve covered sport around the world, but there’s nothing that compares with that in Yorkshire.”

In contrast, he shared his thoughts on the broadcast coverage of the murder of Leeds teacher Ann Maguire. He said: “That was one of the biggest challenges I have faced, trying to get the tone right.”

Former teacher and BBC Look North veteran Harry Gration told journalism students today that he couldn’t help but get emotionally involved.

The Spanish teacher at Corpus Christi Catholic College was stabbed by Will Cornick in front of 20 pupils a year ago.

Ann was described as “the mother of the school.”

A 16-year-old boy has been given a life sentence after he admitted stabbing her seven times.

Harry was the only journalist invited into the school during the devastating aftermath.

He said: “It was a very personal. It got to me. There are times you get too involved in a story, too emotional in a story. But I was comfortable with that. For her funeral I was told I had two minutes for the coverage, but I thought, ‘no way’. When you deal with something as traumatic as that, how do you cope with covering that story and getting it right? The effect it had on the lives of so many people, the staff and the school has been incredible and this terrible tragedy is one that we must never forget.”

From his Royal Television Society win to his MBE in 2013, Harry advised wannabe hacks the best way to get the good stories is to be persistent.

He said: “I had been asking to go to Afghanistan  for six years. The experience was incredible. You realise the colour of adrenaline. If you don’t ask for stories when they pop up then you won’t get them, be as persistent as you possibly can.”

The 64-year-old was keen to offer tips to prospective journalists at the event, he said: “You have to be able to do the soft news and the hard news equally well, otherwise you don’t survive.”

By Leah Waller

Originally from Cornwall, I studied a Journalism degree at Coventry University before moving to Leeds for post graduate studies.Sports journalism is my preferred area, with football being my favorite topic. I currently blog for Sky’s TEAMtalk where you can find me ranting about my beloved Leeds United, with the occasional delirious playoff aspiration chucked in. In my teenage years I presented for an online radio station, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but my career goals lean more towards TV now where I would like to be a sports reporter.