Growing up watching Kate Adie reporting from the latest warzone was the inspiration for the Press Association’s chief reporter Ellen Branagh to want to become a journalist.
Now like her idol, she has been fitted for body armour and has just recently returned from Baghdad where she interviewed the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki after British bank Standard and Chartered opened its first branch in the city.
“It is a great experience working for PA. You simply don’t know what you will be doing in a few days time no matter how well organised you try to be.
“I got about a week’s notice for the Iraqi trip. Some non-journalist friends of mine would need more notice to go for a weekend away. It was completely fascinating seeing the city.
“I had on my ‘normal’ flak jacket and we travelled from the airport along Route Irish into the Green Zone. We were in an armoured vehicle and the one thing you notice was the number of checkpoints in the city. It can be difficult with friends and family if you’ve made arrangements to meet up and then you are at 38,000 feet heading to the far side of the world.”
(Above: Ellen Branagh interviewing Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. Credit: Press Association)
Branagh joined PA in April 2008 having started off on the Redditch Standard, then working on the Redditch Advertiser and the Worcester Evening News.
“Journalism has changed quite a bit since I started out. All I needed was a pen and a notepad. Now they have been joined with a video camera as well as my passport and clothes to last several days .”
Branagh says that working for PA has made her job easier: “We get great access because PA is really trusted. We have to tell the story in a really balanced way.
“A journalist’s job is to ask the difficult questions and treat everybody equally whether you are sharing the same plane as Prince William or speaking to Andy Murray minutes after he was won at Wimbledon.”
Despite keeping such lofty company, Branagh believes “it is impossible to be vain” working for PA.
“Everybody trusts your work and your copy ends up across most platforms – even though your byline mightn’t make it. The nature of the business has changed. It is now a 24/7 business. But despite that, shorthand is as important as ever, especially if you are covering courts. I couldn’t do my job without shorthand, even though it has absolutely destroyed my longhand.”
Branagh believes despite the massive changes within the industry, journalism is a career that has a strong future.
“It is a job that I truly love. I think that there is an evolution underway. It may be a hectic lifestyle but that’s what you sign up for when you become a journalist.“