Media Student Spotlight: Calum Macdonald, University of Edinburgh

CALUM Macdonald is hoping to work for BBC radio after graduating from the University of Edinburgh next year. He is currently in third year, studying politics.

What course are you studying?

Politics (MA Hons) at the University of Edinburgh.

What inspired you to choose this course ahead of all the others on offer?

I’m aiming to be a radio broadcast journalist. To that end, I thought it would be beneficial to have a degree in something that’s relevant, and that I enjoy, before potentially looking at doing a post-grad in a more directly media-related field. It’s important to study something you enjoy first and foremost – otherwise it would be a drag.

At what stage are you at?

I’m about to sit my exams to finish third year. I’ll hopefully be graduating in June next year.

What have you most enjoyed about the course so far?

Third year has easily been my favourite year of university so far. You get far more choice in the courses you want to study, and so I’ve been able to focus on US politics, which is a big interest of mine, second only to politics in the UK. Sometimes, the course looks a lot at political theory, and, while that’s interesting, it’s great to be looking at real-world politics and how political systems function, their inadequacies and capabilities.

Are you currently using any of your new-found skills in actual ‘media work’? What lies ahead and how are you preparing yourself for it?

I’m aiming to be a broadcast journalist, and I want to work for the BBC.

I’ve just stood down as head of news on FreshAir, Edinburgh’s student radio station. I’ve stood down to focus on my last year of studies.

The highlight of my year on the news team was our outside broadcast from the Scottish Parliament on the day of the publication of the White Paper on Scottish independence. It was a brilliant programme, featuring interviews with First Minister Alex Salmond, leader of Better Together Alistair Darling, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones, as well as student reps of the main political parties, university experts and PhD students, Edinburgh MSPs and MSPs from elsewhere.

We really nailed the ‘news buzz’ – as we like to call it – the feeling of producing some incredibly good news content. You can still listen to the programme, here.

As well as working on student radio, I’ve also had several work experience placements, both at commercial radio and the BBC. I’ve had experience at BBC Radio 5live, BBC Radio 1, BBC Scotland, BBC Highland, Capital FM and Real Radio. Everyone I’ve spoken to suggests that work experience is vital to securing employment, so I’m always trying to bulk up my CV

What next, after you have no doubt successfully completed your course?

‘Informing, educating and entertaining’ – reporting the news on BBC radio. Hopefully.

Any single piece of media studies advice you want to share?

As my dad would tell me, borrowed, I think, from Lord Northcliffe: news is what they don’t want you to publish; all the rest is PR.