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Class of 2020: Jacob Ottaway

We’re so proud of our class of 2020. They've overcome enormous challenges to graduate, but at the same time they've been determined to make a difference - helping others, grasping opportunities to develop their skills and showing their Essex Spirit in so many different ways. Now we're taking the chance to celebrate their achievements.

  • Date

    Wed 22 Jul 20

Jacob Ottaway wearing a place blue shirt and sitting in a BBC Essex newsroom

Jacob Ottaway isn’t just leaving Essex with a first class BA Multimedia Journalism degree, he takes with him a wealth of practical experience in the newsroom that has already taught him valuable lessons about live journalism.

Jacob first stepped into the BBC Essex newsroom during his work placement in his first year. The speed in which he picked up new skills and his willingness to take on additional responsibilities immediately impressed the management team and he was soon working as a freelance journalist producing live shows at the age of 19.

By the end of his second year he was working regularly as a day reporter on the station’s Breakfast Show. It was then he faced one of his biggest challenges.

“I had taken a call from someone in Clacton who said they could see a large commotion on the beach,” Jacob explained. “It turned out to be the rescue attempt of three children who had gotten into difficulty in the sea – two of whom eventually passed away.”

Jacob was on the scene, to report live, at 5am.

“Dealing with rapidly unfolding events that have national eyes on them, whilst dealing with the anguish and upset of local people and ensuring calm and suitable production and interviews was difficult,” he said.

“Listeners in this situation want clear, calm and authoritative communication of the news – and I needed to ensure I’d got a grip on those three things,” he said of one of his biggest challenges.

Jacob, who is now regularly working as a freelance producer on BBC Essex’s Saturday Breakfast Show and Sunday Late Breakfast Show, has lots of fond memories of the special role local radio plays in people’s lives too.

“Working on Christmas Day, taking listeners’ calls and just making people smile and being thanked for listening and being there is a highlight for me,” he said.

“Local news, and in particular local radio, is so important. It’s a voice in lonely people’s homes or cars, it’s a source of information and it’s a friend.”

Besides learning how to make the perfect round of tea for thirsty broadcasters, his advice to journalism students is to get work experience in the newsroom: “It’s pivotal. Take any opportunities you’re given with both hands and with enthusiasm as you never know what might come out of it.

“Don’t forget to ask questions and if you complete a task you’re given, then make sure you ask to do more.”

He plans to continue working freelance with BBC Essex.