Grilled: Rachel Younger, health editor, ITV News

Insight into how a busy newsroom ticks and tips about how to interact with journalists.

Grilled: Rachel Younger, health editor, ITV News

What are your feelings as you come into work?
I’m lucky enough to come into work via St Pancras and, being a bit of a railway buff, it’s impossible not to be uplifted by the architecture, especially if someone’s playing something grand on one of the station pianos.  

Why do you do this job?
The best days are when we know we have a cracking story to film – the result of an FOI request perhaps, a whistleblower whose trust we have won over many weeks, or access to a trial or res­earch that’s about to change patients’ lives for the better. But one of the reasons I still do the job after 22 years of reporting is that you never know what the day might hold.

As a child I wanted to be…
My childhood dream was to be a physio for Sheffield Wednesday – though given my inability to stick a plaster on straight, I think the medical profession is better off without me.

What is the worst time to pitch to you?
Any time near a deadline – and our ITV News programmes are at 13.30, 18.30 and 22.00. Given the late finish of our flagship programme don’t expect too considered a response before 10am either – unless the story is a real winner, of course.

What makes a great story for you?
Something that I haven’t heard of bef­ore, a breathtaking advance at home or abroad in medicine or surgery that will change people’s lives, an unforgettable patient whose bravery or endurance gives us goosebumps, carers going far beyond the call of duty or something that alerts us to a situation so unjust we have to start digging. And we want to be the only ones you’ve told.

What is your view of PR professionals?
The best are fantastically well informed and excellent sources of information. They’ve thought deeply about both the story and the medium – so they will have negotiated access to a hospital or research lab to film in, along with an introduction to the people involved. They trust us to tell a story fairly and don’t micromanage.

What one thing gets in the way of you doing your job?
News is unpredictable and we do give as much notice as we can – but programme editors are at the mercy of events and will turn a running order on its head if breaking news merits it.

What gives you the greatest job satisfaction?
When someone tells us their story so bravely and honestly that the impact forces politicians to listen. To hear a minister say that alth­ough ITV News is making their life uncomfortable by exposing a failure of the system, they are still glad we are doing so, is fantastic because it’s when their bosses notice that something might get done about it.

What’s in your lunch box?
Chance would be a fine thing. We have been doing a lot on the obesity crisis lately and the irony of dashing around the country trying to make late-night deadlines and regularly existing on whatever chocolate is left on the train trolley doesn’t escape me.

Which outlet do you most admire for its news coverage and why?
I’m a big admirer of the Health Service Journal as a news source – its patient safety correspondent Shaun Lintern is regularly among the first to take to Twitter with both NHS news and some pretty informed analysis too.

What is your management style: shouter, weeper or supportive friend?
I’m lucky enough to work alongside some very talented, hardworking people so there’s no need to shout – except perhaps at the 18.30 programme editor when we get dropped after busting a gut all day on a piece we’re proud of. But that’s news for you.

What is your greatest career fear?
Spending time witnessing the wonders performed every day by doctors, nurses and paramedics can make you question whether what you are doing makes much of a difference.

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