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17th February 2020 Rosa Chalfen (2019, English)

Journalist Reeta Chakrabarti speaks at Exeter College Rector’s Seminar

Exeter student Rosa Chalfen reports on a talk given by journalist, alumna and Honorary Fellow Reeta Chakrabarti.

On Sunday 2 February a talk was held by Reeta Chakrabarti (1984, English and French), the influential journalist and BBC news correspondent, at Exeter College. Ms Chakrabarti, an alumna and Honorary Fellow of the College, described her career and the issues facing the journalism industry today, as well as answering questions from current students and staff.

Ms Chakrabarti reminisced on her career, remembering that she had ‘always wanted to be a journalist but didn’t know how to get started’ after finishing her degree. Her first access to the media industry was working on local papers and radio stations, where she worked as an arts correspondent, interviewing important figures such as Jeanette Winterson. However, knowing that she wanted to be a news correspondent, she attempted to get onto the BBC news training programme where, on her third attempt, she was accepted, and went on to become a community affairs correspondent. It was in this job that she covered one of the stories that became one of the ‘closest to her heart’: the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993, and the subsequent public inquiry.

Five years ago, she became a presenter, and comments that she is well suited to the job, as she enjoys having an overview of the day’s events and working under pressure. In recent years, she has reported on stories such as the refugee crisis and the expulsion of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar in 2017.

Ms Chakrabarti addressed wider challenges in the media, such as the ‘crisis of confidence’ in news outlets, speculating that this was caused by events such as the UK’s European Union membership referendum in 2016 and the rise of social media. In particular, she noted that the BBC has come under increasing attack for ‘impartiality’ in recent years, as well as struggling with issues around licence fee funding and the lack of young people watching televised news. However, Ms Chakrabarti emphasised her opinion that the BBC is impartial and dedicated to providing creative, clever and thoughtful content for its viewers.

Ms Chakrabarti also answered questions from the audience on her role as a news anchor, her recent reporting from Auschwitz on the 75th anniversary of its liberation, and the significance of televised news in today’s society.

portrait of Reeta Chakrabarti by Fran Monks

Portrait of Reeta Chakrabarti by Fran Monks

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