Coventry Conversations – Nick Owen

As the induction week went into full swing, I was directed towards two coventry conversations that were taking place imminently. Due to a solid work load, I made my choice early on, and decided that I would pay a visit to Nick Owen’s talk, about his life and career in the media industry. This old-school player has been in the game since the seventies, bringing a vast wealth of knowledge to the table. But would any of his knowledge about the media of yesterday by applicable to us modern-day students?

Things get off to an odd start. Nick immediately opens his enthusiastic talk with several references to football. He is the current chairman of Luton Town FC. I wait patiently as several none-student guests pry in on his past experiences in football. My pen taps on my book as further questions are asked. Then, the signs of the differences in eras begins to emerge quite quickly. I’m not a football fan at the best of times, but Nick Owen is clearly an avid football supporter, full of passion on the subject. I merrily tune out upon hearing ‘The Hand Of God Goal’. Football trivia paradise.

My mind cuts back sharply to reality upon the mention of Anne Diamond. The conversation falls into my area of expertise, as Nick begins to explain why he has based his life around freelance journalism in the increasingly competitive media industry. He says he likes the challenges the job provides. He likes the complexity of the roles, and also the ability to add variety to his career. He harks back to the days of pre-GMTV morning-show TV-AM, and all the accomplishments he has achieved thus since.

He mentions how he knew Chris Tarrant as a fellow journalist, again showing just how far back this man goes. He comments on the advantages of having a variety of staff on TV shows, how they add variety to the content, and how this opens up a wider audience. Following remarks on the ridiculously early hours of breakfast show employment, Nick goes on to talk about how he manages to look at the camera as if he was looking at the people sitting at home (he currently presents BBC Midlands Today). Nick then hammers home a point that he has always favoured quality over quantity, and this is consistent even to this day, even with regards to reporting on stories from around the world. Things start getting deep. I begin to get drawn into the many stories that the media professional before me reminisces about.

But then we return to football. Evidently, Nick Owen is far from the only footy enthusiast in the room. I casually take a drink, wondering if I should ask him about whether or not, in his experience, aggressive tactics in journalism have proven more successful than passive ones. Moments later, I get my answer. Ironically not from the man himself, but from a fellow media student, whose forwardness in questioning the man leads him to accidentally insult one of Nick Owen’s friends, adding some much-welcomed humour to proceedings.

Nick darts away from the sports subjects, and returns to stories involving Diana Dors, and his constant flicking between ITV and BBC payrolls. Some people comment that Adrian Chiles seems to doing the same thing today, to which Nick Owen merely replies that ITV and BBC are two different work cultures, and do things differently. If, like him, you enjoy variety in your work, and use such as your motivation, flicking between ITV and BBC is almost unavoidable. Wise words.

The talks takes a rather more informal tone as it draws to a close. Nick recommends the best way to walk around anonymously is using normal glasses rather than shades, and wearing a baseball cap and jeans. He likes the idea of blogging, and encourages us to the focus on the more unusual opportunities that present themselves. When asked to give specific advice to the media students, Nick Owen draws a blank, the conversation now hitting the inevitable brick wall of the gaping time span. He tells us to have positive mind sets, be ourselves, be honest, and attack our careers with a hundred and ten percent (funnily enough, Chris Evans says a similar thing is his biography).

The talk ends with grandeur, as Nick Owen names our previously-nameless TV Studio in Ellen Terry. The little surprise is a rather sweet ending to a sweet little coventry conversation, that was pleasurable to have been a guest at. Whichever way you look at it, Nick Owen has left his mark on Coventry University for quite some time to come.

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