Presenting: Doing Radio & Being A News Anchor with Caroline Feraday

Caroline Feraday talks all things US vs UK presenting work, the joys of presenting the news on radio and TV

Spotlight asked LA-based Brit Caroline Feraday about her experiences as a radio and TV news presenter, including the top skills you need for success on the job. Caroline joined London radio station Capital FM at the age of 18, and has been working as a presenter, news anchor, stand-up comic, entertainment reporter and more, ever since.  

 

     

 

You have got to be a grafter and pretty good at operating on zero sleep.
Caroline Feraday

Hi Caroline! You’ve got a varied set of experience in the industry to date – can you tell us about your background and what you enjoy doing best?

I guess I do, but I think they all come under the umbrella of story-telling. I was always a story-teller, I used to stand in front of my class aged 8 and present the news to them and I would spend my break times making up plays and dancing and them ask to perform them to the class, so I was always very comfortable being stood at the front with people watching.

I started to fall in love with radio in my early teens and began DJ-ing locally, and had a little business doing parties while I was at school and college. I did radio and journalism at college, and was already working for my local radio stations in Kent by then and then I landed a job in the newsroom of 95.8 Capital FM London when I was 18. My colleagues were Chris Tarrant, Neil Fox, Tony Blackburn – all legends in the business, and I was working where people in the business aspire during their whole careers to get a gig at, so I was really lucky they took a chance on me. I became the ‘Flying Eye’ traffic reporter, in the days before GPS on every dashboard, and part of the breakfast and drivetime shows for 6 years. I also had my own shows and would co-present breakfast in the studio for 12 weeks of the year when Tarrant was off, so I was juggling a lot from the start. People heard me and liked me, which is where the voice overs and TV started.

I moved from music radio to speech station BBC Radio Five Live – super prestigious BBC station and loved getting better use of my journalism background. Eventually I ended up living in LA.

I’m also super inquisitive, interested in people and love to ask questions, and they are pretty helpful skills. The other basics are being able to talk to time, and not panicking – it never helps.
Caroline Feraday

What made you want to do presenting work in the first place? Some presenters I’ve spoken to have suggested that they wanted to be actors first, then fell into presenting – was this the case for you?

I don’t know if it was ever a conscious decision, I was just so in love with radio… and turned being me into something I earned money from. I have pretty much always had my own shows – even now in LA where I have a podcast called Brits In The Wood. It’s not trying to fill anyone else’s boots, I’m just being me and hoping I don’t get found out. I love working live, and I enjoy entertaining people. I’m the same off air.

It’s interesting with acting and presenting as I think they are very different skills and even the best actors in the world fail to master both – look at the Academy Awards where you have all these famous actors who become very uncomfortable when they are out of character. Acting is all about finding a character, about being someone else, and the freedom which comes with that. Presenting is about being your authentic self. And certainly with live television it’s about being the swan on the surface, when it’s chaos in your ear-piece, and never letting the audience know that things are not going to plan. You never know what’s coming. You have to be a person who thrives on that.

Can you explain a little about your training – how did you gather the skills to become a presenter? Are there any key skills you think are essential (for instance, it’s very common to come via a journalism route)?

I started super young, local radio, hospital radio etc – trying to find any way I could to get myself on air – and yes, have a solid journalism background. It’s so important to have that grounding in what I do. Particularly when taking callers on the air - you have to make speedy decisions about what should and shouldn’t be broadcast.

I’m also super inquisitive, interested in people and love to ask questions, and they are pretty helpful skills. The other basics are being able to talk to time, and not panicking – it never helps.

What about headshots and showreels? How important are they, and how often do you update them?

Yes, they’re important. No, I don’t update them nearly enough myself. I’m glad I can edit though, saves you a fortune if you can do it yourself. I’ve taken to separating out my work now rather than mixing it up, so I have a news reel, a stand-up reel, one which shows reporting and another one doing entertainment shows. My experience is that there’s no substitute for being present. I generally get work from doing work, more than from having a stylish expensive headshot. But I guess bookers need to know what you look like.

The reality is that I’ve missed a lot of things too, and any time I book a holiday I’ll get offered a great gig – it’s some sort of mad law of physics. If you’re low on work, try booking a vacation, I guarantee you’ll get a big job that clashes!
Caroline Feraday

You spent a lot of time working in the UK before moving to the US – how would you compare the process of getting work in the US vs UK? What are they key industry differences?

The US is more audition led, which is a good thing but can be exhausting and demoralising too. The UK is very reality-star led now, and that’s a great way to get familiar with the audience and the channel. There’s some good people who have come through reality – I think Mark Wright is a talent, for example. But there are also some car-crashes who should not be on TV. They tried it here, and used a reality star for a big network show and it was a disaster, so they do respect the skills more and book people on that basis. I do find the look in the US to be far more old-fashioned than the UK – it’s changing but can be quite dated, and a bit Anchorman. An older man, with a young glam woman with the exact same hairstyle as everyone else. I thrive on being a little bit different. No one can be a better you, after all.

Presenting (and performing in general) often seems to be about spinning lots of plates at once – how do you maintain a work/life balance? What are the realities of this kind of work that people might not realise? Are there certain traits that you think help with success on the job?

It certainly is. I went for a chat with students at my former college a couple of years ago, all media students – I was getting up at 3.30am daily to do the morning news on BBC 1 in the South East at the time and one shook her head and said she would never do that. That’s the job. It has anti-social hours, but so does nursing, and there’s a lot less urine in broadcasting. My work definitely was my life, probably still is, but I’ve always enjoyed balancing it out. The reality is that I’ve missed a lot of things too, and any time I book a holiday I’ll get offered a great gig – it’s some sort of mad law of physics.  If you’re low on work, try booking a vacation, I guarantee you’ll get a big job that clashes!

You have got to be a grafter and pretty good at operating on zero sleep. I’d often do a full day of TV news, and then do a radio show on BBC London from 2am to 6am. It’s hard to say no, you always worry they might not ask again. Plus I enjoy it, so if I can, I will. And if I can’t, I’ll find a way that I can and will.

What’s been the highlight and the lowlight of your career so far?

I loved my BBC London show! You don’t get to make radio that way anymore, it was so irreverent and creative and we took it to number one in London, which it wasn’t when I took over. I love Radio 2, so when I got to do some stuff for them I thought stick a fork in me, I’m done. But I think that with most things, ‘if I just do this once then it’s more than I ever dreamed of.’ I’m just a girl from Kent who dreamed about working in radio, so every time I get a chance to do that, or something else, I am as excited and happy to just be there even once, and never take it for granted.

Interviewing my heroes is always fun – I did Steve Carrell and Kristen Wiig recently and that was a real moment for me as I love them both so much. I’m in the Groundlings core track in the US, which Kristen also went to, and so many more. Performing on the Groundlings Main Stage, and also the Main Stage at the Comedy Store in LA were real highlights. The Comedy Store in LA was the third gig I did here!

Lowlight? Probably some Flying Eye competition winners throwing up while I was trying to be on the radio. It was pretty bumpy up there.


Thanks to Caroline for talking to us! See more of what she's up to on Twitter

Image Credits: BBC London and Sky News