Q&A with Alexandra Hartley (ITV Wales)

I was so pleased to interview my very good friend Alexandra Hartley today. Not only is she a great friend from school, she is also a very well-known TV presenter and reporter on ITV Wales, where she has worked for four years.

H: Thanks for allowing me to interview you, so tell me a little bit about your role at ITV Wales.

A: Every day is different. I report on local news stories in Wales covering issues like politics, health, crime, sport, human interest, education, social care and much much more. I also regularly present the early, late and lunchtime bulletins as well as occasionally anchoring the main News at Six flagship programme.

H: Very impressive. Sounds like a busy and exciting role. Thinking back to when you first realised you were pregnant, how did you feel with regards to work?

A: My job is quite physically demanding as I’m often on the road and filming my own stories, so I was worried I would have to take a back seat on less exciting stories and take on more of a planning role in the office.  I was also worried about the impact taking time off would have on my progression – especially as I’d just started presenting the main programme.

H: I can imagine, so did you feel nervous about telling work then?

A: I was nervous about the perception some people in the office would have about me being pregnant as most people with children don’t have an onscreen role at ITV Wales.  However, I was given a lot of support from my line manager, who aside from pointing out the health and safety issues, made sure I could continue to report and pursue opportunities as much as I wanted. I even presented the main programme in all my pregnant glory during my last week at work. Likewise, my boss has children and was delighted with the news.  I think anyone who has children knows what a life changing but rewarding privilege it is.

H: Sounds like you had plenty of support at work which is fabulous, so was it all rosy?

A: Well towards the end of my pregnancy I had to put my foot down with doing certain stories, especially if they required long distance travel.  I felt bad turning down jobs or putting the burden on other colleagues to gather things for my reports– but it was unrealistic for me to lug around heavy camera gear and film on my own with a massive belly.  Plus the fatigue of pregnancy hit me hard.  I like to think most people understood, but when the deadline is looming, the priority is often getting the job done rather than how it affects the individual. It’s a real team effort to get things to air and I felt bad if I couldn’t always give my all.

H: Do you ever worry your maternity leave will hold you back in your career?

A: Journalism is a fast paced and very competitive industry.  There’s plenty of people desperate to do the job I do – and for less money.  So in that sense, I am very replaceable which can be worrying.  I also worry people at the same level as me now will easily be promoted within the year I’m off – leaving me behind and having to prove myself when I eventually return.  However, I have worked at ITV for 4 years now and do feel I’ve established myself as a trusted and versatile member of the team, so I hope my fears are unfounded.

H: I don’t think you are alone in these fears. I think everyone worries about this to some extent. I know I have done. It’s hard just taking a step back and knowing that things will carry on around you, whether you are in the role or not.

A: Yeah I know. I am lucky to really love my job, so I do worry about really missing it.  I get so much satisfaction in telling people’s stories and delivering reports in creative and engaging ways.  I also love the travel, the people I get to meet from all backgrounds and the experiences I get from such a diverse job.  It will be very strange for that not to be my life for a while, but I’m also very excited about the new challenges and experiences I’ll have as a mum.  I know this time will be very precious and I feel very lucky to be able to have it.

H: Do you worry you would ever lose your identity?

A: Yes.  My job is part of who I am.  I love the challenge, the buzz of the deadlines, the constant learning, the creativity of writing and editing reports together, not to mention all the people I get to meet and different things I get to learn on a daily basis.  My job is fast pace and exciting and often all consuming.  However, I think having a baby will give me a lot of perspective and my priorities are likely to shift dramatically.  I hope in the end it will make me a better journalist.

H: Well I definitely agree with that. Since having Amelia I have really started to get a new perspective on mums and specifically working mums. I have a completely new understanding on what it means to multitask and how one can adapt to new situations, meet new people and learn new things. It’s amazing really. So how do you think you will cope going back to work after mat leave?

A: I think I will inevitably feel like I can’t remember how to do my job or I’m not capable of stringing a sentence together let alone doing a live report but I’m hoping I’ll have a new found confidence knowing that giving birth and raising a child is probably one of the most challenging things I could do – hopefully everything else will seem possible! And after all, it’s just tele!

H: Agreed, that’s one of my biggest takeaways I think. Aside from the fact I do struggle now to have a ‘grown up conversation’ not about babies, I just had no idea how hard motherhood would be and how challenging it would be to perfect this new role. Ultimately we’re all pretty good at our jobs and have had plenty of time to perfect them, but this new role of mum will take years to perfect (if that’s even possible)!

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