Simon Hall with permission for Varsity

"Oh, well – how to summarise 20, 25 years in the media? Possibly the most extraordinary, rewarding and fulfilling career anyone could wish for." Simon Hall’s enthusiasm for news, broadcasting and journalism shines through in his answer to my opening question. A broadcaster for the BBC for over twenty years, Simon’s career has seen him report on some of the most major news headlines from the last two decades. Perhaps, then, it is unfair of me to ask him to pinpoint just a handful of highlights. But, as Simon knows, sometimes you have to ask tricky questions.

“Sometimes you have to ask tricky questions”

"There are two stories that always stay in my mind, and they’re from very different corners of human life – and I’ll tell you the sad one first.’ The first story Simon tells me, the sad one, is from the 7th July 2005: the day of the 7/7 bombings. Simon recalls starting the day in Weymouth, reporting on the previous day’s announcement of the success of London’s 2012 bid. Then, around 8am, reports of an incident on the London Underground began coming in. "As we were driving towards London, I remember one of those travel signs on the side of the road that normally have ‘Slow Down’ or ‘Beware of Debris’, or whatever. And it said simply ‘Avoid London, Area Closed’." Understandably, Simon describes the rest of that day as somewhat of a blur. Even so, he still considers it "probably my most powerful memory from all [my] days of covering stories."

The second stand-out moment Simon shares is a happier memory. Going back to 1999, Simon recalls being sent to Alderney to cover the total eclipse – a report which was nearly ruined by the famously unreliable British weather. "All the way through, up to the moment of totality, the weather was teasing us", Simon explains, recalling the hushed anticipation of his crew and the accompanying scientists. Luckily, the clouds cleared at just the right time: "it was the most beautiful moment, both for the vision in the heavens, but also for that shared human delight at seeing something which – it’s an old cliché – [...] genuinely was a once in a lifetime experience".

“Writing is a wonderful thing which is so often underrated”

Although his resume is enviable to many, Simon admits he didn’t always know it would end up this way. "I wish I’d had a plan when I was young", he jokes, "I ended up in the media by fluke." He tracks his career from the beginning: from being a club DJ, to local radio, and finally to radio news. "Secretly I would tell you [that] although I spent most of my career in TV, [...] radio was always my first love." Simon’s love of radio is also a love for communications, something which led him to start his company, Creative Warehouse, and lead the Compelling Communication Skills course at the University of Cambridge. "Fundamentally I’m a writer, I think I’ve always been a writer." Speaking on how this fits into the world of communications, Simon says, "writing is a wonderful thing which is so often underrated – and that can be writing a book, [or] a story for a newspaper, but it can also be a website, [or] a little social media post."

Speaking on the importance of teaching students communication skills, Simon comments on the gap in the current curriculum. "I think we miss out on teaching something which is really important [...] sometimes there is this problem, that we equip our young people with great learning, great knowledge, great ability – [but] if our graduate can’t present their findings well, then we’re failing them because we’re not giving them the tools to show what they can do." This passion has already paid off, as evidenced by a recent interaction with an ex-student. "I [recently] had someone [on the course] who got promoted to the top post in their organisation and they just sent me a note, completely unexpectedly, saying, ‘that was largely because of you’."

“I suspect people have always struggled to communicate”

Asked whether struggles to communicate are a modern-day problem, Simon acknowledges the unique challenges presented by the age of social media, but maintains the idea that communication has always been a problem for many. "I suspect people have always struggled to communicate", Simon notes, citing the enduring popularity of Dale Carnegie’s 1936 self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People. "Perhaps, at the moment because of social media and the busyness of life, it’s even more of a challenge", he says, noting the brevity needed to successfully sell yourself in the modern day. "Just keep it simple and your communication becomes far, far more effective."


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Although an accomplished journalist, author and educator, Simon is remarkably humble. Looking towards the future, his hopes centre on sharing his own experiences to help others achieve their goals. "A hard-work ethos is critical, but also [is] having a little bit of cheek [...] just be bold – the worst thing that’s going to happen is someone’s going to say no." On the hopes for the future of the Compelling Communication Skills course, Simon shares his hope of continuing to "improve and adapt the course so it just gets better and better, and in so doing, is able to continue helping people all across the world."