How Jess is following in the footsteps of BBC's much-loved Len Tingle

Jess Forrester was awarded an internship at the BBC set up in memory of Len Tingle.
Jess Forrester was awarded an internship at the BBC set up in memory of Len Tingle.
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The influence of BBC Yorkshire’s late Political Editor Len Tingle has been living on through a journalism scholarship launched in his name. Chris Burn reports.

The high regard in which Len Tingle was held across the political spectrum was demonstrated by the range of tributes to the “gentle giant of politics in Yorkshire” from the likes of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to Conservative Cabinet minister Julian Smith following his death in April 2018 from stomach cancer at the age of 63.

Tingle, from Cudworth near Barnsley, had been BBC Yorkshire’s Political Editor for 17 years before his death. He had lived in the Huddersfield area for many years and was also a regular voice on various BBC local radio stations including BBC Radio Leeds, BBC Radio Sheffield and BBC Radio York.

Earlier this year, it was announced by his wife Angela that BBC Yorkshire was launching an internship scheme in his memory to support the next generation of young journalists.

“So many people have spoken to me about how he helped and advised them,” she explained at the time. “He had talked about training young journalists when he retired, for him journalism was a passion not a job. This is a way for his dedication to the industry and desire to help others to carry on in his name.”

Obituary: Len Tingle
The eight-week placement was awarded to Leeds University broadcast journalism student Jess Forrester, who has now been taken on by the BBC on a freelance basis after recently finishing the internship.

Jess, who has just turned 22 and is originally from Wigan but now lives in Huddersfield, says it was an honour to be chosen for the internship after the scheme was opened to students at seven Yorkshire universities that run a journalism degree.

“I had heard of Len and seen some of his work on Look North. But when the placement came about some of my lecturers spoke out about incredible he was at his job,” she says. “The main thing was his ability to make politics understandable and relatable to people in Yorkshire. Everybody he worked with has spoken to me about how lovely and kind he was. I really couldn’t believe it when I got offered the scholarship. It sounds like a cliché but I honestly couldn’t. I had gone for it thinking I need more experience applying for these kinds of jobs. When they rang me, I was just amazed, I was absolutely elated.”

She says she didn’t feel pressure from following in Tingle’s footsteps but it added to her determination to do well in the placement. “I had it in my mind that I needed to throw myself wholeheartedly into the experience but I would have done that anyway. Everybody has been so lovely and supportive.”

Forrester says that she developed an interest in journalism as a young age, partly because she was an only child. “My mum and dad have always encouraged me to be imaginative and tell stories. Until I went to school, I was entertaining myself by telling stories and writing poems. As I grew older, I realised I was more interested in telling other people’s stories.”

She says one of the highlights of her time on the placement was being part of the Look North team that went down to Westminster on the day Boris Johnson was announced as Prime Minister. “It was amazing to interview MPs and be there on College Green when it happened.”

Forrester says one of the things that she has learnt on the placement is that even senior journalists can make mistakes after being told a story when Tingle went out for an interview but got out-of-sync with his recording meaning that when he got back to the office he realised all he had on tape was himself chatting on breaks between questions.

She says the placement has made her realise it is her ambition to be a producer after learning more about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating television journalism.

The story idea that helped win her the placement - an investigation into access to children’s mental health services in Yorkshire - is soon due to be shown on the Sunday Politics show on BBC One.

“I knew what I wanted it to look like and be like but didn’t really know how to go about it. It makes me feel really proud of myself that my story idea is being taken seriously.”