If there’s a common thread to Vicky Spratt’s work as a journalist, it’s that she tends to focus on human-interest stories that give a voice to the marginalised and underrepresented, covering everything from politics and feminism, to gender and sexuality. After cutting her teeth as a political producer at the BBC, where she worked on flagship current affairs programmes including Newsnight and Daily Politics, Vicky is now Features Editor at The Debrief – where she’s undertaken the oh-so-small task of spearheading their #MakeRentingFair campaign to ban exploitative letting agent fees (about frickin’ time). And then there’s the radio show she recently started presenting on NTS Radio, a weekly exploration of people's attitudes to sex and sexuality. In between campaigning for renters' rights and delving into the sex lives of the British public, she found a bit of time to tell me how she maintains a sense of balance, and why she does what she does.
ON HOW SHE GOT STARTED AS A JOURNALIST
I think I always knew I wanted to write – it's the only way I’m able to make sense of life. When I'm not writing everything feels kind of out of sync. After university I tried to get several jobs as a journalist, applying for all of the grad schemes etcetera – and didn't get any of them. I kept writing for different publications whilst doing a whole host of other jobs... and then one day the balance kind of tipped and journalism was my main source of income.
JOURNALISM AS STORYTELLING
Writing is really where I get the most satisfaction. I love crafting a piece, getting each sentence right. Interviewing people from all walks of life is a real privilege and I try to get their stories right. I enjoyed my time in TV and radio as well for the same reason, and you'd be surprised at how similar TV, radio and online are – it's all about finding stories, crafting narratives and getting the right visuals to support them.
CURRENTLY WORKING ON…
As always, I’m probably what most people would describe as 'over-committed' right now. This year has been a big year at The Debrief, as we've been working on a campaign to get letting fees banned for renters in England, as they are in Scotland. The attention it's received has been phenomenal – I've been on BBC News to talk about it, and the Lib Dems have also got behind it. One of their peers, Baroness Olly Grender, has included the campaign in her Renters’ Rights Bill, which is currently going through the House of Lords. I've also been asked to speak alongside the current Housing Minister at the Conservative Party conference this autumn, which will be…interesting.
Another project that I've been working on has recently gone live – I started recording a documentary style chat show with my friend Rose Payne for NTS Radio almost a year ago, and it's now in full swing. It’s called Talk Dirty and it's all about sex and sexuality, the premise being that sex is one of the few things that all people have in common, and yet we still find it so difficult to talk about it. We spoke to people of different genders, sexualities and backgrounds about issues ranging from identity to the politics of porn and their day-to-day relationships (or lack thereof).
HER HIGHLIGHTS REEL
The best bits are the people I meet every day - from the talented women I work with, to the people I interview. I do this job because I believe in the power of other people's stories and the importance of telling them - I'm endlessly fascinated by people and by life in all of its complexity.
"I do this job because I believe in the power of other people's stories and the importance of telling them."
I've never really thought about having a 'female network', because I've always been lucky enough to be surrounded by incredibly talented women – they are the people who’ve stayed with me through school and university, and into adult life. You tend to gravitate towards people who are similar to you, who bring positive energy to your life and with whom you have a lot in common - networks form quite naturally in that way, I think.
WORDS OF WISDOM
I do think there's something to be said for success without struggle - not just in your work life, but in everything you do. Things can be tough, and I believe in pushing for what you believe in – but equally, I do think that if something’s turning into a battle that becomes draining, it's worth taking a step back and asking yourself why you're fighting it.
MAINTAINING A SENSE OF BALANCE
This is something I have to work at every week. I try to keep one day at the weekend as a phone-free zone. It's important to be connected, but it's equally important to be present in the moment, and remember that you're no good to anyone if you're spread too thinly and trying to do a million things at once. No matter what, remember to carve out alone time to reflect and regroup – because you'll never be as productive as you can be if you don't. It's easy to feel that you should be working all of the time, but down time is equally important.