40 OVER 40 Sam McAlister

June 04, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

40 0ver 40 logo  copy 240 0ver 40 logo copy 2

 

#17

Sam McAlister

Author, Public Speaker and responsible for that Price Andrew Interview

 

Sam McAlister by Jenny SmithSam McAlisterby Jenny Smith

 

If you've watched the brilliant Netflix film 'Scoop' staring Gillian Anderson and Billie Piper, you will know all about Sam McAlister, the woman behind Newsnight's game changing interview with Prince Andrew.  The second I finished watching it I searched for Sam on instagram and messaged her to see if she would consider being in my 40 OVER 40 project.  When she replied with a yes I think I actually punched the air.

Now that I've met Sam in the flesh I can tell you how accurately Billie Piper's portrayal of her really is.  She's bold, confident and funny as well as being incredibly polite, kind and considerate. A woman who knows what she wants and isn't afraid of taking chances in life. Everything this project is here to celebrate.  

Sam's life has taken an about-turn on more than one occasion.  Once a lawyer she soon realised this wasn't the job for her and set about looking for a new career. She tried a few things but landed on journalism and eventually a job as a producer at BBC's Newsnight.  It was Sam's skill at building trust that lead her to booking the biggest guest of her career, Prince Andrew, which in turn took her life in yet another direction. She ended up writing her book Scoops: Behind the Scenes of the BBC's Most Shocking Interviews where she spills the beans on what it was like booking guests such as Sheryl Sandberg, President Clinton, Elon Musk, Julian Assange and of course, Prince Andrew.

Sam is such an inspiring woman and left me feeling more confident in my own career choices, confirming that it's OK to take calculated risks in life, even if those risks don't pay off.

Thank you Sam for being one of my 40 women over 40!

 

Sam McAlister by Jenny SmithSam McAlisterby Jenny Smith

 

1. You really stood your ground at the BBC which is not an easy thing to do as a woman in an institution like that.  Did you feel different to your colleagues and how do you think that helped or hindered you?

I was never bothered that I felt different to my colleagues — that feeling had accompanied me all my life, since I started law school, and through many years of employment. Being able to look at things differently, or work without worrying about what people think of you, is a superpower in a traditional institution. It sets you apart. So, while it may sometimes hinder progression, it’s the only way I know how to be. 

 

Sam McAlister by Jenny SmithSam McAlisterby Jenny Smith

 

2. This project celebrates strong and inspiring women. What women have inspired you over the years? 

The woman who most inspired me is my Mum. Sadly, sometimes that’s the only woman who you know has truly got your back.

 

Sam McAlister by Jenny SmithSam McAlisterby Jenny Smith

 

3. Being a single parent isn’t easy as a working woman but it's also an incredible motivator, how do you think motherhood impacted your career? 

Motherhood got me to Newsnight. When I returned to the BBC after having my son, my boss at Radio 4 wouldn’t let me return to my former full time job as a part time worker and put me in a very dull department called ‘development’ so I had to find something new to do. That ended up being Newsnight. All the hits I’ve taken over the years have always turned into a better opportunity. I had to leave the BBC to write my book 'Scoops' as they wouldn’t let me do it as staff and that turned into a Netflix movie, so BBC hurdles have been kind to me. 

 

Sam McAlister by Jenny SmithSam McAlisterby Jenny Smith

 

You are rightly proud of your working class roots, do you think your background informed your career choices?

Of course, I am resolutely middle class now, but having the peril of needing to pay the bills, and having to start from nothing, with no contacts or favours I could pull, has made me a grafter who knows that my success is based on merit, not privilege, and I feel proud of that.

 

Caroline Jones by Jenny SmithCaroline Jonesby Jenny Smith

 

The Prince Andrew documentary changed everything at the very top of the royal family, and you made that happen.  What does that feel like and what advice would you give to other young women starting out and finding their own voices?

It felt amazing to work on something that ended up being a huge part of our country’s journalistic history — and obviously hugely important for the BBC and Newsnight also. Of course, if he had said 'no’ no one would have known about me or my work. I loved my job and believed that what I did mattered, so my advice would be to chase your dreams and enjoy them, even if they don’t come to something this momentous. Enjoying the work is the really important part. 
 

Sam McAlister by Jenny SmithSam McAlisterBy Jenny Smith

 

How has your life changed since the film came out?

It’s been an incredible experience and I’m hugely grateful for every second. The best part is being stopped by people, or contacted, with them saying how much they enjoyed the movie and how it reminded them of the importance of their work.
  

Sam McAlister by Jenny SmithSam McAlisterby Jenny Smith

 

What advice would you give to other women wanting a career change later on in life?

My advice is to plan. My past few years looks seamless — book agent, book deal, documentary for Channel 4, Netflix deal, but that's one in a billion. I had ensured I had enough funds to throw the dice for two years and I have worked every day, and weekend, without a break for the past thirty months. If you can’t afford to eat, the plan isn’t worth trying until you can.

 

Sam McAlister by Jenny SmithSam McAlisterby Jenny Smith

 

What a woman! Thank you Sam for being part of the 40 OVER 40 project.

 

I think it's fair to say that our hormones have affected us all at some time in our lives be it puberty, PMT, pregnancy or the menopause.  If that's you then check out my podcast, Dear Hormones, hopefully it'll make you smile. You can listen to it here.
 


Comments

No comments posted.
Loading...

Archive
January February March April May June July August September October (7) November (4) December (2)
January (2) February (1) March (2) April May June (1) July August September (2) October November December (3)
January February March April (1) May June July August (1) September October November December
January (1) February March April May June July August September October (1) November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September (1) October (2) November (2) December (2)
January February March (1) April May June (1) July (1) August September October (1) November (1) December (1)
January February March April May June July (1) August September (1) October November December
January February March April (1) May (1) June (2) July August September October November December