Carol Malia: “If you’re in the public eye…you’ve got to have a certain amount of resilience.”
We spoke to one of the region’s most recognisable women about the excitement of live TV like Look North, staying impartial over Brexit and why she’s never been tempted to leave the North East.
By Jo Dunbar
Carol Malia presents BBC Look North and is one of the most recognised faces in the region.
A journalist for the BBC for over 20 years, Carol Malia began her career as a reporter on the Hartlepool Mail before stints at BBC Radio Cumbria and Tyne Tees Television. She began presenting BBC Look North in 1996 and has covered plenty of notable events for the region including the mass shootings of Derek Bird in Cumbria in 2010; the opening of the Millennium Bridge, the Baltic and the Sage Gateshead; the events surrounding fugitive gunman Raoul Moat in 2010, as well as hosting special debate programmes on the Scottish Independence and Brexit referenda. In 2015 the Duchess of Northumberland made Carol a deputy lieutenant of Northumberland. Carol grew up in Cullercoats, is married with two children and lives in Northumberland.
You have been presenting BBC Look North for almost 23 years, Carol. Do you still get a fizz of nervous energy before live TV?
I have my little tics that I do before we go on air and I wonder if that is related to nerves. I have these things where I straighten my blouse, I straighten my jacket and I check my microphone and the other day I caught myself doing it. But I have been presenting the news for so long that unless something is said in my ear as we go on air, I am ready to go. It rarely happens but when something does happen while we are broadcasting, it is quite exciting and that’s where you earn your money.
In recent years alone there have been some huge news stories – what are your most memorable ones?
I think I have to say Brexit! Right now, of course, Coronavirus is having an effect across the region and it’s still unfolding. But Brexit polarised people on so many levels. On a personal level, it was members of my family who were staunchly on one side and members of my family who were on the other – and there have been rows across the dinner table. As much as a bit of that happened, it has thankfully calmed down now. Across the country there was divide, too, and it struck me how Brexit meant different things to different people, even for those who wanted to leave. Your average man on the street in Sunderland was voting for a different Brexit to the one voted for by perhaps a landowner in Northumberland.
Then there was my role which was split down the middle. I had to be impartial and I made sure that came into discussions with my family. It meant I didn’t have to have any arguments with anyone, and no one could say I had picked a side. I watched friends getting into a bit of a frenzy on Facebook and I was glad I could stay out of it.
I have a cracking job and I think you can always stay ambitious within a role that you are already in. Jobs can get stale if you’re not challenging yourself.
The media landscape has changed hugely during your time presenting Look North. Has social media impacted on what you do?
I think there needs to be more regulation of social media. It’s a huge job. I have received some comments online. If you are in the public eye, you could be Mother Teresa, but you will still get negative comments. People have always been able to get in contact: in the years before social media you’d get the odd letter or the odd email with comments from viewers, so it has always existed. We’ve always been reachable. You’ve got to have a certain amount of resilience and I think that’s what we need to work on. It’s a huge factor with children, too. We are exposing young people to so much more with the internet and now, in 2020, we need to find a solution.
Have you ever had the opportunity to leave the region and work elsewhere?
I was asked to go down for an interview for the new channel when the BBC first set up News 24 but it wasn’t the right time: my then boyfriend had moved up here from London and we were in the first flush and I also had all my family here, my house, the beaches at Tynemouth. I have a cracking job and I think you can always stay ambitious within a role that you are already in. Jobs can get stale if you’re not challenging yourself. In this role I have other opportunities, to help charities and to speak – it’s a great platform and it’s a job that allows me to have more than one role.
What do you enjoy most about the North East, Carol?
It’s got to be the people. There are so many people from the North East now on the national stage which can only be a good thing for the region. When people who aren’t from here come to the region, they love it. They comment on how friendly everybody is, it still mystifies me as to why on earth one or two other parts of the UK aren’t like that because why wouldn’t you be?
North East favourites
At the moment I’m based out near Corbridge so my favourite café is the one above the Corbridge Larder.
I used to live in Newton and the Duke of Wellington pub is somewhere we go back to for Sunday lunch or for a meal out with friends.
Forum books in Corbridge is another favourite, my children would spend hours in there.
I like a browse and the selection of brands at John Lewis at Intu Eldon Square is great. I also shop at Coast, Zara and H&M – they’re not hugely expensive and if I am looking for a posh frock then I might look somewhere slightly more high-end.
Carol Malia presents Look North, North East and Cumbria on BBC One at 6.30pm every night.https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0070g1d