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Where Are You Now?

James Vukmirovic

BA (Hons) Journalism Studies 2003

Position and company: Senior Reporter, Express and Star

James Vukmirovic, 41, from Wolverhampton works as Senior Reporter at the Express and Star, his hometown newspaper.

He said: “I write news stories, features, interviews, and whatever else is needed for my hometown newspaper, covering an area across the Black Country, Staffordshire, and Wyre Forest. I love talking to people and being at places where I can engage them face-to-face and tell their stories. It’s a job that is never boring, put it that way.”

One of James’s greatest professional achievements to date has been being the news correspondent for the 2022 Commonwealth Games for the Express and Star.

James said: “It allowed me to cover the 11 days of the Games, covering events such as the Cycling Time Trial in Wolverhampton and Dudley, the Mountain biking events in Cannock Chase Forest, and the Closing Ceremony at Alexander Stadium, while also providing daily news and commentary content on the Games and, beforehand, the Queen’s Baton Relay and the build-up to the Games.”

He added: “I have been very lucky in my job to meet a lot of people I admire, and, in some cases, I have become friends with them. I have had the chance to interview (and these are just a few of the names): Sir Lenny Henry, Hugh Cornwell, Jacqui Oatley, Denise Lewis, Beverley Knight, Ellie Simmons, Steven Knight, Sir Chris Hoy, Max Whitlock, Lynsey Hooper, members of UB40, Steve Davis, Dennis Taylor, Richard Shelton, Goldie, Robin Ince, Irvine Welsh, Richard Herring, Rob Halford, Justin Moorhouse and Steve Bull, whom I used to be very star-struck by, but now say “Hello Bully, how are you” when I get to chat to him.

“I have also met and interviewed former World Champion Cyclist and commentator Hugh Porter and become friends with him through the work we have done together, so things like that are good.

“No one else in my family works as a journalist or has anything to do with the media, so it’s all been me building ground there.”

On a personal level, James’s biggest achievement was deciding to go back and try to become a journalist in 2018.

He explained: “When I finished my degree in 2003, I had no clue what to do next and, as a result, went into admin work, building up a decent CV, but never actually feeling like it was what I wanted to do. It took me a long time to figure out what to do, then actually go and do the NCTJ qualification in 2018, a decision I have never regretted.”

But with every great success comes a challenge, and leaving a very well-paid job to change careers was daunting for James at the time.

“I was scared, to be honest, about failing and not being able to work in the industry I wanted to work in, so it took a lot of balls to start the NCTJ Qualification and do the work to get there after being comfortable, if not necessarily happy,” he admitted.

Asked what attracted him to the University of Sunderland, James replied honestly that it was The National Hat Society.

The 41-year-old said: “I was looking at clearing after none of my university choices panned out and I ordered a bunch of prospectuses from different universities which did Journalism Studies and Sunderland jumped out to me because of the Hat Society and the idea of being around those people.

“Throw in the fact that the course was really interesting, and I liked the idea of going somewhere like Sunderland as it was a chance to travel and it was an easy decision for me, so when I went to clearing, I had a great phone chat and got offered a place.”

He continued: “My course was very interesting, with TV Studio and Broadcast Radio among my favourite parts. I wasn’t a fan of the academic side, but my subsequent studies have shown me why they are important. It was a great grounding for me, and I look fondly at a lot of my studies at Sunderland.

“I also, like a lot of people who were there between 2000 and 2003, loved going to Wearmouth Bar as it was a friendly and welcoming place where there was always someone you knew to have a drink with or play a game of pool against. I saw the Wolves get promoted there in 2003 and celebrated the way you would expect, so I always loved it and do miss it.”

James’s advice to recent graduates entering the job market is to try to get as much experience as possible by taking placements or volunteering.

“Don’t expect to walk into a top-level job straightaway as there are many other people who are going after the same role and are better qualified than you. Look at what your skills are and what you can offer your employer,” he advised. “Do placements and volunteering and work experience, which will help you create a good impression and keep you fresh in employers’ minds.”

James concluded: “I think it would be nice to be remembered as someone who made a difficult decision to start again and succeeded, although it took me 15 years to get it done, so my legacy or epitaph will probably be: “James Vukmirovic: he got there eventually!”

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