Women in Westminster: In Conversation With Mhari Aurora
Mhari Aurora is a familiar face on Sky News, often bringing viewers the first take on the big breaking overnight business and politics stories. As part of our Women in Westminster series, we sat down with Aurora to learn how an emerging generation of Lobby journalists is opening politics to new audiences.
The way Mhari Aurora describes it, she became a journalist almost by accident.
Just after completing her studies, a local TV channel arrived to film a piece about the gospel choir that she sang with. She watched intently as the crew set up their cameras and carried out interviews. It was a moment of insight that started a journey that has now led to Aurora being one of the first faces many of us see when we switch on the early morning news.
“I can remember watching them talking about what they wanted to film and who they were going to interview,” she recalls. “I thought; I can do that, I would enjoy doing that, and I think I can do it well. It was like the flicking of a switch.”
Aurora’s claim that she “fell into journalism” is typically modest. It is apparent, as she recounts the origins of her career, that there is much more to this story than luck or blind chance. Instead, what comes across is a level of drive and proactivity that allowed her to transform a chance encounter into a first step in a notoriously competitive industry.
Following filming, Aurora approached the producer and asked if there were any work experience opportunities available. The following Monday she, somewhat unexpectedly, found herself interviewing the then Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Yvonne Mosquito.
That sense of agency, of seeking out opportunities and not being afraid to ask for help, emerges as a key theme during our sit-down conversation.
“Ask more questions. Ask for more opportunities” is the advice she offers to others seeking a career in journalism. “When we do brave things nine times out of 10, the results are amazing and we are so glad that we did it.”
Aurora believes that the potential for new voices to take ownership of their destinies and find a space to be heard is increasingly enabled by digital technology. She is part of an emerging generation of younger journalists in the Lobby who have grown up in a world of social media, rolling news, and digital storytelling. She is confident that, for the next generation, this will lead to increased opportunities for more diverse voices to establish themselves in the industry.
“Don’t wait for a ‘golden ticket opportunity’, do your own thing,” she says. “People should just go for it and not wait around. Create your own content. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
As a journalist who developed her craft working for online platforms, it is unsurprising that Aurora is such a passionate advocate for the role that technology can play in making the news relevant, accessible, and engaging for new audiences.
“Too many people think politics is boring, but digital helps to tell a story in a way that makes it real and relatable,” she explains to PoliticsHome. “Digital offers endless different ways to tell your story so people can get as much or as little as they want on their terms. They are in charge of when and how they engage.”
It is a philosophy that shaped Aurora’s reporting as a correspondent for Sky News’s Early Rundown show. In that role, she demonstrated an enviable knack for conveying often highly complex stories that exist at the intersection of business and politics to viewers in a way that is clear, accessible, and always engaging. It is a talent that will now be seen in a new role at Sky News, with Aurora recently joining the Kay Burley Breakfast show on the channel.
Although Aurora is a thoroughly modern journalist, she is also acutely aware that previous waves of women working across Westminster delivered changes that she and others now benefit from.
It is striking that, throughout our conversation, Aurora often talks more about her fellow journalists than she does about herself. Although clearly identified as part of the new and emerging generation of female talent, Aurora fully acknowledges that the space she operates in has been created by a previous generation that has fashioned a culture that is supportive and collegiate.
“When it comes to Lobby journalists, there are so many incredible women,” she says. “There is a bit of a sisterhood. We all work for different outlets and we are technically competing for stories, but we are all women working in the same environment. So, we look out for each other.”
That culture of solidarity is something that Aurora values and now contributes to. She recalls how hugely experienced journalist Pippa Crerar took the time to show her around on her first day in the Lobby. She also speaks warmly of other senior female journalists who have created a culture where those at an early stage of their career feel hugely supported.
I ask whether this is a sign that the sometimes-toxic culture that is often associated with UK politics is changing. Aurora pauses before acknowledging that whilst there has been some progress, more work needs to be done.
“It is very widely spoken about,” she tells PoliticsHome referring to the fact that many women have had negative and troubling experiences across Westminster. “That is very much a reality and something you are aware of all the time. There are some things about Parliament that are weird that make it so wonderful. But there are always things we can improve to make Parliament safer and more welcoming for everyone.”
It is a mantle that Aurora and others are ready to pick up to continue the work that previous generations have started.
“So many amazing women have already done half of the job,” she explains. “We have a duty to continue that good work. We can’t just reap the benefits and not do anything. That is not fair. We have to pay it forward. That is our duty. That is our responsibility.”
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.