UTV’s Sarah Clarke has covered everything from the Saville Inquiry to the Pope’s UK visit in 2010 and is an important part of the station’s core news team alongside Marc Mallet, Paul Clark and Rose Neill.
The smiling presenter and journalist enjoys both presenting and compiling the news and is a regular face on TV screens across the province, always groomed to perfection with her slick blonde hair and chic outfits, never fluffing her lines and always on point.
Diligent Sarah, 37, grew up on the scenic north coast and was a pupil at Coleraine High School. The youngest of four, she had what she describes as a “very happy” upbringing and remembers spending plenty of time outdoors with her siblings. Studying English, French and history at A-level she rose to become deputy head girl – “I was never head girl because I always had holes in my tights and I used to do my own highlights until my mum took me to get them done properly,” she recalls.
Sarah went on to graduate in law and French from Queen’s University Belfast and made the decision to become a journalist after qualifying as a solicitor; she had hoped to be called to the bar but when this failed journalism seemed an excellent choice as Sarah had always had a keen interest in the media.
“I think studying law definitely helped me with journalism in that I was very used to reading a lot of material and having to distil that into the salient points. Criminal law is fascinating and being well versed in libel laws is obviously very helpful for a journalist. It helped me to become quite meticulous and organised.”
After studying journalism Sarah worked for the Irish News and BBC Radio Ulster before landing her first full-time staff job as a radio news journalist at U105 in 2005. “Jobs in journalism are like hen’s teeth. I was just delighted to have one and I really enjoyed working my way up to begin presenting UTV Live at Six in 2009. Before that I was doing freelance shifts, continuity announcements, whatever I could do to get ahead. It was a gradual progression from radio to TV and I had a great grounding here learning as I progressed my way up to live TV.”
Sarah confesses that she loves working in television news and this is the medium in which she is most comfortable.
“I love working on TV but I also love being thoroughly involved in production. I love presenting, I love being out there getting my teeth stuck into a live story, I love being on the road, I love getting the story and I love working in production, I love being able to tell people stories and the beauty of television is that you get to tell that story visually. You’re telling stories with pictures, you’re trying to keep it visual and eloquent.”
What does she most love about her job?
“Just everything. Every day is different and there’s so much variety in working in production and in presenting stories on UTV Live. No two days are ever the same.”
What are some of the stories she has most enjoyed presenting?
“The Royal wedding of William and Kate was very special. I remember being out on the mall and there was just this palpable energy of expectation and excitement before Kate arrived. It was an incredible atmosphere. There was this palpable sense of admiration for Kate. There was a big cheer that went up with the arrival of the Queen and Prince Philip but when Kate’s carriage arrived it was this huge cheer of jubilation, admiration and excitement. The whole day was remarkable. Kate is stunning and has a lovely elegance to her.
“The Pope’s visit to Scotland was also pretty outstanding. More recently the Northern Ireland homecoming from the Euros - being there while they were greeted by the thousands and thousands of fans was spectacular.
There are big moments that stick in your mind.
“But every day you start afresh and it’s like, right, we have a half-hour programme to fill and six or seven hours to turn that around. I do enjoy the adrenaline and the way things can move very quickly but equally I enjoy working on more long-range projects like the documentary [A New Order] I’m working on at the minute.
“I always have a degree of nervousness before we go live but I think you need that in order to preform well. I think the instant you lose that nervousness is when you would be in trouble because it gives you the energy and the drive to give live presentation your very best shot.”
Away from the studio Sarah is married to Rory and mum to Daniel, 6, and four-year-old Emily.
What does Sarah enjoy in her time off?
“I love yoga. Fashion. Going out for a meal with Rory. Taking the kids out for a nice trip to the park or up to my mum and dad’s on the north coast. The kids have so many activities, Emily does ballet and Daniel does football and there are always birthday parties every other weekend.”
Sarah laughs as she recalls how her son Daniel, when asked how he would describe his mum said: “big, bossy and funny!”
Asked who she would invite to a dream dinner party Sarah includes Jane Austen, former US president Barack Obama, Pope Francis and Irish comedian Sharon Horgan.
“My most valued possessions are photos of my children and family,” she confides. “I love cosy nights in with Rory and the kids rather than nights out.
“Being with my loved ones and seeing my kids happy is what makes me truly happy.
“I always try to take my mum’s advice and just try to live in the moment.”