His best advice, he said, was to never turn away from job opportunities:
"If a door is a quarter open then always go through it – there is nothing worse than having regrets."
More than 60 students, studying to become reporters, presenters, producers, and film crew, packed a lecture theatre to hear how Owen began his career on the Surrey Mirror weekly newspaper. He advanced to work for national newspapers and then the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4, before returning in 2006 to take up his current role as a BBC newsreader.
Princess Diana's death, he said, was probably the biggest story that he worked on and it was at a time when he was royal correspondent for ITV News. To this day he still felt sadness about the death of a woman who, he said, was one of the easier members of the Royal Family to interview. Others, he said, were not quite so easy. He wouldn't name names, but, he did name his favourite royal – the Queen.
Nicholas Owen was welcomed at Hastings by senior lecturer Jackie Errigo (left), and principal lecturer Jo Macdonnell.
The author of several books, including his recently-published biography Days Like This, Owen said he had enjoyed every day of his 50 years in journalism, although some were better than others. Always make sure your mic and the cameras are switched off before relaxing after presenting, he said. After one exceptionally busy broadcast, he sunk his head into his hands and cried 'Oh my God', unaware millions of viewers were still watching.
Owen lamented the decline of newspapers but said they and the major TV stations were still the touchstones for reliable news reporting: Reporting via social media was revolutionising the business, he said, but the quality of information was often unreliable.
Nicholas Owen talking to students in Hastings.
He advised students never to lose integrity:
"If people ask you to do something you seriously disagree with, talk to them about doing something different."
Students later Tweeted: "Fantastic talk by Nick Owen … what a lovely man with brilliant advice." Another read: "Great lecture … what an inspirational man!"
Graduates from Hastings media courses have gone on to work for the likes of BT Sport, LBC Radio, EastEnders, Holby City and Tom Cruise movies, and Joanna MacDonnell, leader of the FdA (foundation degree) Broadcast Media and the FdA Television Production courses, said Owen's talk would inspire the current student cohort.
She said: "It was a fantastic afternoon and it was an honour and pleasure to welcome a journalist with such an amazing career and with such useful insights for the students."