Monthly Archives: June 2020
Dealing with breaking news
This week the front and back pages of newspapers have been filled with news of Liverpool Football Club being crowned Premier League champions. However, in what seems like an eternity ago – but was actually just a week beforehand – I was getting some other sport breaking news to air. In what is a big story in my patch of Cumbria, Barrow AFC were promoted to the English Football League for the first time in 48 years.
Many followers of current affairs will be familiar with “breaking news” as a banner on news channels or smartphone push notifications to describe anything new or developments to an existing story. That’s one take which somewhat dilutes the term, I think. The kind I’ll be discussing in this blog post is the sort that, as a radio producer, makes you completely rethink a programme and turn items in a running order around.
Breaking news is the bread and butter of journalism; it’s something to be enthusiastic about, rather than panic. These are often times when we produce some of the audience’s most memorable moments of our output. Often, but not always, it will happen at unexpected moments – at the end of a shift, when you have made plans after work, for example. The news of Barrow’s promotion certainly wasn’t unexpected but happened right at the end of my shift.
Due to the nature of breakfast programmes on BBC local radio, which are broadcast from very early in the morning, there’s an afternoon producer who takes over looking after the programme from the morning producer when their shift finishes. The role includes reacting to the day’s developments as well as setting up content throughout the afternoon and into the evening. The role of ‘late prod’ is on a rota for the news team at BBC Radio Cumbria and I’ve been doing my most recent stint for the last month, while working from home.
It was 19:00 on Thursday, 18 June. I’d just subscribed to a Sky Sports day pass so I could watch my team, Manchester City, play their first game after the season break, due to the coronavirus pandemic. I’d finished setting up the next morning’s breakfast programme and was out of the loop while I’d sat down to have tea. The call from a colleague followed to inform me the announcement had been made – Barrow has been promoted.
It was not a surprise; due to the nature of this year, the non-league season wasn’t able to be completed. Therefore, the final standings were decided by a vote of all clubs in the league. When the season was suspended, Barrow were top of the league and became champions. Ironically, 48 years earlier the team had actually been voted out of the English Football League, as was the protocol at the time. The Bluebirds hadn’t even finished bottom of the league that season either. It’s reported the decision was made due to where the town is located and how long it could take some away teams to travel to the Holker Street ground.
I logged back onto the computer in my home office, that I had only five minutes earlier shut down, and began moving items around the running order. Previously, a plan had been devised on how the breakfast programme the day after any possible promotion should sound. It was a case of implementing that and ringing round some guests that had already been set up to ask if they wouldn’t mind being put on hold. All were very understanding of the circumstances.
A lot of liaising was done with my colleagues in the south of the county to set up certain pieces and deliver kit to the commentator, so he could appear live outside the Holker Street ground in the morning. Then guests that had been set up in advance had to be confirmed. Once all that was in place, I allowed myself a 45 minute break to at least be able to watch the second half of the football match that I had initially intended to. After that, I finished writing cues and drafting questions. The whole four-hour programme had to be re-worked and I finished putting everything in place in the early hours of the morning.
The advantage of working from home is that at least I didn’t have a commute to contend with after I’d finished and just went straight to bed. It’s part of the job to be flexible and hearing the programme go out live the next day makes it all worthwhile – the jubilation in the fans’ voices and the elation of those who work at the club. It’s always nice to play a part in such a celebratory programme. I believe it showcases the importance and value of local radio to be at the heart of communities like that, reflecting what matters to the people who live there. It wasn’t the first time I’d dealt with breaking news during my career and it, almost certainly, won’t be the last.
Timing is everything
Listening to the latest episode of The Diversity Gap podcast on Spotify, something instantly struck a chord with me: “Timing is everything”.
“There are some thoughts you can share… and they fall completely flat. It’s almost as if no one was listening. But then, you can share that same thought in the right cultural moment and it sets the world on a different trajectory altogether.”Bethaney Wilkinson – The Diversity Gap podcast.
Episode: Building equity from the ground up with Dr. Darnisa Amante-Jackson.
You could make a statement at one point in time and nobody would take any notice but you could say it at another moment in time and it resonates. I feel that’s what we’re currently witnessing for the Black Lives Matter movement. For years, decades and even centuries people in the black community have been speaking of their views about prejudice. Now others are taking notice.
In news for something to be on the agenda there needs to be a ‘peg’, something to hang a story on. This could be an anniversary, event or development. The death of George Floyd was that moment. He died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
I cannot profess to be an expert in racial issues. I’m a white woman of privilege; someone who has experienced prejudice in life but in a different way to that of racial tension or oppression. However, I’m someone who can hopefully be seen as an ally, who’s passionate about diversity, inclusion and equality. I’ve tried to educate myself in the issues that are being discussed, watched the coverage, read articles and spoken to black people to hear their views.
It should not have to take the death of a man to make people take notice. When anyone raises concerns over the way they are treated we, as a 21st century society, must listen. (Not just pay lip-service. Lip-service is akin to ignorance.) Then, if necessary, make any changes that come out of those conversations to quell inequality.
Systematic changes can take time but, as Bethaney Wilkinson says in The Diversity Gap podcast “timing is everything”. Social change is possible and maybe the time for that in terms of race relations is now. We’ve already seen global protests, statues taken down and police officers charged, in the three weeks since George Floyd’s death.
“Diversity is about dignity. It’s not about metrics and marketing and money. It’s about real people, real stories, real lives.”Bethaney Wilkinson – The Diversity Gap podcast.
Episode: Building equity from the ground up with Dr. Darnisa Amante-Jackson.
Racism is wrong. Diversity is something to be celebrated. And, when prejudice occurs, it must not be ignored.
Life after lockdown
After 11 weeks of self-isolation due to the coronavirus, restrictions have been eased by the UK government sufficiently so that we can at least start to think about what life after lockdown could be like.
I’m classed as ‘vulnerable’ because of having underlying health conditions. It’s something I would never ordinarily describe myself as, but these are not ordinary times. I was never officially part of the shielding group but that’s basically what I ended up doing as a precaution. Working from home, getting shopping delivered, that kind of thing. Then, at the end of last month, the advice changed and people shielding were allowed outdoors.
Well, I haven’t been outside the perimeter of the house just yet but the easing of restrictions mean that I’m able to take small steps towards a ‘new normal’. Yesterday, my parents were able to visit us in the back garden, while maintaining the mandatory two metre social distance. It was a joyous occasion, as I hadn’t seen them in person for about three months. During that time we missed celebrating together Mother’s Day, Dad’s birthday and their 37th wedding anniversary.
We’re a tactile family, so not being able to hug each other is strange. You also have to go against instinct at points: when something drops on the floor and someone else goes to pick it up. Or when our cat comes close, it’s very hard to resist the temptation to pet her! Luckily, after some weather forecasts predicted wind and rain, the day turned out nice. We had to get our umbrellas out at points, but it was an opportunity to see the back garden in bloom. Even the birds getting food from the flutter butter holder weren’t put off by our presence.
At the beginning of the year, I wouldn’t have thought I’d be updating this blog as frequently as weekly, but I think documenting my period of self-isolation has been a good thing to do. It’s been cathartic to write about, as a way to try to make sense of an uncertain situation and hopefully it’s made for interesting reading too.
As we emerge from lockdown, I don’t anticipate I’ll update this page quite as frequently. My diary style tweets on Twitter curtailed after about 70 day because all the days were starting to blend into one large mass of time! I’ve always aimed for quality rather than quantity of posts. Also, focusing on other things will give me a chance to write about various topics, most of which are a commentary on the media industry, which have been a feature of my site for the past nine years and something I want to continue.
This period in time that we have been experiencing is probably something future students will learn about in their history lessons and something our generation will tell their grandchildren. Key workers will be remembered for keeping the country going at a challenging time. The tragedy of loved ones lost will also stay in our thoughts. At the time of writing, the global death toll of COVID-19 stands at about 393,000, according to statistics from the World Health Association. More than 40,500 of those deaths have been registered in the United Kingdom. To put the UK figure into context, that’s about twice the capacity of London’s O2 arena.
Of course, the virus hasn’t gone away; the reproduction rate or ‘R number’ isn’t as high as it was in the middle of lockdown, when the peak was at its highest but it could potentially rise again. We must continue to be careful; coronavirus can still infect people indiscriminately and the consequence of that could be fatal. Be mindful, stay safe and, if you’ve followed my story of self-isolation over these past 11 weeks, thanks for reading.