Category Archives: Journalism
Memories of five years ago popped up on Facebook. I was on holiday in Tenerife at the time. On previous days I’ve also been reminded of times at the theatre seeing shows or eating a lovely meal in a restaurant. All of which seem a world away in lockdown, while staying at home.
The view has been dusted with snow in a winter wonderland. Part of me thankful actually – that I don’t have to attempt to walk or drive anywhere on the icy, slippery ground! Having an open fire makes everything all the more cosy during the cold weather too. Toasted marshmallows, a bonus.
It may feel like Groundhog Day but the reasons why everyone needs to stay at home are just as stark, arguably even more so, with new variants of the virus able to spread more than when the Covid-19 was novel.
In my circle of friends, I’m hearing of more of loved ones who have died after contracting the virus. There are those who do recover too but, taking people I know personally as a straw sample, the virus seems incredibly prevalent. The number of deaths in the UK is nearing 100,000. Each person is so much more than a statistic, leaving behind heartbroken family and friends. My thoughts are with everyone affected.
Watching the series of reports by Clive Myrie on BBC News this week gave an eye-opening insight of what it’s like for the NHS workers on the frontline of the pandemic. It’s an emotional watch but important to report on the reality of what’s happening. Exemplary journalism, showing the hard work of these key workers.
There’s a lot of information to process daily. During tough times, like these, there’s general consensus that it’s sometimes good to switch off the news and take a break. Of course, for journalists, this is impossible. It’s good to see a new platform has started recently called Newsbreak, set up by Tom Hourigan. It urges journalists and people involved in the media industry to take a break from the news:
Over the past 10 months, I’ve become much better at this sort of self care. After work, I try to do something completely different. Watch a film or TV show to get lost in, I find sitcoms particularly good for this. Play a computer game or read a book, anything really. I’m not that skilled at cooking or baking (I wish I was!) but can understand why that’s become a popular lockdown pastime, because it’s great to focus on something completely different.
While working from home, I usually don’t have weekend shifts. I keep an eye on major developments but use this time to disconnect. Push notifications that pop up on phones and tablets can be distracting, so I switch my phone off and don’t look at social media. It means I’m relatively hard to get hold of for a day or two, but it feels liberating. Another tip is to take annual leave when you can. It doesn’t matter that we can’t go on holiday, a break from the intensity of what we’re going through is important.
I’m hoping it won’t be too long before I can get the vaccine. As someone with underlying health conditions, it’ll give me a bit more of my life back. I expect restrictions will continue to be around for a while yet but it’d be a step back closer to normality at least.
At work (from home), I’ve continued on the shift of late producer of Mike Zeller at Breakfast for BBC Radio Cumbria. A great mix of all the latest news and fun features of what’s happening around the county. One of the guests I set up for the programme recently was Dr Mark Toshner, who was involved in the clinical trials for the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine. He gave an extended interview on the programme, which was an informative and insightful listen. You can hear a snippet of it here:
I’m glad to say that my website has been successfully updated and can now be accessed through www.katybooth.com If you missed my review of last year that’s available here. I’ll continue to update this blog throughout 2021, perhaps not as regularly as I did last year when experiences of the pandemic were new. It’s a way to document these strange times at least. Cathartic to write about and, I hope, interesting for you to read too.
Take care and stay safe x
I was delighted to be invited to speak to journalism students at my former university, UCLan in Preston, about how I work from home for BBC Radio Cumbria. Also, how the broadcast industry has adapted to the changes we’ve seen this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
I’ve been working from a back room in my house for more than seven months due to underlying health conditions. In keeping with the topic of the talk, it was delivered via video call to the students who were watching in their own homes on Microsoft Teams. An enjoyable session with about 40 people watching, who asked excellent questions at the end. Some of the salient points of the discussion are included here.
As a key worker, it’s a privilege to continue to contribute to the radio station throughout the pandemic in an important role. There’s a wide range of things you can do in the broadcasting industry, while working from home. I mostly produce items for the breakfast programme but can also record and edit reports as well as broadcast live, using specialised apps and software.
Here’s political correspondent, Paul Rowley, doing exactly that on BBC Radio Cumbria. Even with disruptions, it turned out to be a memorable moment and Tweet!
Without a commute of over an hour each day, I have a lot more time. I’m able to read for pleasure a lot more than I used to. There’s also more time to spend with family and pets… Even if my cat does seem to know when I’m on an important phone call because that’s exactly when she’ll meow for Dreamies! For parents, arrangements can be flexible to allow for childcare and appointments.
Technology has increased our connectivity; people from across the organisation can connect in an instant with the likes of Zoom. That’s something I do weekly for a diversity and inclusion steering group that I’m part of. I’ve had training sessions, without the need to travel or meet face-to-face, and even taken part in a Pilates session during a lunch break.
One of the main aspects I miss is the social side of going to work. Those ‘water cooler moments’ where you get to know colleagues personally in the little chats in the kitchen or corridor. Bouncing ideas around with others and having a banter in the office is great… it’s not quite the same over email! Our weekly team Zoom call to catch up with each other is something I look forward to.
The amount of screen time has, understandably, increased. Usually face-to-face meetings provide a break from this, but not so on a video call. It can be tempting to avoid taking breaks and just plough through but it’s actually even more important to do so when working from home, to prevent eye strain. Try to move around, rather than stay completely sedentary, too.
It can be difficult to ‘switch off’ from work when there’s no commute to provide a mental break and a chance to assimilate all that’s happened. My tip is to try to have a separate workspace that you can leave at the end of the day. If you only have something like a dining table to work off don’t sit in the same place to eat as well. If you use a laptop, pack that away once you’ve finished using it.
When the computer is only in the next room it can be tempting to “just do a little bit more” work – something I have been guilty of on occasion! Set boundaries so that you will only work the same amount of hours as you would, if you were physically in the office.
Our ability to work from home will probably be with us, long after this pandemic. It would be a shame not to take the positives of what has been learnt to become more effective in future. Without the need for as much travelling, it gives us more productive time in the day – and it’s better for the environment too. Our homes are now the equivalent of district offices.
As broadcasters and journalists working in the media, being adaptable is what we do. It’s how the industry has developed into what it is today and we shouldn’t fight this. We’re currently in a period of great change at the moment anyway, but the possibilities of what can be achieved when we put our minds to it are still limitless.
A recent example of how working from home has become a ‘new normal’ was evident in how the latest episode of Strictly Come Dancing was broadcast. Showbiz reporter, Betty Redondo, Tweeted that it was actually directed by crew members from home. You wouldn’t have known any different while watching the show live on Saturday night either:
Finally, you can claim tax relief of £6.00 a week for job expenses, while working from home. More information is available HERE.
It’s a strange time to be writing a review of the past year but, let’s face it, 2020 has been a strange year! August is also a month of anniversaries. I’ve worked four years consecutively for the BBC, (a bit longer in total but I left, came back and also freelanced for a while) and I’ve spent the past year of that service with BBC Radio Cumbria.
It was a tough decision to leave my previous station, BBC Radio Lancashire. I’d worked in most roles in the newsroom there, my last substantively was producing the drive time programme. I had a great working relationship with the presenter; we were a small and effective team of two, who reformatted the programme. It was going down well with listeners and that was reflected in the listening figures.
I feel like I ‘left on a high note’, as the idiom goes, which is always good to do. The team gave me a brilliant send off and I’m still in touch with many former colleagues. Another saying is ‘life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans’ and my life was taking me further north. The time was right for my fiancé and I to live together, so moving base coincided with moving home to beautiful Cumbria.
Carlisle’s a historic city: on one side of the studios is a castle and the other a cathedral. It has a particularly familiar feeling for me because of the aroma that comes from the nearby McVities factory. I grew up close to a biscuit factory near border of Stockport and Manchester. There’s nothing quite like it! The scent is very reminiscent of home. Even though the two are more than 130 miles apart.
After my first day, I was reporting in Kendal about work on Victoria bridge. As I was recording that report news broke that a lorry had hit a nearby railway bridge and I ended up being one of the first reporters on the scene, which demonstrates how important it is for news outlets to have a local presence.
I’ve enjoyed getting to know a new patch and developing contacts. In the months that followed I did a range of shifts. Filming and editing social media videos was something I’d never done before joining BBC Radio Cumbria and that’s been a useful skill to develop in an ever increasing multi-media industry. Here’s one of them… (Post continues below.)
Producing the overnight election programme in December has been a highlight – powered by pizza and coffee! I worked with two experienced presenters who took direction well, with a team of talented reporters based at counts across the county and inserts from political experts. Even the technology worked well. As a producer, you can’t ask for much better than that.
I’ve stood in for the news editor, covering the comings and goings of the news desk and I’ve read bulletins. I can recall when coronavirus was in the running order when I was on shift on New Year’s Day. I knew it was a big story but I didn’t realise then how life-changing it would eventually become for us all.
The week before I began working from home I was the early morning producer of the weekday breakfast show. A career milestone for me, as it was something I hadn’t done done before and I enjoyed having overall editorial responsibility for the programme. Covid-19 was high up the news agenda then, as the first cases of the virus had been identified in Carlisle.
Shortly after that I started working from home, which I’ve documented on this blog previously. I’ve been doing that for 20 weeks now. When it began I never thought it’d be something that would last for five months, but here we are! I actually thought I’d be back in the office so quickly that I almost left my headphones in my locker. I’m glad I did think to bring them with me because I use them everyday.
While I obviously don’t have the range of shifts available than the likes of what I’ve described above, I’m classed as a key worker. It’s felt like an important time to make a contribution to the radio station, during the pandemic. Mostly as ‘late prod’, the afternoon producer of the breakfast programme. I can also edit audio from home too, so I’ve been able to record audio remotely on my computer and package it up.
My first year with BBC Radio Cumbria has been amazing, I packed a lot into the seven months I was in the newsroom and the five months of working from home have been a learning curve that I’ve adapted to. There’s exciting things on the horizon as well. I’m part of BBC England’s Diversity Group North which focuses on inclusivity and equality, an area I am incredibly passionate about.
Other than that, it’s quite difficult to predict what the future may hold. Could there be a second wave of the virus? What will happen to the radio industry in this uncertain time? A lot can happen in a year and if this past one’s anything to go by, it has reinforced my outlook to take it a day at a time and not take anything for granted.
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.
When you start out in radio you’ve got to be like a sponge, absorbing all the techniques and tricks of the trade of those around you. And the truth is, this never really stops as time goes on. Technology changes, you may move to another role or fresh ideas are tried out. That’s the beauty of working in a creative industry; no two days are the same. You’ll get to try new things all the time – learning as you go.
My old school motto was ‘Education for Life’ and at the time I couldn’t stand the thought of sitting in a metaphorical classroom forever! Maybe it meant the things you learn in school stay with you but I now take it to be that you never stop learning. Part of that process is receiving advice. I’ve had lots of it over the years and have chosen to follow it from people I trust. Two pieces of advice I received throughout my career stick with me to this day… even though they are, in essence, contradictory.
“Don’t specialise too soon”.
This advice was given to me when I was presenting music programmes on community stations and I wanted to make the jump into becoming professional. I was specialising in the chill out / easy listening genre at the time. Having presented the same style of shows on three separate stations. I adore music and have a massive passion for it… But the advice was right.
There are very few opportunities out there for people who specialise in particular genres, in an industry which is shrinking, even for mainstream presenters. The specialist music presenters I know combine their work with other roles in the creative industries – for example club DJing alongside their programme – or something else entirely. You should never lose sight of your passion and there’s more ways to demonstrate that than ever. Blogs, Vlogs, podcasts. If you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work.
“Find your niche…”
My passion for radio developed beyond just music and my fascination with broadcasting grew the more of the medium I consumed. I’d been told I needed develop as many skills as possible, so you name it and I did it. From roadshows to promo to research to interviews to desk driving to street team to making jingles to presenting and producing… if it was something to do with radio I wanted to know about it. The anorak within me was unleashed!! Zzzzzzip!
I was doing anything and everything, then one day at a networking event I was told to ‘find my niche’. This was confusing, since I’d been told not to specialise before. Then I looked at where I wanted my career to go in the future and I combined this with the voice work I’d been doing. My niche was news.
Only news isn’t a niche. There’s so many roles you can do under that umbrella term: reporter, producer, bulletin reader and that’s just skimming the surface. However, hearing that advice helped me get the direction I needed to enrol on a masters in broadcast journalism.
You need to use your judgement, of course. Not every piece of advice you receive will be right for you. One person actually told me not to enrol on a course, which if I had followed wouldn’t have led me to where I am now. In fact, my whole life would be very different – a scary thought!
It’s funny how things said way back when can strike a chord many years later. I remember going to a school progress review meeting one day. It was getting close to exam time and we were thinking about careers. My form tutor said “what about being a journalist?” I laughed and said “Absolutely not!” Well, I didn’t know then how happy I’d be now.
I’m still learning new things all the time and I’m still and all-rounder. In the past year I’ve reported on a stories and made them into an audio package of my report. I’ve read news bulletins, produced programmes, planned upcoming outside broadcasts and I’ve presented a specialist music programme.
Since joining BBC Radio Cumbria in August I’ve been learning lots of new things. Over the past month or so I’ve been the social media reporter. Looking after content that has aired on the breakfast programme and also made into short films for the Facebook page too. I’ve enjoyed learning to edit video again; a skill which I hadn’t used in years.
Even though my work has taken me in a direction I maybe didn’t expect at the start of my broadcasting career on student radio, it feels right. It would’ve been wrong to specialise too soon and miss out on opportunities that were to come because I opened my mind to other possibilities. The great thing is, I still get to utilise my passion in many ways and look forward to what else is around the corner.
The day I interviewed Boris Johnson was back in January 2015. Mr Johnson was Mayor of London and had been invited to speak to Conservative party members at the Alma Inn in Laneshaw Bridge, by the MP for Pendle Andrew Stephenson. Back then, I was a reporter for the commercial radio station 2BR.
The schedule for interviews on that shift was tight, in order to fit as much into the day as possible. I had been speaking to an interviewee in Chorley previously and had to travel the length of the M65 motorway and get through the often congested town centre of Colne in rush hour, in order to get there on time. Not an easy task but, luckily, I arrived before Mr Johnson (I can’t recall if he was late or not) and made my way through the pub to the media area.
Interviewing politicians is all part of the day job, of course. During my career, I’ve had chance to grill other high profile members of parliament in person such as Ed Miliband, William Hague and Jack Straw. There was quite a buzz in the venue for this one though, whether that would have been the case for members of the public rather than just party members – who knows?
Boris Johnson arrived and the interviews began with the various news outlets – TV, print and radio represented. Rather than a pool, we conducted these one by one and each reporter was given a chunk of time to ask questions. For me, this is preferable to the “round robin” style of interview because you can tailor your piece accordingly and it wasn’t limited to a set amount of questions.
There was only one snag; 2BR was last on the list and I could overhear some of my questions being asked by my fellow media colleagues. Before my turn, I figured out ways I could re-word certain relevant topics so the answers wouldn’t seem rehearsed at best and at worse that I was covering old ground. As a former journalist himself, Boris Johnson wasn’t perturbed nor did he start to lag after the long line of questioners. He spoke to me as if I was the first person at the event he’d met.
The perceived “north / south divide” perhaps predictably, but nevertheless importantly, featured in my line of questioning. Something which is still at the forefront of people’s minds. Even now, as we try to decipher what the future of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ may be.
It became clear, very quickly, that Mr Johnson couldn’t be specific with the details. Preferring instead to defer to his Conservative colleagues to relay various bits of information. He did so with aplomb, in keeping with his charismatic character.
Understandable for a Mayor of London on an appearance up north, maybe? But a trend others have noted as his political profile has risen. Here’s a recent example from an interview during the Conservative leadership campaign with the BBC’s Andrew Neil:
Speeches took place after an obligatory photocall. Guess what? Pulling a pint behind the bar! That is where my brief meeting with our future Prime Minister ends. Many others have their experiences: I was interested to read broadcaster Jeremy Vine’s ‘Boris Johnson Story’, as documented in The Spectator blog. (Incidentally, that was the inspiration for this blog post.)
They say a week’s a long time in politics and four and a half years ago the word Brexit hadn’t even entered parlance. The political agenda is very different now. Regardless of all the interviews, jokes and blunders – what happens next in Boris Johnson’s premiership will be the story the British public remember the most.
In this multi-platform age, we’re becoming less defined by titles. I specialise in ‘broadcast journalism’ yet the job description is becoming much wider, as the industry adapts to the world we live in.
When I left my job in commercial radio it was advertised again as a post for a “multimedia journalist”. Also, due to a recent change in terms and conditions, my role at the Beeb is now simply called “journalist”.
The job is arguably more varied than ever. My role may now mainly be a producer but I’m also a news reader and reporter. There’s maintaining the online presence too, particularly social media.
Variety is the spice of life but what is the lifeblood of a journalist? Writing is everything.
When I enrolled to study journalism, I was told I’d be taught how to write. “Well, I already know that”, I naively assumed. I already had a degree in English, dabbled in fiction writing and was even maintaining this blog. I was wrong.
You don’t need to be a modern day Shakespeare in order to succeed but there are a few habits to unlearn. Most academic writing is too mellifluous for journalistic purposes, with sentences that have enough subordinate clauses to lead you down the garden path and back again, a bit like this one, if you get my drift. Imagine how difficult it’d be to read that last sentence aloud?
Here’s my 10 top tips for writing for radio:
- Get to the point as quickly as possible.
- Be concise.
- You’re writing to be heard not read, so write sentences as you would say them.
- Read aloud to get the hang of it.
- Use contractions. In everyday speech you probably wouldn’t say ‘could not’ instead of ‘couldn’t’, so write that way.
- This extends to punctuation. Normal rules about grammar don’t apply because the commas, full stops and hyphens in your literary toolbox help give sense. Many times you’ll place these in a sentence to indicate a pause, allow for breath, or effect.
- Keep vocabulary simple. Use words you’d actually say. Many times I’ve changed a word in a perfectly good script because it’s not a term I’d normally use.
- Pay attention to the station style. Commercial radio news is very different to BBC. If you’re on work experience make the effort to listen to the output. This sounds obvious but you’d be amazed how many don’t.
- Be creative. A blank script is a bank canvas and just because this list is a general rule of thumb it doesn’t mean you can’t put your own stamp on things.
- Have fun! Your enthusiasm will shine out of the speakers.
Writing can make a difference between a great, good or mediocre piece. Think about social media; a well written, snappy tweet is more likely to go viral than one that’s wordy and all over the place.
The more chatty the better. The art of writing for radio is making it sound like you’re not actually reading. It’s a craft that takes skill. Skill develops through practise. Even over the archives of this blog, you can hopefully see how my writing has improved with time and experience.
We never stop learning – enjoy!
Have you recovered from all the election coverage yet? For journalists, snap election is something we weren’t planning and had no control over but it was actually a fabulous showcase for our work, across all platforms.
I’ve now voted in three general elections but have also covered them for three separate radio stations. All different formats and I’ve had a range of roles each time.
2010 – I was a first time voter and also in the final year of my undergrad degree at the University of Manchester. I was heavily involved in our student radio station Fuse FM as part of the committee who ran the station. Although I presented programmes and had read a few bulletins, news wasn’t really my area at the time. As ironic as that sounds, considering I now live and breathe news! I was Head of Marketing and had responsibility for the ‘Street Team’. We were heavily involved in generating content and vox pops from voters. We were also really excited that BBC 5Live had decided to broadcast from the students’ union during the night.
I’d been invited to take part in local community radio station, North Manchester FM‘s, election coverage as a studio guest. Charlie Walduck was roving reporter at the count at Manchester Town Hall, providing inserts and interviews with candidates. It was an ambitious project for a community station on limited resources. It was the forerunner broadcast for me to apply for my own show and then becoming a presenter on the station.
2015 – Five years later, I was working in radio professionally for commercial radio group UKRD’s stations The Bee and 2BR. Lancashire Election Night Live was another big broadcast; the first time the two stations had simulcast together. I was reporting from the town hall on the night. Blackburn is a safe seat with a long Labour legacy. However, this particular year was interesting because, the town was getting a new MP with the retirement of former cabinet minister, Jack Straw. I provided live inserts to the all-night broadcast including scene sets, interviews with candidates and conducted the live victory interview with Kate Hollern MP.
2017 – We were doing it all over again, sooner than anyone thought! This time I’d moved stations a couple of junctions westbound on the M65 for BBC Radio Lancashire. Yet another ambitious project! In the lead up to the election, I was one of the breakfast producers who sourced content for the OB’s on Graham Liver’s ‘Big Election Breakfast Tour’ coming live from constituencies all around the county. Along with the Lancashire pop up living room “double-gussetted long-handled Graham Liver at breakfast” bags were handed out to listeners in every corner of the county.
On results day itself, I felt like I’d drawn a particularly long straw, reading our afternoon news bulletins. I love being part of big news days when listeners have a real thirst for developing information. It’s always a privilege to be able to deliver it to them, I’d broadcast previously the day after the EU referendum and when Theresa May was originally announced as Prime Minister, so was well up for whatever the day would bring…
I compiled and read our two extended 10-minute-long bulletins at 13:00 and 17:00. Keeping us journos on our toes, Theresa May began speaking on the steps of Downing Street at around 12:55! We got a clip of her saying she would form a government in the top story. That’s what I love about bulletin reading; the adrenaline rush you get when news is just coming in or changing. On results day, the breaking news buzz didn’t waiver all day long, with new lines coming in all the time.
Depending on your political views, general elections can mean a lot of different things for different people. There’s just some of my memorable moments. We might be making some more soon. Who knows? As we’ve seen over the last seven years – anything can happen in politics!
This week I went to the Nations and Regions Media Conference at The Lowry in Salford. Since the Radio Festival changed venue and moved down south, I was looking forward to a conference of a similar vein in the old stomping ground.
I should have known from the ticket price (£90 early-bird rate) that this was aimed more at executive level, rather than for those of us who work in production. It would take a journalist working at some commercial stations around two days salary to pay to go to all events, adding travel and parking costs etc. The redeeming feature was the price did include lunch though – bonus!
One of the early sessions about investigative journalism was insightful; there was a lot of wistful reminiscing to the past about the likes of ITV’s long-gone ‘World in Action’. It was a treat to hear from director Paul Greengrass, who used to work on the programme before heading off to Hollywood. What I took from this session was journalists are more than ever required to “show their workings” in this era of “Fake News”, as President Trump coined it. It means, due to this vigour, the quality of work broadcasters are producing is actually more reliable. Maybe not all of Trump’s media criticisms are so damming for the industry, after all?
The second day got underway and I was enjoying debates on various issues. MP for Wigan, Lisa Nandy, shared her view that – because MediaCity now exists – that doesn’t automatically mean northern views are catered for. “The North” doesn’t stop at Salford and start again in Scotland. There’s a whole wealth of audience members, stories and talent that’ll be missed, if that’s a widely-held belief.
I hope it isn’t, but have taken calls from people in the past who have made humorous misconceptions. While I can forgive statements like: “Is Bolton in Lancashire?”, because it’s on the border. It only takes a quick glance at a map to know the answer to: “Is Blackburn in Manchester?”
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley, announced there will be a consultation to move some of Channel 4’s staff out of London to “wherever it can be found” in the UK. As someone who grew up in Greater Manchester, I know how amazing the opportunities at MediaCityUK are: the area’s been completely regenerated and is buzzing. However, if every major media outlet sets up there, Salford will become as much of an isolated bubble as London is perceived to be.
As a regional staple, I was disappointed with the lack of mentions local radio got at the conference. People who work in that area make a limited amount of resources spread far and wide in order to create content. Talented staff are serving parts of the audience that other platforms may not reach. At times, providing vital information – the recent Lancashire floods are a prime example. I would urge any sceptic to spend a day in a local radio newsroom – either commercial or BBC – and see for themselves. Yet newsrooms in local stations are constantly under threat from cuts.
BBC local radio as an example; there are stations all across the country. Audience reach of all of them combined must be enough to match a national network station. Surely that makes it eligible to warrant a discussion? The audience is more concentrated in each TSA and the issues differ from place to place, but that makes what’s on offer so unique.
It was infectious hearing Head of BBC Radio, Bob Shennan’s, positivity for the medium and his enthusiasm that another golden age of radio is “still to come”, even if it may be different from what has gone before. Due to the way the discussion went though, ill-fated Channel 4 Radio got more of a mention than local radio, which is still very much thriving on the dials.
At the end of a thought-provoking conference, I was driving home listening to a network station when the news came on. There was a Lancashire story in the bulletin and my ears pricked up, because that’s where I live and work. The reader made the easy mistake of pronouncing Barrowford, in Pendle, as: “BARROW-F’D”. You need local knowledge to know it’s actually pronounced: ‘BARROW-FORD’. There’s no way of knowing this by reading off a script alone. I carried on my journey explicitly aware that local radio is still as important as ever.
A day after the result of the US Election between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hilary Clinton, you’ll be hard pushed to find someone who hasn’t heard the news both in the US and here across the pond.
Any new leader of the free world is bound to be a big headline grabber, particularly in our 24-hour ‘breaking news’ culture. But with Trump it is more so due to the unexpected nature of his victory and the publicity he has generated throughout his campaign.
Donald Trump’s rise to power is the epitome of celebrity culture and where it can get people. I know he’s a billionaire businessman and, in spite of any inheritance, to maintain and build upon a fortune does take skill. But would that alone have been enough to get Trump into the White House?
It’s hypothetical now of course, but I don’t think Trump would have won without the celebrity brand he’d built up. This is a man so famous The Simpson’s even made a satirical joke about him becoming president, 16 years earlier! You don’t have to live in America to be aware of the media mogul either; he had cameos in Home Alone 2, Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Sex and the City.
I became aware of this stratospheric celebrity status when on holiday in Tenerife in January. It was the last night of our trip and must have been around 03:00 in the morning when I got back to my hotel room. Still buzzing from what had good night out in the resort, I turned on the TV to try to relax. I wasn’t expecting much; mostly everything was broadcast in Spanish. I did channel-hop to a programme with spoken English though, it was The Apprentice. Not Lord Sugar’s UK version, but Donald Trump’s US hit- which indicates just how far his brand was reaching.
I’m wrestling fan, not as avid as I once was, but I find it great escapism from ‘reality’! You may have seen a video circulating around social media about his appearances with the WWE. This sticks in my mind particularly because I think I can attribute this particular angle as the cause of me falling out of love a little with “sports entertainment”.
WWE chairman Vince McMahon (who also plays an alter-ego character ‘Mr McMahon’ in the ring) must’ve fancied a new hair cut because this was woven into a storyline. A stipulation was that the billionaire loser out of him and Trump would also lose their locks. I was originally a fan of the WWF ‘Attitude Era’ (Hell Yeah!!) and this just became too far-fetched, even for me. It’s surreal now Donald Trump is President-Elect, watching clips of him taking Vince down and shaving his hair off!
I’m not saying people who’ve achieved fame shouldn’t go for a political position. We live in a democracy and if a candidate meets the criteria to stand then they should. Look at the likes of Ronald Regan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example – Hollywood actors who have since branched out into politics. I’m sure there will be many more instances of crossovers too.
I can’t help but think though, amid all the controversy, would Trump have made it to the White House without his celebrity status? The exit polls showed Hilary Clinton was the more poplar candidate yet, when it mattered, the result wasn’t as close as some pundits first thought. Maybe a familiar name on a ballot paper does help put a tick in a box, particularly when voters are apathetic or unsure.