…and the joys of radio news. So, no need to guess – I spent my Easter holiday with the Beacon radio news team and experienced life as a fully fledged journalist (well, almost). And now I actually have more than a few minutes to myself again, I thought I’d jot down my thoughts, experiences and general reflections on my 3 week placement.
It all started way, way back on Monday, March 29 at approximately 8.50am (well, really it was like 3 hours prior to that when I leapt out of bed in fear that I’d be late on my first day). Anyway, I got to Beacon to be greeted by a big Georgian-period building – that must have been a house at one point – and my first thoughts were ‘hmmm, interesting for a radio station’; not what I was expecting. But it was great for a radio station! Downstairs was the news and programming teams and the studios for Beacon Black Country, Shropshire and Gold. Upstairs – the sales team and the ‘creative’ folk (that’s what they told me), another studio for live performances and a vending machine that hadn’t worked for at least 6 months. So all in all, a lovely little set-up in a nice period building.
So after the formalities (the show-round, introduction to team, placement guidelines etc) I set about getting stuck in to covering stories. Luckily, I’d got a bit of head start from my Smooth experience, so refreshing the brain on the software Burli wasn’t too difficult (thankfully) and I pretty much did what all news team peeps do – chase stories, interview, write copy and clip audio ready for the bulletins. I got to go out on stories and speak to loads of different people: a media expert at Uni of Wolverhampton, the head of PE at a local school, a youth parliament member, officers from West Mids Police and the lovely people of Wolverhampton (well, not all of them were so nice……)
So, my three weeks with the news team were busy, varied day-to-day and seemed to fly by (ah…..the joys of ‘real’ work) but what did I learn from it?
- Speaking to members of the general public and asking opinions is not easy – most think you’re selling something, make their excuses and walk on; others don’t understand what you’re asking and give you a one word answer (great…thanks for that) and then some think its an excuse to ramble on for 5 minutes about everything under the sun (great…..all I wanted was a 15 second clip!)
- Equally – reading a news bulletin really isn’t easy but maybe that’s because I’m not so well practiced at the pro’s. You have to read accurately and sound authoritative (so people think you know what you’re talking about) but you also need to sound natural and avoid the common mistake of putting on a ‘newsreader’ voice (yes….that happened to me aswell). Not only that, you need to read ahead so you know what’s coming, emphasise all the right words and remember to breathe in between………erm….anything else?
- Election time is a stressful time for all journalists – 1. because lots of the people who would normally comment for stories suddenly aren’t able to comment on certain things (e.g. councils, NHS etc) because they are all obviously connected to the government (not great for broadcast media). 2. Whenever a ‘political’ story is run – all parties have to be equally represented so there’s no getting away with ‘Gordon Brown said……’ without ‘But Cameron said this…….and Clegg thinks their both wrong……..’ (you get the drift)
- Despite all the above – radio news can be fun and exciting when a story breaks and you need to get there. Everything’s much more immediate and you feel you’re constantly on the watch for the ‘latest’ on anything. Also web has become a much greater part of radio news output and the importance of keeping content fresh and up-to-date and also using the online content as a place to experiment with other forms that you wouldn’t broadcast (i.e. videos, pic galleries, polls etc)
Highlight of the placement – the daily ‘why I’m late’ excuses of one of the team (which included ‘I saw signs for the M6 Toll and thought I don’t want to go on there so I followed a road and I ended up on the M6 Toll, then I realised I had no money to get off it’ and ‘today’s is simple; I had to get petrol and blow my nose because I’ve got a ****ing cold!’) Genius!
Not-so-highlight – getting up at 5am, standing outside a train station and asking commuters in the Black Country what they thought of the first leader’s debate. Getting ignored and receiving death stares at 6am is not great when the 8am bulletin is calling – to be honest though I don’t blame them….I wouldn’t talk to me either at that hour……about anything let alone politics…..
Great three weeks, great people and a good insight into the world of radio news = well worth the early mornings!