Just a short post today. Some memories of reporting at BBC Radio Solent. Hope you enjoy them.
NEWSROOM – PART TWO
As I’m sure you’re aware, there is a debate about truth in journalism. Does it exist? What agenda does the news organisation have? Is the BBC chronically biased towards the left or is that just a rumour? Hmm. Well, speaking of truth, I believe in pursuing it with the utmost devotion.
Even in local news. Except in certain circumstances.
When it’s raining and you’re miles from the station in the late afternoon. Yes, sometimes compromise can happen. On one occasion, I arranged an interview with a museum curator that had to do with some ancient stone artifacts. I made the mistake of assuming that a person representing the museum would actually know about the displays in the museum. Silly me. So I arrive and it’s clear she hasn’t a clue. In fact I know more about Druidic stone circles than she does and I’m not the one wearing the tie-dye skirt and the crystals round my neck. So I do a little more than the regular coaching. Normally I allowed myself to coax an answer. A little ‘can you mention this’ or ‘can you say this, then that, put them together’, that kind of thing. Not this time. “Er, madam, why, for goodness sake, did you invite me out here if you know more about your gift shop profits than your exhibits?” That’s what I thought. I actually said, “Okay, Ms Silkington, let’s go over this once again” and I proceeded to tell her exactly what she had to say. By the twentieth time she had it just about memorized. More or less. I left her clutching a piece of greenish stone and the scrap of paper on which she’d written her lines.
Radio is a slave to the clock. It’s really no good starting the news at 1 o’clock with the line, ‘Erm, nearly there, nearly there, hold on, hold on … Bill! Bill! Excuse us here, there’s a queue at the photocopy machine and Ethel from janitorial is just moving her bucket and …oops, my coffee’s spilled … we’ll be right with you … okay, now where was I? Oh yes, ‘The Prime Minister said today …’ No, it’s the one o’clock news, not the 1.02pm or the 1.03pm news. One evening, when the news day was winding down, one of the reporters responsible for reading the 8pm news was having a bad evening. I think it was a lunchtime curry but the hour mark was approaching and he was last seen diving for the door. He was also rather forgetful. 7.58pm, no Paul. 7.59pm and no Paul. Fifteen seconds to go and he comes running in and grabs the news before tearing into the news booth to read the news. Note to potential newsreaders: Don’t read the news when you’re out of breath. It’s bad enough without the lack of oxygen and the dizzy feeling. I threw him as much news as I could get my hands on. I think he may have led with the racing news. The national news crept in just after the weather because it was hiding under some carts in the corner. He stumbled out of the newsroom panting and wishing for an electrical storm to strike the radio antenna on the roof ten minutes back in time. “Oh please don’t let anyone have heard that,” he said in terrible English, the only time I heard any reporter wish not to be heard over the air waves in all my time at BBC Radio Solent.