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Sheep and Goats

I've been looking at the job ads lately. Not, as I know my boss reads this, that I'm planning on going anywhere. The next move I...

15 July 2018

Keeping It Real - The Case for Immersive Newsroom Teaching

One of the major challenges in news training is making the student experience as realistic as possible. It’s an objective that sits uncomfortably with the norms of university life, because it requires total immersion in the newsgathering environment over a period of time.

A key feature of the postgrad course I ran for two decades at Leeds Trinity University was the “month on air” – 28 consecutive days of radio news for BCB 106.6 FM, with trainees providing bulletins from 0800-1800 weekdays and 0800-1200 at weekends. They also did a fortnight of live TV programming, originally with cable TV, more recently online.  
Compare that with the sector norm, which is quite often a single newsday at the end of a module, maybe two consecutive days if the institution has taken on board guidance from the BJTC.
I’ve seen course leaders literally wringing their hands at the prospect of finding just fifteen days a year in the timetable for all newsdays … “that’s not how universities work!”. 

Well, it should be. This post, originally commissioned by my good friend Dr Richard Thomas for the Journalism Knowledge Exchange (@JournalismKX) website, sets out why.

19 June 2018

What a Journalist Isn't

I'm sick and tired of the abuse journalists are getting at the moment. They don't deserve it, at least real journalists don't - but that's the problem.

The title has become devalued, muddy, imprecise because basically anyone with a keyboard and a wifi connection can call themselves a journalist. Is it any wonder the punters have become confused?

Rather than trying to define what a journalist is, it's probably more useful to start by making clear what a journalist isn't.

02 April 2018

Regional Blindness

I'm just back from a week spent in Cornwall.

It's a part of the British Isles I've never visited before. I was in the habit of heading down the M1 and turning left for France, but since the Brexit fallout means my Pound is only worth 7 Francs or so today in real money (instead of the 9 or 10 that mean decent food and accommodation is affordable) we decided to turn right instead and head for the West Country.

We had a great time, thanks for asking. The Eden Project, couple of fabulous National Trust places, and some cracking little seaside villages that give Robin Hood's Bay a run for its money. But as I explored around Bodmin, St Austell and the wonderfully-named Lostwithiel I realised this is a part of England .. my own country .. I know next to nothing about.

Why's that? Regional blindness. It's the reason why more .. much more .. network TV and radio production needs to be moved (at gunpoint if necessary) out of the comforting embrace of the M25.

21 January 2018

Heart and Soul

I'm just back from a lovely weekend in England's lake district, doing the winter warming hygge thing of good food, wine, board games and hot chocolate with some close friends lucky enough to have made their home there.

The Lakes are a rare bit of "the North" Londoners are likely to have experienced, even if they think of it as "sort of Scotland" as they drive around in their company SUVs just off the M6, getting the wheel arches all dashingly mudspattered in a way the weekly shop at Waitrose can't match.

They're also home to two traditionally-programmed local commercial radio stations, The Bay and Lakeland Radio, although not for long as they're about to be assimilated by the Borg-like Global as they roll out mega brands Heart and Smooth into Cumbria.

I have mixed feelings about that.

13 January 2018

The Horsman Test

As a news editor in commercial radio, I had a simple rule when it came to budgeting.

I would throw resources at a big story. No-one remembers the news on an "ordinary" day, just as no-one forgets the news on the day a city is torn by riots, as Bradford was in 1995 and 2001.

I engaged a freelance in Florida to deliver harrowing and compelling courtroom audio of a West Yorkshire woman whose boyfriend was killed next to her in a car in a botched robbery. That cost a year's freelance budget, but the content was worth every cent.

I met a former BBC senior exec in the region who admitted the little station on Forster Square "gave the Beeb a run for our money" and "kept us on our toes". No mean compliment when you compare the resources of the respective newsrooms.

These reflections matter when considering the future of commercial radio news.

As everyone will be aware by now, regulation is being swept away as the last Ofcom rules on what UK commercial radio can play, and where they can play it from, are removed. I highlighted the contrasts with old style ILR in a lighthearted post for New Year.

This post, originally published as a Radio Today UK eRADIO blog of the week, looks to the future.

04 January 2018

Talking Titles

It was all going so well for BBC Local Radio, with the announcement that £10 million of proposed cuts to the network are to be shelved, and a promise that local stations would in future be loved by DG Tony Hall, with a renewed purpose serving "everyone", not just the older demographics ignored by everyone else.

As I wrote at the time, a new hope for the Cinderella service.

Then the Corporation announced today that Managing Editors (known as Station Editors in some places) are to be demoted. Ouch.

OK, that's not what they really said. As such. The Beeb actually said that they're aiming to reduce the number of job titles across the organisation, and bring the pecking order within local radio into line with that existing in other departments.

This means that current "Station Editors" or "Managing Editors", who have the overall responsibility for running a BBC local station, will in future be known as "Senior News Editors". Now, does that sound a more important or less important job to the listener in the street?

To make it crystal clear, Assistant Editors (who report to the soon-to-be Senior News Editors) will in future be known as .. Assistant Editors. And News Editors, running the station's newsroom, will remain News Editors. Editing news.

No possibility of confusion there, then.

But what's in a name? Does it actually matter? I think so, and here's why it does.