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16 June 2013

Going Live - For the 21st Time

If you want to know what I'm most proud of in two decades of teaching journalism, it's this.

Every summer since 1993 my postgraduate news trainees at Leeds Trinity University have run a month-long radio newsroom for Bradford Community Broadcasting (BCB 106.6 FM). For the past few years we've also provided a news website for the station.

This is a live webcam feed from that newsroom. If all's well it should show a hive of activity from 0700-1800 every weekday from now until the 12th of July:

I'm not daft - the webcam has no sound. Click here for a live feed of BCB 106.6 FM output, including our bulletins each weekday 0800-1700. Oh, and the webcam won't work with Internet Explorer. I don't know why, ask Bill Gates. Fine with Chrome & Firefox.

This 'month on air' is a process. More than that, it's alchemy.

Trainees go in as raw students, heads stuffed with Law and Public Affairs, proficient in how to use microphones and editing software. Their voices have been trained, and they've discussed ethical dilemmas facing hacks in a world where we're under scrutiny like never before. But they've never actually brought all the elements together.

28 days later they come out as journalists.

Or they know they never want to be a journalist. Sometimes they know they want to be a journalist, but not in radio; the relentless wave after wave of bulletins coming every 57 minutes does not appeal. They'd rather work in telly, or in print, where the standards are just as demanding but the rhythms are different.

Working for BCB they're serving one of the most diverse communities in Britain. Suddenly all that Ethics stuff about representation and fairness is very real. Are there any circumstances in which we could or should refer to "a gang of Asian youths ...."?

Likewise staffing the courts with one eye on the fast approaching bulletin lends a sense of urgency to the study of McNae's Essential Law for Journalists.

As for trying to understand a typical council news release, rather than just regurgitate it, that's where the Thursday afternoons of Public Affairs come into their own. Distinction candidates may also find a way to make the content relevant and even interesting to council tax payers in the city.

The month on air is something special.

I find it more physically demanding now that I did when I started as a young man (but a veteran in commercial radio terms) in my early thirties. But I still find it thoroughly enjoyable, invigorating and more intellectually stimulating than anything else we do. I know a huge number of Leeds Trinity graduates remember it with affection, and I'm delighted so many of them have gone on to great things in radio newsrooms at a local and a national level.

I'm writing this now as my eve-of-battle address to my trainees, but I know it'll feel very different when that alarm clock goes off far too early tomorrow, and every morning for the next four weeks.

Actually, I know a guy who put it so much better. Listen up, Broadcast PGs of 2013:

'For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'

And my favourite (thanks, Sarah) ....

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