You’re busy, I’m busy. So I keep these blog posts to five pithy paragraphs, all based on thoughts nicked from the newsrooms I work in every week. Thanks for taking an interest.
I’ve just been catching up with a good journalist friend of mine who I worked with back in the nineties. We were both reporters at the BBC TV newsroom in Newcastle upon Tyne. It’s reminded me of the bitter north-east winter morning when one inspiring News Editor gave us all a bit of a shock — and succeeded in getting us all out of a rut.
It was the first blast of winter. Snow had fallen hard overnight. In radio and tv newsrooms, this poses challenges for the Early News Team who have to battle their way into their studios before the snowploughs have done their work. The early newsreader will find a set of news stories, ready to go to air, prepared by the Late News Team, who’ll have left around 11pm the night before.
On this occasion, I was that early newsreader. Relieved to have got in by 5am at all, I carried out the routine check calls to police and fire headquarters for any news that had broken overnight (there wasn’t much), and at around 6.15am entered the studio to read, more or less, the six or seven stories that had been left for me the night before. I can’t remember them now, but they’re likely to have been updates on court cases, a row over school funding perhaps, maybe a local council health campaign. Good, solid, regional news, rounded off with a twenty second summary of the weather. Except that wasn’t the news people needed that icy morning as they headed out for work and school.
At around 9am, our News Editor arrived. His job is to hold the first meeting of the day, to set the day’s news agenda. It was normally held in a warm conference room with a big desk and lots of chairs. But that morning, a tannoy went out inviting us to gather in the car park. We grabbed our coats, scarves and hats, puzzled, and headed to the door. Our Editor was waiting for us. “So, what’s the lead story today?” he asked, muffled by his scarf, but glancing at me. “Is it really that on-going court case?”
Twenty years on, I look back on that news meeting as one of the most effective I’ve ever attended. Tough, perhaps. But brilliant at making me spot my mistake: the weather was the only thing that mattered for an early morning audience, and I should have given it a lot more than twenty seconds. By jolting us out of a sterile conference room and into an icy car park, he’d given us an in-your-face reminder of why we hold news meetings in the first place. It was, truly, a breath of fresh air.
If you’d like your team to work, think and laugh a little faster, give me a call to see if my Newsroom Bootcamp workshop might fit the bill. Or come along to my next ticketed event in November, and try it for yourself!
Thanks to northeastexposure.co.uk for the photo image — happy memories of Gateshead