Category Archives: Radio

General election fever 

Have you recovered from all the election coverage yet? For journalists, snap election is something we weren’t planning and had no control over but it was actually a fabulous showcase for our work, across all platforms.

I’ve now voted in three general elections but have also covered them for three separate radio stations. All different formats and I’ve had a range of roles each time.

2010 – I was a first time voter and also in the final year of my undergrad degree at the University of Manchester. I was heavily involved in our student radio station Fuse FM as part of the committee who ran the station. Although I presented programmes and had read a few bulletins, news wasn’t really my area at the time. As ironic as that sounds, considering I now live and breathe news! I was Head of Marketing and had responsibility for the ‘Street Team’.  We were heavily involved in generating content and vox pops from voters. We were also really excited that BBC 5Live had decided to broadcast from the students’ union during the night.

I’d been invited to take part in local community radio station, North Manchester FM‘s, election coverage as a studio guest.  Charlie Walduck was roving reporter at the count at Manchester Town Hall, providing inserts and interviews with candidates. It was an ambitious project for a community station on limited resources. It was the forerunner broadcast for me to apply for my own show and then becoming a presenter on the station.

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North Manchester FM studio

2015 – Five years later, I was working in radio professionally for commercial radio group UKRD’s stations The Bee and 2BR. Lancashire Election Night Live was another big broadcast; the first time the two stations had simulcast together. I was reporting from the town hall on the night. Blackburn is a safe seat with a long Labour legacy. However, this particular year was interesting because, the town was getting a new MP with the retirement of former cabinet minister, Jack Straw. I provided live inserts to the all-night broadcast including scene sets, interviews with candidates and conducted the live victory interview with Kate Hollern MP.

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Blackburn Town Hall count

2017 – We were doing it all over again, sooner than anyone thought! This time I’d moved stations a couple of junctions westbound on the M65 for BBC Radio Lancashire. Yet another ambitious project! In the lead up to the election, I was one of the breakfast producers who sourced content for the OB’s on Graham Liver’s ‘Big Election Breakfast Tour’ coming live from constituencies all around the county. Along with the Lancashire pop up living room “double-gussetted long-handled Graham Liver at breakfast” bags were handed out to listeners in every corner of the county.

On results day itself, I felt like I’d drawn a particularly long straw, reading our afternoon news bulletins. I love being part of big news days when listeners have a real thirst for developing information. It’s always a privilege to be able to deliver it to them, I’d broadcast previously the day after the EU referendum and when Theresa May was originally announced as Prime Minister, so was well up for whatever the day would bring…

I compiled and read our two extended 10-minute-long bulletins at 13:00 and 17:00. Keeping us journos on our toes, Theresa May began speaking on the steps of Downing Street at around 12:55! We got a clip of her saying she would form a government in the top story. That’s what I love about bulletin reading; the adrenaline rush you get when news is just coming in or changing. On results day, the breaking news buzz didn’t waiver all day long, with new lines coming in all the time.

Depending on your political views, general elections can mean a lot of different things for different people. There’s just some of my memorable moments. We might be making some more soon. Who knows? As we’ve seen over the last seven years – anything can happen in politics!

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BBC Lancashire breakfast OB team

Nations and Regions Media Conference 2017 review: Long live local radio

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This week I went to the Nations and Regions Media Conference at The Lowry in Salford. Since the Radio Festival changed venue and moved down south, I was looking forward to a conference of a similar vein in the old stomping ground.

I should have known from the ticket price (£90 early-bird rate) that this was aimed more at executive level, rather than for those of us who work in production. It would take a journalist working at some commercial stations around two days salary to pay to go to all events, adding travel and parking costs etc. The redeeming feature was the price did include lunch though – bonus!

One of the early sessions about investigative journalism was insightful; there was a lot of wistful reminiscing to the past about the likes of ITV’s long-gone ‘World in Action’. It was a treat to hear from director Paul Greengrass, who used to work on the programme before heading off to Hollywood. What I took from this session was journalists are more than ever required to “show their workings” in this era of “Fake News”, as President Trump coined it. It means, due to this vigour, the quality of work broadcasters are producing is actually more reliable. Maybe not all of Trump’s media criticisms are so damming for the industry, after all?

The second day got underway and I was enjoying debates on various issues. MP for Wigan, Lisa Nandy, shared her view that – because MediaCity now exists – that doesn’t automatically mean northern views are catered for. “The North” doesn’t stop at Salford and start again in Scotland. There’s a whole wealth of audience members, stories and talent that’ll be missed, if that’s a widely-held belief.

I hope it isn’t, but have taken calls from people in the past who have made humorous misconceptions. While I can forgive statements like: “Is Bolton in Lancashire?”, because it’s on the border. It only takes a quick glance at a map to know the answer to: “Is Blackburn in Manchester?”

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley, announced there will be a consultation to move some of Channel 4’s staff out of London to “wherever it can be found” in the UK. As someone who grew up in Greater Manchester, I know how amazing the opportunities at MediaCityUK are: the area’s been completely regenerated and is buzzing. However, if every major media outlet sets up there, Salford will become as much of an isolated bubble as London is perceived to be.

As a regional staple, I was disappointed with the lack of mentions local radio got at the conference. People who work in that area make a limited amount of resources spread far and wide in order to create content. Talented staff are serving parts of the audience that other platforms may not reach. At times, providing vital information –  the recent Lancashire floods are a prime example. I would urge any sceptic to spend a day in a local radio newsroom – either commercial or BBC – and see for themselves. Yet newsrooms in local stations are constantly under threat from cuts.

BBC local radio as an example; there are stations all across the country. Audience reach of all of them combined must be enough to match a national network station. Surely that makes it eligible to warrant a discussion? The audience is more concentrated in each TSA and the issues differ from place to place, but that makes what’s on offer so unique.

It was infectious hearing Head of BBC Radio, Bob Shennan’s, positivity for the medium and his enthusiasm that another golden age of radio is “still to come”, even if it may be different from what has gone before. Due to the way the discussion went though, ill-fated Channel 4 Radio got more of a mention than local radio, which is still very much thriving on the dials.

At the end of a thought-provoking conference, I was driving home listening to a network station when the news came on. There was a Lancashire story in the bulletin and my ears pricked up, because that’s where I live and work. The reader made the easy mistake of pronouncing Barrowford, in Pendle, as: “BARROW-F’D”. You need local knowledge to know it’s actually pronounced: ‘BARROW-FORD’. There’s no way of knowing this by reading off a script alone. I carried on my journey explicitly aware that local radio is still as important as ever.

Radio reflections of 2016

bbc-lancsThis time last year, I made a decision that would affect how my whole year would pan out. I decided, after much consideration, to go back to freelancing. This was such a big decision because staff jobs in radio are like gold dust. But in 2016, I took a leap of faith.

As a result of that ‘Sliding Doors’ moment, I have had wonderful experiences and am going to share some of those with you in this blog. I spent the majority of my time in newsrooms across the North West. This past year has been quite extraordinary journalistically, in the stories that have dominated the headlines.

Just some stand out moments were when I was newsreading for Revolution 96.2 the day of the Hillsborough Verdicts, at Wireless Group the day Theresa May became Britain’s new Prime Minister and at BBC Lancashire the day after ‘Brexit’, as well as the day the announcement of the government’s decision to allow fracking in the county – a day when people from across the BBC were looking at my scripts.

I left 2BR in February and spent six months as a freelancer, before settling down at BBC Lancashire. Much of my freelancing was spent double shifting. Looking back now, I don’t know how I had the energy! I would finish a morning shift at one radio station, have lunch as quick as I could, then hot foot it down the M6 to the INRIX travel centre. I had some fixed hours there that helped guarantee while I was freelancing I could at least afford to pay the rent and bills for my flat.

There wasn’t a week I went without work though – one of my new year’s resolutions for 2017 is to have a holiday! I have been an INRIX travel broadcaster for almost three years and was pleased to get chance to be an information editor and see the other side of how the bulletins are put together. The travel hub is a hive of activity and it was great to be part of the afternoon team.

Rejoining BBC Lancashire was like I’d never been away! I was originally with the station in 2013 as a Broadcast Assistant and came back as a Broadcast Journalist in 2016. I’ve done almost every role in the newsroom from reading sport bulletins during the Euro 2016, the Olympics and Paralympics. To updating the Lancashire ‘Local Live’ pages of our website – covering the progress of Graham Liver and the team pulling a bed from Pudsey to Bare in aid of BBC Children in Need for BBC News Online. No two days are the same and I love the variety of my work.

My usual role is producing Gary Hickson at teatime, which is a real honour. When I was first with BBC Lancashire I was mostly a reporter for Gary’s programme and it’s great to produce the show I had previously worked so closely on. Gary is a talented broadcaster who brings out the best in me, keeps my feet on the ground and the programme’s rising RAJAR ratings speak for themselves.

It’s a dream come true to read news bulletins on the BBC and I count that as my biggest achievement of the year. I thrive in a live breaking news environment and it’s liberating to have so much creative freedom. I’ve loved bantering on the breakfast team, reading the extended news bulletins at one o’clock and the doing the double headed news with Gary at five o’clock too.

We embrace social media and I was proud to be the first person at the station to do a live news bulletin both on-air concurrently while broadcasting on Facebook Live. At the time of writing, Facebook stats show that broadcast has reached almost 94,000 people. Amazing… and it brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘Face for the radio’! You can see it HERE.

That’s just a snapshot; there’s been so many memorable moments to mention. Thanks to everyone who’s made 2016 such an enjoyable year. As for 2017… stay tuned! 

Graham Liver interviewing me for a BBC Children in Need outside broadcast.

Why pop music should be more Bowie

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I will forever remember waking up last Monday morning (January 11th, 2016.) Like most people, I picked up my phone to see the news agenda of the day and there it was – an alert announcing 69-year-old David Bowie had died.

Disbelief; I hadn’t known he had cancer? Is this a nightmare? Surely this was a hoax?

Worldwide mourning followed with many radio stations opting, in the early part of the day at least, to play his songs back-to-back in tribute. Listening to this struck me at how unique this moment must be. To hear an artist’s back catalog and not become disinterested. (The radio industry term being that songs ‘burn’ out after being heard too much.)

From ‘Space Oddity’ to ‘Let’s Dance’, there’s something to suit every musical taste. Not to mention how familiar his dulcet tones or riffs seem, even after a while of not hearing them. I’m not old enough, to have been there in Bowie’s heyday, when Ziggy Stardust took to the stage  and from then on. Yet his music sounded as fresh last Monday as some of the most recent chart hits.

It got me thinking, is there anyone in pop culture these days whose ‘Sound and Vision’ will stand the test of time like that? By the very nature of the pop genre it needs to be a one-size-fits all. The concept of the industry is to appeal to as many people as possible in order to maximise sales.

That’s why all of Adele’s songs sound the same, it’d be too much of a risk to deviate from what’s expected. All credit to Justin Bieber; (I never thought I’d write that!) he’s done well in reinventing himself from a rebellious adolescent to someone whose music you don’t have to hide away and listen to secretly in the car (surely, that’s not just me??) Now you can play ‘What Do You Mean?’ loud and proud from those speakers – pump that looping flute up to 11!!!

….BUT will Beiber’s songs have longevity? Will they become anthems in years to come in the way ‘Heroes’, ‘Rebel, Rebel’ or ‘Fame’ is? I don’t have a crystal ball, but I don’t think so. However, maybe you need hindsight for these kind of things.

On top of Bowie’s music being as good as it was unconventional, for the time it was released anyway. It was his fearless approach to being different that cut through to other areas as well. Whether that be fashion or cultural influence to promote a shift of attitudes. I think it’s this that’s helped cement his status as a British pop icon. Bowie’s music can be related to something tangible that resonates beyond the songs you hear.

See this tweet by Preston’s Men Against Violence charity, as an example…

This is the antithesis of pop music; it needs to appeal to as many people as possible, remember. I wonder what we’d think if someone like an unknown Bowie released a song in today’s charts. It would probably do very well in the alternative arenas but would it cut through to mainstream?

I’m not saying I want someone to be a carbon copy of David Bowie; there will only ever be one of him, that’s the point. There needs to be someone  daring enough to build upon and use their public profile to provoke social change. Who knows what might be able to be achieved.

It’s been a while since my last post and I was thinking of starting it up again. Before Bowie died my focus of the post was going to be Kate Bush. She has a similar unconventional allure that has made her too achieve legendary status. You only have to get past the heavy rotated hits like ‘Wuthering Heights’ (as wonderful an example that is) and listen to her albums. You realise just how beautifully outlandish her discography is too. Long may she release more! There may be many more artists in this vein too, but these are two striking examples, off the top of my head.

David Bowie – a hero for much more than just one day. He may no longer be with us, but his music is immortal. The Starman’s influence has helped drive social change. He has been one of the best ambassadors for British quintessential eccentricity we could ever have wished for.

Now let’s hope some of today’s pop stars use Bowie’s death and rise into social consciousness again to follow this lead. Be that extra bit different: “Turn and face the strange…”

Late Night Radio

Everyone can remember the moment they discover their passion and for me my love of radio was sparked after sunset. I can understand what it must’ve been like to curl up under the covers listening to Radio Luxembourg or Radio Caroline in the years gone by because that’s what it was like listening to late night radio for me. Although, I had my trusty CD walkman with radio tuner and five FM presets instead of  a wireless transistor.

My number one preset was Key 103 and every night I’d be tuning into James Stannage. It felt a bit rebellious doing this, not only because of the show’s near-the-knuckle content, but because it was way past bed time. Listening through earphones, my parents wouldn’t have a clue of my nocturnal radio habit – until I’d gaffaw with laughter at one of the comments. Busted!!

The show ran on until 2am most nights but it was compulsive listening because you never knew what would happen next with a call or especially Stannage’s reaction to what was said. Despite the late nights, I would rush to school because my classmates would love discussing what happened on  show the night before. We’d recall moments when James said he would “garrotte [his callers] with cheese”… and daring each other to ring in next time!

Shock jocks like Stannage aren’t around on FM anymore; even devil’s advocate risky comments pose too much of a risk in today’s courtroom culture to sue radio stations if any offense is caused. It’s a shame because those style of shows where I literally couldn’t turn the tuner off are hard to find now. My passion for radio had been ignited and I continued to listen to late night radio under the covers. Radio is always a very personal one-to-one medium whatever time of day you listen but this gets accentuated at night, especially with a talented presenter to keep you company.

After James Stannage left the airwaves, I veered away from listening to ‘Shock Jocks’.  James H Reeve took the vacant slot on Key 103 – he is very different to Stannage but just as compelling to listen to one of the most intelligent talk presenters I’ve ever heard. Then there was Nicksy who has an amazing talent for observations, which is a foundation of any good radio presenter, but Nicksy excels at it.

The late night slot on Key 103 was changing a lot and, to accompany my own broadening music taste, the next nightshift presenter I remember listening to is my favourite of all – Derek Webster through the night on Smooth Radio. Derek’s too warm and friendly to be a shock jock but just as humourous. I’d never heard a show like it before; it was like joining a club of friends who were other listeners across the county. I didn’t want to go to sleep until I’d heard how ‘Janey from the Dairy’ was doing or where ‘Nightrunner John’ was visiting that night.

I then became a radio rival to all these shows when I started presenting Chilled Pure on Pure 107.8 FM – there’s just something so magical about being on-air after midnight – but, as my career moved on, I had to leave the show with a heavy heart. Now I’m a reporter at BBC Radio Lancashire and sometimes my shift includes working on Alison’s Butterworth’s late show that’s on-air in Lancashire and Manchester. It’s a thrill to call screen and speak to night time listeners, just like myself.

I recently put together a late show reminiscing about memories of the Belle Vue showground, which utilised our Manchester studio to get the guests on air. It all ran so smoothly, listeners wouldn’t have known it was any different to usual but producing that show and seeing my ideas make it to air is one of the proudest achievements in my career to date!

It’s a dream come true for me to work on shows like this that sparked my love of radio so much so that I’m lucky enough for it to be my career. It’s a dream that happens at night but one that I’m staying wide awake to experience.  And you should too; there’s a wealth of late night radio out there. So next time you turn out the light, make sure you turn the radio on…

I’m producing tonight where you can hear the fabulous Joe Wilson tonight sitting in for Alison Butterworth on BBC Radio Manchester and BBC Radio Lancashire from 10pm…

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Journalism – a class of its own?

The essence of a journalist in a nutshell is to report news. Think of where news is generated; the possibilities are endless. News – whether it’s good or bad – can spring up from any situation. Granted, the chance of a newsworthy story increases for people in the public eye but a bulletin doesn’t have to resemble who’s on Jonathan Ross’ chat show sofa because it’s important that ordinary voices are heard and their stories are told too. In fact, those are often the most interesting.

In order to tell these stories appropriately, we need a diverse range of journalists who hail from a variety of backgrounds. This is so important for many reasons, including empathy with a interviewee, a range of contacts and  knowing where to look – having a good nose for a story.

The problem with the industry at the moment is that the amount of diversity on offer is grately restricted and that’s  because the most tried and tested way in is through the education system. It doesn’t matter about student loans because, at the end of the day, an undergraduate degree still costs £9,000 a year and for post-grads, the cost varies uni to uni, but it’ll be around the £5,000 mark for a year, without the same amount of student loan support available.

It’s a massive commitment to make when you decide you want to be a journo but it sorts out the wheat from the chaff because it’s a lot of time and money to spend pursuing a dream career. Which is why I would always recommend a budding journalist do what I did and get as much hands-on experience as possible before deciding which direction to take.

I stand by the comment I made on Twitter earlier this month…

Citizen journalism has it’s place but, if you want to make this a profession rather than a hobby,  you need to be an accredited journalist before you can even think about applying for certain jobs. That’s for a reason because media law knowledge is vital in keeping any work accurate and trustworthy – two key qualities of a good journalist. You wouldn’t call someone a Doctor because they can open a bottle of Calpol and it shouldn’t be a parallel in journalism.

However, I appreciate the price tag of the education system can be very elitist. This is on top of needing to do a lot of unpaid work-experience to learn your craft, so you need to be able to support yourself somehow. As well as knowing how to drive and having your own car available, which is all very desirable, on top of enthusiasm and dedication to the craft.

I’m not saying it’s right or  wrong – it’s just how the industry is. In order to become a journalist, education and subject knowledge is important because you need to be able to write well. Even if you’re a broadcast journalist, phonetic spellings akin to that of text talk belong in pronunciation brackets, not your script. You will also have to write web stories online increasingly as the digital world around us continues to evolve too. That’s all on top of probably the most essential skill – you need to be a good communicator.

There is a light at the end of this academic tunnel though and on-the-job training seems to be on the rise. As I’ve written in previous blog posts, I wouldn’t change my journalism training at UCLan for the world; I learnt so much there, made great friends and found myself as a person. Although, I’m like the idea of work while you learn schemes increasing because they aim to attract a diverse range of people to the journalism profession vocationally and that therefore allows more stories to be heard.

The BBC run the Journalism Trainee Scheme and ITV have announced their Break into News initiative. Student, community and hospital radio also rightly deserve their place as excellent training grounds and I’m one of many journalists who cut their teeth that way. The Journalism  Diversity Fund is also available to help with fees for those who want to access the academic route.

Let’s focus on attracting diverse journalists into the profession with a wide range of life experiences that reflect the stories we want to tell because the audience want to hear them – in an engaging and trustworthy way. That’s how we become top of the class.

Radio’s big sex scandal!

If you’re reading this for a kiss and tell exposé then – I’m sorry – you won’t find any of that here! I wanted to give my reaction to the gender split that we have in radio.

Do a quick search on Google and you will see this definition of feminism, in a nutshell:

fem·i·nism  

The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

When I was reporting for BBC Radio Manchester about a topic on feminism, not everyone I asked on the street thought of a feminist in those terms. This snippet from my package also includes Richard Pankhirst speaking about his Suffragette mother, Sylvia:

The feminist movement has evolved a long way over the years, or has it? Not in the radio industry…

This surprises some people but wanting gender equality does not necessarily mean you have to be a woman to be a feminist  – men can be feminists too. In fact, the Director General of the BBC, Tony Hall, seems to be one. Speaking in August, Mr Hall said: “By the end of 2014 I would like to see half of our Local Radio stations with a woman presenting on the Breakfast shows.”

Think of the voices you hear on radio in general, how many of the presenters’ voices are female? Sound Woman is an organisation that promotes equality for women working in audio: their research found 1 in 5  voices on radio is female out of presenters that fly (or should that be drive the desk?) solo. Just 13% are heard on breakfast shows – this certainly does not suggest an equal split.

FeminismAcross BBC local radio this split is more even; 48 per cent of the people who are employed are female. However, this takes into account other roles like journalists. In my experience, this area seems to attract more women than men nowadays. On my broadcast journalism masters there was a ratio of 5 ladies to one man in our class. In terms of presenting, the BBC like to reflect their audience, so it would make sense to have more women on-air, not just on breakfast shows, but more shows all together.

Or is it really that important? I wouldn’t want to get a job purely because I am a woman or any other label, for that matter. In any industry, positive discrimination may tick boxes but you won’t find the best people for the job by narrowing searches down with criteria. However, many women are capable of presenting radio shows on their own but, as the research suggests, not many are doing.

What worries me about Tony Hall’s plans is that he doesn’t specify what role he would like woman to be heard in this overhaul of BBC local radio shows. If women will appear as a sidekick to a (perhaps already existing) male presenter on the station then there’s no point in adding her as a token gesture. All that will do is reinforce the subordinate nature of female stereotypes that have been around since the ideology of the nuclear family.

This year’s Radio Festival, has a female feel to the line-up, especially  with stalwart hosts Mark Radcliffe and Stuart McConnie dropped in favour of Fi Glover and Jane Garvey. Charlotte Church will also be the first woman to deliver the festival’s annual John Peel Lecture. Women’s role in radio is the hot topic on people’s lips at the moment – but it’s the voices the listeners hear over the airwaves that really matter.

Results day – the end of academia and onto a new start

Today students across the country got their A Level results but it’s been 6 years since I opened my sealed envelope from Parrs Wood Sixth Form college in Didsbury. It meant I was off to study a combined studies degree of English Language, Linguistics and Film Studies at The University of Manchester. From that moment, my life’s direction had been decided… I just didn’t realise it back then.

I’m writing this to say whatever academic results you achieve, whether they’re good or not quite what you hoped, it should not stop you from achieving your dreams. My graduation was bittersweet; I was the first person in my family to go to university, so my parents were thrilled, but I wished I had done better. I was disappointed because I achieved excellent A Level and GCSEs results but didn’t feel I was leaving university with a grade that reflected my true ability.

GraduationThe reason I didn’t do as well as I hoped was actually because I was spending too much time in radio studios! Ironically, this would eventually work out to my advantage. I didn’t enjoy the subject I was studying and couldn’t see the point if it wasn’t going to correlate with my career ambitions of working in media.

A university tutor told me that I would never be able to go on to study a masters… how wrong she was! This comment initially put me off applying for postgraduate study at UCLan but course leader, Caroline Hawtin, saw I had potential with my range of experience. (Spending all that time in radio studios WAS worth it after all!) Hopefully, anyone who knows me will know I’m completely dedicated to my career and was delighted to be offered a place on the broadcast journalism MA.

I took a chance coming out of working in the media industry to go back into further study, but enrolling was one of the best decisions I have ever made! I achieved distinctions for all my TV and radio practical work and digital modules, with merits for everything else. This shows that anyone can do well when you get the opportunity to study subjects you enjoy. That’s what made the difference to me and I appreciated my time at UCLan all the more because of it.

I still look back at my undergraduate degree at Manchester with fondness though. Academically, the course wasn’t right for me but without being there I would never have been bitten by the radio bug, by getting involved with student radio. This therefore wouldn’t have led me to qualifying as an accredited broadcast journalist. Maybe things do happen for reason?

Academic results, whether they’re good or bad, are only black ink on white paper – they can’t convey the true colour of what someone is like. Ultimately, they can only take you so far; it’s what you do after you open the envelope that really counts…

Top of the Vox Pops

Definition: VOX POP (Vox Populi) –“Voice of the people”

A vox pop is an interview with members of the public; their answers about a particular topic are usually edited to give snippets in succession. I’ve learnt lots by doing this over the years, so thought I would share what works best for me…

  • Ask open questions!!

If you only remember one thing from this post then let it be this: Asking open questions is the most important thing you more do when you vox pop. Here’s an example:

CLOSED QUESTION: Do you agree with XXX?

OPEN QUESTION: What’s your opinions on XXX?

Open questions elicit expansive answers from people. There’s nothing more boring to listen to than a series of yes and no answers – we’re not playing Take Your Pick!

  • Use station branding wherever possible.

This is almost like a form of ID and people will be comfortable speaking to you if they are familiar with the station you are doing the vox pops for.

  • Approach people within the station’s demographic or target audience.

…But make sure the selection of people you speak to are diverse enough to give a  true wide reflection of society’s opinions on a given topic.

  • Target areas with a high amount of footfall.

You will get your work done quicker if you does this; more people around means you’re more likely to get a response. However, avoid places where there is a lot of flyering because people will have become used to saying no in these areas.

  • Keep off private property.

Some areas, like shopping centres and train stations, are privately owned and you will need permission to vox pop here.

  • When speaking to members of the public, who may be in a rush, walk alongside them. 

This way they won’t have to stop and take time out of their day to talk to you, so you’re more likely to get a response.

  • If someone says no then leave them.

Do not harass or beg someone to speak to you – someone else will come along who will. The same applies if someone ignores you; they’re doing this on purpose.

  • Press record BEFORE you ask the question. 

That way their response will be genuine. People are naturally curious and will often ask what you are going to ask them before they agree to speak to you. Avoid doing this as it ruins spontaneity, if they are not happy with anything then you don’t have to broadcast it and can always delete it.

  • Always wear earphones (or headphones) to monitor the sound.

You will pick up noises or interference through earphones that your ears would not.  Earphones are usually better when vox popping, as they are more portable.

  • Keep an eye on the level monitor.

That’s  a better indication of volume than what you can hear.

  • Always use a pop screen or windshield on the microphone.

Do this even when indoors as a force of habit. Plosive consonants – particularly P, T and K – can produce irritating popping sounds, so a foam layer on the microphone reduces that risk. On windy days even a windshield won’t save you. In this case you’ll have to be creative with scarfs, coats, gloves – anything that will deaden the sound of wind hitting the mic.

  • Keep safe!

Last but certainly not least! When you are immersed in your work it can be easy to take your eye off the ball. The equipment you’re carrying automatically makes you a target of unwanted attention in public places, so keep alert and an awareness of your surroundings at all times.

Keeping it Real

katy realMy radio placement was over the other side of MediaCity with the Real and Smooth network. For a radio fan like me this was a great to work in a news hub that served a network of three stations, Smooth Radio (national), Real Radio (North West) and Real XS (Manchester). As is the unpredictable nature of news, during my time on placement a lot stories that got massive national media coverage broke on our North West patch.

As you’ll know from my post about my placement with BBC North West Tonight, this is a reflection of the work I did on placement rather than a recount of the news – you can access that in many places on the web, I’ll link to the stories. In these posts, I want to offer a different perspective through my eyes as a reporter…

MICHAEL AND HILLARY BREWER SENTENCED FOR SEXUAL ABUSE AT CHEETHAM’S SCHOOL OF MUSIC 

I got my first taste of a media frenzy outside court after the sentencing of Michael and Hillary Brewer, who were charged with sex offences, mostly occurring while he was a teacher at Cheetham’s School of Music in Manchester. This case had got attention because of of the victims, Frances Andrade, took her life during the trial. Atmosphere outside of court was tense as the media eagerly awaited the statement from the Crown Prosecution Service.

The cameras were in place well before but radio reporters have to think quickly to get in a good position when speakers come out so that they can be in range to get good quality audio on the microphones. I did well to get right at the front, which not only meant that Real Radio got good brand placement for the cameras but also that my hand was seen on all the TV news channels that day. I’m now in a strange situation where my purple coat is more famous than I am!

DOG ATTACK THAT KILLED JADE ANDERSON IN ATHERTON

IMAG1080No matter how much training you have beforehand, nothing can prepare you emotionally for some of the stories that you will have to cover as a journalist. The day started out like any other, I was out vox popping a light story in the morning but then I got the call to go on to Atherton, near Wigan, to cover the story on Jade Anderson – a 14 year old girl who had been mauled to death by pitbull type dogs. Like the flick of a light switch, the tone of the work had changed and  was now incredibly sombre.

When I got to the crime scene I had never heard a silence like it; despite there being so much activity from media attention to people coming to pay their respects – there was no noise to be heard on the estatem other than a lone dog barking in the distance. Very haunting.

STEPHEN SEDDON GIVEN A LIFE SENTENCE FOR MURDERING HIS PARENTS

I had been following the Stephen Seddon trial while working with BBC North West Tonight and was in court reporting on his sentencing. Sedddon was  found guilty for murdering both his parents. The  judge, Mr Justice Hemblem, said the motive was for their inheritance money. Seddon’s sentence also included attempting to murder his parents earlier in the year by driving them into a canal.

Courtrooms feel very theatrical, maybe I have been watching too many legal dramas, but the atmosphere really was intense. To look directly at a man who has been sentenced to life imprisonment from the press box is a rare opportunity to have. It’s dramatic enough hearing about such cases on the news, but to actually be there to hear him sent down in person is something else. I was absorbing the atmosphere of the court proceedings happening around me while scribbling down notes as fast as I could – no recording devices are allowed in court. However, the judge’s words were so powerful, alongside Seddon’s own outbursts and last pleas of innocence, that I can still remember much of what was said in there verbatim, even now.

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I covered lots of stories during my time on placement with Real, from the abolition of Legal Aid in some situations to Stockport being voted the second happiest place to live in Britain. (Yes, really!!) By far those that I’ve mentioned in this post are the news stories that stick in my mind most potently though. It was a joy to work with the team whose bulletins I’ve listened to for many years on a network of stations that I am a fan of. Not only was that an amazing experience in itself but I learnt so much while I was there too and my copy writing skills are well up to broadcast standard. Hearing scripts I had written be read in bulletins was amazing  – I loved working in such a buzzing newsroom! My placements have given me the taste of what working life will be like when I graduate from my masters and I take all those valuable experiences forward with me now I’m applying for freelance work.