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…



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:


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…

Are journalists public enemy number one?


There are some professions that set eyes rolling when you mention them: traffic wardens, tax inspectors… journalists?? Yes, in my experience, all of the above apply.When people ask me what my job is – I’m proud to say I’m a journalist! Now I’ve finished  my training, I’ve been working in broadcast newsrooms across the North West. It’s been a learning curve to see the general reactions when I’m out on the road roving reporting.

I love the variety of my job – everyday is different! However, I’ve noticed a pattern that often emerges; I could be chatting to an interviewee as normal, but as soon as my recording equipment is switched on their whole demeanor changes. Some will become tense, sweat beads start forming on their brow and they become fidgety. Now, to a journalist, this gives off non-verbal signals that something’s not right.

When this sort of anxious reaction happens, I get the feeling a lot of people think I’m there to catch them out – but there’s no trick questions on my list. ‘Reporter’, does what it says on the tin; we want to report on what is happening for the story we are covering. Of course, I will ask interviewees challenging questions, when necessary – but if interviewees have nothing to hide then they have nothing to worry about, surely?

Maybe I’m over analysing, because I’m so comfortable in front of microphones and cameras. Sometimes, I need to take a reality check and realise that not everybody is like me. These could be nervous reactions from people who are not used to media attention. It doesn’t explain press officers who become incredibly controlling though. In fact, that just makes me want to find out even more what they might be trying to hide…

It would seem some people are sceptical of us, rather than the other way around. Recently, I had been questioning someone about facts and figures – quite a routine interview. This was a very hot day and I hadn’t been drinking enough water. Sod’s law being what it is, I started having a coughing fit during the interview. I was behind the camera and managed to muffle any kind of noise; no one watching would have known any different – but I must have been pulling some funny faces! The guy accused me of “trying to put him off”. I would never knowingly do that. It just shows how defensive some people can be.

I think events leading to the Leveson inquiry hasn’t helped the image of journalism – but it’s important to remember that inquiry was about print journalism NOT broadcast. The mediums are different; firstly, we are regulated by the Ofcom code. Secondly, there is no agenda; there’s not a weighted political bias in broadcast journalism. We have to report stories objectively, fully attributing quotes.

Attribution is easy to do on radio and TV because you will see or hear the person saying it or it will be quoted directly. Misrepresentation is unethical and it’s hard for broadcast journalists to misrepresent someone – because proof of what was said will be on a recording.

Journalists are searching for the truth, by asking the questions that the public want – and deserve – to know the answers to. We investigate and we we hold people in positions of authority to account. Just think what might be going on in the world without journalists? Having said that, not every interview I do needs to be an interrogation… if the interviewee has nothing to hide.

Broadcast journalists are not to the enemy. In fact, maybe any interviewee who thinks we are should try looking in the mirror?

Lost in Music – at Glastonbury Festival

Glastonbury – the festival I’ve never been to but feel like I have due to extensive BBC coverage. This year is no exception; The Rolling Stones headlined. What I was most looking forward to was seeing Chic, featuring my musical hero – Nile Rodgers… but they weren’t on the main stage.

It’s understandable why Glastonbury wanted the Stones on the Pyramid stage; it has been the dream of organiser Michael Eavis to see them perform at his festival and this year it came true. This is something that spans wider than the Somerset fields though, the BBC gave the Stones prominent coverage on BBC2 while Chic’s performance was hidden away on BBC Four – I would have missed it has I not been told it was on. Admittedly I am a massive disco fan, but it’s still a valid point.

I can’t help thinking this is modern day music snobbery that’s a throwback to the attitudes that caused the fateful Disco Demolition Night in July 1979. A baseball match was disrupted in Illinois, USA, and the ‘Disco Sucks’ movement began. This forced the music, flares and mirror balls underground while genres like punk rock started to gain rebellious popularity.

Chic live at The Ritz in Manchester

If you listen to the charts you’ll hear disco’s influence everywhere. Nile Rogers has reinvented himself many times to have hits with David Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran, Sister Sledge, Diana Ross and that’s just naming few. Most recently, of course, is his number one anthem of our summer – ‘Get Lucky’ with Daft Punk. That’s why I think Chic should have had a bigger billing, rather than on the smaller West Holts stage.

Chic lived up to their name, looking classy dressed in white throughout their performance. The Stones, on the other hand, looked frail and past it, with too many breaks for unnecessary costume changes. Judging by this Glastonbury appearance, Maroon 5 surely must reconsider whether it really is all that cool to “move like Jagger” for their hit song. I would have commended Ronnie Wood’s ability to multi-task… had it not been that he was smoking a cigarette while strumming his guitar.

Apart from their more mellow tracks that I play on my radio shows, I’ve never been a fan of the Rolling Stones’ music – it’s just not my cup of tea. Glastonbury was the chance to change all that but it didn’t. The sound quality was awful and I would have been distracted throughout had I not have thought I was watching Spinal Tap instead.

Don’t accuse me of being ageist; I’ve always had an affinity with music that’s not of my generation. Just a few hours ago I got chills hearing Kenny Rogers (no relation to Nile) singing ‘Lady’  and ‘We’ve Got Tonight’ from today’s Glastonbury highlights. Kenny’s older than all of the Stones, yet he still looks and sounds great.

I know the the Stones’ music is legendary and the soundtrack to the lives of many. Credit where credit is due and they probably do put on good shows but I won’t be paying over a £100 to see them. The times I’ve seen Nile Rogers have been priceless.

Nile Book




The test for success – finding the right revision method

ExamToday I got my exam results for my journalism masters at UCLan… and I’ve passed! The hard work has been worth it, especially as I got distinctions for all my practical work and digital assignments (which this blog played a part in.) I potentially won’t have to sit another exam again but I know there are many with exams still in full swing or maybe you want to have some tips so that you – or your kids – are better prepared the next time they get their heads down to revise.

Recently, I interviewed revision expert, Patrick Wilson, about exam tips and it reminded me of an article I wrote about revision techniques back  when I was doing A Levels It appeared in our Sixth Form magazine and I know it helped people there at the time – so I thought I’d post it here on my blog and it could help you too…

I’d love a photographic memory, wouldn’t you? In reality though, not many people actually have this gift – anyone who says they don’t need to revise for an exam is probably lying! Also – you are unique – how your mate is revising might not be the best method for you. There’s still time left to try out some different techniques and see which you like best.

You’ve probably heard this mentioned a lot: There are three main ways in which people learn, visually (through seeing), aurally (through hearing), and kinaesthetically (through doing). It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what type of learner you are; most people are usually a mixture of these styles. If you revise using a variety of methods for each style you are more likely to remember that vital information in the exam. Varying techniques is also a good way for your revision to become a little less tedious and boring too.


Visual is exactly what it says on the tin – learning by seeing things. If a teacher writes a task on the board are you more likely to remember it than if they had just told you? These types of learners will probably like to look at pictures and diagrams. In Science, you might like to draw a flow chart to help you get to grips with an experiment you have just completed. For History, why not write a certain year in the middle of the page and draw lines to all the different events that happened in a mind map? Whatever you do use plenty of colour – this will help for things stand out and become prominent in your mind.


Aural or auditory is leaning by hearing things. Do you like it when a teacher explains things by talking about it? If you have a big wad of notes that seem to go right over your head when you read through them then you might be an auditory learner. It may be of benefit to you if you actually record yourself reading key points out loud and you can play it back any time you want. Voice recorders come standard on most mobile phones now, so this is easy to do – if you don’t like the sound of your voice then get someone to read your notes to you. Hearing words rather than reading them might make you understand information better.


The final of the three common learning styles is kinaesthetic or tactile –  learning by doing things. Do you like it when a teacher demonstrates something? This method will probably suit those of you studying more practical subjects, such as Drama or Technology. However, tactile learning is not limited to these types of subjects and everyone will be able to utilise the benefits of this method. For instance, you could make a model of a DNA structure for Science.  If you’re studying a Shakespeare play for English, try acting out a scene from the play – you’re bound to remember what happens then!

exam hall 2

With the right  revision techniques that suits you and the subject you’re studying, you will be on the path to success. You can never do too much revision but remember that you need to take regular breaks from study too. You need to find the right balance between revision and social time – you can always tip that balance when exams are over!

Here’s my Grange Hill themed chat with revision expert, Patrick Wilson, who gives his tips for exam success…

The day the music died

I read a thought-provoking article the other day by Sophie Heawood: she commented about how our experience of music has changed in this digital age of downloads and streaming. As a Spotify premium subscriber, this resonated with me and I wanted to give my response. To get in the mood I’m listening to some of my guilty pleasures on Spotify as I write this, feel free to join me…

The trouble with digital – streaming music in particular – is that I don’t feel that I own music anymore. Not physically anyway, I literally just pay to listen to it. No doubt it’s saved space; I have racks and racks of CDs in my bedroom that are not getting added to anymore because I can listen to everything I want on my phone.

It’s not just our buying experience that’s different though, the entire way we hear music has changed because of digital. There’s a decline in hi-fis (don’t I sound old!) Instead of these dedicated sound systems, most people listen to music through tinny earphones, laptop or iPad speakers – all of which weren’t designed with sound quality as a priority.

headphonesIf you want to have a good listening experience I suggest you invest in a good pair of headphones. Walking down the street in a city centre you would think most people have, many people with headphones on their heads will go past you nodding along to the tunes that are whizzing through their ears. Do not be fooled by first impressions! These people don’t care for music; they’re flaunting it as part of an ‘80s throwback fashion craze. That’s because Dr Dre’s colourful Beats headphones are built for style rather than substance. My own headphones are Sennheisers, which sound fantastic, but I wouldn’t want to be seen outside of a studio wearing them!

Is music worth listening to anymore? People are still buying it (or rather, downloading it) in their droves so it obviously hasn’t died – just a bit of my soul has. The chart offerings aren’t just lyrically bland, the music sounds like music that could have been produced in someone’s bedroom… probably because it has been.

Then, out of the blue, came along a smash hit that restored my faith in modern music: Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, featuring Pharrell Williams and produced by my musical hero – Nile Rodgers. That song is the sound of the summer for many. The lyrics leave a lot to be desired, but the reason it sounds so good is because Daft Punk have learnt – and listened – to music from the past. By collaborating with established producers like Nile Rodgers and Giorgio Moroder, they’re adding to a contemporary disco sound being coined nu-disco.

No matter what your taste is, experiencing music is so fulfilling it becomes the soundtrack to your life – so make sure you hear it the way it was supposed to be heard with good quality equipment. Be open minded to explore; don’t just accept what’s played to you in the charts. That’s what Daft Punk did and it got them a number one. Music isn’t just about now; any track you hear will be inspired, in some form or another, by hits heard before. Let’s hope music’s future is just as colourful as its past.

Stockport: My reaction to the ‘Portas Pilot’

A scheme that sounds like ‘Pontius Pilate’, was surely doomed from the start – wasn’t it? I’m talking about the Portas Pilot, backed by a government pot of money and Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas’ experience. The plan was to bring life back to town centres that are struggling to get strong footfall into shops. The pilot has been running (and failing) across the country but towns in the North West that have been taking part are Nelson in Lancashire and Stockport, Greater Manchester.

viaductStockport is my hometown and I’m not ashamed of it – but I am ashamed of what people think of it. There were sniggers in the newsroom, and astonishment out on the street, when the town came second in a poll of the happiest places to live in the UK. My opinion is that Stockport suffers from being so close to the bright lights and bigger city of a fantastic place like Manchester – where there’s something for anyone. As a result, our town centre – and people’s impression – of the place has taken a turn for the worst.

In reality, Stockport shouldn’t be judged by flying visits through the train station or from empty shop units that are all around the centre. I like it here and there are many things Stopfordian’s should be proud of.

plazaMY TOP THREE HIGHLIGHTS: (My opinion and it doesn’t cover everything!)

1.  Newly restored art deco theatre, The Plaza, featuring the original wurlitzer organ that rises from the orchestra pit is something to be proud of. There’s a good range of shows on and the pantomimes always fill the seats, despite competition from the wide range of theatres in Manchester

2. I’m a supporter of independent cinemas that offer a quint alternative to the multiplexes; to have one in any town gets a big tick from me. We don’t have one… we have two! The Savoy in Heaton Moor has survived being taken over by developers more times than I can remember but thankfully it’s still going strong. The Regent in Marple is so nostalgic that they have an interval in the film and and ice-cream seller comes down the aisle.

3. The amount of green space in an urban town like ours is something I particularly enjoy, I don’t think many people realise how lucky we are to have it. Reddish Vale is just one example of an oasis of calm that’s practically on my doorstep – there are many other places of serenity around the borough to visit and I’m discovering hidden gems all the time.

Reddish Vale

… Stockport’s Pure 107.8 FM is obviously another highlight too, but as I’m the Chilled Pure weeknight presenter, I am slightly biased!

MY BOTTOM THREE LOWLIGHTS (I’m being realistic here!)

1. The amount of nightlife available is: Zilch. If you call ending up in the Weatherspoons a night out then you really do need to get out more. Manchester is only eight miles away – that’s a double edged sword for a small town like Stockport. Any kind of amenity or entertainment is so close by that Stockport finds it hard to have anything to top it. (Excluding my haunt of Heaton Moor in this, by the way. It’s great but has an 11pm curfew as it’s a residential area – no good for night owls like me!)

grand central2. The much-needed redevelopment of the Grand Central area needs to get a move on. While the developers have been working on it (ever since I was in primary school) most people now go bowling or to the cinema (multiplex – grrr!) at nearby Parrs Wood complex in Didsbury. Good luck in getting them to come back! It lost it’s appeal when the Heaven and Hell nightclub shut down… now it seems that all we are left with is the hell part.

3. The town centre, or rather, the lack of one. No surprise here! Mary Portas was supposed to help us out but it turns out that ten of the twelve pilot towns have not seen a rise in shop occupancy since it began and Stockport is one of them. In fact, shop occupancy has fallen in the town centre. Although it’s a year since the pilot started, speaking to the BBC’s You and Yours programme, Mary Portas said we need to wait to see improvement:

“Over the last year this government has worked hard to help communities across the country boost their high street. We have lifted planning restrictions to help landlords make better use of their empty properties, and cut business rates for small shops. […] Let’s celebrate their achievements so far and learn and share ideas. Real change will take time.”

The clock is ticking… At the moment though, it would seem that some portaloos in the town centre would be far more useful than the Portas Pilot.

stockport town centre

Emotion in journalism

I won’t apologise for feeling emotions about particularly moving news stories. I couldn’t change the way I am anyway, nor would I want to. I’ve met journalists who feel differently about this; some think if you’re covering a story then you should detach from the emotion involved. My own view is that I think it makes me a better reporter, giving me a better understanding of events if connect with stories on an emotional level. The audience are going to have these empathetic feelings too, so it makes sense that a journalist should be in tune with this – the audience are the people we are creating the news output for.

Lee RigbyEach day there are stories in the news that can affect us in this way but the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich is one that has flared up public opinions across the country, from the London borough where it happened to his hometown of Middleton in the North-West. A man who had survived the warzone in Afghanistan was murdered on a British street.

Part of the reason why this gained so much prevalence is because the media broadcast or print it. There are no right or wrong answers to the argument as to whether images of terrorism like this should be reported. On one hand, people want to know what’s going on in the world and censorship would water down the, sometimes unpalatable, realism that goes on.

The other side is that it can be seen as gratuitous, just because it’s a big story doesn’t mean we lose taste and decency. This isn’t a film that’s being shown – it’s real life. It’s hard for parents to keep track of too; children may access the images easily in newsagents, on TV channels and the internet, particularly social media and the backlash the news coverage has caused for Muslim communities is a negative example of this.

In terrorism cases, the media gives attackers a mouthpiece for their message to reach (and frighten) more people than it ever could have otherwise, which is essentially giving them what they want. The Woolwich attack suspects were heard asking for onlookers to film them after the attack, proving that point entirely.

My view is that these events need to be reported – the whole point of news is that we cover current events – we don’t want to wrap society in cotton wool either. However, I do feel there needs to be a line on how graphic this coverage needs to be. I know I’ve written about this before in my post about the Boston marathon bomb coverage, but I don’t mind saying it again. Unless we speak openly about this nothing will change. It is important to identify the people who did this, there’s no reason why they deserve anonymity after such acts of violence other than to prevent false accusations on who the attackers are. (This is not an issue in the Woolwich case.) But do we really need to see their bloodied hands? Even a description of that is graphic enough.

Personally, I feel it is disrespectful to to show images of a dead body to the victim’s memory, as well as their loved ones to have to see. It is poignant enough just seeing the photos of him in his soldier drummer uniform, anything else seems unnecessary to me.

It goes without saying that any news coverage should be reported objectively but human interest elements are what make the public want to hear news. I’m not a fan of sensationalism either – so emotion should be kept out of news reports as much as possible too – particularly in broadcast media. That’s not to say that journalists can’t have feelings when the cameras and microphones are switched off; we are all human after all.