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Discovering the world of broadcast news

BBC South East Today news control room

I won’t be able to watch TV news in the same way again. 

Why? Because I was lucky enough to be invited into my local BBC TV control room to witness how the live news goes out each day. 

Sure, as a journalist by trade I was familiar with much of what was going on. But seeing the precision and professionalism of live TV news was extraordinary. I have a whole new respect for what goes into creating a TV news bulletin.

So what was I doing in the control room of BBC South East Today? It’s all to do with some research we are doing into how the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service, which allows journalists to make free requests to experts for information or comment, can be used by broadcast journalists. I wanted to immerse myself in the broadcast news environment and experienced reporter John Young invited me along to take a look.

The background to this is that while the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service is pretty effective for the broadcast journalists who’ve discovered it, a relatively small proportion of the annual 32,000+ requests come from TV and radio journalists. 

We wanted to know why this is, and whether it is simply a matter of making sure more broadcast journalists know about ResponseSource, and if so how we should get our message across. 

We know for sure that the ResponseSource works for journalists in broadcast as it has been used successfully and repeatedly in this context. We know from experience that the service can work with lead times as short as one hour – typical in broadcast news. We just feel that there are more journalists and researchers out there in broadcast we can help. 

Visiting BBC South East Today was fantastically useful and I am very grateful for the team there for allowing me to observe what they do. I recognised many of their processes from my experience in text-based journalism but there is also a discipline of brevity (timing reports to the second) and a layer of complexity (illustrated by a whole host of technical jargon) which sets broadcast journalism apart.

There is demand in TV and radio news for a more diverse range of spokespeople that can be lined up for interview at short notice. This is where I am convinced ResponseSource can help and we’ll be working hard to reach more broadcast journalists and researchers over the coming months. 

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