Reaction Weekend

The highs and lows of reporting breaking news

BY Iain Dale | tweet IainDale   /  31 October 2020

The Nice Terror Attack & the EHRC Report into Antisemitism in the Labour Party, Sky News & BBC News Channel

The problem with breaking news for any broadcast organisation is that you often have very little information to go on. The challenge is to maintain the viewer’s or listener’s interest without being too repetitive.

I remember being on air when Flight MK 17 went down over the Ukraine. And that was all we knew, yet it was clearly a major event and we went into rolling news mode. It’s moments like this that you earn your money as a new presenter. You either sink or swim. Everyone in the newsroom drops what they are doing and it’s all hands to the pump. Contact books are raided for anyone who knows anything. Twitter is scoured for eyewitnesses. I’m constantly amazed at the resourcefulness of producers who manage to get people on the air within minutes.

In the gallery, the studio producer is giving you a barrage of information. Another barrage is uploaded onto the Google Document screen in front of you. To the audience, as a presenter, you’re as calm as can be – or at least that is the aim – but you’re like a swan – apparently calm and serene, gliding along, but underneath your feet are moving ten to the dozen. You are thinking about ten things at the same time. Your brain has to sort the wheat from the chaff. Above all, your job is to report, not speculate. And deep in the recesses of your mind, you’re fully aware of the fact that one word out of place, one wrong fact given, and it could be career ending.


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