The latest in the #RadioLab lecture series saw BBC Radio 1’s Tom Bateman give a talk to De Montfort University media students about his experiences as a Senior News Producer for Newsbeat and BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.
Tom gave us the low-down on how to get a job in radio. He shared some of the experiences of the Radio 1 Newsbeat Team as they introduce more mobile media technology into the production of news shows, and he made a passionate argument that news is about judgement and trust, the essential building blocks for the defining relationship with BBC Radio’s audience. If you want to be employable, according to Tom, you have to tell interesting stories.
For Tom, what makes a news story interesting is the ‘compelling characters’ and the ‘real people’ that any news producer encounters. Tom’s warned against producing content that is pre-scripted and cheesy, while keeping the feel of a report spontaneous and emotionally authentic.
Any station is a coalition of listeners, according to Tom. At BBC Radio 1 the level of commitment and interest varies, from those who are content with the music output, and who have more mainstream tastes, to those who are restless, and like to shift their listening patterns about – on to those who are ‘scensters’ and who like the more specialist music output.
Tom talked us through the production process for any typical Newsbeat show, and how mobile phone technology is helping to bring programme content together much more quickly, from locations that are much more spread about, and using a range of voices that are much more diverse. Connecting to the Newsbeat studios across data networks, while still not perfect, is giving programme teams the chance to email-in stories that are in much higher quality than telephones, and more up-to-date than anything that needs to be physically edited.
But as the speed of turn-around increases, the desire for more creativity also increases. Tom reckons that while it’s good to know the rules, it’s also good to be able to break the rules – or at least bend them a little. Keeping stories light and playful is important, but Tom warned against being afraid to ask ‘what if?’
And so, Tom’s tips for a good story are:
Use a range of different treatments.
Use different techniques at the same time.
Think about getting to the ‘nitty-gritty’ of a story.
Be prepared to make decisions quickly.
Be prepared to make fine judgements everyday.
In short, Tom’s advice is to always keep your stories authentic, honest and passionate.
It was great having Tom visit De Montfort University and talk with students and volunteers on DemonFM. We’ll certainly take him up on his offer to come back and talk with us again.