From January until April 2014 I worked in radio broadcasting as production assistant on the BBC Sussex Saturday breakfast show; this involved contacting contributors, taking calls during the show’s phone-ins, greeting guests who arrived at the studio & updating social media during each live broadcast.
I was living just a five minute walk from the radio station in Brighton which was extremely convenient and so on Fridays, when the breakfast show’s producer would prepare for the Saturday show I would pop in to help her to research stories she wanted to cover and find contributors.
The majority of the day would be spent on the phone asking a variety of people (MPs, University professors, members of the public who’s GP surgery had closed etc) if they would like to wake up early to be interviewed on the show the following morning before 9am. Some people needed more persuasion than others!
I would also do quite a bit of online research to really understand the story before picking up the phone and asking questions of the people involved.
Occasionally I’d get the chance to attend meetings for other upcoming shows like Drive time. It was interesting to see how the stories were selected and how the lead story was chosen.
Everyone in the meeting would have print out sheet of the BBC Journalism Portal which had stories from the South East Diary. Each person took a few minutes to familiarise themselves with each story and they then went around the room and said their top 3 stories, mentioning that why their favourite should be the lead or included in the show at all.
Other original story suggestions were pitched by members of the group that had noticed something on their way to work or had been thinking about. The most popular stories made the cut and then the focus turned to how the story should be covered. This was the creative part, with each reporter suggesting an angle, who they could interview, where and when and I enjoyed seeing their enthusiasm for their work.
They’d then each go off, with the story that had been allocated to them, and pick up either their phone at their desk or their car keys and microphone and start interviewing and investigating the stories.
On Saturday my start time was 5am and the show is on air from 6am until 9am. Upon arrival, lots of coffee was in order, however the team would all sing their hearts out to the tunes – true golden oldies – and I’d soon be feeling energised!
On the breakfast show the presenter, Mark Carter, discusses the news stories that are in the bulletins (live every thirty minutes) and asks questions for the listeners to debate during a phone-in. The tone would be bright and cheery as its the weekend and people are just waking up. Serious news stories still have to be discussed of course.
Answering the phone to the callers during the phone-ins was probably my favourite part of the job. I would type up their comments (plus take their name and number) and then make an editorial decision on whether or not they would sound confident and articulate on live on air. If they were, I’d send the story to the very busy producer, Lanie. Sometimes their comment was just read out by Mark on air, other times Lanie would call them back and ask them to have a chat with Mark.
Occasionally the debates would get quite heated, for example stories such as: Brighton’s first same-sex marriage, a GP practice in Storrington which was closing and a baby born at a petrol station near Worthing, these all got a real mix of passionate responses.
Social media was a challenge because of the fast pace of the show, as soon as I got a moment I would quickly think how to promote what was coming up next and try to make it interactive. Sometimes twitter was used to contact contributors and it is always a valuable resource for finding stories.
It think the best parts of this experience was getting to cover a rich variety of stories, realised I was becoming skilled at persuading people to wake up early on their weekend to be interviewed and having the chance to learn from the crazy breakfast team who worked passionately, quickly and had a lot of fun!