During my two weeks of work experience at Channel 5 News in summer 2015 I was lucky enough to spend a morning at Buckingham Palace, help create news packages, book experts to appear on 5 News Tonight and see correspondents deliver live reports from Westminster. If you’re looking to do work experience there too, keep on reading for everything you need to know.
(This post was originally posted on a website called ‘Journo Grads’)
Channel 5 is part of ITN and has two news programmes every weekday – one at 5pm and a second at 6.30pm. The majority of the time I worked on the later 6.30pm programme (5 News Tonight). This is more of a talk-show style programme with guests and experts discussing the news of the day in more detail. The 5pm show, on the other hand, is a bulletin made up of many short news packages and a few short live chats between the presenter and correspondents in the location of the story. This one keeps the majority of the editors, reporters and producers very busy.
Situated at London Bridge and close to monument station, the 5 News TV studios are in a great location for attracting guests, which is one of the tasks I was given. The blue glass building is also the home to the Express newspaper, the Star newspaper and OK magazine. There are great views of the Thames from the roof garden near the café, which is on the top floor – although most journalists will tell you they’re far too busy to spend any time up there! (* NOTE Channel 5 news has now moved to Grays inn road)
A Typical Day
I spent the first few days with producers who were working on 5 News Tonight. Those days kicked off with a morning meeting where the programme editor would select stories from the day sheet that the planning team had produced earlier in the week. Everyone would make suggestions on appropriate guests to shed light on the stories.
On some days there would be a story that broke during the day which would change the agenda, so you had to be adaptable and prepared to cancel plans. Once three (or four) main stories are decided upon in the meeting, the producers then set about contacting guests.
Sometimes it was obvious who to bid for (for example, for a story about women suspected of taking their children to Syria to join ISIS, I arranged an interview with the MP of Bradford East, which is where the women were from). But other times a lot of research was needed.
Securing a relevant guest who is articulate, enthusiastic and knowledgeable was always my goal. Once the guest was confirmed, I would then write up a story brief for the presenter. This needs to be concise, and must include notes on the guest’s opinions on the topic they will be talking about (which you will have found out by speaking to them on the phone beforehand).
Another responsibility was arranging cars to collect the guests and bring them to the studio on time. Once they arrived it was my job to greet them and take them to the green room, make them a drink if they wanted it and then take them into hair and make-up ahead of the programme.
The presenter would often come into the green room and get to know them a little first, which really put them at ease. One task I found to be the most difficult part of being a producer on 5 news Tonight was cancelling on a guest when the story was cut from the show at the last minute. I only had to do it once or twice, but it felt a bit like breaking bad news to someone – like they hadn’t got a job they had applied for.
As well as learning from the producers on 5 News Tonight, I also got to spend three different days with reporters. The first person I got to shadow was Minnie Stephenson, the entertainment reporter. She was covering a story on Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander Chris Gotke, who was awarded the Air Force Cross for crash-landing a historic plane.
I went with her and the cameraman to meet Chris at Buckingham Palace. I helped the cameraman carry all his equipment and briefed Minnie on the story (whilst also trying not to get in the way during the interview!) It’s interesting to see all the work that goes into making a TV news package. For example, the cameraman needed lots of extra footage of Chris on top of the interview itself, so that Minnie would have lots of different shots available when it came to having the report edited together.
After all the filming was done, we headed back to 5 News studios so she could edit the package, which was really interesting. Though the packages are short, to make them look, sound and flow really well it takes at least an hour of editing. All the footage has to be arranged to tell the story and the deadline is tight. Watching all the producers, editors and reporters frantically put their packages together in time for the show to go live is quite invigorating. Making tea for them during this period got me a lot of love!
Dress smart/casual, take a note pad and pen, be sure to make a note of all your contacts – you will meet loads of experts who regularly get interviewed on TV – and be ready to suggest story ideas in the morning meetings.