Saturday, 19 February 2011

Ten Golden Rules for BBC News Channel staff

I suspect BBC News Channel readers and reporters go through the same briefing on their first day of work. Please correct me if I'm wrong. (And - forgive me, Simon McCoy. You're the exception.)

All questions must start with the word: "How? Examples:
  • How worried should we be...?
  • How important is this to us...?
  • How prepared are we...?
  • How disastrous is this...?
  • How embarrassing is this...?
Well, you get the picture. Funnily enough, you never have to add "on a scale 1-10".

When covering a major live event, make sure your footage is on a loop and just keep filling the air with meaningless repeats of what you have just said, but with added "Ehhrr..."s and slightly different wording. Just keep on doing this until the weather presenter comes in to save you.

Do not have any moral scruples if you need to cut an interviewee short because the jingle is due in a few seconds' time. Jingles and trailers are important. Besides, who cares what they actually say when they come on the programme, anyway. As long as you get a few "How" questions in. Main thing. Noone will notice.

If Prime Ministers or other notably important people are late for a presser - do not panic. Ask the on site reporter informative questions like:
  • What can we expect the PM to say today?
Then, just follow up with a number of How questions:
  • How likely is it that PM will...? etc
Once the PM begins, don't worry if the camera stays with the reporter who keeps babbling on with his/her hypothetical theories. There'll be plenty of time to hear the PM on the 6 o'clock news. Besides, you will already have heard what he (was likely to have) said - from the reporter.

Whatever happens in London (Do things happen elsewhere too?) - make sure you get some choppers up there to get the full view from above. This means excellent footage of streets, roofs of buildings and roundabouts - which can be used on a loop for future boring events. Priceless.

When presenting the news at the newsdesk, don't worry too much about what you're wearing. There will be a big banner with BREAKING NEWS captions on it, covering most of the screen anyway. It might cover said helicopter footage at times, but then you can instead read on the banner what it is you can't see.

If you are a Sports reporter, we encourage you to go out and mingle with extreme sports people. Capture what they do. Share the excitement. But please make sure no sportsmen/women are part of the report. No, it makes it a lot easier if you have a go yourself. The more the sport action makes you look like an idiot, the better. Guaranteed to increase your kudos on the BBC ranking list.

During weekdays, we will pair you up with a presenter of the opposite sex. Preferable also someone of another ethnic origin than yours. We have political correctness to take into consideration, you know. Does not apply to weekend staff, when nothing happens anyway.

You are allowed to joke a bit when handing over to the weather, saying things like "You're looking unusually frisky today, Carole Kirkman!" and such like.
As long as you ensure that serious, sombre look once you go back to sad news, like royal ingrown toe nails.

For those of you presenting regional news, the tone can be slightly more informal. Here, we encourage banter about subjects that matter to people outside London. This will involve telling the weatherman what your dog had for breakfast and how much your husband enjoyed your latest holiday to Butlins. You know, simple things.

And that was all from the newsroom today.

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