Radio Days: A week in the life of a reporter
I think it’s fair to say, I do not have a standard job.
There’s times radio and reporting will see you end up in some ludicrous situations, coronavirus thankfully hasn’t changed that.
At the moment it’s following every twist and turn and asking wtf with the rest of the world, remembering your job is try and make it make sense, a challenge at the moment when the people in charge don’t have a clue what they’re doing. It’s a challenge I’m relishing and enjoying.
Here’s a snapshot of one week where I basically did tier three tour of the North West, from the 17thto the 23rdof October.
It’s a week of inappropriate shoes, questionable lunch choices and swearing at equipment and definitely not swearing on air.
It’s Saturday, I’m reporting from home.
I’m wrapped in a blanket sat on the sofa trying to work out what’s what. I’ve just about warmed up from yesterday’s antics, I say antics, stood in Burnley town centre for eight hours talking to people pissed off about tier three restrictions.
It was freezing and still, after twelve years I haven’t grasped the concept of dressing appropriately for reporting or the weather.
Anyway, back to today, I’m stood in the front garden about to do a hit praying the WIFI doesn’t drop off and leave me reporting into the abyss – this has happened before many, many, times.
Yesterday (16th October) Lancashire was placed in tier three restrictions – all pubs closed unless they serve a substantial meal – not quite sure what counts as a substantial meal, most of the landlords and landladies weren’t sure either so that’s great. Soft play centres, bookies and bingo halls are also closing, but gyms can stay open, odd considering in Liverpool (also in tier 3) gyms are closing and the whole point of tiers is that the rules are the same and easier to understand, so, not even a week after introducing the tier system there’s confusion, excellent.
Greater Manchester is still holding out over tier three; Andy Burnham wants a better financial package for the region – fair. There’s been plenty of impassioned speeches and a North/South divide row’s broken out.
The restrictions will be forced on Greater Manchester with or without an agreement. Downing street says more talks have been scheduled for tomorrow, leaders in Greater Manchester say they haven’t and now the chief constable of GMP is doing an interview with me after a national newspaper suggested that his force wouldn’t adequately police tier three restrictions without backing from the mayor……safe to say he isn’t impressed with that implication.
Confused yet? Me too, only I have to find the words to explain all this in the least complicated way possible as Saturday shifts go, it’s interesting.
Back to it. Few interviews set up, mostly with landlords.
Here’s where we stand in Cumbria, most areas of Cumbria have low infection rates. Barrow’s seen a spike so the town is tier two meaning you can’t go to the pub or a restaurant with anyone from another household, this rule been in since Friday, Barrovians have got around that by simply going to Ulverston to have a drink with their mates. The landlord I’m speaking to has spent the weekend trying to figure out where people are from.
Meanwhile in Greater Manchester, a leaked report is suggesting the hospitals are weeks away from being at full capacity, so I’m on my way to Bury to stand outside Fairfield hospital and say that.
There’s also still no movement on a deal to accept tier three restrictions, was half expecting that to be announced by Matt Hancock in the commons at 5pm, for the moment nothing has changed.
Well today has been a day.
Notice has been served on Greater Manchester…..accept a deal by deal by midday or else.
I’m meeting the owner of Bar Pop outside the town hall just before hand to interview him at the moment the deadline hits.
I’m not entirely sure if the damn clock is actually working, there’s work going on. So, while I’m running across town in a faux fur coat and Dr Martens, sweating, I’m trying to think of a back-up clock in the city centre for the video. Thankfully it is the correct the time and is indeed working, I now just need to find John who’s wearing a bright red tracksuit and bright red bubble coat so at least he’s easy to spot.
I spoke to John last week (he was wearing a bright red velvet suit on that occasion) when this whole tier three row started. John reckons he’ll be out of business and a home (he lives above the bar) in six weeks, the weekend he’s just had is the worst trading weekend he’s ever had because no one seems to know what they are and aren’t allowed to do. He is desperate for some clarity and financial support, he’s frustrated, fed up and worried for his future, this is the effect of all the constant changes and uncertainty.
To say Manchester is usually coated in rain permanently, this afternoon it’s the sun that is causing me problems when it comes to filming. Reporting now includes comedy selfie stick so I can stand 2 metres away from someone and stick a phone in their face. Helpfully, my phone has just fallen out of my selfie stick and smashed thankfully it still works though the battery grows more temperamental by the second, it likes to drain immediately whenever it’s used – if you think this is stressing me out, you’d be right.
So, 12 comes and goes, nothing appears to have changed. Every news camera in the region is pointed at the clock and journalists are just stood outside the library waiting for Andy Burnham to appear, doing live reports on various radio shows and lunchtime news programmes while a man shouts about the end of world and God – it’s an average day in the city.
I head into the office for a warm, a brew, company, some lunch and to charge all my equipment. We manage half an hour and I’ve got a mouthful of food when the alert comes through, Greater Manchester is going into Tier three, no deal has been agreed and Boris will speak at five.
I’m asked to do a live in five minutes, I’ve deduced that Andy Burnham had originally asked for £75 million though he thinks the region needs £95 million to survive, he’d come down to £65 million the government wouldn’t go higher than £60 million – that’s right folks we’re arguing over £5 million……and let’s not forget at this point huge areas of the North West have affectively been living in tier two for ten weeks with no extra financial support, businesses are on their knees.
Never one to miss an opportunity, a Burnham press conference is called for 4:00pm at Bridgewater Hall that’s me back across the city.
A word here on Dr Martens…….how long does it take to break them in? I’ve had mine for two years and they’re still trying to kill me, one toe at a time. I clearly haven’t learnt a lesson about sensible footwear when reporting either.
Today marks a brand-new experience, social distancing in a media scrum. The camera is set up, I’m crawling across the floor, I have a coat on that looks like it belongs to John Motson, I’ve got my arm outstretched to get my mic as close as possible am crouched down and praying I’m not flashing.
As pressers go it’s a good one, there’s members of the public cheering him on and then there’s the moment where Andy Burnham is shown the details of the tier three package live on TV during his own press conference and the region is getting £22 million. I believe this is what the government calls levelling up, feels more like punishment.
Videos, hits, interviews done it’s off to vox – consensus being at least there’s some clarity now, but the financial support is derisory, this will damage the region’s economy, to be honest city is already dead.
Wandering back to the office, a bloke shouts over to borrow my phone, couldn’t quite hear what he was saying so walked towards him, always a mistake.
“Can I borrow your phone love? I’ve just got out of prison and they haven’t given me my phone”.
Great, as it turns out they’re both dead but I still find myself in a five minute conversation with the man newly released into a lockdown who wants a beer (I’ve got bad news for you pal), a haircut, a shave and to get out of his prison issue grey tracksuit. This is the third time I’ve found myself having a conversation with a stranger I’m not interviewing today. I always thought I had resting bitch face, today I must look approachable because people just keep striking up conversation with me.
Home and I’m finally able take off the instruments of torture…the Dr Martens.
A more sedate day, I’m not sure there’s many areas in patch left that can be put into tier three.
Today I find myself doing an interview with a man dressed as pirate who runs a pub in Preston called Ships and Giggles – I am relieved I won’t reading that out on the radio, I love the name, I would laugh. So, he’s getting around the substantial meal ban by giving away free food, apparently the council have said that’s not allowed, so, he’s responded by selling his chicken platters for a penny.
“Why can Wetherspoons give away a pint with burger or people offer bottomless brunch but I can’t give away free food” – he has a point.
Another calm day, the chancellor makes yet another change to his winter support package. He now says that businesses in tier two restrictions can apply for additional support grants and that it can be back dated to August. Yes, this is what leaders and businesses in the North West had been asking for….
Plenty of reaction and I get to put light-hearted piece together on Preston’s own version of Monopoly – incidentally a game I’m banned from playing on account of being a poor loser and once throwing cola at Ruth and tipping the board over during a game when I was 13. The less said about the better.
I nice first job, I’m off to the seaside!!!
Okay it’s Blackpool, it’s October, it’s raining.
The tourism industry is desperate for help, it’s half term. Blackpool is usually heaving, it’s illuminations time. I’m interviewing the boss of Merlin attractions at the top of the tower. I haven’t been to the top of the tower in about 25 years, as interview locations go it’s decent, there is no one about, I’ve spotted one lonely figure walking along the beach and that’s it.
It’s pouring, of course I don’t have an umbrella or waterproof coat – I’m also voxing. It’s then announced that Warrington will go into tier three restrictions this afternoon, so that’s where I’m off too next.
Of course, I didn’t think to take my lunch to Blackpool with me, I’d stupidly assumed it’d be only job of the day so would be able to eat at home. The five donuts I’ve just bought became lunch, I’m pretty sure it counts as a balanced meal.
My phone is again dead, I obviously can’t find the car charger, so it’s plugged into my laptop for the entire hour and a half drive.
As voxing goes (because no journalist likes it) it’s been pretty easy during the pandemic, think people are desperate to talk someone different. A man swears blind he saw me on the market last week – he didn’t, I actually think this be the first time I’ve been to Warrington.
I’m filming two women when a group of teenagers decide to run in the back of shot and be a pain in the arse. Word of advice on this, if you do this, nine times out of ten it won’t be a live report, so you won’t end up on TV, the only place my videos are going is online. All you’ve succeeded in doing is giving me extra editing it’s a pain in the arse and I will tell you to do one (actual words used).
My final hit of the week is scheduled for just after 5 wrapping up Warrington and Greater Manchester in one, it goes well, and a camera crew kindly let me use a charger and I make the fiftieth mental note to sort my tech out.
That night’s Magners has been earned and I fall asleep on the sofa at about 9pm.
A week later, the second national lockdown that definitely was never going to happen is announced….cheers Boris, all that fannying about with tiers to do what people had been telling you to do for weeks.
So, that’s a pretty standard week as a reporter, I’ve clocked up 62,000 steps and had a blast. It’s hard, it’s tiring, I’ve been all over the North West, told stories, nattered with loads of people (sometimes unintentionally) and loved every minute of it. Is there anything else I’d rather do? Hell no, whatever chaos the next few weeks bring, I’m here for it.
radiosarahc View All
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm
Ah! I remember Park Lane-gate!
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It was justified
Being a reporter is interesting 🙂
I would have loved to be a reporter – I wish I could have gone back in time and changed my uni degree. I devoured this post, read it three times over. Your day job is so much more interesting, but defo more stressful, than mine! More like this please!
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Thanks Rosie, there are plenty of calmer, dull days too (today not being one of them). I’ve written a couple of other bits about radio because there are times when I just “is this really happening?” or “how the hell have I got here?” 😂 a lot of people think it’s a lot of glamour, when in reality it’s a lot of crawling on the floor 🤣