BROADCAST NEWS FEATURE
Drop the deid donkey
Nothing seems to ruffle the feathers of newscasters Shereen Nanjiani and Viv Lumsden. but behind the scenes of Scotland Today a large team of reporters, producers and technical staff works flat out against deadline to bring the news to your screen as it breaks. Everything. it seems. is done at the last minute. with stories frequently rewritten and videotapes edited while the show is on air. To coincide with Channel 4‘s Whose News." media season, Eddie Gibb watches a day in the frenzied life of Scottish Television’s flagship programme. which its editor describes as ‘the
punchy tabloid with a heart of gold’.
Tuesday 28 February: 10am
The team assembles for the morning conference to plan the day‘s two main shows. Evening show producer Paul McKinney has committed himself to setting tip a live link with Ninewells Hospital in Dundee. where one baby has died and two are seriously ill with a mystery bacterial infection. This is a ‘day two‘ — a follow up on yesterday‘s story - but fears of an epidemic keep the story alive. However Paul will be dogged all day by doubts over whether he’s sent the live link to the right place. The other big story is a major murder trial in Edinburgh‘s High Court. which looks likely to finish today. A background report is ready on the killing of a 63-year-old man during an armed bank robbery in Bonnyrigg. Lighter stories for lunchtime include a phone-in on skin problems and a Rubettes reunion.
ITN in London calls to ask if it can use the live link. ‘We‘ve done all the donkey work and now they want to come along and do the same guy.‘ grumbles news editor Jon Kean. but he agrees as long as lTN finds a different interviewee. The independent news stations frequently co-operate — BBC news is everyone‘s sworn enemy. 11.15am
Reporters begin to phone with updates on stories. Jon reckons ‘babies’. as the Ninewells story is now known. is still the strongest. but if the Bonnyrigg verdict comes through it’ll be hard to beat. Jon wants to get his hands on a bank security video which captured the robbers
on camera. ‘I want that video.‘ he says. ‘That‘s what television news is about — pictures.‘ 12.10pm
The big man behind the big desk is Scott Ferguson. editor of news. current affairs and sport at Scottish Television. He puts out a call to a friendly lawyer who he thinks might help get hold of the security video.
Back in the newsroom. the lunchtime show is being finalised. The police have just released a statement about the death of a pensioner who was attacked the previous week. A murder inquiry is now underway.
Viv and Shereen head for the studio. (Coincidently they’re wearing matching plum- colourcd outfits. but let‘s not get into a clothes discussion.)
'Hello. I‘m Shereen Nanjiani . . . ‘
‘. . . l‘m Viv Lumsden. and this is the lunchtime edition of Scotland Today?
The show leads with ‘babics'. followed by a story about Glasgow‘s £25 million plan to bring cafe society to the city. Lunchtime producer Geraldine Flanigan receives an urgent message saying the police have withdrawn the murder hunt statement and the story is dropped. seconds before Shereen gets to it. The Rubettes explain that their comeback isn‘t just about 70s nostalgia and TV doc Kathleen Long answers Tracy from Airdrie's question about her aunt‘s psoriasis.
With the lunchtime show just off air. a woman calls in to complain that Viv bullies weatherman Lloyd Quinan.
Jon is cock-a-hoop because the courts have agreed to release the Bonnyrigg security video. Now all they need is a verdict. Around the newsroom the smart money is on a guilty verdict and that‘s the unwritten assumption on which the coverage is planned. The jury retired at lunchtime so it looks as if the story will break this afternoon.
The daily 2.30pm meeting to discuss the evening news starts more or less on time. Paul asks Scott Ferguson‘s advice on using photos of the dead body in the Bonnyrigg murder. ‘l’m happy to use wide shots. but nothing that could be distressing.‘ says Scott. Prospects for tomorrow‘s show are considered. including some hot poop about a health farm for overweight dogs. Cue jokes about newshounds. 3.35pm
Paul calls Geoff Brown. the crime reporter covering the Bonnyrigg trial. but the jury’s still out.
Paul decides to lead on the Bonnyrigg story. whether there‘s a verdict or not. ‘Any word from Geoff." asks someone for the umpteenth time. 5.25pm
News flashes through that the police have closed George Square in Glasgow after a gas main rupture. With an hour to showtime. a reporter is dispatched to cover the story. ‘Don’t send a smoker.‘ quips a newsroom wag. Paul's phone now rings constantly with reporters updating their stories. In between calls he writes the autocuc links for Viv and Shereen (who then rewrite them).
Finally Geoff calls and the whole newsroom gathers to listen in. Anti-climax — the jury is back in. but only to ask for legal clarification. A verdict is still on for tonight. however- probably while the show‘s actually on air. Paul is beginning to worry that sending the live link to Edinburgh may have been a better bet.
Pictures of rush-hour chaos in George Square are in the can. Is this better than ‘babies‘? ‘No. it's still “babies”. then gas.‘ says Paul quickly. 6.25pm
Geoff calls to say the jury has retired to a hotel. so no verdict tonight. Paul decides to stick with the running order and update the story while the programme is on air. His live link hunch is linally proved right.
‘llello. l‘m Shereen Nanjiani . . . ‘
‘. . . l‘m Viv Lumsden. and this is Scotland Today at ().3()pm.‘
The show kicks off with a ‘jury still out' report from Geoff in Edinburgh. then live to Dundee for an interview with a paediatrician and back to the studio for ‘this news just in‘ about the Bonnyrigg murder case. The gas leak story is on air barely an hour after the newsroom was tipped off.
[The smart money in the newsroom collected the following day when the Bonnyrigg Three were each given life sentences. Scotland Today made it lead story] LJ
The List 10-23 Mar l99513