Tuesday 29 December 2009

Golf Millions

I went to a golf course to meet a very rich lady and a young golfer who's benefited from the money she's given to charity. I put a 'piece to camera' (where I talk to the camera) in the story because when I worked at ITV Meridian they were expected in packages. I regret putting it in as it didn't add anything - I think pieces to camera should be used to show viewers something extra.

Sunday 20 December 2009

York Troops

Troops parading always provide good pictures for TV news stories. I enjoyed the challenge of being out in York with the soldiers and then heading back to the newsroom in Leeds to edit the package all within a few hours.

Saturday 12 December 2009

ITV Trainees' Highlights

This video was put together at the end of the 2008/09 ITV News traineeship. It captures what it was like to be a trainee and always puts a smile on my face when I watch it. We saw it for the first time on the trainees' last get together in Birmingham in September and rounded off a very enjoyable traineeship year.

Sunday 6 December 2009


At the training in Birmingham which I talked about in my last post below, we (the trainees) were encouraged to go out and film a story on our own. So I went to a care home in Birmingham who'd been left without the use of phones for weeks. I started by interviewing the manager in her office and then I filmed some shots of the care home. I've always enjoyed using the camera but it's hard work - you have to consider focus, exposure, the audio etc.

Unfortunately the video cuts out before the end of the interview clip but you it gives you an idea of the story I shot.

Saturday 28 November 2009

Live Reporting under Spaghetti Junction

On my last get together with the ITV News trainees, I had one of my first opportunities to give live reporting a go on TV. We gathered in Birmingham to make a not for broadcast programme covering the Midlands. For the trainee programmes in Leeds in June 2009 I was a presenter and then a programme editor, this time I was a reporter and was given the top story to work on - an independent report on the murder of a policeman by a paranoid schizophrenic.

In the morning I went to the canal tow path under the spaghetti junction in Birmingham, where the Detective Constable was killed, to film some shots for my package. ITV Central correspondent and king of self-shooting stories Keith Wilkinson came with me to film my piece to camera and give me some tips on camera work.

For our programme, I decided to go back to the spaghetti junction to top and tale my package with 'a live'. With seconds to spare Keith and cameraman Mark managed to get the satellite truck working and I was ready to go live. It was a nerve-wracking but thoroughly exhilarating experience and I can't wait to do it for real.

Unfortunately, the video above cuts out before the end of my live report, just before I handed back to the studio.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Walking on Broken Glass!

This has to be the most unusual story I've covered: a motivational expert attempting to break a record for the amount of time spent walking on broken glass! I had two hours to put the package together which was made more challenging as I had thirty minutes of footage to choose from and a just few paragraphs of information on the story. If I'd had more time, I would have used Annie Lennox's song Walking On Broken Glass in the package!

Saturday 7 November 2009

Searching For Unexploded Bombs

I put together this package on RAF bomb disposal experts searching for unexploded devises in a North Yorkshire village.

It was on the day Hannah Whelan came in for work experience and was useful for her to see me under pressure to tun the package round in two hours. A reporter had been out filming the story and had given me some tips over the phone on which parts of the footage to use. The programme was a little under that day so I was asked for the package to be two minutes when I think one minute thirty would have told the story better. To cut it down, I would have dropped the policeman as I don't think he adds much.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Women's Boxing at London 2012

When it was announced that women's boxing would be included at the London 2012 Olympics, we localised the story by filming with a boxer from Rotherham. It was a challenging story to edit because the subject of the story (Sharon, boxing) was always moving.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Leeds Arena v Sheffield

On my first week at Calendar I was sent out on this story. I wasn't expected to be out reporting so soon but was really up for showing I could do it. I knew a bit about Sheffield Arena having been there to watch Queen with Paul Rogers a few years ago. First of all I turned up at a Leeds Council executive meeting to see if they were going to give the arena plans the thumbs up. It could have used up a lot of the precious time I needed to work on the package but thankfully they were helpful and let us film in there and even discussed the Leeds Arena plans earlier than planned on the agenda so that I and the cameraman could get away and film on the proposed arena site. I got back to the newsroom at about half four and with the help of a craft editor, finished the package in time for Calendar at 6pm. Thankfully I'd spent the time in the car with the cameraman writing a script so when I got back to the newsroom I was able to turn the package round quite quickly. Since my report was broadcast, the Government has refused to allow Yorkshire Forward to invest the £18 million of public money in the project so the arena may well now not be built.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Inspired at Brightlights

I recently went to Brightlights, a Catholic youth festival in north London, and met some incredible people...

One of the highlights was hearing Delia Smith talk about her faith and then spending some time one-on-one with her discussing Catholicism, football and modern life. She was very open, interested and friendly.

The most inspiring speakers of the weekend were Barry and Margaret Mizen. Their 16 year old son Jimmy was murdered in May 2008. Somehow they've been able to forgive his killer. After their talk about Jimmy, I asked them for an interview for this blog which I recorded on my mobile. (Although the sound quality isn't great - I wish I'd chosen an iPhone - it shows you that you can interview or capture audio anywhere.) I was so happy to meet Barry and Margaret; their message of forgiveness and hope was inspirational.

Another speaker at Brightlights that really impressed me was Kepha, a young leader from Kenya. He lives in Kibera, one of Africa's biggest slums. Kepha set up Kibera Community Youth Programme with a group of friends to help other young people from the slum succeed in life. After the violence which followed Kenya's 2007 elections, their peace project brought young people together for healing and reconciliation. I wanted to find out why he feels so passionately about young people being key to tackling poverty and hardship and ask him his thoughts on our culture.

As well as recording both interviews on my phone, I also took all of these photo with my Nokia E71.

Sunday 11 October 2009

The Challenge of the Channel

Liane Llewellyn has to be one of the most incredible athletes I've come across. The Yorkshire physiotherapist swam non-stop across the channel and back in twenty seven and a half hours. We had a cameraman in Dover to film with her before she left and on her return. His footage was sent to me in Leeds via the ITV Meridian newsroom in Maidstone where I used to work. I then edited the package together. I'm particularly fond of the shots of her walking on all fours, like an insect, to become the first woman from Yorkshire to do the double crossing.

Monday 5 October 2009

Guest Blog: Hannah Whelan

Hannah Whelan, an A Level student and sister of my good friend James, shadowed me for a day at ITV in Leeds. I asked her to write a blog about the day. Hopefully it'll give you an insight into what it's like to work on the Calendar programme. Over to Hannah...

"I'm a seventeen year old 6th form student desperate to get into the media industry. After doing work experience at an advertising agency, where my week was packed full of activities, I thought I’d be more than prepared for the ITV Calendar newsroom. But after the first five minutes of the morning news meeting, I realised I was at the start of a very hectic day.

After the morning meeting, Mark introduced me to the important people and equally important equipment in the newsroom - from the graphics team and technical operators, to the weather presenter and programme editor. I then got sent out with a reporter, Kate, and cameraman, Richard. Kate was doing a story on an Asian music event that was about to be held in The Wardrobe in Leeds. I found watching the reporter and camerman at work quite surreal. It was eye opening being behind the camera instead of watching the finished product on TV.

When I returned to the newsroom I was whisked into the gallery to observe the lunchtime news. Scripts were quickly reprinted for the presenters after one or two changes were made by the producer and the PA, who times the bulletin, announced that the programme script predicted duration was six seconds under, which the team saw as a challenge. Being backstage during the programme, I discovered the intense work load put into just one news bulletin. At the end of the bulletin, the weather started and high-fives were exchanged. As soon as the weather finished and the bulletin was off air, the Calendar team were back to work, this time on the main programme at 6pm.

Over lunch, Mark got his teeth stuck into editing and voicing a report for the main programme which had to be finished on a strict time schedule. I called some university press officers to try and find an academic who would speak on an upcoming crime story and saw Mark finish an impressively quick edit of his report.

Everything made it in on time for the six o’clock programme. I found it interesting to notice the difference between a pre-recorded 'as live’ and a genuine live report - sometimes the viewers wouldn't know that an item was pre-recorded. The debrief was a fairly uplifting sum up of the programme as well as a discussion on plans for the tomorrow's stories.

The intensity and buzz of the newsroom was far more intense than I had expected. Everyone is busy working on something for the next bulletin or the main programme. I had an amazing day, seeing how the whole operation worked - from going out with a reporter and cameraman, seeing mark edit a package, watching the gallery team put out a programme and everything else in-between. An enormous thank you to Mark and the team for my exhilarating day."

Thursday 24 September 2009

Iraq Hostage

This is the sad story of a Lincolnshire man being held captive in Iraq. We got the interview from ITV Granada - they cover the story too as the hostage's mum lives there. I put this package together for Calendar using Granada's interview, an interview we did with an expert on the war in Iraq from Bradford and our archive material from previous packages we've done on the story.

Saturday 12 September 2009

Train Station from Hell

Since starting as a journalist at ITV Yorkshire, I've been doing some reporting on the Calendar programme (covering Yorkshire and Lincolnshire). I was recently sent out to cover a story about one of the country's most dangerous train stations.

Saturday 5 September 2009

Highlights of the Traineeship

All the ITV trainees were asked to put together a video of what they thought of their year and here's my offering. Watching it makes me realise how much I got out of my nine months with Meridian in Southampton.

On Monday I'll be in Birmingham for the final training week with the seven other trainees. We'll be learning how to shoot our own stories - being the cameraman as well as the reporter. I'm looking forward to having another go at self-shooting and honing some of the camera skills I learnt on the Cardiff postgrad course last year. We'll be putting together a news programme on the Midlands, like we did on Yorkshire in Leeds in April. Bring on Brum!

Sunday 30 August 2009

Meridian Swan Song

I recently finished as a trainee at ITV Meridian in Southampton to start a job as a 'newsroom journalist' on the Calendar news programme on ITV Yorkshire in Leeds. It means I'm back in Yorkshire and living in my favourite city in Britain, Sheffield.

I had a great nine months at Meridian where I worked with some true professionals. I learnt how to set up stories for TV news, produce news bulletins and report for TV. The story above, about warnings not to swim in rivers, is the last I covered for Meridian. I was strolling along the Thames near Henley seeing if I could find some people swimming in the river and luckily for me, I came across two eccentric characters!

Saturday 1 August 2009

'Anatomy of a Car Crash' - incredible radio

This has to be the best piece of radio I've ever heard. Listen to it, I bet it'll make you drive differently.

The programme is called Anatomy of a Car Crash and was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 yesterday.

It tells the story of a fatal car crash through the voices of the different people involved. There's no voice over which is a really hard technique to pull off in radio and in this case, really works. You won't notice the subtle music but it holds the piece together expertly and is very powerful.

Click HERE to listen to the programme.

The Daily Mail wrote an article on the programme when it was first broadcast in October last year that's worth a read.

Thursday 30 July 2009

Live Reporting Training

At the ITV training in Leeds, we also had a go at live reporting. One of the difficulties during the live is that you're constantly being updated in your ear piece with the amount of time you have left and have to be fairly strict about finishing on zero.

For me, this is the most challenging and nerve-wracking part of reporting but I'd love to be doing lives all the time. It brings back the rush of excitement I felt when I was a sports reporter for BBC Radio Oxford; doing live updates from a freezing cold non-league game on my mobile!


Sunday 19 July 2009


At the ITV training fortnight in Leeds, we (the trainee journalists) made a second programme. I reported on a story in Sheffield. Look out for a cameo appearance from my girlfriend!

Here's the link into the package that the presenter reads:

"There's hardly a section of society that isn't feeling the effects of the recession. A recent survey questioned thousands of students in Sheffield, York and Leeds about their career prospects. Only a third of them said they expected to find a good job when they graduate. So, some students are finding different ways to launch their careers. Mark Ansell reports."

Friday 10 July 2009

ITV Trainee Programme

I’ve finally got round to uploading the ITV trainee programme that I and the seven other trainees worked on. It was originally twenty minutes but I’ve had to cut it down as YouTube has a maximum upload of ten minutes. The edit points are marked with a ‘dip to white’ (a flash of a white screen). Each of the eight ITV regions has a trainee. We met in Leeds in April to produce two trainee programmes. Although the programmes weren't broadcast, they were assessed by some of the top brass in ITV.

We were each assigned different roles including Programme Editor, News Editor, Assistant Programme Editor and Reporter. My co-presenter was ITV Anglia trainee Lauren Carter and Balvinder Sidhu, the ITV West trainee, was programme editor. As ever, feedback will be gratefully received.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Blunkett interview becomes volunteering story

On my placement at ITV in Leeds last month I interviewed David Blunkett about the Prime Minister's latest cabinet reshuffle. He was at a volunteering event in Sheffield. I realised the volunteering day would make quite a good story itself so I got enough material to make it into a package.

Sunday 14 June 2009

Pedalling Pensioner

I was recently at ITV Meridian's Maidstone bureau and got the chance to go out reporting. For the first time, I edited the story without any help and none other than Mr Fred Dinenage introduced it!

Friday 5 June 2009

Does Blunkett Support Brown Leadership?

Earlier today I interviewed David Blunkett - he was at a volunteering day at a primary school in Sheffield. I started with a couple of questions on volunteering then moved swiftly on to as many about politics as he would stand! A soundbite from my interview was used in a package on Calendar this evening on the cabinet reshuffle.

Saturday 30 May 2009

MP Expenses As Live

Last night I went to Farnham in Surrey to cover a meeting called by the local MP to explain his expenses. Jeremy Hunt, the Shadow Culture Secretary, is thought to be the most senior MP to come clean about all his expenses.

I put together an 'as live' for the ITV Meridian late news but as it was such a short bulletin, we used a soundbite from the MP instead. Nonetheless, it was good experience. Here's the presenter's link into the 'as live':

"A Surrey MP has tonight answered questions about expenses at a meeting attended by four hundred of his constituents. Jeremy Hunt, the MP for South West Surrey has been criticised for claiming £37,000 over three years for a second home in Farnham rather than commuting to Westminster. Cameras weren't allowed into the meeting at the Maltings in Farnham but our reporter Mark Ansell was there."

Thursday 21 May 2009


I've recently put together a showreel of some of my best bits on TV.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Copp Out

Late last night, after his Reading team lost the play-off semi final against Burnley, Steve Coppell resigned as manager.

The day before, I went to Reading's training session to interview Coppell for ITV Meridian about the match. As you'll see, there was no sign he was on the verge of leaving.

Monday 11 May 2009

Producing Bulletins

Over the last few months at ITV Meridian, I've been producing the lunchtime news bulletin. I thought I'd write a little bit about what it involves:

As well as the flagship Meridian Tonight, we have bulletins during GMTV, at lunchtime, after the News at Ten and at weekends. Each bulletin has a producer in charge and I've been learning how to produce the lunchtime bulletin. The day starts with the news meeting at about 9:15am where Adam, the news editor, goes through the stories we are considering covering in Meridian Tonight at 6pm that day. The reporters, producers and other journalists all chip in with story ideas.

As I’m on the lunchtime bulletin shift, my main concern is that bulletin. Unlike Meridian Tonight, the lunchtime bulletin is pan regional so it’s a large patch to cover - I'm keen to get stories from as many of the eleven County Council areas as possible (which if you’re wondering is Berkshire, Dorset, Essex, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey, East Sussex, West Sussex and Wiltshire).

The lunchtime bulletin lasts only six and a half minutes and includes a minute of weather, so I have to decide which of the many stories discussed in the morning meeting I can cover. Once I’ve chosen the stories, I then have to decide how they should be ‘treated’ (how we are going to tell the stories). Stories need to be treated in different ways; some for example deserve 'a live' at the scene but I have to find out if we have a reporter and satellite truck that can get to the story. Other stories will suit a report or ‘package’ and less significant stories will deserve just a few sentences, read by the presenter over relevant pictures. I put the script of the stories in the running order and cut their pictures. It’s important to have some spare stories in case we are running under time during the bulletin. The running order is constantly changing as I write up and cut pictures of any breaking stories worthy of going in the bulletin. We get told of breaking news stories from a variety of sources, including through our viewers, the emergency services and our staff.

At 1:30pm the bulletin should be ready for the scripts to be printed. We go into the gallery to practise the bulletin and then go live; the production assistant announces “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” and we’re on air. Just before the end of the bulletin the production assistant informs the presenter via the gallery, “shut up in 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1”. Then a sigh of relief, a quick debrief and it’s time for a well deserved lunch.

Thursday 23 April 2009

Slave Ship Assembly

Last week a report of mine was broadcast on ITV Meridian. I went back to my school in Thame to cover The Gambia Week, celebrating its link with a partner school in the West African country. This included a slave ship assembly.

On the morning of filming the story, my news editor called to say I couldn't have a cameraman as there was a breaking story that needed covering. This meant I couldn't do the story and I was gutted as it was a good opportunity for me to report and I'd spent a long time setting up the story with the school. This had involved getting permission to film the students, organising which parts of The Gambia Week I'd want to film and thinking through how my story would look on the Meridian programme.

But I was determined for the story to be on Meridian and did what you have to in these situations - thought of a way round it. I asked the school if they had a camera I could use so that I could film the story myself - and to my delight Mark, the technical man at the school, presented me with a really good camera which the school had been donated. The story was back on and I reacquainted myself with filming - the last time I'd picked up a camera was on my Cardiff postgrad course a year ago. With the help of Mark (he filmed my piece to camera) I successfully filmed the story and it was broadcast on Easter Monday. Let me know what you think.

Last year I covered the same story for BBC Radio Oxford when I was on placement from my Cardiff course. You can listen to it by clicking HERE and then clicking PLAY.

Monday 30 March 2009

The Mystery Shoe Tree & The Wacky Student

I find potential news stories in the strangest of places. On a walk in the Chilterns on my day off, I came across a tree which people living in the area attach shoes to! Having trawled the internet for more information on the shoe tree, I found out that nobody seems to know why it started and why it continues. A four-year heritage lottery project, costing over £250,00 bore no fruit. Some say the shoe dangling ritual, which began in the 1970s, has pagan origins and has just continued over the years. Others believe the shoes were originally thrown up as a witchcraft ritual to put an evil spell on unfortunate souls. But nobody knows. It’s a mystery.

Unfortunately for me, the tree is by the A40 between Stockenchurch and Studley Green and that’s not in the Meridian broadcast patch so it can't make a story for us. I had envisaged it as the ‘and finally’ story on Meridian Tonight. Still, it's a good example of why as a journalist I should always have my eyes and ears open for stories.

Another story I came across appeared when I was house hunting in Southampton. Arriving at a house in Shirley, I was warmly welcomed by an unusual student. Nick goes almost all of his life barefoot: in the street, at home and at work. He says it’s liberating, more comfortable than wearing shoes and socks and not hazardous – he tells me he’s only cut his feet once! Before fully digesting this peculiar habit, I was shown the garden which he shares with his next door neighbour. Earlier, when looking round the house, it hadn't bothered me that the house had only a shower, but clearly Nick wasn't happy settling for that. In the garden was a bath, embedded in the grass. The hot water for the outdoor bath was generated through the outdoor stove used to cook full English breakfasts. Incredibly inventive! I decided on another house to live in, but have been in touch with Nick about running this story for ITV Meridian. I’m hoping he’ll say yes.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Back to Cardiff

Today I went to Cardiff Journalism School, nine months after finishing the course there. I was invited to speak to the postgrad students about ITV Meridian and to be a 'guest editor’ on a production day (where the students mimic a real newsroom, producing TV and radio news bulletins). I was a little apprehensive about the visit – could I really help the students improve their bulletins? Would they be interested to hear my presentation on Meridian and my tips on how to get on in the industry? And would I be able to instil in them some confidence that there are still opportunities for them in journalism? Thankfully I feel I have.

I really enjoyed giving feedback on the students’ three TV bulletins and giving them advice on how to succeed at freelancing; it showed me that I had actually come quite a long way since the course. It was uplifting to experience their passion for journalism and I’ve left with a renewed enthusiasm for the basics of the art – strong pictures and scripts that are “tight, bright, and right” (as one of my mentors once taught me).

Sunday 22 February 2009

Please, No More Clichés!

I've been taught that the key to good news writing for broadcast is: 'If you don't say it at home, don't use it in your scripts'. And yet you'll hear clichés not used by the masses in many news bulletins. Here's a couple of scripts I've invented:

- Jack is being hailed a hero after his friend Tom was scorched in a blazing inferno. It's left Tom fighting for his life in hospital.

- Hundreds of jobs in the motor industry are being axed in a matter of days but in a bold bid to boost productivity the Prime Minister has made a plea to safeguard thousands of jobs across the country. Opposition leaders have struck out at the plan and say a probe should be launched and are calling on MPs to oust the Prime Minister.

Newspapers are full of clichés but what broadcast journalists need to remember is that newspaper English is not the language of all journalism. Scripts for TV and radio should be written for the ear - simple, clear and natural writing.

Journalists who over use clichés think they make stories sound more urgent and have more of an impact with the viewer/listener, but I'd argue that the facts of the story itself should be interesting enough to engage them in the story. If the facts aren't interesting, the story shouldn't go in the bulletin.

I feel an obligation to rid any script I come across of these hackneyed phrases. If and when I'm ever in charge of a newsroom, I'll insist they don't feature: It's lazy journalism and detracts from the meaning of a story.

The best document I've found on this subject is the BBC's Style Guide, which you can download here. Anyone with ambitions to work in broadcast journalism should read it.

Sunday 1 February 2009

An Insight Into The News Desk

I've written a blog for the ITV Meridian website about life on the news desk...

The News Desk: every newsroom has one and almost all stories that we cover arrive there. It is made up of a News Editor, the Programme Producer and a number of others including the News Desk Assistant, which is the job I’ve been doing.

It’s a hub of activity with stories come in via email, phone and internet. Every day we receive hundreds of emails with press releases from political parties, NHS trusts, companies and local government; but most importantly it’s you who get in touch with us.

As News Desk Assistant for the past fortnight, I’ve been helping set up stories for Meridian Tonight and the next day’s programme. The News Editor and I process the stories and decide which of them we want to cover on the programme. We have a prospects meet every morning to run through all of the stories that we are covering that day.

A few weeks ago, while our 6pm programme was going out, I got a call from a viewer whose daughter had been without heating and hot water for weeks. The daughter was pregnant, had two young children and lived in a council house in Leigh Park, near Havant.

I got all the details about her story and organised our reporter Richard Jones and a camera operator to cover it the next day. This is one example of a viewer’s story making it into the programme but we always want to hear from you. Get in touch by email yourstory@itvlocal.com or call us on 0844 881 2000.

Tuesday 20 January 2009

My ITV Reports

I've worked out how to embed my reports in my blog (so all you have to do is click play rather than clicking on a link to another website). Here's the two reports I have done on ITV.

This is a report I did in Brighton about a university lecturer who has a creative way of engaging young people in science. It was broadcast on ITV Thames Valley.

And this report is about a former student at my old school. It was broadcast on ITV Meridian.

It'd be good to hear your feedback, just click on 'comments' below.

Sunday 11 January 2009

BBC World 24/7

Last year I had an idea about how the BBC News website could be improved. I even suggested it to one of the top brass on the beeb website. It was not followed up on, hence I'll tell you my great idea!...

I think the BBC News World site should have a map of the world on its homepage. All the new stories coming into the BBC from their journalists around the world would be placed on or around the map (with an arrow) where the story is taking place - much as they do in 'The Week', if you're cultured enough to have read the magazine. Each story would have a small video clip on a loop or photo in or near the map.

It would be called 'BBC World 24/7' and would reflect the non-stop, worldwide nature of the BBC - something I feel the website doesn't make the most of.