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Women in Media Conference 2017: “Gathering the News”


Alex Wallis has worked in radio for about 13 years. She started her career in Chester before moving to Radio city. She later became freelance until joining Global working at Heart North Wales before moving back to the North west as the Regional News Editor and also provides stories to LBC involving the North West which will be of interest.

Alison Spooner has spent 18 years working in commercial radio and can be heard reading the drivetime news bulletins for Heart North West and Smooth North West. Alison also is responsible for putting the extended evening news bulletin.

What was discussed?

News cycle:

The morning news bulletins broadcast on Heart from the previous Thursday were played to us to allow us to listen not only to the kinds of stories included, but how the bulletin changes each time as developments come through, new audio is recorded and as breaking stories happen.

A bulletin from Capital Manchester was also played to us to show the difference in the type of news that is selected and how it is presented in order to suit the intended audience.

Audience and brand:

The geographical area covered by Alex and Alison has a high crime rate which means the news can often be consisting of press releases and police statements. This provides a challenge in what is chosen to be used as it can mean other stories may go unreported but Alex and Alison said they aim to find these stories and include them wherever possible.

The other issue faced by them is whether the inclusion of certain news items is appropriate. Although as Alex stated you;

“Can’t sugarcoat the news; crime is crime”,

there are challenges when the audience may be more vulnerable. Despite Capital having a younger audience than Heart, it is more likely that children will hear Heart’s output due to the large majority of the audience consisting of parents who will listen during the school run. As a result, there have been complaints from some parents listening that a news item was inappropriate. If there is a particular story which may be unsuitable but it is felt necessary to include, there will now be a warning given prior to allow parents the opportunity to switch off.

Ultimately the news has a responsibility to report on current events including those that are unpleasant but it is the audience’s responsibility on whether to listen when provided with the necessary information.

Alison (left) and Alex

Light and shade:

With the current political climate and the high crime rate in the area, where there is the opportunity to, Alex and Alison love to include the good, light-hearted stories.

On the Thursday prior to the event, the particular feel-good story was the events taking place for World Book Day in Manchester where books had been left on the trams for those to enjoy whilst on their morning commute.

Also, the feel-good stories can often be expanded into additional content that can be accessed online. A great example of this is the item Alison did on Greater Manchester Fire Brigade’s drive to recruit more females. Clips were used in the news bulletins but on the website, there was an extended article and a video of Alison taking part in the trials.

Alex and Alison explained that although it is good to be able to broadcast a balance of news stories, they won’t shoehorn a more positive story if there are more relevant items to include. Which leads me to…

Stand out advice:

“Make sure you gather what’s important but do it in a way that captures.”

It’s great getting the important news but it’s vital to ensure it engages your listeners. This can be done with getting audio from a reporter at the location, vox pops or suitable media clips.

Alex and Alison said they often listen to what the sales team in the office are talking about to hear what news is affecting them.

“News is reflecting what people are talking about and that should be kept in mind when producing.”

What I took from the session:

We were told that there are always a way to re-write a story and that they are encouraged to change things up so that their bulletins are not a carbon copy of each other. To do this, they can change the order, rewrite the story or add new audio. I will definitely think about how I change the production to make it more interesting to listen to or what could be done differently to make it unique and stand out.

The other piece of advice that stood out what ensuring you check and double check your output. It’s easy for a small mistake to slip through and it to cause huge problems so if unsure, run it past another team member. Better to ask than try and fix retroactively.


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