Dominic Crossley-Holland

12.02.04

My tetchy 6am call to the breakfast team about underplaying the Korean cloning story soon becomes history, as is so often the case with rolling news.

The news desk has caught wind of a statement on Maxine Carr and ITV’s Alastair Stewart is first to break the news that she has been denied early release at 10.30:45.

OK, it’s nerdy to give the exact time, but in the world of news channels seconds count and who reports the news first is one of the cruder barometers of success. Actually, it’s the followthrough that matters, so it is good to see analysis and debate with a range of voices and context from specialist correspondents.

At lunchtime we do interviews for new staff with the ritual tests set by deputy editor Ben Rayner. We ask them which they think makes the better lead story: Prince William in hospital unconscious after a fall at a polo match or Gordon Brown announcing he’s to step down as an MP? Candidates opt for the former. Some are unsure who Mark Byford is. Make of that what you will.

I receive a late phone call about a technical crisis – the server that stores our digital pictures has gone down and one of the ports through which we play them is blocked. After a quick glimpse of tomorrow’s newspapers on Trevor McDonald’s new 10.30 show, it’s time for bed.

13.02.04

Wake in the early hours and leave a to-do list on my work answer phone – surely a first sign of madness.

Consult with the team about next week’s plans for our news wall graphics.

We launched our new set a fortnight ago. The design is perfect for news channels that need to look busy even when there’s little going on. But it remains a huge challenge for presenters and directors to use the wall live and unrehearsed 24 hours a day.

We also have to be constantly vigilant to make sure we don’t get carried away and let over-production get in the way of the journalism.

Without getting into the “my-wallisbigger-than-yours” debate, newsroom lore seems to be the bigger your wallet the smaller your wall, hence BBC News 24’s (£51m and counting) tiny version.

14.02.04

Saturday lunch with the in-laws in a Bath hotel. I’m finally away from the job – as is the person at the adjacent table with her family – Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

15.02.04 Ring Angela Rippon to congratulate her on the page profile of her in The Sunday Telegraph (“Rippon’s roaring return”). Angela presented scores of hours of our Iraq war coverage and is returning to the channel for a regular weekend morning slot. The Telegraph explores the usual agenda of the return of “veteran” newscasters to the mainstream.

16.02.04

I’m sure everybody has the same feelings about the increasing number of meetings they have to attend every day. My vow this Monday is to go to as few as possible so I can actually watch the channel. Just as I’m settling down to do so there is a knock at the door – could I come to a brief meeting about news channel meetings? A great start to the week.

Viewer phone polls can never be scientific or balanced but they often provide a good snapshot of public opinion on issues making the news.

Even though our poll on whether headscarves and other religious symbols should be banned in French state schools closed more than a week ago, we are still getting viewers’ responses.

Understandably many people feel strongly about the issue, but surely our technology must have gone wrong in this case? The mystery is solved when we discover the following text message, presumably sent to us by mistake: “Freemasons are banning headscarf in France txt ‘no 2banning’ on 80300 inshallah it will not go ahead! Result on ITV News 24. Pass it on, every vote counts.”

17.02.04

How much time to devote to live events and how much to rolling-news updates – that’s the dilemma at the heart of all news channels (apart from the headline news variety).

It’s a slow news day and this afternoon we have lots of live coverage as the stars arrive at the Brit Awards. The Darkness, Busted, Shania Twain and Justin Timberlake all appear as guests with the redoubtable Nina Nannar, ITV News media and arts correspondent.

All goes well until Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor decides to use the “f word” when discussing The Darkness. Nina quickly apologises and we move on.

Out for a drink with a young newscaster whom we’re considering poaching from a rival service.

18.02.04

The morning post brings another mini-avalanche of videotapes from would-be newscasters. Some have real potential, others are sadly comic.

“Dear Mr Crossley-Holland,” writes one, “I have no experience of newscasting or television but would like you to consider training me on the job.” The applicant appears to work in waste recycling. Hmm.

I call my ‘mentee’ at City University to arrange her next visit to Gray’s Inn Road, for a day on Channel 4 News.

When I started life as a trainee at ITN 15 years ago my first few weeks were spent on Channel 4 News. In my first week I managed to distinguish myself by overseeing an edit that finished on the wrong and expletive-laden version of a piece to camera. The reporter was amazingly sweet about it but I’ll never forget the very public newsroom debrief afterwards.

At 3.15pm many in the office stop to watch UK Today, one of the highlights of our daily coverage that is beginning to attain cult status in the newsroom.

We go round the ITV regions to take a look at some of the stories making the headlines. Today ITV Wales, Tyne Tees and Anglia News fill the slot.

Another late phone call – this time about rosters. My wife says running a 24-hour news channel translates into “on call 24 hours a day”. Oh for those peaceful days and nights when I worked on terrestrial news.

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