From power surge to bombs how TV broke the news

By Caitlin Pike

While national newspaper journalists at least had a few hours to
make sense of Thursday’s chaos – broadcast journalists travelling
through London on 7 July had to react instantly to what they saw
happening around them.

Sky News producer Bob Mills was evacuated from King’s Cross and
while making his way in to work on foot witnessed the number 30 bus
explode in Tavistock Square. He broke the news on Sky at 9.50am and
from that point on the story moved away from “power surge” to terrorist
attack.

He said: “I was walking alongside the number 30 bus,
which was absolutely packed, as it went through Tavistock Square. As
the roads were so congested it was crawling along at walking pace.

“I
don’t believe in mobile phones, which meant I dashed into a hotel to
let my wife know that I was ok. I was in there for about 30 seconds, I
rushed out, looked up and the bus blew up.

“There were bodies everywhere and it was silent. I thought everyone had perished.

If
I hadn’t made that call I would have been next to the bus as the bomb
went off.” Mills said it was only much later on that he realised his
report to Sky News was a crucial moment in the course of the story.
Before he went on air, producers asked him if he was sure it had been a
bomb.

He said they told him to stick with the line that it was an
unconfirmed explosion. But in his report Mills was adamant that the bus
had been blown up.

He said: “I was in journalist mode and I knew
that the story needed to be told as soon as possible. I was sure people
needed to know, at that point I even thought the police and ambulance
service needed to know – even though they weren’t far away. It would
have been the same if I had been working for Sky or Radio Aberdeen – I
just wanted to get the story out.”

BBC home editor Mark Easton
was driving to work just before 9am on Thursday and was near King’s
Cross when he heard the first radio reports of disruption on the tube.
Minutes later he was reporting for radio Five Live and News 24.

“I
have spent four years reporting the threat from Al Qaeda and the
credibility of a response that could be co-ordi-nated in London. As I
saw the first passengers emerging from the station with soot on their
faces I had a feeling this could be the day that everyone had been
dreading. The trauma of what passengers had seen was etched in their
features. I called the office from the car and instantly was giving a
report of what I could see.”

Easton then parked his car near
King’s Cross and was walking through back streets when he heard “a
thunderous boom” a few hundred yards away, which turned out to be the
bomb on the bus in Tavistock Square.

By then he was confident
that what he had feared – a terrorist attack – was the reality. He
walked back to King’s Cross and found himself beside four buses that
had been commandeered as treatment centres.

“I was still
reporting on my mobile and didn’t want to hang up because I thought I
wouldn’t be able to access the network again. I was kept hanging on for
a while and at one point I thought they had forgotten about me but they
came back and I continued reporting.

“As the minutes went by
passengers were coming out of King’s Cross with more serious injuries,
some were visibly shaking from shock and one woman’s legs were covered
in blood, her flesh in tatters.”

Easton said that after the first
wave of confusion had passed the communication side of the emergency
was well managed. Television crews were kept back behind the emergency
services’

cordons and all information was coming through central channels – Scotland Yard and the government.

As
the day progressed Easton said he was moved by what he saw on the
London streets. “I realised that humanity, in the face of the
extraordinary, yearns normality. People were desperate to get back to
whatever they were doing. The mood in the city changed almost with the
weather. In the afternoon sunshine, away from the crime scenes,
strangers walked through the streets, communing and chatting to each
other. It was very warming.”

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