By John Shone
I’ve been an admirer of your column from the outset and I often find myself in agreement with your forthright comments. But, as an ageing hack with more than 50 years in the business, (and still going strong), I found last week’s attack on BBC local radio journalists unjustified and highly offensive.
I’ve worked in broadcasting for almost 40 years, in radio and TV, with BBC and ITV. I began my career as a humble copy boy with the Daily Herald/Sporting Life, moving on to the trade press, local weeklies, provincial dailies and the nationals.
During my time at the Beeb, I set up and managed BBC Radio Clwyd and, before becoming a part-timer, I was news editor at BBC Radio Shropshire for seven years. So I’ve been around a bit.
Many of the broadcast teams I’ve worked with have had years of solid experience in newspapers – far more, in some cases, than the average reporter on the local paper. To suggest that these good folk are ‘lazy bastards’and don’t know how to find original stories is deeply insulting and you should have the decency to apologise.
Yes, local radio picks up stories from the local papers in the same way that local papers pick up stories from local radioâ€¦and national papers pick up stories from local papers and local radio – often running them a month or two later and labelling them ‘exclusive”.
You know, as well as I do, that we all feed off each other from time to time and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve answered the phone after finishing a breakfast radio bulletin to find a harassed evening paper colleague on the line, asking for more details on a story I’d just broadcast and wondering if I could supply a contact phone number.
I’ve always tried to be helpfulâ€¦and I have no shame in saying that I’ve called up the same local newspaper colleagues to ask for help in catching up on one of their stories. Indeed, I’ve always enjoyed good working relationships with newspaper colleagues and several newspaper editors I’ve known have been happy to co-operate on many occasions in exchanging information and pictures, after publication, knowing that such a relationship had benefit for both sides.
To suggest that BBC local radio lifts stories from the local papers without checking them is, in my experience, at complete odds with the way we work. I also know from personal experience that BBC online stories have been lifted by local papers, complete with quotes and, I suspect, without checking.
So before lashing out with unwarranted abuse, Grey, perhaps you should have taken a look at the results of a study published last year. The research was carried for the BBC and the Newspaper Society and reported in Press Gazette and by the BBC. Perhaps, you would kindly quote the details when you say ‘sorry.”
By the way, when I pick up the papers these days, I’m often struggling to find good original stories, in the numbers that they used to appear. Because of staffing cutbacks, so much of the content is PR puff material that is simply shovelled in. That’s the real issue you should be addressing, Grey, before making outrageous slurs on good, hard-working BBC local radio journalists.