Mark Popescu

16.09.04

An early start — I need a US visa, as I’ll be overseeing News 24’s coverage of the Presidential elections.

At 0700 I’m outside the embassy, quite close to the front of the line. By 0730 it stretches away into the distance.

The embassy opens at exactly 0800 and after filing through security, I am given a number and wait my turn.

The process is efficient: within two hours I have been interviewed and my fingers have been scanned. I’m on my way, with a promise of a visa in a couple of days.

Back at Television Centre, a morning out of the office means the emails are already piling up.

I work down the list, hitting the delete button, before going to sit in the newsroom on the main output desk.

1315 and it is time for BBC sandwiches and Roger Mosey’s monthly Television News Editors lunch.

We talk about the progress of the reviews set up by Mark Thompson and the implications for TV News.

There’s also a progress report on the move to the News Centre at Broadcasting House.

It seems a long way off, but we are already allocating studio and office space.

Immediately afterwards, I chair the weekly News 24 planning meeting, looking at how we’ll cover the big stories in the next seven days.

I visit the output team briefly before attending the “Four O’Clock” – the main editorial meeting for the peak time coverage across all channels.

Then it is back to the output desk for the busy early evening period.

17.09.04

Friday, and the early morning traffic is very light. It heralds a different day in the office too.

Few meetings – and much more time spent in the newsroom with the output team.

An email announces that Richard Porter, editor of Breakfast, is going on attachment to BBC World as my opposite number for six months.

Immediately the rumours start on who might replace him.

The editor of BBC Breakfast is one of the big roles in the newsroom.

During the afternoon, I spend an hour with the planning team, talking though our options for the remaining weeks of the US presidential election campaign.

18.09.04

I’m on call, and first thing talk to the duty output editor about the day’s plans and how we will handle the breaking news on the seizure of two American hostages – and one British -in Baghdad.

Later I head to Highbury with my three children for Arsenal v Bolton.

After the game, the tube station is closed by a fire alert.

Thousands are milling around. We walk through the back streets to another station.

I know the area well, and lived in a grotty bed-sit off the Seven Sisters Road when I was starting out as a freelance radio reporter.

It seems a long time ago. We didn’t have computers or mobile phones, instead we used type-writers and crocclips to play reports down public phone lines.

19.09.04

I listen to the newspaper review after the 0800 news on Radio 4 and decide I don’t need to rush to the paper shop. There’s more football too – this time ferrying and watching my children who play for local teams. I pick up the papers on my way home and read the front pages – the rest can wait until the evening.

Just before bed, I remember I have to do some “homework” for my leadership course at Ashridge. Two articles – one on how Jack Welch turned around the American conglomerate, General Electric. GE has interesting parallels with the BBC.

20.09.04

A day out of the office in the beautiful surroundings of Ashridge in the Hertfordshire countryside. The day is on Leadership Strategy.

It is a mixture of seminars and breakout groups where we work through issues from our own departments in the BBC.

I’m two-thirds of the way through the leadership course, and it has given me new insight into how I behave as a senior manager in the BBC, and I have tried to change the way I lead the News 24 editorial team.

The day at Ashridge also gives me a day to think about the big issues facing my department and the chance to meet and mix with colleagues from other parts of the BBC.

21.09.04

I’m in the office early on Tuesday to catch up with a backlog of emails. I typically receive around 100 a day, plus dozens of top lines messages.

I attend the main morning editorial meeting and then prepare for a meeting with the World Bureaux editors, who get together once a year in London. It’s a chance to talk directly about News 24 and our plans to develop our international coverage with the heads of the BBC bureaux in places such as Washington, Moscow, Brussels, Johannesburg and Delhi.

I start by apologising for failing to visit any of the bureaux, despite promising to do so after the re-launch.

Back in the newsroom, two of the News 24 editors have gone sick, so I cancel a series of meetings and spend most of the rest of the day in the newsroom, helping to look after the output.

The news of the murder of one of the American hostages is sickening.

22.09.04

I’m out of the office again. We’ve hired a meeting room for an “away day” with around 20 senior broadcast journalists. We start with a presentation on the latest audience research and figures. Much of the work is still confidential, but most of the figures are very encouraging.

We’re determined not to be complacent, and there are some interesting messages from the audience about how we cover breaking news. The team is very positive about the way the channel is evolving.

I lead a discussion on identifying our strengths and weaknesses, and in the afternoon we concentrate on the practical steps. We’re joined later by members of the graphics and directing teams. It is one of those meetings which really gels with a sense of common purpose.

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