Working Week

Amanda Farnsworth – Editor, BBC Six O’Clock News

SCOOP! Our environment correspondent has got an exclusive interview
with Prince Charles. There’s some quite extraordinary pictures of him
tickling some extremely large black pigs behind the ears and a joke
about a funny-shaped carrot that’s rather too rude to broadcast.

Meanwhile, George Best is not well. I refrain from going into obituary mode and I don’t lead the programme on him.

Nevertheless, there are many complaints from the public about how much time is devoted to this “football legend”.

news – George Bush’s choice for the Supreme Court withdraws: I decide
to lead on this. Into the gallery… it’s 10 minutes to air and nothing,
not one piece, is ready.

This is normal.

We are supposed to
go to Matt Frei live at the top of the programme, but there’s a
terrible buzz on the line – never mind, we have his report – er, no we
don’t… but with 30 seconds to go the report arrives and the buzz dies
down… this is also normal.

The programme progresses. Suddenly
BREAKING NEWS AGAIN. With five minutes to go, our political editor Nick
Robinson appears breathless and says he has to get on the programme
with some dramatic statement Blair has made about Iran. He is duly
accommodated and it all feels quite exciting really. This story becomes
the lead at Ten. After the programme I call all the correspondents to
talk through their pieces – what we did well, what we could have done

28.10.05 Today is a bit like pulling teeth. No compelling
lead story and lots of mid-table stories it’s quite hard to get
enthusiastic about. But my valiant assistant editor, Dan Kelly, who’s
in the output chair today, is nothing if not enthusiastic. He spots a
very good story about fraud on Ebay and also a review of the power of

Because I’m not outputting the programme tonight, I
get a chance to catch up on some of the more strategic work I’m doing
for the Creative Futures Group. (The group is looking at the needs of
audiences and will produce an editorial blueprint for BBC programmes in
six genres, including journalism.)n Back to tonight’s programme: the
spy scandal is heating up in Washington – the report is supposed to
come out at around 4pm, but at 5.15, still nothing.

We start to
think of a Plan B in case it doesn’t happen in time for the programme.
Finally, at 5.30 the report is released and we are sure of what the
charges are. A second day of leading on Bush – unusual for us.

Back in the output chair today. It feels a bit like Groundhog Day.
David Blunkett is in trouble again and it’s something to do with DNA
testing. It looks like its going to build as a story.

We start to
hear rumours of movement on the Blunkett story about 4pm – he may make
a statement. Will it be on or off camera? When exactly will he make it?
Nothing is clear. It’s 5.20 now and still nothing is clear. 5.30 comes
and goes and then finally, the statement.

It’s off camera and
that means another graphic. I have already overloaded the poor graphics
team, but heroically they just get on with it. Into the gallery at 10
to six.

Our lead package on David Blunkett will be a live play-in
from a transmission suite at our Millbank offices. Our political
producer at Westminster, Lizzi Watson, messages me – “It’s going to be
tight”… it’s always tight, so I don’t worry.

It’s 5.59. No package and Nick Robinson at the end of the live link has yet to get his ear-piece in. I start to worry.

o’clock – still no report from Westminster, but Nick’s live link is
working at last. Plan B is to go to him and talk to him until the
package arrives. Another message from Lizzi: “It’s going in now.” We
have now finished the headline sequence and the titles are running.
Still no report ready to run.

“Good evening and welcome to the
Six O’Clock News says Dermot Murnaghan. Then the director says the
words that strike fear into every outputer’s heart: “Read slowly,” he
tells Natasha Kaplinsky. A ghostly voice comes over the talkback.

It’s the engineer saying the report has just arrived and he’s loading it into the machine.

With one sentence of the introduction to go, the report flashes up on a little screen ready to roll. “Run Millbank,”

says the director and there the report is – on air.

It’s the National Memorial service for the victims of 7/7 today. I
watched it all and found it immensely moving. That day was one that all
of us will never forget. Of course, the victims and their families, and
the emergency workers involved are at the centre of today’s events. But
the day was also a difficult one for the many reporters we despatched
to the scene.

02.11.05 The resignation of a cabinet minister is
always a big story, but there aren’t many who resign twice in less than
a year – Peter Mandelson lasted longer than that! So we’re
sub-anchoring the programme from Westminster with Nick Robinson and
doing much of the first half of the programme on David Blunkett’s

It’s been a busy week, but looking back I’ve never
known a news year like this. It started with the tsunami, then there
was the death of a Pope, a royal wedding, a general election, the
terror attacks on London, Hurricane Katrina and the Pakistan quake. And
there’s still two months of the year left.

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