Simon Woolcott

Blog post #1

The first few weeks of the Talk Radio module have flown by. David Spencer is a great lecturer with years of experience to back up his teaching.

We have been encouraged to listen to as much talk radio as we can including TalkSport, BBC Radio 5 Live, LBC and BBC Radio 4.

reactionCommercial and BBC have very different sounds. Both Radio 4 and 5 are very produced and journalistically full of integrity. That’s not to say the commercial stations’ journalistic ethos are lacking at all but the style is markedly different, designed to provoke a reaction.

I can’t say I’ve ever been much of a talk radio fan, particularly antagonistic phone-ins, but it’s a very lively and seemingly growing genre and I’m keen to learn as much about how it is done as I can.


Blog post #2

With nearly thirty of us signed up for the module we have been split into three groups for the remainder of the semester.

We are to produce a half hour ‘magazine’ style programme with various features including an interview, a phoner, a ‘two way’, a package etc.

I’m in group C, a great bunch which includes some of the team with which I was lucky enough to have been put for last semester’s Music Radio module.

We had a few hours this afternoon to come up with various treatments to some of the stories on Burley. To be honest it was a little chaotic but fun nevertheless.

Throughout the afternoon we recorded the introduction/cue to some of the stories with a hint to the treatment that we thought best suited them.

We also started to sort out which roles we were going to fill.

I seem to be one of the two presenters which is pretty nerve-racking even though I’m fairly used to live radio. However the live radio I’m experienced in always had the cushion of recorded music to turn to if anything went awry. Talk Radio is a different creature altogether.

They say you never learn anything if you stay within your comfort zone, so discomfort, here I come!


Blog post #3

This week’s session was mostly theory but we had an excellent guest speaker from Radio 4’s Today. David McMullan who is a senior journalist and sometimes editor of the programme.

He gave us some great insights into how a fast paced current affairs magazine programme is put together on the BBC which was both revealing and a little terrifying.

It turned out we had met before though a mutual friend who works at Heart in Birmingham so we had a bit of a catch up and a gossip about the state of radio in the UK during the lunch break.
We have already listened to a variety of speech radio programmes from as broad a canvass as the aforementioned Today Programme through to Talk Sport and Radio 5 Live and it is becoming apparent that there is quite a difference in style between the BBC’s speech output and that of the commercial sector.

The BBC are very good at the serious news stuff but their phone-in style is very stilted compared to the likes of LBC and TalkSport.


Blog post #4

This week was much more doing than last week and took me so far out of my comfort zone.

We started by taking about a couple of programmes we had listened to: Radio 1’s The Surgery and The Sports Bar with Andy Goldstein on TalkSport.

The general opinion was that The Surgery was poorly produced and sounded like more of a box ticking exercise than a programme the network actually wanted to put any effort into.

However many of us enjoyed The Sports Bar despite not particularly being sports fans. Andy Goldstein made me feel comfortable as a listener because he sounded knowledgeable and in charge.

'But they can't close your local, you're the pub bore!'
‘But they can’t close your local, you’re the pub bore!’

Aside form the ‘pub bore’ aspect of callers taking about Arsenal’s poor performance and ranting that if they replaced Arsene Wenger they would have won bla bla bla… it was quite entertaining.

The ‘doing’ part of the day involved producing a 15 minute demo magazine programme using the biggest stories of the day.

We have been given our audience demographic and region. Our audience are of evenly mixed gender aged between 16 and 42, which is which a large age range. We are London centric. I suggested to David Spencer that sounded like the old GLR (A previous incarnation of the BBC’s London local station). Then we both reminisced about the time that the BBC London local station was good.

I decided not to be the presenter in this instance but to work on a story about how uneventful the pervious night’s BRITs were. In the end we dropped the piece because it wasn’t fresh enough by the middle of the afternoon.

Instead I tried to write some London headlines, but aside from Storm Doris it was a pretty quiet news day. David helped me find one more decent London story so I produced a script and recorded a voice piece.

As the afternoon wore on I realised I wasn’t at all comfortable with Burli and couldn’t remember how to use it for the life of me. Fortunately everyone else in our group seems to have grasped it completely.

I decided to select the Talk Radio module precisely because I wasn’t comfortable with either news gathering, speech radio, without music, and Burli.

I must admit I am becoming increasingly anxious about it. Thankfully the rest of group C are more confident. I just hope I don’t let them down.


Blog post #5

It was an interesting and valuable exercise to listen back to our attempts at a 15 minute magazine programme at the end of last week’s session.

We are gradually learning to move away from a pure news bulletin towards a looser programme based on recent events.

Most of today was taken up covering the legal and compliance considerations. It’s a bit of a dry pic but David illustrated why it was so important with some illuminating examples.

Long time

I’m quite glad I’m not studying journalism, I fear I’d be too scared to run any story for fear of getting myself, or whichever media outlet I was working for, into trouble with the courts or a litigious individual.

kiss_logoI was lucky to attend a training day at the Radio Centre with the Gaydar Radio crew and the Kiss breakfast presenters a few years ago so today was more of a refresher course.





Blog post #6

David arranged for one of his work colleagues from Talk Sport, Sal Ahmed, to come in to give us some insights into being a talk radio producer.

not-interested-enoughHe was in the middle of planning a big forthcoming OB where a week of programmes was coming live from a football match / tournament somewhere in Europe.

Sal also let us into what it was like to produce big names and how to get the best out of people who weren’t all that used to broadcasting but knew their subject.

We spent the afternoon looking for stories on which we could base items in our ‘magazine’ show on and trying to work out what the best treatment for each story was.

We have to include a package, an interview (pre-recorded or live), a two-way, some audience interaction (albeit faked) and a studio discussion amongst other things.

We also finalised roles with the help of David and were able to have short tutorials to make sure we were all comfortable with what needs to be done.


Blog post #7

With David working away this week Matthew stepped in to help move things along. The morning was spent going over the essay questions.

essay-picI’m pretty sure which question I’m going for and I’ve started to do some research on it already.

We were give time after lunch to consolidate sone of our story ideas before meeting with Mathew to get some feedback on the suitability of the stories and which treatment best suited them. It was very helpful to get the benefit of Mathew’s experience.

It appears that the core of group C has formed and is working well was a team. It is unfortunate, however, that not all of group C is either willing or able to become part of that core.


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