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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Radio Devon anecdotes (1)

Hawses for Courses
I was a journalist at BBC Radio Devon from its launch (1982) until 1988, working first as a reporter and then a news producer. The latter included a lot of newsreading. To start with, I was very self conscious about my Devon accent. A more experienced producer, Helen Hughes, advised me to think of different spellings of words: for example, hawse instead of horse. It worked well. However, there was a monthly curse of the unemployment figures, where the "rip and read" always started "the number of people out of work and claiming benefit has risen / dropped" (delete as appropriate). I didn't like words with 'R' in, so I always changed this to "number of people without jobs."

Raining Men

One of our DJs, Ian Brass, had a wicked sense of humour. I had a news story about a man who threw himself over the top floor of the Newton Abbot multi storey car park, unfortunately landing on someone and causing serious injury. After I'd finished the news summary, Ian followed up with the song It's Raining Men. I'd like to say that was the only time, but after I'd broken the news about the Challenger disaster, I heard "Space Oddity" as I left the studio.

Not Thought to be Seriously Hurt

As I got more adept at newsreading, I started live editing, where I would read the bulletin and edit the copy as I went along. For example, sometimes I forgot to take the snippet about today's weather in with me, so I would ad lib depending on how it looked outside. Or I would not have time to edit a piece of copy about a court case from one of the local news agencies, and would edit it live to avoid the legal errors they always included.

On one occasion, I was nearly at the end of a bulletin when a colleague burst in with a piece of paper and mouthed "news just in." I delivered the phrase with great relish and proceeded to read out how a man had been killed in a road accident. The copy had handwriting all over it and I was suspicious it was incorrect, so I hastily ended the piece "the dead man is not thought to be seriously hurt." I groaned as I closed the fader, realising what I'd done. I sneaked into the main newsroom but fortunately Trevor, the news editor, was listening to our competitors Devonair and hadn't heard my faux pas. Then the phone rang. I picked it up: it was A Listener. He asked if could speak to the newsreader. I gritted my teeth and said "she's not around, can I take a message?" He chuckled and told me to tell the newsreader that she had made his day.

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