One of the earliest lessons I learnt as a Broadcast Journalist, was how to deal with heartbreaking and emotionally tough stories while on air. Early in my career I was presenting an hour long local news programme. The date was 13 March 1996. The Dunblane shootings. As a local station, when a big national (international) story breaks like that, you rely on your feed from IRN. In those days, it was the team based at ITN that provided packages, audio clips etc from Dunblane and around the country for use in my news programme. Listening to the material being played as I presented sent a shiver through me, but you have to keep your emotions in check.
Fast forward less than ten years and I was enjoying a fairly relaxed early morning shift at Sky News Radio (what is now the new home to IRN), when news of some disruption on the London Underground came through to the TV desk. July 7th 2005 was about to get a permanent place in my memory. My colleague Ursula Hansford and I were on the radio desk, in those days situated along a corridor, away from the main newsroom. We had no direct sources for the story about to emerge, relying on our TV colleagues to provide updates.
At the time Sky News Radio's clients included the likes of talkSPORT and Virgin. National broadcasters relying on us to provide them with accurate information about what was happening in London. From 9am to 9-30 the day took a dramatic turn, with union boss Bob Crow initially appearing on Sky News and blaming the power surges and disruption on a lack of funding for the Underground. He wasn't to know at that stage what was happening, but his comments were thoughtless and opportunist. We didn't use any of his audio, fearing, from the kind of details emerging, that this was not a normal set of circumstances. Maybe it was instinct, but we felt that this was something much worse.
When the horror began to emerge, there was a rush of adrenaline as a journalist that is hard to explain to those removed from the process. You click into gear, getting a kind of thrill from turning material around quickly - providing as much detail as you can, avoiding false claims or reports and trying to stick to as much fact as possible. This was before Social Media was dominant, and your sources were from 'on the ground' or through official routes. My colleague at talksport was on the phone asking for as much audio as possible, for more updates. We switched to headline updates every fifteen minutes and did the best we could for clients across the UK.
We are often described as cold for not having feelings during these tragedies. The job of a journalist is to get on with reporting and remove yourself from the moment. But listening to people directly affected by that day's events ten years on - I feel a sense of guilt for the 'thrill' I felt that day. My story for July 7th 2005 is so far removed from the reality of that horror that my feeling of connection to the bombings seems crass. For all journalists these type of events will occur a number of times during a career. Some make their name from how they report or handle them. Most, like me, just do a job and move on. Hearing the stories of that day ten years ago reminds me that for many 'moving on' is not really an option.Suggest a correction