A personal view by Gary Newby, News Editor at ITV News Central
On a quiet news day when I was a junior reporter on a weekly newspaper in Leicester, my Editor would often despatch me to go to the local pub to find a story. Not real work, you may think? But as a relatively naive 19-year-old, it was a daunting exercise to eke out a story from a stranger at the bar in the space of an hour or two.
The friendly and inquisitive nature of most Leicester folk meant I didn’t often return empty-handed and when I did, I’d learnt a thing or two about how to talk to people. I’ve long suspected that in his eagerness for me to succeed as a journalist, my Editor was as happy with the latter outcome as much as he was with the former.
I was reminded of this by my recent ‘escape’ from the newsroom to join two colleagues for the first of a series of meet-the-public events we call ‘Pop-Up Reporting’. We set out early on a chilly morning to a Midlands’ market town armed with an ‘ITV News Central’ branded marquee, publicity photographs and a cheerful disposition.
What we lacked was a measure of success from this venture. Yes, we wanted to interact with the public and hopefully glean stories but of what quantity and quality, we’d little notion. It was unsettling, but we needn’t have worried.
Having erected the marquee and displayed our Presenters’ photographs over a camping table, there began a day-long constant stream of visitors. They told us of parking problems, business rates threatening independent retailers, that it cost a £10 rail fare to the nearest Jobcentre and five members of the same family all worked as carers visiting homes in the town. Above all, tales about people.
Differing in their reasons for wanting to talk to us – some serious, some not so and others simply wanting to greet and acknowledge us. Everyone we encountered was friendly, and most were grateful for our effort to find out about the stories that matter to them.
Even more unexpectedly, we were given free food, advice on warm clothing, tips on local places of interest to visit, all manner of information about the town’s history and, when it was finally time for us to leave, help in packing up.
It struck a chord with me that Inclusion and Diversity – crucial in our attempt to remain relevant to the widest possible audience – comes in many forms. It’s easy to report stories in the major conurbations of our big cities. Geographical diversity means a more active approach to include issues that matter to people in our towns and rural communities too.
And just like my first Editor sending me to the pub to find a story, our ‘Pop-Up Reporting’ day underlined the importance of us reaching out to find ‘people stories’ in all the communities we serve.
(Taken from our previous magazine issue)