Sunday, 22 May 2016

Back To The Future

Reporting from Washington DC circa 2005 ITV News

Almost ten years since I left the ITV Newsroom, I walked back in. It's always slightly disorientating when you return to a place where you spent so many formative years, like going back to school.You marvel at how much has stayed the same, as well as how much has changed. 

A lot of the people I knew are still there, which is lovely. So many familiar, friendly faces, it felt like coming home. And within hours, I was doing a report for News At Ten with very few pictures and an overworked producer. So that's the same then. 

The technology has changed though. Reporters are now expected to be able to edit their own pieces - in other words, to physically cut pictures and sound, weaving in special effects and graphics where necessary. I try not to be a Luddite. No-one wants to end up like their grannies, for whom the TV remote control is still the height of technology.  So I'm happy to embrace new skills and learn how to operate Avid and Newscutter. But fair warning, ITV News bosses - I am very, very slow. Also my OCD kicks in, making it impossible for me to stop tinkering until I'm completely happy with an edit. There is a very real risk I will miss a deadline if left to my own devices. (Unless my punctuality OCD cancels out my perfectionism OCD. Let's not put it to the test.)

Speaking of technology, I gave a talk to Journalism graduates last week. They were studying at Teesside University, which was kind enough to give me an Honorary Degree several years ago. I am always keen to encourage the future guardians of truth, justice, and a free press so I attended their Journalism Awards evening and talked about how vastly the industry had changed. When I started out as a reporter back in 1990, I had a notepad and a pen. If I was really lucky, I had a pen that worked. Social media? That was everyone gathered round the telly on a Saturday night. 

The students I met in Middlesbrough are light years from that. They all seem to have YouTube channels or websites or a gazillion followers. They all blog and vlog and tweet. I came away feeling both impressed and exhausted by their energy.

 I wouldn't normally post a photo without asking everyone's permission, but since they've all already tweeted about it I suppose there's no problem. The future of journalism is in safe hands. If any of you has offspring keen to get into this mad business, I do recommend the media and journalism courses at Teesside University. 

By the way, if anyone under 20 is reading this, could you please enlighten me about Snapchat? I totally get Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc but the point of that yellow ghost thingy which is erased after a few seconds is lost on me. I have the uncomfortable feeling I sound like my mum. 

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Head In The Clouds

Meet our Skyjib X4. Looks like something out of a sci-fi film, doesn't it? This is my new business partner - along with my husband, Simon. To be fair, the one is rarely seen without the other. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, I say. So together we are now running a fabulous aerial filming company called Aero Productions Ltd. If you pop along to our website  you will see the kind of films we make.

I say 'we' but it's actually my husband who does the flying. While I was working in the desert all those months sans famille he was busy qualifying as a drone pilot with full accreditation from the Civil Aviation Authority. It all sounded like far too much fun for him to be having on his own, so I am now a co-Director of his company. Poor man.

Running a small business has really opened my eyes to the challenges for entrepreneurs in this country. The tax system for one. According to a Sunday Times investigation, six out of ten of Britain's biggest companies paid zero corporation tax in 2014. We'd barely registered at Companies House when we started getting stern warnings about about corporation tax through our door! Still, I'm sure it won't be a problem when we've made our first million.

So, what do Aero Productions do? We make amazing films using the best technology. We can offer aerial footage, inspiring photography and anything you require from short web videos to full-blown high-quality professional films to stun your competitors into submission. We also do media training, from handling friendly interviews to controlling the fall-out from an unfortunate incident. 

On top of all that, I'm also freelancing as a reporter. Viewers in the UK should start to see me popping up on ITV News every now and then. Got to keep my hand in. Reporters are only as good as their last story. It will be good to work with my former colleagues again: correspondents like Juliet Bremner, Paul Davies, Chris Choi. Anchors like Mark Austin and Mary Nightingale. Sorry to name-drop but I'm very happy to be back among them.

And last but not least, I am still honing my YA novel. It is now in the final stages of drafting. My agent, the fantastic London-based Sheil Land Associates, has said it is very nearly ready to be sent out to potential publishers. It just needs one more tweak. It's been like having a baby really. Lots of preparation and nervous waiting. To continue the analogy, I'm still in labour but hopefully the end game is in sight. 

So, company director, freelance reporter, nearly-author. Hmm. I may be rather busy in the forseeable....!