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A Tale Of One City

This is a revised version of  an article published in the excellent e-radio on 4th December. That article started out at 900-odd words and i was asked for 500-700. This version takes a view slightly more distant view and re-incorporates some of the elements I dropped for space. It also makes a couple of corrections and additions.

The tragedy at the Clutha Vaults in Glasgow will rank as the biggest news stories of the year – especially in Scotland, where the bar is one of the most famous in the city. It was also a game changer in how the news was covered.

At Clyde, Content Controller Davey Walker spotted early tweets shortly after the police helicopter crashed into the roof of the busy pub. Real Radio Scotland’s Paul Harper initially thought the social media flurry was one of those ‘twitter rumours’, but he lives nearby and could tell something was going on.

While Walker was talking to Brian Paige (Clyde’s Content Director), Harper went down to the scene, arriving shortly after the initial rush of activity. “Amazingly, my iPhone was fully charged – on a Friday night – so I grabbed some interviews to send over to news, who I knew had been scrambled.”

Walker and Paige almost immediately agreed that Clyde 1 and Clyde 2 would both come off the network and ‘In Demand: Scotland’ presenter Romeo was doing a separate programme to the network by 1120pm. “I think he really captured the spirit of the city” said Paige, with 2 news reporters in the studio, phone reports from the scene and social media to paint the picture. It was a raw, in the early stages faltering broadcast. But it caught the emotion of the moment.

The rest of Bauer’s Scottish network programmes carried additional news bulletins and continued something resembling their normal form, but in Glasgow it was different.

Meanwhile presenter Paul Harper and Programme Controller David Treasurer sat and crafted a new music log and discussed what the most appropriate tone would be. The call was made to only use calls and social media where it actually added to listeners’ understanding of the story. Paul anchored from before midnight as Real Scotland left the network and began rolling coverage. Having been at the scene, there was a different feeling to the broadcast, with the audio he captured at the scene and input from the reporters who, by now were filing from the city centre.

Like the other Scottish stations, news at Real was extended with the Bailieston team feeding overnight bulletins to the network in addition to providing live material for the station itself every 20 minutes.

Meanwhile a mile from the Clutha Bar at the BBCs Pacific Quay HQ, Radio Scotland resolutely stuck to it’s schedule of pre-recorded content within a music show. The live bulletin at midnight had some information, but the pre-rec continued until the station joined 5 live’s excellent coverage. The presenter was there with a built show and nothing to do other than play out the scheduled interview, play a toned-down running order and trail the next bulletin. This continues a trend for the station where despite having reporters in the field, they have serviced other outlets and failed to go live locally.

This certainly raised eyebrows, both inside and outside PQ, where programme teams felt ready to go to air long before their 1am join to Salford with the material they had available to them. Sources close to to the station lamented the lack of live coverage or even signposts to the coverage on Radio 5 live. After the relay of 5, they returned to cosy and jolly local programming that didn’t reference the crash until the schedule permitted local production.

The first long-form locally produced content on Radio Scotland was a very thorough Good Morning Scotland at 8am and for the remainder of the day the style and tone of the network changed and various news specials were aired. A police press conference also was given precedence over football commentary. Having come late to the party, the station really had depth and breadth in it’s coverage.

The tone of Knoxy’s Radio Clyde programme, which started in Glasgow at 4am captured the mood of many – “It’s four o’clock on a Saturday morning and like you, I’m trying to come to terms with what’s just happened”.

Capital Scotland were faced with a difficult situation. A heavily networked brand and short bulletins were never going to work in the crucial overnight and small hours. PC Stuart Barrie and Head of News did an excellent job of tweaking their music and running extended local bulletins. The bolstering of their local operation in subsequent days by reporters from elsewhere in the Global family added to the breadth and depth of their coverage which maintained the tight, immediate style they have become known for. A special note that like others, Capital also used social media to get the info out there with numerous tweets and  boos of bulletins and interviews.

At Real, David Treasurer was really proud of the stations work on a difficult night. “I’m very proud of the news and programming teams effort, professionalism, and sensitivity through what has been a tragic story to report on”.

In Clydebank, where Scotland’s first commercial station is weeks away from its 40th birthday celebrations, Brian Paige summed up his feelings, “I’m really proud of our team. We really captured the pulse of the city.”.

So did the city’s radio stations.

Author: johnco

Born in 1963, been involved in radio since 1977.

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