"Today In Norfolk"
A behind the scenes account of a daily Radio Norfolk programme
"Today In Norfolk", from Graham Barnard
Anyone who's ever been 'there' is entitled to wear the T-shirt - 'there' being anyone who's ever done earlies and started work at 5am! And the garment I mention is the Today in Norfolk T-shirt. It's maroon in colour and has the words YES, YES and NO emblazoned on it in big yellow letters. You wear it at parties, ready for that moment when people ask you what you do. "You get up at 4 o'clock every morning, really?" they ask... (You point to the first word YES)... It goes on: "That must be awful, getting up so early - is it?" (You point to the next YES)... And finally they say: "But I suppose you eventually get used to it?" You've guessed it; you then point to the word NO!
Once in the studio its all systems go, and no two days are really ever the same. The first task is to see what's been left for us by the overnight producer, who's job it was to make sure we've got enough material to see us through two hours of all-speech radio. Trying to predict the next day's news, or the news which will give a sense of the morning, is a difficult task. What will people be talking about or care about on Thursday morning? How can you get a sense of that on Wednesday afternoon? So that's why the two hours before we go on air are absolutely crucial; to give us time to blend the overnight stories in with what we believe Norfolk wants to hear about some 12 hours after the late producer went home. What are the papers saying? What's the weather doing? How did Norwich City do last night? Are the overnight developments in the Middle East worthy of coverage today? There's no right or wrong when it comes to story choice - a lot of its down to gut instinct, and sometimes even down to what mood the early team and I are in.
People ask me how I hold it all together. As well as trying to sound like Jeremy Paxman one minute and Jeremy Beadle the next I, like all local radio presenters, have to drive the broadcast desk, make sure the computers are lined up properly, watch the clock and try to say the right thing all the time. No one's perfect, least of all me, but without trying to sound big headed, I really don't know how I do hold it all together. I guess it's like driving a car. Somehow you're aware of 52 things happening at once, while subconsciously changing gear, indicating, changing the CD track while holding a conversation.
It's all live, and things do go wrong. When a piece of equipment fails or a guest goes down, the trick is to have something else to go to. We're not allowed - except in absolute emergencies - to play a record. I usually have something up my sleeve to chat about, and in two years of fronting the show, the longest piece of filling I ever had to do was four minutes. It seemed like an hour.
A typical 'Today in Norfolk' is a mixture of careful planning and making it up as we go along. Nicky and I often plan the next ten minutes of the show during a 45 second station trail. She'll tell me about the interesting calls which have come in, or if there are any problems with guests or the technical equipment. Between us we have to make a snap decision or fall off air. Most of the time we get it right.
The 8.00 news soon arrives, that gives more time to 'huddle' and amend any plans we'd already made for the second hour. And by the 9.00 news, the end of the programme, we're both ready to drop. The post-programme high is a strange mixture of exhaustion and euphoria. Were we pleased with the show? Which bits worked, which didn't? In radio, you're only as ever as good as your last show. A bad programme on a Friday makes for a long weekend.
After breakfast, there's a 10.00 de-brief, in which it seems every breath I take is analysed. And then we start all over again, faced with an empty running order. Where do we begin?