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Moment of Concern: The BBC Is Under Attack

14 Oct

Editor of BBC Interactive and former Northern Ireland correspondent Gary Duffy visited Harrow on Tuesday to discuss unfortunate stereotypes, his time in Ireland and the BBC’s troubles.

The room was completely full with many having to sit on the floor to listen to such an established figure. You could hear a pin drop, everyone sat in anticipation for what this man had to say. His passion for his most recent correspondence with Brazil was undeniable. He was equally passionate about ridding the Brazilian stereotype and the misrepresentation of the country demonstrated by many British journalists.  

Modestly Duffy kept referring to how humble he feels in such a role and how far he has come from the young man writing for the Belfast Telegraph on a type writer in 1984.

“I never would have imagined when I joined as a junior presenter that I would be given such great opportunities”, says Duffy.

Whilst it is evident that Duffy threw himself into every project given to him, it was obvious that he has a soft spot for Brazil.

“Brazil is changing a lot. Although it is still very unequal, 30 million are joining the middle classes. It is a time of great social change.

“It’s fascinating for a journalist to watch”.

Unfortunately Brazil is still a dangerous place for a journalist to be, as Duffy described the gun shots at his vehicle.

“There are weapons in the shanty towns of Rio which you wouldn’t see in Iraq”.

I believe it to be a credit to Duffy’s bravery that he didn’t let this hinder his work, and continues to strive in projecting Brazil’s voice whilst shortening the gap in understanding of South America.


Duffy outlined the unfortunate Brazilian stereotype of “carnivals, football and beautiful women”. It is about time someone aimed to dissolve this stereotype, as Brazil will be very much in the public eye in the coming years. The World Cup will be held in Brazil in 2014, followed by the Olympics in 2016.

Shamefully, I cannot remember seeing much on the country other than documentaries on shanty towns and pageants of curvaceous women in bright bikinis and head-gear.


Another of Duffy’s major concerns is the “attack on the BBC in a way it’s never received in it’s history”. Duffy proclaimed that he is incredibly lucky and proud to work for the BBC yet fears or the end of free online media.

He said the chilling words “we will look back in twenty or twenty-five years time and think ‘Why did we do that?'”

He described this move as a “moment of concern”. It is clear that Duffy is a passionate believer in public service media, and I believe that this move will alienate many.

Student Carly Nattrass said:

“When I was at uni and couldn’t afford to buy newspapers me and my flat mates would read the news online. We wouldn’t have known what was going on otherwise”.

Duffy described this move as a “moment of concern”.


Duffy offered this advice for budding journalists who want to be foreign correspondents:

  • Take a risk – see an opening and have a willingness to go somewhere far from home.
  • Build a host of contacts in the country you move to.
  • Agonise over getting names and ages right. This is particularly important in cases where people have been killed.
  • Be willing to work in whatever media you can – don’t think in segregated ways.
  • Build a host of contacts in the country you move to.

I look forward to hearing from the next guest speaker Paul Brannon on Monday.

Heart’s Advice To Young Journalists

14 Oct

The presenters of Heart FM gave a group of budding journalists some insiders advice during a trip to the station on Tuesday.

Heart FM is part of the Global network based in Leicester Square,  and has LBC, Gold, XFM and Choice radio as part of their family of 18.5 million listeners a week.

Heart’s vision is to be lead in commercial radio, fighting the BBC to achieve the status of best national and local station. The station took a while to find its fight and tried to appeal to a vast market. However, they feared they would end up like Woolworths, offering too much at the expense of quality.

So they made their own niche in the market, and now mainly appeal to women aged between 25 and mid forties. 

Parents are core of who they are broadcasting to. Presenter Tim Humphries said he listens to what Mum’s at the school gates are interested in when he picks up his children from school, in particular a lady named Annie. He believes that the key to sticking within these boundaries is by asking himself ‘would Annie care?’, when delivering a story.


He pointed out that most Mum’s within the target range or more likely to chat about local issues and showbiz than the war in Iraq, for example.

In contrast, the target range is likely to be interested in the Chile minors story as it captures people on a personal level. Therefore, it is important to talk to your target using accessible language.  

Ask yourself ‘would I talk like this in the pub with friends?’, and if the answer is no change your wording.

Whilst the target range is clear, Heart is careful not to alienate men and children. If the music is bad, children will insist on their parents changing channels whilst driving to school. Likewise with men, if the convocation is drole, they will insist on tuning out.

Heart believes that it’s important not to stereotype women within the target range by constantly focusing on being a housewife and mother. Head of news, Charlie O’Brien said that when Cheryl Cole got malaria it was the leading story, as it would be what women would chat to their friends about.


When writing the bulletin script make the news snippets easily digestible. It is a snapshot of what’s going on in the world today.

“The audience wants reassurance that the world is still the same as when they last tuned in”.

You won’t encounter disasters if you prepare yourself well. Tim said that in his many years at the station he’s never had a disaster thanks to good preparation.


  • Read the bulletin with excitement and the thought ‘I’ve got 5 brilliant stories and I want to tell you them!’
  • Read anything out loud. Get used to hearing yourself and create your own style. Many budding journalists try to emulate others – don’t do this.
  • Don’t be afraid to change the bulletin slightly so it suits your voice.


As with everything these days, Heart uses social networking such as Facebook and Twitter to help with stories. The Heart website provides full interviews to shorter stories aired on the radio previously.  


Charlie says:

“The great thing about radio is you research the story, do the interviews, edit them and read them out – you get to own the story and bulletin”.

Reassuringly in such a competitive time in the media sector, Tim said:

“If you are good enough you will get work”.

You can find out more about Heart by clicking on the following link: