Saturday, April 26, 2008

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A Lancastrian on the wrong side of the Pennines

I had heard many things about BBC job interviews, or "Boards" as they call them. Boards summons up the impression of a great panel of suited men around a big table making you feel very small.
Acquaintances talked of interviews lasting hours, spending time searching out an exclusive story, being grilled on journalism law, showing knowledge of the local area and explaining which stories you would include in one of their news bulletins. Needless to say, I spent hours researching the recent history of West Yorkshire, its industries, communities, politicians.. you name it! I'd come up with what I thought were original news stories and a plan on how I would cover them.

My interview was at 1130 at the BBC North, Leeds building on Woodhouse Lane in the city. I'd left Preston and set off with plenty of time, allowing for bad traffic on the M62. This was January 2001, and a time when satellite navigation was the preserve of the military and mega rich. I had never travelled to the wrong side of the Pennines before. Naturally I was armed with maps, directions and hastily scribbled directions from people who had a knowledge of the city.
Getting to Leeds was fine, and I don't know if you've ever been there, but trying to understand the spaghetti like ring road was another thing. By now I was starting to panic that I would be late, I didn't want to give the impression that I couldn't keep to deadlines. I abandoned my car in a supermarket car park and set out on foot.

I arrived a little breathless at BBC Radio Leeds, eager to impress. I was taken to the Managing Editors office expecting the aforementioned suits and table, but was surprised to learn it would be just him and his assistant. Phew! We chatted about how I would cover a news story and how it would develop throughout the day, and a little about journalism law. Then they wanted to hear what I sounded like and I was taken to the studios. At Rock FM (Red Rose Radio) I had been used to a pretty modern set-up, and expected the same at the BBC. The studio looked like something from the BBC Home Service during the war, with big knobs and switches and huge faders. I constructed my news bulletins while another member of staff recorded it.

That was it. I was sent on my way, all that worry just for an hour. Three hours later I got a call asking if I wanted the job and if wanted to join the BBC.
It was hard decision to make. I had never lived away from Preston before. I had good friends at Rock FM and had good times, but things were changing and thought it would be best to move on.