Discover the Secrets of the Newsroom: A Q&A With John Young
With 30 years experience in the cauldron that is BBC daily news, John Young brings the heat and energy of the newsroom to audiences. Packed full of practical takeaways to help businesses develop crystal clear communication, time management, leadership and, most importantly, courage.
John came into the office to visit us, and to say we had a multitude of questions would be an understatement. Absolutely intrigued with what he had to say, we put some questions together to follow up.
Talking about starting in the newsroom over 30 years ago, some of the most memorable stories he’s worked on and how some of the Five Newsroom Secrets relate to business audiences, John has such an interesting story and fascinating insights to share.
You’ve had a wonderful career as a news reporter, but what sparked your initial interest?
Stories about people. We'll never run out of them - and they are never-endingly fascinating. It's a lesson I aim to share with businesses and staff --don't sell your product by its qualities, sell it by telling a story about someone who's used it. Don't simply motivate your workforce with targets, share the stories of the staff who've helped bring that together.
Can you give us a snippet of what a ‘typical’ day in the newsroom is like?
Unpredictable! You start working on one story -- the phone rings, something bigger has happened, you're on a different story. The phone rings again, the facts have changed on that story, you've got to change your report. And, frequently, all of this has happened by lunchtime, and you do it all again in the afternoon. I'm in awe of my colleagues working on Brexit -- a story that appears to change in fact and nuance minute by minute.
You must have worked on some huge breaking stories. Are there any which stand out as highlights?
Interviewing David Cameron five days before the General Election -- with an hour's notice -- certainly focussed my mind. Being in Hyde Park for the funeral of Princess Diana was a powerful moment. And I'll never forget the stormy day when Brighton's West Pier succumbed to the elements -- dramatic pictures, passions, anger -- and all filmed and reported live on national news in the driving rain!
You discussed some of the Five Newsroom Secrets when you came into visit, how do these relate to a corporate audience?
I'd best not give them all away! But here are three clues. Journalists have to sum things up fast -- we're trained to realise that what you leave out is as important as what you put in, and work out what that is. Journalists have a love/hate relationship with perfection -- we soon learn that on tight deadlines, you can't always deliver it, so we have to work out when second best is good enough. And journalists love, love, love a good debate -- but we also have to be good at reaching a quick decision. On our deadlines, we don't have a choice.
What are some of the main questions you are asked after you present a keynote?
My Secret Life of a News Bulletin talk almost always leads to two questions. It reveals the drama of the dialogue in the control room while live on air, with stories not ready and decisions changing by the minute.
I'm always asked "were you really hearing all that in your earpiece, as you read the news calmly in the studio?"
(Answer: oh yes.)
And the second question: "When the programme ends and you chat to your fellow presenter on the sofa, what are you talking about?"
(Answer: something upbeat about the programme's content -- or perhaps the weather ahead. Never anything unprofessional -- lipreaders watch our programmes too!)
If there is one message that you would like your audience to take away from your speech, what is it?
A really good programme that gets to air is better than a perfect programme that doesn't. It's such a powerful message for businesses, too.
And finally, what’s on the horizon for you?
Even more of a wonderfully varied career! I am lucky enough to have been a BBC journalist since 1989, and even luckier that they still want me to work for them two days a week now! But sharing what I've thought with interested audiences adds an exciting and enormously rewarding dimension. I count myself lucky every day -- even if the news story I'm working on is changing by the minute!
Thank you, John, for taking the time to answer some of our questions, we thoroughly enjoyed you coming in to chat to us and look forward to spotting you on TV!
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