How to manage a news desk and still have time to drink tea

Two completely contrasting days.

Yesterday was one of those days where no matter how much work you put in, after a few hours you realise that everybody’s going to get back to you at 3pm and you’re going to have to work flat out to be out at a decent hour.

And so it proved. Until 11am I mostly drank tea and coffee.

Until 1pm I mostly needed to wee because of the events between 9am and 11am. I also got a bit of work done. Then everything flew in thick and fast.

Today was different. Everything was prepared and set up early so when a big story broke we were able to handle everything. So much so I was able to pop out on something else for half an hour and fit in a few cups of coffee.

Of course, we were prepared, which helped. But the story also broke between 10.30 and 11, which is precisely the most helpful time any news can break between. I’ve generally got a good idea of where I’m going and what I’m chasing (and timescales) by this time, and I’m not rushing towards hitting deadlines/getting home.

Thereby, in my position as overload of all news, I may add the following disclaimer to my email signature…

Breaking news rules:

1. Preferably, if your news is going to break, let me know. That way I have time to have a cup of tea in preparation.

2. If news breaking is unexpected, please would it be so kind to break mid-morning.

3. On no account should news break while I’m asleep, as this means I will have to stop being asleep to break with the breaking news. If the news could break after I’ve had my first cup of tea at work that would be great, thanks.

4. If news does break as I’m on the verge of leaving the office, it’d be great if the location of breaking news is on my route home from work.

5. Weekends are also inconvenient for news to break, especially Sunday lunch at between the hours of 3pm and 5pm on a Saturday afternoon during the football season.

6. If you must break late in the day, please be so kind to do so on slow news days. Preferably while I’m still grubbing around for a lead.

7. Unless work experience people are present, I’d prefer it if your story wasn’t best served by the treatment of vox pops.

8. If a press conference needs to be convened, please make sure there is tea, coffee and biscuits. Especially biscuits. Biscuits really really aid concentration.

9. Please make sure news breaks in an area where tea and coffee are readily available before the hours of 9am and past the hours of 5pm.

10. If above rules are contravened the journalist reserves the right to be somewhat grumpy and, if it interrupts the tea-making cycle, especially sulky. Please provide tea and chocolate fingers at location to rectify this problem. If the story is good enough the tea may be forgotten about, but only if its really really good. I’m mean mega-turbo good. Enough to make Huw Edwards put on a triple-serious face, for John Simpson to be dispatched to cover it and for John Pilger to write and article about it that gets published in a daily paper.

Thanks in advance for your consideration.


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March 2007
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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com

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