Neil Perry has been working in radio for nearly 10 years after starting as a freelance news reader while still training in journalism at Bournemouth University. He began with freelance work for the UKRD group at Star Radio Cambridge and KLFM, before getting a job as breakfast news reader and co-host at North Norfolk Radio at Tindle Radio. After further work for Radio Norwich and The Beach he accepted a job at GCap Media with Radio Broadland in Norfolk and North Suffolk, where he first read drive and then breakfast news. After a short stint in PR, Neil took his current role as News Editor of Heart East Anglia and is also heard on the Heart network from Leicester Square and covers on LBC, Choice and Gold. “We cover Norfolk and Suffolk, which is an amalgamation of the old Heart Norfolk and Heart Suffolk TSAs. I was delighted to take the role after my trip into PR as it was I job I had been after for some time.”
With the newsroom reporting on constantly evolving events and radio journalism’s schedule dictated by tight deadlines, Neil says it is difficult to plan for more than a day or so ahead. “There is a flurry of activity every day trying to come up with the best and most imaginative ways to cover our main stories, and make sure we get quality audio on it. Also, we always have to be conscious about our family audience and make sure we present things in the correct way. For the more serious stories, we have to make sure we get our wording right so as not to upset and offend anyone. We always try to look at a story and ask ourselves if people really care about it, and would they talk about it when they get home that night or with their friends at work.”
The rise in the internet and use of social media has been “easily integrated” into radio journalism, allowing it to provide the kind of content that listeners want to hear. Social media is also a very valuable research tool for a newsroom. “A lot of people may not realise it, but they are extra eyes and ears for a journalist every time they comment on a petrol price, a new film, a traffic problem or a political decision. We often use twitter to get hold of case studies about stories and to try and identify what people are really talking about – instead of what we think people should be talking about. Social Media can also give us tip-offs about incidents before the emergency services have decided to tell us about them. On the flip side though, it can also be a mass of rumours and false speculation, so you still have to do your job responsibly and make sure everything checks out. If during the summer riots we had believed every rumour of trouble in our patch then half of the main towns and cities would have been on fire!”
Making the Pitch: Tips and Advice for Pitching to Neil Perry
“The best advice is to know our audience and know the kind of content we want. If you don’t know – then ask. I am more than happy to tell you. I pull my hair out every time I get a phone call from a PR pushing a ‘great story’ about ‘silver surfers’ with ‘local figures’. If they had ever listened to our news, then they would know that’s not the kind of thing we want. If you ever do have that great story in the pipeline with real local significance, then don’t be afraid to speak to us weeks in advance, as it would allow us to plan something great to do with it. We respect embargoes – so it gives us a chance to make a story as good as it can be. Another personal annoyance is spokespeople only being able to do phone interviews – as this doesn’t cut it anymore in our news as quality audio is so important.
We are happy to receive releases via email and then to be followed up with a phone call. I know from personal experience what a tough job PRs have, and I know what it is like to have a client or a pushy boss on your back, but I would always rather receive quality rather than quantity.”