I was chatting to a Jock the other day and they were reminiscing about the tragic day when Princess Diana died in Paris – how the entire programming schedule changed, and what they did at the time.
I was fascinated with their process – and I thought I would share it with you here today.
Admittedly a lot of these things are basic, common sense things – but they shouldn’t be overlooked when something tragic happens…
First of all – FACT CHECK!
Check that what has come in from one wire service, tv station, newspaper or website – is backed up by others. You don’t want to go on-air saying that Jeff Goldblum has just died in a bungie accident in New Zealand – when he hasn’t.
Most importantly – you should stay in the moment – keep your focus on the big story – but drill down on how it will affect your local audience – relevance is the most important thing here.
Provide accurate information and avoid spreading rumours or misinformation. By checking your facts and saying where you are getting your information from – you can avoid most of this issue.
Next, you should be sensitive to your audience’s feelings and emotions and avoid making light of serious situations. Don’t try to make a joke out of it – this is serious. You are imparting some news that may very well really affect your listeners deeply – take care about what you say, and how you say it.
I am reminder of news readers who read tragic stories with a great big grin on their face – or come back from a tragic story with a great big grin – just be aware of what and how you say what you are talking about.
Providing context and analysis of the news story to help their audience understand its significance is important – if you have a producer – get them to contact someone locally who could provide some analysis – if you don’t have a producer – play a song and get in contact with someone from your book of contacts.
How you can do this is by explaining the background and history of the story/person or event.
And think about getting different perspectives on the story by interviewing people who have different opinions about what has happened.
You should also provide updates as the story unfolds – keep people informed – this also stops them from switching on the TV or going to the internet – as soon as you have some more information – share it.
Finally, you could/should be prepared to take calls from listeners who may want to share their thoughts or ask questions about the news story – in the case discussed above with Princess Diana’s death – the Jock told me they were flooded with calls, stories and messages at the time.
It is also handy to check the music that you are playing – don’t play songs that are going to stir up public hatred for your station because the subject matter is what the story is about – be sensitive and look at your playlist – is that song about jet planes relevant after the 9/11? No.
Keeping ahead of what music your station is playing and how it might tie in to what has just happened requires a keen eye, and the ability of a jock to think on their feet, and to act accordingly.
The listening public will respect your decisions, stay listening to keep on top of what is happening, and also interact with you (some may call during a song and not wish to be on-air).