x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Have we got news for you - and it's straight from the source

A secret of television news business is that their evening bulletins often get their stories from that morning's newspapers.

Crispin Thorold, Senior Presenter of Inside The National, records his report in the newspaper's newsroom.
Crispin Thorold, Senior Presenter of Inside The National, records his report in the newspaper's newsroom.

One of the little secrets of the television news business is that the traditional, iconic evening news programmes often get their stories from that morning's newspapers - stories that are actually reported the previous day. But a new news programme airing weekdays at 7.30pm on Abu Dhabi Al Emarat called Inside the National seeks to do away with this lag by reporting directly from the source - in this case, the newsroom of The National. In the process, the television station and the newspaper, both owned by Abu Dhabi Media Company, are setting a regional example for the kinds of convergences that are possible in today's increasingly multimedia communications industry.

"It's a totally different news agenda to any other kind of TV news programme because we get to sit at a meeting at 11 o'clock in the morning and listen to the stuff that 50 different reporters have come up with," said Matthew Sansom, the executive producer of the show. "If it's a visually-driven story, then fine, maybe TV has a run on it, but usually a lot more stories get broken by print media. Especially here, with the large resources they've got and the talent they've got, it just means access to a whole lot more stories before they make it into the TV arena."

Much of the show is filmed in The National's crowded ground-floor newsroom, where Crispin Thorold, the show's presenter, leads a camera crew through the maze of desks and screens while talking to camera in the booming, authoritative diction he developed over his decade of reporting for the BBC. He also interviews the authors of the day's main stories, challenging the commonly held industry view that print reporters are shy, awkward types who should be kept as far as possible from cameras and microphones.

On the contrary, he believes that print reporting actually prepares journalists well for the spotlight. "You have to sell your stories every day," he said. "You have to sell them to your editor, so actually newspaper journalists have the skills to do this already." But not all journalists covet the camera. In Mr Sansom's previous job at Bloomberg, one of the news organisations to blaze the trail of frequently putting its news service journalists on to its television service, it was sometimes like pulling teeth.

"Let's just say diplomatically that there were some instances in which people who were particularly good at doing stories just loathed doing TV," he said. "But here, nobody says no. I think it's part of the pioneering spirit of people who want to come from wherever and come here, out of their comfort zone. A lot of them have come from abroad. I think that's reflected in their enthusiasm for going on TV and being a part of the new world of media."

Inside the National was the first entry into this new world of "converged" media - as those in the industry call the intersection of old and new media - for a Middle-Eastern media company, said Karim Sarkis, the executive director of broadcast for ADMC. The show's staff work for ADMC's television broadcast arm, Abu Dhabi TV, but their stories are often fleshed out by multimedia journalists from The National, whose video news packages are available on The National's website. Staff for Inside the National have also shared footage in the past with the news team at Abu Dhabi TV. The company is also looking into the possibility of syndicating the programme.

"Inside the National is the first real example of something that crosses the business unit border," he said. "We have managed to come up with a TV show that uses our staff and our crews but uses the brainpower of The National. We have been talking about this a lot, but this is the first time that someone has actually done something about it." This cross-pollination helps promote both sides of the partnership, but of course there is always the risk of losing a good print journalist to the small screen's glamorous siren song. Mr Sansom sees some possibilities already.

"There are some real personalities here," he said. "There are a couple of stars in the making." khagey@thenational.ae