The show must go on!

Television and radio seems to many like a glamorous world. Apparently adoring millions tune into to listen to the popular disc jockey or to watch the latest television presenter, whose love life adorns the pages of the tabloids.

It’s a world that the print journalist can enter occasionally as ‘the expert’. Pop oracle from Smash Hits magazine or for Flight journalists, crash analyst or industry pundit, you can find us appearing for a few minutes on a channel near you amongst the 500 plus now available.

It all begins, like so much of journalism, with a phone call. So and so media organisation needs some one to speak about, a, a crash somewhere, b, a big industry decision, c, what NASA is up too – delete as applicable.

Getting your magazine name to millions via radio and tv is the justification for it, and it gets you out of the office – never a bad thing.

The said media conglomerate often supply a car, so you can sit in the back and do whatever work or cramming needs to be done so you can answer the questions, or sleep.

And at the end of your sleep you wake up to the true “glamour” of the world of radio and television, especially when you reach the studio.

For my live commentary on the Space Shuttle Discovery tile repair spacewalk for CNN International I had no pre-studio green room with free drink and food, no comfy sofa and no smiling bottle blonde asking easy questions.

Arriving 15 minutes late due to bad traffic for an agreed 9am-10am studio session I was plugged in with ear phone and mike straight away and told to stand-by for Atlanta, CNN HQ.

An operation in technical efficiency NASA would have been proud of. Sadly the shuttle crew weren’t quite as effective and almost an hour after they were supposed to start the extra vehicular activity, they hadn’t.

Yet I’d been sitting there for almost half an hour already.

After a brief Q&A session with the Atlanta anchor, they went to the sports news, then the business news and finally the weather. At least you could see the curvature of the Earth with the weather globe.

When the astronauts finally did emerge I was once again in the “limelight”. Cue Atlanta, cue NASA video direct from Discovery, 220 miles above the Earth, cue me.

“Rob, can you talk us through what the astronauts are doing now”, came the question.

Talk through what?!

The big plasma screen next to me wasn’t working so my only view of the astronauts was the tiny split screen attached to the camera I had been told to stare at.

Talk through what? The astronauts were white blobs!?

This is that time when the journalist has to think quickly and switch on the amazing waffling ability. I rambled, I eh’d, it worked. I was saved!

All that sitting and waiting and waffling and NASA missed their cue. I never did get to do live commentary of the repair spacewalk. But got two good hours of sleep being driven through London.

So the next time you see ‘so and so expert’ appearing on your telly, remember; they don’t know quite as much as they appear too; they’ve just been bussed in half asleep; their probably high on coffee and their desperately trying to make the best of a situation that is going all ‘pete tong’.

But the show must go on!


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