Tag Archives: nick owen

‘I still get keyed up going on air’: Nick Owen talks to Coventry broadcast students

Nick Owen has been a fixture on Midlands TV screens for 32 years now. Today, he is the main presenter on the BBC’s Midlands Today and has been for 13 years. Before that there was Central News, the ITV World Cup in 1990, Good morning with Anne and Nick on the BBC until 1996 and, most famously, the time that he, Anne Diamond and Roland Rat saved TV-am (or TV-mayhem! as it had became known) in 1983.

Last Wednesday, Owen shared his secrets with students and others at Coventry University’s renowned Coventry Conversation series. He spoke to a full house and gave candid advice to aspiring journalists:

“The media is saturated. Whatever you do, give 110 per cent. The most important thing is to be yourself, be totally sincere and authentic and talk to people as though everyone matters.”

Owen, who had taken time off from the BBC Mailbox newsroom to come to Coventry, revealed that he still got excited about appearing live on screen.

“Buzz isn’t the right word. There’s so much going on in your ear. You can hear up to ten people talking but I still get keyed up when going on air.”

In recent years the BBC has built the BBC News ‘brand’: taking the English regions under the umbrella of the News Division and homogenizing the look nationwide. Owen is not a total convert to this kind of branding: “I would love our programme to be more distinctive. The move in the BBC is to rationalize local news. It is a pity because even the lightest stories are being pushed aside.”

But at least now he has the resources of the BBC behind them. At TV-am back in 1983 the cupboard was bare after the Famous Five Presenters – Michael Parkinson, David Frost, Angela Rippon, Anna Ford, and Robert Kee – who had won the franchise, had moved on. Owen was called from the sports desk to present by new editor in chief Greg Dyke. Dyke chose Anne Diamond – then at the BBC but previously with Owen at Central TV – to co-present. Much was made of the sexual chemistry between Anne and Nick, but Owen was having none of it when he spoke at Coventry: “Sexual chemistry? It was nothing serious, we were just mates, she laughed at my jokes..”

The nadir of his TV career was when an IRA bomb went off at the Tory Conference in October 1984, John Stapleton, then a TV-am reporter, had left Brighton so TV-am were exposed: “We were left with one man in a remote studio and me in London with another man for two hours.” Despite the bad days, he is proud to have been a part of the saving of TV-am, he said.

Owen had advice for the presenters of Daybreak, with Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley. Launched barely a month ago, the show is already possibly destined for broadcasting’s intensive care unit. His advice was that they don’t try to make their former hit The One Show at breakfast time, and have competitions that are a little bit more difficult than “how much is a century, 25, 50, or 100 years?”

From his success at breakfast, Own went back to sport – his first love. He presented the Olympic Games for ITV in 1988, the World Cup in 1990 and Midweek Sports Special for many years. He got used to the different pace of presenting on ITV due to advertising: It’s  more difficult because of the commercials. You lose track and spontaneity.”

On TV-am Owen was bit of a boy next door type, but in TV he is a true broadcast veteran. Should he be the old man next door perhaps?

John Mair is a senior lecturer in broadcasting at Coventry University. He founded and produces the twice weekly Coventry Conversations. All are available on podcast at www.coventry.ac.uk/coventry conversations

Is there life after a journalism course? The Coventry Class of 2009 – Greg Keane

At the end of the academic year John Mair, senior lecturer in broadcasting at Coventry University, asked just what would happen to his undergraduate journalism class of 2009. In the face of the biggest media recession for many a generation where do they go? Is there life after a journalism course? A few months on, we are re-visiting the students.

Greg Keane graduated with a  2.1  in journalism and media from Coventry University last June. He has turned a specialist interest into a small niche in journalism, non-league football.

It’s pointless to send away your CV in pursuit of that first job without any kind of meaningful credential except a degree in journalism.

Despite being warned on countless occasions that work will not simply come to you on the back of a university course, I arrogantly – as I am sure is the case for many of my peers – did not take much heed of the advice.

I applied for trainee jobs advertised on sites such as this one, thinking – almost without doubt – that my 2:1 in journalism and media earned in June this year was easily enough to merit me at least an interview.

Thankfully, reality set in soon enough after early knock-backs. I realised that only with proactivity would I make a name for myself.

An article in which I described my home town football club Luton Town as ‘the most exciting club in England’ generated a large amount of debate across many football forums, as fans struggled to work out whether the title was a question, or in fact a statement.

I had sent the article to the presenter of BBC London’s Non-League Football Show and pitched an idea to her about regularly updating fans on the Hatters’ often turbulent existence throughout the upcoming football league (or non-league as is the case) campaign.

She loved the idea and published the article although I was inaccurately described as ‘a Luton Town fan blogger’  (a description which is wrong on two counts: I was/am neither a blogger of Luton Town, nor a fan! Like many sports writers, I too won’t disclose the identity of the club I support. It isn’t one of the big four by the way).

The piece got significant interest and found its way being discussed on a number of football forums and I even received praise from Luton Town chairman and BBC Midlands Today presenter Nick Owen, via email.

I now regularity contribute features for the BBC London pages on a variety of non-league sides, for example. (Examples of my work here).

After this, I was asked to produce features for the site www.nonleaguefootballlive.com on a freelance basis. This has provided a tremendous platform on which to make a name for myself in a community which may be large, but lacking in many alternative avenues of information and reports from their clubs.

I have since become ‘chief reporter’ for the site and my articles stimulate much debate on the site’s own lively forum as well as clubs’ own message boards.

An article I wrote documenting the plight of Wrexham FC and their supporters seemed also to strike a chord with the Guardian’s David Conn who praised my article – recently he wrote a piece highlighting the trouble Wrexham supporters had trying to protect their ground.

Non League Football Live also has plans to launch a magazine in the coming weeks which they have asked me to play a big part in it.

But I haven’t confined myself to reporting: I have taken up a role as press secretary for the famous Corinthian Casuals in South London/Surrey and that position guarantees that my reports get published in around 14 ‘thisislocallondon’ newspapers and their online sites and one national, the Non-League Paper, which comes out every Sunday across the UK. Casuals are a club steeped with history so there is plenty of scope there to carve out a story.

And radio too: after a couple months of one day a week work experience at Mercia Radio in Coventry, my efforts paid off when they signed a deal to commentate on Coventry City matches.

I now do some paid assistant producing on the Tom Ross ‘Goalzone’ show. I control the studio and the commentator throughout a 3-4 hour show.

It is frantic work but it is enjoyable and certainly gets the adrenaline running. I also provide Mercia with a regular Sky Blues blog – another home for my work.

Unexpectedly, I foresee my future in sports reporting now, especially after finding a niche for myself in non-league football. It may not be glamorous or particularly exciting for many, but I enjoy it and hope that in the not too distant future, there will be a permanent job offer.