OXFORD MEDIA SOCIETY
Oxford University Media Society is very excited to be sponsored by Times Radio, a new radio station disrupting traditional broadcast media and bringing The Times to the forefront of the digital revolution. To understand how this works in practice, and gain an insight into how a media company works, Clemmie (outgoing President) and Rachel (Treasurer) were lucky enough to interview David Friend and have a tour of the office.
David Friend is the managing editor at Times Radio. Having worked in broadcast journalism for over 20 years – reporting, news reading, producing, and editing – he is now on a mission to deliver the journalism of The Times to a new digital audience. Arriving at The News Building – the towering home of all News UK’s London operations – to meet him, Clemmie and I were promptly whisked up to the 10th floor where stunning panoramic views looking across the River Thames greeted us. As we sat down for the interview, it was quite astonishing, really, to reflect that less than three years ago – in the midst of the pandemic – Times Radio was yet to make its first broadcast. It is now well-loved by a weekly audience of over half a million people who tune in for warm and insightful journalism covering the biggest stories of the day. And so, the advent of the idea behind one of the world’s most prestigious newspapers launching a brand-new radio station is where we begin our conversation…
We ask David about the conception of Times Radio and how it came about. It is perhaps unsurprising that the decline of print and the drive towards digital provided the inspiration for The Times and Wireless (bought by the company in 2016) to join forces, combining their experience and expertise, on this new project. A warmer, fresher, and less opinionated station with its finger on the pulse of breaking news stories – David delights in telling us that he is happy to rip up the schedule if something big is happening – was ready to offer a new and exciting voice.
On a day-to-day level, this is the work of producers, editors, and presenters. For the breakfast show, planning for the following day begins in the morning – a chance to look at The Times’ diary, read the general news agenda, hunt for stories, book guests, write cues, and fill a running order – and continues until 11pm that evening. Producers will then arrive at 3.30am, presenters at 4am, and editors as 5am. Depending on what has happened overnight, scripts are rewritten, and cues refined to suit the voice of whoever is about to go on air.
Reflecting on the similarities and differences between writing and broadcasting, Clemmie asks what makes something a ‘radio’ story as opposed to a ‘print’ story. At The Times, pooling the expertise of the radio presenters and producers with the newspaper’s journalists, they have an entirely symbiotic relationship: the radio gives a conversational angle, often with audio effects, to the stories of the day.
Columnists like India Knight and James Marriott regularly appear on the radio ready to expand upon the main themes and ideas that emerge from their weekly columns. Having such a deep and interesting pool of journalists at The Times from which Times Radio can draw upon, makes for highly informed and original conversations with a strong editorial foundation, a rare combination indeed.
As the papers are pushing towards a digital product, the newspaper is likely to become more of a luxury item. And so, digital first has become the resounding mantra and delivering a world class product to a younger audience is clearly a predominant focus.
David explains that it is becoming increasingly important to have a strong visual presence in the digital space. Cameras now scatter the recording studios and are switched on all the time. Video helps things land, and so all guests – especially ministers – are filmed. In order to survive in media, replenishing your audience is vital. At a time where the BBC is struggling to get to grips with how to do this, it seems that The Times have created a winning strategy. With a new social media editor at the helm of all video, and a crystal-clear focus on visualisation, a younger listenership is building.
And in terms of his advice for students interested in journalism and content creation, the future is bright. David tells us that there are more entry level opportunities on national stations than ever before, and the growth of self-generating stories / platforms is allowing journalists to break through in new and exciting ways. ‘Be open, read everything, don’t be afraid of views which are different to yours.’
Thank you to David, Gina and everyone at Times Radio, and we can’t wait to learn more from you!