Behind the Scenes: collaboration and variety keep the job exciting every day, says Charlie Adiya
My formal title is ‘news assistant’ but this doesn’t accurately reflect what I do. My job is to manage the studio floor for live ITV news bulletins.
I am one of many who work to deliver the director’s vision for each programme. On the studio floor I do this by making sure the cameras are set up properly, people and furniture are on their correct marks, newscasters are speaking to the right camera with hard copies of their scripts to hand and that nothing is interfering with our green screen.
Our audience should always be presented with a slick, sharp programme that gives nothing away about our largely virtual set-up. Things are quieter now as we can’t welcome any guests into the studio for the time being, but I’ve still had some pretty big challenges in my time involving choirs, children, dogs and almost impossibly quick changes on set.
I wouldn’t say clearing two elderly guests and their chairs off one side of the set whilst swapping in a correspondent on the opposite side in under 30 seconds is a doddle, but the idea of it no longer terrifies me. The buzz of live TV is never felt as strongly as when things don’t quite go to plan.
A quick search on YouTube and you’ll find a clip from the day a toddler decided to upstage Alastair Stewart by climbing over the desk during the lunchtime news. I remember just standing there, unable to step in and do anything whilst trying to stifle a nervous laughter. An important adage to remember in those moments: ‘it’s only telly!’
A typical day for me begins at 11am. In between bulletins I log any music used within programmes, be that our title music or any incidental music used in a news package and report this to ITV.
I make my way into the studio for 1pm to begin preparing the studio for the lunchtime news. We then have an additional two main programmes, the evening news at 6.30pm and News at Ten (usually at 10pm, depending on ITV’s schedule) and our regional programmes – London Lunch, London Tonight and London Late. I’ll finish at 11pm most days but thankfully I’m on a shift pattern so it’s manageable and I prefer my routine to a standard 9-5.
By far the best part of my job is the team. We’re a strong fraternity of staff and freelancers, committed to delivering a great programme every time. Very rarely does anyone forget their sense of humour and we all support each other during the hairier moments.
Occasionally, I get the chance to venture out with the team on outside broadcasts. From freezing on Abingdon Green for News at Ten during the round of meaningful votes on Brexit to live presentations from the Borough Market attacks in south London, each one helps me to grow in my role.
Exceptional news cycle
As we all know, the past five years has thrown up the most exceptional news cycle – the word ‘unprecedented’ has lost all meaning at this point – but it’s the best way to describe the latter part of this decade and my time working at ITV News.
Since 2015, I have worked on three elections, one referendum, a royal wedding and, sadly, more than a handful of terror-related events, which says it all about the unpredictable and sometimes volatile world in which we live. I admire my ITV journalist colleagues for their ability to always deliver the truth, no matter how complicated, tragic or difficult to report.
I am more than happy to be on the production side rather than the editorial as I’m much more suited to my role in studios. Everybody who works in production is but one element – albeit a crucial one – of a larger machine. Being a team player is an absolutely essential skill; we cannot deliver high quality programmes day in and day out without full collaboration between every crew member. I would add patience and the ability to stay calm under fire to that repertoire of skills.
Away from my regular responsibilities in the studio I have been seconded to ITN Productions (ITNP) on more than a few occasions, working on a range of projects such as After the News, Genderquake: The Debate and The Wright Stuff.
I love engaging with other parts of the business and am an advocate for collaboration between studios and ITNP. There is so much talent and breadth of experience within Gray’s Inn Road and it’s great to come together on projects where we can.
More recently I’ve been working on the CBI’s first fully-digital conference season as a stage manager. This has been a really exciting project, demonstrating perfectly ITN’s deft ability to adapt in the most testing of times. We are harnessing our experience and creativity to meet the needs of what will hopefully be a growing number of clients seeking new ways of reaching their delegates.
As for me, the next step is to continue championing this sort of cross-company collaboration and gaining more skills in the process.
Charlie Adiya is news assistant at ITV News