Desk editing on 5 live

The desk editor is responsible for assigning stories to producers and getting the programme from the page to the studio. Assistant editor Ronan Breen explains his role on the lunchtime programme on Radio 5 live.

Good communication with the output editor is essential. The desk editor needs to be their eyes and ears to the outside world. The role requires quick thinking and decisive action.

A desk editor needs to work well with their team and delegate tasks constantly, so they must trust the judgment of their producers. 

When the programme is on air, the desk editor has to be across everything that’s happening: which guests have arrived, which haven’t; which stories have moved on; which scripts need writing or rewriting; and, importantly, are there any breaking news stories which the programme should be covering? 

"The person in the studio is reliant on the desk editor to be their eyes and ears"

If a big story breaks while the programme is on air, the desk editor will need to react quickly so that the output editor can junk the running order and concentrate on covering the new story. This will require writing briefs quickly for the presenter as well as lining up guests or turning round actuality. 

If an item goes down, perhaps for technical reasons, the desk editor needs to be able to fill the gap. They need to be able to find stories, and reporters or contributors to talk about them, quickly. Silence on the radio is never a good option.