Briefing presenters

Jenni Murray, presenter of Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4, talks about the relationship between her role and that of her producers, and explains what she looks for in a briefing.

On speech radio presenters rely on their producers to prepare and brief them on the topics and people they’ll be talking to on air. Jenni equates the difference in the roles as being like that of solicitors and barristers. She says that the solicitors do all the heavy groundwork and preparation, and the barristers take that work and go and show off in court. In her opinion, presenting equates to being a barrister.

"I need to know the peg for this story... why are we doing it?" – Jenni Murray

However, she emphasizes that presenters can only do their best work if they are really well informed by their producers. Crucial to this is accurate briefing notes. Jenni likes them to be reasonably brief – no more than two or three pages of text. She doesn’t want a thesis, particularly on a daily show like Woman’s Hour, where preparation has to be done overnight and often on handheld smartphones which may not be able to process long documents.

A briefing should have all the basic facts, expressed concisely. This should cover the peg for the story and why it’s been included in the programme along with some detail on the guests, their background and their basic arguments. The producer should also generate a basic running order or structure for the discussion, to show that they have thought through the flow of the argument.

Jenni remarks that what she most looks for in a producer is the courage to admit when they don’t know something, partnered with the ability to find that missing information quickly and accurately.