« Previous | Main | Next »

1AM: 24 Hours in the Life of 5 live

Post categories:

Jim Connolly Jim Connolly | 01:00 UK time, Saturday, 5 March 2011

Jim talks to Dotun while Up All Night is being broadcast

Jim talks to Dotun while Up All Night is being broadcast

Good evening, or should I say, good morning, it's 1am. My name's Jim and I'm a Senior Broadcast Journalist with Up All Night.

There are a couple of different shift patterns for the UAN team - I'm going to concentrate on the night shift, when the programme actually goes out. When we work nights we arrive into the newsroom at 5pm (having attempted to sleep for a large part of the day). On arrival, we spend the first hour or so looking for stories for the show. Once armed with all sorts of ideas from around the world, there's the handover meeting - when the day editor runs through what's been set up and runs through all the technical aspects of that night's show. The day team then leave and we spend the next couple of hours reshuffling, changing, dropping, adding other stories and guests, and keeping abreast of breaking news.

Up All Night tends to follow the sun around the globe so we can reach guests that are awake when we are. This means that the first few hours of the programme have a lot of stories from the Americas (and anyone elsewhere who we can persuade to stay up late to speak to us). By the time we hit 4am, we're looking at countries like Australia and parts of Asia.

Speaking to people while it's the wee hours here is one of the main challenges at Up All Night - so some of the material is pre-recorded in order to cover news in places that are asleep while we are on air. Recent events in Egypt illustrate the difficulty of getting live guests on the main news story of the day (Egypt is only 2 hours ahead of the UK). Although, having said that, many of the protesters were awake in our time - according to them, it's noisy and hard to sleep through a revolution. So they gave us regular updates and allowed us to give our listeners a real sense of the drama unfolding.

So after getting the skeleton of the programme sorted out it's time for a quick meal break. We might head to the canteen for a liquid egg omelette or other similar culinary delight from the famed BBC canteen. Then it's back at the coal face as that night's output editor sits across any of the recorded interviews that have been set up. We try to keep these to a minimum but sometimes they're unavoidable in a programme that runs from 1am to 5am.

Tonight - I'm output editing so it's also my job to trawl through four hours of cues and briefs to make sure they are ready for broadcast, factually correct and as current as they can be. This can be one of the biggest challenges of an overnight programme. Throughout the day, the network will have already spoken to a lot of the key guests and hoovered up any of the new lines on a given story - so we are left with the big challenge of finding new voices, moving stories on and keeping the news fresh.

Tonight is a great example. 5 live has been focussing on the protests in Egypt through the day. It's important that we bring a new angle to the story - so we decided to shift our focus to demonstrations in Iran and analyse how events in Egypt had inspired people there to get onto the streets. Iran is "asleep" when we are on air and it is obviously a difficult place to speak to real people. So we pre-recorded an interview with an Iranian activist and journalist based in Paris who had spoken to a lot of people in his home country. This allowed us to get some idea of what was happening on the ground - at least as he saw things - and to get some analysis of the ongoing situation. So we're still covering the big story of the day - but looking at it from a different angle.

Our programme isn't just straight news - we have a number of fixed points and features throughout the night. We talk books, get the latest archaeology news, debunk some science myths and discuss films.

My favourite feature is the world football phone-in and also one of our most popular items. For me this makes working a Friday night slightly more bearable. It always amazes me how many people are awake and willing to come on national radio at 3am when there's a topic they care about. The phone-in works because it isn't a soap box for angry football fans, it's about learning about players and teams across the world and relies on our contributors awe-inspiring knowledge and a bit of banter between Dotun and our experts. I know others working on the programme enjoy different phone-ins more because of their passion for film, books or science.

Speaking of science - there's also the phone in with Dr Karl and the Naked Scientist.This attracts some of the most bizzare questions for our good doctors to tackle. Have you ever wondered why a fly doesn't cook if it flies into your microwave? Or why sheep don't shrink in the rain? Nor have I, but a listener did and posed this teaser to Doctor Karl. This feature works because of it's surreal, off-the-wall nature and Rhod's relationship with Karl. But why does he call him Doctor Rhod? I have never understood that but maybe some things are best left unanswered.

Clearly working at night isn't ideal. Living with permanent jet lag can be somewhat tiring, but when you consider what we put together on a limited budget, at a time when most regular contributors are tucked up in bed, there is a lot of satisfaction and fun to be had on Up All Night. In reality all you need to do is drink plenty of coffee and remember there are lots of people willing to join in if you interest them and provoke thought - even in the middle of the night.

Insomniacs of the world unite at Up All Night!

Related Links
Check out the time-lapse video of the 5 live newsroom

Read the first blog entry for 24 Hours in the Life of 5 live by Breakfast's Chris Hunter

Read 5 live travel presenter Nick Duncalf's blog post

Read Rachel's blog about working on Your Call

Read Jonathan's post about the Derbyshire programme

Read Rabiya's blog about working on Logan

Read Alice's blog about Bacon

Read Phil Mackie's post about the trials of a 5 live regional journalist

Read Andy's post about working on Drive

Read 5 live's core news editor's blog

Read 5 live sport presenter Eleanor Oldroyd's blog post

Jim Connolly is a senior broadcast journalist with 5 live.


  • Comment number 1.

    Nice work you people. always keep me going on the night shift.

    very Insightful read, this, too.

  • Comment number 2.

    Would have been nice to hear how Rhod's show is produced giving the tyranny of distance. Dotun's show is ok, but it's not a patch on Rhod's programme.

  • Comment number 3.

    I agree with ryanw.

    Firstly a lesson in how and why the BBC didn't need to move everything to the same place and thereby spread their work availability all over the UK instead of Salford, Manchester at large and the Salford University campus. Saving shed loads of money. Frankly when you need an expert opinion I wouldn't have thought a university ranked 96 in the current Uni year would really be the place to turn. No, you go where the expert is, surely? But more and more it is some guy from next door to Media City.

    Secondly how seamless Rhod and Dotun's programmes are, which shows the production team that it could be done from anywhere. So will Rhod be dropped after the move? Will Dotun be going to Salford?

  • Comment number 4.

    Did you think I was dead or incapacitated?

    Its a long way to tipperrary....but a relatively short distance to Salford.

    The Media City sounds grand. I must look at a picture.

    The BBC traditionally would use Salford for "poverty" programmes. (I hope that aspect of programming does not cease. )

    The poor will always be with us; but we need to get the numbers down.

    5-Live could do more on poverty in the uk cheers The Big Priority inc

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


More from this blog...


These are some of the popular topics this blog covers.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.