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The RJs: South West of England and Westminster

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Imogen Crump Imogen Crump | 09:00 UK time, Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The South West - Sarah Ransome

A head shot of 5 live's Sarah Ransome

Tell us about yourself

I'm Plymouth-based 5 live reporter Sarah Ransome. I was born in Dorset but gradually moved West after spending time in the North and abroad. I'm a former teacher of English to foreign students, former regional TV and local radio reporter, news editor and I occasionally help out with training at the BBC's College of Journalism.

I have a teenage son and daughter who do their best to ignore their embarrassing mother all the time - except when they need a lift somewhere. I regularly swing a racquet about on tennis courts, sometimes I even hit the ball. I run through the Devon lanes culminating in the odd half marathon here and there...mainly there.

Which area/s do you cover?
I cover pretty much everywhere in a large arc west of Taunton - sometimes I go as far as Bristol and occasionally I'm allowed off the mainland and head to the Channel Islands and the Isles of Scilly. It can take three or four hours to go from top to bottom.

The South West is a region of real contrasts. There are the majestic cathedral cities like Truro and Exeter, Plymouth - with its long association with the navy and market towns dotted across the counties. But large swathes of it are rural - in some places there are more sheep than people. Look in the travel brochures and the pictures of the national parks, the sandy beaches, the fishing villages and chocolate-box cottages nestled into the rolling hills are all there. But behind the picture postcard views, the reality of living a long way from the centre of things can bring it's own problems. High house prices, little or no public transport, rising petrol costs, a lack of well paid jobs - the list goes on.

Read Sarah's blog about some of the economic issues in Falmouth.

Biggest story/scoop you've had in your patch?
One of the toughest stories I've had to deal with has been the case of the nursery worker Vanessa George who abused young children and babies in her care. This was a story that shattered the world of the parents involved, rocked the city of Plymouth as well as hitting the national headlines. It was a story that stayed in the spotlight for months, throughout the investigation and the court case. Sensitivity, understanding and accuracy were central to all of my reporting, and the way 5 live handled the unfolding story.

Explain the picture you've supplied and why it represents your patch

Plymouth's historic barbican taken from the quayside with the city centre in the background

This really highlights for me the real mix of my region. The commercial with the picturesque, the traditional alongside the new. This view across the inner harbour is looking back towards the historic Barbican area of Plymouth from where, of course, the Pilgrim Fathers left for the New World.

Trawlers and leisure boats happily share the harbour space and I've spent many early mornings on the quayside talking fish and quotas as the early catches have been landed and then auctioned.

The Barbican is just a short step away from the more modern and changing face of the city centre, so it's a handy spot to canvass thoughts of tourists enjoying an ice cream as they enjoy the view. And just up the road from here is the very scenic and iconic, Plymouth Hoe. It seems fitting for a city so steeped in a maritime history that it has such a sweeping waterfront. It's a traditional Sunday afternoon amble as well as a popular viewing point for local people - thousands gathered here to see in the Millennium ( I was reporting among them), they come to watch Naval ships leave port and to welcome them home. Back in the day, Sir Francis Drake even famously carried on playing bowls there after spotting the Spanish Armada.

These days it's more frisbee and football, but this waterfront is still one of my favourite places to go at the end of a working day - watching the world go by and dodging all the young ones learning to roller skate there. It's a great place to do that - I know I still have the scars.

Most unusual story you've covered?
The story of the giant 6 foot 6 inch bullock (that is as big as a small elephant). As a pint-sized reporter (5 foot 3 and a half if you must know and that half is very important) colleagues thought it would be rather 'moo-ving' to have me reporting live, in a field with Chilli, the bovine monster alongside me.

Now as the saying goes, never work with children or animals but especially one that towers above you and has a mind of its own. After much coaxing into place with buckets of feed and encouragement from the keepers, Chilli did stand by me while we were waiting to start broadcasting. But at the crucial moment the black and white Friesian decided to wander off and relieve himself. Thank goodness he was far enough away for me not to worry about the sound effects. But I'm glad I had my wellies on!

Toughest story you've covered?
In this patch you have to be prepared to carry the broadcast kit over all sorts of terrain to get to the story. Like most of the 5 live reporters I use a portable satellite dish to broadcast live into programme. As a one-woman band, more often than not, I end up carrying the large suitcase it comes in across fields and up steep hills to make sure I'm at the heart of the action.

On one occasion it felt like I'd yomped across the whole of Dartmoor with it strapped to my back to cover the annual Ten Tors Challenge. This is when hundreds of teenagers trek across the moor over a weekend having trained for months beforehand. On this particular day, organisers decided to abandon the exercise and evacuate the Moor because of atrocious weather conditions.

The teens were spread out across the hills and valleys, but all of them had to be pulled off and accounted for. Thankfully apart from the odd blister or bruise, everyone was eventually found safe and well. I did end up feeling like I'd done the Ten Tors Challenge myself at the end of it. And it was also an interesting technical challenge to get all the kit to work in torrential rain and high winds. It took me and the kit days to dry out.

Unlikely fact about yourself?
I once sold donuts on beaches in France. After spending a few weeks having to work on a couple of nudist beaches... they're no longer my snack of choice.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter: @ransos

Westminster - Chris Mason

A head shot of 5 live's political reporter Chris Mason with guests

Who are you? I am Chris Mason, 5 live's political reporter. I've done this job since 2009.

I also report regularly for BBC Radio 4, Radio 2 and the BBC News website. Before this gig, I lived in Brussels for two years, working as a Europe correspondent. I reported from over 20 countries, covering EU, NATO and G8 summits, the European Parliament, Kosovo's independence, the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, the earthquake in L'Aquila in Italy and football in Kazakhstan amongst many other stories.

And before my Europe stint I was a reporter for Radio 4.

Which area/s do you cover?
I am based at Westminster, but my job is to take a look at politics - and how political decisions affect you and me - all over the UK.

Politics is about people, power and policy. I love the drama of Westminster, and I love attempting to explain complex (and sometimes rather dry) issues in as engaging a way as possible. Nothing beats the feeling of telling a good story well, particularly one that is memorable and will get people talking. But politics with a small 'p' is everywhere, and that's meant about 20,000 miles on the clock for me in the last year.

Tell us a bit about your patch?
I have a UK-wide reporting remit, and I love it. I'll go anywhere where there are interesting people to talk to, with good stories to tell. Sometimes I try to make a virtue of intentionally going somewhere 5 live hasn't been to for ages.

In the last year or so I've reported from Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, Ramsey on the Isle of Man, Llandudno in north Wales, Falmouth in Cornwall, Derry/Londonderry in Northern Ireland, County Tipperary in Ireland and Thetford Forest in Norfolk amongst many, many others.

Biggest story you've had in your patch?
It has to be the day the coalition government was born at Westminster. It's an extraordinary privilege to get paid to witness many of the events I have covered. But the afternoon and evening of Tuesday 11th May 2010 were something else.

To stand in Downing Street, live microphone in hand, as one prime minister left and another arrived was an extraordinary experience. Fingers crossed 5 live Drive's coverage that day - nominated for a Sony Radio Academy Award for Best Breaking News coverage - turns into a gong very soon!

A photo of Chris Mason wearing a raincoat next to his radio car

Why does this picture represent your patch?

Here I am in Haltwhistle in Northumberland, as part of a series for Drive last summer called 5 live Drives Down the Deficit. Over the course of a week I reported from Berkshire, Rutland, Northumberland, Fife and Nottinghamshire gathering perspectives on how people would tackle the budget deficit.

Most unusual story you've covered?
Barbie's birthday. A clear winner, from a pretty crowded field. I reckon having a keen sense of the ridiculous is a key part of any reporter's armoury, but this cracking story tops the lot for me.

Barbara Millicent Roberts - Barbie to you and me - hit the big five-o a couple of years ago, and I tracked down the world's biggest Barbie fan to talk about it. A trip to Dusseldorf in Germany followed, and a somewhat bizarre day.

Favourite service station and why?
Now then, don't get me going on this!

I have been accused more than once of being a crashing bore on the UK's service stations. Leicester Forest East on the M1, Washington and Blyth on the A1(M), Norton Canes on the M6, Annandale on the M74, Tebay on the M6. The list is endless.

My party piece, when I am travelling with a colleague, is giving a step-by-step guide to the toilets from the spot where we get out of the car, at whichever service station we stop at. I am not step perfect yet, but - frighteningly - I am rapidly getting there!

As for a favourite? Well, having had this conversation more times than is healthy, I am well aware Tebay in the Lake District tends to top most people's Service Station League Table. But given the last time I was there it was 5am and I'd been on the road all night, I feel duty bound to pick another instead. So Woodall Services on the M1 gets my vote. It's the gateway to God's Own County - Yorkshire of course - when I am travelling north.

Always a good moment.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A reporter!

I remember flicking on BBC Radio Leeds and BBC Radio Lancashire on a little white bedside radio I was given for Christmas, and being captivated by the voices, the story telling, the places they were taking me to and the pictures they were painting.

From about the age of 7 or 8 - that was it. I never really seriously considered doing anything else. I have since discovered being a reporter is no way to be a millionaire, it can be pretty unstable, and there's no real career ladder. But, frankly, I probably couldn't do anything else, and I certainly couldn't do anything else as fun.

You can follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisMasonBBC


  • Comment number 1.

    Chris Mason is NOT an RJ he is the Political Reporter. IF he was the Westminister RJ please explain why he was over 700 miles away in the Shetland Islands AND why the alledged RJ for Scotland James Shaw didn't cover the Shetland story.

    He can't be both.

    Is there an RJ for London?

    We don't hear anywhere enough from Sarah Ransome in the South West.

    Could I please ask for the fourth time is 5Live the exclusive remit of these RJs, or do they have other responsibilties (and clearly other priorities) as we seldom hear from many of them.

    Thank you.

  • Comment number 2.

    You walked right in to that one Imogen.

    That is tantamount to admitting you are short of RJs in the London area otherwise you would have used a real one to illustrate the blog. And that leads me to say who is the RJ for a population of 8 million souls, in the nation's capital, in the heart of its administration and the tourist mecca and one of the most consistently newsworthy places in the UK for local news as well as national? To remove the national and international news from the area for the main correspondents to present, you are still left with a huge amount of news which would be interesting and pertinent to the rest of the population.

    Once the 5Live staff are Salford-based maybe we will be given our very own RJ to tell the nation about the developing stories this fantastic multicultural city of politics, the arts, sport and people have to say. They will be jolly busy though.

  • Comment number 3.

    Morning @carrie.
    Stephen Chittenden and Lesley Ashmall currently cover the South East, working primarily for 5 live Breakfast and Drive, but also reporting across the network.

  • Comment number 4.

    So why use Chris as an RJ? He is a specialist reporter.

    I would love to know more about Stephen and Lesley.

    By the way I read ryanw's post before it was removed and I didn't see much wrong with it............

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi @carrie,

    As discussed in previous posts. Anyone can remove a post for moderation. It does not mean someone here has removed it. It could be anyone.

  • Comment number 6.

    Imogen, of course you are right. But it was pretty straightforward - how long to wait until it reappears if deemed OK?

    Will there be a chance we can read about Lesley and Stephen at some point?

  • Comment number 7.

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

  • Comment number 8.

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


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