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The RJs: The North East of England and Scotland

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Imogen Crump Imogen Crump | 09:00 UK time, Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The North East of England - Anna Foster

A photo of 5 live reporter Anna Foster standing in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Tell us about yourself

I'm Anna Foster, 5 live's RJ in the North East of England. I was born and bred by the sea in South Shields, and now I live on Teesside with my husband John, who's a BBC local radio presenter.

Which area/s do you cover? All the ones you'd expect. Right from the top of Northumberland down to the North Yorkshire border, where I hand things over to my colleague Nick Garnett. Interestingly though, my patch takes in Cumbria too - which of course isn't in the North East at all. However, geographically I'm best placed to get across there when there's a breaking story. Once that's added I take in quite a decent swathe of the country, right from the east coast to the west.

Tell us a bit about your patch?
I love my patch, it's got everything - huge rural open spaces, miles of coastline, buzzing cities and so many iconic landmarks. There's an interesting spread of employment here, from the memories of the old industries like coal mining and shipbuilding to the new things that emerged after their decline, like call centres and public sector jobs. We have problems here too, mainly with unemployment and health. But alongside that there's a real spirit and a pride in the area that never goes away.

Biggest story/scoop you've had in your patch?
Last summer was an incredibly busy time for me. In early June I covered the tragic shootings in West Cumbria, an event that shook the community to its core. Just a month later, Raoul Moat shot three people and went on the run for a week across the North East, sparking one of the biggest manhunts in British history.

Stories like that take up every ounce of your time and energy, especially working for a station like 5 live, because there's always a programme on air for us to keep in touch with. While it's hard work, it's incredibly rewarding because we get to follow the story so closely, give it the airtime it deserves and we're able to report new developments whatever the time of day or night.

Listen to some of Anna's coverage on the hunt for Raoul Moat.

Tell us about your picture and what it says about the area you cover


5 live's Anna Foster with Declan 'Dec' Donnelly at the start of the Great North Run

I've swallowed my pride about looking thoroughly bedraggled in this picture, because I think it's a great example of my patch.

Dec (Ant's somewhere nearby) is one of the best known Geordies in the country at the moment. The photo was taken at the start line of last year's Great North Run, as the event celebrated its 30th birthday.

In the run up to that we brought 5 live Septemberfest to Newcastle and Gateshead, broadcasting everything from Breakfast and Fighting Talk to Tony Livesey's programme from the region. Thousands of people came to watch the shows, or called into our 5 live igloo on the Quayside, and made me very proud!

Most difficult journey to get to or from a story?
It's got to be the journey across the top of the Pennines to get from where I live on Teesside across to Cumbria. In the depths of winter it can be a treacherous trek, sometimes the snow's so deep that the A66 is closed completely.

Funnily enough though, that journey becomes one of my favourites once spring arrives. The scenery's gorgeous, all rolling green hills and sparkling lakes. Just a few weeks ago I travelled across to Workington and many of the fields right next to the road were home to cute newborn lambs. It can take more than three hours to cross the country, but on days like that the drive feels like a treat rather than a chore.

Scariest broadcasting moment?
Scary in broadcasting terms is never quite the same thing as in real life. Scary to us often means vanishing into the radio ether at the exact moment we're trying to say something crucial. I remember one memorable winter's day live by the coast - balancing my scripts, microphone and portable satellite dish on my car roof as a strong gale fought to take them from me and dump them in the sea.

I also covered a press conference where my microphone cable was long enough to reach the people speaking - but my headphone cable wasn't. This meant I had no idea whether or not the guests and my comments were even making it on air. It was a solid fifteen minutes before I could move close enough to my radio car to see if Peter Allen was still on the end of the line, and thankfully he was.

Did you go to university? If so, what did you study?
Clearly a fan of my own patch, I went to Durham University and have a degree in English Literature. I've always liked words and storytelling, so a subject like English Lit was very fitting for me. For those same reasons I always knew I wanted to be a journalist (or a pilot, but with my eyesight that was never going to happen), so after graduating I spent a year studying Broadcast Journalism at City University in London too.

You can follow Anna on Twitter at: @annaefoster


Scotland - James Shaw


A photo of 5 live's correspondent in Scotland James Shaw sitting on a stone wall

Who are you?


James Shaw - 5 live's correspondent in Scotland based in Glasgow. I have lived and worked in the city for twenty years(!), including time at Radio Clyde, Reporting Scotland and as a Scotland correspondent for newsgathering at the BBC.

Tell us a bit about your patch?
A lot of people who don't live in Scotland and some who do fail to appreciate how big it is - more than a third of the area of the British mainland in fact. And there's incredible variety here, from the urban sprawl of Glasgow to the vast open spaces of the highlands and islands.

It is a fantastic place to work as a journalist because there is such a range of stories to tell. On top of that, there's the open question of Scotland's political status in the future. Will it remain part of the UK? Could it become an independent state?

Biggest story/scoop you've had in your patch?
I've worked in Scotland for quite a long time so it's hard to chose one stand-out story, but the Dunblane tragedy in 1996 was one of the first occasions when 5 live's distinctive commitment to breaking news became really important. We were broadcasting live from the town soon after the shootings happened and carried on through the course of the first day and beyond.

Why does this picture represent your patch?


The summit of Ben Ledi, a small mountain in the Trossachs about an hour's drive north of Glasgow

This is a picture of the summit of Ben Ledi, a small mountain in the Trossachs about an hour's drive north of Glasgow. I climbed it with my family last weekend.

So much of Scotland is remote and inaccessible and that is one of the big challenges of the job. But the mountains, lochs and islands are among Scotland's most beautiful and distinctive features.

Any famous types live in your patch?
The job does involve close encounters with celebrities from time to time - Sean Connery, Ewan MacGregor etc.

But the person I'd really like to interview is Sir Fred Goodwin, the former head of the Royal Bank of Scotland. A couple of years back his house was vandalised and I was there to report on the damage to his front windows and the big saloon parked in the drive. Unfortunately the man himself was nowhere to be seen. It would be a great interview to bag, because you would be speaking for so many people who have questions about the banking crisis and bankers' pay.

What's the toughest story you've covered?
The toughest story I've covered was undoubtedly Iraq, where I was sent a number of times between the invasion in 2003 and the pull-out of British forces in 2009.

At the start we were told to expect poison gas and biological agents like anthrax. And later, the threat was kidnapping and grisly executions. It all sounded absolutely horrifying and there's no doubt that Baghdad was at that time one of the most dangerous places in the world. But I was glad to have the opportunity to cover such a big story and to be part of the BBC effort to stick with it at a time when other media organisations were pulling out.

Listen to James James Shaw describe experiencing a rocket attack on the British base in Basra and going on patrol with the RAF.

Do you support the local team/s in your area?
I'm happy to state for the record that I don't support either Rangers or Celtic. But the historic rivalry between the two clubs and the way that history comes alive every time they play is yet another reason why my job is endlessly interesting.

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