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The RJs: The South of England and the West Midlands

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Imogen Crump Imogen Crump | 09:00 UK time, Thursday, 14 April 2011

A headshot of 5 live reporter Paul Greer

Tell us a bit about yourself

I'm Paul Greer. I was present at the birth of 5 live an amazing is 17 years ago. I live in Southampton and work out of the BBC South newsroom. My car has over 125,000 miles on the clock. I have four kids who are all determined not to be journalists.

Sometimes when the News Channel has run out of lookers they put me on the TV. I love this job, not because it's the best one I've ever had but because it's so straightforward. Go out there, find the most interesting tale from the south of England, convince someone a lot sharper than you that it is worth doing and tell it.

Which area/s do you cover?
My patch is indecently huge. My record is the call asking me to leave Hastings and head to Weston Super-Mare. That was a long day, and like Bruce Willis as he crawled through the air-conditioning unit in Die Hard I muttered and replayed the phone call to myself the whole drive.

East and West Sussex, Berkshire, Surrey, Hants, Wilts, Dorset, Somerset and the Isle of Wight all fall to me. Sometimes I go as far as Oxford. Mark Hutchings and I share Bristol but I try to leave Kent to the reporters based in London.

Tell us a bit about your patch?
Brighton is about the same size as Bournemouth. Reading is a bit bigger than Southampton, which is larger than Portsmouth and Swindon but about half the size of Bristol. Salisbury, Basingstoke, Poole, Dorchester, Winchester, Worthing, Chichester and Andover are all roughly the same size.

What this means is that a story is as likely to break in the east of my patch as the west. No single place dominates and I live in my car.

I'm as smart as a rattle-snake in avoiding traffic jams. Tamara Drew is a real person (I've beeped my horn at her) and Dorset is as beautiful. I know where the finest pint of beer in the world lives and Brighton is the best place to be a student in the UK.

Biggest story/scoop you've had in your patch?
Impossible question.

For myself the Hannah Foster murder, manhunt and trial will always live with me. Hannah was a 17-year-old student who was abducted and killed as she walked home one night in Southampton. Her killer fled to India and Hannah's parents set out to find him, extradite him and see him tried. It took years and 5 live followed the story every step of the way. .

Many moons ago three murderers escaped from Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight. That was fun believe me. Containers have washed ashore, ancient buildings have burnt down, trains have crashed and hundreds of people have told their story via my car.

It even snowed down here once.

Why does this picture represent your patch?


The famous entrance to Portsmouth's Fratton Park


This is the famous entrance to Portsmouth's Fratton Park. I've chosen this not just because I must have spent weeks of my professional life standing at this very spot reporting on the glorious, dysfunctional behaviour of the club, but I honestly believe there is nowhere quite as totemic for football-loving folk as the front door to their football club. They might have to pay to get in but the place belongs to them.

The various colourful folk who owned the club for several years might have taken the prestige, but the agony and the ecstasy belong to ordinary people. It's true wherever you worship on a Saturday afternoon. I love that in a world where we have to be of the "now" the sign above the door says 1898. I suspect some think it's the pin code.

As a kid what did you want to be, and why?
I always wanted to be an archaeologist because when I was seven I dug up the skull of some poor Saxon soul on a public dig site in Southampton. I wanted to keep it and put it by my bedside but older and wiser souls took it from me. It was what I wanted to do at university but threw my trowel away on a cold, wet day in a trench with mud up to my knees. Resilience, Greer, resilience.

Scariest broadcasting moment?
I was once sent to Ascension Island to do a series of pieces about people being evicted by the British Government. When I got there I realised I was directly under the satellite in the sky I needed to use to broadcast and I couldn't get a signal. I had to climb to the very top of a mountain covered in land crabs and point my small sat dish across Africa and the Indian Ocean. It worked, and land crabs really hurt.

(ed note: The RJs use a small, portable satellite dish to link up with orbiting satellites in order to broadcast in quality.)

Unlikeliest fact about yourself?
I've never had my picture taken with Nelson Mandela.

The West Midlands - Bob Walker

A head shot of 5 live regional journalist Bob Walker

Tell us a bit about yourself I'm Bob Walker, one of the West Midlands RJs. Before working for 5 live I was for many years Radio 4's reporter/producer in The Midlands

Which area do you cover?
I'm one of 5 live's two West Midlands reporters - the other is Phil Mackie. Phil lives in the west of the patch while I live in the east, so there's a natural division of labour, although you'll find both of us reporting from across the West Midlands.

Tell us a bit about your patch
Traditionally the manufacturing centre of the country with a previously strong motor industry. Some towns and cities like Stoke have suffered hugely during the recession and the West Midlands has seen the biggest rise in the number of unemployed people across the UK.

There are large rural areas as well including Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire. Birmingham itself is, of course, a thriving, vibrant and diverse Second City with a busy service sector.

The Midlands is a pretty varied patch that can include covering a story near the Wales border one day then heading to the East Coast for a story about Skegness donkeys the next.

Biggest story in your patch
Midlands floods of 2007. Large swathes of the region inundated, water supplies contaminated and power shutdowns. In this patch, we all worked non-stop for days providing information and coverage of the event. It illustrated the great beauty of working for radio - self-contained and able to move from location to location with little fuss or hassle.

Why does this picture represent your patch?

A snowy day at the site of the Battle of Bosworth. Looking towards Fen Hole.

This picture doesn't perhaps conjure up images of the industrial West Midlands but it's the combination of geography and history that is of personal relevance and interest to me.

That line of trees in the distance marks the spot where archaeologists now believe Richard III was killed during the Battle of Bosworth Field. The moment was immortalised by Shakespeare with the line he gives to the last Plantagenet king: "A horse, a horse, a kingdom for my horse".

Strictly speaking this is just in Leicestershire which is in the East Midlands although it's also very close to the Warwickshire border in the West Mids.

For me, it illustrates that the region isn't all metal bashing, industrial estates and motorways. It's a very diverse area with a lot of history and countryside - if you're inclined to look for it.

Odd fact about yourself
I took up snowboarding in my 40s and haven't looked back - although my 19-year-old son now leaves me for dead. I think that's because he doesn't want to be seen on the slopes with me.

I'm also defying all conventional medical advice by continuing to play rugby at Newark, the club I joined 28 years ago. Though I used to play 1st XV, I now limp along with fellow has-beens in the 4th XV..I can usually walk again by the following Wednesday. Oh, and I play saxophone. Badly.

Most difficult journey to get to or from a story?
Any journey that involves the stretch of the M6 linking the M42 to the A38 via Spaghetti Junction (you get used to road numbers in this part of the world). They tell me it's the busiest stretch of motorway for freight traffic in the UK and I can believe it based on the number of times I've been at a standstill there. There is no such thing as a quick journey into Birmingham.

Scariest broadcasting moment?
Trying to get my head round Birmingham City Council's budget and the press department's "helpful" briefing notes minutes before going on air - but seriously...

I was sent to interview Geoff Hoon at 7am at his house when he was Defence Secretary but his protection unit weren't notified. While setting up my broadcasting kit in the darkness and waving it in the general direction of his house I was mildly perturbed to find myself surrounded by Heckler&Koch-toting armed officers who emerged from the undergrowth.

I think they thought I had some sort of RPG mounted on the top of my car. The fact that I was wearing jeans, a dark jacket and commando-style hat didn't help matters.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Bob Walker tells us, "I'm one of 5 live's two West Midlands reporters - the other is Phil Mackie."

    So, two West Midlands RJs!

    Meanwhile there is no dedicated London RJ, while Paul Greer lets slip, "I try to leave Kent to the reporters based in London." ... so not only is there no dedicated London RJ, there is no-one for Kent either, which presumably means there is no South East RJ as it included in the South.

    In fact, it is so ridiculous large, geographically, and I am sure in terms of population, Paul Greer was driven to say his "patch is indecently huge."

    This transparency is great, and the national network of RJs is fast unravelling, explaining why some regions are neglected as some of us thought.

  • Comment number 2.

    I think we are flogging the proverbials, ryanw. However I agree with you. Before someone pulls your post that is..........

 

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