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Meet the team: Ben Sutherland

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Ben Sutherland Ben Sutherland | 15:42 UK time, Friday, 16 July 2010

Ben Sutherland


I joined the WHYS team for the 2010 World Cup, to run the show's sister programme World Cup Have Your Say (you see what they did there.) It was fantastic work - particularly the banter with the fans from across the world - and even though although England's disastrous showing was somewhat deflating (even if so predictable even I could, er, predict it) at least I wasn't supporting France. Indeed, possibly my tournament highlight was when Patrick in Paris contacted the show to say he wanted to renounce his nationality and become English...

The day after Spain (rightly) took the trophy following 120 minutes of a Final that, frankly, was more like watching someone else playing Tekken 6 and about as entertaining, I joined the regular WHYS team full-time.

Ben Sutherland running the SuperPower Nation message board

SuperPower Nation was the first time I really met up with the WHYS team

I'd worked with some of the guys here before, not least during the BBC's SuperPower season, when I had run the editorial side of the SuperPower Nation message board - a massive experiment between the BBC and Google to let people talk to each other online in different languages, which would then automatically translate it into their own tongue. It was technology that we would go on to use successfully for both WHYS and WCHYS, and something I hope ultimately will be a regular part of the programme.

I love online innovation and, having worked for both the BBC World Service and BBC News website over the last eight years, I've been lucky enough to be involved in some really pioneering projects. Back in 2007, I ran the online side of the Bangladesh Boat Project, ultimately collecting the Sony Gold Award for Multiplatform Radio Production (coincidentally, on the same night that World Have Your Say also won Gold). It's mildly interesting to note that this was one of the first times the BBC used Twitter for broadcast news (although BBC Sport's legendary Tom Fordyce and Ben Dirs had used it for their journey through France for the Rugby World Cup earlier that year). Indeed, at one point in the Sundarbands jungle when virtually all our bits of kit were struggling to work, Twitter was the only way we had been able to broadcast at all...

Projects like that - last year I journeyed through the Amazon, exploring the environmental consequences of road-building in the rainforest, and also travelled across India looking at the issues surrounding the election there - are brilliant for enabling us to meet the people affected by the issues. It's exactly the same approach that makes WHYS such a great show.

As World Cup Have Your Say and my project immediately beforehand, My First World Cup, might indicate, I deeply love sport. Indeed, that was how I got into journalism - I was Sports Editor for Hull University's newspaper Hullfire. (I'd gone to Hull mainly because I loved the Beautiful South. Years later, I would have the privilege of writing their obituary for the BBC). It was while using the BBC Sport website to check a story that I spotted an ad for the nationwide BBC Talent competition for the domestic network Radio Five Live and decided to enter as a way of getting experience of filling in application forms. Four months later, I had won it...

Ray Houghton, Ben Sutherland and Steve Staunton. The identity of the child is unknown

Sadly, in the Wikipedia versions of this photo, I've been cropped out. Gutted.

I'm a supporter of Aston Villa (being the first born, my dad insisted on it) and I remember the sheer thrill of the first time I interviewed two of their players. Even more exciting - and nothing to do with me - this photo of me aged 14 with Ray Houghton and Steve Staunton ended up being used for their respective Wikipedia entries.

My real passion though is Formula One racing. Possibly the earliest image I can recall from television as a young child is Ayrton Senna's black-and-gold Lotus. Having said that, I grew up an avowed Alain Prost fan. I can tell you who drove for which team for every season since 1980, and do it faster than a Wikipedia search too. (I'm quite proud of my memory. I can perform the entirety of Alan Bennett's 45-minute monologue A Chip In The Sugar in one go.)

But it's another Formula One driver - Riccardo Patrese - who I'd like to sign off with. Patrese once spoke of the serenity he found at simply being lucky enough to be employed by a top team in a profession he loved. While life on World Have Your Say could rarely be described as serene, I can certainly identify with the second part of that statement.

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