As possibly the least silly silly-season on record draws to a close, we're currently getting ready for the fifth series of Newsjack - which will see us at a new home (BBC Radio 4 Extra) and with a new host (Justin Edwards).

Because we're a few series in, there are already a plethora of articles on the BBC website full of tips and tricks on how to give your material the best chance of getting on-air. Dan Tetsell, who script edited series 1-3, wrote an excellent series of blog posts for the BBC writersroom, which you can still read, and there is now a brand new writer's brief on the show's homepage (which I'm expecting around a quarter of contributors to ignore, and stubbornly continue to send in sketches and jokes tailored for Miles).

One topic I'm not sure has been mentioned, however, is how we plan to deal with some of the larger news stories that have happened during our time off-air. In particular, one regular Newsjack contributor asked whether we were planning on covering the rioting in a stand-alone sketch, as a runner, in the opening monologue, or in gags across the show.

First of all, Newsjack is definitely about this week's news. I know BBC Radio 4 Extra often trades in archive material, but the fact we record the show so close to transmission is one of the things that makes Newsjack stand out - So whole sketches which could have been written a month ago will immediately feel rather out-of place.

Having said that, the riots were a major news story, the discussion and debate about what happened continues to rumble on, so I would expect the topic to crop up somewhere. Maybe as the punchline to a sketch on something else entirely, maybe in a sketch marrying the riots with Alistair Darling's new book (I've seen stranger things tried), maybe just in a JackApp? The truth is we don't know yet.

The way the question was phrased made me think that the contributor thought there was a "right answer" on how to cover a story. Newsjack isn't a competition or puzzle where we spend Monday sifting through hundreds of sketches trying to find the one that is most like the one we already had in our heads (which we then put that on-air and award the writer a prize based on how long they managed to drag their answer out for).

On the Monday, the team go through the sketches looking for the ones that are fresh, relevant and, most importantly, make us laugh. Inevitably, a lot of people write very similar sketches, so it's often the quirky ones that approach the story in a way we didn't expect that really stand-out.

As the series goes on, there'll no doubt be topics and jokes we get lots of, and things we could really do with more of. Keep an eye on the NewsjackBBC twitter account, updated by the show's producers, and there'll be webchats throughout the series with myself and the other script editors (Jon Hunter and James Kettle) where you can ask us anything and we can skilfully avoid difficult questions.

Good luck!

The new series of Newsjack starts this Thursday on BBC Radio 4 Extra at 22.30.

Newsjack want YOUR sketches and one-liners - find out how you can submit.


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