Cameraman based in Edinburgh, employed by ITN, working for ITV's Good Morning Britain covering stories all over the UK and the world. War Zones, World Cups, Royal Tours and many other less exciting assignments, like interviewing current and ex Prime Ministers have kept me busy over the years working in Breakfast Television since GMTV came on the scene back in '93 and regional TV before that. In 2009 I began to record what it is like to work, the often strange and long hours needed to bring the hard news, human interest and fluffy fun to the UK's TV screens in the morning, mostly broadcasting live.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Waiting on Stornoway.

I had hoped to be able to publish the next two entries in my blog with a happier heart but that is not the case.

This part of the blog has not been published until now, Saturday 9th October at a request from the Foreign Office not to report anything about the name or location of an aid worker taken hostage in Afghanistan.

They felt that any publicity about where she came from or her name being in the public domain could prejudice the attempts being made to secure her release.

Her name and where she came from are now firmly in the public domain in the most tragic of circumstances.

Linda Norgrove was killed yesterday when an attempt was made to rescue her from her Afghan warlord captors.

My thoughts are with her parents on the Isle of Lewis.

They are a dignified and couple who must have been going through all kinds of hell over the past couple of weeks.

Tuesday 28th

The Foreign Office had not released the woman’s name but the big wigs at Daybreak wanted us to do something to show that we were covering the story.

So in the pitch black of the hotel car park I started to set up our humble equipment.

Gregg at the computer in the morning darkness.

We were not too far away from the actual hotel building so that I could pick up the WiFi signal on the lap top.

We did have the little satellite transmitting dish with us but the upload speeds were slower with that than the hotels broadband.

The faster the speed the better the pictures and sound.

The best quality needs a bit more time to do all it’s encoding and compressing and decompressing and decoding than it takes to do it live.

So the plan was to record the first little report and send it back to Daybreak to be played out during the 6 am news bulletin.

That was the plan but the temperamental demon that is Avid decided that was not the way it was going to go.

The Avid would not power up to start with. When it did as far as it was concerned the camera with the tape of material in it did not exist.

With an increasing sense of frantic frustration we tried all the options of shutting down and restarting the application and the actual laptop.

At last we managed to get it going but, by this time we were almost up to transmission time.

At least there was a standby option. Daybreak’s Chief Correspondent was outside the Foreign Office in London all ready and waiting to do his thing.

He then did the reports at 6 and 6:30.

We had been good to go for the 6:30 but the producer in the gallery decided to use Richard, which was a tad frustrating for us at our little tabletop set up.

The set up in the hotel car park.

At 7 am Gregg did his short report in which he was able to say where the yet unnamed aid worker came from and that he had spoken to her parents.

Gregg ready to broadcast.

It went quite well. Doug the technical director said that the pictures looked very good for an internet connected broadcast.

We did the same for the next two broadcasts at 7:30 and 8.

There was a slight bit of scurrying around when the internet link was not the best and the laptop needed to be connected to the mains, which was not close by.

We were asked to be on standby until the end of the Lorraine programme just in case something on the story broke.

That is normally a horrible thing to have to do, hang around with nothing to do for an hour and a half.

This morning it was far from that because we were in the car park of the hotel.

I parked the kit in a little corner of the reception. We then settled down in the restaurant to have breakfast.

After tidying the kit away we settled down to get some rest to make up for the early rise.

We then got a call from Calum the ITN producer to ask if we would be able to do a live broadcast into the ITV lunchtime news.

I started to get set up.

I had only just started when Gregg called to say that it might not be happening.

The Foreign Office had sent out an e-mail requesting all media not only to maintain the news blackout of the name but also now stop making any reference to which part of Scotland she came from.

As a result of that I stopped and put the kit away again.

The rest of the week became a very boring waiting game of asking the Foreign Office to allow the name to be put in the public domain.

We, in mini pack form went out to the parent’s house and politely asked if they had any news.

"The Pack" opposite the family home.

Producer Calum's red hire van near the Norgrove's house.

Calum and Gregg walk up the road to speak to Mrs and Mrs Norgrove.

They were equally polite when they said that they had nothing to say and that when they did it would be in the form of a video statement which we discovered had already been recorded by a local cameraman that they trusted.

They would keep a hold of the tape and release it to the Foreign Office to distribute when the appropriate time came.

There was nothing for us to do.

We spent time in Uig at the local community shop where there was internet access and the staff were friendly providing us with freshly made rolls.

This little shop in a remote part of an island had a very good coffee vending machine offering all types of coffee from hazelnut roast to cappuccino swirl.

The Community Shop in UIg.

All the signs were that whatever was going on in Afghanistan was not going to come to a speedy end.

Each of the branches of the media, Sky, ITN, The BBC and the host of newspapers covering the story made calls to their various experts on Afghan terrorism and called in favours from friends in the shady world of spooks and spys.

The reports coming back all agreed that it looked like it was gong to be a long drawn out affair with no news for some time.

We were all keen to come off the island because we were sure that there would be nothing for us to report for quite a while.

It was clear that there were things going on in the dusty mountains along way away to try and initially locate and then free the aid worker.

Historically these activities do not happen quickly.

However, with the general news agenda being quiet and a collective news desk paranoia we stayed until the end of the week.

The pack began to thin out on Thursday but it was not until Friday lunchtime that we said farewell to Lewis hoping that when we come back it will be to see a happy family reunited.

Our flight out on the tarmac of Stornoway airport.

Climbing into the grey as we leave Stornoway behind.

When we arrived back in Edinburgh the final part of my journey home was curtailed a little bit because my car would not start.

The battery was flat.

I had left the invertor on after using it when we were testing the satellite kit before we rushed to the airport on Monday.

Jump starting the car.

I was glad Gregg’s Land Rover had been fitted with a big battery!

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