Given the fact, that my readership stats have jumped fivefold this morning already, most of you will know that I did a little bit about blogging on the radio this morning.
Why you? I hear you cry. Well, I’m not just some random with a keyboard and an internet connection, I’ll have you know. I am a noted internet authority who is on lists for prizes, and everything. You have to take me seriously. Very very seriously.
I don’t know if this bad form, but I thought I’d write about what the experience of going on the Today programme is like for a random guest.
A caveat. I know that that getting on the Today programme is highly coveted as setting the news agenda, and to get a positive item on is a triumph for any organisation, requiring briefing, relationship building and selling the story to journalists who have heard it all before. In my case though, someone else did all the hard work and I got all the public benefit.
My life in politics has always been the other way round, so it was fun to be the recipient of publicity because someone else (in this case, the manager of the Orwell Trust prize competition thingy, Gavin Freeguard) is good at their job.
So what happens? First of all, you get asked the night before if you want to go on, and you say. “Not half”. Then the researcher asks you how you can get to the studio. You offer to get a bus or the tube, and they suggest that a taxi might be more likely to get you there on time and offer to book you one. You agree before they change their mind. Then they tell you the time you need to be up and you feel a slight sense of nausea.
If you’re me, you proceed to spend the evening reading about the subject you’re supposed to be talking about, and wondering what you’ll say. You write out a couple of notes, which you attempt to memorise and decide to take with you in the morning.
The next day, you wake at early o clock to discover that the cab has arrived even earlier than was mentioned. As you rush to get ready you are called by a very nice producer (I think) to remind you that your cab is waiting. This happens as you step out of the shower. With a slight tone of dismay she asks if you’re in the car. You turn the shower off before assuring her that you will be in the car very shortly indeed. She rightly sounds doubtful and calls back again five minutes later.
You then have a nervy tour of the traffic jams of South London. It is here that you make two fatal errors. First, you google to find out how many people listen to the Today programme. Fear ensues. Then you realise you have forgotten your notes. The journey becomes tense.
Travel concluded, you are deposited at Broadcasting House, taken quickly to the studio area and placed in a glass pen. No really. It’s like a big glass cube, presumably designed like this so that you can be kept an eye on if you make a break for it, or get into a shouting match. There is coffee. You notice that nobody else in the glass cube seems terrified, but that they do appear to have notes.
After a little conversation with your fellow guest (Me: So you’re on the judging panel for the award I’m nominated for. Can I just say you’re strikingly intelligent and beautiful?”) you are ushered into the studio, where after hours of conversing with the nation, you sense the presenters are ready for brunch. They stare at you quizically. You look at them nervously. They have the advantage.
As a taped story is played there is banter. You do not participate in the banter. You are too busy trying to remember if Evan Davies is the one who does Dragon’s Den or not.
Then the taped story ends, James Naughtie introduces you and you fight the urge to tell the nation that he’s clearly broken his (very nice) glasses recently because they’re held together by tape. This is immensely reassuring. You then wonder if perhaps his glasses are permanently taped in order to relax the nervous and put the arrogant off their guard. You remember you should probably be listening to his question, just as it ends.
I shall not comment on the interview (which can be heard here), save to say I did not swear, fart or stare blankly into space when questioned, which were my over-riding concerns. I didn’t need my notes, because they turned out to be on entirely the wrong topic. (My Lionel Trilling quote was particularly good, so it was a shame I didn’t get to use it and had forgotten it anyway.)
Oh, and the blogs mentioned in the discussion were these: Slacktivist, the Liberal American evangelical christian, Political Betting, Iain Dale and Night Jack. All well worth reading, though I have a special fondness for Slacktivist.
After it’s all over you get another taxi, this time to your workplace, and you begin the days work with a slight sense of deflation. I mean, for a brief moment you were being listened to. After that, not being listened to seems peculiarly empty. You resolve to find something interesting to say so that you will enjoy the feeling of being listened to once again.
Then you start work, and carry on ’till your coffe break, when you write about what happened to you on your way to work that morning. Solipsism, here? Never.