My Media Day: Gary Robertson, presenter, Good Morning Scotland

GARY Robertson is a presenter on Good Morning Scotland on BBC Radio Scotland. Since 1999, he has presented a range of programmes on radio and TV for BBC Scotland.

His career in radio began when he was a volunteer with his local radio station, Moray Firth Radio, while still at school. That led to a full-time job with the Inverness-based station before a move to the BBC in 1990.

As a producer and reporter, he worked across a range of programmes including Good Morning Scotland, Newsdrive, Newsweek Scotland and Eddie Mair Live.

Moving to London in 1994, he presented news programmes on Radio 5 live and BBC World Service, as well as producing and reporting for GMTV.

He returned to Scotland in 1999, just as the new Scottish Parliament was convened, to work for BBC Scotland. As well as working across a range of news programmes, he also presented his own mid-morning radio show for five years. He’s been getting up early for the past six years to host Good Morning Scotland.

He submitted this on Monday, October 29.

What exactly is it you do?

I present Good Morning Scotland on BBC Radio Scotland. I’m on air five days a week, from 0600-0850, but my working day starts at 0500, when I arrive in the studio and read the morning briefs and catch up on the developing news stories.

What did your working day today or yesterday comprise?

Today, I arrived at the BBC at 0500. The running order is devised by the producers and the overnight editor. They choose the agenda, bid for guests and write cues for each item. Along with co-presenter, Hayley Millar, we will look at the cues and make any changes we think are necessary.

I then look at all the interviews assigned to me, read the briefs, look for any background information I feel I need, and think about the questions I want to ask.

I’ll spend some time looking at the BBC news website and any other sources I feel are necessary. That’s often the Scottish Government website, party manifestos and newspaper articles.

Then it’s ten or 15 minutes with the morning newspaper, reading front page stories, editorials and paying particular attention to their take on the stories we are planning to cover.

In the background, the team is listening to the early news on 5 live, then Morning Briefing on BBC Radio Scotland, to pick up as much information as possible on the stories we are covering.

This morning, the lead item at 0810 is an interview with the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond. He’s visiting Faslane later to announce £350million is being spent on the design phase for the replacement for the Trident nuclear weapons system.

It’s an issue that goes to the heart of the independence debate because of the SNP’s anti-nuclear stance, so it’s clearly an important interview for us.

I also have interviews to conduct on subjects as diverse as the Jimmy Savile case, the fungal disease threatening Ash trees and a new play focusing on the life of the Rev. Ian Paisley.

At 0555, it’s into the studio to make sure I’m logged into the computer, ready to read our first news bulletin of the morning at 0600. I also sign into our text screen so I can see messages from listeners coming in and also to Twitter so I can tweet information about the programme as we go along.

Good Morning Scotland follows a template each morning in terms of the news, sport, weather, travel and business updates but most things are subject to change.

On a live programme, all the overnight planning is regularly cast aside if a correspondent or guest is delayed or if new stories break while we are on air. The running order changes constantly to reflect the developing news agenda.

We have to be ready for anything to happen. If a new story pops into the running order then it’s a case of reading up on the information available between interviews.

You also have to be prepared for interviews not going the way you expect. Guests can be nervous, change their minds about what they want to say or not be ‘morning people’.

The programme ends at 0850, when we hand over to Kaye Adams for her phone-in.

There is then a short team debrief to look back on the programme, examine whether it went to plan, and look at the stories we might want to cover the following day.

Once I leave the BBC, I’m usually following the news on my iPad, and on Twitter, and I make sure I catch some of the main news bulletins between 6pm and 8pm

If there is a big interview planned for the following day, I might get a phone call or an email from the production team so I can do some research in the evening.

How different or similar was it to your average working day?

Most days follow a similar pattern although obviously the news agenda changes from day to day.

Today also involved some preparation for BBC Scotland’s next TV debate on independence, which I will be hosting next week.

How different or similar was it to your average working day when you started in post?

The basic job of a journalist hasn’t changed. It’s about gathering the facts and presenting them to the audience. But the way we do that has changed immensely.

My first job in a radio newsroom involved typing on a manual typewriter, interviewing guests on a reel-to-reel tape recorder then using a razor blade and splicing tape to edit their words. The clips would then be transferred onto carts for broadcast.

The digital age has revolutionised what broadcasters do. It means stories from around the world arrive on our desks within seconds. Interviews can be done on mobile phones and emailed to HQ. We can edit and broadcast material almost instantly. There are very few technical barriers now to getting things on air.

Communication with the audience has also changed dramatically. Where, previously, people would put pen to paper to comment on what they heard, everyone now has the opportunity to give instant feedback by text and Twitter. It’s great to get comments and a range of views on the stories we cover. Clearly, some listeners feel very passionately about some issues and, as license fee payers, are keen to engage, sometimes in fairly forceful terms.

How do you see the job evolving?

I’m sure the technology will continue to advance, but the basics will stay the same. The equipment allows us to get stories on air faster than before but it’s not just about being first. Accuracy and balance has to be our priority.

What gives you most job satisfaction?

My sense of satisfaction doesn’t just come from the high-profile interviews each morning, but from speaking to interesting people with a story to tell and helping them get their message across.