Personally Speaking: “How local media keeps you informed every day”



Last night had a bit of everything – music, celebrities and plenty of laughs.

Best of all, The Big Night In on BBC One celebrated the people – from the very big to the very small – who are keeping our world turning during this pandemic.

The evening sought to bring the country together and lift spirits with a bit of fun, all while raising money for Comic Relief and Children in Need. And it certainly did that, with British favourites like Peter Kay, Catherine Tate and Lenny Henry reminding us that even in difficult times there is plenty to smile about.

For me it also brought home the role of the media at a time of crisis.

Across the country newsrooms have gone from hives of activity in the centre of towns and cities to virtual offices in spare bedrooms and on dining room tables. Newspapers like The Sentinel are being put together remotely for the first time ever; something that would have seemed impossible a few years – if not months – ago.

Meanwhile here at the BBC we have radio presenters doing their shows from home and TV reporters filming from a boom’s length away. Instead of visiting BBC sites across the Midlands, I spend my days meeting the teams virtually on Zoom, hearing how they’re coping, both living and reporting the story day in and day out.

Being a journalist has become more difficult, but ensuring a stream of accurate news, locally and nationally, has never been more important.

That’s something we’re seeing in the figures. For the past few weeks the regional 6.30pm news has been the most watched show in England almost every night, regularly reaching more than 10m people.

Meanwhile visitor numbers to The Sentinel’s website have rocketed with more than 500,000 people on StokeonTrentLive every day. And despite the lockdown and shop closures, sales of The Sentinel have held up remarkably well.

Here at the BBC we are doing our best to help you through lockdown.

In the past week we’ve announced Radio 1’s biggest ever Live Lounge with the likes of Ellie Goulding, Rag’n’Bone Man and Bastille; that Tom Hardy will be reading CBeebies bedtime stories and that dozens of boxsets will soon be landing on iPlayer. Look out for classics like My Family and the The Kumars at No 42, along with newer shows like Strike, Taboo, Tourist Trap and Dracula.

Meanwhile on Monday we rolled out our biggest ever education package. Bitesize Daily gives tailored learning on BBC iPlayer, Red Button, the BBC Bitesize website and app, BBC Four and BBC Sounds, with Professor Brian Cox, Sergio Aguero, Jodie Whittaker and Sir David Attenborough leading some of the lessons. My kids are already hooked and I just wish I had time to sit down and watch them too!

Somehow the team managed to put it together in four weeks and so far it’s been received well, with more than three million kids taking lessons on its first day. We are trying to help in other ways too. Christian services are now being broadcast every Sunday at 8am on all of our Local Radio stations and we have a host of new podcasts on the BBC Sounds app – you’ll even be able to listen to the much-loved Machynlleth Comedy Festival from May 1 to 3.

Local Radio has also been running its Make a Difference campaign, which links up those who need help with those who can offer it. So far more than 300,000 people have contacted their local Make a Difference lines and it’s thrown up some real stories of heroism – from the volunteers stepping in to help a terminally ill father-of-three do his shopping to the mechanic who fixed an NHS workers car while she was on shift, free of charge.

In the Midlands we are celebrating those going the extra mile with Nick’s Heroes, where Midlands Today presenter Nick Owen picks three people who have done amazing things in their communities and gives them the praise they deserve on TV.

It’s a long way from working in A&E, policing our streets or collecting our bins, but hopefully it goes a little way to making us feel less isolated, even while we are isolating.

Thanks to the millions of key workers who are turning up to work, day in day out, our world is still turning.

The media, including the BBC, The Sentinel and StokeonTrentLive are doing our bit to support them and you, keeping Britain informed, educated and entertained in unprecedented times.

Drop a heart on our special map of gratitude to show your support for our NHS heroes  https://www.thanksamillionnhs.co.uk/





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