Winging It

I see from the Mail on Sunday this morning that a taxi driver showed more “bottle” than me when faced with an almost identical situation in the BBC News studio.

The mystery cabbie man stepped unwittingly into the national spotlight when he was interviewed by mistake on the corporation's News 24 channel. You can watch the video here.

With the seconds ticking down to a studio discussion about a court case involving Apple Computer and The Beatles' record label, a floor manager had run to reception and grabbed the man, thinking he was Guy Kewney, editor of Newswireless.net, a specialist internet publication. I know Guy's work and can confirm that he looks nothing like the ‘black cabbie’ who took his place.

The same thing almost happened to me a couple of years ago in the same studio. I forget what I was in there to talk about but the floor manager marched me into the studio, sat me down next to the news reader and then left.

I had a moment or so before going live; and the weather was running in the gap to the top of the hour news and the anchor turned to me and asked “how long have you been doing knees then?” I looked blank. “Knees?” I replied. “Yes as the team physiotherapist” and he mentioned a Premier League club linked to a major news story of an injured player.

At this point, I wondered if I should “wing it” or tell the truth but buckled under the strain and confessed that I was there for the next story. This caused a brief panic and the running order was quickly changed as there was no time to find the real physio. The black cabbie last week did however do a fantastic job by all accounts and nobody knows who he was.

Perhaps the funniest incident I had was on Sky News at the time of the 3G telephony auction, where the government made ‘squillions’ by selling the licenses to the likes of Vodafone at inflated prices the later regretted and which we will pay for over the next ten years. Sky dragged me in to the studio for another technology story and as a ‘regular’ they didn’t bother checking the content with me before sitting me down in the studio, with a good friend, one of their news anchors, giving the interview.

“I haven’t a clue about all this 3G stuff” he said, with twenty seconds to run, “So I’ll ask you a pretty broad question and you fill up two minutes with your answer.”

“What 3G stuff”, I replied, “I though I was doing ‘x’ today?”

The Sky News music started to play, ten seconds left before going on air. “We’ll have to wing it” he said and thankfully, nobody noticed, which says a great deal about modern news gathering and rather less about the experts!

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