My review of the long-running Radio 4 programme as part of a BBC application.
As contemporary television and radio programmes serve a generation increasingly rushed and hurried, today’s peak-time news reports tend to be delivered in a similarly frenetic fashion. The need to trim a story’s fluffy bits to such an extent sadly means that we often have a distorted and over-simplified understanding of the world, based on ten second soundbites and quick-fire interviews. The light such bulletins actually shed on the world’s affairs is “narrow and harsh”, according to Kate Adie, while the fascinating detail remains in the shade.
Yet on a more positive note, she believes that “there is still very much a place for a trenchant and colourful look at life to complement these brief news bulletin dispatches.” The place is From Our Own Correspondent, a Radio 4 programme which the former reporter presents on Saturdays.
Correspondents give their personal reflections on events big and small, from locations far and wide. What’s more, they are passionate in doing so. After all, musing introspectively about particular developments based on the correspondents’ own observations must feel much more fulfilling than yelling brief responses to questions asked from London via a shaky satellite connection. There’s a whole context to explain, people and places to be described, experiences to be shared.
Yet far from being a programme invented by gluttonous journalists hungry for more air time, FOOC strikes an intimate chord with its listeners. The reports which I find most stimulating are not the high-profile events, but the small, inconsequential details which paint a vivid picture of everyday life. These sharp and sometimes witty descriptions of quirky characters, chance encounters and accidental discoveries are things than we, as people, can all relate to. They also make journalism memorable.
While the histories and immediate circumstances of the people behind the news are far more complex than journalists can often afford to convey, FOOC goes some way to meeting that challenge. The reports are still relatively short, around three or four minutes each, but they offer a unique outlet for such insight and provide fleeting images of the world as it truly is.
For as long as news programmes will continue to encourage reporting in a concise manner, FOOC, now broadcasting in its 55th year, will remain a crucial component of news coverage on the BBC.