A familiar face on BBC’s flagship news programmes The World Today and The World Tonight, BBC journalist and presenter David Eades has had a career enviable to many.
“When I was a correspondent my editor said: ‘I want you to go to Norway to cover a referendum on the EU. And oh, we are going to present the programme from there, so you will do that,’” he explained during a Zoom conversation with DIRAJ members from different parts of Africa.
That 30-minute programme he presented from Norway became the first of many Radio and Television programmes under his name. He was anxious, petrified, until moments before the show and then he loved it. “As a mantra, before I step up on stage, I tell myself: this is gonna be great fun. That way I get my mind in the right place so that if there was any anxiety in there, you begin countering it.”
With over a decade’s experience as a mainstream anchor and a moderator at international conferences, (including the Global Platform for Disaster Risk reduction in 2019 – Geneva, Switzerland), David believes confidence is the foundation of great presenting, in studio or to a live audience.
So I asked him in this time when opportunities in the newsroom are shrinking, how journalists can find opportunities beyond news like he does with conference moderation. David explained that while the conference environment may feel very different to broadcast journalism, the same principles that endear a broadcaster to their audience apply in presenting to a live audience.
He gave the following tips:
- Preparation is key
- Structure your interviews
- Structure your thoughts
- Give yourself time (to understand the theme and know about the speakers and audience)
- Smile, be approachable and make sure the audience connects with you
David then emphasised at the end: “But, do it! Put your hand up to do it. Do not wait to be asked. If you feel like branching out, go out there and say I do this and then go do it for the first time.”
Building relationships is key
Having done countless interviews in many different parts of the world, David reckons that relationships lie at the spine of journalism. Reporters and producers make momentary entries into people’s lives when it is interesting. And often, it is at the heart of emotion – a moment of tragedy or triumph.
So how does a senior broadcaster with an international news organization get people to speak to him and open up their lives to his audiences? “It is an old line but it is the ultimate line: You have to win their trust.” David said, adding that after many years of practice, he is most grateful for the contacts he has kept along the way in different parts of the world.
25 years since his last assignment as Europe Correspondent for the BBC, he still speaks to some of his old sources each time he has a major assignment in Europe like the Brexit moments.
“My producer in Brussels was brilliant. He never let a contact go. He kept them all and has kept them all running,” David explained, adding that great sources are critically important, if not for giving scoops and exclusives, then for providing background information that puts a journalist back into the picture of the story.
David recently interviewed on live television a young Zimbabwean man that he met at the FIFA World cup finals in South Africa in 2010. “He was a volunteer from Zimbabwe and we got to know each other then. I recently had him back on air telling me about life in the Western Cape in lockdown. I have had a contact from Rome, Greece, Romania – (contacts held for almost half a lifetime) – we all have the same challenges now even though we are in different parts of the world.”
These are relationships David says are built out of a genuine interest in the people that he covers.
Reporting on disasters
Because of his interest in the environment and sustainability, I asked David what he thought journalists often miss when reporting on disaster and climate change and if these are subjects relevant to business journalists as well.
He said disaster reporting remains incomplete in many media organizations across the world. “We need to stick a little more with the story beyond the disaster event.” Adding that there are still questions that many reports do not address. “How do you persuade a news programme to tell a story about how we just had a hurricane come through and only three people were hurt, which is an amazing story because 20 years ago 30,000 died?”
While adequate focus is put on human suffering in times of a disaster, David thinks that business journalists have a role to play in making the loss of livelihoods much more visible and actionable. Now COVID-19 provides an opportunity to build on risk reduction stories in business journalism according to him.
“I think it is better to say business is a slightly dirty word when you are dealing with a big disaster , you just can’t go there straight away; whereas with COVID-19 tens of millions of the US workforce lost their jobs, just like that; and all over sudden we can tell business stories in the light of risk reduction. It should be normal now on, to bring stories on how businesses are going to cope, alongside the other issues.”
Watch David’s conversation with us here.
A question and answer interactive session with some of our members is also available here: