Saturday, February 16, 2008

How To Make The Headlines

South of Watford was interviewed on British television last weekend! It’s not quite as exciting as it sounds, but the story of how it happened is worth telling. Invited for lunch at my brother’s house, we found out on arrival that we were due to be joined at some point by a team from Anglia Television, the regional independent station for the East of England. My brother is a member of Cambridge City Council and had appeared a couple of days earlier in the local press with a proposal that the council should take a stand on animal cruelty and not use battery farmed chickens in any of its catering services. Now in politics you can never be sure which issue is going to attract most attention, and what seems like small beer can suddenly become something much bigger. So my brother had received the call that morning from Anglia and agreed to be interviewed on his proposal.

We started our lunch, unsure of when the television people would come calling, but shortly afterwards there was a knock on the door. It soon emerged that there was a problem with the staging of the interview, a chicken was needed and of course it had to be free range! We were having ham for lunch, and very nice it was too, but this didn’t meet the requirements for the story. So my brother quickly went off to the supermarket in search of a bird that was prepared to appear on television, returning shortly afterwards. Not only was the chicken to be filmed, but it was necessary to make it look as if it was about to be cooked. So my brother put the chicken on the roasting tray and quickly peeled a few vegetables to make it seem like we were all still waiting for our lunch instead of sitting there happily digesting it.

Having done the principal interview, a bit of vox populi was needed to provide the trimmings for the main dish. So an entirely random selection of members of the public consisting of the councillor’s partner and the councillor’s brother (me) were invited to give our views on the subject. Then we finished our lunch, the real one rather than the TV one. If it hadn’t been for the body that they fished out of a river somewhere in Norfolk, the item would have been the top story on the local news last Sunday, which probably demonstrates what a slow news day it was. Walking through Cambridge the next day I spotted an interviewer and cameraman waiting on my side of the street. “Not again” I thought. Just as I was about to reach them the interviewer turned to face someone coming in the opposite direction, “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions” she said. I just walked quickly by.

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