Saturday November 2nd
One day course with Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Lance Price
9.45 – 17.00
Print House, 18 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London E8 3DL
Journalist and commentator Lance Price, who was BBC Westminster correspondent for seven years and then deputy to Alistair Campbell at number 10 under Tony Blair, offers a unique insight into political journalism. He shows you how to spot and write a political story, how to conduct a revealing political interview, what it takes to cut through government and party spin, and what political editors want from journalists.
Lance Price was a BBC Political Correspondent at Westminster, appearing regularly on the main TV and radio news programmes, until in 1998 he moved to Downing Street to work for Tony Blair as Alistair Campbell’s deputy. He became Labour’s Director of Communications in 2000.
Lance joined the BBC as a news trainee in 1980 and worked in Northern Ireland for three years before becoming a national radio and TV reporter, Defence Correspondent, and finally Political Correspondent at Westminster.
His books include Where Power Lies, a history of battles between political leaders and the media, and The Spin Doctor’s Diaries, which caused a stir by spilling the beans on the personal rivalries threatening to tear the top of the Labour party apart. Lance is now a freelance writer, broadcaster and commentator.
10.00: What political journalists do – a view from both sides of the fence.
Lance Price draws on his experience as a BBC Westminster correspondent and Tony Blair’s spin doctor to explain the role of political journalists and how they interact with the government and party PR machines that increasingly dominate the political landscape.
10.35: What makes the political headlines and where to find political news?
In this session we examine what political editors are looking for and where to find the kind of stories they want. We look in detail at the news values that dominate the UK print and broadcast media and the sources political journalists use to find exclusive scoops and new angles on existing stories.
Exercise: Watch a political interview and in pairs work to identify a potential news story from the on-screen exchange.
The tutor offers feedback on your ideas and we discuss which of the potential news angles you spotted during the interview is likely to appeal to editors.
11.35: Coffee / Tea
11.50: How to write a news story. In this session you learn the basic skills needed to write a political news story, including how to structure a news piece, how to write a strong intro, and how to use quotes.
Exercise: Write an introductory paragraph summarising a political news story.
13.45: Cutting through spin: How to find the real story in a political press release.
Government departments, political parties and individual politicians issues scores of press releases every day. The job of the political journalist is to read between the lines and find the real story buried in the self-promotion and puff. In this session you learn how to hone in on the newsworthy elements of a press release and generate an exclusive and saleable story that will make your copy or broadcast package stand out.
Exercise: Write a short news story. Each student is given a real recent political press release and asked to identify a news story and potential news angles, and to write a short story for print, online or broadcast.
Together we analyse the news stories students have written and consider what works and what doesn’t.
15.00: Broadcast interviews – digging deeper.
Drawing on his experience of interviewing prime ministers, chancellors and other senior politicians, Lance reveals the techniques broadcast journalists use to get answers to questions politicians would rather dodge. We watch a political interview and analyse how the interviewer keeps control of the exchange and teases out new information from a politician who has their own agenda.
15.40: Coffee / Tea
16.00: Exercise: Take part in a Newsnight style political discussion.
Exercise: Students take the role of interviewer and political guests in a TV interview situation. Tutors offer feedback on the interviews, and explain how they could be improved.
16.45: How to forge a career as a political journalist.
Lance offers tips on getting into political journalism and answers any final questions.