A 10-person fact-checking desk? Yaara Bou Melhem saw how the other side lives with a visit to the BBC and CNN.
I thought it would be just another newsroom, similar to the many I’ve seen before. But this was the BBC. And if international broadcasting had a mothership, the BBC Television Centre would be it.
I was in London on the first leg of my trip sponsored by the BBC and CNN International for winning The Walkley Foundation’s Young Australian Journalist of the Year Award.
My tour took me around two floors. One had the BBC’s “domestic desk” which was, in fact, a beehive structured set of cubicles arranged to contain a certain number of worker bees staffed to particular programs.
Then there was the international floor, again, with the cubicles and, again, pumping with the sort of activity that only the need to feed a 24-hour news machine requires.
"Here’s the fact-checking desk. There’s about 10 people here who verify information about countries and the issues that our correspondents are covering," a producer told me as we walked past different work stations in the sprawling newsroom.
I was a little envious of the BBC’s resources. With the comparatively little funding that public broadcasters receive in Australia, a 10-person fact-checking desk seemed like a bit of a luxury.
After a week in London, I went on to New York City.
CNN International put me up in a hip hotel just a couple of minutes’ walk from its Time Warner Centre in Manhattan. Thank you CNN.
There was a buzz in the building. The sound of ambitious journalists working to get noticed, to get the content and to get the ratings. It’s a buzz not unique to commercial television, but it’s a lot louder there.
CNN’s New York City bureau feeds at least two prime-time international shows and a host of other domestic content. The Anderson Cooper 360° and Piers Morgan Tonight shows are recorded here and I was interested to see how they’re run.
"Our viewers might have already heard about most of the news of the day, so we need to get a new angle, an AC 360 take on it," one of the producers told me.
CNN International places great importance on having presenters that viewers can be familiar with and get to know and trust. Individualising the media is one way to attract viewers in a world with so many outlets and methods of media consumption.
Back in London, the BBC had its personalities, too.
As the BBC tour moved us to a control room, a very distinguished looking older man with wispy white hair walked unhurriedly into a glass-enclosed studio.
"This is the voice of the empire." No, wait, that’s not how it went.
"This is the voice of your former colonial masters." Still not quite right.
"This is the BBC World Service." That's the one.
I’d been listening to his imperial tones since before I could remember. Growing up I had always believed that he embodied Britain. Maybe secretly I still do.
But the BBC is changing, as all media empires invariably do.
In between pushing buttons and making phone calls, a few of the BBC journalists in the control room were talking about the company’s restructure.
More than 500 jobs will be cut in the next five years. Over the next two years, the radio and television news departments from the Television Centre will be moved to BBC Broadcasting House in central London.
I was glad I got to see the BBC offices before the change, but I am looking forward to seeing what’s coming next.
Yaara Bou Melhem is a Walkley Award winner and the Young Australian Journalist of the Year for 2011
Joanne Brooker is an award-winning professional media artist specialising in portraiture and caricature