David Whiteley Interviewed
The popular BBC One East current affairs programme Inside Out returns for another series on Monday September 5th.
Over its nine week run it will, as ever, be featuring people and places from across the BBC East region, a wide range of stories and local issues that will alternately entertain, enrage or enrapture the programmes loyal audience. David Whiteley has now been presenting the show since he joined BBC TV East in 2001; he very kindly took time out from adding the final touches to the first programme of the new series to chat to me about Inside Out and life on television in general.
David, you’re both a TV and radio presenter as well as a producer and director. Is there any part of your work that you prefer over the other?
Not really, no. I thoroughly enjoy the variety that working in all of these disciplines brings me. Each has its own challenges to meet and overcome but, similarly, all of them can give you a lot of professional satisfaction when something you’ve been working on for a while ‘comes off’ and you see the end result. I wouldn’t want to restrict myself to just the one role in television at the moment.
You’re very well known throughout the region for the work you do on Inside Out-are you looking forward to seeing the new series going out?
Definitely. This will be my fifteenth year working on the programme and I still really enjoy it. One of the great joys I get from presenting and producing the show, and having done so for quite a long time now, is that it contains a bit of everything. We might be featuring a very serious issue or story one day then be moving onto something light hearted and frivolous the next. Our remit is to feature the people and places in the region so that means that we’ll never run out of stories or events to cover on the show.
It helps that BBC East covers a big area. We could be focusing on something that’s happened in Milton Keynes one day and then moving onto a location in the Norfolk Broads the next. We never quite know what we’re going to get next and the reason for that is one of the great strengths of the programme, the interaction it has with its viewers.
The programme is very much led by its audience, isn’t it?
Yes, very much so. We’re now finding that because of social media, the instant coverage it can give breaking stories makes news items very much more accessible than they were even a decade ago. We get lots of our material via social media. Take, for example, Twitter. I’d say at least a dozen of our stories in the last year or so have come from people contacting us on Twitter. That growth of social media and the increasing use of Smartphones has led to the phrase of ‘citizen journalist’; that everyone now is a journalist in some way. But that’s great. We want people to get involved, to be part of the news, to share breaking stories and to talk to us about them. It helps make the programme what it is-and that’s one that engages with its audience and makes them part of it. I’ll often find myself on social media just after a programme has gone out answering lots of queries from new people as well as finding out about possible new leads and stories.
Do any recent features come to mind as a particular favourite?
Yes. It might not be a favourite but it made me laugh. And it certainly got a response! Anyone who works in the media in and around Norfolk and Norwich will be familiar with the Alan Partridge gags. One that ‘he’ did in the past was about the pedestrianisation of some of the streets in Norwich. It became an on-going Partridge joke and everyone would quote it whenever his name came up. So, imagine my surprise when it was decided that the programme was really going to do a feature about that very subject. How could we do it without it becoming some sort of parody? We decided to start it with a joke and to get the reference to Partridge out of the way early. We then dealt with the issue and its possible implications more seriously. And guess what? The reaction we got was really positive. The people of Norwich are passionate about their City, they really care for it, its history and heritage. So our piece on the subject was welcomed and seriously debated. But not only that. The whole issue about town and city centre pedestrianisation resonated throughout the region; we had people from Milton Keynes wanting to discuss its impact on their town. It was a story that really worked and got the sort of reaction and feedback that you want.
How many of you are involved in filming the pieces that you feature on the show?
It’s usually just the two of us-me and a cameraman. That’s become possible because of the improvements that have been made to the technology we use over the years. The cameras can still be a bit unwieldy mind, but one person can easily manage to film all we need. I work well with my cameraman. We often know what we want in advance so, for example, if we’re setting up a shot in Kings Lynn, we’ll head for the Vancouver Centre or, if we’re in Norwich, we’ll do a clip from outside The Forum. They’re familiar scenes and places, people like to see them on TV and it draws the audience in.
The new series will follow up the attack on the Romanian shop in Norwich and the reaction from the community in the wake of that fire. The people of Norwich raised £30,000 for them with the shop owners pledging that any of that amount that they don’t need will be donated to local charities. That sort of thing makes me proud to be from this part of the world, a wonderful and heart warming conclusion to what was, when it happened, a very shocking story indeed and one totally out of character for this part of the world.
What else can we look forward to seeing?
There is lots coming up, believe me. We’ve done a piece on all the plastic waste that is accumulating in the world’s oceans and have featured Lowestoft and the Norfolk Broads as part of that story. These are worldwide, international issued that affect us all locally.
Then there is the Chinese businessman who, despite Brexit, is investing tens of millions of pounds in Cambridge, something which shows his faith and belief in the local area as well as the UK as a whole.
And the stories will keep on coming. We’re always out there filming or chasing up new leads and possibilities. There’s rarely a lull where Inside Out is concerned.
What do you do when Inside Out isn’t taking up your time?
I present Treasure Quest on Radio Norfolk which I really enjoy. I used to do the Saturday Breakfast Show as well but something had to give. That at least meant I didn’t have to get up at 4am on Saturday mornings anymore! I also fill in for Stuart White on BBC Look East whenever needed, that’s a completely different experience to doing Inside Out as its live TV and you have to think on your feet-and quickly. But we do have an exceptionally good team looking after us in the studio.
I’ve also got into surfing and enjoy riding the waves at Cromer, as do my children. I’m the proud patron of the North Norfolk Surf Lifesaving Club who have a lot of very talented surfers as members, some of whom are entering competitions all over the country now. I think I’m past doing that but would be more than happy to offer some pearls of surfing wisdom from the beach now and again! I guess I just enjoy chatting and finding out about other people and their lives, whatever they are doing, be it surfing or investing millions of pounds into local businesses.
Deep down, you’re a real people person, aren’t you?
I guess I’m just a nosey git at heart! But my job is a privilege and one that I thoroughly enjoy. I’m very lucky to be doing what I do and I thoroughly enjoy every minute of it and my working life.
I’d like to thank David for so willingly giving some of his valuable time to let us all know about his role as presenter of Inside Out and wish him and his team all the very best for their imminent nine week run. The new series starts on Monday September 5th at 7:30pm.
David can be contacted on Twitter @david_insideout
My thanks to Aman Garcha at the BBC for her help in setting up the interview.
Interview By Edward Cozens-Lake – @