President Obama – So was he ignoring European allies

What does a day look like at Feature Story News? Buzzing and busy and an even smaller team than usual, just Olly and me at the news desk today. And the big event of the day Obama was in Ireland today, so I pretty much spent most of my time trying to catch all the key moments for our news feeds which included bits of his arrival, the tea plantation ceremony, speeches given by him and Taoiseach, and last but not the least him sharing a pint of Guinness with the locals.

Then Olly and myself are brainstorming ideas, which we run through quickly. After a bit of this and a bit of that, and we decide on calling up European think tanks to get their viewpoints on how this visit will help the trans Atlantic relations.

As I dig further into the story, since he has been elected in 2008, Obama has been heavily criticised in the media for focusing more on the Far East and Asia, and giving less attention to the European allies. This has obviously raised several eyebrows and the big question what will be the outcome for both countries and what do they aim to achieve?

We managed to get Stephen booth, Research Director at Open Europe for the radio interview.

Nice to get out of the office, I was back in familiar grounds again on Abingdon Street, near Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament looking for the offices of Open Europe. I made it there in the nick of time to meet Stephen Booth.  I set up my radio equipment and got straight to the point. Most interviewees never challenge me and play it safe, to the point that the interview is quite boring and you know what to expect.  Stephen had a twist on most things. And we start. So what’s all the fuss about trans Atlantic relations?

Stephen said ‘A lot of European leaders were upset when Obama first came to office and he was seen to snob Europe and not attend too many meetings that were set up. But this is the reflection of realities of changing policies especially for United States and the world. Obviously Asia is growing fast and that’s where most of the economic development is coming from and that’s where a lot of the US trade will come from in the future decades,’ he explained.

As the Washington Post once wrote: “Unlike most of his predecessors, Obama has not forged close ties with any European leader.”

Stephen added, it is just a reflection that Europe has actually slipped down on the list of his priorities. It may not be number one anymore but it still plays a key role in terms of defence and security issues and it will remain a key partner in terms of trade. Obama’s focus on the Asia and the Pacific just reflects the reality of a changing world and the 21st century.

So what will be the expected outcome of this visit? Stephen’s quick to respond and says’ I don’t think there will be any big changes from this visit. I just think its business as usual and in some ways does have some cultural significance for example: the visit to Ireland and the G8 summit in France, and travels in Euro zone. But I think it will just be business as usual where he will be trying to get t Europe to take more of a role in security and defence and get them to spend more money and  take more responsibility for defence issues in Mediterranean, North Africa and Middle East.

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President Obama’s visit to England

So Obama will be here in less than a week, much chit chat going on about what is the purpose of the visit? What are the Prime Minister and he expected to discuss? Definitely, not the fact that he and Mrs. Obama didn’t get an invite to the royal wedding earlier.

Here at Feature Story News, I’ve been making calls to Downing Street who’ve been conspicuously ignoring me trying not to divulge too much detail and keep the itinerary as discreet as possible. After all isn’t Obama the man to have authorised Osama’s killing? Security has been further tightened since and with that more people moaning about the cost of its operations

Another interesting aspect, Boris Johnson says he’s going to present him with a Congestion bill of 5.2 million that the US government seems to have racked up over a period of time. The London Mayor is fed up that the US Embassy refuses to pay the £10 charge on its cars, a refusal that has now racked up an amount of £5.2M, slightly less than the figure quoted by Johnson.

Catherine and I were at an interview with the Director of Research, from the Henry Jackson Society at King’s Cross. We met with Alexandros Peterson who said, inevitably on the top of their agenda will be discussions about the transatlantic relations. He said, especially over the years Obama has been hugely criticised by the Republicans for ignoring the Western allies and focusing on East Asia.

Another interesting revelation he spoke about was was a new mission for Britain and America in the 21st century. ‘The West has a responsibility to play a role in the Middle East peace process carefully and help them in their fight against dictatorship and corruption,’ he said. ‘Together they should promote good governance not only in the Middle East and North Africa, but also Central Asia’.

When we moved on to the ongoing situation about Libya, he admitted the US had taken more of a background role with Britain and France having led the operation. But with his upcoming visit here, there has to come a point where they will discuss what do they plan to achieve ? And is a Libya without Colonel Gaddafi possible? Well looks like quite a tight itinerary already, not forgetting to mention, the state banquet and the other visits Obama will have to attend during his two days visit here.

Also lately after the recent Osama killing, a poll conducted by Associated Press indicated President Barack Obama’s approval rating has hit its highest point in two years — 60 percent — and more than half of Americans now say he deserves to be re-elected.

Before closing the interview, we asked one last question as to whether the Western leaders would congratulate him, to which he replied “It would be interesting if they didn’t.”

Royal Wedding fever grips London

If you live in London, its hard to be oblivious to the festivities and street parties ahead of the Royal wedding. That’s what the average person on the tube or in the bus is talking about or atleast aware of. And if you are a tourist, that’s why you are here at this time of the year, and suddenly Westminster Abbey has moved up on your list of things to do in London.

The streets are thronging with souvenirs, tea towels, and chinaware of Prince William and Kate Middleton. With less than a month to go, the countdown has begun. The shops are filled with funny celebration hats. The metro newspapers run the latest update on the big event and has exhausted every angle on the story right from, who finished their stag party to, what the transport is going to be on the day.

For me personally, I’ve never been such a keen follower of the Royal family, until a month ago where I started working on Royal Wedding news at Feature Story News. Now at ITV, and that’s all I eat, sleep and think about being on the Royal Wedding news team. Apart from just the family, today I was trying to track down celebrity attendees and guests at the wedding so that we can sort logistics for the big day. I saw maps of the big event going around at work. Why can’t Buckingham Palace press office,  just release the list of attendees? Speaking to the Commonwealth Secretariat was  certainly of no use and when it comes to things like this, Buckingham Palace press office is always tight lipped. I don’t blame them .

Well but knowing the profession we are in, we just don’t give up. Thankfully, the internet with all its wedding update phone applications, online news and timely royal RSS feeds, its hard to miss what’s happening. Using all the resources at hand, after relentless calling , I managed to nail a famous  personality for an interview, who is also a friend of Prince William

So I’m keeping my fingers crossed on that.

First day at ITV

I wonder how many find themselves in a situation like me,  where you annoy a receptionist at a TV agency to get through to the main editor and hope against hope never to see them again. What happens three months later, you get a broadcast internship at the same company.

Such was my experience this morning. I was at the ITV building to start my first day of a TV broadcast internship. And as luck would have it, it was the same receptionist who turned me away last time I went by to drop my music documentary. She said I looked familiar and I said it  must have been someone else.

Anyways, the Assistant News Editor on the Royal Wedding team was there to see me. I was taken in on a short tour around ITV, shown the pantry and the news desks. NBC was working alongside and in the middle was a team working on the  London Tonight show. The feeling of being in a real newsroom atmosphere was surreal. I loved seeing TV screens all around me, it was busy, noisy, chaotic, just what I had always imagined a newsroom to be. Everyone was busy, or atleast seemed it. There wasn’t much time for chit chat and I was immediately given my desk space.

I was assigned to the Royal wedding team. There’s quite a few of us working on this beat, and yet so many aspects of it still remain unfinished. The logistics are intense. I wouldn’t have imagined, the planning and preparation that goes into events like these, until I worked alongside the team and looked like they had been doing it longer.

I was mainly handling production and research on European and Arab royals, Ministers and foreign dignitaries. I thought by the time it is the wedding, not only will I have adequate knowledge of the Royal family in England, but also from all over the world.

It was very different from what I experienced at Feature Story News. I was learning a lot, but I also missed following other news on Libya and Japan. I missed my colleagues at FSN and I was pretty much restricted to my desk. At Feature story News, I loved getting out and doing the occasional interview or go filming around London. Guess that’s what comes with being associated with a bigger TV production company, the roles are defined and there’s less flexibility with what you do.

Anyways its too early to say, it was only my first day !

Life of a Broadcast intern

I’m one of those new graduates who is working for free, dreaming  the impossible, still navigating my way into the world of television journalism.

It is hard for most companies to hire and pay employees. Especially with high unemployment, BBC cuts, wage cuts and endless debates on bankers bonuses.

Sometimes I really wonder if there is much work around in my field, considering how many broadcast journalists are on freelance contracts and without work for months on end. At first it seemed unthinkable, now that I’m here, sustaining on tomato packet soups and cheese sandwiches doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all.

Being an intern is hard work – long days, no pay, long hours outside dodgy Libyan visa office, and loads a tea. You’re lucky if fellow colleagues are half-intelligent, don’t take themselves too seriously and easy to get on, else it just makes life a living hell.

I love coming to work at Feature Story News. There’s always plenty of work going around. Apart from current news on Tunisia, egypts youth trying to overthrow their dictator, it’s good to dig into the soft features; Return of the Speak Easy culture and Skatebitch, which I will go into detail in my next post.

At FSN, on 151, Wardour Street,  the team is young and crazy, so there’s never a dull moment.  Olly is the FSN fashion aficionado and Director for European News Coverage, Nina, cycling pro , China radio star with heaps of international journalism experience, and Catherine, TV veteran and Nature Valley crunchy bar fan, who I see three times a week.

What can I say – they are busy and they keep me busy and make sure I’m not starved, so I feel looked after. It’s amazing going out filming to interviews especially when the weather is great. Knowing my sense of direction, I confidently took Olly to a souvenir shop on Russell Square, instead of Russell Street. He doesn’t trust me since.

Working in Broadcast journalism is a challenge, and trying to get a break a bigger one. On a positive note speaking to most people in the field, I realise everyone has a story of their own, and with persistence and an act of god have made it at some point. A journalist I met at BBC world told me to pray. So I am going to keep my fingers crossed, in the hope of finding some meaningful work that pays me at some point.

In the meanwhile, here’s how I get paid at Feature Story News, a packet of Maynard Wine gums, courtesy Olly, once in a blue moon for some good work. Well, not bad for a start at all!