Thursday, February 24, 2011

Almost like being there

It is a sad fact of modern journalism that sometimes we report from events that we have not been present at. Television and the internet make it so much easier to get details these days, while the expense of sending too many people to cover an event means that often I am asked to bail out those who are there.

I promise I am really in India at the moment - I have the slightly turbulent stomach to prove it - but have sometimes covered matches off the TV. Sometimes you see far more than you would in person.

On at least two occasions, I have reported on the final day of the US Masters golf from my living room (actually, one year was done from the bedroom when my wife banished me because she wanted to watch Damages). Augusta National only gives out two accreditations per paper and far grander people than me nab those, but the work still needs to be done.

This is no new practice, as I learnt from reading Inside the Box, Peter Baxter's autobiography of life as producer of Test Match Special. Baxter relates a tale of Alan McGilvray, the Australian who was a TMS summariser for many years, being part of a "synthetic coverage" of the 1938 Ashes in England.

Because telecom lines back from the other side of the world were unreliable, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation decided to have a team of commentators based in Sydney with a large photo of each venue and a series of cryptic cables back from their man at Lord's or Trent Bridge. From that, they would concoct a ball-by-ball commentary for Australian audiences within a couple of minutes of it happening.

The sound of bat on ball was provided, McGilvray said, by a sound-affects man hitting a lump of wood with a pencil. By the time of the next Ashes, communications were better and the remote commentary team were disbanded.

No comments: