RTÉ's 'Morning Edition' aims to take bite of breakfast market with rolling news
RTÉ’s new morning show is the station’s first foray into regular rolling news
“Wrap up,” Morning Edition director JJ Egan orders Keelin Shanley through her earpiece.
It’s close to the top of the hour and Shanley, the presenter of the new RTÉ television news show, is chatting on set – standing up – with Joe O’Shea about a gambling documentary he has made for RTÉ Two. “Remind viewers they can watch the programme,” Morning Edition editor Anthony Murnane adds from his desk in the studio control room.
Shanley gives the plug and signals that the news headlines are on the way. “Good morning . . . Hello again,” the newsreader, Clodagh Walsh, hesitates over the autocue.
Stumbles like this are okay, as this is just an off-air dry run. The first Morning Edition proper will air on Monday between 9am and 11am on RTÉ One and the fledgling but increasingly ambitious RTÉ News Now.
In the control room banked monitors show Shanley as she prepares for her next interview. On one screen Storyful political editor Áine Kerr sits at the other end of a Skype connection with her head in her hands – she can’t hear Egan in the RTÉ control room, though he can hear her. Later, the Skype idea is dropped for a humble “phoner” (journalese for phone interview) about US president Barack Obama – with a dash of Beyoncé.
There are more standing-up bits with sport and business presenters Joe Stack and Emma McNamara. Andy Murray is winning in Melbourne. Apple shares are not doing so well.
“When you come back from the ads, do the breaking courts news first,” Murnane instructs Shanley. “He’s very calm,” someone says of Murnane. He does shoulder rolls in his chair as he adjusts the running order.
First foray into rolling news
Declan McBennett, editor of RTÉ News Now, stands at the back of the room, while new managing editor of news (television), Hilary McGouran, and the newish boss of the news and current affairs division, Kevin Bakhurst, drop in.
RTÉ has never done anything quite like this before. Morning Edition marks the broadcaster’s first foray into regular rolling television news. Of course, it’s only rolling for two hours on weekdays, not 24/7, but the set-up gives it the option to extend news coverage in the event the day’s news is too big to go off air.
Nerves subside as Shanley signs off the dress rehearsal and comes back into the control room to begin a debrief with Murnane and the crew.
The final item, a segment on new movie releases with arts journalist Sinéad Gleeson, is deemed a success, though Shanley felt the seven-minute review of the day’s newspaper headlines at the start of the show was a little squeezed. “I love the papers,” she says.
But there is general relief. After little more than a month of preparation – Shanley and Murnane were appointed to their positions only in December – the show is almost ready.
Drawing heavily on RTÉ’s existing journalistic resources, its sole dedicated reporter is former News2day presenter Aisling Riordan, who has been busy preparing a series of “positive” reports on mental health, focusing on people living with depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
“They’re 5½-minute packages, which is great. If I was doing this for a news bulletin it would only be 1½ minutes. This is more relaxed,” says Riordan.
“We’re getting the feel for it,” says Shanley. “Intelligent but accessible” is the tone they’re aiming for, she explains, while Murnane says he is hoping to lure TV3’s morning audience – homemakers, shift workers and unemployed people – to RTÉ. He cites NBC’s Today and BBC Breakfast as “the feel we are going for” on Morning Edition. “Light and shade.”
Steep learning curve
Shanley’s prerecorded 20-minute interview with Microsoft chairman Bill Gates will be cut into two segments for Monday’s debut, “then if anyone wants to watch the full interview, it will be on News Now”, says Murnane.
But the best-laid plans of news journalists often get deleted.
“If there’s a big breaking news story, everything will go out the window,” says Shanley.
What if that happens on day one? “It would be a steep learning curve,” she says, smiling.