Media: The man who’s ga ga over radio - Nicholas Wheeler, chief editor, ITN Radio

Nicholas Wheeler tries to disprove my suggestion that he resembles a young Bruce Springsteen by digging out his idol’s 1996 calendar from the corner of his otherwise hi-tech office.

Nicholas Wheeler tries to disprove my suggestion that he resembles

a young Bruce Springsteen by digging out his idol’s 1996 calendar from

the corner of his otherwise hi-tech office.



Looks aside, the swarthy and slightly dishevelled chief editor of ITN

radio undoubtedly emulates Springsteen’s legendary energy levels.



As well as controlling the Independent Radio News (IRN) service to 133

radio stations, over the past eight months Wheeler has overseen the

adolescence of News Direct 97.3 FM. The coming of age of London’s first

continuous radio news station is marked this week by a pounds 1 million

poster and bus advertising campaign.



’I wanted to get the product right before we started telling people

about it.’ says Wheeler, ’We started broadcasting last April, running

from nine until four while we trained the team. By November it was

running around the clock, seven days a week.’



He sees great scope for the station’s ’news on demand’ service as the

Metropolis’ listeners face a growing array of niche stations and prove

increasingly promiscuous with their tuning dials.



News Direct’s unique rolling format - a 60-minute editorial rotation

with headlines every 15 minutes - is made possible by new

technology.



Each journalist has a multimedia workstation which can pull up news from

a variety of sources and edit audio at the desktop.



Wheeler regards News Direct as ’a shop’ of high quality products: ’We

use international news from ITN, City news from Reuters and travel from

AA Vodaphone Road Watch.’



Despite a team of 42 journalists, including sport and entertainment

specialists, Wheeler says there is a wealth of opportunities for PR

people due to the station’s insatiable hunger for news and the ability

to put people live on air at short notice.



Wheeler, 43, began his journalism career on local papers, entering radio

journalism in 1979 as news producer for BBC Radio Solent. ’I soon

realised how exciting radio was,’ he says, ’It’s the ultimately instant

and accessible medium.’



He found his real forte, however, in commercial radio news as editor of

the seminal The Way It Is for Capital Radio: ’It was the first programme

to try to make news popular. I worked with hugely talented people such

as head of news Matthew Bannister, and it was one of those times in life

where a whole team with different ideas is focused on the same aim.’



Wheeler progressed to Capital’s programme controller in 1994 and the

station went on to win two Sony Awards. In 1995 he moved to editor of

Independent Radio News and the rest is history.



So what’s his secret? ’The essence of any good news editor is an

affinity with your niche audience. You can teach this to a degree but a

lot is instinctive. It’s particularly difficult in London, an esoteric

place with a unique blend of international, national and local

interest.’



As for career ambitions Wheeler refuses to look beyond his present

priorities: ’News Direct is my baby and a dream job for a radio

journalist. As it evolves the format will become sharper and more

refined. IRN also has huge potential.’



A relationship like this is surely born to run.



1979

News producer,

BBC Radio Solent

1984

News producer, BBC Radio One Newsbeat

1985

Editor, The Way It Is

1996

Chief editor, ITN Radio



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