Here is the NEWS – I T A Style 

22 August 2022

Independent Television News, now one month old, has an interest for viewers everywhere, for it will eventually become nation-wide as new stations come into service. Here we take you behind the scenes of ITN and show you how they handle the day’s events



TV Mirror cover

From the TV Mirror for 22 October 1955

“NEWS is human and alive and we intend to present it in that manner,” declared Aidan Crawley, Editor-in-Chief of the month-old Independent Television News.

How are he and his team achieving this? What methods are being employed to make ITA’s newscasts so different from those of the BBC?

First, it is important to get the pattern of these programmes clear. There are three a day from Monday to Friday and two daily at week-ends.

The same person tells you the news at these fixed times. During the week Barbara Mandell, the only woman newscaster in this country, has the noonday spot. Robin Day is on at seven o’clock and Chris Chataway at ten. David Lloyd James shares the week-end readings with Rex Keating. Thus each programme is identified with a person who has a very definite, individual style.

But how is this individuality both cultivated and controlled? How are the newscasts edited and formulated?

It all begins at nine-thirty in the morning at what is called the day’s Policy Conference. Already the morning national papers have been read and Aidan Crawley with John Cotter, the Film Assignments Manager, and either Max Caulfield or Arthur Clifford, the two news editors, plus Chris and Robin discuss the events and decide on the outline of the stories to be used and followed up.

“The final responsibility for all editorial matter rests with me,” Crawley says.


Two people work at a desk

Barbara Mandell, the only woman newscaster in the country, goes through the midday bulletin with Editor-in-Chief Aidan Crawley


Once the outline is settled, then the details are worked out. It is possible that both the newscasters may go out to get interviews which will be inserted on film into their newscasts. Certainly the team of reporters will be out with camera crews interviewing people or covering the news on the spot.

Meanwhile the sub-editors, experts at writing the spoken word, are busy preparing the twelve-o’clock bulletin. Barbara Mandell is there shaping it to her particular style, having key phrases put on the teleprompter after the items have been passed by Crawley or the duty editor.

“I ad lib. most of the time from those headlines or phrases, rather like making a speech,” she told me. “Of course hard news comes first on my spot as it does on the other two. Aidan is insistent about that and equally firm that, although the trend of my newscast is appeal for women, men must not be ignored.”

“Are you aiming more for a feature type of newscast?” I asked her.

“No, I wouldn’t say that; call it rather ‘talking about the news.'”

Christopher Chataway

Chris Chataway prepares his interpretation of the world’s news

But, back to the department as a whole. Stories are now coming in on the ticker tapes; new stories are being chosen, earlier ones rejected. John Cotter is sending his camera crews out to fit pictures to the text. Material is coming in from the American Columbia Broadcasting News Service and the Eclair News Films of Paris with whom ITN has an agreement for the daily interchange of films.

“We’re striving all the time to insert film of people connected with the news,” John Cotter said. “After the general policy meeting, the news editor and I get together to decide which are the stories best suited to film treatment. We have agents all over the world and where possible we notify them of our requirements.

“The time element comes into it, too. When we showed that film of the Harwell visit by the Premier, we didn’t get the can of film in until 6.15 but that film went out on the seven o’clock news with Robin Days commentary dubbed on to it.”

Aidan Crawley has warned viewers that it will be many months before the newscasts are perfected but the blueprint has emerged and it is shortage of equipment that is holding up development.

Yet already the news has become personal and in doing so has lost none of the authority of the BBC newsreadings. Therein lies the difference. Aidan Crawley’s team do not simply read the news. Certainly it is edited and formulated but from that moment the delivery is up to the newscasters — they put it into their own words. Independent Television is giving birth to columnists.


A busy newsroom

At work in the newsroom are News Editor Arthur Clifford (standing) and the sub-editors.


Chris Chataway put it to me this way. “We cannot criticise the news or the people making it but we can and do comment on it. Naturally certain events — court cases are a typical example of what I mean — have to be read verbatim because of libel or slander, but less important events will be told as I see them.”

New ideas are being talked about constantly. Chataway told me that soon there would be a telephone on the newscaster’s table and he would be able to pick it up and have relayed to the viewer the voice of one of ITN’s reporters on the scene.


A film editor at work

Cutting and dubbing the newsreel and film inserts can be done in one operation by this German machine


Live interviews will be introduced. The newscaster will tell his story and then turn to interview the celebrity.

I asked Aidan Crawley why he had chosen Chataway, the only one of his team without previous experience.

“I had seen him on the screen several times and liked his poise and manner,” Crawley replied. “And after we’d met, I realised what an intelligent, knowledgable person he was.”

Out of all those tested, I learned that Chataway was voted second favourite by listeners who had no idea of the speaker’s identity — second only to Lloyd James.

Finally it is astounding to realise that each weekday newscaster appears for some forty minutes a week, longer probably than any other TV artist. Their impact can be enormous and I believe Crawley has selected a team who will become one of the peak attractions of Independent Television.


A motorcyclist carries film cans

A news service must be fast. Here, an ITN dispatch rider races back with reels of film for the evening newscast


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