05 May 2004

Matthew Cole

Media tales from Westminster

The first Gulf War ended five minutes earlier than planned - because a journalist’s clock was wrong, MA journalism students from Sheffield were told on a three-day visit to London.

Chris Moncrieff, former political editor of the Press Association (PA), revealed how the UK’s national news agency had been asked by the British government to announce to the media that the 1991 conflict was over.

The announcement had to be made at exactly the same moment the news was being made public in the US and Mr Moncrieff promptly sent the story out on PA’s news wire at what he thought was the designated time.

However, it was only after a call from a furious government official that the Derby-born Mr Moncrieff realised his clock at home was five minutes fast!

It was one of many fascinating stories told by the PA stalwart who has covered politics for the news agency for the past 40 years and is still as busy as ever reporting on Westminster despite officially “retiring” in 1994.

He has worked on countless big stories, including the Great Train Robbery in 1963, and among his many scoops was Margaret Thatcher’s resignation as prime minister 14 years ago.

Mr Moncrieff was one of three speakers who addressed the group from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Journalism Studies in a committee room at the Houses of Parliament.

Question time

Sheffield MP Helen Jackson told the mix of more than 30 broadcast and web students of her desire to encourage more females to enter politics and explained the importance of respect between journalists and politicians.

Ric Bailey, deputy head of BBC Political Programmes and executive editor of Question Time, spent some time discussing the fateful edition of the public debate programme which went out two days after 9/11 and provoked 10,000 complaints.

The visit also included seats in the press gallery for Prime Minister’s Question time and a guided tour of Westminster.

As part of the fieldtrip financed by the department, the broadcast students visited BBC Television Centre, which included meeting Roger Mosey, Head of BBC Television News, and Huw Edwards, presenter of BBC 10 o’clock News.

They also went to see the Independent Radio News (IRN) operation in Grays Inn Road.

The web journalism students enjoyed a visit to the Daily Telegraph offices at Canary Wharf, where Kim Fletcher, editorial director of Telegraph Group Ltd, and telegraph.co.uk editor Richard Burton were the hosts.

And their fieldtrip culminated in a visit to White City where Pete Clifton, editor of BBC News Interactive, provided a tour of the corporation’s digital operation followed by a question-and-answer session.

Marie Kinsey, course Leader for the MA Broadcast Journalism course, said: “Many organisations went to a lot of trouble to make the three-day trip such a success.

“It's a valuable experience for the students, giving them a real insight into the workings of Westminster and big news organisations. The students gave it rave reviews.”

Students from the department’s two other MA groups, print journalism and political communication, will be embarking on their own visit to London from May 11 to 13.

Students’ schedule during their three-day visit to London

Web students

The Daily Telegraph

Houses of Parliament
- Prime Ministers’ Questions
- Tour
- Talk from Helen Jackson MP, Chris Moncrieff, Ric Bailey


Broadcast students

BBC Television Centre

Houses of Parliament
- Prime Ministers’ Questions
- Tour
- Talk from Helen Jackson MP, Chris Moncrieff, Ric Bailey

BBC Studios Millbank

Independent Radio News



Independent Radio News


Telegraph.co.uk http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

The Press Association http://www.pa.press.net

MA courses at Sheffield http://www.shef.ac.uk/journalism/ma.htm