As I have blogged before, I sometimes get rolled out in front of the media to pontificate about the implications of the latest breaking security story.
Yesterday was no exception, and the story of the day was the latest in a long line of cockups where the public’s personal data hasn’t been properly secured. In this case, an Oxford man had bought a server on eBay only to discover it contained the unencrypted names, addresses, bank account numbers, telephone numbers and signatures of one million banking customers.
BBC News 24 (the BBC’s rolling news TV channel for non-terrestrial viewers) called me up at 10:30am to pick my brains about the incident, and asked me to make my way in.
Now, this kind of interview is different from the last one I blogged about. Whereas before I was able to stand in a leafy churchyard with only a rampant lawnmower to put me off my stride, this time I was going to be stepping my foot into the local studio at BBC Oxford.
It’s a bizarre experience, talking to a video camera lens. Oh, I’m sure webcam hussies are very experienced at it, but I find it weird looking into the unblinking eye, with my only contact with the people at the other end being a caterpillar in my ear making me feel like Lieutenant Uhura.
Fascinatingly the video camera reminds me of an alien creature, like one of John Christopher’s Tripods that has been left out too long in the rain. It heaves and lurches all by itself like a puppet, zooming in and out to get the best shot of you, all under the control of those technical wizards remote controlling it from London. This just accentuates the strangeness of the situation – sitting alone on a stool, in a front of a piece of opaque plastic daubed with the Oxford skyline, about to talk into thin air..
Because that’s how it is when you’re talking from a remote studio. You don’t get to see what’s being broadcast on the TV (although you do have a little monitor by your feet to make sure that you don’t have breadcrumbs on your jacket, or spinach between your teeth), so you can’t see the professionals in the proper studio who are asking you the questions.
All you have is a faint distant voice, crackling and spluttering softly in your right ear, as you try and “act natural”, looking directly into the camera in an interested, occupied way as though it’s your mortgage adviser.
Don’t be distracted by the monitor at your feet though! One look at that and any viewers watching will think you’re very strange – the rules are very simple.. look straight at the camera, be friendly and try not to blink too much despite the bright studio lights.
Oh, and don’t fiddle with your ear piece. If you do that they will definitely think you are odd. And even though Oxford’s finest news journalists (working on their own local radio and TV shows) are sitting on the other side of the backdrop behind you, they aren’t going to hush up. They don’t care that this is your big break – your chance to be spotted by Spielberg or discovered by the producers of Celebrity Come Dancing..
You just have to hope that you can hear what the interviewer at the other end of that camera is asking you, and if you don’t – just answer the question you think they’re most likely to have asked anyway.