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By Disabled People for Disabled People

Tuesday, 25 July, 2023

CNN Diversity Open Day — By Leon Taylor

The date of 30 th June was already etched in my memory for two reasons, firstly many years ago I almost severed my thumb whilst trying to cut through a frozen bread roll. More recently on 30 th June 2012 I had the honour of carrying the Olympic flame through my home city of Derby.

However last week having successfully applied I was invited down to CNN’s London studios to take part in their Diversity Open Day. On arrival the participants were invited through to a briefing room where we were given an overview of the day by our facilitator, Adam Dunnakey, a producer at CNN.

First up we were all invited to ‘pitch’ stories with the hope that they would be included in
the newscast we were to produce by the end of the day. I put forward a couple of ideas,
firstly the global campaign entitled ‘Plastic Free July’ and secondly thanks to Mark
Handscomb the negative environmental consequences which have been attributed to the
production of lithium batteries for use in electric cars.

Sadly when we voted for our favourite pitches mine did not make the cut. However I was
pleased to join a group that was going to tell the story of the first drug created entirely using artificial intelligence (AI). We ere invited to take on a specific role in our group, choosing from being a producer, editor, reporter or news anchor. My gut feeling was to go for news anchor but Abigayle who successful pitched the idea stated that this was her preference and so I settled on the role of the reporter as the rest of them were allocated.

We then began in earnest developing our story by drawing on a number of different
sources. This included contacting a national lung charity inviting them to comment on our
story. Whilst they did not have anyone available to appear on camera, we did managed to
get a quote from the firm who had developed the drug.

Some of our group went out on the streets of London to capture the views of the general
public on the ground breaking drug development, I stayed back at the office to continue
researching the story.

Lunch saw us given the opportunity to ‘speed date’ with CNN staff based in different
departments. I had the pleasure of spending time chatting to a business planner, a website
content writer and a producer who provided me with a fascinating insight into how a
newsroom operates. I also got the chance to talk with Natasha who works on the
newsdesk. As well as chatting about her day job she told me all about her 3 year old
daughter who has hemiplegia, the same type of cerebral palsy as I have myself and so I was able to offer some reassurance about growing up with the condition.

The rest of the afternoon I spent with Abigayle as we worked on the script for our segment
of the news show. This involved writing and then rewriting it on numerous occasions before we were satisfied with a final version. We spent quite a bit of time running through the script and I got frustrated that I couldn’t remember the answer to a couple of the questions posed by my anchor, Abigayle.

And so the time had almost arrived for us to go on air. Abigayle and I waited nervously in
the ‘green room’ before receiving the call from the floor manager to enter the studio. It felt so warm on set, with the glare of the lights and cameras seemed to be positioned in every direction.

Our story only aired for around 5 minutes but it felt like a lifetime! Once all of the groups
had recorded their stories we were invited into the cinema room to watch the transmission
on the big screen. It was amazing and I felt so proud that we had managed to deliver such a fantastic broadcast despite having very little experience between us.

A short debrief of the day then followed and it was then time to embark on the long journey home feeling tired but with a great big smile on my face.

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