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A Week in My Life: Jonathan Crawford, Head of News, BBC Radio 5 Live

Jonathan Crawford

Jonathan Crawford has been BBC Radio 5 Live’s head of news since the autumn of 2019, although he has worked in other roles at the station for a lot longer. 

Crawford has worked in radio for his whole career, starting out in student radio before progressing into local radio, Radio 4 and then BBC Radio 5 Live. In his current role, he is responsible for all of 5 Live’s news output alongside a huge team of producers, presenters, editors and studio engineers. 

As the station turns 30 this month, he has shared a recent week in his role as head of news…


I’m in the office just after 8 on most days and Mondays are busy. There’s the weekend’s 5 Live output to catch up on – if I’ve not heard enough of it live – and the main audience engagement topics. I need to get up to speed quite quickly as I’ll be asked at 9 o’clock – in a meeting with editors across BBC News – which stories have done best for us over the last couple of days.  

5 Live’s audience relationship is something we really treasure. We have an ongoing dialogue, literally minute by minute, which helps us to track which stories matter the most to our listeners. After the early meetings, it’s a quick coffee and then a catch up with my programme editors, before an afternoon meeting with the 5 Live Controller and her team to map out the main priorities for the week ahead. You might notice a trend already here. Meetings. The BBC loves them. Who knew?


The early part of every morning is usually the same, making sure we’re covering the most important stories for our audience and feeding in any trends and data into the wider BBC. But by mid morning the focus on Tuesdays is on longer term planning. I’m in the BBC News Commissioning Group – which takes the lead in working out which news stories to develop and focus some resources on in the days and weeks ahead. It’s not an exact science. Some stories will be more important to some networks and editors than others so there are always healthy discussions! Later in the day, it’s the first in a series of one to one chats with my editors. They’re the backbone of our network, each one responsible for at least 20 hours of live output every week, and they have so much on their plates.  


By the middle of the week, the news juggernaut is normally at full speed and – barring any big, unexpected new stories – ok to look after itself for a few hours while I spend a bit more time on the people management side of the job. Strong coffee is needed first as this area is huge. We’ve dozens of staff, constantly moving from one programme to another or moving to and from the network. After that,  there’s hopefully time to catch up on some emails before dashing home to get my daughter to her Wednesday evening dance class.


Today’s one of the busiest in the week. It’s the day I usually connect the most with the wider BBC News division in London and across the UK. It’s often a day when the meetings are back to back from 9 until 6, and occasionally later. It will mean I’ll sometimes go the whole day without hearing any of our output, not ideal and you’ll frequently find me catching up on key moments via the BBC Sounds app, in between meetings.   


And breeeaaaaaaaathe. I love Fridays. It’s my essential catch up day. I’m almost always in the office still, but my diary is usually a bit quieter and I can spend more time actually listening to our output and having one to ones with staff.   

I’ll usually write an end of week newsletter for the network – highlighting some of the best things we’ve done on air this week and mentioning any important off air things. After that, it’s a quick look ahead to the weekend. No, not my own social plans but how we’ll respond at the weekend if we have some big news stories. Obviously it’s sometimes impossible to plan for, but if we know a big story might be developing, we’ll try to have a news presenter on standby or a plan for our newsreaders to expand their coverage. A quick check in with my on-call duty editor then it’s home – listening usually to some of our latest podcasts on the way.

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