News being news, reporters often end up in some parts of town where your mother really wouldn't want you to go. For many, it's the best part of the job. But you have to watch where you tread. One of our reporters, Andrew Thomas, tells us his secret of how to make sure you don't become the story.
Last week, I was filming a story in the less salubrious parts of Glasgow about whether recovering heroin addicts should be entitled to methadone if they refuse contraception. Two weeks before that I was on the equivalent estates of Belfast, filming a piece about sectarian murals. On both occasions my producer and I turned up unannounced and began gathering shots.
For the first five or ten minutes, you can get good stuff. Nice, evocative shots, maybe a piece to camera, perhaps even some very brief interviews about the subject with passers-by. After about 10 minutes, it becomes apparent that you've been noticed. Kids appear where there were no kids before. For a minute or two they just hang on the sidelines, perhaps excitedly shouting over. "Hey Mister, what you filming for. Are you from the TV?"
It's happy boisterous stuff. For five more minutes, filming is largely uninterrupted.
Then the kids get more confident, come closer. Start jumping around the camera - in front of it. Filming's temporarily disrupted, but they quickly get bored. There's then another lull. Five more minutes of hassle-free footage.
Twenty minutes in, adults start asking questions. The first two or three are invariably friendly. Normally an old woman or two. You're simply a novelty - their enquiries are pleasant, they're pleased to see you, pleased about the sudden - minor - change to their day. And then, twenty-five minutes in, the first hostile enquiry comes. "What you doing?" but with aggression, not curiorsity.
Within a minute an expletive. "If you fucking film me, I'll fucking kill you." You can turn the camera around but it doesn't tend to help. The twenty-five minute window has closed. You've become a centre of attention on the estate rather than a mere observer of the estate. Time to move on.
In Glasgow, we got the excited young kids, then older - but still friendly - ones, then the grans, then the - and I mean this - friendly herion addicts. Things were going well. I'd got twenty minutes of decent shots. The inquisitive heroin addict had an interesting story to tell. She was trying to get pregnant even though she knew she shouldn't. She'd happily tell me that on camera. She did.
And then, and I should have known, just as I was wrapping up, the nasty comments began. Another group of addicts who'd been sitting down the pathway quietly enough suddenly clocked what was going on. One started shouting about putting my fucking camera up my fucking arse. You don't argue with that. You simply accept the twenty-five minutes is up and move on.
An hour later I was on another estate, blocks of flats towering over me and the derelict shops behind. The only non-burnt out shell was the pharmacy - the place dispensing the methadone and that, I thought, made an interesting piece to camera.
The wind meant we were there longer than I might have liked or planned. And sure enough, after twenty-five minutes of attempted lines straight to camera, the bomb dropped. Or rather, the electrical plug did. Again, I'd had the inquisitive kids, had the friendly gran. Then mid-way through a line and from I-know-not-where, a electric plug landed hard to my side. Thrown, I can only guess, from a top-floor window. Twenty-five minutes. Time again to move on. If you like, it's the length of a hit.