Friday, November 24, 2006

Sarah's Several Skills

As I have indicated before I have a soft spot for local newspapers. I am also aware that they can be a very difficult place to work.

And so I was very impressed that not only did Sarah Radford, yesterday's visiting lecturer, produce a website for the not-exactly exciting area of Newbury, but she managed to get out daily video bulletins.

Having worked on local papers in a comparatively 'newsy' area of the world, the Medway Towns in Kent, I am amazed that the Newbury Weekly News had the resources or material to do what it did.

And yet this is probably where most local newspapers will be headed in the near future if they are to survive.

It's an exciting prospect, but at the same time it could be quite frightening. Sarah mentioned that time contraints often resulted in her producing products she wasn't happy with. And this is what COULD happen more and more often if 'multiskilling' is taken to mean having fewer and fewer journalists

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Daniel Meadows

Without any doubt, Daniel Meadows presentation was well-prepared and entertaining. However, it did sometimes tend to sensationalise.

His 'Capture Wales' project is a nice idea and produces some interesting films by people with real stories to tell. But Daniel built the idea up as being some sort of earth-shattering new idea which was going to rock the whole media world.

More user involvement in the media will become increasingly important, and the changes in attitude towards it in the main media organisations show this. But, the mass of diagrams and complicated explanations for it made the whole thing seem overstated.

The central point, I suppose, was that we as journalists cannot any longer be as arrogant as to assume we are talking TO people, and this is a valid and important observation. But, I think that could have been put a bit simpler, if only to allow for my more limited intellect!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Feature Idea

I have a soft spot for local newspapers.

Having worked for a couple for a short while and having familty working in them, I think they're a really important part of local communities.

That's why I want to look into how local newspapers are dealing with the challenge of the internet and declining circulations. Sarah Radford spoke to us about her newspaper, the Newbury Weekly News, and it's website which has just won the Weekly Newspaper Website of the year.

I want to look at the challenges of being multi-media skilled, and how local newspapers are adapting. To do this I aim to speak to someone involved with Kent Online, the website of the Kent Messenger Group, which has been at the forefront of the online 'revolution' in newspapers and someone from its rival paper, the Medway News which has no real online content.

I want to look at some examples of different ways of doing things and get an insight into the future of the genre.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pete, Photos and Payments *

During his talk today, Pete Clifton, the Head of BBC News Interactive stated that the corporation had, from time to time, always paid for photos.

However, that differs from the announcement on the Media Guardian website that the BBC will allow its staff to pay for photos that 'are particularly editorially important or unique'. Only three weeks ago, Pete had ruled out the possibility that photos would be bought from users at all when he said

"We don't expect to pay for it [UGC] and I don't recall anyone asking for that."

So, it appears that the BBC are not entirely consistent in their approach to user-generated content. They have, to an extent, been forced into this by the decisions of other media outlets to pay for items provided by viewers that are used on air.

Having said all that, Pete Clifton was very impressive. The BBC news website is the most impressive in Europe and probably the world. What was really interesting was that Pete was always criticising the BBC's current output and suggesting ways he might go about improve it .

The use of interactive features such as the one indicated on the left here, open BBC journalists' work up to the people who use the BBC and starts what can be a really interesting dialogue.

The BBC remains the market leader in interactive news, and its fortunes will almost certainly dictate the fortunes of the Beeb as a whole.

This is why Pete Clifton's job is so important.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Burton and Blogging

Richard Burton's lecture was by far the best of any we have received so far this year. And it will probably be the best of any we will have in the future.

Richard was the head of the Telegraph's website until he left the paper in the midst of a turbulent round of job cuts a couple of months ago. He made the website probably the best of its kind and is rightly revered by those working in 'new media'.

The thing which most struck me about the lecture was that it was a lecture about journalism and not one about technology and cyberspeak. Richard highlighted my major problem with the idea of blogging- that your views are only interesting if you have an insight into something. I don't think that having to do blogs and posting on them several times a day is likely to give an insight into anything very much.

He stressed the importance of traditional journalistic values which appealed to me a great deal. Being the third generation of my family to work in the trade I have always been aware of certain core journalistic skills like knowing how to interview, reporting accurately and writing succinctly and it is nice to know that they have not been forgotten in this brave new world.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sport the Difference

Why stop at sports? Why not have fashion updates and diet tips. Maybe squeezing in a home make-over if a "filler" is needed. Sorry to sound cynical but sport simply is not news....
Poster on BBC Ten O'Clock News Editor's Blog

As a would-be sports journalist the first reaction to a quote such as this is outrage. But, after thinking more closely about it this is precisely the type of viewpoint that those of us who love sport and feel it has a rightful place in news bulletins must confront.

On many TV channels, and especially on BBC network news, sport is on the run. The first day of the Ryder Cup failed to make the Ten O'Clock news, Test cricket is routinely ignored and anyone after that night's football scores often has to look away now- onto another channel.

Craig Oliver, the Editor of the Ten O'Clock news, has recently been defending his decision to largely ignore sport on his programme. He argues that focus group feedback to putting sport on the Ten is 'almost universally negative'. It seems there is a vocal group of people who believe sport to be just one of many leisure time activities and as such no more worthy of a place in national news bulletins than wallpapering or gardening.

So, why has sport been traditionally treated as an integral part of news bulletins? One argument could be that it's all down to the historical male dominance in editorial positions. Men like sport so they put it in bulletins and ignore what women may want.

But this is too simplistic. Women make up an increasing proportion of those attending football and rugby matches. And females athletes are reaching unprecedented heights in tennis, golf, football, athletics and elsewhere.

The truth is that sport has been, and still is a remarkably important part of many people's lives. It might appear irrational but the fever that the citizens of the UK whip themselves into when a big sporting event rolls around shows that. It's more popular than any amount of showbiz news, or, it has to be said, any number of long-winded 'special correspondent' pieces from far flung corners of the world.

There is a case for taking another look at what sports journalists do and how we do it. We do need to take a more critical perspective and earn our place in bulletins. There needs to be an end to the 'old boy's club' mentality mentioned by Eamon Dunphy recently. Footballers, rugby players and other sportsmen are not above answering tough questions, and bland answers shouldn't just be accepted.

Editors need to reconnect with what the whole population wants and not just a vocal minority. And for their part sports journalists need to reconnect with who they are- journalists. Otherwise we could end up with a sports news service looking 'sick as a parrot, John'.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Iain Dale *

Iain Dale was always going to be controversial. Even apart from accidentally calling us 'media studies' students his right wing political stance was going to ruffle feathers. He wouldn't be as successful a blogger as he is if he didn't wind one or two people up. I thought he made some interesting points on how the conventional media stunts political debate, and how the world hasn't adapted to blogging.

Iain's lecture was partly an ad for his online political TV channel 18 Doughty Street. He claimed the channel would not restrict 'intelligent political debate', challenge the 'liberal world view' and remove the 'media filter'.

I remain to be convinced that 18 Doughty Street will be anything more than a site for the politically obsessed. Long debates between talking heads is a format not used by mainstream media for a reason- it's boring! Doughty Street may find itself only appealing to bored 'policy wonks' in Whitehall.

Iain admitted himself that he didn't know what he would do if a representative of the BNP wanted to appear on his programme or submit a video report.

This will be an interesting test - how does the outsiders' channel deal with real outsiders?

Iain is on the A-list of Conservative candidates and so will likely be running at the next election. It will be very revealing to see how far he can retain his blogging independence when he launches his political career. This will be an important barometer of blogging and its status as a completely free form of expression.