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Mission accomplished?

31 Mar

I’ve come to the end of term, with only a dissertation and a presentation left to do after Easter. And so I am forced to consider what is next.

At the beginning of the year I started the unit “News and Journalism” and I wrote on this blog saying that I hoped to build an interest in becoming a professional journalist. It amazes me to write, I have not been dissapointed!

The more I practice journalism, the more I realise it is an almost perfect occupation for me. There is nothing worse, in my eyes, than a job which revolves around the same scenery, the same people, and the same slow processes every day. I know that if I were to become a journalist I would have that ability to meet new people and learn new things, develop new relationships, and create new pieces of work every day, several times a day. 

But isn’t that daunting?!

I think the reason why I have avoided the idea of becoming a journalist all these years, is because all the positive aspects, are also the scariest aspects. I already feel so proud of what I have achieved at university so perhaps once I have completed my dissertation I will feel more self assured that I am capable of this profession.



Modern Reporters offer Power to the Public

26 Mar

“We need to know what happened there and whether it had anything to do with Ian’s death”

Wrote Paul Lewis in his Guardian report after Ian Tomlinson died of an alleged heart attack after getting caught up in the G20 protests, in April 2009.

Lewis’s report asked the public to have their say and within a few days, twenty reliable witnesses made contact. Nineteen were previously un-known and used social media to make contact.

This report referred to a man called Ian Tomlinson, 47, who had been walking home from work and un-knowingly passed through the police cordons of the G20 protest, just moments before he collapsed and died. Police said that he had died of a heart attack and the officers policing the protest had done their best to help him. They were not investigating any further.

An un-named organiser of the protest, interviewed for one of Lewis’s reports said, “We want to know what happened and we want to show our solidarity. We can’t accept that people can die inside a police cordon and for us to receive no information about it”.

A reconstruction of Tomlinson’s last 30 minutes was obtained from the witnesses. The most damning evidence was a video filmed by a New York hedge fund manager, just minutes before Tomlinson’s heart attack. It showed policemen hitting Tomlinson with batons and pushing him to the ground, leaving other members of public to help him back to his feet. Daniel873, a G20 protester, commented on a Guardian report,

“I also saw police hitting people from behind with their shields and batons…I remember thinking at the time that somebody could have been killed in that.”

 The testimony of the witnesses, were submitted to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The commission immediately launched a criminal investigation, leading to a post-mortem.

The post-mortem revealed Tomlinson had died of internal bleeding, not a heart attack.

For this investigation, Paul Lewis won a Rat Up a Drain Pipe award for outstanding investigative journalism in 2009, as well being named reporter of the year at the British Press Awards in March 2010. 

Lewis admitted in a Guardian report, “I wasn’t convinced about Twitter at first, but it quickly turned out to be quite useful for investigating”

This rounding up of the public through social media has become a useful tool for professional journalists and has now come to be known as “Crowdsourcing”.

 The term “Crowdsourcing” was coined by Jeff Howe and Mark Robinson in a 2006 edition of Wired magazine as, “the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call.”

In journalistic terms, this basically means using the public’s knowledge, to help with investigations. 

Robert Levy succinctly points out the importance of crowdsourcing for journalists, in Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace , “Since ‘no one knows everything, everyone knows something, all knowledge resides in humanity’”.

Chris Roush, founding director of the Carolina Business News Initiative, emailed me the findings of a study he conducted this year. The study found that professional journalists were most likely to use social media to find sources, story leads and information and Twitter provided the most valuable sources of information.

Journalism which reports information found from social media has been viewed negatively at times. The reports of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 exemplified the unnecessary upset that can be caused when a journalist puts speed before accuracy. Many professional reports at the time included rumours of mass deaths, rapes and bus hijackings, which journalists found online but were later found to be un-true. 

Professional journalists have to be web savvy when reporting from online sources, as Walter Lippman, one of America’s most respected journalists, says in Public Opinion,

“If there is one subject on which editors are the most responsible, it is in their judgement of the reliability of the source”.

When used correctly, social media can be enormously useful.  I spoke via email with Tony Harcup, a professional journalist and author of Journalism: Principles and Practices, who pointed out the importance of getting the balance right,

“If social media makes journalists think that all stories can be generated without ever leaving a building, then it will be a bad thing…but if social media is used in conjunction with good reporting and investigative skills, then it can be very positive.”

The use of social media to report international events has been rising since Flickr, the photo sharing media tool, was launched in February 2004 and that year sparked widespread support for The Indian Ocean Tsunami. A wealth of images of the tsunami on this site opened journalists’ eyes to the strength of the publics’ photo journalism.

The next groundbreaking event was the Hudson River plane crash in 2009 which was one of the first international events reported via social media, as Janis Krums used his iPhone to post a photo and tweet the message,

“There’s a Plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy”

The Hudson River story continued to evolve through social media as it was reported via the online crowdsourcing newspaper, NowPublic.

In more recent developments, Crowdsourcing websites such as NowPublic,  intersect and storyful have become invaluable during events when people need to be reconnected with loved ones living in hazardous areas.

Most recently, since the nuclear plants were hit by the Japan Tsunami, a radiation map website called RDNT has been created by uncorked studios, which allows people to submit a radiation reading from where they are in order to map out worse affected areas.

“This ongoing crisis has highlighted the need for trusted sources,” the uncorked team say on their website, “With conflicting reports of radiation levels in affected areas, we wanted to build a way to report and see data in an unbiased format.”

This innovation has allowed the public to take matters into their own hands. Social media has provided the public with a tool which has aided other recent international events. Protests throughout the Middle East have been fuelled by the ability to plan protests via social networking sites such as Facebook.  Plus protesters have been able to get their message across to other countries through the increased media coverage.

People in the Middle East have even relied on social media to inform them on how the protests have progressed. MirHossein Mousavi, a man involved in the protests, summed up the force of social media with this tweet,

“We have no national press coverage in Iran, everyone should help spread Mousavi’s message. One Person = One Broadcaster”.

Mousavi’s words are strong. But the freedom of speech that social media has allowed should not promote the idea that professional journalists are no longer needed.

When I spoke via email to Rosie Swash, a Guardian journalist, about her impression of how social media has shaped journalism she said,

“The power is now distributed between the journalist and those on the ground. That kind of balance is crucial in journalism and of great value.”

Rosie is referring to the power journalists used to hold when they were the only ones with access to the news. As Friend and Singer point out in Online Journalism Ethics: Traditions and Transitions,

“The journalist’s role has now become modified, they must become expert searchers and synthesisers of information in an easily digestible format.”

This means professional journalists are still important for their reliability and for their sharp and efficient writing skills but now there is more of a democracy within the world of journalism.

The worse thing a professional journalist could do at this time is to ignore the wealth of information available through social media. Instead they must offers power to the public, and work with them to create powerful journalism.

Patch Report

26 Mar

Road Works create business for Charminster Trader

One local florist has seen the benefits of traffic caused by road works at one of the Charminster’s busiest junctions.

Sarah Patient, owner of Flowers at 166, is surprised by the increased interest in flowers since road works on Charminster High Street began in January, after being delayed to avoid hindering traders over Christmas.

“Sales are up 30% which is quite incredible…it’s all because people who would normally be rushing home from work, have had time to think about popping in,” Sarah said.

After opening the independent shop only two years ago, Sarah, 43, has seen business bloom, “my friends all said I was crazy opening a shop when the economy was so bad but I’ve had no trouble, I think it’s all about staying positive in times like these.”

The road works at the junction of Charminster High Street, Alma Road and Richmond Park Road aim to make roads safer by resurfacing roads and replacing pedestrian crossings.

Steve Streader, the site representative said there have been mixed views about the work, “It has caused some upheaval because of the proximity to peoples’ homes and businesses, some residents have had to vacate their driveways for a day or two, but they’ve been very understanding.”

Motorists have been diverted around the works via King’s Road and Heron Court Road. Sam Hall, a Charminster resident and Bournemouth University student said, “I’ve been late for lectures because uni buses have got caught up in the traffic.”

Martin Quinn, estate agent at Quinn and Co, works in an office facing the road works, “The constant noise of the drills makes it so hard concentrate, it’s a real nuisance.”

Mr Streader is aware that some traders may have been affected, “Companies can apply for a reduction of rates if they show a loss of trade in the 17 weeks of the road works.” 

“The good news is, we are over half way through and on track to finish by the beginning of May,” Mr Streader said.

reporting with a twist?

8 Mar

Features come in a number of formats, including; life style, background, profiles, interview, opinion column and news feature. All of these formats can be written in various ways.

lifestyle feature – These are features about general information e.g. health and nutrition, fashion, weddings, education, dating etc. These will usually be written by someone who is either an authoritative voice with knowledge on the subject, or by a person who has done a lot of research on the subject. These will sometimes by written in first person and include opinion. These are often found in magazines.

Background feature– This is written to give background information on a topic which has recently been in the news. These are often written in a more formal tone and may even use the inverted pyramid style of writing used in news reports. These are often found in newspapers/websites.

Profile feature– Creates a profile of a person, either through interview and research or through other people’s opinions, or research alone. As long as a deep and insightful description of the person is created, that is the main aim. these are found in newspapers such as The New Yorker which publishes longer features.

Interview feature– The are another way to give insight into a person of interest. The body of text will mostly be based on quotes which have come from the interview. These are most often found in magazines.

Opinion Column– Often written in a first person style, these give a well researched opinion of a current issue.

news feature– These can have opinion as well but they are more concerned with giving extra “how?” and “why?” knowledge to a current news issue. These will often use the inverted pyramid style of writing.

So a feature can be about any subject which is of current interest to the public or the magazine readers, for example, a feature about flowers would be unlikely to feature in a Men’s Health Magazine.

Some subjects which are often of interest are: fashion, beauty, cars, technology, media, gardening, travel and food.

Often features will be introduced with a “stand first” which is an introductory paragraph before the lead which tells the reader what relevance the feature has to the present. After the stand first, the feature can start with a lot of description to set a scene to paint a picture in the mind of the reader to allow the reader to get a feel for the scene. Or, the feature can be started with a quote, which is an affective way to quickly grasp the attention of the reader. It is important to capture conversation e.g. include quotes, as well as to use characterisation which involves description of mannerisms, age, address, clothing etc.

Reporting on court hearings

1 Mar

Did you know that any member of public is allowed to attend public court hearings? We have the right to know what goes on in there but if we’re honest, most people do not have time or motivation to go! It’s ok though, journalists do the nosey work for the rest of us. But there are restrictions for reporting on court hearings and if these are not adhered to, the journalist can face up to two years in prison.

  1. Contempt of Court: the journalist must not report anything whilst the defendant is still on trial if it could affect the jury’s decision e.g. the defendant’s previous convictions. this restriction also means that the journalist is not able to ask about the deliberations of the jury, nor can they take photographs or tape recordings of the hearings. these restrictions are mostly in place in order to ensure that the jury’s opinion is not affected by anything other than the information heard in court.
  2. Restrictions on Access: The public and journalists are not allowed to attend private court hearings, meaning there are restrictions to what can be reported on those cases.
  3. Reporting Restrictions of 1981: These give the court the power to postpone or ban certain information.

There are two main forms of defamation of the English law:

  • Libel: Defamation in the permanent order e.g. written form
  • Slander: Defamation if the transient form e.g. spoken word

Devastation hits new Zealand

22 Feb

At least sixty-five people have died and two hundred are feared to be trapped under the wreckage in Christchurch, New Zealand after an earthquake hit on Tuesday.

The 6.5 magnitude earthquake hit at 12.51 pm local time. Jo Kane, a Christchurch resident said “I’m a Wellington girl and I grew up with earthquakes, but I’m telling you I’m sitting here with an expression like an opossum in the headlights”

There are thousands of earthquakes in New Zealand every year, but very few do any damage. The last time the town experienced a high magnitude earthquake was September 4th 2010, when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake which only injured two people.

The famous Christchurch Cathedral has been destroyed by the quake, Kazkos of Twitter said “This is so sad…I remember playing chess in front of the cathedral…thoughts out to everybody in NZ”

turtles don’t always win the race

18 Feb

In News and Journalism this week, we had our in class timed assessment, in which we were provided with the details of a story and asked to write a report in less than an hour. I had been reading newspapers and taking tips from text books all week. I was feeling calm and collected and looking forward to practicing writing in the same way that journalists do under real work conditions.

After quickly reading through the information I slowly began writing down the key aspect of the report that I wanted to include…I was off to a bad start. I wrote my lead fairly quickly as I knew that would be the most important part of the report.

After about 30 minutes of creating an inverted pyramid of the information that I was quite happy with, a piece of information suddenly jumped out at me that I’d managed to overlook as a key candidate for the lead!

 I then found myself in a desperate scramble to re-order the report to allow for this information to be presented first. My brain was working ten times faster than my fingers could move and I was realising I had gone about this all wrong.

Once the time was up though I did feel like I’d created something to be proud of and I was so glad to have noticed the information when I did.

 I’ve learned now that a journalist can’t be slow and methodical except perhaps when they’re reading the information. Journalists have to work very quickly in order to reach deadlines but they can NEVER miss important information. Big lesson- Take your time reading information but don’t be too laid back when it comes to writing the story.