Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Application for the Campus Magazine

This was originally written during the summer of 2010, applying for a columnist's position on the now sadly-defunct campus magazine.

Tim on Tim: The Definitive Article

It's easier to write in the third-person than the first, especially when the topic is oneself. Tim is a twenty-five-year old undergraduate Journalist at Leeds Trinity University. For the past seven years, he's been a fully-employed administrator for everyone from the Probation Service to corporate multinationals to local air-conditioning companies. Prior to that, he was a student and Sixth Former at Hymers College in Hull – he decided at the last possible minute not to go and study Computer Games and IT at Essex University in 2003.

The choice to study journalism wasn't a hard one; Tim's always known he can write well, and has freelanced for music magazines as a reviewer several times. Music journalism might not be the ultimate future for him, but it's definitely an option.

Speaking of music, Tim has some skills in that direction; he plays bass guitar, and performed with well-known Leeds Goth band Legion for a year and a half. He's currently attached to Distorted Pictures in the same role, but also cherishes the notion that he could be a lead singer one day.

Tim has been into the Goth scene since the mid-nineties and now owns precious few clothes that aren't black. It's important to note he isn't a devil-worshipper, doesn't like Marilyn Manson, won't wear eyeliner and doesn't murder indiscriminately. He'd love to be in a position to dispel the ugly rumours about Goths and is happy to have people ask him about the culture; rather that, than get chased by Chavs, because running in a trenchcoat is actually pretty damn difficult.

Above all, Tim enjoys being old. He likes music made before he was even born, prefers Doctor Who made before 1989, and read the Watchman comic twenty times before the movie even came out. Yes, he knows they changed the ending; No, he doesn't understand either.

He'll never understand wearing trousers halfway down your arse, or why televised talent shows are so successful, or the ongoing appeal of Jack Wills. If you want to wear pyjamas all the time, just do it – he'd be quite happy knocking about in his dressing gown, personally.

Any potential music journalist wouldn't be able to survive if he just liked Goth music; Tim's tastes are eclectic at best, running from Classical Symphonies, through early N.W.A and Beastie Boys, to modern acts like Kasabian and Lady Gaga. Yes, that's right, Lady Gaga; she's really just a direct descendant of such legendary electro-weirdoes as Kraftwerk and Gary Numan and Jean-Michel Jarré, even if she doesn't strive to hide the fact that she's just a reprogrammed Terminator. Seriously, just look into her eyes; nothing but glass, plastic and seething homicidal rage.

In his University application for this course, Tim cited Charlie Brooker of Guardian and Screenwipe fame as a definitive role model. Secretly, he suspects he's nowhere as angry or mean as Charlie, but so far Tim continues to write in the same vein and long may it continue!

Community News Hub Launch - Article

Community News Hub launched with Guardian Local

An innovative new project to encourage people to get involved in local news has opened its doors at Leeds Trinity University College.

The Leeds Community News Hub was launched by Meg Pickard, head of digital engagement for Guardian News and Media, who talked about the importance of connecting communities with the news.

The Hub, which is being hosted by Leeds Trinity, aims to encourage communities and groups to get more involved in the local news agenda and to collaborate on stories and content ideas. It is working in association with Guardian Local, whose beatblogger John Baron has been working in the city since earlier this year.

Catherine O'Connor, Head of the Centre for Journalism at Leeds Trinity, opened the event by talking about how changes in the news media meant there was a constant need for reflect ion on the role of educating the next generation of journalists, and beyond.

“We have always expected our students to go out into the community, understand what is going on around them and make their own contacts. But, now, we are looking to change the dynamics by giving community groups and organisations access to experts and events which we hope will help to encourage people to get more involved with the local news agenda.”

Meg Pickard spoke about the need to identify different communities, and warned about the trap that other news organisations have fallen into of assuming an 'audience' of consumers can be described as a community.

Although a target market might be geographically close, have a combined desire or be striving for a similar objective, the key to defining them is whether or not they are communicating with one another, she said.

The premise behind the Community News Hub is to identify, engage, and then work with communities rather than treat them as mute consumers or sources.

'User-generated content' was described by Meg as and “ugly and inaccurate” phrase which should be abandoned because it failed to describe the honest desire to tweet, blog, publish a photo, and so on. It described a sterile line of progression, a consumer-led story that is outdated at a time when more people are waking up to the opportunities presented by collaborative work.

Meg stressed the need for the media to provide the tools, the platforms, and the inspiration to bring the community's stories to light, but then not get in the way of that story being told –a positive message at a time when the debate between pure and citizen journalism, or blogging, is still dominant in the press.

She spoke about how the Guardian developed a tool to allow readers to sort through the files released on MPs expenses, encouraging the user to “audit their own MP” and highlight the contentious figures in the piles of online Treasury paperwork. Meg candidly admitted: “We would not be able to hire enough people to do that much work.” In total, 27,000 unique users helped to sort valuable data from the overall picture and allowed the Guardian to dig much deeper into the scandal. More importantly, she stressed, the paper was not aiming for an old-fashioned scoop, but the opportunity to show a personal connection between constituent and MP.

One of the questions from the audience was whether this form of 'crowd-sourcing', using reader help to work through vast amounts of data, was exploitative and endangered the careers of regular journalists. Meg defended the concerned citizens who engaged in their expenses stories as “not journalists”, but rather analysts of the data, highlighting the relevant areas for a Guardian reporter to investigate in greater depth.

In a blog about the event, Guardian Local editor Sarah Hartley said: “This is a hub for anyone interested in local news for Leeds – not a space owned or operated by The Guardian, instead a hosted space for the benefit of the local community where knowledge, expertise and skills can be accessed.”

Read the tweets from the launch here.

See what the Set the World at Nought blog had to say about the event here

By Tim Hood

This is also featured on the Leeds Trinity Website

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Opinion Piece II - Writing for Assessment

In this scenario, we wrote a six-hundred word opinion piece on the topic of David Cameron's 'Big Society' concept, which was then assessed by another student.

There isn't any group who won't benefit from the implementation of Cameron's 'Big Society' proposal, the dramatic 'devolution of power from the elites in Whitehall'. By dumping responsibility for local government spending in the laps of the citizenry, irate residents will now be at the throats of their Councillors, rather than their MPs, who can now fiddle their expenses and vote through policy without distraction.
By permitting the establishment of independent state schools at the same time he has cut the education budget, he has provided more pupil spaces and the freedom of teaching ethics at the same time he has taken away the funding from the education sector needed to expand regulatory bodies to monitor these new institutions.
As local residents are being buried in an influx of expensive bureaucracy and irrelevant policies, they will be less inclined to pay attention to the deep divisions within the Coalition central government, allowing Cameron to rein in those wayward Liberals not yet bribed with a sniff of power. As the public sector reels from nearly half a million job cuts, the Prime Minister can proudly point to his fabled 'third sector' of volunteers now in work – for little or no pay, with minimal training and woeful oversight by a skeleton staff of civil servants.
As the scheme is slowly and painfully applied, Cameron has already deployed his excuses and can toss any complaints onto the fire of 'it would be naive to think society would miraculously spring up if government rolled back' . As we tighten the belt ever more on our economy, the Prime Minister has assured us funding will come from a 'Big Society Bank' comprised of funding received from dormant bank accounts across the UK. I'm glad I'm playing my part then; when I tried to recover an account held in my name by an elderly relative, I was informed it had simply been too long since the money was accessed to be returned.

Even so, the Financial Times informs us this initiative will net a mere £60 million for the project, even as Cameron can proudly say no money is coming from the strapped Treasury. Meanwhile, he can quietly get on with spending £600 million to chase £1.5 billion in benefit fraud, whilst Vodafone walk away from Revenues and Customs with £6 billion in waived taxation.
It would be nice to believe in the noble sentiments behind a dramatic reform of government and the involvement of the local resident in the running of their community, beyond picking which coddled non-entity of an MP comes from the party you dislike the least. Cameron proposed it as a policy back during his leadership bid in 2005, when the economic situation was a lot less dire, so presumably it was indeed his passion and drive to reform England. Now, it seems his passion and drive is to maintain his grip on power by burying the clamouring masses with more committees and non-governmental bodies than it knows what to do with, a solid Tory concept.

There are amusing echoes of Yes, Prime Minister in this strategy – Sir Humprey himself would be applauding as David Cameron simultaneously sells a mirage of 'local accountability' to the voters, whilst tightening Whitehall's grip by divesting it of its responsibilities at a regional level. So, there isn't a single group that won't benefit – there's just one, single, Prime Minister.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Hyperlocal Concepts in a Normal Frequency Lecture

Much kudos today go to Guardian beat-blogger John Baron of hyperlocal Leodesian blog-hub Guardian Leeds who came into Leeds Trinity university to speak to the raw clay that is the Specialist Reporting class of Second Year Journalism. As you can tell by that immense intro we're still a rough and ready crew, but John took us in hand to explain the concept of hyperlocal sourcing, reporting, and blogging - and how he does it.

It seems he regularly starts at six in the morning - a cold dash of shock for the rookies in the room - and must ensure that the site has at least three news stories to run in conjunction with the guest blogs he features. Every morning my twitter feed has an update from @GdnLeeds linking back to the site, and there's always three tantalising headlines made all the smarter by the space limitations.
At least one is a blog-post from some Leeds-based citizen journalist covering a topic close to their heart. John admits that these entries, often lacking any conventions a seasoned journalist would apply, actually seem to be the most popular draw for his site. He cites the "honest interest" of the author, and readily states it is probably better produced than by some journalist who had "siphoned off" the story.
On the actual news front, we heard that rather uniquely, John doesn't have to push for exclusivity - and see what the chase for the break has done, and is doing to the News of the World. The remit from Guardian HQ is more to engage the readers, and "tap into what they're thinking and talking about". In a noble gesture, the main requirement is for the beat-blogging websites to "open up democracy", and John is candid about his main objective being the scrutiny of the murky workings in council meetings - and in Leeds it seems that we have a real need for some objective observations!
Asked later about how operating as a 'one-man band' felt in contrast to a busy newsroom, John admitted that he did occasionally feel a little isolated from his fellow beat-bloggers and London based editor, but it was more than balanced by the freedoms a blog can have that a regular newspaper or broadcaster wouldn't have. He explained that a blog can follow up a story several times, even if the mainstream media downgraded or dropped the story for it's "lack of newsworthy content".

So how is his peformance measured by King's House? According to John, it's not just on unique site visits - at least 30,000 he proudly reports nonetheless - and pressure has never been mounted by senior staff at the national office. He does however recall their increasingly contentious poll on Whether Leeds is a 'Chav' City which led to some very inflammatory comments that eventually crossed the Guardian's own code of conduct. A contrite Guardian: Leeds withdrew the poll accordingly and posted a prompt apology which inevitably spawned yet more commenting! John drily commented that he was rather hoping people would forget and move on from it already, but he quickly affirmed that what happened was everything intended by the Guardian in their experiment of crossing regular journalism with hyperlocal blogging. He had nothing but kudos for his readers who expressed their opinions and interacted with the website - even if it was a provocative tidal wave of interaction!
He explains that this experimental spirit has meant Guardian: Leeds has changed since launching in January of this year, and will probably change again before they are up for evaluation at the start of next year. It's not clear how that assessment will take place, but John is again quietly proud that visitors to his site who are interacting outstrip those of fellow beat-bloggers Hannah Waldram at Guardian: Cardiff and Michael MacLeod at Guardian: Edinburgh.

In the Q&A, it was asked how the Guardian had decided on these three cities. John explained that Cardiff and Edinburgh were fairly obvious choices as capitals, not only of countries but of culture and society. Leeds was a more difficult choice, but was in part politically motivated - prior to the most recent election, Leeds City Council was run by a coalition of Tories, Lib Dems, Independants and even a BNP Councillor which would clearly be a contentious group generating some interesting stories - especially in those pre-coalition government days.
Indeed, Leeds-based stories generated by John have even made it to the main Guardian website although he admitted it was only a story about the meer-cat community at Roundhay Park - "pictures of cute animals always seem to go over well online!"
Being based in Leeds, LeedsEyeView asked how his relationship was with the other news outlets in Leeds, namely the Yorkshire Evening Post as the leading print and web media service in the city. John immediately became diplomatic, and he carefully explained that he had a "lukewarm" relationship with the Johnstone Press published newspaper but he was quick to refer back to editor Alan Rusbridger's predictions of 'isolated online content' versus open discussion between news providers, an idea he promoted previously to Leeds Trinity students at Journalism Week earlier this year - and an idea the YEP don't seem "interested in."

It is clear the paper shouldn't view Guardian: Leeds as a threat or an adversary. John described how the Guardian perceived a "democratic deficit" in reporting in Leeds, such as the coverage of council meetings he pursues with such vigour. As well as this, Guardian: Leeds intends to be a hub of Leeds based blogs, that spirit of collaboration that Rusbridger has constantly promoted, and where John's work has the edge over the established media in Leeds.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Workshop Exercise - Opinion Piece

My second year on BA Journalism has begun, and in the Practical Journalistic Styles we have now begun studying Opinion Pieces rather than pure news writing. The group nominated several topics to try and write an off-the-cuff piece, and I chose the X-Factor's deplorable attitude towards its more...unique competitors.

If there is anyone to blame for the rise of the Mocking Culture on reality shows like X-Factor, it is probably that Grandfather of all Saturday Night entertainment, Bruce Forsyth. The Generation Game was a fantastic chance for Doris and Nigel of Basingstoke to attempt to craft pottery or assemble an artillery gun, and fail miserably for the amusement of couch-bound Britain. Of course, this was all in the seventies and eighties when nobody felt guilty, thanks to grinning and gurning Bruce-y and his “Well Done, Well Done!”
Doris and Nigel had given it a good shot, and although their pots looked like recently-crashed meteorites and their artillery gun blew out the lighting gear, everyone had enjoyed themselves and put on, as the British loved to say, a “Good Show”.

Unfortunately then came the rise of Youtube and Facebook which caused an accompanying plunge in moral values. Trust the Germans to invent the word schadenfreude, taking amusement in the misery of others. Bruce-y ballroom-danced into the latest reality concoctions and left the shepherding of England's interest in, and utter inability to perform at, talent shows to ...the Crown Prince of Evil Simon Cowell, riding the wave of hate-filled humour. He was a record company executive, the embodiment of pure evil that had puppet-managed popular music since Stock Aitken and Waterman first glued together bits of older songs, and now he had a throne and a desk and a voice like a gravel-filled shotgun.

And a brilliant mind, Cowell knew that it would actually be very easy to find legions of identikit stars, all blank personalities and airbrushed good looks. He could end up with a glut of Vickers and Murs and McElderry's, autotuned up and mimed out and overwhelming even the MySpace generation. He needed to ration these Airfix-kit-kids, but give the ravenous immoral channel-surfers of the United Kingdom something to devour mindlessly. Take a lesson from daytime television and the undisputed King of the Underworld, Kyle and his gag-inducing 'chat' show.

Britain's love-affair with its own seedy underbelly was about to get prime-time placement, and the most deranged council-estate sub-evolutionaries were going to get their own piano-solo sob-story, before being thrown to Cowell's grating barrel-blast and your mocking laughter. Not that you're to blame, or Cowell, or the faceless suits at Talkback Thames, or even Prince of Lies, we were lost the day Forsyth took the respectable veneer from normal people playing dress-up and pretend on Saturday night TV.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Stephen Fry on Doctor Who: A Measured Response

Stephen Fry commented on BBC Dramas like Merlin and Doctor Who at the Baftas yesterday, describing them as - in places - suffering from "infantilism".

The doctorwho Livejournal community is predictably going spare and I've not even approached Gallifrey Base, the leading DW forum online...mainly because it's the leading DW forum online and therefore a lightning rod for the insanity of the web coupled with the extremes of fandom DW inspires. I know, because Who makes me a little irrational myself.

The DW community here I watch with a kind of amused acceptance; I can't argue with the enthusiasm, passion, alarming obsession maybe, that these bloggers have for the show. They're predictably railing against Fry's comments - you can see the specific entry here - but I'm finding it so hard to take their furious denials seriously when it's couched amongst fresh-faced American tweens dressing up in the 500-odd Top Shop outfits Amy has worn so far and squeeing over their disturbing fanfic/slash between various characters and declaring their dreamy-eyed adolescent love for the New Series and its dreamboat lead stars...

That said, I am not so condescending as to ignore reality; DW is in reality a family show, and has been - more or less - since the beginning. The maturity has pitched up and down, often wildly crossing the path of Acceptable Taste (Mary Whitehouse's crusade, anyone?) but its main focus has been entertaining children, teenagers and young adults. I would argue that it still does that, remarkably effectively.
What has happened is the BBC and whoever is really pulling the strings, probably higher than Moffat, has begun to intentionally pitch the show in terms of writing and characterisation at a particular audience segment. Unfortunately, this is the segment of our population that still enjoys happy-slapping pensioners and has spent the past few years being criticised by business leaders for coming out of secondary education with precious few skills.
Conversely, I would argue that the popularity and influence of such characters as...Stephen Fry are leading a massive renaissance in overall intelligence and awareness of the young professional and older demographic. Turnout was up to 65% in the last election indicating a widespread resurgance of interest in the running of our country, and the debates people were having over the key issues were heartening.

So, there is a wide perception gap between the older and younger members of society; and for all the enthusiasm of mature collectors the real spending money on merchandising and the real viewing figures on RAJAR (the BBC's viewer-rating body) that make the target-chasing bureacratic Corporation so happy are coming from the youth. So the BBC will lean on Moffat, and he will lean on his script editors, who will slice and dice the fundamentally good scripts for Who into bitesize unchallening morsels for the thirteen-year-old viewer with the thirty-minute attention span and the disposable income that keeps the whole cycle turning.

Like one of the Doctor's plans, everyone has come out right. Stephen Fry is right, and Who scripts are shallower than they have been for decades. New Who diehards are right and it's an enjoyable family show beloved by millions. The BBC are right and their puppetmaster creative directions are paying bountiful dividends. Even I'm right, by thinking an old, hackeneyed, surreal British serial has been modernised to such an extent that I no longer recognise or like it. I just wish I could be wrong.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Barefoot in the Park 2010

It's almost a stereotype of summer. I'm sat in a tent under a grey, raining sky, surrounded by threadbare students. But it's not a music festival in some muddy field this time. I'm at Barefoot in the Park Poetry Festival 2010. Co-ordinated and indeed founded by Victoria Ellis, a student of Masters in English at Leeds University, the event has been Vicky's wish to “pull together all the different types of poetry I've seen in Leeds” and has run successfully since 2007. She told me she finds the stigma of poetry annoying, this boring, mundane, GCSE-style requirement of English that comes across as “too highbrow.”

Running from 12pm to 9pm, this marathon creative event has unfortunately missed the heatwave by a single day. Vicky's optimism is steadfast, and she gestures to the imposingly large marquee behind us, saying “The weather's not been as bad as it could have been. We put the provision in place, and we needed it.” Indeed, the broad tent is more than half full, all colourful dresses and drainpipe jeans, sprawled on rugs and cushions.

Shoes are indeed off, but sat on the edge of proceedings, I am still safely booted. The organisers have a broad menu of entertainment on offer. The braver warrior poets can join the open mic sessions. Established creative types have booked slots to play music with bands, and lone wolves will recite monologues. There is a small tent boasting a wide range of artwork, from sketches to powerful watercolours. Tea, coffee and buns are available from a nearby pavilion staffed by earnest young volunteers.

Back in the marquee, the focus of attention is a wave-fringed nervous young man enunciating into the PA. His sometimes amusing, sometimes saddening work comes across as Viz on opium, all toilet humour and introspection on deceased Eastern European poets.

Next up, local band The Lovebirds are phenomenally young, but rousing and popular with sixties-inspired tunes under 21st-century dry, adolescent humour.

Adam Strickson and Avtar Lota supplied poetry and Indian music, either soloing or melding both forms. The sound of the dilruba and tabla is uniquely foreign, and is a beautiful counterpoint to the pop-rock of The Lovebirds. Adam writes biting social commentary and recalls foreign myths in a challenging mix.

We stayed to watch Carole Bromley, who reads out searing work, and her vivid creations held the crowd spellbound. A dignified and mature lady, she writes of youthful passion that borders on the uncomfortable in its burning honesty and innocence. This is I suspect what Vicky Ellis is aiming for when she tells me she wants to showcase poetry as “ beautiful and lively and glorious”, and she adds “glorious is my buzzword for everything.”

Glorious doesn't have to mean the weather, it can describe running the whole range of human experience and feeling. These creators and writers and artists and performers tell their audience of every facet of experience in a glorious procession of spectacles. What plans then, for the future of Barefoot? “Maybe Barefoot in Berlin?” she says with a chuckle, as she aspires to move to the German capital. She hopes other students will rise to take charge of the popular festival after she graduates, and considering the attendance in spite of the weather, there will be no doubt about next year's instalment. Make sure you are part of it as well!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Exercise is Bad for the Soul

We concluded our Television Exercise on Friday with a surprisingly professional performance. I must immediately credit such leading lights as Jake, our 'Guest Wrangler' who deposited a solid-gold lead story into our laps, Tom our charismatic and improv-expert presenter who span up interview questions on the cuff when we began to underrun the timings, and Andy my production assistant who covered his desk in stopwatches and ensured the broadcast ran to within a few seconds of perfection.
This does not mention the rest of the group who pitched in on their roles with a maturity and dedication I was entirely unready for. They honestly made me very proud and a little ashamed, after my grim forebodings at the beginning of this task - I ultimately sat back in the Gallery and just let it run. Well done Group Three.

I'm on campus tomorrow, so I'll copy the VHS of the broadcast onto DVD and pop it on youtube and facebook and all the sundry websites we use - I'll link to it here so my readers can appreciate their hard work.
I'm also attending the first official meeting of the Trinity University magazine society. I don't even think they have a name yet! Our editor is a 'canny wee lass' called Amie-Leigh who has asked us to bring both ideas for stories, as well as a 500-word article on...ourselves! It's a prickly topic for many people, so I'm very impressed at her choice!
That'll be my task for today. That, as well as a meeting with my artist to work on beginning our webcomic strip, and then catching Going Postal on Sky this afternoon.

Enjoy your bank-holiday!

Monday, 17 May 2010

The Student Take on the Professional Act

Our News Production 'exercise' continues apace, with today featuring an in-depth news 'quiz', a favoured task of several lecturers. Twenty questions were fired at the combined Journalism, Journalism & PR, and Sports Journalist student body, with seven taken from the BBC Website here and the remaining thirteen devised by Senior Lecturer Dean Naidoo.

I spent most of the morning poring over The Times in greater detail than usual, as well as skimming the BBC site - although not the quiz unfortunately - and running twitter in the background, following up links like a bloodhound on a scent.
However, I did quite poorly in the quiz - a measly seven and a half overall. Post-match analysis indicated this was seemingly par the course, and the poor girl whose answers I marked scored somewhere between a one and a three!

It led me to wonder about the efficacy of a broad quiz on all news stories - we covered everything from the new Transport Minister and the Emergency Budget, to the Gloucestershire mountaineer who conquered Everest for the eighth time, and Mr. Walliams' new partner. My concern was that, as a selective news reader, I would probably omit to even consume the latter two stories as entirely outside my interests.

The tutors argue that as proto-Journalists, embryonic hacks still blinking our rosy, optimistic eyes, we should attempt to consume as wide a range of news topics as possible. My counter is that journalists don't multi-skill in their fields of expertise, so why should we as readers? I'll follow up on a sports story, such as Lord Triesman's resignation, because of the relevance to moral reporting and undercover 'snooping', but without the details of the sting operation, this would have been just another football official leaving a job, in a sport I tolerate at best.

At times, the faculty's exhortations seem almost desperate - I refer you again to that academic wanderer of bizarre relevance, the Sports Journalism BA - when urging us to expand our curiosities beyond the narrow interests we have as mere humans. I cannot help but feel that breadth rather than depth is the current yardstick of Journalism study.

Perhaps my cynicism is blinding me to the real truth; I am between five and seven years older than all of my contemporaries, and both my media tastes and journalistic styles are already established. For the Sixth Formers joking on the back row of the auditorium, perhaps this will be the time when they decide just what they want to read...?

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Blogger Who Came Back From A Cold

Apologies for my absence readers, my Easter break co-incided with a horrifically virulent chest infection that laid me low for some time. Now I've improved and term has recommenced, I am getting back onto the media observation platform...and also getting the first briefing on the much touted 'News Production' exercise.

This is a major, multi-tutor led initiative to quickly absorb and apply news research and production skills. Running from May 10th until June 18th, we will:

  • Research, produce and record a five-minute live affairs programme of broadcast quality, including at least one pre-recorded video sequence and an in-studio live interview with a relevant guest (not just some casualty from the Union Bar)
  • Cover a 'staged' press conference given by a senior West Yorkshire police officer, reproducing a real conference on a real crime he gave previously
  • Produce a web-centric news article suitable for online publication
  • Undergo an hour and a half news quiz on current affairs
  • Produce a five-hundred word retrospective article on the whole exercise
All whilst practicing our shorthand skills for an exam at the end of June. To old media hands, this may seem a regular day of work; to a bunch of first-year media students, this appears more like the labours of Hercules. Tutors off-handedly mentioned the loss of eighteen students since we began the course in September of last year...attrition is biting deeply into our numbers.

I also have the bitter experience of our first TV production exercise, in which no-one was confident working any of the studio equipment; tutors covered director and video sequencing, and I handled sound engineering for about four other groups, as well as technical support in creating video inserts.

Do I feel my group will have more of a chance this time round? I'm afraid not; it's time to get prejudiced, and make some cruel sweeping judgements. I do not mind going on record expressing my scorn for the concept of 'Sports Journalism', a separate undergraduate degree alongside pure Journalism, and the fringe topic of Journalism and PR. How one can specialise in such a narrow field is beyond me, especially as an undergrad - post-grad studies would seem to be the more suitable time for focusing on one topic.

Anyway, Sports Journalists unfortunately fit the stereotype; they're almost all football shirt wearing, lager-swilling, rap-obsessed egotists with all the subtlety and focus of a catapult. On the previous TV exercise, I found them to be the least experienced with the equipment, and the most likely to dissolve into giggles or sabotage projects 'for kicks'. So, these Sociology or Sports Science rejects are now trying to be regular journalists when all they want to do is cover the match - and for the purposes of our exercise, each group has been selected by tutors to prevent the carnage of previous attempts, when entire groups of 'mates' sank because none of them would take on the responsibility of a difficult role.

Let's look at the break-down of Group Three, with Tycho shall we? There are:
  • ONE Journalism and PR student
  • THREE Journalism students (myself included) , and
  • ELEVEN Sports Journalism students
Remember the tragedy of the Titanic, when there weren't enough lifeboats to go around? Imagine that, but now the lifeboats are also made of lead.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Leeds Beer, Cider and Perry Festival

The festival started yesterday and will run until Sunday 21st - I highly recommend people get down early as it was incredibly busy on the first night! My video report can be found on my youtube channel here.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

On Celebrity Reporting

Today*, my fellow students and I discussed the 'phenomena' of Celebrity Reporting, which I have been anticipating with a growing sense of foreboding that was at least partially met. After an entertaining if unsurprising talk from a freelance hack who dabbles in the field – cue anecdotes of the mindless charades conducted by Z-list individuals, faceless PR players and hard-nosed editors – our tutors were curious as to why the known celebrity fans amongst the student body weren't getting involved. In my cynical way, I suspect this is because their entire world is built around someone else being the centre of attention and standing out.

In a rather sweeping summary, Generation X didn't WANT to care, Generation Y CAN'T care. They have grown up in a world where individuality is persecuted, differences are discussed in committee and adopted wholesale, dictated by the cohesion of high-street retailers and mayfly-lifetime music artists.

I have done some of my peers a disservice. Many were angry at what was felt to be a useless and uninformative lecture, where they had no questions to ask – but what could they have asked? They are unable to confront the basic paradox at the heart of spineless rehashing of footballers and singers falling into and out of nightclubs, that they are bored because there is nothing interesting IN their field.

The integral issue is that they are missing the basic premise of journalism, which is to inform, educate AND entertain. They will probably continue to miss it, as well. This generation is comprised of consumers, not contributors. An argument was put forward that celebrity culture fosters a false sense of rightfulness amongst people, that they will not strive to achieve anything when it's clear you can succeed by freak chance or physical prowess or other unhelpful traits that nonetheless put you in a role model position.

The audience wasn't listening, chattering to themselves, unwilling to confront the truth. They were angry that their interests were being decried so easily, but unable to offer any kind of defence. And why should they? In their world, nothing is worth that much effort except Ugg boots and low-slung jeans.

They, as consumers, are not fully to blame. Celebrity culture inspires a sense of community and mutual identification that we do not receive from detached, Byzantine politics, fractured and violent society or maladjusted family, all concepts that have fallen into disrepair in the 21st century. The exact question of Lady Gaga's gender transcends all of these mundane, if important, concepts.

As a test, the tutor threw in Jade Goody's name, igniting a passionate argument about the cult of personality that sprung up around her. Many demanded to know how such an individual became famous? I interjected, describing how much the entire room was vehemently discussing her, and wondered if the same emotion could be attached to Gordon Brown or David Cameron. People with a far greater impact on the world, and much more vision. People who mattered.

The room fell silent, and one voice lamented that I'd described a pretty grim world. I merely shrugged, aware that however slowly, they were grasping the truth at the heart of the matter.

* - Today being Tuesday 16th March

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Royal Park School - Video News

The protest over the future of the Royal Park School was held on Wednesday 10th, and I was able to film it - the edited news short is available online here. Many thanks to all the members of the Royal Park Community Consortium I met, and everyone else who helped out a rookie reporter!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

The Leeds Sci-fi, Comic and Card Fair

Arranged by Golden Orbit, this event is run every two months and occurs across the North of England, including such cities as Birmingham, Sheffield and Newcastle. It is disconcerting to only discover the website for the event, after you have visited and collected a flyer!

In Leeds, it is held - appropriately enough - in the Crypt of Leeds Town Hall. A generous-sized room, it is laid out in the manner of any market or boot fair and filled to capacity with sprawling dealer's tables.

The merchandise on offer is primarily Trading Cards and back issues of comic books - boxes and boxes fill every available flat surface. Other fare includes autographed photographs, action figures, model kits, novels and 'fandom'-related books such as behind the scenes or actor autobiographies. Trinkets such as Dalek cufflinks and Red Dwarf belt buckles were also available.

The average attendee is middle-aged, male and white, usually sensibly dressed in cagoule and sturdy backpack. A small crowd of children move en masse from table to table, discussing the intricacies of trading and the minutiae of a particular card's merits. Occasional women stand out from the crowd, harassed and incomprehensible mothers or wives, or even the odd female sci-fi fan – and they do exist, stereotypical judgements notwithstanding.
Regulars chat amiably with traders, but for the most part customers move singly or in small groups, eyes always downcast and assessing merchandise, valuing and acquiring in mere heartbeats. The atmosphere is one of quiet busyness, space is at a premium at every desk, and in the narrow corridors elaborate dances occur between the portly patrons and darting children as room is exchanged smoothly if reluctantly.

Golden Orbit stress the appeal of their fair to the casual customer as well as to the determined collector, but I would certainly advise that if you wish to visit, you go in the company of some old-hand fair navigator so that you are not marooned in a sea of old paper, new memorabilia and mid-life fans.

The next Leeds fairs are on April 24th, and June 12th, start at 11am and are held at Leeds Town Hall.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Upcoming Events

Through March, there are events I will be at that I'll cover for this journal.

This weekend (Saturday 6th March) there is a Sci-fi, Comic and Card Convention at Leeds Town Hall from 11am to 1.30pm - there is no web presence for the Convention, so I'll see if I can't track down the people behind this long running event and ask them about promotion, organisation and the like. I'm a die-hard Sci-fi fan, but I only found out about this event by pure chance and a small poster in a tiny nearby cafe - I suspect there's a vibrant Sci-Fi and Fantasy community in Leeds who aren't being catered for!

That evening, I'll be going to Leeds Rios to watch Emilie Autumn. It will be the first time I've done a gig review since my erratic freelancing days for Sandman Magazine.

Sports Relief, the nationwide initiative sponsored by Sainsburys to both generate money for charity and get unfit Britain exercising, is coming to Leeds. I will be in attendance with a group of like-minded twits, to contribute our bit in the form of The Campaign With Disdain for Ubiquitous Sportswear, which basically means we will stroll or saunter our way around a mile of Leeds dressed in the finery of the Dandy age - for an idea of what I'm talking about, please visit the website of The Chap, and then preferably buy their magazine! You can also follow our progress on that inimicable internet Kraken.

Finally, I am required to produce a short news report for Television Production, which I have elected to do on the nearby and contentious Royal Park School, and its future - or lack thereof. I have not heard back from my enquiries, but need to have this finished within the next two weeks, so I hope to be able to link to some multimedia entertainment for you shortly!

Friday, 26 February 2010

Helen Boaden, BBC Director of News and Alan Rusbridger, Guardian editor-in-chief

Firstly, my apologies for the late entry of this blog, at some four hours after the event. Normally, my retrospectives on the Journalism Week speakers have been delivered directly after the sessions, but in this case various factors conspired to prevent me from timely updating!

So, then, to the jewel in the crown of Leeds Trinity's Journalism Week, where Helen Boaden of the British Broadcasting Corporation joined Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of the Guardian newspapers, in a session chaired by Leeds Trinity media lecturer Mike Best. Helen spoke to us passionately about the future of the BBC, by quickly referencing that 'monster in the basement', former Director-General John Birt who for all his unpopularity (both within and without Television Centre, it seems!) dragged the BBC "kicking and screaming into the digital age...securing a massive strategic advantage."
An advantage the Corporation has seemingly not overlooked, as Helen waxed eloquent about the permanetly-staffed and funded hub for user-generated content the BBC employs to retrieve, filter and utilise what is created when the "consumers are newsgatherers."

Referring to specific examples of such content, she mentioned the coverage of the Iranian election protests which because of the nature of both the situation and the nation, had to be conducted entirely by 'citizen journalists' on the scene with cameraphones, laptops , blogs and internet connections. She cautioned about the double-edged nature of such news, explaining that although the material came with a unique and personal viewpoint, and was often direct and exciting, it was clearly slanted heavily in favour of the Iranian political opposition, and was often factually incorrect.
This moved us on to the topic of trust, a thorny issue for both the BBC and the industry as a whole; Helen firmly believed the BBC would remain a "trusted authority" over significant issues such as catastrophic weather or financial meltdowns, and that media consumers would prefer a "big, reliable, trusted brand" over "pert and facile" observations on some new media outlet. Her opinion was that "discerning and curious" consumers would - hopefully - trust the BBC.

Alan's very first topic was that of Rupert Murdoch's 'paywall' concept, that has set the media industry to near-rabid speculation about the future not only of revenue, but of the core concepts of journalism and editorial control themselves. Alan's attitude is very much one of contemplative patience - he refers to the sequestering of desirable content behind paid-for access as a 'hunch', a gamble taken by a man noted for challenging conventional thinking, and succeeding.
This immediately made me wonder if Alan himself is gambling on 'hyperlocal' publishing, by operating Guardian: Leeds, a section of Guardian online dedicated to blogging just within my fair city! Indeed, there is a chance you reached this blog through that fine website, and so is Alan 'inspired' or 'terrified' by the work now being carried out under his name?

Inspired and terrified were the words Alan used when he first encountered William Perrin, the original hyperlocal nonjournalist, to describe how the future of Journalism might be affected.
It was at this point that I realised Alan was covering much of the same ground as his Hugh Cudlipp Memoral Lecture, but the points he was making and the audience receiving it were just as vital today. Going into finer detail, he took us through the concept of crowd-sourcing, when the Guardian was able to cease paying £100,000 to business analysts explaining what Barclays was up to regarding it's 'Tax Gap' - by uploading an acquired Barclays internal memo directly to the internet, and asking readers to interpret the meaning. The relevation was that Barclays were brazenly discussing methods to mislead HM Revenue and Custom over payments, and although the Guardian received what Alan jokingly referred to as a 'pyjama injunction' - when a High Court Judge on duty is hauled from his bed to fire off a gagging super-junction - the document was now held by those legendary internet custodians of truth, Wikileaks.
Budget changes specifically aimed at pursuing tax evasion were soon announced, and Alan was able to describe the direct impact of responsible reporting. However, such responsibilities cannot be shirked and Alan had to wrap up quickly and depart for work halfway through our Q&A.

Instead, Helen Boaden had to face the first query of the day from some obstreperous young man who decided to ask about the sudden news story of the morning about the leaked Strategic Review Plan for the BBC which will see 25% of staff and funding for BBC Online slashed, amongst other cuts. Her response was to immediately question the veracity of leaked documents, especially those not approved or even seen by her, and suspected the Trust themselves were responding with horror! She acknowledged the necessity of the BBC's currently ongoing 'efficiency programme' and said that although the past three years had seen a "glorious expansion" for BBC Online, she stressed the need for an appraisal period where the BBC "stepped back to evaluate what was working". Helen also expected the BBC to focus on "what experiments had worked, and what alternatives the market was offering", referring presumably to her earlier comments about BBC Online attempting to offer an "ambitious" alternative to local news on the web, which was originally rejected by the Trust.

Helen responded well to what was a truly left-field question, as the news had only broken that morning, and her comments made clear sense, as we have discussed in lectures about the overbearing nature of the Corporation's web presence. It will be interesting to see, however, how much of this leaked Review remains to next month, when it is presented to the BBC Executive, and what their official responses will be, when they aren't cornered by a rookie blogger at a presentation!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Tim Singleton, Head of Foreign News at ITN, and Chris Ship, Senior Political Correspondant for ITV News

Today's talk was delivered by two Leeds-educated journalists, and Chris Ship was a 1996 graduate of Leeds Trinity university himself! His colleague was Tim Singleton, Head of Foreign News for ITN, and were present to discuss both politial and foreign correspondance.

The main thrust of their joint lecture was an advert for ITV's upcoming coverage of this year's General Election, but the trailer we were shown was unarguably impressive. It was well-targeted also, as undergraduate students represent the newest generation of voters and at a time when low turnout is crippling the democratic process, it was a wise move.
Moving to his own particular role in the industry, Tim explained how ITN's innovative attitude would be required to cover what could be the most dramatic election since the mid-seventies, with an increasingly likely chance of a 'hung' Parliament being formed by a Conservative party with a desperately small majority. He explained that the second day of the election would result in much political maneuvering and power brokering from the various parties, and that the coverage of this revolutionary activity would require revolutionary efforts from the press.

Continuing on this theme of political reporting, Tim referred to criticisms levelled at all Westminster reporters that there is too much coverage of 'personality' clashing, and not enough 'policy' reporting. Speaking in defence of this choice, Tim painted a realistic picture of good stories originating more from the human conflict than from painful and elaborate procedural jockeying.

Chris continued on this established theme, extending his predictions to a possible - and remarkable - Second General Election that could be held in the autumn, with Cameron as Prime Minister 'bumbling' through the summer with a weak majority, an event not seen in British politics since 1974.
Moving away from grim predictions, Chris described instead an equally fascinating event in the recent past, when Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt launched a surprise coup against Gordon Brown on January 6th. Events began shortly after a rousing Prime Minister's Question Time, and by the 1.30pm bulletin Chris had to report on the uncertain events and all without the assistance of direct superior, Political Editor Tom Bradley. By 6.30pm, Chris was describing how many Cabinet members had rallied to the Prime Minister's support, and labelled the coup a 'brazen' attempt to challenge Brown's leadership. In the space of that day, Chris explained, the entire plot had begun and immediately failed, literally between two ITN bulletins. Such a rapid rate of events makes for very difficult but clearly exciting reporting.

Presenting an alternate view of proceedings at Westminster, Tim warned students that they 'could not overestimate the amount of managed information we receive' from politicians, special advisers and other Whitehall entities. Chris explained how the best information could come from utterly unattributable sources, men and women who would not risk rising careers by formally releasing information - and a picture of the machinations and scheming in the corridors of power is clearly formed, as shadowy figures trade information and plot downfalls, no doubt brandishing the press as some poisoned dagger straight out of some Yes, Minister sketch!

After the talk was concluded, I spoke directly with Tim about foreign news, as we had not had chance to cover it previously - I was curious as to how Tim would contrast domestic political reporting with foreign affairs. He was candid, and admitted that realistically US politicians, for example, have no need to speak with British journalists due to the lack of relevance; he told me ITN have been seeking an interview with President Obama to no avail, and he is not hopeful about their chances. I was forced to agree with him, although my interests lie in both national and international political fields.
He mentioned their foreign news bureaus, and I enquired after the relationship between ITN and the Chinese government in Beijing; Tim explained how certain topics regarding the People's Republic are utterly off-limits, such as the issue of Taiwan, and related to me how an ITN broadcaster was incarcerated for a day by Chinese authorities. This was clearly nothing more than a 'warning gesture' by the Beijing administration, but as I remarked to Tim, Journalism Week has portrayed the riskier side of the media industry that cannot be communicated well in a lecture theatre - and is, after all, the ultimate goal of this remarkable and informative experience.

Gavin McFadyen - Centre for Investigative Journalism

First posted on 23rd February, 2010

Both the significance and the risk of reporting was highlighted in today's enthralling talk by Gavin McFadyen, who amongst his many professorships and research positions is Director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism, based at City University, London.

This has become the hardest entry I've made on my impromptu blogging tour of Journalism Week, wondering where to begin and what to include. Gavin's talk was an effortless combination of hair-raising stories about uncovering corruption and confronting atrocities, with the nuts and bolts and sheer slogging work of investigative work. For the first time in our brief student careers, we were introduced to the real opponents of journalism - the hydra-headed boards of powerful multinationals who can ruin careers and crash finances, to the shadowy operatives of security services with the weight and power of government behind them, to nameless thugs hired by faceless bureacrats who can rob you of everything - including your life.
These risks are routinely undertaken by the people Gavin works with, and the significance of the stories they produce go light-years beyond the celebrity muck-racking of the Western press - stories such as Stephen Grey's revelations about CIA 'black flights' transporting suspects to undergo 'extraordinary rendition', a euphemism for interrogation up to and including torture, abetted by the British government, that violates UN treaty and international law.

Such names were not familiar to myself and the audience, and Gavin explained the peculiar reluctance of the British media in particular to become involved with Investigative Journalism, deterred it seems by the legal risks and ramifications. This remarkable view really stood out for me, halfway through a week of talks by leading figures in Western and British media - and illustrated perfectly the lonely, vital, dangerous and enthralling task that is Investigative Journalism. Gavin, and the new Bureau he has established at the CIJ work almost as pariahs, funding and conducting their own investigations, then having them released through the few friendly media entities such as The Guardian - unable to publish their own work, as no legal professional will safeguard their work.

Some of Gavin's more memorable phrases are down in bold in my notes, and I'll leave the most significant here - that the work a true Investigative Journalist must do is to Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.

Duncan Wood - Yorkshire Television

First posted 22nd February, 2010

We received a very light-hearted talk from Duncan Wood this afternoon, but under the humour was a very helpful and clear-eyed view on practical journalism, its pitfalls and its perks! From the outset, Duncan stressed to us that he still wishes to be known as a Journalist, although he is more famous for presenting the regional news.

Duncan's origins are in stark contrast to the students he was lecturing, as he happily disclosed his lack of O-Levels (remember them?) and A-Levels, and the grudging praise and ready criticisms on his NUJ assessments. Of much interest to students was his statement that although he achieved an impressive 100wpm Shorthand qualification, he has not used it since - disheartening news for the faculty who have so recently re-introduced it!
On a more serious side, he advised us that a foundation of his beliefs is a stubborn determination to get to the bottom of any story, and this is also how he distances himself from other presenters who simply read from autocue, as some students were curious to know.
Continuing with this theme of deep investigation, and under inquiry from his audience, Duncan acknowledged that there is often a knife-edge balance to be held between personal morals and professional ethics, and the cold practicality of finding and reporting the story. Whilst we as students have covered the theoretical application of dry, Journalistic codes of conduct, we have not been trained in the gut instincts of conducting reporting, and of course - how could we?

Finally, he was quizzed on the new challenges facing regional broadcasting. Like many of his contemporaries, Duncan exhibitied a wary enthusiasm for the pilot scheme to be run in the North-East, and stressed to us that the success or failure of this field test will probably influence the entire deployment of independant local media - truly relevant, high impact news for all present.

Bill Thompson - New media commentator

First posted 22nd February, 2010

Handling arguably the most difficult topic on the week's agenda - and possibly on the entire Align Leftmedia industry's agenda - was Bill Thompson, new media commentator. I really enjoyed Bill's presentation, and his attitude of dry but informed cynicism was both refreshing and engaging.

His dissection of Murdoch's new initiative, the controversial 'pay-wall' concept sequestering specific content was succinct and enlightening on a painfully relevant issue in media. In the following Q&A, an informed audience member asked him if the practice was feasible on a small scale, referencing the Whitby Gazette and we discovered that in a small, group-specific environment such as very regional news, paid-for content would be a practical and rewarding business model, but Bill urged constant observation of what is a new and controversial practice. My understanding is that the risk of 'pay-walls' is twofold, both to ensure it is a financially-sound business model but also that it does not place draconian restrictions on news distribution.

Bill took us on a gentle but wide-ranging stroll through the future of journalism, and confirmed the one overriding fact I had in my mind - we can no more predict the future of media than we can next week's lottery numbers! This is such an exciting and unique situation, that is faced by few and far-between industries - where the future of our professional world is in such flux, and that we as journalists will be discussing and indeed influencing how that future turns out.

I tried myself to expand on this concept, but feel I worded my question incorrectly, when I asked if we ran the risk of making 'news out of the news', describing a spiral situation where journalists discuss journalism and its indiscernible nature in some kind of bizarre 'chicken and egg' scenario. Instead of a challenging and professional 'back and forth' debate, Bill assured me no self-respecting journalist would fall into the trap of discussing themselves and their industry, and if I were to try this theory at a party, I'd probably never get laid again.

Thanks, Bill!

Mike McCarthy - Sky News

First posted 22nd February, 2010

The first session of Journalism Week was with Mike McCarthy of Sky News, and was informative, intriguing and amusing. One of the most effective - and poignant - moments for me was when he was discussing the dangers of Conflict Reporting, and how his colleagues never even considered that they might not return. In careful terms, he explained how he - and presumably others - have had to consider plans for, as he put it, their own 'departure'.

At that moment, the true risk of reporting was illuminated for me. Of course, the danger to a reporter on the Yorkshire Evening Post doesn't really compare to the risk facing a Foreign Correspondent based in some global hotspot - but at the apex of this industry are presumably those jobs, reporting on stories that need to get out - even under fire, under protest, under threat. I've always been fascinated by Conflict Reporting, as true news on the front line (so to speak) and it really drove home for me the importance - and danger - inherent in the profession I've so recently joined.

Mike also discussed reporting on painful and upsetting incidents of domestic news, and as I listened I realised there is equal risk to your mental equilibrium communicating home-grown horror stories, as there is describing artillery fire from a hotel roof in some urban warzone. His recollections of reporting on the Hillsborough tragedy came across 'edited', carefully controlled - and he acknowledged to us all the honest, personal pain he felt as a result of being one of the first journalists on the scene.
As I absorbed this information, a new question rose up to replace the more detached and professional inquiry I had ready. How would you, an experienced reporter advise us - raw recruits in the media world - how to handle the emotional fallout of dissecting the raw side of human nature? What methods exist to shield your sentimentality and soul from regular exposure to the very worst the modern world can offer?

Unfortunately there was no time and, I suspect, no real answer to that question except painful experience and grit persistence.

Sie Verlassen Den Amerikanischen Sektor

First Posted 9th November, 2009

On November 9th, 1989, at a haphazard press conference, the Deutsche Demokratische Republik announced the revocation of the strict border controls that existed between between the nations of Germany, and the cities of Berlin.
That night, the Grentztruppen forces manning the checkpoints along the Berlin Wall* were swamped by hundreds of thousands of Eastern German citizens, demanding passage to the West. Like the superbly-trained Warsaw Pact troops they were, they immediately referred to their superiors for orders - but unsurprisingly, no senior NVA commander wanted to be the man to authorise the shooting of unarmed countrymen, women and children. The checkpoints were thrown open, and the Iron Curtain was breached for the first time in forty-five years.

That night, East met West in an ecstatically celebratory atmosphere. Within a few months, the Wall - the antifaschistischer Schutzwall that represented the edge of the Western World, and the start of the East - was in ruins. Within the year, Germany was reunified and the DDR was in ruins. Within two years, the USSR imploded, and half a century of suspicious co-existence and the spectre of nuclear annihilation was banished. The face of Europe was remade, the hands of the Doomsday Clock were pushed back seven minutes and freedom flowed like a flood across the former republics.

I've been thinking for most of the day what event within my lifetime could possibly compare to such an auspicious occasion. Indeed, there are probably not too many at Leeds Trinity who recall watching with the world as the wall came down - the staff, and a handful of mature students; myself included, who vaguely recalls, on a tiny, grainy screen a mob of very happy people standing on a wall that I equated, in my five-year old mind, with the sea defences of my home town!

I've not progressed too far from that confused young boy. One tries to think of the definitive events of my own, rather brief life, and came up with few equivalents. The 1992 Maastricht Treaty, 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the 2001 Attack on the WTC, the 2007 Attacks on London Transport, me, the transition from Humberside to East Yorkshire, the county where I grew up, in 1996 was highly confusing to a young man just starting senior school.
But can these events arguably have had the same impact on the world? I remember recoiling, mentally and physically, from the events of September 11th - but how has it affected a nation, a world already enmeshed in the struggle against terrorism? England had endured a legacy of senseless attacks from the 'freedom fighters' of Ireland, and in its way that made the bureacratic, concession-laden 1998 Agreement of little public impact. The same can be said of Major's limp into the EEC in 1992, and a world inured to violence has already recovered from the July 2007 attacks on London.

I wonder, with the demise of the super-power and the dismissal of mass extinction at the hands of nuclear war, if we have become a world reduced to regional, theological, economical, tribal squabbling with no comprehension of worldwide events. The ratification of the Lisbon Treaty has barely emerged from the pages of the broadsheets, where it exists more as a stick to beat Government or Opposition - and I wonder what we will read on December 1st, 2009.
Returning to the present, I was looking forward to catching some coverage of the Twentieth Anniversary celebrations on television tonight. I grew up reading le Carré and Deighton, Forsyth and Clancy, and have been fascinated with this front-line of the Cold War for years. Unfortunately, it seems the controllers at the BBC, ITV, Channel's Four and Five, Sky, etc., have different ideas and I can find nothing showcasing that definitive night, twenty years ago.

I will turn, instead, to the Guardian's website, and scour their aggregation of media to feed my interest. Abstractedly, I think of how we've been discussing how people pursue their needs through modern journalism, and how convinced I was that I was satisfied with the rustling, ungovernable size of a broadsheet. Now, I intend to sample a newspaper's website and its multi-platform reporting to appreciate an event.
It's interesting to note how the media has rapidly evolved, and as a result, how my opinion on it has changed accordingly. It seems we can find every angle and perspective on an issue...

It just seems like there are no more serious issues to consider.

* - And the Inner German Border, but the demarcation line had less PR appeal than its more photogenic urban cousin!

The Leeds Eye View

Welcome to Leeds Eye View! This blog is a new extension of the blog I've been writing on the intranet at Leeds Trinity University where I am a Journalism undergraduate. It began as a rather rambling and personal diary-cum-diatribe, but I've decided to become more disciplined about my writing, both to hone my nascent Journalistic skills and to explore the city around me.

I intend this blog to my personal commentary space, focusing mainly on media events but also being a Leeds-centric current affairs and activities journal, as well as being a test-bed for coursework and new skills.

To begin with, I'll transpose the articles I wrote about the speakers at Leeds Trinity's Journalism Week, where we have been lucky enough to enjoy talks from some of the definitive figures in modern media. I look forward to producing the work, and hearing from my readers!