Thursday, 19 December 2013

Me, My Selfie and the World

The Holy See's himself
It's a worldwide phenomenon that has catapulted many to the front page - from former unknowns (who is probably now missing that anonymity) to the President of the United States of America, the Prime Minister of Denmark, and a man with the paranoid delusion that he runs England. All are united in being condemned for partaking in what is increasingly seen as the adolescent masses' most narcissistic act yet - the Selfie.

Except that it isn't the new Moral Panic the papers are making it out to be - first prize, of course, must go to Dacre's gutter-press rabble rouser, the Daily Mail - headline:

A photo that makes me tremble a little for the future of the Free World
I'm not linking to the story, of course. Who wants to feed even more clicks to the biggest news website for the most despised newspaper? The point is it's a nothing story. Selfies are just 'MySpace' profile shots redone for the 21st century - and the only thing MySpace has been a danger to is Rupert Murdoch's accountants.

Neil almost always looks like this
Selfies are just annoying, facile pieces of jetsam that clog the Internet pipes, and only gets noticed by the mainstream media because it's jumped the generational gap and adults have started doing it.
Notably, famous people - because it fits so well with Twitter for building a one-to-one relationship with fans, like Lady Gaga persistently tweeting pictures of her in bed relaxing after a gig. Clearly we have different definitions of relaxing, but at least it keeps large sweaty alarming men called Barry from climbing her walls to peer in her window. Now he can do it safely from his parent's basement.

Except of course, I'm a humongous hypocrite. I nearly went into fan overload when cherished counter-culture author (who also wrote a naff Doctor Who episode but we'll let it slide) Neil Gaiman tweeted a selfie of him and supernaturally young-looking antipodean rock renegade Nick Cave. Between Gaiman's atypical 'Englishman abroad' look of adorkable perplexion and Cave's stock expression of pensive, universal malaise it's a beautiful and hilarious and unique moment for fans of both, of either, or of clever individuals in general.

Ground Control to Major Tim
The selfie, ironically, cuts two ways - for every smouldering expression that brightens your partner's mobile, there's a duck-faced pout that ends up shared on 4chan. It's a surprisingly persistent piece of internet nonsense, and I suppose it fills the blank spaces of the world's media that we'd only be wasting on more wars in the Middle East, more corruption in America's boardrooms, and more taxpayers money avalanching into ramshackle banks.

Because the real threat to the future is an annoying social-media trend...

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Victory for Feminists in Leeds - But the War's not over

Leeds' Mezz Club has licence suspended over 'rape' ads

This is an excellent conclusion to a very disturbing concept - of appealing to misogynistic tendencies in promoting a night out. The original video which promoted a student-orientated night in Leeds city centre is no longer available, but this early article from Leeds Student Online gives an upsetting synopsis of what is envisaged as appealing to student punters.

Clearly, only the male punters however - female attendees at this night are presumably on a par with the music or the drinks, merely an attractive feature. What I found even more disturbing was this line in the Leeds Student article on the closure of the club:

Among the issues raised were reported cases of severe overcrowding in the 400-person space and their conduct on social media.
To me, that indicates that this club night, for all it's disgusting attitude towards gender equality, has been quite popular. Indeed, Tequila UK - the night at the centre of the controversy - will instead be held at Halo nightclub just beside university campus. No doubt it will be very popular with students celebrating at Christmas. I hope some enterprising journalists ask the women at this night just what they think of the promotion - and what that means to them, or about them.

 I am heartened that a vocal backlash has been co-ordinated by groups like the Leeds University Union Feminist Society. Victories like this are great cause for celebration, but the bigger picture must be considered - and I salute the effort to challenge complacent opinions on equality and freedom from violence and sexual abuse.

The great campaign "I Need Feminism Because..." is a great idea because rather than just an open-and-shut battle with misogyny like protesting Tequila UK, the hard truths about the dangers women can face at any time are being openly discussed. Beliefs need to change, and the best way to do that is a long and protracted campaign of education.

Students are here to learn, and I certainly hope they're going to learn more from FemSoc than they do from a night that endorses shocking attitudes towards women.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Graduation... and Beyond!

Cap, Gown, Upside-down Frown!
My time with Leeds Trinity has finally come to a - very formal - end! On July 15th I formally graduated
from Leeds University (due to my enrolling at Trinity before their official recognition as a University) with a BA (Hons) in Journalism. I achieved a very comfortable 2:1, and am pleased to note I scored a First in my Law module especially!

The ceremony was certainly interesting, thanks to the heatwave the UK is enduring at the moment. I donned a smart black business suit and tie, and then my black and green robes, and weathered the weather as best I could. I must praise Ede and Ravenscroft who supply the University's robe and dressing service - they were professional, well-organised, and supplied high quality gowns.

Credit also must go to the University who arranged the event to proceed promptly and with maximum provisions for the guests. My only recommendation would be for more ushers and helpers to advise the newcomers on procedure, timings and locations.

The actual ceremony was a mix of anticipated and unexpected events. The collection of the degree certificate itself went exactly as expected, but did you know a Graduand (one who has passed one's degree requirements but not been formally awarded) can choose to bow to the Awarding Officer? This information was included in an advisory to the collected graduates, and as I approached the center of the stage - and the serried ranks of my lecturers behind - I made sure to pause and bow in respect to the people who enabled me to be standing there. I suspect I was the only one.

I was also surprised to note that mortar boards are not worn at all during the conferment! Those receiving their Doctorates or other high accolades do, the Awarding Officers and various staff members do, the Ushers organising the event do, but the Graduands and Graduates themselves do not! I was surprised - and made sure I had mine to hand at least for pictures outdoors.

One very hot day and a full memory card later, and I am back at my temporary office job, still musing on the future. I have been contracted until the end of the year to cover absence and must concede I am earning more than most graduates doing so - but I run the risk of having an irrelevant degree as I pursue a middle-management career if I get used to this lifestyle...

My personal life may necessitate a move to Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 2014, so I am thinking about media opportunities in the North-East. Now, after years spent studying every aspect of journalism - television, radio, cutting-edge internet technology and of course the definitive Print - I am still contemplating which discipline to subscribe to.
Do I follow my new-found, newly taught technical aptitude and pursue work in television, specifically production and editing? Or do I stick to my inherent strength in writing and enjoyable Work Placement experience, and move into a purely features and editorial role?

Or do I listen to the sages and realize that the future of Journalism will be the multi-skilled, video, print and internet wielding news creator, aggregator and curator? The blogger with the skills of the new, and the journalist with the authority of the old? How do you carve out a place for yourself in an industry that shifts and changes shape by the day?

I started this blog as an accompaniment to my learning experience at University. Now it seems I should continue it as I learn how to be a professional.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Doctor 'Joan Smith'

I have a shameful admission. When a friend first directly asked me “How would you feel about a female Doctor?” my gut reaction was opposition. The Doctor has always been a fatherly – or grandfatherly – figure to the entire Universe, not to mention wide-eyed young me who devoured novels and the shows equally. He ranks amongst other worthy fantasy Elder Statesmen as Gandalf, Captain Picard and Sherlock Holmes, all wise old men.

But then I decided to approach it as I do most issues in the Whoniverse – by assessing the canon qualifying. With thanks to Neil Gaiman, it is now canon that Time Lords can regenerate across the genders. So, it can happen!

Mary Tamm as Romana I
Should it, then? I got to thinking about the Female of the Species – Time Ladies, as they can be distinctly known. The most distinctive to my mind is Romana, the Fourth Doctor’s assistant during the Key to Time quest – Series 16, 1978-79. She was introduced as more than just the ‘damsel in distress’ that has so plagued Doctor Who – Romana was a Time Lord like the Doctor, but unlike the Doctor had qualified much higher in her training! The unlikely pair eventually bonded when the Doctor’s greater experience and improvised successes melded with Romana’s book-smarts and relative stability...

Lalla Ward as Romana II
Sadly, Mary Tamm would decide that the scriptwriters still couldn’t extract themselves from the premise that the Doctor’s assistant was basically a plot device to be captured or threatened and du jour.
handed – a fact which is arguably correct. Lalla Ward would take over as the second incarnation of Romana, only to be equally menaced by the villain

After their exit, Romana would be redeemed in the novels and audios that comprise that forgiving crucible of characterization, the Extended Universe. Romana would become Lord President of Gallifrey, and have entire stories revolving around her adventures on the Doctor’s homeworld which crucially didn’t involve the fact that she was a woman!

Gallifrey, it seems, was very progressive. Thalia and Flavia were both politically powerful, holding seats on the High Council; Thalia was a Lord Chancellor during the Second Omega Crisis, and Flavia would later ascend to the position of Lord President herself after another of the Doctor’s reluctant adventures back home. The Sixth Doctor would be menaced by the determined Lady Inquisitor, even if the script did call for her to flounder a bit with what was going on – and also wear a novelty birdcage on her head.

Left to Right: Lord Chancellor Thalia, High Chancellor (and later Lord President) Thalia, and Inquisitor Darkel
Kate O'Mara as The Rani
In time as well, Colin Baker’s incarnation would succumb to the more deadly gender – the Rani, a renegade like himself and played with overly-exagerrated hateur by Kate O’Mara, one of TV’s most favoured villains.
Just like our hero, she stole a TARDIS and used her superior intellect to carve a life for herself out in the universe – only she was unencumbered by petty morality. Thankfully this would frequently be her undoing!

All of these successful Time Ladies prove irrevocably that a female Doctor would be no bad thing – the real risk, I feel, is from bad writing, just like it plagued Romana so long ago.
Moffat and his script writers have made a few lurches away from the confused, screaming assistant – how would they cope with the confident, intelligent, alien Doctor contained within a woman’s body?
Of an equal risk is if Moffat pulls one of his famous surprises and switches the Doctor’s gender merely to spice up the show, or as a sop to the growing chorus of complaint from the ‘right-on’ crowd.
The show suffers from weak writing frequently enough now, let alone hamstringing it with an ill-thought shark-jump.

Done right though – with someone like the stark Tilda Swinton who recently acted as an equally alien figure as David Bowie, or the sinister Fiona Shaughnessy who excelled in bleak Channel 4 drama Utopia – there is no reason the Doctor couldn’t join the ranks of so many other Time Ladies who have excelled within this traditional, patriarchal, even misogynistic institution. Gallifreyan society? No, I mean the BBC! What an irony!

* * * * * * *

NB: I have purposefully avoided references to Lady Iris Wildthyme, the infamous and popular star of her own audio series from the Big Finish team. I’ve never heard them and thus feel I can’t do her justice.

Suffice to say I’ve heard good things about a post-middle-age, vodka-loving good time girl who just might be a parallel universe lush version of the Doctor – fit that into your arguments how you like!

Katy Manning as the irrepressible Lady Irish Wildthyme

Thursday, 6 June 2013

End of an Era

Hello blog. It's been a while, in which a great deal has happened. Namely my final exam - in English Media Law.

It was an exciting topic, made all the more - shall we say, challenging - by the fact that the laws governing contempt and defamation are in such flux. I'd like to take this opportunity to be profusely grateful that my Lecturer in Law was the estimable Nigel Green, a battle-hardened journalist and truly inspirational teacher. He made a difficult, sometimes dull and potentially dangerous subject both interesting and approachable.

I came out of the exam broadly confident. I am certain that I understand the various laws that control how I report from the Courts, from press conferences, on sex attack victims and juveniles. No employer will find me unsure of the four factors of defamation, or the four key defences.
In fact they might find me avidly reading stories about landmark cases in legal history. The only way to keep up with this game is to stay ahead of it!

It was enjoyable on the whole, but I'm glad to get that behind me. It wraps up the entirety of my Journalism BA degree work - I submitted my dissertation at the end of April. That was a highly enjoyable piece of work entitled Fleet Street to Task Force and was an analysis of media reporting during the Falklands War of 1982. Again, I was able to do something I deeply enjoyed and then submit it for assessment. It's proof positive of what makes a career, rather than a job. The passion for the task.

Although I'm currently only temping, I understand the difficulty of making the transition from graduate to employed journalist. Right now my priority is restoring my overdraft to a reasonable level and contemplating my next move. I'll graduate formally on July 15th - and after that, even though I only have casual work in an unrelated field going on, I'll have financial security to seriously consider what I want to put my passion to.

It's been an amazing, challenging, frustrating, inspiring, and above all enjoyable few years. I can't credit the faculty highly enough, and they must have done their job truly properly, because of all the roles I considered post-graduation, one keeps appealing to me more...

Teaching journalism!

Monday, 4 March 2013

Bradford's own Batman - The latest 'real-life superhero'

All over West Yorkshire, locals are chuckling over news that a man dressed as Batman (and as the cheesy Sixties Adam West Batman too) has hauled a minor criminal into a Bradford police station.

Amazingly, this has precedence. The starched shirts of Wikipedia seem to be smothering their own giggles as they compile information about 'Real-Life Superheros' - everyday citizens who don colourful costumes to combat crime. Whilst they might not have Superman's invulnerability or Batman's billions, what they have usually have is pride, bravery, and a canny knack for promotion - and sometimes, if not most, a difficult relationship with conventional law enforcement!

Indeed, the police attitude is understandably against 'Vigilantism' and whilst nothing has yet occurred, incidents like these will no doubt force a landmark confrontation between the self-declared 'Enemies of Crime' and the legally-bound protectors who are permitted to dispense justice.

I telephoned West Yorkshire Police for a comment on this kind of "zero-tolerance in tights"  - their overwhelmed press office begged for time in responding until tomorrow morning! Commissioner Gordon must be busy, so bookmark this blog for an update...

Suspicions about the identity of this civic-minded crusader are ranging far and wide, and many suspected - or perhaps hoped - it was outspoken and promotionally-minded Bradford West MP George Galloway. He moved to quash the allegations:
But isn't that precisely what Bruce Wayne would say? The odds on his real identity are already being calculated by Ladbrokes with an interesting selection of "What, really?" choices! I'd be interested in the odds of someone betting celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh is also a night-time crime nemesis  - but what a bulletproof secret identity!

Friday, 1 March 2013

Professor Brian Cathcart - Founder, Hacked Off campaign

Professor Cathcart at Journalism Week

Coming hot on the heels of yesterday's appearance by staunch press supporter, former News International Executive Editor Neil Wallis, was today's rebuttal from Professor Brian Cathcart - leading academic light of the Hacked Off alliance of hacking victims. They represent the strongest supporters of the Leveson Inquiry recommendations and are in direct conflict with the Fleet Street empires who have been exposed in the midst of the greatest wrongdoing in modern journalism.

Wallis' comments yesterday were highly provocative, and into the small hours I was tweeting with former Daily Star reporter turned moral crusader Richard Peppiatt as he responded to some of the slings and arrows exchanged at yesterday's session!

Regardless of hurt feelings, the mood on the #LTJW feed was one that had been swayed by the "Wolfman's" charm to anti-Leveson sentiments. It was hard not to be convinced that our basic rights as Journalists were at the mercy of vengeful and distant celebrity personages - and Professor Cathcart had an uphill fight on his hands!

It's worth noting that Brian did not bother with a presentation and spoke directly to his audience, drawing the facts and figures straight from memory. His language was creative and exciting, much like Neil Wallis' - "Celebrities were subject to stalking and - let's face it - surveillance" he said of the scandal, wryly observing that the story of a massive corporation with a famous leader breaking the law would certainly make an entertaining book - and movie. Indeed, it already comes preloaded with celebrity faces!

Getting into the grit of details, Brian observed how the Guardian - whose reporter Nick Davies is widely credited as the man who broke the hacking scandal - ran 237 stories on the drama as it unfolded. Conversely, papers from the Mail empire ran just 37, usually criticizing the Guardian for mounting what appeared to be a "politically-motivated vendetta!"

Indeed, Brian strongly implies the presence of a "conspiracy - to cover up phone hacking" - a joint effort by titles both News International and not to bury any evidence of wrong-doing on Fleet Street.With relish he quotes an interview with Richard Murdoch from the Sixties, where the mogul said "Newspapers can hide things - and be a great power for evil." You can infact see the comment for yourself in this amazing archive footage courtesy of the BBC, at 1:50. Never before have such prophetic words been uttered - I am certain that Rupert would dearly like to "have no recollection" of this interview as he did so much else when placed before the Culture Committee as well as Lord Justice Leveson!

Meanwhile, Professor Cathcart is undaunted in his pursuit of the truth. "What is happening? The only newspapers reporting the scandal to begin with are the British national papers with the smallest circulation - the Guardian, the Independent, the Financial Times." There is a disconnect between the actions of the underdog papers and the powerful alliances of Murdoch's empire, and Dacre's, and the Trinity Mirror group.

The answer, he claims, is simple. "Journalists don't want to shine a light into their own backyards - and that is shaming, as a Journalist myself." In reality, he says, we should be a force for change, 'poking' the powerful and exposing wrondoing - but what does that make us, the press, if we won't do the same for ourselves?

He turned his attack on regulation - past, present and future, mentioning the Press Council from 1953, and the PCC from 1991 - both organisations grudgingly formed under threat of statutory reform. The results, he says, speak for themselves. 
Stronger, statutory-backed press regulation, audited three-yearly, is "Nothing to be afraid of. It could become a kitemark, a badge of honour, a standard to be aimed for and to be held to." He contrasted this with his ending comment, taken from a taped conversation at the News of the World in 2002. "This is what we do, Charley - we go out and we destroy people's lives." We, as journalism students, have nothing to fear - but those kinds of tabloid hacks do.

- -

At this point he thanked us for our time, and turned the floor over to questions. The entire session was filmed as always, and at 33:35 you can see me ask the first question, passing on a direct quote from Neil Wallis that was made during his session the preceding day!

Many of the audience came away from this speech informed, but not especially swayed after the more charismatic speech of Mr Wallis. Indeed, Neil was able to push the buttons of fear and apprehension about the possible restraints placed on us if the Hacked Off campaigners succeed in having their recommendations passed - although Professor Cathcart acknowledged that David Cameron's administration is compromising significantly with the press to water down the Leveson recommendations as much as possible. 

After the Q&A finished, too quickly as always, I was able to talk to Brian one-on-one to ask another question about collusion between the media, the police and the politicians.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Journalism Week 2013 - Neil Wallis, former Executive Editor of the News of the World

Possibly one of the most highly anticipated speakers at Journalism Week was Neil Wallis, lauded in our programme as a former editor of The People, Executive Editor of the News of the World, and member of the Press Complaints Commission.

He was one of many journalists arrested following the phone-hacking scandal in 2011 on charges of conspiracy to intercept mobile communications. Just recently the Crown Prosecution Service dropped their case against him, citing a lack of evidence to secure a conviction.

If there is a man more qualified or able to talk to us about the journalism industry and the Leveson proposals, then we haven't met them yet! Certainly, the tone was set before he even began with his presentation entitled "LEVESON: Devil in the Detail - Why Inquiry Report Threatens Press Freedom In More Ways Than One". Quite clear what his feelings on the reforms of the media are!

Neil was introduced by his former employee, and current Leeds Trinity Senior Lecturer in Media Law - appropriately enough! - Nigel Green. It was a perfect moment for Neil's phone to ring, and one wag in the audience (I have my suspicions about who!) shouted "It's Leveson!" to laughter all round.

Turning then to the serious, Neil was candid about his arrest, his bail and his subsequent exoneration - "It's scary. You feel like wetting yourself! It brings everything to a grinding halt - your life, your family, your career." The mood of the room was actually sympathetic, and it will be interesting to see if that holds up tomorrow when we're joined by Professor Brian Cathcart of the Hacked Off campaign, bitter ideological opponents to Mr Wallis and co.

Back to today, and Neil - cleared of all charges - has now set his sights on those arguing for the toughest of press reforms as proposed by the Leveson Inquiry. He painted a very convincing picture of the dangers of appointing a statutory regulator - specifically one backed by (and therefore dominated by) Parliament.

A Parliament, of course, that is wracked by scandal, corruption and ineptitude - see left!
There has been no end to the procession of crimes and misdemeanours of our elected leaders - exposed, naturally, by the Press they're now struggling to gag.

Hitting the topical angle, Neil referred to the Rennard scandal engulfing Nick Clegg's Lib-Dems, and how it was broken by a Journalist, those self-appointed detectives that the Deputy Prime Minister has made inadvisable enemies of!

Picture courtesy of @DMJHull

He spoke rousingly and charmed an audience of - I'll be honest - naieve journalism students who have been raised on a diet of cynicism towards the Government, even though their (our?) faith is still in the Guardian and the ethical correctness of the Leveson Inquiry. Nonetheless, it's clear to see how he was able to wield such influence over a Murdoch newsroom - and we're only seeing the beauty of charm and not the 'Wolfman' beast!

When the Q&A came around after a very quick half-hour, Neil made it clear how he'd tackle press reform. Trinity Journalism Graduate, and next Paxman Ben Cropper asked him if the Press Complaints Commission - of which Neil had sat on the board as a tabloid Editor - was a "toothless watchdog".
Neil responded forcefully that the PCC simply lacked stronger investigative powers - which seems surprising as the main complaint against the PCC seemed to be its lack of punitive strength instead. As an editor, however, Neil stated how he spoke to the PCC practically every day, checking the suitability of his stories - and is that a comment on other editors who might not have held to that admirable practice? He made it clear that "People were not arrested becase they broke the Editors Code of Conduct - they broke the law. The PCC couldn't stand in the way of that."

At one point he turned the entire Q&A on its head and asked us at one point we'd fall back on that tried and tested method of chequebook journalism. I couldn't tell if the silence that greeted him was moral in fibre, or just squirming! A few hardy souls ventured to admit they'd pay out for stories, and uppermost in my mind was securing the Telegraph scoop on the Expenses scandal. It was an interesting moral conundrum, and he continued the theme when asked if there was indeed a culture of criminality amongst the tabloids - "No, but I know a lot of journalists who sail bloody close to the wind!"

It's fair to say Journalism has always operated in the 'grey' areas, both morally and legally - indeed, it's probably where it's most needed. I had decided long before this session to get into this as far as possible, and tweeted a former Journalism Week guest - infamous tabloid apostate Richard Peppiatt. 

I asked Richard what I should specifically put to Neil, considering their naturally opposing viewpoints on a common topic. By the wonders of modern technology, the link to the right will show you all of Neil's talk and at 43:35 I am the person who asks the question - "Regarding press freedom, which you have discussed extensively and proudly, how do you reconcile it with the fact that all 175 titles owned by Murdoch simultaneously supported the Iraq War?"

The response I get is somewhat confusing - not certain that I would describe Rupert Murdoch's work as "left-of-centre papers". Nor would I describe all of his titles as "not being huge opinion formers." And his decision to mention the 'Editor of the Times' as opposing proprietorial influence seems laughably inappropriate!

Raising the most eyebrows, of course, is Neil's vehement response to Mr Peppiatt which came across as a violet drubbing. No less energetic is his attack moments later on Professor Cathcart, but Richard himself has already been responding to the comments via Twitter and the Journalism Week hashtag #ltjw until just recently, several hours after the talk has concluded!

Will the Hacked Off campaign respond equally forcefully to this tabloid supremo turned press freedom fighter? No doubt there will be even more exciting developments as Journalism Week comes to an end for another year, continuing the theme whereby I ask impertinent questions of important people!

Until tomorrow...!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Journalism Week 2013 - Mark Bradley, Yorkshire Weekly Newspapers - Group Editor

We went regional with our final speaker on the second day of Journalism Week - Mark Bradley is Group Editor of fifteen West Yorkshire titles including the Wakefield Express, Dewsbury Reporter and Halifax Courier. 

Mark Bradley introduced to #ltjw by Susan Pape,
Assoc. Principal Lecturer in Journalism
An eighteen-year veteran reporter, then sub-editor and finally editor responsible for all the titles mentioned above, it was clear he was going to speak with a great deal of experience behind him.
He approached Journalism Week with an unprecedented amount of hard, and good, advice for training journalists, saying "I'll tell you what I'm looking for when I'm recruiting for my newsrooms." He wants reporters who can quickly take pictures, get and edit video, write good copy, write their own headlines, sub their own work and put it all on a user-UNfriendly Content Management System.

It's another brick in the wall of multi-skilling journalists - but more than that, Mark doesn't want staff to forget the "fundamentals - finding and telling stories. How you deal with people everyday will define you as a journalist, and what this course does is train you how to go out and TALK to them - not sit behind a monitor and press keys."

It's valuable stuff for a room full of training reporters, many of whom will be job-hunting within weeks. Demand for a position well exceeds the actual vacancies - Mark informed us if he advertises for a position, he will get at least 50 applicants!

How should the potential employee stand out from the crowd then? The answer is at the heart of regional journalism - that the journalist should be vitally aware OF their region! Any good editor wants to see in the covering letter itself a true awareness of the 'patch' you'll be covering, a real familiarity that will lead to good, in-depth writing.
Back that up with a reference as well - and make it a good one! If you can, make it someone already working on the publication who knows you. "I want to be able to pick up the phone and speak to someone who can tell me in a few minutes if you're right for the job."
Finally, Mark observes "I've never had a video application!" I'd already been considering a show-reel style portfolio on Youtube as an application tool, but now a room full of competitors know, I'd better get on it quick! The lesson here though is a combination of local knowledge, proven skills, and ability to improvise a novel approach - all keys to standing out from the crowd.

Mark turned next to the real challenges facing regional media, dealing with monetizing their work and balancing the digital/print demand. "We want to chase new demographics, of course, but we don't want to alienate our existing customers. Print is still our priority, and whilst it might change in 12 to 24 months, but many of our core demographics don't have access to high speed internet" - so, a flashy website is entirely wasted on your key customers and what content might you have sacrificed in the course of going fully 'digital'?

It's an interesting conundrum which must be facing regional titles and broadcasters across the country, and it's even more crucial when you consider a key message of Journalism Week is the importance of starting with local media - either as a stepping stone to national and international work, or building a solid career with your hometown title.

Mark echoed other common themes of the week, such as advising against too much dependance on Facebook or Twitter. "They're valuable tools certainly, but they are no replacement for properly curated content." He cites well-known examples of social media driven stories that have exploded spectacularly in people's faces, with names like McAlpine and Bercow ringing warning bells across the nation.

During the Question and Answer session, I asked him what he thought of hyperlocal blogging, and citizen journalism - did they compete for custom with their increasing popularity, and lack of commercial dependance versus his more traditional media?
"I think bloggers, and micro-local journalism, are really just part of the landscape that live alongside local newspapers - for the moment. We aren't really in direct competition."

He stressed the kind of 'brand loyalty' that publications like the Yorkshire Evening Post have, which is key to the success of regional media - and that loyalty is assured as long as they retain 'integrity', which causes him to comment on the post-Leveson world of journalism. "Our readers now come to expect a higher quality, less 'in your face' style of reporting that is less tabloid. They will actually complain if we become too tabloid, that's a definite shift after things like Leveson and the closure of the News of the World."

I found that a particularly interesting point, and after the applause and thanks I stopped to ask Mark to expand a little further on it for a video.

Journalism Week 2013 - Trevor Morris, Public Relations Supremo

Another Journalism Week has begun, courtesy of Leeds Trinity University and their Centre for Journalism - where I am a final year student on a Journalism BA.

I've blogged about Journalism Week previously and this year will be no exception. When not blogging, you can follow the action on twitter via the hashtag #ltjw, the account @JournalismWeek and the liveblog and livestream. We don't just talk about multiplatforming - we do it!

Today we had a couple of firsts - our first PR representative, albeit now resigned from the industry to become our first journalism academic, Trevor Morris.

The theme of his presentation to us was "Is PR good for us?" - an interesting concept to a room full of cynical veteran journalists and their proteges!

Indeed, he asked how many in the room were specifically PR students, and the lone few hands that went up were heavily outnumbered by the 'pure' Journalists!

Unabashed, he pressed on with his lecture which portrayed PR as "hard to describe, easy to malign" in my words. He discussed the steretotypes of the PR operatives, such as the male Machiavelli and the female Strategist - but the truth is actually of a well-connected corporate employee who probably knows as much as his CEO or Minister about the doings of their company or Department.

He confirmed my suspicions about the divide between Journalists and PR staff - the divide between good jobs and pay versus no work and scant earnings, with no medals for guessing who gets what! But more than that, that contention between the camps is actually a good thing. As a citizen, he says, he wants reporters to be sceptical of the PR line - "holding the powerful to account" as we were always meant to do!

Indeed, he freely admits that good PR must 'mislead in order to keep their clients interests' - and equated it with a Journalist deceiving to protect their exclusive. Are these deceptions necessary to our work? Some tweeters were still reserving judgement!

During his busy Q&A, Trevor was clear on his morals stating he'd never lost his principles over his work. At a time when Journalism is still recovering from Leveson, how many hacks can claim the same?  

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The New Year - Retrospectives and Viral Successes

There was a great rush of activity coming up to New Year, and every time I tried to sit down and write a retrospective, something else came along and seized the initiative!

The most intriguing - and exciting - development has been my Digital Media Portfolio module, a new 'core' or compulsory segment of my Degree. Tutors have rapidly adapted to the demands of contemporary journalism, and the DMP module requires students to create, maintain and update a news-worthy blog requiring at least a monthly entry, if not more. 

On top of that, at least one entry must be a multimedia, audio-visual creation. This is an excellent way to push students out of their comfort zones, and in to multi-platform media coverage. I seized the initiative for my blog - a continuation of a project I've worked on previously, called The Blogging Goth.

Intended to be a news-centered blog for the popular and enduring Gothic subculture in the UK, I took the opportunity to make my first update on the popular Whitby Gothic Weekend, the long-running UK musical festival. It took the form of a ten-minute video piece going over the difficulties of a lengthy, booze-filled, band-seeing, clothes-shopping weekend in these financially straitened times - you can see it here!

At the same time, I also agreed - somewhat reluctantly! - to help a friend create a parody music video. Who said Goths have no sense of humour? Well Whitby Gothic Style was considerably more successful than my news-orientated Blogging Goth update, and has indeed reached the viral stakes of a quarter of a million views, plus some 'real' media mentions. Granted, we were holding on to the coat-tails of a great many parody predecessors, but I think Graeme and myself tapped into the ubiquitous online presence of the Goth scene, who have overall a great sense of humour and a willingness to share generously on social media - hence our astonishing success!

Also from The Blogging Goth, and heavily shared but for much more serious reasons, was my very sombre response to the Sandy Hook tragedy in the United States, and specifically a critical response to certain aspects of the British media's decision to lead with some very provocative headlines.
This kind of scapegoating is not new to the Goth culture of course - I remember the media riposte to the Columbine massacre of 1999, but that was a primarily American response. In this instance, it was elements of the British media, with some familiar faces, who headed straight for the moral panic button.

I had another story in mind for December, but I immediately set about contacting people for quotes, drafting and redrafting my piece, and striving all the way throughout to be as measured, reserved and balanced as possible. I was taught, and am always learning, that to strive for objectivity and clear-eyed reporting of the truth is crucial. I wrote my article on 18th December, and by the end of the day had 360 views. The following day, Wordpress - the hosts of my blog - e-mailed me to say the article would be 'Freshly Pressed' and placed on their frontpage shortly. That day, I had 555 views of the article, and it was beginning to get shared extensively through Facebook, and a few retweets as well. 

Wordpress duly posted the article to their frontpage late on the 23rd, so a great deal of people had a lovely Christmas Eve reading about the Daily Mail's latest shameful display. On the 24th itself The Blogging Goth clocked an all-time high of 895 views, and for the rest of the festive period had smaller but steady amounts of visitors, along with nearly 100 comments and more than double that in 'likes'. It hasn't come to a stop yet, and even today - nearly a month after the article went online - I get a handful of e-mails telling me of new subscribers to the blog.

At no point do I forget the point of this story - that I am calling out one of the biggest newspapers in the world for failing to observe basic journalistic procedures and acting completely disrespectfully in a tragedy played out on an international stage, to the horror of everyone.
It's irrelevant that they respond; I did try and contact them and was met with a wall of silence, and who is surprised by that? The crucial thing is to at least be a dissenting voice to the Mail's rabble-rousing, and hopefully deter people from receiving this hate-mongering without some form of balance. So it's difficult to take pride in an article which has been successful, but only for the most grim reasons.

Moving on now from viral stories to a high-profile, hyper-local and happier one - the appointment of renowned TV sports journalist Gabby Logan to the Chancellorship of Leeds Trinity University!
The in-house recording of Gabby's 'masterclass' to the Journalism students is above, and is the very same I provided sound tech support for. Hear how crisply those levels are mixed, and how neatly those music clips are cued? No?

Well, never mind - considering I'd never touched the sound desk before, I'm fairly pleased with how it went! There's another video, produced in a more PR style, that shows much of the making of - including a brief shot of the gallery where I am working under the steady directorship of Mike Best and Lindsay Eastwood, along with Mohammed Ali of Media Services. With such experienced contemporaries, it's fair to say I was overawed!

So, it was a dramatic turn of the year. Onwards into 2013 then, and pretty soon we'll have confirmation of some of the rumours about Journalism Week for this year. Dead Tree journalism? There's still a pulse!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Leeds Trinity 2013: Gabby Logan, Chancellor

A Happy New Year to all the readers of Leeds Eye View!

As you know, I am a Journalism student at Leeds Trinity University - which proudly received that final recognition of University title in December of last year. Not content with just that major transformation, the University has today announced that Leeds-born, award-winning sports presenter Gabby Logan has become the new Chancellor!

And of course, when you have industry-grade facilities at hand, you make an announcement in your own style! So after a formal introduction to staff, governors, students and press, Gabby came to our modern new TV studio facilities - which I have recently put to use myself - to be interviewed by students from the Centre for Journalism! Indeed, she was unique amongst guests in that she could teach us a great deal about the challenges of television presenting.

Of course we weren't the only ones with a nose for the story, and press from Calendar, Look North and the Yorkshire Post were all jostling for room inside our facilities. Indeed, at one point I had those two titans of regional broadcasting - Harry Gration and Duncan Wood - sat directly behind me as I engineered the sound for our programme. This was not the time for me to hit the wrong button on our music console, but indeed I did so. An anecdote to laugh over in the future, but one to cringe about now!

Such fears were not troubling Gabby however, as she spoke enthusiastically to Sammy Parker about embracing the role, and hoping she could inspire students to gain the most from a University degree - something she states definitely benefited her career. Afterwards, she chatted with Duncan and Harry, reminiscing about their pasts - as Gabby had come up in reporting via work experience with none other than Mr Gration, the beloved face of Look North!

Again, she was able to show how her own professional experiences, backed up by her own treasured University days, would be such an immense boon to Leeds Trinity, in the town to which she has strong ties.

Once the video interviews were concluded, Gabby and the crew of the studio, who were almost all bright new journalists on Trinity degrees, were snapped in glowing photoshoots. At the same time, I was able to talk with Professor Margaret House, the University Vice-Chancellor who joined us just prior to Gabby's announcement. I was able to keep Professor House up to date with the Twitter storm we were all generating - causing trending to occur within minutes - and in turn hope I satisfactorily answered her searching questions about being a student at Trinity. I'm a Student Rep and I discuss University matters with staff frequently, but even I was gratified at this level of interest in, and engagement with, students on their level.

After this, Gabby was again whisked away, this time to the modern radio broadcast facilities in the Centre for Journalism where she conducted interviews with BBC Radio Leeds, Pulse Radio, and Radio Aire, all with the assistance of award-winning post-grad lecturer Richard Horsman. Here she acknowledged the uniqueness of Professor House and herself leading the way in academia, a hot topic in higher education circles - and she stated how old-fashioned views of 'traditional' roles for men and women should be challenged.

It's another encouraging sign from someone who will become an Ambassador for the University, and a role model for many aspiring students, especially based on the reactions of those she passed on campus! So a day of media engagements was drawn to a close, and we lucky journalists who covered it are now submitting our stories.

Gabby Logan is the new Chancellor of the new Leeds Trinity University, in the New Year of 2013. It's an exciting time to be part of it!