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!

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