Journalism: a reflection

“It’s the unit I disliked the least” – that is how it started, but not how it has finished. With no intention on being a journalist, choosing a news and journalism unit was mainly down to my lack of enthusiasm for the other unit choices on my course. However, after a few months of re-embracing my blog; and especially my Twitter account, I feel that I have unintentionally been drawn into the world of journalism through social media, and I am not ashamed to say I quite like it. Previously, my Twitter account had been another website that allowed me to post irrelevant topics and quite a bit of moaning. Through studying and engaging social media’s use in contemporary journalism I feel I have learnt how to put my twitter account to better use. Occasionally, I may lapse in absent minded re-tweeting of information I feel is interesting, but I can say the personal irrelevant tweets have been minimised. Now, if I wish to post a link, I have learnt to add my own opinion with it, or even a question as a way of engaging with my followers and tempting a reply. I am now a twitter addict to the point I will check for news stories on the micro-blogging site before other news sites.  

My blog on the other hand, I feel I have struggled with. Although I enjoy creating posts, I find it extremely time consuming, and have enormous respect for anyone who regularly posts. I think the biggest challenge I have had to face directly through this unit is my lack in confidence in my writing. Being a perfectionist in an area outside your comfort zone can be quite a pain. Overall, I have found the news and journalism unit very interesting and feel I have a much greater understanding of journalism practices. I can safely say I still do not wish to be a professional journalist, however, I think I will continue to try my hand at citizen journalism through Twitter.


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The added extra: make it personal

The Runaway General - RollingStone

News stories have a tendency to reach out to your emotions, particularly where deaths or tragedy are involved. However, a news feature goes one step further. It’s not just reporting, it can be classed as reporting with a personal touch.

Len Granato, writing in Newspaper Feature Writing, discusses how his initial idea to write about police patrolling Ipswich at night turned into an emotional feature looking into the homeless children in the city. He explains that the feature proved to be newsworthy, just as a news story would be: “Several news values were obviously present: conflict, children, religion, proximity” and the list continues.

However, the personal stories linked to shocking facts meant this one story turned into an eight-part feature series. Granato believes that a good feature comes out of the unexpected and the unpredictable, he says: “you just never know where an idea’s going to come from”.

Features come in all forms, but if you’re looking for one of the best examples of personalised writing techniques and a story that captures your imagination, I’d say you need to read The Runaway General. Although this feature article caused a great deal of controversy, I feel that this encompasses what a good feature article should try to achieve. The narration builds the characters, and matched with the detailed description, it artfully creates the world in words as a vivid picture in the readers head. The reader is almost transported into that world, as if they are an onlooker in the situation. This kind of narration to me is far more effective than a factual news story as it personalises the story to the reader, therefore making the writing a lot more emotional and hard hitting.

Feature articles construct a story through a built interest, create a deeper understanding of a current event and with an aim to teach the reader. But the most important thing a feature aims to be is interesting. Interesting is personal.

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Talbot Village residents reject housing plans

– assessment piece-

Protests (picture from Bournemouth Echo)

Residents in Talbot Village are joining the growing numbers objecting to housing development plans on the Bournemouth and Poole border, approved last summer.  

The massive housing application by Talbot Village Trust has received objection from residents, and other parties such as Bournemouth Council, due to the proximity of the build to the protected Talbot Heath.

Talbot Village resident, John Jones Morrison, said: “I’ve been living in the village for 18 years now and have a lovely view across the fields. I will miss the scenery greatly if the housing goes ahead. All my neighbours are against the new houses”. 

     A local estate agent, who did not wish to be identified, predicted the current value of properties located by the heathland were likely to dramatically decrease. Our source said: “The views and quietness are some of the key selling points of the area next to the heath. The new housing will affect the upmarket area, particularly with student accommodation and affordable homes”.

     Not all residents are unhappy about the new development. Sarah Norris, Optical Consultant for Boots in Wallisdown, said: “I live in the village close to the heath and I have no issue with the housing plans. I might be concerned if I lived closer to the proposed building area, but I don’t think it will change the area by a great amount apart from the traffic”.

     The development, approved by Poole planners last June, will be built on farmland next to Bournemouth University and consist of 378 homes, including 130 affordable homes, and an additional 450 student units.

     A called-in public inquiry, concerning the Talbot Village Trust’s approved housing application, will take place this July as well as a pre-inquiry meeting to be held later this month.

     Members of the public are encouraged and welcome to attend both meetings to share their views on the housing application. The pre-inquiry meeting will be held from 11am on Wednesday, March 16 at the Hamworthy Club, Magna Road, near Wimborne.

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Media law, not such a bore

Bring on the dock and hammer!

Media law is an area of journalism that I have minimal knowledge in, and to be honest, after studying law at college, the thought of reading legal jargon in a 9am seminar was not so appealing. However, when I started looking at restrictions of youth courts, it became much more interesting and I have learned some interesting facts.

The most famous youth court case in my life time is the tragic murder of James Bulger in 1992. The shocking occurrences received coverage on a worldwide scale, being closely followed and heavily reported in the UK. I wondered how the court case had received so much media attention and reporting when youth court cases were classed as closed courts. It would appear the reasoning behind this is that the case was actualy held in an adult court.

Frances Quinn, writer in media law, says; where a young person is being prosecuted in a Youth Court, the media cannot identify them unless the court or the Home Secretary lift the reporting restrictions.  On the other hand, young persons being prosecuted in an adult court sees no set restrictions, although courts can ban identifcation of witnesses if under 18. This got me thinking about the James Bulger case, and whether these restrictions were implemented on the two boys on trial, as they were not officially in a youth court. 

According to the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, the media are banned from publishing or broadcasting:

  • the name, address of school of any child or young person who is involved in the proceedings who are under 18
  • any details that are likely to lead a young person’s identity to be revealed
  • any photographs of the young person involved in the proceedings.

From my memory, I thought the two boys had always been named in relation to the Bulger case, however, after researching articles written at the time, it would seem their identities were kept anonymous, and they were referred to as Child A and Child B. This changed following their sentencing, when the judge lifted the order and named Robert Thompson (Child A) and Jon Venables (Child B).

Part of me would argue that naming the children after their sentencing could be a bad thing and that all children should be protected in such a way as not to affect their future. On the other side of the coin, it should be a right of the public to know who has committed such a crime as a matter of public safety, meaning such a decision as this would have been made in an attempt to balance the rights of the defendants and the interest of the public in mind.

* updated article, corrections made *

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The power of social media: Christchurch Earthquake

To me, New Zealand is one country we never hear much about, unless it involves stories of travelling, or hobbits and a ring. But today, everyone’s thoughts should be with the people in Christchurch after an earthquake measuring a 6.3 magnitude struck the city last night (1251; 2351 GMT.)

The worst natural disaster to hit the country in 80 years has inevitably caused frenzy in the social media world, with up to the minute information being fed to millions of people on a continuous loop through such outlets as Twitter, YouTube and Google. Lately, I have been amazed by the sheer impact and scale of awareness social media can contribute through web 2.0 (e.g. Egypt and Libya conflicts). The world has never been so well connected.

I look on Twitter; hashtags (#) are providing links to a wide variety of news sources, offering interviews (via YouTube), linked pictures that speak far more than words, and news reports which depict the destruction to a global audience. Such tweets also include the Red Cross website in a bid to widen the aid and support for New Zealand (you can donate here.)

As I rarely have time to watch the news in the morning, I am ever increasingly finding myself reliant on social media, such as Twitter, to feed through the news and keep me up to date. I can follow the hashtags and find a variety of links and sources of information (also a very handy tool for journalists). The pictures and footage of the earthquake today make the story feel closer to home and much more real, instead of a million miles away, and if it wasn’t for the micro-blogging site, I probably wouldn’t have found out about the quake until the 10 o’ clock news tonight.  

Three cheers for social media!

Read about the quake here!

Some pictures and a video of the destruction:

Searching through rubble (Picture taken from The Guardian)


Collapsed building (Picture taken from the Guardian)

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Blank faces and revelations

Semesterisation, what?!

“Hi, have you got a minute to answer a few questions?” – The dreaded words that most people want to avoid like the plague.

The other day, our lecturer sent us out to try some first-hand reporting on campus, focusing on getting opinions from students and lecturers about the recent semesterisation at Bournemouth University. OK, that’s fine. Just one tiny problem…what is semesterisation?! Apparently, our class were not the only ones to appear baffled by this term, let alone realise some of the courses had been starting to use this structure. Well, that was a good start.

It turns out semesterisation is not just the American word for an “academic term” as most of us assumed. It consists of completing  some modules/units within one term, and the rest in the second term, instead of having all subjects running across the year, ending with summer exams. Two thoughts crossed my mind: 1) would anyone be aware of these changes? 2) would anyone even want to give me their opinion?

First-hand reporting proved to be harder than expected. Firstly, I had the challenge of getting people to spare a few minutes to talk to me as most were reluctant. This was made even harder by the circumstances; a grey and rainy Friday morning, with a general lack of people at the Uni campus.

“So, how do you feel about semesterisation at BU?” – On most occasions, I was met with blank faces. Fortunately, an earlier visit to Student Union President, Toby Horner, and Vice President Ko Leech, provided some useful answers which allowed me to explain exactly what semesterisation was about, encouraging people to give their opinion. It occurred to me how knowledgeable journalists have to be about a given subject before they try to get supporting comments for an article in case people are unaware of a subject.

Overall, the task was not complete failure and I managed to get some interesting opinions, quotes and information from a variety of sources. Although first-hand reporting was daunting at first, and many people we reluctant to speak, it was an interesting experience to say the least and prepared me for my first patch report (which, may I say, went very well indeed.)

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Why Journalism?

A snap shot of reality?

You may wonder why someone who does not wish to pursue a career in journalism (yes, that’s me) would choose to study a journalism unit as part of their degree? 

When I was recently posed with the question, “why journalism?” by one of my lecturers, my first reaction was simply, “because it was the unit I disliked the least”. Naturally, my brutal honesty was met by laughter, however on deeper thought this does not rightfully justify my choice.      

Influential American publisher, Henry R. Luce, was once quoted to say, “I became a journalist to come as close as possible to the heart of the world” and I feel this links nicely to my reasoning.  

In a metaphorical sense, we eat, breath and live journalism in today’s society. It could even be argued to be consumed in a passive and slightly obsessive fashion. Journalism surrounds us 24/7 via an array of medias and its influence and power has always been the most intriguing aspect to me. Behind every article, every sentence, every word are ideologies and values, offering a perception of reality to its readers; us, the everyday people. 

Personally, I am fascinated by the power behind the words, the propaganda and the conspiracies, to the extent that I am currently investigating such issues through my dissertation. However, I feel the knowledge and theory is not complete without some understanding of the practice. I do not aspire to be a journalist, but I hope through my journalism unit, I will gain an insight into the other side of the coin, and overall, have some fun with writing! That’s journalism for me.

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