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The Blogger’s Experience


The social media assignment has been my favourite of all on the journalism unit. It has been a real challenge, to say the least, but I feel it has been a really worthwhile (and addictive!) experience. Each week after every lecture I planned a blog around what I had learnt in an attempt to pass on my ‘knowledge’ to my followers. It has been a great way to really learn and process the information I’ve been taught. My blog is also used as an online portfolio which is perfect for showcasing my degree work, for example features and news reports, to potential employers. Since updating my blog regularly, I have seen such an increase in the amount of hits I get each day. February and March have each had over 1000 views so, surely I must be doing something right?

The next step for me is to encourage interactivity on the blog, for instance, discussions around each of the posts and perhaps incorporating polls. However, since linking my blog with my Twitter account I have had those from the media industry retweeting blogs they have particularly enjoyed. It would seem that this is what is predominantly driving the traffic.

Using Twitter every day for journalistic purposes has also been rewarding as I am always up to date with the national, local and media industry news. As a communication student this is exactly what we need to be doing so sharing it will just help others. I also find that following the likes of BBC, Media Guardian and industry professionals is also a great source of information and they often have relevant news to retweet or reply to.

I’m still a beginner at all of this but I am definitely going to continue long after my uni days. I would recommend this blogging experience to anyone. Check out ‘The Twitter Challenge’ blog for more advice on using social media and the benefits of doing so.

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March 31, 2011 Posted by | Blogs, Journalism | , , | Leave a comment

#The Twitter Challenge


Recently, my Journalism lecturer challenged us to find a newsworthy story every day to share on Twitter in an attempt to teach us how to use social media effectively. The idea was that we would learn the benefits Twitter has to journalism as well as to stop us boring the world with what we’ve eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Each day I face the task of monitoring the various news websites for something that may educate and interest my followers. I must say it has been a really valuable experience and I would challenge everyone to have a go.

So, what have I learnt through the exercise?

1. Every morning I begin the day clued up on the latest news, both nationally and regionally. It’s a great way to keep up-to-date with global affairs. Any good media and comms student should be doing this anyway so why not tweet about it? Also, knowing exactly what is going on in the town/country/world is a great conversation starter, especially when you are trying to impress! 

2. It’s a great way to keep your followers interested in you, so long as you choose stories and articles that will interest them. Most of my followers are from the media industry so MediaGuardian, PR Week and many media related blogs have been extremely useful. Again, it’s a brilliant learning experience as even just by scrolling through the headlines you will gain an insight into the day’s news.

3. If you tweet something of particular interest, and before everyone else, you will find yourself being RT which in turn generates more followers. This is the ultimate aim of each tweet!

4. Why not choose a headline which you believe will create a discussion? Rather than just simply re-writing a headline alongside the URL why not add a brief opinion? Followers will start to see your personality through the articles you choose and your comments about them. This should save you the need for monotonous tweets about your day’s events and your inner-most feelings!

5. Use news stories to raise awareness and create support. If you feel particularly passionate about a cause or charity then post articles about them. If others RT them you can maximise the potential for help and donations, whether time or monetary. A prime example is the many users posting articles about the Japan earthquake followed by links to websites asking for donations.

I’m sure there are many other benefits… I’m still a beginner at this challenge.  I know it will take a while until I completely stop sharing tedious posts about my university workload but I will definitely continue to take my lecturer’s advice. I will keep you updated with my progress.

 In the mean-time I challenge you to give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Photo: google images

March 29, 2011 Posted by | Blogs, Journalism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Key To Effective Journalism: Embrace Social Media


Like many other people these days, it seems an impossible task for me to turn on a computer without first logging in to facebook.com, closely followed by twitter.com. I find that, alongside a cup of tea, a little bit of light procrastination is the best way to start the morning and ease into the day’s workload. It’s a chance to catch up on all the latest happenings whether they are posted from friends, celebrities or just particularly interesting people. But I also feel it’s a fantastic source for updates on UK or even global news and for discovering the latest trends. Usually, I would allow myself half an hour to have a thorough browse and share my own semi-interesting thoughts with my followers. Then I am free to continue with my daily pursuits.

March 11th was one such typical morning. Yet, social media played a larger part in that day than I ever could have expected. Waiting for me at the top of my twitter newsfeed was a tweet from @BBCBreaking: “Huge earthquake hits Japan.” Shocked, I scrolled down. @guardiannews: “powerful earthquake hits Japan,” @TelegraphNews: “Tsunami hits Japan after 8.8 magnitude earthquake.” And then my eyes caught the trend on the right hand side simply stating “#pray for Japan.” I, and the rest of the world, said a prayer for all those affected, although, the number was yet to be known.

The rest of the day was spent frantically watching each and every bulletin trending on twitter. I was redirected to news websites with more devastating information, images and videos. It showed a country under ruin, under rubble, under water. Few buildings had survived. Few people had survived.

And for those who had survived, their lives had been shattered.

Youtube videos were uploaded of the tsunami rapidly covering the land, boats crushed under bridges, cars washed away, homes drowned. It was truly terrifying to watch. I found myself moved to tears as images were uploaded onto Flickr as the crisis was unfolding. A small boy and his father are pictured looking out into the distance, facing the destruction that was once their home. With their backs to the audience, we can only imagine their saddened expressions. Another image showed a tiny little girl, perhaps no older than 5, being rescued from the rubble. I wondered what she was thinking and feeling behind her confused and worried little face. I wondered whether behind the photographer she had parents waiting to meet her, or whether hers was another tragic story.

Facebook seemed to be a popular medium for reassuring loved ones that all was well. It was a distressing time but the Japanese locals and those in the country on work or on holiday were desperate to let everyone know they were safe. Others hadn’t been so fortunate. On March 12th @guardiannews shared on twitter: ‘Japan mourns amid fears quake toll could hit 10,000.’

Piece by piece, each social network website played a significant part in informing and showing the world the tragedy as and when it happened. It then dawned on me the huge impact social media has on global news reporting. How a simple four-word tweet had grabbed hold of my attention and maintained it for an entire day through continuous reports of the horrendous natural disaster. Not only by informing through the one social platform but by redirecting me to their websites with more details, to other related articles and informing of special not-to-miss news programmes.

It seems that social media has become a new platform for journalism and a new and accessible method for distribution. Had I not logged into my twitter account it is likely that the message would not have reached me so quickly and the sheer enormity of the situation may not have been fully grasped had I not seen the massive response from journalists and users around the world. I decided to speak to journalists in the professional industry to discover to what extent social media is reshaping journalistic practices.

Karen Fowler-Watt, ex journalist for the BBC and senior lecturer at Bournemouth University, explained to me how Journalists are utilising social media to get their stories out quickly and effectively. She said: “Journalists’ lives have been transformed… there is no more waiting for live feeds or pieces to camera as they can tweet a headline and follow up in more depth later.”

It is this referral to newspapers and websites for more depth that is perhaps acting as a life-saver to the newspaper. It can be seen to be generating traffic to newspaper websites and from there to the printed papers.

Reading Chronicle editor, Sally Stevens, said social media platforms are not only effective for informing the public of breaking news but also for reporters who use the online mediums as a source for information. She said: “Reporters here will use Facebook and Twitter to track people involved in specific issues and to invite people to send in their personal experiences.” This was seen during the recent events in Japan with many news teams requesting additional information from their Twitter followers. @TelegraphNews wrote: “If you have any pictures/videos from the earthquake in #Japan or #tsunami damage, please email.” Sally explained that this is not a new technique as radio and television news have been asking their audiences to contact them for many years, but online media makes this a more accessible task.

On the 15th January 2009 it was twitter users that broke the news of the plane that crashed in New York’s Hudson River. @JimHanrahan was the first to tweet: “I just watched a plane crash into the hudson rive [sic] in manhattan.” At this event citizen journalism was at its finest with images, videos and tweets documenting the unfolding drama. It was fifteen minutes after this that the mainstream media began to report on the crash.

Social media has also been a great source for contacts for showbiz entertainment news. Celebrities left, right and centre have their own Twitter and Facebook pages now which they continuously use to promote their latest news, both personal and professional. Ex news editor of financialtimes.com and Bournemouth University lecturer, Liisa Rohumaa, said: “Showbiz journalists track twitter for updates, for example about Lilly Allen’s pregnancy, as well as to break scoops, such as when TMZ used twitter to announce Michael Jackson’s death.”

I must admit, breaking news for celebrities seems to feature rather heavily on my twitter feed due to the number of celebrity gossip gurus and magazines I follow. For me it has perfectly transformed the art of celeb spying. A recent example tweeted by @OK read: “Kym Marsh has given birth to a baby girl! Full story on its way…” Of course, I stayed tune.

But with all the positives of social media it seems a little too good to be true. There must be some downsides surely?

Sally Stevens said it’s extremely frustrating when a reporter accidentally gives away an exclusive they are working on due to the fact that social media is such an open forum for conversation. Asked the same question, Karen Fowler-Watt explained to me that consumers today are bombarded with alternative ways of engaging with the news due to the many prompts to create traffic via social media. When a viewer sits down to watch the news or listen to the radio they are repetitively told to follow them on Twitter or to become a Facebook fan which can be quite frankly annoying. Also, many academics argue that social media can encourage journalists to lapse into opinion reporting, often blurring the boundary between an objective account and a subjective story. But she said: “Social media is here to stay and the key is that journalism practice embraces it but still keeps a beady eye on the need to be impartial and to present a balanced account.”

Yes, whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay. And I believe it’s for the good of both the public and the professional journalistic practice. Social media has the power to provide fascinating, real time running reports and real life accounts of major incidents which alongside traditional, trusted methods of reporting creates an eye-opening story. As horrific as it was to watch, it’s undeniable that the ability to share over the internet information and footage of the Japan disaster from those experiencing it at that very second, has transformed journalism.

Photos: google images/flickr/twitpic

March 26, 2011 Posted by | Features, Journalism, Portfolio, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Features- how do you write yours?


When writing a news story there are guidelines in place to ensure your story is straight to the point, structured and accurate. 

 

All good journalism students are aware that the perfect lead should include the ‘what’ first, unless the ‘who’ is more important, the ‘where’ should also feature and the ‘when’ is usually incorporated at the end of the sentence. The lead should only be one sentence, two at the most, in order to state the main facts as simply as possible. The ‘why’ and the ‘how’ should be discussed high up in the story and the rest of the facts should follow in a set inverted pyramid structure. Three quotes is a good number and the first should preferably be in the third paragraph. There are exceptions, of course, but generally if you follow the rules you are onto a winner.

 

 

However, feature writing seems to me to be a little more difficult. It is the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ which often take centre stage. Following a large event or news story, features can provide the detail that readers want to know about. A writer can immerse themselves in the depth of the story rather than simply stating facts. They can even include their own opinions but supporting themselves using the solid groundings of primary reportage.

 

 

A journalist has much more creative freedom in which to entice the reader with. Firstly they must choose the type of feature which will best fit the information they wish to share. Lifestyle, backgrounder, profile, interview, how-to-do-it, opinion column… the list continues.

 

 

Then the style can be chosen. Do you wish to write in first person or third person? Perhaps in second person, including the reader at all times. Do you want your feature to read like a fictional book, full of description and painting a vivid image in the reader’s mind? Or would you prefer a more simple approach, colourful and engaging, yet an easy read?

 

 

Another question that you must ask yourself is how are you going to grab the attention of your reader? Just like a news story, the lead is vital in hooking the reader. The difference is that you can take as many sentences as you like to do so.

 

 

You may wish to explain the topic straight away by asking a simple question, or you may use a delayed lead where you can take several paragraphs to get to the point, perhaps by using an anecdote to ease the reader in. How about a shocking, horrific or emotional introduction? Have you considered a contrast lead, comparing an idealistic beautiful image with a graphic and horrible reality? The latter seems rather depressing to me but the choice is yours.

 

 

In my opinion, more freedom = more fun!

 

Picture: google images

March 22, 2011 Posted by | Blogs, Journalism | , | Leave a comment

Bournemouth locals advised not to worry about high crime rates


My attempt at news writing after being designated Central Bournemouth as my patch…

Bournemouth residents are being advised not to worry about high crime rates in the town’s clubbing district by the Council’s night-time initiative.

A new website set up by the Home Office shows that Bournemouth is home to some of the highest crime figures in the country. Fir Vale Road and Lansdowne Crescent saw 72 and 68 crimes respectively in December 2010.

Jon Shipp, Night Time Economy Coordinator for Bournemouth Quality Nights (BQN) Initiative, says that crime has decreased in the past two months. He said: “Bournemouth has a massive amount of visitors compared to other towns so crime rates are going to be higher. It’s important to keep this in perspective.”

BQN Initiative, part of Bournemouth’s Townwatch, is responsible for improving night-time safety. The initiative ensures police and chaplains patrol the streets at night and organise the annual Best Bar None audit.

Best Bar None will run for the fifth year in August awarding pubs and clubs points for reduction of crime and disorder, health and safety and licensing regulation.

Shipp added: “The majority of premises in Bournemouth are very well managed as you can see from the 24 accredited clubs in our Best Bar None initiative but if clubs do not take their responsibilities seriously then vigorous action must be taken.”

Upmarket clubs The Studio and Priva lost their licence this month after complaints of assault, drunkenness and drug abuse.

Rob Knowles from Dorset’s Door Supervisor Training Organisation says strict regulations are also being introduced to club bouncers. He said: “It’s important that bouncers are trained to intervene safely so that they don’t react violently to someone and make a situation worse.”

Bournemouth University student, Hannah Bedwell, often visits the town’s clubs but has never been a victim of crime. She said: “I always make sure I stay in a group but as it’s a busy area I know there’re always people around if I need help.”

Last year Bournemouth was awarded The Purple Flag which recognises excellence in the management of town centres at night. Bournemouth was praised for providing a safe, clean and pleasant night-time experience.

Photo: Bournemouth Echo

March 10, 2011 Posted by | Journalism, Portfolio | , , , , | Leave a comment

A condensed guide to media law


At first glance media law can seem, to say the least, a little bit daunting. When my Journalism lecturer presented an hour of rules and regulations, what you can and cannot say, who you can and cannot identify, all of a sudden reporting seemed rather scary. One mistake and you could have a libel case on your hands and even worse a damaged reputation as a journalist.

Of course, I was aware that there were restrictions, but journalists really do have so many barriers in-between free speech and the responsibility of informing the public.

Below is my condensed list of media law from the NUJ and PCC code of conduct:

  • Accuracy is vital. Yes, we all know that sloppy grammar, punctuation and spelling is not professional but, more importantly, a simple slip could drastically change the meaning of the matter you are informing about. On the occasion an inaccuracy is published, correct and apologiseIMMEDIATELY!



  • Be subjective. ‘Said’ is such a simple, and slightly boring word, but it does the job. Words like ‘confirmed’, ‘suggested’, ‘acknowledged’ puts your own stance on the matter and you must remain neutral. Also, ensure that you get balanced quotes so that the story is not one-sided.

 

  • Be cautious in establishing what is fact and what is rumour. Rumours should only be reported in the interest of the public. Make sure you are always supported with authoritative sources. Oh, and don’t sensationalise, stick to the facts.

 

  • Always report in good taste. Avoid publishing graphic details and gruesome photographs. Firstly, because you must respect victims and their families and secondly, who actually wants to read a horror story over breakfast first thing in the morning?

 

  • Obtain information, photographs and illustrations by straightforward means. Remember to be ethical in collecting information and remember to protect confidential sources. The public interest should always come first.

 

  • Never encourage discrimination. Only publish information about age, race, gender, marital status and sexual orientation if it is relevant.

 

  • Be aware of reporting restrictions with regards to children. You must not identify them if they are under the age of 18 and involved in court proceedings. If you are reporting on non-judical matters then always seek permission from a parent or guardian.

 

  • In court – now this is a complicated one. You should include in your report the name of the court, the defendant’s name, age and address and the charge or charges. Then of course you should state the plea, verdict and sentence. When writing about the case include details of who did what to who, where, when and how. Ensure you get accurate quotes. To obtain accurate quotes in court. Learning short-hand is a great idea as dictaphones and cameras must not enter the court room. You can identify the magistrate by name, however, you must not identify the jury. I suggest further research into court laws!

 

Hope this helps!

Picture: google images

March 1, 2011 Posted by | Journalism, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Patch Reporting: How to find a newsworthy story


At first, the idea of finding a news story in a designated patch may seem daunting. Especially so if it’s an area you don’t often visit or have any contacts for. But, after completing a patch report myself, I can safely say to you don’t panic. All you need is an open, inquisitive mind and the enthusiasm needed to fully immerse yourself in the role of the reporter.

The first thing I thought to myself when allocated Bournemouth town centre as my patch was how on earth am I going to find a story? But, I will let you into a little secret…everything can be a potential source for a story. What you read, what you see, what you hear, everything. All you have to do is learn to dig a little deeper into leads by asking question after question. Then you will find a fresh and exciting angle to follow up.

As a starting point, why not watch and read the local news relevant to your patch. News often evolves so find a story and then consider what has been missed out and question why. Asking yourself whether certain points in a story that have been left out or unexplained could yield a fresh angle. Perhaps, you feel the story is biased, in which case, finding another perspective could be the next step forward.

In addition to reading local news, you may find a story by observing the national news to see if there is a local angle that applies. Residents are always interested in the local impact of a big story, for instance, during the national elections people were eager to know how particular national policies would affect their own town. A personal example of when this worked for me was during a work placement at Reading Chronicle. I was given the task to browse through the national papers to see if any news could apply to the town. After reading a story about thermometers selling out fast around the country due to the swine flu epidemic, I used my investigative skills to find if this was the case for chemists in Reading. It was- for all of them.

I only found this out through personally speaking to those who managed the chemists. It’s important to remember that people are ‘sources’ so cultivate them and take the effort to get to know them. The more authoritative people you can connect with, the more newsworthy stories you are likely to find. If you can get government officials, police officers, lawyers etc to speak to you then you will have a high chance of writing a credible story. So, get on the phone to as many of these people as possible and ask them what is happening or whether they have heard any particularly interesting news.

From speaking to people you may also find trend stories. Perhaps certain events have happened on numerous occasions to different people? Perhaps burglaries, attacks, missing pets? As a reporter you should start to list similar situations and ask the question ‘why is this frequently happening?’

But the best advice anyone can give you is to just get out there and give it a go. Keep your eyes and ears open at all times, speak to as many people as possible and, above all, think like a reporter. It might be that on your first attempt you don’t find anything but don’t give up. Eventually you will find the lead of all leads which will result in a credible, newsworthy story that everyone will be interested to read.

Picture: google images

February 28, 2011 Posted by | Blogs, Journalism | , , | Leave a comment

A beginners guide to reporting


In the second week of my journalism unit we were well and truly thrown into the deep end. After just a week of journalism theory we were to become Bournemouth University’s official reporters as we investigated how students really feel about semesterisation. It’s true what they say though, the best way to learn anything is to just have a go… so that’s exactly what we did.

Here is my beginners guide to reporting:

  • Firstly, be prepared. Research the facts first, know the subject inside out and read any related articles first. Having a solid understanding and knowledge of Bournemouth University’s semesterisation programme was key.

 

  • Make sure you know what you want to ask interviewees and choose people who will add credibility to your story. I prepared a selection of questions to ask students and lecturers at the university. However, these were only used as guidelines as it was important to respond to the answers given and to find out more about particularly interesting points. You don’t want to miss a crucial angle by skipping to the next question.

 

  • Finding contacts can be difficult. Students were not too difficult to find as I was already at University so I decided to chat to students in the SU bar. Speaking to lecturers was a little bit harder as they work to a busy schedule. To overcome this I researched specific lecturer’s office hours and dropped by to see if they were available to chat. Speaking to those involved with the student union was also useful and they were particularly keen to share their views.

 

  • When reporting make use of all the mediums around you for reaching potential sources- Twitter and Facebook can be great for this.

 

  •  Once you’ve found a wide range of sources, getting each of them to speak to you can be even harder. Always be polite and introduce yourself, the subject you would like to discuss and explain why you are interested in their views.

 

  • Remember to take all key details that may be needed in the story. For this example, I took the interviewee’s name, age, degree and year. Also, if you are unsure of a spelling then ask. It is always best to double check all details are correct at this stage than to get it wrong in the report. If a source asks to remain anonymous then you must respect their wishes.

 

  • If possible take a contact detail so that if you have any queries when writing the story you can get back in touch.

 

  • Remain organised. A good reporter should have spoken to many sources before they begin writing so it is important to keep all your notes in order. I also find it is useful to keep track of all the people I have contacted and ticked off those who have responded. It does not look professional to pester those who have already declared they are unwilling or unable to comment on a topic.

 

  • Once you feel you have enough information full of credible sources and a clear, newsworthy angle you are ready to write.

Good luck!!

Photo: google images

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Blogs, Journalism | , , | Leave a comment

PR v Journalism or PR = Journalism?


“Writing has always been my passion. It’s a way to express myself, my feelings and opinions or I can fully emerge myself in another world through creative writing. When I write it feels like a release of emotions and an escape from everyday life.”

This was the answer I prepared when my journalism lecturer asked in our first seminar this year why we had chosen his unit. It was an honest answer but I dreaded being chosen to answer. This was mainly due to the fact that I didn’t want to announce that I actually intended to follow a career on the other side – in PR.

So why did I choose this unit?

Ever since I was a small child I would write. In my pre-school years I would copy out children’s books and then as I became slightly older I would start to write my own little imaginative stories. I can vividly remember the sense of pride and satisfaction I felt as my parents read and praised my work. But it wasn’t just creative writing I attempted. In my final year of primary school I wrote and edited my very own magazine – my first taste of ‘journalism’. And to cut a long story short, the pattern continued throughout school and sixth form as I excelled in both English and Media Studies.

As you can see through this blog and my work portfolio, I still enjoy writing and I believe that continuing and furthering your writing skills stands you in good stead for whichever career path you choose. For instance, PRO’s are often writing press releases and features to send to journalists or using social media platforms, such as blogs, to publicise their company.

As well as in writing, I have a great interest in the media and its powerful influence on our lives. Being part of that in some way fills me with excitement. Whichever profession in the media you choose surely it makes sense to understand how they all work together?  The journalism unit is vital in my final year of my degree not only to develop my writing skills but to compliment my other units: public relations, advertising and publishing. I would recommend Bournemouth University’s Communication and Media degree to anyone who has a general love for the media. No other degree would give you such a well-rounded understanding of the integrated professions and how they relate to each other.

If I am to employ successful PR practice in the future I need to understand the role of the journalist in order to work beside them effectively. I need to be aware of their pressures and demands, instead of focussing purely on my own, to form a good working relationship with them. At the same time PR involves writing clear and concise press releases with newsworthy angles which will help save a busy journalist time. In my opinion, having a solid understanding of the role of a journalist is key and vice versa.

Check out the clip below which demonstrates the importance of PROs and journalists understanding each other’s job role:

February 4, 2011 Posted by | Blogs, Journalism | , , , , | 1 Comment