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 apologise… IMMEDIATELY!
- 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
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.
Photo: google images
“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:
For our professional writing unit we were given an assignment to write a short story…so I thought I would publish my attempt!
Inspiration for this story came as I observed a frail old woman who was getting off the bus struggling with her shopping bags. It made me wonder where she was going and whether she had anyone to meet. Then my thoughts led to who she may have been in her younger life and the experiences she may have had. I realised how quickly life moves on and how everyone will one day be in the same situation. As health care is constantly improving and people are living longer I feel it is important to improve the quality of life for the elderly which is reflected in this story.
The Final Mile
Life is full of milestones. Significant moments that are ticked off on life’s chart one by one. When we are young we look forward to them, anticipate them and even hurry them on. A child dreams of their teenage years and the independence they believe it brings, they wish for their first boyfriend, first kiss. In young adulthood we are desperate to leave home, gain a career, get married and have children. I feel that these things are all hastily rushed into as we eagerly wish for what we are not quite ready for. In the latter half of life we dread and postpone them for as long as possible. We deny them often, use white lies to avoid the truth of them. But they can’t be avoided in the long run. I know this as I’ve reached my life’s final milestone and it fills me with fear.
It came with a ring of the doorbell. On my third attempt I’d managed to pull myself to my feet from my armchair where I had been sat watching the evening news. I eventually made my way to the door to let my niece, Sarah, in. She reminded me a little of my younger self as she stood tall and smart in her expensive silk lined business suit. I noticed her shiny, posh car parked outside and smiled at her success as if it were my own. I was director of L.Davies Advertising Company once upon a time; I was a powerful and respected woman in my day, always busy, always active. Not that it means much to me now, it’s just a vague and distant memory I’m afraid. She leant down and kissed my cheek as she entered the house and helped me over to the settee. Her affectionate personality then reminded me of her mother, a quality I’d always envied of my baby sister. But in that moment, like six pm every evening, she brought a smile to my day.
Then life checked off its final box.
“Auntie Lucy, you know I love coming to see you don’t you?” she said softly as she sat down beside me, “but you’re 87 next week, you shouldn’t be on your own. I worry about you in this big house. You should be looked after properly now.”
She looked at me with a fusion of guilt and exasperation in her eyes. I noticed the dark ring marks under them and realised the burden I’d become to her. And I knew it was time. Time to lose my dignity in ‘death’s waiting room’. Sarah smiled and squeezed my hand; her hand was warm and firm, so full of life. I didn’t say a thing, just listened to her.
“I know we’ve discussed this before and you didn’t like the idea but John and I have looked into some really lovely homes. I know you can afford something really luxurious. Then you won’t have to be on your own here all the time”.
In that one moment I wanted to set her free. It dawned on me that she should be dedicating her time to her own family. Her two teenage girls needed her and her husband missed her. She should be running her own home instead of spending each evening checking on mine. I love her dearly, you see, she’s the daughter I never had. She’s the only family I had left. After her mother died unexpectedly three summers ago she’d taken on the responsibility of keeping me company and we’d become very fond of each other. Although I battled with my private thoughts that moving into a home was giving up, I saw her desperate, pleading expression and found it in myself to answer her.
“Yes, ok dear”.
I saw her facial expression turn to relief and deep down I was relieved too. I was lonely, I rarely ventured out of the house anymore and I was incredibly bored. I often wondered what life would be like in old age if I had my own children and grandchildren to adore. I find myself questioning whether I’ve really lived my life to the full- my mind was always set on work and never on settling down.
That night I dreamt that I was thirty again. I was tall and slim with long, blonde hair. I looked strong both physically and mentally; not the frail, hunched old woman that peers back in the mirror at me now. I saw my smooth unblemished hand filling out a mountain of paperwork. Molly, my secretary, brought over my coffee and gave me a list of all my appointments that day. I was rushed off of my feet, my diary was jam-packed and I appeared to be enjoying every minute of it. At that moment my phone began to ring, and ring. Apparently I was ignoring my latest boyfriend.
I awoke to my real phone ringing on my bedside table.
“John and I will pick you up at three to show you a place you’ll just love. Right I must go; I’m late for my meeting”.
Before I knew it I was standing in Richmond Manor’s finest suite. It was larger than I’d imagined and was cosy and warm. A four-post double bed draped in lace was the focus of the room opposite an elegant oak dressing table. Nostalgia filled me as it reminded me of the one that my mother used to sit me and my sister in front of whilst she curled our hair. The walls were decorated with ivory wallpaper and paintings and photographs of grandchildren and family weddings were hung. I wished that I had similar photos to replace them with. John distracted my attention to the large television which he informed ‘had all the digital channels and an internet connection’. I moved over to the window where bright sunlight was flooding into the room. The manor gardens beneath me were full of blossoming flowers and the lake in the distance was sparkling. I looked down and noticed a little bench where two women, who looked the same age as me, were sat gossiping. They pointed over to the gardener in the distance who looked over and raised his cap to them. I had not expected to find such a friendly and happy environment and in that moment I no longer felt lonely or frightened. I had a sense of excitement that I hadn’t felt in years.
I realised that life’s plan knows best. I no longer feel that this is my final mile. Instead this is the beginning of my happiness to come. I do have a family who will always care for me and new friends I have yet to meet. However much longer of my journey is left I intend to live to the full.
In a Twitter style interview, Sarah Mason is challenged to answer my questions in under 140 characters. I discover why she chose to study at Bournemouth University, her career prospects and who she will be supporting at tonight’s BRIT Awards….
Why did you choose to read BA Communication and Media at Bournemouth University?
I wanted to study something media related and BU’s Media school has such a good reputation.
And what exactly is your course?
My course covers a range of media practices such as journalism, pr and marketing. Over the three years you can focus it to the area that interests you.
What career are you looking to pursue after graduating then?
I’m interested in writing and have just started a blog. So possibly a career in journalism or publishing.
On your blog you have a link to your twitter account. Who are you following?
Yes, I’ve only just signed up to Twitter but so far I’m following BBC News, NME and Q Magazine.
Oh, so if you are interested in music I bet you are looking forward to the BRIT Awards tonight?
I am so looking forward to seeing British talent recognised by the music industry. Although, I do get annoyed that only the big names win awards and small bands are looked over.
Who will you be supporting?
Florence and The Machine! I love her album as she has a genuinely good voice. She’s nominated for 3 awards.
Also, Muse ‘coz I’m going to see them this year.
So, possibly a career writing for music magazines?
Maybe. I do always have an opinion whether it’s the right one or not!