Category Archives: Journalism

Empire Big Screen

Last weekend was a bit of a mad one for me. I had a wedding reception to attend on Friday, which went quite well, and it was then that a friend dropped a bombshell on me: he was attending Empire Big Screen, the 3-day annual event where they hold film premieres, secret screenings, Q+A’s with the stars and much more, as press the next day, and had a +1. Of course I bit his hand off at this opportunity, as any of you who know me will know that I’m a little bit obsessed with films.

 

Saturday comes around, I have a gargantuan hangover and have only slept for about 4 hours, but still, we make our way over to the O2, nee Millennium Dome, in Greenwich, to see what the metaphorical craic is. We make our way in, (the one thing I don’t like about the O2 is that they search you with a big metal detector, your bag goes through one as well, it’s like being at an airport. I completely understand why they do it, but it still annoys me) and make our way to the press office to collect our press passes.

 

The first thing we see once we’ve signed in, is a Q+A session with Roland Emmerich, director of, amongst other movies, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day! He wasn’t there to discuss those though, he was talking about his new film, Anonymous, which deals with the conspiracy theories that Shakespeare was not who he said he was, again, one of my favourite topics of discussion, so the film looks great, even if the Bard himself is being played by Rafe Spall, who I only know as Noel, the ‘you’ve got red on you’ guy from the Richer Sounds piss-take in Shaun of the Dead, and the Andy who wasn’t Paddy Considine from Hot Fuzz. To be honest, I can’t see how he’s anything like Shakespeare. But we’ll see!

 

Anyway, I digress, back to the Big Screen. After that we wandered round for a bit, I picked up a 12-month subscription of Empire for £20 (bargain!) and we were then offered a free screening of Troll Hunter, a film that I’d never heard about, but I am reliably informed, by both a Norwegian friend of mine, and the director and lead who had a Q+A before and after the film, that this is a Norwegian cult classic. I won’t go into much details about the film here, saving that for a later post, but let me just say that it’s pretty damn good!

 

We leave Troll Hunter happy, and are a bit bemused about what to do next. It’s getting late, and we thought that everything had finished. Oh how wrong we were, as we found out that there was a UK premiere of Cowboys and Aliens an hour away, and our passes would get us in for free! Again, Cowboys and Aliens will be dealt with in time, but let me just say that this is a proper summer blockbuster, and not to be missed!

 

Sunday wasn’t quite as eventful, mainly as we turned up super-late, meaning we missed, amongst other things, Q+A’s with Terry Giliam, Gareth Edwards (a name most of you won’t recognise, but if you have a chance, see his film Monsters, it’s great! He’s also directing the new Godzilla, which should be amazing,) a piece on how to become a screenwriter, a screening of The Guard, which is meant to be hilarious, and the premiere of Conan in 3D. Now whilst I’m genuinely gutted about missing all of them, we saw the final screening, which was the big one: the UK premiere of Fright Night, hosted by David Tennant. Again, check back here soon for my thoughts on the film itself, but I really enjoyed it. It felt like it should be a Vincent Price movie, even though it’s nearly 20 years after his last film/death. Guess that shows how much of an impact he’s had on horror films.

 

Anyway, all in all, Empire Big Screen was a great success, I really enjoyed myself, and recommend it to everyone next year!

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The death of the newspaper

With the obvious increase of online news, coupled with the decline in newspaper sales, many journalists and media types are understandably worried about where the press industry is going, especially given the introduction, and failure to take off, of pay walls, which I will discuss in a later post.

I for one have been asked on several occasions why, given that the country is apparently in a recession, that there are no jobs around for graduates, and that papers are fast going out of business, London Lite being one of the main examples, why the hell I want to be a journalist in this day and age? My answer to them is that it’s my passion, my ambition, it’s what I’ve wanted to be since I was about 8, looking at whatever paper it is that my parents bought back then, not really knowing what was being said in them, but wanting to be just like the man who wrote the stories in the papers. Also I think I really wanted to be Clark Kent too..

Anyway, I digress, we’re steering away from the point here, which is that today I was a little shocked to read an article on the Guardian website which quotes from Ross Dawson, who is, according to the article, a futurist, which I can only imagine is like a modern-day version of Nostradamus who gets paid to analyse markets and tell the future, who claims that newspapers are going to come to an end very, very quickly. America will lose paper journalism within 7 years, Britain and Iceland two years after that, then Canada, Norway and Australia before 2022. However, some good news for budding journalists is that neither France nor Germany will lose newspapers for another 20 years or so.

Now this surprised me because I always knew that newspapers were going to come to an end eventually, but I think I’m one of a select few who actually enjoys reading a newspaper more than I do news online. However, online news is much easier, hence I am always checking online for news, whereas I unfortunately only read about 3 papers a week. Hopefully that will increase with my purchasing of the i, which, though still young in its production lifecycle, I am very much enjoying.

A quick scan of Dawson’s blog gives us a visual representation of when countries will lose their newspapers in a timeline. Now I’m not going to directly post that here, given that I have no idea about the copyright shitstorm that I may well incur if I did that, but what I will do is link to this blog article (here) and advise you to have a look at it, if you’re interested in this kinda thing, along with the Guardian article in question too (here).

If you’re not interested in this sort of thing, tell me! There’s a Comments section at the bottom. What would you like me to write about? Open forum time, ladies and gentlemen…

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A Step in the Right Direction?

As anyone who has ever travelled on the Tube in London will tell you, the lack of mobile phone coverage is really irritating, meaning that you have to end any conversations before you get to the ticket hall at most stations, and won’t resume coverage until pretty much street level.

Now it is completely understandable that there’s no signal on these trains; you’re underground, after all! But, mobile phones have been in mainstream use for most of this decade, and have been around for 30 years, surely this problem should be solved by now? Make-shift solutions have been banded about for years now it would seem, suggestions of all-encompassing, all-powerful signal boosters installed in the tunnels, or so-called ‘signal deflectors’ that are supposed to somehow bounce the coverage off each other, down the tunnels. I don’t understand how this would work, and I’m not going to pretend to. But the fact that people are making suggestions means that a solution could well be in the pipe-line.

Which brings me to the TFL wi-fi trial, in conjuction with BT Openzone, that was introduced yesterday, Monday 1st November 2010,  at Charing Cross tube station (Londonist report found here) which they report that, although only covering the ticket hall and platform levels, is apparently really good, with instant connection, and a fast one at that. I for one am very excited by the prospect, and if it means that, at some point in the future, Londoners can actually ride the tube with the ability to make a phone call, access their emails or even go on Facebook, then I’m definitely in. Changes are everywhere in the capital at the moment, the new Tube trains I spoke about in a previous post for example, and they are just going to increase between now and the Olympics, 18 very short months away. London is a very exciting place to live right now.

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Social Networking

For quite some time now I’ve been wondering what the impact of social networking is on the value of journalism, since, in fact, I studied a module on the value of journalism during my final year of university which brought to my attention the importance of both social media and the blogosphere, confirmed by a conference that I attended earlier this year, Value of Journalism 2010, hosted by the BBC College of Journalism, which I’ve written about previously. Since then I have been trying unsuccessfully to promote myself through both these mediums in a vain attempt to add some credibility to my word, when an experiment was brought to my attention this morning.

The experiment in question was entitled ‘Huis Clos Sur Le Net’ or ‘Behind Closed Doors On The Net’ and the premise is simple: 5 journalists, from France, have to spend 5 days in a farmhouse in Southern France, and their only sources of news are Facebook and Twitter. Also, they can’t follow feeds or tweets of any news media, so all of their news has to be third-hand in effect, in order to establish the value of social networking for journalists.

Their first discovery was that their attention was drawn to news articles that they wouldn’t normally read, for example, through a degree of separation, one of the participants read tweets from a man jailed in Moscow during a demonstration, and the participant followed this up via tweeting and phone calls and managed to write an interesting story on this piece that usually he would have had no idea about.

Another realisation that came from this experiment was that a large portion of news relayed via social networking has, in one way or another, been skewed or altered somehow, meaning it turns into a worldwide, digital version of Chinese whispers, whereby you will only find out as much as someone else wants to tell you, meaning that large chunks of daily news are left untouched because another person did not deem them necessary to reiterate.

Conclusions drawn from this experiment are that the impact of social networking on journalism is a lot bigger than many think, leading to many journalists underestimating the value of social media, for example, one of the participants in this experiment who works at CBC/Radio-Canada says that very few of his colleagues use Twitter, despite the news organisation having an account with over 30,000 followers.

As far as I’m concerned, whilst this experiment isn’t ground-breaking; there have been others before it, and there will be others after it, it should hopefully wake some of the media up to the impact of Twitter, Facebook and social media as a whole. The experiment can be found here

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Value of Journalism 2010

Fresh from my visit to the LSE for the BBC College of Journalism’s conference entitled The Value of Journalism 2010, I thought I’d post my thoughts on the matter. One point I will make is that many media types will be mentioned, and instead of describing exactly who they are, I will link to a website. This website will usually be Wikipedia, not because I rely on their user-generated content, but because I feel that this will be the easiest way to find out who they are.

Having arrived, my first impressions were that the London School of Economics (LSE) is an impressive campus, much more so than the one during my time at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. Once we found the Sheikh Zayed Theatre – Lower Ground floor of the New Academic Building, in case anyone gets lost like we did!- we registered and were given the standard free literature, including a remarkably interesting booklet on Networked Journalism, and a free USB pen. We then wandered round for a while, seeing what kind of people were attending, and found the ‘Twitter Wall’. This was an electronic board compiling tweets that had the hashtag #voj10, seeing who was attending and what they had to say about it. Of course, prompted by this, I posted with the hashtag, and my tweet was shown on said wall! After this, we decided to enter the theatre, and take our seats.

Even the lecture theatres in the LSE are nicer than they were in Aberystwyth! Whilst ours was decrepit and falling apart, these were modern, fancy, and even had cooling fans in the floor! Talk about impressive!

Whilst we were still awed by the impressive nature of this lecture theatre, people begun flocking in and taking their seats. We were ushered from our optimum-viewing seats, centralised so we could see everything that was going on, to the end of the row, in order to allow other people to sit down too. We didn’t mind too much, it’s a fact of life, but others begun making it an issue, raising their voices at the stewards. Why bother? What’s the point? Is it going to make your life any better once you’ve shouted at the poor girl?

Anyway, Charlie Beckett (Director of POLIS, the think-tank at LSE, http://www.charliebeckett.org/) introduced himself and told us a little about how the event was going to work. It turns out there were two tracks going on at the same time, and you could pick and choose which ones you wanted to go to. The other track didn’t begin till 11, so we had an hour and a half to spend in this theatre.

Once Beckett had finished his brief introduction (he would return later) the chair was left to Jon Snow, of Channel 4 news fame (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Snow) I myself was very impressed with how he spoke, though I wasn’t expecting him to be an awful orator, given his position of power within C4 News. He discussed Networked Journalism, told us a little about his time in Haiti, and how that was like being back to basics, where journalism was concerned, he told us about the changing face of journalism, reliant on things like Twitter (http://twitter.com/) and BlackBerry. He also recommended we watch a film called Man On Wire (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1155592/) comparing it to journalism in a long and well-worded metaphor that I won’t disgrace by précising.

Everything else seemed a bit of a disappointment after Jon Snow, but we still enjoyed the day. The next talk was one on whether the recent election was a digital one or not, which didn’t actually interest me much at all. If I were asked to give a definite answer as to whether it was a digital election or not, I’d say yes it was, given the televised debates, and the Facebook and YouTube polls, along with the Twitter integration. Speakers here included the chair Rory Cellan-Jones (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rory_Cellan-Jones), a BBC journalist who was impressive in his chairing without really saying a great deal and Douglas Alexander of the Labour party (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Alexander), an MP who didn’t really have much to say, and was overshone by a number of other speakers. Rishi Saha (http://blog.conservatives.com/index.php/2008/09/26/up-and-running/) who, in his position of Head of Social Media at the Conservative Party, had a lot to say regarding the issue of whether this was a digital election, and did stress repeatedly that the mailing list for the Tories is the most subscribed of all three political parties. The most credible of all the speakers in this event was Sir Robert Worcester, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Worcester) who, with the aid of a hand-out, analysed the recent election results, which I won’t go into because frankly they bored me almost to tears. Laura Kuenssberg (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Kuenssberg) had a lot to say about Twitter, given her reliance on it, and is a huge advocate of the digitalisation of journalism, it would seem.

For the next few hours, there wasn’t really much to speak of. We inadvertently caught the final half hour of a talk on the Value of Networked Journalism, chaired by Charlie Beckett, which wasn’t great, neither of us enjoyed it, so we took lunch.

We returned for possibly the most interesting and thought-provoking of all the talks, which was on Grassroots Journalism. This was a piece on what is called hyperlocal journalism, which will be explained further in a later post, but is, in its simplest terms, journalism which is tailored to its readers to such an extent that it could be written purely about your postcode!

#voj10 was a thought-provoking and intriguing day, which certainly gave me a lot to think about, but I also feel that it was a little disappointing, in that I left it with a lot more questions than answers. I guess that’s the way it is though!

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