Tag Archives: Personal

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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Time to sort this out

Okay, so I’ve been away,not really been blogging much at all, which isn’t good practice. But I’m back now, and I’m not gonna bother with excused, I’m just going to blog regularly and do some selfless self-promotion elsewhere. First on the agenda is what’s been happening.

The last few weeks have been eventful, to say the least. I went to a seminar last week which, although informative, was not followed-up as it was promised, by no fault of my own, but there’s nothing that can be done about that. I also spent some time looking for antiques in Portobello Road, ate in possibly the nicest restaurant I’ve ever been in, had an interview for a recruitment company which didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, and have also seen a couple of new films, namely Iron Man 2, the Nightmare on Elm Street reboot, and The Losers, as well as being emotionally effected, if not a little disappointed, with the Lost finale. I’ll start with Portobello.

Portobello Road: the heart of Notting Hill

For those who don’t know, Portobello Road is a market in Notting Hill in West London which sells a wide range of things from old leather footballs to antiques to vintage clothes, and everything in between. To quote the 1971 Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks, “you’ll find what you want in the Portobello Road!”. I went there to meet a dear friend of mine, with her family, who had come over to London from her home town of Bergen, Norway, (see March 29th post) and to look for some antiques for my father, last Saturday. Whilst my search yielded unsuccessful, Portobello was definitely worth a visit, as it always is, and I would recommend anyone who hasn’t been there to go, immediately. Though I’m not sure the weather’s too nice for it today…

Having left Portobello, we went our separate ways and met later in the evening for a meal. The Wolseley came highly recommended, so we went there, despite my being put off by what I assumed would be high prices, given it’s location next to the Ritz. The food was possibly the best I’ve ever eaten, certainly the best steak to have passed my lips, and the prices, considering how nice the food was, were very reasonable. Another high recommendation here for anyone who needs a nice meal in the Green Park area.

And so, having left the Troye family to return to their hotel in Finsbury Park on that Saturday night, returning to Croydon for a few drinks before sleeping, my sleeping patterns were erratic to say the least, given that I was wary of needing to be up at 3am Monday morning to collect the Troyes from Finsbury Park, drive them to Gatwick, and return home, given that they had no way of making their flight otherwise, not only making me tired, but also meaning that I missed the finale of Lost, which was simulcast on Sky One at 5am, going out at the same time as it did in America. Needless to say I was not best pleased at this.

All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues

Since it first aired, with the Pilot, shown on September 22nd 2004, I have been an avid fan of Lost. I am one of the relative few who stuck with it all the way through, excusing the dire parts, especially bits of Season 3, knowing that the bad parts would be immediately eradicated by the good ones, which certainly came in abundance during seasons 4 and 5, not so much in 6. The finale, when it came, was everything I expected, and yet nothing at all. I’m going to try and explain, whilst making sure I’m not putting spoilers in, mainly because those who saw it will know exactly what I’m talking about. It was a crash-bang-wallop ending to the emotional roller-coaster that has been the last 6 years, one that had been in the pipeline, if you believe what you’re told, for the last 6 years, and the ball had certainly started rolling a couple of episodes ago with some big events happening. The finale itself was a bit of a disappointment, given the hype that preceded it, for weeks beforehand, blogs, reports, tweets, clip shows, all telling us how amazing Monday 24th May would be, so that when it actually came, it was slightly underwhelming. I think I need to watch it again before I process a concrete opinion on it, given that I know people who felt it was the most apt ending they’d ever seen, some who felt it was absolutely horrendous, and some, like me, who just didn’t know. More to come.

1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you

Having not been a huge fan of the original Nightmare on Elm Street, other than Dream Warriors, I was quite sceptical when I heard there was to be a reboot, especially with an unproven director at the helm. There was a rumour that Jackie Earle Haley had been case as Freddy Krueger, which he denied, but did say it was a role that he would be very interested in. Ironically, it was then announced that, as a result of this rumour, he was offered the character and accepted. When I heard this my interest was immediately revived, as Haley has quickly cemented himself as one of my favourite actors following his performances in the brilliant Shutter Island as George Noyce and Rorschach in the much-maligned but thoroughly enjoyable Watchmen.

It was with this anticipation that I made my way to the Odeon cinema in Beckenham, Kent, a beautiful grade 1 listed building, joined by a regular film-watcher companion of mine, Jason, himself a huge fan of the Elm Street franchise, who knew that he would enjoy the film regardless of whether it was good or not. What followed was a standard, run-of-the-mill horror remake, following in the footsteps of so many other remakes in recent years, and a performance by Haley which, by no means bad, fell short of his performances as Rorschach and Noyce. The film lacked what the original had, and what is necessary in a horror film: actual horror. Whilst the original was tongue-in-cheek, cheesy horror, this just seemed watered down and pacified. Whilst still worth a watch, I’d recommend a rental on DVD rather than a cinema visit. 5/10

I am Iron Man. The suit and I are one.

The first Iron Man film was one of my favourite films of 2008, only championed by a handful of films, including Dark Knight, and another Robert Downey Jr film, Tropic Thunder. Fresh from his Oscar nomination in TT, and having played the classic literary character Sherlock Holmes prior to this, Downey Jr reprises his role as billionaire Tony Stark, here in a sequel which is nearly as good as the original, but for some wasted sequences detailing Stark’s battle with himself (RDJ method acting, maybe?). Mickey Rourke was good as Whiplash, but this portrayal was always going to seem inferior to his last major part, the Oscar-nominated Randy in the Wrestler. I, having not yet seen The Wrestler, hadn’t seen Rourke since, shamefully, the Keira Knightley-friendly Domino, and prior to that, two of my favourite films – Sin City and Man on Fire.

Joining these two are Don Cheadle, replacing Terrence Howard, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell and Samuel L Jackson, with Gwyneth Paltrow reprising her role as Tony Stark’s love interest Pepper Potts from the original. This impressive ensemble cast give a film which, although undoubtedly flawed, is an enjoyable ride, full of humour, action, and vague attempts at romance, and definitely worth a watch for fans of the original, though I must reiterate that it is not as good. 7.5/10 (only because the original was an 8)

You Don’t Give Them Orders, You Just Turn Them Loose

I didn’t have high hopes when I started watching The Losers. I didn’t expect Oscar-material, with an emotionally driven plot, and deep character development. I knew I was getting a weak action film with one-dimensional characters and I wasn’t disappointed. That’s not to say this film wasn’t enjoyable, but its a self-reflexive action film that doesn’t try to be anything else, which, as far as I’m concerned at least, is a breath of fresh air into a stagnant genre, full of action movies that try and put an emotional subtext, or a political subtext, and fail miserably at both. The Losers is an easy-going action movie, to watch on a rainy day inside, or when nursing a hangover. 6/10

And that concludes today’s update. Hopefully it won’t be as long until the next one.

Matt

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Scandinavian Adventures

So, now the dust has settled and my head has recovered, it’s time to reflect on what’s been an eventful couple of weeks. Since last posting, two main things have happened. The first was playing what is undoubtedly the best game of the year so far, and one of the best games I’ve played ever, Heavy Rain. But that was overshadowed by my trip to Norway last week. I’ll begin with Heavy Rain.

Dans le Noir

Critics were raving about this game before it was released, but I didn’t take much notice of this. It was only when I played the demo that I understood exactly how amazing a game this was going to turn out to be. As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one to think so either. It took me a week to track down a copy of it, given that everywhere had sold out of it as it was so popular, however, once I found it, it certainly was no disappointment.

Now I’m not normally one for getting emotionally attached to games, but I couldn’t help myself becoming encompassed in the storyline and genuinely feeling for the characters, so much so that I felt actual disdain for the killer by the climax of the gripping, albeit short plot. The characters are surprisingly deep for a game of this magnitude, and the innovative control system, whilst annoying at times, is ultimately enjoyable.

What surprised me about this game most of all was its ability to make the everyday mundane events enjoyable. Events like drinking, cutting pizza and putting a baby to sleep, those which in a normal game would seem nauseating, in this seemed almost interesting, and certainly a welcome break from some of the more intense action sequences.

All in all, this game is unlike any other that you will play this year. I would write more, but it wouldn’t do it justice. If you’ve got a PS3, buy it. If not, buy one. Then buy Heavy Rain.

The city among the seven mountains

Okay, so, for those reading who don’t know, I went to Norway last week (Friday-Monday) to visit some random girl I don’t even know….I joke, I joke, Michelle’s a very good friend of mine who I met at university, first day in fact, and we’ve pretty much been great friends since. It was her birthday last week, so I had been summoned to Norway, much like her to London in October for mine.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been to Bergen, I went over in Summer 2008 too, so I’d seen most of the city back then. This time, it was only a long weekend, and pretty much the only event on the agenda was enjoying a break from work and going out for her birthday on the Saturday night. Bergen’s a nice city, very picturesque, a harbour city with some real history, Ibsen and the like, and the city centre is a cool place to be, but we’d done all the museums and shopping last time I was there, so we didn’t bother this time.

The day I landed, Friday, we didn’t really do much until the evening. We relaxed for a bit, had a catch up, ate some food, and I had to sleep for a little as I was running on about 3 hours sleep! The evening came, and we went to eat in the restaurant that she works in with some of her friends and her parents. Lovely food, shame about the staff that they employ! No, in all seriousness, the food was quite spectacular, I had some antipasti for starter, which was nice, and then the main was duck confit, which I’d never had before, and it was probably the nicest duck dish I’ve ever had. We were all full, and didn’t fancy doing anything further that night, so we went home, preparing ourselves for the day after.

Saturday, the day of the party, was a fairly relaxed affair. We didn’t really do much during the day, mainly because the celebrations were due to start at 6pm, not giving us much time to do much given that we weren’t awake before midday, so we just chilled and got ready to go out. Having met some of her friends in some place that I have no idea of the name of, we went to the pre-party house. We had some drinks there, before heading into town, where we partied some more. Not much can be recalled of the night, it was all a bit of a blur, but all in all, a good time had by all.

The hangover that came with Sunday morning was horrendous, leading to a day spent mostly in bed, only rising to eat and watch some football. By the evening we’d shaken most of the hangover, so we decided to go to the cinema. A film had been suggested, Valhalla Rising, and all I’d had told to me was that it was about Vikings fighting, and had Mads Mikkelsen in it, who I loved in Casino Royale, making the film sound awesome.

En route to the cinema the question of whether the film was all in Danish or not was raised, which would have been fine, but there would only have been Norwegian subtitles. Luckily, though I don’t think we had any luck with this film, it wasn’t, it was in English with Norwegian subtitles, which worked for all of us. What didn’t work, unfortunately, was the car crash of a film! All the fighting we were promised was shown in the first ten minutes of the film, when Mikkelsen’s character was being held captive as a slave, only released to fight with other slaves, leading to some very brutal scenes. He then escapes, and you realise he’s mute, but he talks through his psychic bond with a small child who dubs him One-Eye.

What follows is what was obviously trying to be a study of the human psyche, with the different chapters being different parts of the mind. It actually ended up being a travesty, with the attempted tension laughable, so much so that people walked out of the cinema, and some utterly ridiculous scenes that were definitely unnecessary, and a plot that lost me a third of the way in. All in all, definitely not worth a watch, despite the average IMDb rating that it got. Do not watch this film!

That was the only downside to what was a thoroughly enjoyable long weekend in Bergen. It was a welcome break from the tiresome boredom that has become associated with Croydon, and it was good to see Michelle and the Troye family again. Thanks for having me, and I hope I wasn’t too much of a hassle!

The death of television

So over the last week two announcements were made, about two separate television shows, both of which I watch religiously. Both announcements were expected, and both came with mixed reviews. The first was that, after a couple of seasons of ‘will they/won’t they’ 24 has been cancelled, and will come to an end after its current series, perhaps with a view to another movie. The second is that the Lost finale will be called simply ‘The End’. Whilst I’ve known the Lost finale has been coming for a while, I have simply refused to accept it. Giving it a title has cemented the fact that, in 2 months time, the best television show to grace our screens in the last decade will come to an end. This has been coming, mind you, as the genius writers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have always said that the show will not go on indefinitely. 24, conversely, has always been coming to an end, you just didn’t know when, and for that to have an ending as well has devastated me, given that I’ve watched 24 since the very beginning. Kiefer Sutherland won’t be anyone other than Jack Bauer, no matter how hard he tries, and I just hope they end it well, whether that be at the end of this season or with a movie, not like the fade to black at the end of The Sopranos.

That’s pretty much it from me for the time being. Coming up, I have some job hunting to do, some flat hunting to do, I also may be returning to Aberystwyth for a birthday, and I’m looking at Just Cause 2 as the next game I buy. I never played the first but watching a video review of the second and it just looks insanely fun.

Anyway.

Thanks for reading

Matt

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Blog is up!

So, after years of being told to do it, I’ve finally gone and created a blog. I felt that it was needed to get my name out there to anyone and everyone that will listen.

My aims with this blog are to showcase some of my work, pass my opinion on some topical issues and generally write things down, as I haven’t really done any writing since I left uni last year. I’ll also write down on here some things that are going on in my life, and that’s where I’ll start now.

For those who don’t know, I’m an English graduate, working in a sales job and looking to break into the journalism industry as soon as possible. I’ve wanted to be a journalist since I was about 10, and now, armed with my degree and a veritable plethora of skills, I am determined to do it, only if just to have a reason to move out of home, because living with my parents is driving me crazy. It’s not really living at home that’s affecting me, to be fair, it’s living in Croydon, because, as anyone who’s been here will testify, it’s not the nicest of places to live, especially not having lived away for 3 years like I did, only to have my independence taken away from me again.

Anyway, having posted this, I’m going to leave it for tonight, and retire to reading a book called The Shakespeare Secret by J.L. Carrell, which is a bit cheesy, but definitely worth a read, very similar to Da Vinci Code, but better, and more Shakespearean, and listen to a bit of Kanye West.

Matt

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