Sunday, 30 May 2010

Exercise is Bad for the Soul

We concluded our Television Exercise on Friday with a surprisingly professional performance. I must immediately credit such leading lights as Jake, our 'Guest Wrangler' who deposited a solid-gold lead story into our laps, Tom our charismatic and improv-expert presenter who span up interview questions on the cuff when we began to underrun the timings, and Andy my production assistant who covered his desk in stopwatches and ensured the broadcast ran to within a few seconds of perfection.
This does not mention the rest of the group who pitched in on their roles with a maturity and dedication I was entirely unready for. They honestly made me very proud and a little ashamed, after my grim forebodings at the beginning of this task - I ultimately sat back in the Gallery and just let it run. Well done Group Three.

I'm on campus tomorrow, so I'll copy the VHS of the broadcast onto DVD and pop it on youtube and facebook and all the sundry websites we use - I'll link to it here so my readers can appreciate their hard work.
I'm also attending the first official meeting of the Trinity University magazine society. I don't even think they have a name yet! Our editor is a 'canny wee lass' called Amie-Leigh who has asked us to bring both ideas for stories, as well as a 500-word article on...ourselves! It's a prickly topic for many people, so I'm very impressed at her choice!
That'll be my task for today. That, as well as a meeting with my artist to work on beginning our webcomic strip, and then catching Going Postal on Sky this afternoon.

Enjoy your bank-holiday!

Monday, 17 May 2010

The Student Take on the Professional Act

Our News Production 'exercise' continues apace, with today featuring an in-depth news 'quiz', a favoured task of several lecturers. Twenty questions were fired at the combined Journalism, Journalism & PR, and Sports Journalist student body, with seven taken from the BBC Website here and the remaining thirteen devised by Senior Lecturer Dean Naidoo.

I spent most of the morning poring over The Times in greater detail than usual, as well as skimming the BBC site - although not the quiz unfortunately - and running twitter in the background, following up links like a bloodhound on a scent.
However, I did quite poorly in the quiz - a measly seven and a half overall. Post-match analysis indicated this was seemingly par the course, and the poor girl whose answers I marked scored somewhere between a one and a three!

It led me to wonder about the efficacy of a broad quiz on all news stories - we covered everything from the new Transport Minister and the Emergency Budget, to the Gloucestershire mountaineer who conquered Everest for the eighth time, and Mr. Walliams' new partner. My concern was that, as a selective news reader, I would probably omit to even consume the latter two stories as entirely outside my interests.

The tutors argue that as proto-Journalists, embryonic hacks still blinking our rosy, optimistic eyes, we should attempt to consume as wide a range of news topics as possible. My counter is that journalists don't multi-skill in their fields of expertise, so why should we as readers? I'll follow up on a sports story, such as Lord Triesman's resignation, because of the relevance to moral reporting and undercover 'snooping', but without the details of the sting operation, this would have been just another football official leaving a job, in a sport I tolerate at best.

At times, the faculty's exhortations seem almost desperate - I refer you again to that academic wanderer of bizarre relevance, the Sports Journalism BA - when urging us to expand our curiosities beyond the narrow interests we have as mere humans. I cannot help but feel that breadth rather than depth is the current yardstick of Journalism study.

Perhaps my cynicism is blinding me to the real truth; I am between five and seven years older than all of my contemporaries, and both my media tastes and journalistic styles are already established. For the Sixth Formers joking on the back row of the auditorium, perhaps this will be the time when they decide just what they want to read...?

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Blogger Who Came Back From A Cold

Apologies for my absence readers, my Easter break co-incided with a horrifically virulent chest infection that laid me low for some time. Now I've improved and term has recommenced, I am getting back onto the media observation platform...and also getting the first briefing on the much touted 'News Production' exercise.

This is a major, multi-tutor led initiative to quickly absorb and apply news research and production skills. Running from May 10th until June 18th, we will:

  • Research, produce and record a five-minute live affairs programme of broadcast quality, including at least one pre-recorded video sequence and an in-studio live interview with a relevant guest (not just some casualty from the Union Bar)
  • Cover a 'staged' press conference given by a senior West Yorkshire police officer, reproducing a real conference on a real crime he gave previously
  • Produce a web-centric news article suitable for online publication
  • Undergo an hour and a half news quiz on current affairs
  • Produce a five-hundred word retrospective article on the whole exercise
All whilst practicing our shorthand skills for an exam at the end of June. To old media hands, this may seem a regular day of work; to a bunch of first-year media students, this appears more like the labours of Hercules. Tutors off-handedly mentioned the loss of eighteen students since we began the course in September of last year...attrition is biting deeply into our numbers.

I also have the bitter experience of our first TV production exercise, in which no-one was confident working any of the studio equipment; tutors covered director and video sequencing, and I handled sound engineering for about four other groups, as well as technical support in creating video inserts.

Do I feel my group will have more of a chance this time round? I'm afraid not; it's time to get prejudiced, and make some cruel sweeping judgements. I do not mind going on record expressing my scorn for the concept of 'Sports Journalism', a separate undergraduate degree alongside pure Journalism, and the fringe topic of Journalism and PR. How one can specialise in such a narrow field is beyond me, especially as an undergrad - post-grad studies would seem to be the more suitable time for focusing on one topic.

Anyway, Sports Journalists unfortunately fit the stereotype; they're almost all football shirt wearing, lager-swilling, rap-obsessed egotists with all the subtlety and focus of a catapult. On the previous TV exercise, I found them to be the least experienced with the equipment, and the most likely to dissolve into giggles or sabotage projects 'for kicks'. So, these Sociology or Sports Science rejects are now trying to be regular journalists when all they want to do is cover the match - and for the purposes of our exercise, each group has been selected by tutors to prevent the carnage of previous attempts, when entire groups of 'mates' sank because none of them would take on the responsibility of a difficult role.

Let's look at the break-down of Group Three, with Tycho shall we? There are:
  • ONE Journalism and PR student
  • THREE Journalism students (myself included) , and
  • ELEVEN Sports Journalism students
Remember the tragedy of the Titanic, when there weren't enough lifeboats to go around? Imagine that, but now the lifeboats are also made of lead.