Saturday, 22 October 2011

Leeds Trinity - Open Day October 2011

Today was one of Leeds Trinity University's Open Days - and I was one of the volunteers who was on hand to promote the high calibre studying that gets done in our Centre for Journalism. I'm a Second Year Journalism BA student, and very keen to involve myself in more of the extra-curricular activities.

For anyone who was following my twitter feed today, you'll have seen quite a few tweets from #LTOpenDay as we did our best to keep a running commentary going. We even had a widescreen set up using TwitterFall to chart the hashtag's development (picture left), although I cannot confirm we started trending!
We also noted that out of all the other departments, student groups, faculty members, etcetera, we were the only contributors. I'm sure other hacks have observed that twitter seems to have a rather selective user-base, and I've often argued twitter's relative importance to journalism in terms of social media interaction, as against something like Facebook. But that's a discussion for another time.

As well as discussing our Journalism, Sports Journalism, and Journalism (Post-Graduate) programs with potential students and parents, the volunteers were using our brand new JVC HM100 cameras to conduct interviews. This way, we became more familiar with these advanced units, whilst demonstrating our technical resources to the milling punters - sorry, propsective admissions. On the right, Megan Savage is interviewing an interested party whilst Valerie Durussel operates the camera.

Sadly we neglected to record any footage so I can't bring you any journalistic 'baby pictures' of early ad-libbed interviews, but that's probably for the best. However, we tried to bridge the experience with other departments.

Here, Valerie is interviewing two of our Sports, Health and Nutrition students who are also drawing attention to our successful rugby team, whilst Sammy Parker handles camera duties, and Senior Lecturer Lindsay Eastwood producers, er, via her mobile. I've linked to some twitter accounts here, so that they can get their followers now before they become huge!

Our thanks then to the department staff who helped out, including Head of the Centre for Journalism Catherine O'Connor (left), as well as Post-Graduate Broadcast Programme Leader Richard Horsman, and Principal Lecturer Dean Naidoo to name just a few. We all hope that students and parents went away informed and enthusiastic about a place at Leeds Trinity University. On the whole, potential candidates for degrees seem confident in spite of the fees hike, willing to defer the worry of debt in favour of a career likely to be able to sustain it - and I for one am in full agreement. Hopefully this marks the beginning of a new era of co-operation between institutions and students that will redress the economic balance.

That's been my blog on the most recent Open Day at Leeds Trinity - until next time!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Paid-for Print Promotion

Twitter is quite transparent about when it's carrying out some corporate promotion. That little symbol beside someone I'm highly unlikely to follow suddenly turning up on my dashboard is reassuring - it's a respectable decision, and I can understand entirely their motivations, being as how they're still struggling with how to monetise this new phenomena.

At the same time, Ofcom had followed in the footsteps of American colleagues in February this year, and permitted the practice of Product Placement in British programming. The relaxation of rules was not complete; various harmful products such as weaponry, alcohol, cigarettes and - er - baby milk cannot be shown, and the placement must be within the limits of 'editorial justification', or relevancy to the show.
Many of the opposition arguments mounted fell on stony ground - traditional, conservative groups like the Church of England argued that it might 'destroy trust in broadcasters', but the appearance of Stella Artois in an episode of Eastenders rather pales in importance beside the Leveson Inquiry on a scale of betrayed consumers' indignation.

So, a prevailing attitude of tolerance towards the intermingling of media and marketing has already been displayed on television and social media. I think the time is right for print media to get on the (Bisto) gravy train, shut up the churnalism critics once and for all, and declare when they're printing PR - remembering only to ask for a slice of the promotional pie whilst they're at it, propping up those falling readership revenues.

It's already been demonstrated we can be subtle and respectful when informing consumers the content they're receiving might not be just the fevered imaginations of a soap writer, or the dull ruminations of the tweeple.
Perhaps a discreet caption above the editorial - "This Paper Supports Product Placement". Or for the more conscientious (i.e. those with the most blatant recycled PR statements) a whole new byline as illustrated?

A whole new revenue stream is just waiting to be tapped. An entire murky history of the blurred lines between marketing and journalism could be wiped away. We, the uneducated public, could have found out just what surveillance equipment the modern private investigator recommends for invading even the most protected of privacies.

Editors, act now to quell two problems with one cheque. But if you do, remember where you got the idea - you'll find my PR rates as competitive as my freelancer fees.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Trust, The Media, and the Journalists Of Tomorrow

An interesting first lecture for the Level Five students, in the Journalism in Context module, looking at Media, Power and Democracy. I've wondered over the summer what effect the phone-hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry would have on the teaching of journalism to the next generation. Unfortunately, I failed to take into account problems that only exist within the lecture theatre.

When the lecturer polled a room of about fifty students on who was interested in 'politics', about three hands went up. The disconnect from the byzantine and brutal struggles of Britain's political elite has never felt stronger than in a room with the future gamekeepers of the so-called 'Fourth Estate'.

Failing to engage the 16-24 age gap is either a crucial error of disenfranchisement or a cynical masterstroke by a political process that strives to focus power in the hands of the few, ensuring power is inherited down controlled lines. That's a cynical topic for another blogpost. The concern here is how to not only instill in students a respect for, and interest in, the maneuverings of our administration - but also to educate them against the unethical practices employed in Murdoch-dominated newsrooms.

The lecture was given by Catherine O'Connor, who is Head of the Centre for Journalism as well as lecturing on several modules, an NCTJ Examiner and a former print journalist and deputy editor on regional papers. The introduction was a quote from Lionel Barber's address to the Fulbright programme which described the "conspiracy of silence" colluded in by Scotland Yard, Downing Street and Wapping. What followed was a discussion of the PR-centric motivations of each power group, and why they either broke the law - or ignored those who were. The group was shown how a culture of permissiveness can exist, especially in the quasi-dictatorial proprietorship of News International.

It became clear that we were being shown the exacting nature of the newsroom, and the vague ethical lines it operates along, in the 'safety' of the lecture hall. Here, the green hacks of tomorrow can be introduced to the mechanics of newsgathering, editing, and producing, without being exposed to the clearly toxic moral code that has permeated much of modern British journalism.

More than that, was a clear hope that we would be the journalists operating with true transparency and impartiality. The closing statement of our lecture was a quote from Jeff Jarvis' article in the Guardian where he suggested that "Now, at last, is our opportunity to reverse that flow and to recapture our public sphere."

We might not be the generation that fights this battle against the monolithic News Corp - discussion of the Leveson Inquiry and regulatory framework comes next - but we could be the first journalists of the potential brave new media world.