A Thousand Words: Persistence and an attention to detail

It’s been a fun week of journalism this week, as I went to the for work experience whilst also receiving some exciting news about an application I submitted last month. Both situations reminded me of the two skills mentioned in the title of this blog post – skills that are essential for a career in journalism.

Thank you to the team at the i for a great week of work experience. Here’s yesterday’s issue of the paper, which featured a couple of pieces from yours truly.

One thing I have always admired about the is its focus on concise, to-the-point news stories. Page two of their paper sees a ‘matrix’ of short, 50-word articles summarising news from a variety of different areas – be it foreign affairs, politics or something else.

The short pieces, known as nibs or ‘news in briefs’ present a fun challenge to the typical journalist. With the right story, reporters have quotes, statistics (of sorts), backstory and facts to hand, which they then need to squeeze into such a tight word count. It’s a case of prioritisation and they have to ask themselves: what is the most important information which needs to be included?

It was a craft I was able to hone throughout my week at the i. Alongside an exciting visit to the Saatchi Gallery to help out a press photographer, writing some business nibs and writing a short piece for the arts section, most of my week was spent assisting the Foreign Editor with articles. Every day I had the opportunity to write up about five or six stories to go in the aforementioned ‘matrix’. Some could quite easily be summarised in such a limit, but others proved more of a challenge. Nevertheless, it helped build upon my love of the news form and my attention to detail. It was great to get some editorial insight into the style of the i too.

Then there’s persistence – that came during one particular lunch break. After spotting a message from Sky’s Early Careers department in my voicemail, I was quick to return the call when I had a minute spare. It was about my application for a placement at Sky News under their Diversity Scheme, and it was third time lucky. I had been offered a place!

I fell in love with Sky HQ – based in Osterley – last year, when I was offered two weeks’ work experience at the firm’s Product and Brand PR team. A vibrant atmosphere complete with a just as positive work ethic meant I had to get a placement at Sky News, and return to Sky Central once more. Now, that day has come. Well, in November, to be exact.

I can’t wait. Bring it on!

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Working in Deaf Media: My Placement at BBC See Hear

In October last year, I was offered an opportunity which combined two of my biggest passions: media and deaf culture. I had found out that I was chosen to have two weeks’ work experience in Bristol with BBC See Hear – the broadcaster’s deaf magazine programme.

Photo: BBC.
Photo: BBC.
I have been working with the deaf news website, The Limping Chicken, for a while now, but deaf media from a broadcasting perspective is something I’d never experienced before, so I couldn’t wait to start my work experience at BBC Bristol earlier this month.

Straight away, my placement started with an incredible three days. On the first day, I had managed to arrange an interview for See Hear’s next programme, and I would be going down to London with one of the programme’s reporters later in the week to film it. Tuesday and Wednesday were spent watching interviews and reports being filmed – the ability to go behind-the-scenes and see professional reporters work on packages was really insightful and intriguing.

One of the many things I will be thankful for was some of the responsibilities I was given during my placement. From drafting the script for the show’s news segment, to being one of the voiceovers in the final episode, I had never expected to have been handed such amazing opportunities, and so I was immensely grateful for that.

Speaking of voiceovers (or ‘dubs’, to use the correct terminology), another thing which fascinated me was how so many things came together to form the final output.

As well as working with those producing the content, I was also fortunate to help out with research and a variety of other technical details which are all part of the production process. Ringing up contacts to obtain information was something I was used to doing before at university, but to call them on behalf of the BBC was incredible.

img_1680With that in mind, my placement at BBC See Hear was truly an experience which allowed me to explore all of the different workings of such a great group of people. Seeing a show gradually develop over the two weeks I was there was an incredible thing to witness. From raw footage being edited, to it being transcribed (something which I helped with during my time there), to it being dubbed by voiceovers on my last day, the fast progression of the programme was very impressive indeed.

As I handed in my visitor’s pass for the last time, I left the lively and friendly atmosphere of BBC Bristol feeling a little sad that the experience was over. However, that was nothing compared to the extreme sense of gratitude I had for the BBC for an insightful two weeks working on such an incredible programme.

Therefore, I would like to say thank you once again to the BBC See Hear team, the BSL interpreters and everyone at BBC Bristol for being so welcoming during my two weeks’ work experience. The episode I helped out with was aired on BBC Two today at 8am and is now available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

Vote for The Life of a Thinker in the UK Blog Awards 2016

I still remember attending my first awards ceremony, when I felt somewhat underdressed amongst other student journalists at Austin Court in Birmingham and was Highly Commended in my category. The Midlands Student Media Awards marked a significant turning point for my blogging; a few months before the event I decided my blog was to move away from boring babbling lifestyle posts and it was going to be an online portfolio of sorts, where I could practice my journalism. After I was Highly Commended for a journalistic essay (over 1,000 words long, might I add), I felt like my decision to take The Life of a Thinker in this new direction was the right decision to take.

Ever since then, I’ve pushed out more journalistic content. My Musical Discovery reviews have become more analytical, my Friday Article opinion pieces have explored new political topics, and my Sunday posts, A Fictional Reality, are allowing me to rediscover my love for creative writing – which has returned after a lengthy absence.

Since the Midlands Student Media Awards, I have been searching for other blog awards to enter. Previous attempts to find anything which I was eligible to enter or were relevant to my blogging style had failed, but one time, I found the UK Blog Awards – an awards ceremony I feel bad for only just discovering. This year, I decided to enter.

Photo: UK Blog Awards

If the Midlands Student Media Awards told me that I was right to pursue a more journalistic style, then being successful at the UK Blog Awards will mean so much more. It will show that there is such a strong community around The Life of a Thinker, that my blog is improving and it would enable me to meet and network with so many new people. It’s the biggest awards ceremony for UK bloggers, and to even be in a position where people can vote for me to win is amazing.

You can find my entry in the Individual Entrants section, under the PR, Media, Marketing and Communications category, on the UK Blog Awards website, and you can vote for me – if you like.

If you’ve already voted, then thank you so much. I really appreciate every vote I receive. Do feel free to share the above link with friends and family members who may also like to vote.

Thank you all as always for reading my posts on this little corner of the Internet. My next blog post should be up on Friday.

#Traingate: Corbyn may finally have a winning media strategy | The Friday Article

Jeremy Corbyn was on a train talking about how ‘ram-packed’ it was. What happened next is up for debate, but ‘#traingate’ was soon a trending topic on social media. However, in amongst the fact-checking were talks about the re-nationalisation of our railways. Even if this one train Corbyn was on isn’t the best example of overcrowded carriages, then we all have our own experiences of it. The controversy worked, as talks about the public ownership of rail services manifest themselves in society.

After the controversy with Virgin Trains and #traingate, Labour may have a new media strategy. Photo: JamesZ_Flickr on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.
After the controversy with Virgin Trains and #traingate, Labour may have a new media strategy. Photo: JamesZ_Flickr on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.

After all, Brexit, the fall of BHS and the crisis with Southern Rail have all exposed the elite and challenged the case for privatisation. The topic of conversation has turned to anti-establishment sentiment and the desire for public ownership. We have Jeremy Corbyn – the politician who represents these views on a political level – being challenged by Virgin Trains over ‘traingate’ and being attacked by the right-wing media at every opportunity. It’s understandable that some people believe Branson’s rail company argued against Corbyn’s statements because they have an interest in private ownership of rail services. Meanwhile, the right-wing press create this narrative of an unelectable left-wing Labour leader because his election would mean their voices being silenced. Corbyn poses an existential threat to both the right-wing media and Virgin Trains, so of course they will argue back when they can.

The left-wing Guardian columnist Owen Jones writes in a post on Medium about the ‘questions all Jeremy Corbyn supporters need to answer’, with one of the main questions revolving around a “clear media strategy”. As a new Labour supporter, I’ve always steered clear from writing a response to this. However, whilst the true events of ‘traingate’ remain unknown, underneath the controversy lies the truth that we’ve all been on an overcrowded train. That’s the winning strategy for Labour.

As the Corbyn vs. Virgin Trains debate dies down, Jeremy’s team have said that ‘traingate’ has helped the Labour leadership candidate with his calls for public ownership of the railway network. It’s because there was a relatable truth about rail services at the heart of the video Corbyn made on that train. After that, Virgin Trains and the media quickly jumped at the opportunity to dispute his tale of events. In the end, it was unnecessary and pointless. Even if Virgin Trains’ account is correct, it does nothing to justify the many train journeys other people have had to take where not enough seats are available. The panicked response to Corbyn’s call for public ownership only publicised Jeremy’s policies further. It’s a risky tactic, but could these pedantic scandals and controversies be the way for Corbyn to thrust his politics into the media spotlight?

Jones also talks about Sadiq Khan conquering the media after his election as London mayor, and how “he was remorselessly portrayed as the puppet of extremists by his opponent and his ally — the capital’s only mass newspaper, as well as several national newspapers. He managed to counteract it, and won.” Yet, the original media attacks on Sadiq Khan and the current media attention surrounding Corbyn aren’t completely identical – of course – and so it would be hard to use this as a case study or template for Jeremy’s new media strategy.

That being said, Londoners were sick of the personal attacks made at Sadiq Khan, so could this hatred of ad hominem remarks also benefit Jeremy Corbyn? If anything, his media strategy should be continuing to promote relatable policies, and then watching the right-wing media squirm. It will be repetitive, but the retaliation from right-wing bodies will only prove that what Corbyn is saying is true, and that will be their big mistake.

Liam

Derren Brown: Social Compliance and Free Will | The Friday Article

Sometimes, it’s easier to just say yes.

This week, illusionist and mentalist Derren Brown explored the psychological phenomena of social compliance. Whilst saying yes in certain scenarios can provide us with new opportunities, in some scenarios saying yes can lead to us making immoral or dangerous decisions. In the case of Pushed to the Edge, three individuals pushed another human being off the roof of a building – all because of suggestion and social compliance.

So why do we say yes in these scenarios? In the episode itself, Derren’s compliance tests suggested that it may be down to being part of a group or crowd, rather than being an individual. Despite this, Brown didn’t give us a clear and distinct reason behind the phenomena, but that isn’t to say that I have a few thoughts of my own.

In particular, it was when I watched the show on Tuesday that I came up with my opinions on social compliance. Usually, it is in an awkward, stressful or pressing scenario that social compliance and suggestion manifest themselves. Why? It’s more than likely because we – rather naturally, of course – want to escape from the scenario, or reduce the pressure as much as possible.

To apply this to a modern day scenario, it’s either that the authority figure also wants to escape this scenario and so naturally takes the lead, or they use the power for malicious purposes. Either way, we feel like we don’t have a choice but to say yes, because society tells us to seek approval from others (particularly those in ‘power’). Also, our in-built need to protect our wellbeing leads to us avoid adding possible pressure, awkwardness, stress or danger. In fact, if we say no or explain wrongdoing (like in the show, when Chris explains to others what happened that evening) that only makes us panic more because we would be shunned or ostracised by others in society. Aside from the concept of social compliance, we as the masses know that belonging to the majority – not the minority or the ‘others’ – is a good thing.

It was after discussing the programme with a friend that I realised the links between sociology and psychology. The key psychological aspects of Pushed to the Edge is not just social compliance, but the underlying idea that we say yes because we do not want to be ostracised by those in power.

For example, the hypodermic needle theory explores the idea that the media ‘injects’ elitist views into the masses. These views are often labelling and removes individuality in society. For those at the top – keen to hold on to their power – a society which is grouped together can be easily influenced. If we’re not influenced by the media, then those with authority use social compliance as a form of influence. Then, should someone disagree with the views of the elite, then they are ostracised from the majority. For example, the poor, the disabled and women (due to a patriarchal society) are all minorities in society because they go against the elite.

So perhaps social compliance is another technique which those in power use to gain the obedience of the masses? Regardless of how we try to explain the phenomena, we would be right to be concerned. As with any form of influence, we feel violated and want our individuality back.

Towards the end of the show, Derren Brown tells us that we can ‘fight back’ and ‘stop following other people’s scripts’, but I would disagree. Even when we think it’s our decision and ours alone, there are external influences which we are unaware of. A key theory which explores this and denies the existence of free will is ‘false-consciousness’. I suppose an example to demonstrate this would be beauty. If a women was to use beauty to achieve success in her life, she would consider this decision an independent one. However, is she doing this for her own gain, or to please the views of the patriarchy? It is perhaps a controversial example, but the idea is that even when we think we are making a decision in our best interests, it may in fact be made in the interests of those in authority.

Essentially, whilst Pushed to the Edge highlights the extremes of social compliance, it is pointless for Derren to encourage us to fight against this influence. Even when we think we’re making a conscious decision, there are external influences – there is no such thing as free will in a manipulative society.

What do you think about social compliance? Did you watched Pushed to the Edge? Comment below!

Liam

 

Weekly Update: I Made a Mistake…

This week was another busy one. I have a lot of assignments due in December and also had a few other things going on. But one thing I wanted to talk about today, was a very stupid mistake I made earlier this week…

On WordPress, there is the Media Library. Essentially, this is where all the pictures you have ever used in a post are stored.

Now, since WordPress hosts my website, they can only allow me 3GB of space for my images. I tried to think of ways to cut down on how much space I have used already, and then I noticed the Media Library.

Whilst I now know that this is where all my images are kept and that they should my be deleted, I did not know that at the time. I had quite a lot of photos on there (too many to even count) and so I thought: Great! Deleting these will save me a heck of a lot of storage! So I bulk-deleted them all.

Oh dear.

It wasn’t until I had a look back at some of my old posts that I noticed the problem, and realised that this has probably happened to all of my 933 posts.

Oh dear.

Thankfully, I was able to get them all back in the end, but lesson learned!

How was your week? Comment below!

Liam

Thoughts on the Guardian Insight Day

Recently, I received an invitation to attend an insight day at The Guardian. So yesterday, I went down to London, to the Guardian’s headquarters for the day to learn more about the Guardian and journalism.

Upon arrival at their offices, I was in awe at how funky and post-modern it was. Unfortunately I was unable to take any pictures, but throughout there were pretty decorations and designs on the walls, plus views of the canal outside. Even whilst I was waiting at reception, I found out that it was true what they say about the chairs at The Guardian – that they are exceptionally comfy.

Anyway, moving on from comfortable chairs to journalism, the day was full of interesting talks and activities. From a tour of The Guardian’s fascinating headquarters and its departments, to designing our own front page in around 75 mins, to talks from sections of the newspaper such as News, Sport, G2, Multimedia and more. All items on the jam-packed agenda were incredibly useful and interesting.

Overall, I left with an experience of what it’s like to work for different sections of the Guardian, and how the newspaper itself works. As well as that, I left with a lot of questions answered.

I’d just like to say thank you to everyone at The Guardian and The Guardian Education who spoke to us yesterday, the information and insight you gave me was incredibly useful!

Liam