A New Adventure…

This has been an exciting one. Monday saw me visit Go Ape for a fun day out with a friend, and Wednesday saw me go to London to see a live recording of The Russell Howard Hour (more on that soon). It was also on Wednesday that I received another bit of good news.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you’d know that I went to Summer in the City last month – a UK convention dedicated to YouTube and online video. It was there that I met the team from the YouTube magazine TenEighty, and naturally, I asked about writing for them.

A few weeks later and after a fun application process, an email landed in my inbox saying that I can join the team, and I was over the moon.

I already have two articles up on the website so far, including one on disabled YouTubers having their videos demonetised, and asdfmovie creator TomSka announcing the end of his vlog series, Last Week. I look forward to writing even more articles for TenEighty in the future.


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A Thousand Words: Journalism for Change

This Tuesday and Wednesday, I stepped inside Amnesty International’s Human Rights Action Centre for their Student Media Summit run in conjunction with the National Union of Students (NUS). A jam-packed two-day event, the conference aimed to inspire the next generation of young journalists to campaign for change in their work.

The Student Media Summit was a collaboration between NUS and Amnesty International.

It was something that got me thinking throughout the event. Journalists are supposed to be seen as completely impartial, dedicated to reporting straight-up facts (whether they are actually doing this at the moment is a debate for another day) without bias. How can we campaign in our articles without readers firing accusations of bias at us?

It’s a question I asked Buzzfeed’s Emily Dugan on Tuesday, where her session on Digital Reporting soon descended into a discussion on getting this balance right. It was interesting and gave me food for thought ahead of starting my journalism degree again later this month.

As I write this now, I’m considering the aims we all have when creating content and putting it out there for others to see. On YouTube, it’s about creating a community around my channel and either entertaining or educating them, or both. For this blog, it’s a mixture of the same. But, when it comes to journalism – an industry which holds so much influence thanks to our digital society and its structure – are reporters right to harness this tool to push their own agenda?

I’m not going to answer that in this post, but what all this has reminded me of is a mindset I used to have ahead of my first year of university. Frustrated with the emotion and bias of the right-wing press and having read up on the hypodermic needle theory, I approached my degree with the aim of being a completely impartial journalist once I entered the industry, devoid of all the bias and political viewpoints which the national press currently possesses.

Instead, I remember something one of my lecturers told me during a politics session, which is that whilst newspapers and the media are biased, it’s necessary for a functioning democracy and political debate. Although some people may despise it, the Mail‘s hyperbolic and hateful headlines prompt a discussion about right-wing politics and it’s important that we have those debates in society.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I won’t aim to be impartial, balanced and unbiased in my reporting (of course not, these things are essential), but media bias is something which most journalists appear to admit just… happens, and I’ve come to accept that too.

Anyway, to revert back to journalism for change, I only need to look at my work on The Limping Chicken for an example of this. A Freedom of Information request in January revealed that 200,000 people have signed up to the 999 text service, which when you compare it to the 11 million people with a hearing loss (as Paul Breckell from Action on Hearing Loss mentions in the linked article), is a small amount. As well as informing people about the service, one can hope that it encouraged a few people to sign up.

As well as new contacts and plenty of tips, the Student Media Summit left me thinking for a while about what journalists hope to achieve in their pieces. After all, in a post-truth world, reporters nowadays do more than just share facts…

UN’s ‘human catastrophe’ verdict is the latest dent to the Tories’ disability rights record | The Friday Article

How a Conservative government can even begin to dispute the damning report by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) this week beats me. After numerous disability organisations complained to the UN about the Tories’ treatment of disabled people, the Chair of the UNCRPD, Theresia Degener described it as a ‘human catastrophe’.

Photo: Pixabay.

“The austerity measures that they have taken – they are affecting half a million people, each disabled person is losing between £2,000 and £3,000 pounds per year, people are pushed into work situations without being recognised as vulnerable, and the evidence that we had in front of us was just overwhelming,” said Degener, as quoted in an article by the Mirror.

Yet, when one looks at the government’s response to the comments, a spokeswoman said it ‘fails to recognise all the progress we’ve made to empower disabled people in all aspects of their lives’, before going on to mention statistics such as them spending ‘over £50 billion a year to support disabled people and those with health conditions’, that they’re a ‘recognised world leader in disability rights and equality’, and that ‘almost 600,000 disabled people have moved into work in the UK over the last four years’.

It is a response which can be picked apart in a rather hilarious fashion, even when the data appears positive. With regards to the 600,000 disabled people in work since 2013, they fail to mention the recent news that the disability employment gap has remained stagnant at over 30% since 1998, despite launching a commitment to halve the gap in ten years.

As for being a ‘recognised world leader in disability rights and equality’, one does not need to showcase the biggest disability news stories of the past decade to show that this is completely laughable. A UN inquiry last November had some harsh words for the Conservatives, a disabled student took the government to court in 2015 due to it failing to consult with disabled people over changes to Disabled Students Allowance (DSA), and without a doubt one of the most appalling statistics which seems to suggest otherwise is that 2,380 people died between December 2011 and February 2014 because they were declared ‘fit for work’ after claiming for Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

The Tories ignoring yet another damning report on their disability rights record would not only show a disregard for any public scrutiny, but it would only prove the lack of consideration for one of the most marginalised groups in our society.

It’s why, as always, we must support charities in holding the government to account and demanding change. Granted, saying that we need to continue campaigning is a typical call-to-action when it comes to these sort of social issues, but applying pressure on MPs around disability issues has worked wonders before. Aside from the DSA example mentioned above, the British Deaf Association (BDA) has pushed tirelessly for British Sign Language to be given legal status, and after the UN’s latest verdict, it seems as though that is getting closer to becoming a reality.

“We were impressed with the openness of the committee to listen to our evidence and apply their significant legal experience,” said Dr Terry Riley OBE, Chairman of the BDA. “Therefore we are glad to see that the committee has expressly recommended that the UK government finally legislate to protect language rights of deaf people, and that so many of the committee’s remarks related to this. Deaf people have been passed over too long; there can now be no doubt that the government has been taken to task. Without language rights, we have no human rights.”

There are 13.3 million people in the UK. Whether or not the Government will choose to listen to such a large group of people is another matter for debate (this article suggests that for many years, they haven’t), but now more than ever we must support the charities that are giving a voice to a community which is being unfairly targeted – especially when they claim they are being ‘gagged’ by the Lobbying Act 2014.

The incredible young voter turnout in the recent snap election has shown the Conservative government what can happen when they continue to target a specific group of people in our society. Now, they’ve tried desperately to win back students from Corbynism with a right-wing ‘ideas festival’ and most recently, a grassroots movement called Activate which some people have called ‘the Tory Momentum’.

It’s time for disabled people to do the same, and shock the Conservative Party into making long overdue changes to improve our lives for the better.

‘The Tory Glastonbury’: The Conservatives’ hilarious attempt at winning back the youth vote | The Friday Article

“Why is it just the left who have all the fun in politics?” whined Conservative MP George Freeman to the Financial Times last week. The politician, who represents the Mid Norfolk constituency, made headlines after he unveiled his plan for a right-wing ‘ideas festival’ to build up grassroots support – something which has rightly been dubbed ‘The Tory Glastonbury’.

Pyramid Stage with sunset
George Freeman’s plan for a right-wing festival has been dubbed as ‘The Tory Glastonbury’ by some commentators.

Labour supporters are already having a ball imagining what the Tory version of the internationally renowned music festival would look like. A giddy Boris Johnson walks onto the main stage as the Saturday headliner, juggling flaming torches to the tune of Shaggy’s 1995 hit, Bombastic to the crowd’s amusement. Arcadia, Worthy Farm’s fire-breathing spider, is replaced by a pissed off pig, and over at the politics tent Jeremy Hunt is giving a talk on how to dismantle the NHS. Attendees would be spoilt for choice until they realise that there isn’t anyone likeable left in the party to play the popular Sunday legends slot.

Then there’s the music that would be on offer. The Tories’ inaccurate perception of young people will probably lead to old 90s disco tracks being blasted around the festival site, in an attempt to ‘get down with the kids’. It’s a move which would be as disastrous as asking your grandma to buy a Kanye West album from HMV.

This whole idea is the latest way in which the Conservatives plan to ride off the success of Labour in June’s general election. As if asking your political opponents for policy ideas wasn’t embarrassing enough, setting up a festival because you’re jealous of the ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ chants once again shows the desperation and panic that has taken over the Conservative Party. Such an event will do little to combat the wave of Corbynism present in our young people, and the party’s backing in other age groups is faltering. Is the idea of a ‘Tory Glastonbury’ their way of finally acknowledging the power of millennials in general elections?

Perhaps not. If this really is an attempt by the Tories to win back some of the youth vote, then the fact that the one-day festival is rumoured to take place in September shows how nonsensical, fantasist and flawed the whole idea is. Student voters will be back at university and the Tories’ next best bet would be to hold a Freshers Tour – which would be quite fitting given the Etonian background of some of the party’s key figures.

George Osborne DJ set at Cambridge uni, anyone?

Review: ‘Child Taken’ by Darren Young

An investigative journalist looking into a missing person’s case is nothing new in the world of crime fiction (one only has to look to Mikael Blomkvist and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for a classic example of this), but as with most books in this genre, it’s about the characters. A struggling young reporter trying to get her big break at the local paper had me interested as a student journalist, and I soon began reading Child Taken by Darren Young.

Cover for Child Taken, with a child in a yellow dress on the beach, with her back to the camera, looking out to sea
Whilst it was the blurb which primarily had me hooked, part of me was curious to find out just how many stereotypes about newspaper editors and journalism would end up in the novel. Aside from the character of David Weatherall sounding a little like J. Jonah Jameson from the Spider-Man movies and one day off too many, the Gazette‘s newsroom wasn’t too unfamiliar…

Admittedly, having read this book over the space of two or three months, the first half of the book has been somewhat forgotten. However, it can be described as a ‘slow burner’ of a novel. As the mystery unwravels over the course of 438 pages, it’s around two-thirds of the way in where the pace really starts to pick up, with action in every chapter.

It was at this point that I was reminded how good a movie or TV Show Child Taken could be. Written in an intriguing and descriptive narrative style, it was one of the few books which made me imagine every scene in detail. It made each action scene more intense, and the big finale even more impactful (no spoilers).

Gripping and thrilling with a perfectly constructed plot, Child Taken is a brilliant debut from the writer, Darren Young.

A huge thank you to Red Door Publishing for sending me an advance copy of Child Taken and apologies for the review going up late! Whilst I was sent a free copy, this review contains my honest opinion.

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!

A UK debate on net neutrality could happen post-Brexit – we must be ready | The Friday Article

Pizzas, memes and American talk show hosts have all tried their hand at explaining one of the most complicated issues facing the world of technology today. On Wednesday, organisations staged a ‘day of action’ for Net Neutrality Day, showing the world what it would be like if Internet Service Providers (ISPs) had the power to prioritise certain traffic or websites over others.

Finger browsing app icons
It’s time we started talking about net neutrality across the pond.

Watching the debate from across the pond, UK citizens breathed a sigh of relief knowing that net neutrality has been enshrined into EU law. That is, until the moment they realised that we voted to leave the bloc just over a year ago. Now, just like other EU laws, the regulation that allows us to enjoy online content regardless of whom our ISP is hangs in the balance.

Cue another piece of political news which did the rounds yesterday which could put all of this at risk: the government’s not-so-great Repeal Bill. If it passes in the state that it’s in now (somewhat unlikely), then ministers will be granted the power to pass secondary legislation. Whilst it’s nice that the Conservatives want to cut Parliament’s workload (dealing with over 50,000 pieces of legislation sounds like quite the hassle), doing so in a way which avoids the scrutiny of MPs has opposition parties raising their eyebrows – and rightly so.

Even if the Tories decide not to amend the regulation without scrutiny, a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement, however flawed it may be, could see the net neutrality law scrapped. Regardless of the fact there was a ‘voluntary system’ prior to this law, given Theresa May’s calls ‘to regulate cyberspace’ and the passing of the so-called ‘Snooper’s Charter’, any opportunity to degrade internet freedoms will most likely be taken by the Tories.

We need to act now. With the latest data from the Office for National Statistics revealing that 99% of 16 to 34 year olds are recent internet users (compared to just 41% of adults aged 75 or over), a British debate on net neutrality could very well be led by the younger generation.

It would certainly be a powerful campaign from our young people, too. The Conservative Party has been left battered and bruised after the youth vote crushed her arrogance (not to mention her majority) after last month’s general election. Tory MPs scrapping net neutrality – threatening young people’s Netflix subscriptions, social media access and main campaigning platform – would be a very, very bad idea.
One must not fall into stereotypes when discussing the internet, but as much as the youth campaign should challenge any decision to allow ISP’s to control the viewing of online content, it must also ensure that older people understand the issues associated with this. Net neutrality is an issue which affects all of us. Even if an individual is offline, they will be indirectly affected by an unfair Internet.

The possibility of a second general election has left everyone in a political limbo, with a degree of uncertainty about what’s coming next. Depending on what side of the political spectrum people identify, it either fills them with hope or dread. Either way, for the sake of our online society, the surge of young people being interested in politics must never fade.