Another raging internet victory?!

Is the Christmas number one win by Rage against the Machine (RATM) a satisfying victory for anti-capitalism? Another achievement derived from the internet?

On the surface, Yes, of course. At first glance, the facebook group bidding to topple powerful, smug Simon Cowell off his safe number one spot was a little glimmer of hope for us all. Finally we have made a stand and decided to buy what we actually want to buy, we are no longer mindless zombies, purchasing whatever we are told to.  I was very pleased, and refreshed to see that finally people where challenging Cowell, who has essentially spoon-fed us our Christmas number ones for the past four years.

I was just about to hop on to i-tunes and make a purchase, do my bit for free will and all that…. when I was informed that, in fact, I would actually just be buying into the same Simon Cowell monopoly: Same old bank account – different song and cover.

Bubble burst. It was all to good to be true after all.

You see,  RATM – as anti capitalist as they claim to be, are actually owned by Sony, who also own rights to Simon Cowell’s artists… so the exciting battle between the powerful Cowell machine and a rebellious punk band, was simply Sony versus Sony, which equals a big fat cheque for the record company for hitting not only the number one but also the number two spot this Christmas. So even more money pouring into Cowell’s pockets whilst  the public walk around happy, thinking they’ve achieved a victory when in reality…they haven’t.

I was still pleased to see the X-Factor winner pipped at the post (sorry Joe). At least we can rest in the knowledge that the charts aren’t completely predictable! But whose to say the whole chart ‘race’ was just one big illusion, a big publicity stunt backed by Cowell?… (It is, after all very fitting, the the lines in the X-factor single, The Climb “Always going to be an uphill battle, Sometimes you going to have to lose,” describe exactly the situation poor young Joe found himself in this week. But hey! this could just be all one big coincidence). What does it all matter to Cowell who, with RATM under his label wins both ways? RATG = money and Joe McElderry = Money. Same difference to Cowell, surely?

Sadly, this kind of thing is highly likely in the world we live in today, where only a few big players make the gains. This exact same thing happened when I tried to boycott Nestle. Simple enough, you would think? Just stop buying Kit-Kats and such products that have a Nestle logo glaring back at you. In fact it’s very hard to achieve complete Nestle celibacy. The company have bought out so many companies it’s a very hard task indeed. Even if I manage to spend the rest of my life not touching another bar of  chocolate I could easily get caught out buuy investing in a Maybelline mascara for example, which is actually part of the Nestle family but sneakily appears to be completely separate. So I have to pretty much boycott half the contents of sainsburys if I want my money to stay out of the wrong hands.

So, next time we have a musical revolution, let’s do our research. For a true victory against Cowell and co. we need a band that has absolutely no ties to Sony or Mr moneybags. The internet campaign did prove one thing, however- we can rely on the public to get off their bums and act when they feel strongly about something. Maybe next year we can take our ‘people power’ and  use the internet to secure a real victory against the big guys – unless they’ve got us completely cornered?

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CAR: Don’t just swallow, chew on your facts

The truth is out there, but not necessarily on a plate.

The prospect of CAR – computer assisted reporting, totally frazzled my little brain.

CAR is a far cry from just typing in a name into a search engine. This is nitty-gritty investigative, mathematical stuff.  CAR is about requesting information that we are all entitled to know about – such as The Freedom of Information Act, and then (after probably a long wait) taking the data away and analysing it.

CAR can include all sorts of  programmes such as Excel, SPSS… and for those journos who are good with numbers this is a great way to unravel exciting stories, and challenge information we may otherwise take for granted.

Quinn, 1999. “CAR refers to the tools and techniques to help you think up story ideas. It’s about using tools and techniques to the breadth, depth and quality of reporting”.

Many Journalists have made break-throughs using CAR; Heather Brook, who helped to break the M.Ps expenses scandal, Elena Egawhary, and Stephen Grey.

(fancy slide show for those not in the know)

Okaaaaaaay. So I’m way out of my depth here, (SPSS was never my forte I have to admit). BUT I realised that even if you’re not the worlds greatest maths whizz, (ahem). CAR methods can really draw your attention to something that Journalists sometimes ignore: analysing data and fact. This should be carried out every time you research a story. You need to do this, otherwise you will just find yourself regurgitating something that might not necessarily be accurate, or true.

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Climate change – accepting the reality as a journalist

The United Nations Climate change conference, and the current buzz around it, brings home a comment made by a recent lecturer we had, Mark Brayne, about the state of the world we live in.

Although the purpose of Brayne’s talk was more geared around trauma and the psychology behind the reporting I was really hit hard by something he said: The human race might not survive to the end of this century.

I don’t know if this struck a cord with anyone else but it sure did for me. I’ve always been concerned about climate change and what we can do. However, I was quite shocked by the way Brayne delivered such a serious, depressing message in such a blunt manner, this made me realise that maybe chucking empty bottles into a separate bin isn’t quite enough. We all need to wake up and smell the carbon emissions.

Source: U.S. Geological Survey

Talking to Richard Tait, (the director of CJS and BBC  trust trustee), I came to realise that the state of our world is truly scary. But it’s happening. Hiding away won’t get us anywhere, so we as journalists (and just as people) need to buck up and face up to it. This situation kind of mirrors what we’ve been learning all year in our online lectures – journalists have to accept the change in media technology if they want to survive. It’s the same with the environment: it’s happening and it’s happening fast, so we need to be prepared.  As people we need to start to try and change our behaviour, and as journalists we need to get ourselves prepared for potential disasters so that we can be ready to go out there and tell the story to the world.

For a long time, no one really thought about climate change. From the 80s it was brought into the public eye but with a big debate over whether it was a natural cycle or a man made catastrophe. Now there has been a lot more weight added to the side that climate change is the real deal. The next stage is to accept this, because we have just crept out of the deliberating stage we are a bit behind. We need to speed up our reaction to our rapidly changing world.

In my view not enough people have been scared into this truth. More people like Brayne need to be going out there and giving people the harsh realities of the future. Because we’re going to be reporting on far more heart-breaking ‘natural’ disasters as we head into the decades to come.

“My position is that journalists need to recognise that the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion is that climate change is taking place and it is man made.” says Tait. “Certainly the broadcasters need to continue to cover the arguments of the  climate change sceptics when appropriate, but not on the basis that scientific opinion is equally split on the issue.”

Because we have just crept out of the deliberating stage we are a bit behind. We need to speed up our reaction to this reality. Otherwise we won’t be able to keep up with the crazy way our world is responding to our carelessness. It’s a bleak view but we need to prepare for covering more floods, more storms, more deaths. Hiding or turning away just won’t get us anywhere. Let’s hope people have it in them to care.

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Putting Cardiff on a car diet

Cut back on cars, not just carbs this New Year.


Cardiff Council plan to introduce car clubs to the city, as part of their strategy to cut down the numbers of cars on the roads.

This is part of Cardiff’s wider Sustainable Travel Plan which, if all goes well, will be implemented in other parts of Wales. The Council has already developed green alternatives that aim to cut down on cars, such as park and ride schemes, improving cycling facilities, and a drive to work car share scheme. They also plan to launch a new car club next year, to encourage people to rent out a vehicle instead of owning their own.


Hopefully the public will be inspired to take up a car diet for their New Years resolution. Less cars will mean a reduction in problems such as traffic, parking and of course the big greasy beast that is pollution, making the city a more sustainable and enjoyable place to live.

Cardiff’s sustainable travel plan:

Ieuan Wyn Jones, Transport Minister says, “Commuter levels in and around Cardiff have increased significantly over the past few years. This is an exciting opportunity to develop and implement a range of innovative transport solutions which will benefit the 210,000 people who travel into the city on a daily basis.”

Executive Minister for Transport, Delme Bowen expands on car sharing and car club schemes:

Car Clubs

Cardiff Council is currently in the process of awarding a contract for an operator to run a car club in Cardiff. It is hoped that car clubs will encourage residents to rent instead of buying their own vehicle.  “A car club, along with car sharing, helps to promote choice and the greater use of sustainable modes of travel.” say Cardiff Council.

Car clubs follow a model that has been around since the 1970s in Europe, and is now used in many cities all over the world.

Car clubs are new to Cardiff, but they have been implemented overseas since the 1970s.

Scientific studies and customer surveys have provided substantial evidence that car clubs can help cut down on toxic output. More Options for Energy Efficient Mobility through Car Sharing (MOMO) have provided a paper bursting with the advantages of car hire.

The club scheme does not only yield green benefits – it is also hugely cost-effective for users. People will cut down on the high annual cost of tax and insurance, with the car company responsible for overall maintenance.

“The car sharing scheme is part of the answer to dealing with Cardiff’s congestion problem and provides people living in Cardiff with another option for how they go about their daily business.” says Gwenllian Lansdown, a Plyd Cymru Councillor who backed an 100-strong signature petition last year, urging the city council to support such a car club scheme. “This scheme has proved successful in other cities across the globe and I look forward to it starting in Cardiff” says Landsdown.

Car clubs will reduce congestion in the city.

A chosen car company will operate their rental service on behalf of the Council. If the scheme is successful, the contract will be renewed. Richard Drew, the South West Manager of City Car Club, is currently responsible for the plans in Cardiff. “We’ve been informed that we’ve been the most successful bidder but they haven’t made a final decision to say that we’re definitely going to go ahead yet” he explains.

The clubs would be aimed at people who would consider buying a second car, or those who are not completely dependent on having one. Users would pay a one off membership fee of around £75 and then they would pay around £3 an hour for car hire.

“If all goes well, we’re looking to start  the early part of spring next

Feedback has been positive towards car sharing and car clubs.

year.” says Drew. Before then, the company will need to decide where to base their cars. Drew explains, “what we’d be looking for in the first instance is people that know the area well that can suggest places where there’s real issues with parking.”

So how is the public responding to the Council’s Sustainable travel plan? “Feedback has been good so far, and car sharing generally is increasing. In Cardiff County Council alone there’s 18,000 people both recycling and car sharing. That’s looking good.” says Delme Bowen.

It looks like car slimming plans are running smoothly. Let’s hope the city won’t crash diet but will maintain a regular slimming regime, with healthy portions of sharing and regular car club rental.

Extreme car sharing:

Hitchhike to Romania.

How many people can you fit into a Smart car?

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Show us the money!

Journalism is preoccupied with one particular issue right now: money and how to make some! It’s a thought ticking over in everyone’s brains…Will people pay for content?

I don’t think we’ve had one guest lecturer that hasn’t relayed to us just how scary this time is for journalists, with newspapers shutting and jobs a-dwindling.  Who hasn’t touched on the paid content debate?

Central to the whole pay wall issue is Mr Murdoch. He sure is a man on a mission, keen to squeeze cash out of the not-too-profit-friendly internet by introducing pay walls to all of his News Corp. papers. I can’t say I blame the man, someone has to give it a bash, but will it work? Only time will tell if this is the answer to our journalistic woes.

One of our CJS alumni, Robert Andrews paid a visit to Cardiff chat to us all about his thoughts and findings about pay walls. As editor of PaidContent:UK he had a fair amount of knowledge on the subject. PaidContent:UK and Harris Poll conducted a survey investigating all of these burning questions into whether people might be willing to cough up for online news. Most of the results where indeed as we’d expect, depressing stats with people basically not prepared to pay, and those who would were tightening up the purse strings over how much they would pay.**(see bottom of page)

Recent findings have suggested that maybe people will pay if they can do so in micropayments. This makes sense. although while lot of people are loyal to a newspaper brand, many others like a bit of a pick and mix in regards to news.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidlocke/ / CC BY 2.0 in regards to newsreading, therefore a majority probably won't want to tie themselves to just one title through a subscription.

However, there was one interesting, a positive finding: a large majority of people said they might actually consider paying if there was a free paper or discount included in the price. A glimmer of hope that there may be some kind of answer out there?

This then led one of us to ask if maybe everyone starting charging online this would push people back to buying good old fashioned print – a fair suggestion. Surely if people had to pay online they would soon start to crave something tangible. But hey! you can never speak on behalf of people – what would you do?

Andrews asked the room who would pay for news online if they had no choice of free sites? Most hands went up – promising perhaps? (although this was a room of wannabe journalists who live sleep and breath news.)

Surely if all quality brands charged for online content we’d be more inclined to spend money on news. I mean blogs are great and all that, but sometimes you just need that familiar brand for reassurance. Imagine a world where all the news you read was literally written by the guy next door, would you trust it? It’s great to get hold of breaking stories online, such as from a tweet or wikileaks, but, it’s important to seek out the story from an actual news site, (not saying all journalism is 100% truth all the time) but it helps you clarify if the story actually is real and not just a hoax.

Okay, so say paywalls are the answer and every paper in the land decides to put up barriers around their written words. There remains a problem as there will always be one site that can ever charge, the BBC as the licence fee we pay them includes all the services they offer us, to charge for online on top of this would spark outrage! Surely as long as there is some good, free news online people won’t be keen to pay for other news sites. Hence why Murdoch (Junior) majorly disapproves of the BBC’s free online access.  So maybe as long as the BBC are around (er- forever?) the ‘everyone charging’ theory goes out the window.

Back to square one ay? This really is a bit of a mind bender.

To me this payment palava is like playing with a rubix cube. It’s frustrating because it feels like there is definitely an answer, we will get there eventually, but it may take a few wrong turns and a while before we do. But if we keep at it, surely a solution will eventually emerge.

**Glimmer of hope: I did learn from my psychology degree that there is never a strong relationship between A) intention and B) behaviour  – you can’t predict  B from A.  So maybe  people are all talk…. maybe when or if they do start charging, people will realise they can’t live without their much loved newspaper/magazine and show us the money!

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Blogging on

So we’ve been writing and posting away on our laptops like good little postgraduate journalism students. Blogging weekly (sometimes two times, one on the online lectures we’ve been having and the other on a niche subject of our choice)

Poor me I have resigned myself to the challenge of  making a cake every week to maintain my investigative cake blog .

Oh how we've tapped away the past few weeks...

But hang on. Are we just blogging into thin air? Is anyone actually reading this stuff apart from our mothers? Well, a recent visitor made us realise that potential employers really do read our web babies…and this can sometimes lead to beautiful things… 

Joanna Geary, web development editor at The Times was indeed a rather inspiring guest lecturer, not many years older than us all, she has got herself a darn good post at a huge London paper and what got her there? Twitter and blogging. 

With no postgrad diploma behind her, Geary broke into the media world on her own back. It was a long wait and many rejections but eventually she secured herself a job at The Birmingham Post as a business journalist. 

Facing the blogging world. From early on in her journalistic career, Geary soon established herself as a respected blogger despite not being all that bothered about it early on and not really knowing what to blog about. I think many us can relate to this, as we were all rather overwhelmed at the initial prospect of starting up a niche blog, but now, like Geary we just can’t get enough of the blog (I may just be speaking for me here though, I have become a bit of a blogging geek this semester!) 

Asking new questions. After a short while Geary’s blog started getting more and more attention. Why? She was asking questions on her blog that weren’t really being asked at that time, such as the fact that journalists weren’t really questioning why their jobs were in trouble. Her editor was impressed by her extra online activity, and Geary was soon given a new role at The Birmingham post, in charge of promoting The Birmingham Post’s social presence online and this opportunity set her on the path that led to her role at The Times.  

The possibilities of online. Geary got spotted online from her now editor at The Times, through her own blogs, the social media work she was doing for The Birmingham Post and her friendly twittering to media folk. 

Communication. Her success is clearly not due to luck. It’s her ability to engage well with people, on and offline, her willingness to get out there and ask questions about stuff she doesn’t understand, and her creativity- thinking outside the box, not just regurgitating stuff. 


 


 

 

Keep blogging but keep it interesting. As I admitted before I am a teeny bit addicted to this blogging malarky, so for me there’s really no danger of stopping. However, no matter how much we post stuff Geary is a real reminder that we need to remember the importance of quality. The key to success is originality and keeping the reader interested. Being original comes partly from not being afraid to experiment – as Glyn our online leader told us ‘don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty’ at the beginning of the course. Geary was adventurous by starting up a blog at a time when blogs weren’t particularly a huge thing, she was apprehensive about starting a blog, but took a chance and had a dabble with social media. Geary went into the whole journalism thing with confidence and willingness to try new things and look where she is now

 

Of course I’m not saying that a good blog = job. What I’ve taken from the lecture is to try stuff out, don’t be afraid and get involved as you just don’t know where things will lead you.  Good philosophy non?

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Get you teeth into some core skills

Rory Cellan – Jones, The BBC ‘s technology correspondent, kindly squeezed us into his hectic schedule last Tuesday.

It was an interesting talk, comparing the old fashioned newsroom to the modern day journo world. – we realised just how much the broadcast news has changed. He then posted a not particularly flattering photo (hell, 500 people have already seen it, damage is done) of us all on twitter, resulting in a barrage of advice from journalists from all over the show, ranging from pessimistic (telling us to give up right now) to the absurd (picking on poor James for wearing a scarf indoors). So we didn’t get much from that, we did however, (well I did anyway) learn something from Jones, who shared a few wise words of his own:

1. Focus on key skills

Jones told us to try and develop a solid core skill, or skills. We shouldn’t forget about the good old nuts and bolts of journalism, such as researching, interview techniques and structuring a story. It’s still oh so important, despite the change of scene (i.e technology). This links with a piece I wrote recently about how young recruits are not up to scratch in terms of key skills.  Simple basics like grammar are being neglected nowadays -it’s something we should all be really focusing on.

It’s important to have an array of other skills on the side to whip out and impress employers with. (and this is where knowing about all this fancy online stuff comes in- I feel I have a long way to go on this one!)

Specialisation is useful too. Jones reckoned this would probably become even more useful in the future.

2. Realise that it’s okay not to be an expert

Although Jones is a technology correspondent,  he admitted that he is not the world expert. Which is quite reassuring for us. I have to admit I was finding the prospect of being known as a specialist quite daunting.  It’s important to remember that the role of a Journalist is- after all to be the mediator of information. Seeking it out and tell it back to people in a way they’re going to understand and enjoy.

3. Convey the story clearly

Like Jones said, the skill of the journalist is to be able to tell a complex story in a simple, effective way. He demonstrated this point well, though both examples of his news pieces and the dynamic and interesting presentation he gave us.

Although I guess I kind of knew all this before it just highlighted how important it is to really fine tune those traditional skills, get a niche and not to feel too distraught if you’re not the world genius of your chosen subject. Leave the expert stuff to the experts and just concentrate on using your journalistic skills to get across the story in a clear and exciting way.

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