Writing For News
What are reporters?
Reporters are people usually employed by a media company or subsidiary company, who present information on stories which are deemed to be in the public’s interest or just interesting to the public. (not always the same thing) For broadcast media such as BBC, ITN or Channel 4 et al they are often filmed at the location of the story eg: outside 10 Downing Street or inside the Houses of Commons (for political stories) and impart information verbally and visually to consumers. Within these packages of VT there may well be images and other clips of footage related to the story. These photos and images are further edited with text and numbers. The text and numbers will explain what the images are and contain accreditation for copyright purposes. In stories about the financial collapse the use of large graphs has been very prevalent, to dramatically show the economic downfall simply and effectively in picture form.
Reporters will often have pre-recorded interviews with major players in the story in order to present different viewpoints in the interest of balance. Sometimes the reporter will interview an expert or a person involved in the story live and/or to a studio presenter who will question them on latest developments in the story. It is essential for a good reporter to have a list of contacts to be able to readily obtain quotes from a variety of well-informed experts in many different professions. These expert opinions can flesh out a story, and in a place where there may well be others reporting on the same story, gives your report a bit more weight than the competition’s.
Reporters and journalists will often repurpose content to use in different media for example the basic facts of the story may be reproduced and used for print versions and websites. However to bring longevity dynamism and detail, reporters are creating and managing their own blogs to give a story background, depth and bring in other related stories via links to other reporter’s blogs or blogs of professional persons they deem to have a knowledge on the subject. This approach allows, for a discussion to take place with the audience using comment sections, and for them to pass on the story electronically to others through social media Facebook, Twitter etc.
There are more outlets for news as mentioned above the blogosphere is a major outlet with many reporters and journalists taking advantage of the open access platforms to extend the life of their stories. Doing a blog on a story that you have just reported on either over radio or on camera allows the audience to feel more connected with the story to get involved in the story and create that all important “digital conversation” one of the buzz phrases of the new media revolution.
Other online news outlets are sites that concentrate on one particular geographical area for instance the Kings Cross site that has documented the re- development of the area and researched and published local stories of interest to the immediate community. These kind of sites are called Hyper-local sites, in Hull we have the hyper-local site www.thisisull.com which has for the past seven years been providing the community with up to date content in a variety of areas including Ents. Arts, Sport, Community news, Health, Humour and Opinions. It is a free publishing platform for anyone wishing to get their voice heard. These sites can be used effectively to generate interest and publicity for campaigns and bring like-minded people together to effect a desired outcome.
Traditional magazines are still available but now a large number of them have an online presence too, inviting readers to comment on features get involved in social movements. Big retail companies like Asda or Walmart (there’s a clue) when taking on new employees have a big emphasis on creating a community: among their employees “ a family at work.” You not only got a job you had a whole new set of friends and social events and other stuff supposedly creating cohesion in order to increase productivity. Magazines, together with every online publisher, are trying to create online families to build and strengthen their brands in an uneasy future. It’s all about being able to connect with others with similar interests and concerns. To debate with them the big issues in your field of interest, to suggest ways to move your corner forward, get support for your projects to mobilise communities and then larger populations to address something, to make something happen.
BBC (Radio and television BBC News 24 and World Service, BBC Asian Network,
BBC 6 Music) ITN, Sky News, CNN, Bloomberg, Channel 4, Reuters Newsagency
The Guardian, The Times, The Sun, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Express, The Daily Star
Regional Daily papers
HDM, Yorkshire Post, Lincolnshire Echo, Scunthorpe Target, Metro
Financial Times, The Economist, Civils, BBC internal paper, The Stage, P.C. Magazine
Shoot, Motorcycle News, Climbing, Practical Wireless
NME (print and online), Q Magazine (print and online), Odeon Magazine, Sandman Magazine online and print (certain regions only), The Fly (online and print)
Various celebrity selling materialism and debauched lifestyles for the under classes to aspire to)
Chat, Best, Hello Magazine, Vogue, The Cheesewire Magazine, Watchtower
Hull In Print
Local Radio Stations
BBC Radio Humbs. West Hull Community Radio, Hull Royal Hospital Radio, Viking FM
Various music-based internet stations eg: Jam Radio, Summertime Radio etc
(a large range of sites prefixed thisis….. websites with varying levels of content sometimes attached to a local paper sometimes not as in the case of thisisyork.co.uk)
Radio 4 and BBC Worldservice Podcasts
Health Check, Digital Planet, iPM, Front Row, The Media Show, The News Quiz, The Strand
Recently some of these podcasts are being bundled together and given an Editor’s choice so you will not necessarily get the whole of the original broadcast piece. A bit like Woman’s Hour pick a selection of highlights to repeat for Weekend Woman’s Hour on Radio 4. A decision was made not to offer all of the programmes as podcasts just a pick of the best, but who made this decision and what considerations were taken into account when it was taken.
Is the emerging media viable? Whether it is commercially viable, at present nobody knows, various pay wall models are being trialled but no conclusive results have been released as yet. The website Thisisull.com was considering pay models back in 2004 in relation to certain content types such as specialist subject matter. The idea was to give users a preview of a chosen article and ask them to pay, to read the full piece. The pieces considered were long running continuous content such as columns, serials etc. It was important to identify these content types to encourage user loyalty and develop a continuous revenue stream.
The idea was subsequently dropped due to a fear it would alienate certain readers. Thisisull.com has always felt inclusivity as to be at the heart of any community minded endeavour. These are some of the considerations and challenges facing the major media companies today.
Whether it is viable in terms of interest is a different question. Is there an audience? Almost definitely. If the love affair with blogging and tweeting and the linking of different applications and the latest platform, is not just a passing trend.
There is another aspect to consider and that is whether the emerging media is damaging to our health, mental state perception of the world etc.
Can we get so bogged down in chasing the latest technology as to damage the product? Do we really need or want electronic books on iPads that look like they’ve come from an episode of Star Trek? If we spend all our time looking at screens, either a lap top or desktop at work, a net book or other smaller screen when at home, and a mobile screen in between, are we going to forget to look at the world with our eyes? Will we start experiencing life through a digital reality rather than the way nature intended?
These are just a few of the problems with the emerging media as the shift in the power balance takes place. Internet users creating their own content without regulation or the viewer having some sense of its origin; an authoritative informed voice on the subject or not.
There’s a movie coming out and if you click on a particular review site, look at the star rating system, you can aid your decision whether you want to see the movie. By reading what these other people have said, a number of fundamental problems are raised that pervades all internet content. In this case relating to film, do you trust their opinion? Do they know anything about film? If they have pre-conceived ideas about what makes a good movie is it possible their review will be slanted or skewed? Are they being paid to say something to point you to a particular movie and away from another thus creating a false economy? Is the site being run by the cinema or other group with conflicting interests? If so, anything you read about the movie is open to bias and should be considered suspect.
The emerging media allows for the user to choose where they get their news, when they get their news, how they get their news. Not only that but allows them to create their own news be part of the news, impart their views to the world and influence what becomes a story and what doesn’t. They get a sense of control, whether it is real control or not is a much more fundamental question.
Does Journalism Have a Future?
The only certainty is that there is none. With every new technological and digital development, new ideas and new challenges present themselves. Whether that is looking at how to financially sustain journalist’s income, or looking at new platforms to present content to users, or creating communities online around journalists’ blogosphere activities or particular stories. This could lead to a certain celebrity status and hierarchy in the journalistic world…for instance the way Robert Peston the economics correspondent who claims to have broken the news of the financial collapse and has subsequently been on every finance related news programme, is wheeled in every time the financial markets twitch. This constant presence of these journalists is a result of the culture of rolling news. I think that rolling news coverage keeps a story in the public eye for a while but over saturation leads to repetitious reportage, a need to always be looking for a different angle a new idea or person to consult on a story. I believe this kind of rolling 24 hr news leads to a wider disinterest. This will inevitably damage the wider concept of news broadcasting, journalism and journalists.
With the open way the internet works anyone can create a blog and post content and appear an expert. The dividing line between the expert opinion and the layman is vanishing every day. People are looking to other sources to find out what they want to know, not relying on the journalists to convey the news to them. Some suggest this is an extension of freedom of speech, others suggest it paves the way for a lot of misinformation being disseminated throughout the populace as information is not regulated. However the argument against this would be, if a piece of information is in the public domain then it is there to be challenged. Do we then just get a lot of people challenging each other’s views constantly? Like a giant global message board…which I guess is what the future of the net could be.
Next has to be the question that is occupying the mind of everyone connected with the media.
To pay, or not to pay?
Do you charge for content, if so how? If you say yes, and believe you should charge people to view your content, then you have to come up with a way to do it, thus the idea of a pay wall is born.
Do you charge per page, per article, per number of bytes of memory?
Do you suggest that some content is chargeable and other is not? Do you employ a membership scheme where users pay an annual subscription for free access to all or part of the content? Do you then sell your membership list to advertisers having obtained consent from your readers? This allows the current advertising model to not just be forgotten about because it is claimed that revenue from on-line advertising could pick up as other financial products are developed and made to work in the publishing industry. All these questions are being raised at the moment and there are various experiments and trials going on with some of the bigger players. There is a section of the publishing industry that are looking at ways to make money out of the social networking aspect surrounding a product for example Murdoch in the Bookclub site in order to not have to create universal pay walls for news content.
The Guardian’s current position as of Wednesday 10th 2010 is that they are looking into different options but that a universal pay wall for content on their site is not suited to their needs at this moment in time. However hints and suggestions were made that this position could change in the future and was in no way a fixed position. There were also elusions to other platforms such as handheld reading devices being investigated and some kind of announcement being made in the next few months. (Guardian representative speaking on The Media Show, BBC Radio 4)
Having considered the question, I think there is a future for journalism and reporters but not in the traditional sense. With exclusives only lasting as long as it takes someone else to tweet the headline, reporters and journalists have lost a lot of their punching power. They have to become social networking geeks to further a story. Their individual online presence and the overarching brand’s longevity is partially dependant on them creating a brief but noisy online buzz like AnR around a new band.
Doesn’t that reduce modern journalism to a popularity contest? How many followers have I got on my page? How many followers have they got? It does not seem to be about good writing any more or being able to convey complex ideas or present argument for and against. It’s whether you can get your story tweeted by hundreds of people and get your blog mentioned by some influential presenter or reporter. Surely it’s the company’s job to guarantee maximum exposure for your content. After all you write it, you research it, you will have to stand by it, if it all blows up in your face.