Sunday 30 December 2007

Radio Feature

This is a radio programme feature about Cardiff Council's proposal to build a school in the Llanrumney recreation ground - I also covered the story as an online feature (below). It is an assessed part of my course and is intended for 'Good Morning Wales' on BBC Radio Wales for broadcast on Friday 14th December. The piece starts with an intro from a presenter:

PRESENTER: "Interested in how Cardiff's schools are organised?
Well you'll know then that there are radical plans to change things around.

And there are now only seven days left to let the council know how you feel about it all.
One of the proposals is to build a new school on part of the Llanrumney recreation ground.
But this is proving unpopular, thousands of people have signed a petition against it.
Our Education Correspondent Mark Ansell has been in the east of the city."

Click here to listen to my feature.

Friday 21 December 2007

Council v Campaign Group - Cardiff Education in Focus

Here's my online article that I discussed in a blog a few months ago.

My video intro to the story

Cardiff Council is locked in a heated clash with a group of local residents in the east of the city over a proposal to build on an extensive green open space. The Council wants to knock down Rumney High and Llanrumney High Schools and build one new school and leisure centre where the two schools geographically meet – on the Llanrumney recreation ground.

The proposal is part of a plan to deal with long-standing problems in Cardiff’s school set-up. Councillor Bill Kelloway (pictured below) is in charge of Education in the Cardiff and is adamant that major changes need to be made to the organisation of Cardiff’s schools: “We have far more places in our schools than we have children to fill them - and a fifty to sixty million pound repairs backlog”.

The proposal has been met with indignation as the recreation ground has over five hundred trees and a number of football and rugby pitches. Eight thousand people have signed a petition launched by the Rumney Recreation and Eastern Leisure Centre Action Group to stop the development. The group organises popular campaign meetings at the local British Legion club and distributes leaflets to all the houses in the locality. During a recent meeting Don Taylor, the group's chairperson (pictured below), rallied his hundred and fifty troops to oppose the Council’s proposal. He explained to me why he is so passionate about holding on to the green space: “We’re in the middle of an urban sprawl, we need the open space. It’s our jewel in the crown, our oasis”.

Councillor Kelloway however wants people to remember that a significant proportion of the recreation ground would still be open for public use: "There would still be plenty of space there for pitches and for people to walk their dogs”. In fact around a third of the recreation ground would be taken up by the new school and leisure centre, which you can see in the Council’s diagram (below).

I decided to have a good look round the recreation ground and bumped into Joan Lathen (pictured below), a resident of Llanrumney, on her daily dog walk. She has been walking her dog round the rec for around thirty years and is angry with the Council: “I think it’s terrible, because so many people use the recreation ground, from children to pensioners. Everybody uses it all day long. It’ll be chaos if the school is built with the traffic and everything”.

(Click here to listen to my interview with Joan)
The Council has put its schools plan out for public consultation which ends today. Whether the Llanrumney proposal goes ahead or not will partly depend on the public’s response. As part of this consultation, a public meeting was organised to discuss the Llanrumney proposal. Two hundred disgruntled residents turned up with placards (pictured below) to let the Council officers and Councillor Bill Kelloway know their thoughts on the proposal. One of the first points from the floor summed up the sentiment in the room: “We’re all going to be fighting this, you won’t take our land off us”, and later in the two-and-a-half hour meeting, a lady shrieked to mighty applause: “We’ll demonstrate and say enough is enough, you're not going our parklands away from us!” .

However this meeting, like the Rumney Recreation and Eastern Leisure Centre Action Group meetings, was dominated by people in their sixties and above - you do wonder whether everyone in the community would agree with the campaign to stop the development. How about the parents of the children who would benefit from the new school on the site? I spoke to Bill Kelloway at his office in County Hall and this was the point he wanted to get across to the community: “Don’t be blinkered. Look at the advantages to the community, particularly to the schools communities, who at present are operating in pretty sub-standard conditions.”

But Don Taylor and the rest of the campaign group believe the new school and leisure centre would not only take away precious green space but also cause serious problems for the community with the inevitable increase in traffic that a new school would bring. They are determined to get their voice heard: “We will fight it; they have to listen to us. They have to respond to the voice of the people.”

If the controversial proposal goes ahead, by September 2012 there will be a new school and leisure centre for the Rumney and Llanrumney community on their beloved recreation ground.

A new school here in 2012? The Llanrumney recreation ground

Sunday 16 December 2007

The New

If you haven't already heard, the BBC has launched the Beta (aka in development) version of its new website. It wasn't a big surprise to me thanks to Pete Clifton's talk on the future of BBC Interactive but it is a big change to the current version we've come to know very well since 2003.

The key principle of the new website is aggregation - instead of everybody seeing the same content on the homepage, it lets the individual user choose the content they want on the homepage. Websites like Facebook and Netvibes have been using aggregation for a while now and it's not a surprise to see the BBC upgrade, especially since it has an incredible amount and range of news and sport content and three platforms of TV and radio as well as online content.

But is the new site really Beta? Sorry, I mean better? I like the new site because it's clean but attractive and has further developed local content with, for example, your local BBC Radio Station's current programme just one click away. Once the iPlayer with its TV programmes is on the homepage in the new year, then it'll be the full package.

For news, all this news aggregation does mean that sometime soon you will be able to completely avoid the main news headlines and just view the news areas you're interested in. Some would argue this is a positive step since it's giving the user what they want but others fear it will mean people will be less well educated about a range of news stories. I think that in balance it's good because it has the power to engage people who are currently disinterested in news.

Sunday 9 December 2007

Jon Snow: My big interview at the House of Commons

It’s not the first time I’ve blogged about Jon Snow - see October 14th - but I never thought I’d be typing away about interviewing him. These opportunities jump out at you from nowhere and you’ve got to make the most of them.

I was told I could have as long as I needed with Jon so in the days leading up to the interview I researched high and low about his life and why as a trustee, he devotes his time to the human rights development charity
International Service. Sat next to the Thames on the paved area of the House of Commons, I was approaching the end of an interview with Catalina Devandas, a specialist in disabled rights (see photo below) when I noticed in the corner of my eye the tall, silver haired Jon Snow had arrived. Once we’d filmed the reverse shots of my interview with Catalina, I confidently introduced myself and asked him to follow me to a quieter area to conduct the interview.

As any good interviewer should with a liberal amount of time to question, I veered away from my eleven written questions where it felt appropriate to explore his answers. When asked how human rights news stories should be presented, he was adamant that there was no need to be balanced since it’s so broadly agreed that basic human rights are fundamental to everyone. Whilst arguing that there are too few human rights stories covered in the news, he acknowledged that with the decline in European and American news organisations' foreign bureaus, there will be even fewer human rights stories covered.

At the end of the interview, I said that classic line with confidence, ‘Jon Snow, thank you very much’ with a shake of the hand. It was over and I was delighted about the way the interview had gone. The one mistake was that I was so focused on conducting the interview that I forgot to get a photo with him!

However far I do or don’t get in the world of journalism, I will always relish the opportunity to interview a man so well regarded both professionally as the newsreader of
Channel 4 News and personally, for the amount of work he does for charities like International Service. It was a great pleasure and another name to add to the list of people I’ve interviewed. I’m looking forward to the next big interview, wherever it appears from. Read below how I got this opportunity and who else I interviewed at the Commons…

Out and About Interviewing in London

A couple of hours after receiving the email inviting trainee journalists to apply to work as a journalist interview at the International Service’s Human Rights Awards I had rang the lady in charge and submitted my application. The opportunity to interview the award winners and the host, Jon Snow, at the House of Commons excited me so much because of my background. I wanted my application to reflect honestly my experience as an interviewer, passion for human rights and natural inquisitive nature. Fortunately they chose me and after a huge amount of reading up on the charity, the award winners and Jon Snow, I headed across to London. International Service wanted to have material to be able to make a film reflecting the work they do supporting charities in West Africa, Latin America and the Middle East and the importance of International Service’s Human Rights Awards.

On Tuesday, the day before the awards ceremony at the Commons, I interviewed Nabilaye, a Malian development worker. I stood on the banks of the River Thames interviewing Nabilaye, whose charity (ADAC) won the award for the Defence of the Human Rights of People Living with HIV/Aids. He only spoke French and with the help of a translator (who also happened to be the CEO of International Service) and a professional cameraman, he gave a moving interview about the charity he runs in Mali which supports
sufferers of aids and HIV there. At the awards ceremony the next day, I interviewed all the other award winners including a reporter and producer from the Channel 4 series ‘Unreported World’ as they had won the award for Global Human Rights Defender. This was quite a daunting task because, as with Jon Snow, they know a thing or two about how to interview!

On Tuesday evening I attended the pre-awards drinks party with the winners and the main sponsor of the awards, none other than the Chairperson of Northern Rock, Bryan Sanderson. Once he realised I was a trainee journalist he became a little cold saying he’s got tens of journalists on his back the whole time to find out the latest. I should just say that he was brought in six weeks ago to sort out the crisis. The next day it was the awards ceremony and the big interview with Jon Snow.

Thursday 6 December 2007

Anthony Mayfield

Head of Media, Spannerworks.

What is the current state of play with the World Wide Web?

Having heard a number of lecturers touching on the subject (including today's with search engine marketing specialist Anthony Mayfield) I feel fairly confident I can give an answer.

The speed of communication has accelerated. Newspapers for example are no longer competing on a daily basis, but minute by minute online. The scale of available content is vast because the individual living in countries rich and poor has been empowered to create. According to Anthony, by 2010, 70% of online content will be created by individuals rather than companies and organisations. Individuals are communicating and interacting more and more through social networks - of the 1.25 billion people online, 400 million (and rising) use social networks.

In relation to journalism, rather than being passive readers, internet users are expecting to interact with journalists by emailing them and writing comments on their articles. And content lasts - yesterday's news is no longer today's chip shop paper. For example, yesterday on Guardian Unlimited, a story written in 2000 was the second most read on the website, incidentally it concerned sex in space (Astronauts test sex in space - but did the earth move?)!

That's some of the main characteristics of today's internet. It's clear to me that every aspiring journalist needs to embrace them to be successful.

Sunday 2 December 2007

Kim Hollamby

Digital Development Director, IPC Media

Search engine optimisation (SEO) was not a term I was familiar with until recently, but thanks to an excellent article in the Media Guardian I now feel well informed. Kim Hollamby, believes we trainee journalists need to be well aware of SEO.

Search engine optimisation is when news organisations aim to get their stories as high as possible in search engine results. Where newspapers replicate their stories online, this has proved problematic as their headlines often rely on puns. Some newspapers are re-writing headlines and sub-headings for online. Where newspapers simply replicate their stories online, for example with the
South Wales Echo, internet users will miss some of their stories. I suspect this will soon change and all newspapers will have to make different headlines when they put their stories online.

SEO is yet another example of how successful journalists will fall behind if they do not work with digital media.

Saturday 24 November 2007

A great day of interviewing

Thursday reminded me why I want to be a journalist. It was so uplifting to get out of the classroom and interview.

On Thursday afternoon I headed to the Welsh Beer and Cider Festival to interview a member of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and a local brewer. I used the opportunity of the festival to do my ‘As Live’ assessed piece. This is where a reporter does a ‘live’ interview on location (ie away from the studio). I thoroughly enjoyed finding out why the festival is so popular and why local breweries are important. To finish the ‘As Live’, I sampled last year’s Champion Beer at the same time as asking the brewer to describe its taste and popularity.
CLICK HERE to listen to the beer festival 'As Live'.

Then, thanks to a tip off from housemate and newspaper student Ben, it was a dash to the Millennium Stadium. I interviewed the Wales Rugby coach Nigel Davis next to the pitch about their upcoming match with World Champions South Africa. I felt I held my own next to the genuine journalists that surrounded the coach in the incredible national stadium.

Now I’ll edit the audio and so this week will have practised two of the key skills of interviewing and editing that we’re taught on the course.

Friday 16 November 2007

Richard Burton

Editor, Jewish Chronicle. Former Editor,

This week I finally got it. It was helped along by listening to a set of Radio 4 programmes on the British newspaper industry, some strong words from course leader Matt Yeomans in our online workshop and finally by Richard Burton in today’s lecture. What am I on about? Well it’s that whilst the easy way to deal with all the new media technology of social networks, blogs and podcasts, is to stay well away…

New technology is absolutely central to today’s, and even more, tomorrow’s world of journalism. If I do not embrace new media technology, it will affect my employability as a journalist.

According to Richard, this ‘innate ability to get hold of new technology’ is expected of any wannabe journalist, and assuming I have this, the factor that will make me stand out from the crowd is how good I am at doing the basics of journalism. That means I need to be able to find a good story, write well, have excellent spelling and grammar, be able to conduct a very good interview etc.

I need to be both a very good journalist and able to use all this new technology. So I have to keep plugging away at improving my traditional journalistic skills (especially the spelling in my case), AND I must embrace and not fall into the trap of running scared of Flickr, Youtube, my blogs etc - as I think some are on the Diploma course are.

Thursday 15 November 2007

Chris, the Big Issue seller

This is a one minute film I made with a Hannah, fellow student on my course. We wanted to make a film on a day in the life of a homeless person and were it had to be a minute and use only natural sound.

I learnt a lot in short space of time when we started researching the film. It turned out we were unable to film a homeless person so approached the Big Issue and Chris was happy to be filmed.

I was impressed with the set up and business-like nature of the Big Issue where registered sellers buy the magazines for 75p and sell them on for £1.50. It seems to work well and the Big Issue staff have an arms length relationship with the sellers are regularly coming back and forth to the office to buy more magazines catch up with the staff and other sellers.

Without wanting to come accross as patronising, I got on well with Chris and the other sellers as well as the other homeless people I met.

Darren, a homeless man I met on a homeless night support buds told me he was a heroine addict and was on the waiting list to receive methadone treatment. I learnt about his sleeping habits - he finds the warmest place possible (often a multi-storey car park) and goes to sleep as early as possible in the evening so that he can get up before he is moved on by the police or security about 6am.

I realised we did have something in common. His life was completely different to mine apart from the fact that he, like I, listen to Five Live on a pocket radio to keep up to date with all the sports news and follow the Premiership football. And yet he was painfully thin and his eyes were tired and lifeless. They're real people with real lives and interesting stories just like you or I. Hopefully it's an area I'll return to later in my journalistic career.

Friday 9 November 2007

Pete Clifton

Head of BBC News Interactive

Early on in the lecture, the dramatic drop in 16-24 year olds accessing BBC News was highlighted. I therefore assume that BBC News’ upcoming developments, which Pete succinctly and vibrantly delivered in today’s lecture, are aimed at trying to reverse this trend of young people turning away from BBC News (as well as trying to keep up with society’s current and future technological use).

However this leaves me wondering, will these changes work? These quite exciting developments include a full news offer on mobiles, giant BBC screens with a live feed of News 24 in Britain’s cities and a personalised
BBC News online homepage (being accessed on your mobile of course!).

My housemates believe that whether a member of ‘da yoof’ follows the news or not is dependent on their background and not related to its availability on their media devices or to do with changing the news agenda to be more youth friendly. You can conclude from this that BBC News’ developments are not going to succeed. I am unsure and hope the changes do work. The implication of 16-24 year olds continuing to be less and less engaged with the news is frightening – both for the ideal of a well educated, vibrant democracy and closer to home, for my job opportunities!

Thursday 25 October 2007

Daniel Meadows

Guest lecturer Daniel Meadows took today’s online journalism lecture on the digital age and digital storytelling. Daniel is a lecturer at Cardiff University and runs a digital storytelling website called He led a BBC project called Capture Wales where members of the public were taught how to make their own digital stories.

Similar public engagement with the media is happening around us, for example community radio stations like Radio Cardiff which was
officially launched today and the BBC’s Video Nation, where people are trained how to make a video about whatever they want to (here’s my younger brother Pascal’s video).

Daniel is optimistic about the digital age, it promises: interactivity, journalism as a conversation and the democratisation of the media. He believes that through making videos, the public is empowered. Daniel talked of the need for us trainee journalists to expand on the public’s engagement with digital media and believes that soon, part of being a journalist will be to facilitate the public creating their own media programming.

Assuming Daniel is right, I think the real challenge is to work out how we can allow all people to be able to make news items for the news programme. How do we bridge the digital divide and keep everyone up with the pace of the ever developing new media technology? I’m not sure what the answers are but am excited about how I as a journalist could be part of this digital media empowerment movement.

Tuesday 23 October 2007

Capturing Cardiff - My Pitch

For the Online part of my course my assignment is to 'capture Cardiff' in a 700-800 word online magazine feature. Audio, photos and video will accompany the article itself to make it truly multi-platform in the converging media age that we live in. I have to make a pitch to the course leader Matthew Yeomans and here it is...

I would like to look at the fierce debate currently taking place between Cardiff Council and a group of local residents.

Cardiff Council has recently announced the
biggest ever school investment plan in Welsh history. £115 million will be spent on the project which will involve closing some schools and opening new ones. Everyone's happy you might assume. Not so. Rumney Recreation and Eastern Leisure Action Group (RREEL) has been set up by local residents who are opposing plans to build a new school on the Eastern Leisure Centre site because of the loss in green space.

I plan to investigate this issue - what are the arguments on either side of the debate? How does this issue link to the greater problem for Cardiff schools that there aren't enough pupils to fill the school places?

Wednesday 17 October 2007

Why Jon Snow is right

A warm welcome to my new blog.

This morning the broadcast group watched a programme where four of the top British broadcasters were interviewed by Tony Benn. John Humphreys, Jon Snow, Nick Robinson and Jeremy Paxman were featured and a number of interesting issues were raised.

A news presenter's job is to 'hold up a mirror to reality', according to Jon Snow.

He went on to say that the current state of political apathy was caused by 'a firewall of PR in politics' where politicians' actions are led by their PR people. Quite a statement to make.

I think if politicians were brave enough to tell the truth (not the half truth) then engagement with voters, or more to the point non-voters, would improve. Let me give you an example, I think if Gordon Brown had acknowledged that the reason for not calling an election was that the polls weren't sufficiently in his favour, then he may well have come out of what The Sun called the 'brown stuff' smelling more rose-like! You can tell when people aren't talking straight and the interview he did with Andrew Marr was painful to watch because you knew Brown was trying to hide behind the idea that he had a chance to show the country 'his vision for change'.

If this concept of a 'vision for change' was genuine and not PR-led, it's still a poor excuse because an election is surely the ideal place to do so.

So in conclusion, I concur with Jon Snow.

Please feel free to comment.