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.