Saturday 27 December 2008

Life after being a Sabb

Two years ago I was a sabbatical officer at Sheffield University Students' Union. The Union has just published a list of what past officers are now up to, proving that there is life after being a sabbatical officer!:

Sunday 21 December 2008

A Week In (Relative!) Silence

I recently went to Taize, a Christian community in Burgundy, for a week in silence! I kept a video diary (ironic I know : ) ...

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Jeremy Irons Graduates!

This was not only the first Hollywood star I've interviewed, but also the first interviewee to roll a cigarette during the interview! He has some interesting things to say about graduation ceremonies...

I covered the story for ITV Local.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Science Comes to Life!

I've just finished my second report for ITV about a lively academic at Brighton University who's got a novel way of engaging young people in science:

And here's my latest ITV blog:

Although Meridian Tonight is based in Whiteley near Southampton and Maidstone and Thames Valley Tonight is based in Abingdon, a vital part of our operation is in the bureaux.
We have bureaux in Salisbury, Bournemouth, and Brighton. Over the past two months I’ve visited them all and have really understood their value.

In Brighton, there’s a team which provide stories for the Meridian programmes. The bureau is made up of two reporters, two cameramen, and a producer. One of the main reasons we have bureaux is that we have to be near the news so that we don’t miss out on stories. The Brighton office allows us to have a presence in the city and all of the towns nearby. It means we know people in the area and can respond quickly to breaking stories. If a story breaks in Lewes, we can be there in minutes thanks to this office. Without it, we’d have to rely on a reporter and cameraman travelling all the way from the Whiteley office near Southampton to cover the news item.

The stories we cover from the bureaux are incredibly varied. Last week while I was at the Brighton bureau we reported on a number of stories including: a school that was badly vandalised, a procession supporting the victims of domestic violence, a house fire that killed an elderly woman and I had the opportunity to cover a story about a science lecturer at Brighton University who’s putting on a big chemical experiments show in Brighton. The aim of the show was to entertain children by showing that science is fun and exciting.

Without the bureau, I doubt that we would have been able to cover even half of these stories. This shows how vital bureaux are to our operation.

Saturday 15 November 2008

Craig David interview!

I had the pleasure of gatecrashing Craig David's special day for ITV Meridian - his honorary graduation at Southampton Solent University. Find out what he really thinks about that Bo' Selecta! character and whether he can hit number 1 ever again.

Monday 10 November 2008

FA Cup on ITV

The FA Cup rights are now owned by ITV. I went to the Kassam Stadium to see Oxford draw with Dorchester in the first round. After the game I interviewed the managers and players for ITV's FA Cup equivalent of Match of the Day.

Saturday 1 November 2008

Alien Invasion!

I've cut and voiced-up my first package for ITV Meridian. It's about a sci-fi exhibition at the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth.

Sunday 26 October 2008

Gastric Band

Last week I brought in my first story to the ITV Meridian newsroom.

I did all the background research to the story and set up the interviews and last Thursday it went on Meridian Tonight.

And on Wednesday I lined up the story to be on LK Today which you watch here.

Saturday 18 October 2008

Grumpy Old Man Rant

I think I've found Ed Milliband's solution to cutting green house gases by 80%!


I was in London for 5 nights recently and was shocked by the hotel's unrelenting waste of energy.

Firstly, when I arrived in my room on a mild Autumn evening, the window was wide open with the radiator below it on full blast!

Secondly, my towel and floor towel were replaced every day!

And finally, if that wasn't enough, every single day my barely touched complimentary soap was replaced with a brand spanking plastic-wrapped new one!

Monday 13 October 2008

ITV Trainee

I've just started as a trainee journalist for ITV Meridian.

Today I blogged about what I've been up to so far on the Meridian blog:

ITV trainee Mark Ansell blogs from the Meridian studios

My name’s Mark Ansell, I’ve just joined ITV Meridian News as a trainee journalist. I’m 23 and from Thame in Oxfordshire and have spent most of my short career working for local BBC radio stations.

This is the first time I’ve worked for ITV and because of this and the significant changes being made to regional news in ITV, I was quite nervous about starting. However, I’ve been wonderfully welcomed - the upbeat and friendly nature of the presenters in the Meridian and Thames Valley programmes is not only genuine, but reflected in all the people that work at Whiteley, where we are based.

Last week I descended on ITV’s headquarters in London, alongside the seven other trainees who will be based at the other ITV newsrooms across the country, for a crash-course in all things ITV. We learnt how top quality graphics and production are central to the success of ITV regional news, how is being improved to build a closer relationship with our audiences and how ITV is developing the way advertising money is brought in through

On Thursday we visited Meridian where we had a go at presenting the news (off air!), under the watchful eye of Lisa, the gallery director (she calls the shots - literally - behind the scenes when the programmes go out) and legendary presenter Fred Dinenage. Earlier that day we went to see GMTV on the South Bank in London. While on the set I stood toe-to-toe with Thursday’s top guest, a weary looking Gordon Brown before he was interviewed by Andrew Castle.

Over the next few months I’ll be learning how to put together and deliver the ITV Meridian and Thames Valley news programmes, including planning stories for the programmes, going out to film, editing the video, and writing scripts for the presenters. My aim is to be contributing to the joint effort of putting on your regional news programme as soon as possible.

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Butler School in Oxfordshire! BBC Oxford

I took a trip to to see what it's like to be a Butler. There's a Butler school in Oxfordshire believe it or not, at Ditchley Park, a stately home near Chipping Norton!

It's a far cry from everyday life and as you'll hear, I'm not up to it...

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Two Week Tour of Blighty

I've had a very enjoyable time touring the country from friend to friend, 20 of them in total - in Sheffield, Manchester, Nottingham, London, Canterbury, Cheltenham, Swindon and Oxford.

One thing that has stayed in my mind is the way alcohol was central to my meet-ups.

Every friend that I met with, except for one who is tee-total, have been keen to share a drink with me.
It's just assumed that to socialise, you drink booze together.

I'm not taking the moral high ground here, I gladly drank almost every night!

One thing I have learnt is how easy it would be to slip into the bad habit of drinking every night.

Our society dictates that to relax after a hard day's work, to socialise with friends, to console oneself or to celebrate, we drink alcohol.
I raise a glass to all those I met up with!

If you are my friend on Facebook, check out all of the photos here.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

I've "no chance" of TV career

Apparently I should just give up now. My career in TV kicks off in a few weeks but it was reported today that Jeremy Paxman is far from encouraging people like me to endeavour on my chosen career path: "If any middle-class white male I come across says he wants to enter television, I say 'give up all hope'. They've no chance."

He made his remarks in a recorded interview for the annual television top-bods get-together that is the Edinburgh International Television Festival.

I was shocked to read the story earlier and pondered for a while on whether my experience tallies with his view. It didn't take long to remember that every single person in my postgrad broadcast journalism group at Cardiff University was white, half were men and all appeared distinctly middle-class. And I don't remember there being anyone from an ethnic minority in the magazine and newspaper postgrad groups either - that's 90 young journalists who have just started their career from Cardiff, what some say is the best place in Britain to prepare you for the world of journalism.

Since finishing the Cardiff course in June I have worked in four newsrooms - BBC Oxford, BBC Derby, BBC 3 Counties, and Mix 96. I can count on one hand the number of people from ethnic minorities that work in these newsrooms. Surely Paxman is off the mark, certainly in reference to whites being suppressed.

I start a traineeship at ITV News in October and hope it'll be the start of a long career in TV, radio and online. Paxo thanks but no thanks, I'm ignoring your advice.

Monday 18 August 2008

Bell Ringing!

For the Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Oxford we've been looking into Oxfordshire customs.

I went to Cropredy to look into a custom dating back hundreds of years. And I even had a go at bell ringing!:


Saturday 2 August 2008

Channel 4 News - Best Student Film

Last week I found out that I had won a Channel 4 News New Talent competition - best student film.

As part of winning, the film I entered is being showcased on the Channel 4 News website. It's an absolute honour to have a film of mine on such a prestigious website. To have a look, click here.

Alternatively you can watch the film as I've uploaded it above and read more about it in an earlier blog.

The judges said: 'As well as it being a good story, we thought it was well told with a nice script and accomplished delivery. ' a great source of news on the lovely market town of Thame, has a short piece on it.

I thoroughly enjoyed making the piece back in March with coursemate Dan O'Brien. In September we will be heading to Channel 4 News HQ on Gray's Inn Road in London to spend a day with the people that make arguably the best news programme in Britain. Hopefully I'll get a chance to ask a few more questions of Jon Snow. I wonder if he'll remember me? You can read my blog on the interview with Jon Snow here.

Thursday 24 July 2008


I've achieved two firsts today. My first report from court and my first 2 way (where you are interviewed by a presenter on a story). I've been working at BBC Radio Derby this week and I jumped at the chance of going to Derby Crown Court to cover a story about a bloke in Derby who worked as a driving instructor for 2 years without the qualification to do so! You can read BBC online's story here. Scroll down on the story and watch the East Midlands Today report - I'm in the frame next to the con man at the end of the report!

The sentencing was heard at 10:30 this morning and I scribbled like mad to get the judge and barristers' quotes down (you can't use recording equipment in court) - this was a day when shorthand would have been useful! Once I interviewed the head of fraud at the Driving Standards Agency Andrew Rice and attempted (and failed) to persuade the fraudster to an interview as he walked out of court, I rushed back to Radio Derby and turned around some bulletin stories, including this voicer one which went at 2pm:


After that I scripted the 2 way, set up the Driving Standards Agency man to come on to speak to Ross Fletcher the drivetime presenter following the 2 way and then gave it my best shot:


Freelancing really does give you the wide range of experience I'm after.

Monday 14 July 2008

Freelancing - 1 month in

I've been a freelance radio journalist for a month now and I've experienced a lot.

On Friday I found out that the bulletin shift is tough. After choosing which stories to run from the various sources at your disposal, you then have to script it to the required length of time. Delivering the bulletin, although very challenging, is only the final stage of the process.

I've been learning how to do the bulletin shift at BBC Three Counties Radio and did my first ever bulletin on radio on Friday:

Last weekend I did 'lives' at the Henley Royal Regatta for BBC Radio Oxford. Why's it 'Royal' and is it merely a middle and upper class affair? I found out when I spoke to the Regatta Archivist Michael Jones:


Then I learnt a little about Henley fashion from a group of fantastically dressed ladies:


The best thing I've found about freelancing is that you do a range of different jobs from producing programmes, bulletins, to live reporting, with different people in various parts of the country.

Friday 4 July 2008

The Next Big Thing?

What's the next digital creation?

Well while I was chatting away away to Nana Ruth, a good friend of the Ansell family, I think I came upon what might be the next big thing. It's a combination of Google-like search and GPS.

I think the next big will be searching on your mobile for the nearest place you can get hold of the item you require. So for example, you'd type into your phone 'loo roll' and it'll tell you where the nearest place from where you are that you can buy roll and it'll also tell you how to walk/drive there.

You could then register your car keys and watch into your mobile phone so that when you can't find them, you simply type them in the search page of your mobile and it'll tell you where you've left them

What do you think? Is this already out there? If not, when you do first see it, remember where you heard it first!

Friday 27 June 2008

Labour's By-Election Disaster

All the talk before the by-election was on dirty tactics between the Conservatives and Lib Dems, light-heartened candidates standing and voters bombarded with campaign literature. But now the results are out, the headline is disaster for Labour, rather than Tory success.

For Labour to come in fifth place, behind the BNP is a catastrophe for Gordon Brown and his party. The double-whammy of being beaten by the BNP and getting such a small proportion of the vote that Labour lost their deposit is an embarrassment.

Disappointment too for the Lib Dems led by their slick candidate Stephen Kearney. You should have seen the campaign HQ on Thame industrial estate - the helpers like bees in a beehive, working 9am till 9pm to the queen bee Kearney for weeks before polling day. At home we must have received about fifteen separate mail-shots from the Lib Dems but they still trailed the Tories by a massive 10,000 votes.

The Greens did well to come in third, a reflection of the party's popularity in Oxford (7 councillors on City Council) and Oxfordshire (5 councillors on County Council).

One cynical but representative voter I met last night quipped, "after all the attention they gave us, you won't see a politician in Thame till next election time". This is how much of the electorate feels after a fan-fair by election in their town. Despite all the political noise, turnout was down 17% - only half of the constituency bothered to vote!

The lasting memory of the election won't be the low turnout, the Tory - Lib Dem side-swiping or even the two Miss Great Britain candidates, it'll be the day that Labour reached a new low - one year on from Gordon Brown starting as PM, Labour are beaten by the BNP in the wealthy, respectable, rural constituency of South Oxfordshire.

Electorate 69,086 - Turnout 34,761 (50.32%, -17.58%)

John Howell - Conservatives, 19,796 (56.95%, 3.46% increase on 2005 general election share of vote)
Stephen Kearney - Liberal Democrats, 9,680 (27.85%, 1.84%)
Mark Stevenson - Greens, 1,321 (3.80%, 0.54%)
Timothy Rait - British National Party, 1,243 (3.58%)
Richard McKenzie - Labour, 1,066 (3.07%, -11.68%)
Chris Adams, UK Independence Party, 843 (2.43%, -0.07%)
Bananaman Owen - Monster Raving Loony Party, 242 (0.70%)
Derek Allpass - English Democrats, 157 (0.45%)
Amanda Harrington - Independent (Miss Great Britain Party), 128 (0.37%)
Dick Rodgers - The Common Good, 121 (0.35%)
Louise Cole - Independent (Miss Great Britain Party), 91 (0.26%)
Harry Bear - The Fur Play Party, 73 (0.21%)

Monday 23 June 2008

Henley and Thame (not on-Thames) By-Election

I have entered the real world. Where you get paid for working!

I've just started freelancing at BBC Radio Oxford. I'm working as a day reporter for the breakfast programme. It feels good to be part of a team who really care about the programme and are driven by improving it and increasing listenership.

Since being back in my home-town of Thame, one thing is very noticeably different - the amount of political paraphernalia around. Boris has gone to run the big smoke and it's by-election time.

Not only are there huge signs telling you how to vote on each side of the High Street, but each and every Thame (and rest of the Henley constituency) resident has been flooded with leaflets, political magazines presented as lifestyle mags, and posters. I've heard that some people are so fed up with it that they aren't going to vote! But the propaganda keeps coming. Tomorrow we're doing a part of the programme on this issue. This morning my package on first time voters in Thame went out:


Last Thursday I went round Thame to ask people what they thought about the election and what they want to be improved in the market town (listen out for my Mum!). This went out on the breakfast programme on Friday:


I'll be going to the count at Thame Leisure Centre on Thursday night - apparently the BBC News Channel (aka News 24) are going to be 'all over it'. I'm sure it'll generate a tale or two worthy of a blog.

Saturday 21 June 2008

BBC Radio Derby Placement

Here are the other pieces I did on placement at BBC Radio Derby:

I went to 'the pictures' at a traditional cinema in Belper...


On my first day I asked people in Derby whether the London 2012 Olympics would benefit them and their city...


Later that week the 10p tax row started and I found people affected by the tax change had no idea they'd be paying more tax...


And finally, what the most annoying or offensive TV ad you've seen in the last year?..


It was a real challenge working in a patch I didn't know very well with people I'd never met, but I got a lot from the experience.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

BBC Radio Oxford Placement

As part of my course I did a two week placement at BBC Radio Oxford and Derby. I've posted on this blog some of the material that I produced, but here's the rest from BBC Radio Oxford:

The Royal Marines were teaching kids at a school in Farringdon how to make a military curry by using a Bounty bar! The Marine chef was inspirational...

I went back to my old school in Thame to find out about their Gambia Week....

I went to the Boat Race to
get the fans' perspective from a pub next to the Thames...

And I met two unwanted dogs at the Blue Cross in Burford...

Monday 9 June 2008

My Demo

I've now finished the Diploma at Cardiff Uni and am back home in Oxfordshire.

I've put together a demo that I've emailed to a couple of news editors at local radio stations. Perhaps it's more accurately described as an audio CV. It sums up in 4 minutes my career in journalism so far!


Sunday 1 June 2008

Cardiff Course Portfolio

I'm just a week away from finishing the Broadcast Journalism course at Cardiff Uni. What an experience! The highs of interviewing the Wales rugby coach on the Millennium Stadium pitch to the lows of being refused an interview that (had been agreed and) I was dependent on; it has been a superb training ground.

The climax of the course was not really the exams, but the portfolio which we had about 10 days to complete.

For my TV piece, I covered the increasing sales of real ale among small and micro breweries. The package is below. The presenter link to the story is:
'Sales of real ale from micro and small breweries are growing as we're developing an appetite for a more sophisticated tipple and are left unsatisfied by mass-produced beer.
This is despite the fact that the pub industry is in trouble - fifty seven pubs across the UK are closing every month.
Mark Ansell reports...'

And for radio, I covered two FA Cup-related stories:
I spoke to Jo Borely and Nick Young, a couple of Cardiff Uni students who were avid Cardiff City fans. Despite having tickets, they wouldn't be able to make it to Wembley on time for kick off because they had an exam on the morning of the final! I did an illustrated 2-way on the story...

And I went to Cardiff Bay to soak up the FA Cup Final atmosphere with thousands of Cardiff fans who watched the game on the giant screen...

Wednesday 28 May 2008

Essays For Sale. BBC Radio Oxford

During my recent work placement with BBC Radio Oxford, I broke a story on Oxford graduates earning up to £30,000 a year writing essays on demand.

This led the breakfast show and bulletins on Radio Oxford and was the top story that day on the Education section of BBC News online.

It was brilliant to get my work at the heart of Radio Oxford's output.

CLICK HERE AND THEN CLICK PLAY to listen to a summary of the coverage on the story.

Sunday 18 May 2008

PR Blunder Exposes Dodgy Practice

Every few days I receive press releases from Cardiff Council as it's quite a useful way of keeping apace with Council activities. However, an email press release I received yesterday shows how Cardiff Council's press office is both incompetent and involved in making up quotes before an event has actually happened. This, for a service funded through taxation!

Have a read of the press release (let me remind you that Portsmouth beat Cardiff in yesterday's FA Cup final)...

'17/05/2008 For Immediate Release PR 3439

WELCOME HOME BLUEBIRDS! Cardiff is ready to welcome home the Bluebirds in style after their epic win against Portsmouth at Wembley yesterday and fans are being urged to come out to show their support for the team and their amazing victory.

The capital is ready to celebrate with manager Dave Jones and his team as they bring world football's most famous club trophy back to Cardiff tomorrow.

Cardiff Council in partnership with the club and South Wales Police, has arranged for a victory bus tour through the city on Sunday, May 18 should the team triumph.

To celebrate the achievements of the team, Cardiff residents and City fans will have the chance to see the famous trophy and welcome the players home as they ride around the city on an open-top double-decker bus.

The tour will begin at Roald Dahl Plass in Cardiff Bay at 2.30pm when two blue and white decked buses, one carrying the players, the other their wives and families, will make their way through the city.

The tour will head for the city centre along Lloyd George Avenue, Callaghan Square and up through St Mary Street and High Street, Duke Street, Kingsway, Boulevard de Nantes and concluding at City Hall.

There will be no full road closures but a rolling road closure will be in place and the buses will be escorted by police vehicles.

The Lord Mayor elect of Cardiff, Kate Lloyd will accompany the team on their bus tour throughout the city. Kate Lloyd said: "I know that the people of Cardiff will want to thank the city players for ending the 81 years drought and bringing the FA Cup back here. "This is the chance for all fans and residents to see the cup and the team. I'm sure the atmosphere will be wonderful."

(ends)Cardiff Council Press Officer Andrea Currie.'

This email was promptly followed by another from the sender with the correct 'Cardiff lost, come and meet the team' press release.

Surely a press office getting quotes before the event is unacceptable and amounts to deceiving the public. Perhaps I'm a little naive and this sort of thing goes on in all press offices, but I do hope not.

Wednesday 7 May 2008

RADIO WILL... My Thoughts on the Future of Radio

Having immersed myself in all things radio for the last few years, I thought I'd write about what I think the future holds for the medium once affectionately known as the wireless.


Radio has already had to adjust to the converging media world. All credible stations provide a listen live, podcast and other online extras that add value such as video, webcams and blogs.

Radio will have to adapt further if it is to survive. On demand will inevitably expand, with more material available as podcasts. On demand could end up as more popular than live broadcasting. If so, the BBC’s pledge to do fewer television programmes and do them better will be replicated. Radio stations would plough more resources into fewer programmes and repeat them in the schedules. Crucially these programmes will soon be available to download on your mobile phone in seconds.

Even when video is truly ubiquitous online and on mobile, there will still be a demand in one form or another for live radio. Media users more than ever crave live news and sport, and the medium of radio will exist to provide this for years to come.


I believe radio stations will have to further interact with their listeners (or should it be advocates?) through new techniques such as ‘watch live’ where they will be able to watch the presenters presenting their show on mini video screens on their radios and on their mobile phones. This will also mean more advocate-led programming – they will be further empowered to produce their own radio features and shows, and stations will have to tap into this by empowering them. The BBC, amongst others, already does this through projects like Video Nation and Capture Wales. I believe this will expand through new concepts like giving listeners the chance to create their own radio content by recording material on their mobiles then editing it on free, downloadable audio editing software.

I believe that as long as radio continues to adapt, it'll survive long into the future.

Wednesday 30 April 2008

Derby 2 - 6 Arsenal, BBC Radio Derby

Pride Park, Mon 28th April.

I'm coming to the end of a two week placement at BBC Radio Derby as a Broadcast Journalist. The highlight has been contributing to the coverage of the Derby Arsenal game on Monday night. The atmosphere was superb. The Rams have amazing fans - they've already sold 19,000 season tickets for next year's campaign in the Championship, even though they've only won once in 12 months!

Before the match, I 'voxed' a few fans:


I was delighted to be part of the coverage on a Premier League match for a very professional BBC Radio Derby sports team.

Wednesday 23 April 2008

Headway, BBC Radio Oxford

The most moving interview I have done was with Richard and his mum Jan at a charity which supports people who have suffered head injuries.

Whilst Richard was an animal trainer in the USA, he was attacked by one of his tigers. He suffered severe injuries including a stroke. Thanks to Headway, a charity based in Kennington, his condition has improved.

The Oxford Mail covered the story a few days after my package was played on the breakfast show on Radio Oxford.


I also did another package on Headway for earlier on in the breakfast show that day:


Wednesday 16 April 2008

Chancellor, You're Barred! BBC Radio Oxford

A pub in rural Oxfordshire joined the campaign to bar the Chancellor Alistair Darling after tax rises on alcohol.

I went to the Plough Inn, in Kennington to speak to the landlord and check out the posters.


Thursday 10 April 2008

Rude to be on the phone? BBC Radio Oxford

I've just finished a two-week work placement at BBC Radio Oxford. I worked as a broadcast journalist for the breakfast show and learnt absolutely loads about how to successfully cover stories. I'll put my stories on this blog so if you missed it on 95.2FM you can listen to them here!

The first one I covered was on whether it's rude to be on your mobile whilst being served in a shop! What do you think?

I spoke to the people of Oxford : )

Wednesday 2 April 2008

Today's top story on BBC Radio Oxford...

I'm coming to the end of a two week placement at BBC Radio Oxford which has been superb. Getting my hands dirty, covering stories for breakfast.

Today I had the top story in the bulletins thanks to an unusual source - my Dad!

He found a small story in the Guardian (I've since learnt he reads the finance pages of the Guardian every morning!) about Toyzone, a toy shop retailer, going into administration. This morning he suggested it as a possible story as one of the company's toy shops is Pied Pedaller in Thame (Oxfordshire). It later transpired that Toyzone's HQ is in Wallingford, Oxfordshire. Definitely a story. Fortunately my fellow journalists agreed, and it led the bulletins...

Saturday 29 March 2008

Schools TV Report

Here's a TV news report that my coursemate Dan and I put together. 3 minutes of TV takes a surprising amount of time to create and we spent the equivalent of two and a half days on it. We had to negotiate carefully with the headteachers of the two schools whether they were willing to let us film the schoolchildren and interview them. Dan is presenting the news here and did the filming of the story.

School reorganisation is a massive issue in Cardiff at the moment with some parents passionately against, and some (less vocal) in favour of the changes the Council are proposing. Put simply, there is a surplus of school places in the English-medium sector and not enough room for the children of parents who want them to go to Welsh-speaking schools. On top of this, there are a number of schools in the capital in desperate need of repair.

I'm glad I'm not one of the politicians having to try and sort this one out!

I was daunted before we started the 3 minute TV news story task but thanks to Dan and I working really well together and with the cooperation of the headteachers, we created a story I'm proud of.

Sunday 23 March 2008

Gaming the News

A 2007 Ofcom report found found that young people are rejecting TV news.

How can this be dealt with?

A friend of mine who works on developing digital media at the BBC tipped me off that 'gaming the news' could be a way of (re)engaging young people in news and current affairs. An example of this is the USA Today's Candidate's Match game. After responding to 11 multi-choice questions about politics, society and the economy, you are shown which Presidential candidate is closest to your outlook. Considering young people are more and more likely to surf the net than sit in front of the box, perhaps interactive news games are one of the ways the BBC, and all media organisations, could engage young people with the news.

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Jon Snow: The Interview

I have now got my hands on my interview with Jon Snow in the House of Commons on Wednesday 5th December. It's awash with meaty soundbites that can be used by the International Service (the NGO I did the interview for) to promote their work in supporting human rights around the world.

It may seem a little unusual because he always puts my question at the top of his answers - this is so that the soundbites can be edited out without the need for my voice.

You can read my thoughts on the interview a few days after it took place HERE and how I had the opportunity to interview Jon about human rights for the International Service HERE.

And here is the out-take (Jon dropping the battery pack of his clip mic!).

Wednesday 5 March 2008

The demise of digital radio?

It's sad to hear and read about the potential demise of digital radio. I've always been a fan and much prefer listening to digital because of the range of stations on offer, and even the scrolling text which tells me which (Radio 4!) programme I'm listening.

A set of radio ads on commercial radio that I voiced last year may soon be defunct.

Take a listen:


But I think it's too early to say digital radio's on its way out. Apparently Ford is thinking of making digital radio standard in their new cars and Ofcom has reaffirmed its support for digital (see FT article).

Sunday 24 February 2008

Bridgend Suicide Coverage

Bridgend is just 20 miles west of Cardiff and it's hard to get your head round the spate of suicides that's happening so near by.

Today, on our way to Swansea and Mumbles, my coursemate Cara and I went to Bridgend. We talked about the way the media has covered the suicides and this week's press conference where the media was heavily criticised.

Assistant Chief Constable David Morris claimed the media contributed to young people committing suicide in Bridgend and that the media is the link between the suicides:

(please ignore the annoying subtitles provided by the YouTube user)

I disagree with him. The media is an easy target for the Assistant Chief Constable. Surely there's something, or a range of factors, more deep-seated that is causing young people to take their own lives. I also believe that blaming the media as a homogeneous group is unfair. Most of the media coverage of the suicides has been perfectly acceptable.

Some of the media has reported the suicides irresponsibly, namely The Daily Mail, The Express, the South Wales Echo and to its shame, The Independent. Weeks ago these papers were telling us that the suicides were linked by an 'internet cult'. This was expressed as fact when it was a made-up theory, used to sell papers.

Whilst I agree that some of the media coverage of the suicides has been irresponsible (and those responsible should be encouraged to change) the Police and local services will have to delve into the minds of youngsters in the area, to get to the bottom of why this keeps happening.

Thursday 21 February 2008

YouTube's Best Bits

A late night last Thursday was followed by a very early start on the Friday as I was on the the breakfast show shift.

YouTube was created three years ago last Friday so as I was working as a broadcast journalist, I put together a package with some of the most notorious YouTube clips. Some of the YouTube clips don't really work on radio so I selected those that worked as audio clips as well as video.

CLICK HERE to listen to my YouTube feature.

I also put together a feature on the planned closure of Lansdowne Primary school in the Canton area of Cardiff - and all the disagreement and controversy that goes with it.

CLICK HERE to listen to my Lansdowne feature.

And it you're interested in seeing the clips that made up my YouTube montage, here they are:

Monday 18 February 2008

Business and the economy come to life!

On my course, when you're a reporter on production days (when we run radio/TV news rooms) you usually put your name forward to cover a story for the day. Last week I decided to face my demon and take on an economics/business story. It's my Achilles’ heel and I'm determined to fill the gap in my knowledge.

My urge to learn more started a couple of weeks ago when my friend Nat visited. We started chatting about house prices, the credit crunch and Northern Rock. He was able to explain it all in a simple way that any decent broadcaster should. So I covered the Consumer Price Index inflation rise in to 2.2% story on Tuesday.

I interviewed the consumer champion Martin Lewis who runs (who also used to do our course!) which was a great experience having been a fan of his work for a while. I then rushed to Cardiff Journalism School to interview Calvin Jones who did a very good job of explaining in layman's terms how the inflation rise would affect consumers and the economy.

Once I had this material I put it together and it was aired for 'Wales at One' and 'Wales at Five' as a 3 minute feature.You can listen to how I dealt with the story by CLICKING HERE.

And if you'd like to listen to more of my interview with Martin Lewis, CLICK HERE.

I asked Calvin Jones how I can learn the essentials of the economy and business and he recommended a book called 'The Undercover Economist'. I best get reading so that next time I don't have to approach an economy business story with such apprehension!

Sunday 10 February 2008

'Not journalists, but churnalists'

I've kept hearing and reading about 'churnalism' over the last seven days and I'm not too sure what to make of it.

Nick Davies has just published the book 'Flat Earth News' which is based on research from our very own Cardiff University Journalism department (download the full report here).

Having looked at 2,000 UK news stories from the four quality newspapers and the Daily Mail, the researchers found that 80% were wholly, mainly or partially constructed from second hand material provided by news agencies and by the PR industry. And when they looked for evidence that the facts in the articles had been thoroughly checked, they found this was happening in only 12% of the stories.

Davies concludes that journalists have become 'passive processors of unchecked, second-hand material, much of it contrived by PR to serve some political or commercial interests'. To explain why this is happening, he points to the research finding that the average Fleet Street journalist now is filling three times as much space as they were in 1985.

Peter Preston, former Editor of the Guardian ('Damaged Limitations') isn't convinced however. In his review of Davies' book in Saturday's Guardian, Preston argues that the numbers of newspaper journalists has risen, for example The Guardian has gone from 260 to 430 editorial staff (excluding internet-only staff) in the last ten years. He also questions the researchers' finding that journalists have more space to fill. He's not the only one who's critical of the research. Journalists I've spoken to question the validity of the research (how can they possibly have traced the sources of the 2,000 articles) and believe journalists have relied on PR for stories for many years.

The lack of original stories that I and my fellow students bring to the newsroom for the twice-weekly production days does make you think that we may be more churnalists than journalists. The least we should do, and our tutors instruct us to do so, is fact-check all our stories. But I know this doesn't always happen in our busy newsroom.

I look forward to working full time in the industry to find out if I'll be churning out the stories rather than producing the well researched stories I'd be proud to stand by.

Wednesday 30 January 2008

The Sorry State of Public Transport in Britain

The More Train Less Strain campaign group that's been in the news this week has made me consider the state of public transport.

For years I've defended the service; proudly telling my friends how I use the trains every week to go north, south, east and west. It was worth it because it's better for the environment, it's safer and you can read on the journey. But now I've turned and can officially say I am fed up with the train service in Britain. In fact I'll take it one step further and say fed up with public transport in Britain.

Thanks to the recent price hikes, I now have to pay £50 return (now more expensive buying 2 singles) with a railcard from Cardiff to Sheffield.

How can a Labour government (let's have a historical perspective on this and remember what a Labour Party stood for) have done so very little to improve public transport? Having used public transport in Finland, Spain, Holland, Germany etc I don't understand why ours is so much worse. While the privatisation of public transport in the 1980s and 90's is partly responsible, the Labour government seem to have done nothing to sort public transport out.

I've pledged not to get a car until I really need one but the state of public transport edges me closer and closer to joining the rest of you on the roads. The fact is, it would often be cheaper for me to drive than to take the train - it definitely would from Cardiff to Sheffield and back, for example. How can this be the case under a Labour government with the current state of climate change?

Sunday 27 January 2008

Will good journalism be the first casualty of the digital revolution in the media?

Digital changes the playing field, but not the goal of good journalism

Back in 2003 Ian Hargreaves suggested in his book Journalism: Truth or Dare that it was not an exaggeration to say that there has been a ‘digital revolution’ in the media where ‘News is multimedia, instant, global and ubiquitous’. The impact of the digital revolution on journalism has been profound – some believe to the detriment of good journalism.

I see the digital revolution in the media as affecting journalism in two associated ways. Firstly, journalists have to work in more than one sole medium. For example newspaper journalists also write for online, blog, and make podcasts and video news packages - journalism is converging. Secondly, digital media has allowed the audience not only to interact with journalists via email and online comments pages, but also to be the creators of news content. The public has been empowered through digital technology to record material, so journalists are no longer the first to acquire the content of a story.

For example only a few weeks ago a single mother from Merseyside found, through a few simple searches in Google, a photo of John ‘missing canoe man’ Darwin and his wife in Panama. She beat the traditional media, not to mention the Cleveland Police, at their own game and passed the photo to the Daily Mirror. Not only do these citizen journalists now have the power through digital technology to send their user-generated content to a media organisation, but they can publish the material as blogs, podcasts or on purely user-generated news websites such as These websites and blogs conform to none of the editorial guidelines professional journalists have to abide by, yet are increasingly popular. According to the Deputy Director of BBC Worldwide, Nicholas Brett, thanks to blogs, “everyone’s now a journalist”.

But there remains one key difference between citizen journalists and professional journalists: the former do not have the same professional standards as the latter who have editorial guidelines to stick to if nothing else. Hence there is a place for courses in journalism which include the teaching of media law, ethics and safety.

The prize-winning David Leigh, Assistant Editor of the Guardian, blames the internet for “overloading us with instantaneous terrors” and degrading the valuable journalistic traditions of assessing the credibility of sources etc. He argues that “too much interactivity” reaffirms prejudice, that bloggers “enjoy the sound of their own voices and confirm their own prejudices”. According to Leigh, the authoritativeness of professional journalism has been unduly criticised. For the good of democracy he calls for greater respect for the reporter “as a patient assembler of facts, a skilled craftsman who is independent and professionally reputable”.

Journalistic standards are slipping according to Professor Justin Lewis
of Cardiff Journalism School. He quotes research from the Rowntree Foundation and The Guardian on British broadsheet newspapers, which found that while there are roughly the same numbers of journalists as two years ago, they are writing nearly three times as much material. This is due to having to write for online, blogging and making video news stories as well as their original job of writing for their newspaper. They have less time to devote to the traditional journalistic values of for example checking your sources and verifying the facts.

“The more journalists have to do, the less they know about the stories they’re covering” stated Channel Four News presenter and reporter Alex Thomson when I quizzed him about the impact of digital on journalism. In the digital world there is less time to consider editorial guidelines such as the BBC’s aim of being accurate, establishing the truth, being impartial and providing diversity of opinion.

The report of the National Union of Journalists’ (NUJ) Commission on Multi-Media Working found that while some journalists may extend their repertoires thanks to new media, they do so at the expense of time for reflection and investigation. The rush to new media tends to “gnaw away at the quality of journalism”. The commission’s survey found that half of the newspaper workplaces questioned said there had been redundancies since web operations had been introduced. The NUJ’s report clearly shows that good journalism has been compromised by the digital media revolution.

The Director of BBC News Helen Boaden is on the other hand confident that the digital revolution doesn’t mean poorer quality journalism at the BBC. Whilst there is a cut of hundreds of journalists at the BBC, good journalism will remain by minimising duplication through its journalists working together in the same newsroom. This means that, for example, instead of sending individual journalists to a story from Radio 4, 5 Live, BBC News 24 and the 6 O’clock news, and BBC online, fewer journalists would cover the story and provide material for more than one of the BBC’s platforms.

Helen Boaden argues that ‘citizen journalism’ is an inaccurate term and should be replaced by the term ‘citizen newsgathering’ because professional journalists are employed to ensure the work of citizen newsgatherers is impartial and accurate. While a user-generated content hub has been created at BBC News, it will never replace BBC Newsgathering where professional journalists work. Furthermore when the citizen newsgatherer submits material to the user-generated content hub, it is checked by professional journalists. She believes that journalism is still about accuracy and professional standards – “whilst embracing new media, ‘content is king’”.

Nicholas Brett agrees and points out that while citizen journalism expands, the values of good journalism – “such as great ideas, story telling, good writing, being obsessive about accuracy and most importantly understanding your audience – won’t change”. Likewise Alex Thomson argues that Channel Four News has survived through the digital revolution with an increasing audience because “there is a market for good quality journalism”.

As a trainee journalist, while I accept that the digital revolution has eroded journalistic values, it is vital to embrace digital media and recognise the role I could play in a converging, digital newsroom. As Roy Greenslade points out, “All of us must be multi-media journos from now on”. Perhaps the next step for journalism in the digital world will be media organisations providing journalism training for citizen journalists. Media blogger Jeff Jarvis wants media organisations to assign the public to report alongside professionals, “to gather more news than could ever be gathered before”. If this does ever happen, the role between the professional and citizen journalist will be further blurred. David Leigh isn’t confident about the future of journalism, believing the media will “fragment and splinter into a thousand weakly-financed websites and digital channels”. There will be a severe reduction in the power of individual media outlets and ”the reporter will struggle to be heard over the cacophony of a thousand other voices.” I may as well give up now!

Perhaps for my self-preservation, I prefer to follow the view of The Independent journalist Gavin O’Reilly: quality, distinctive journalism will stand the test of time and the “constant onslaught of technological innovation”. He thinks “quality, established and trustworthy journalism will become even more relevant” in the growing digital age.

As a trainee journalist my focus is on becoming a top quality journalist whilst embracing digital media. BBC Trustee Richard Tait argues, “Success in the world of journalism means blending new opportunities with old editorial values”. This is unquestionably the path I am going to pursue, on the turbulent, exciting career which lies ahead.

Monday 21 January 2008

'The conservatism of journalism students'

Martin Stabe's blog entitled 'the conservatism of journalism students' touches a nerve. He, and a few other bloggers such as Mindy McAdams and Rob Curely, believe that journalism students are 'closing their eyes to reality' - that they have a romantic attachment to traditional media. (Martin is however pleased to find that we Cardiff Journalism students blog on our lectures.)

I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that some of my fellow students do have this misguided 'bah, humbug' attitude to digital media. And I've touched briefly on this before. Some turn their nose up to using a mobile phone to record content for an online feature, or think blogging is above them. I believe they are missing the point. The fact that we have the opportunity and are encouraged to use digital technology makes us both able to tell our stories in more ways to a wider audience. If that isn't enough, it (therefore) makes us more employable.
Why are some of students not embracing digital? Because it's easier not to and because the traditional media are viewed as superior. It is not helped by the fact that we choose between the magazine, print and broadcast journalism options rather than being on one unified journalism course.

How long until some of my course mates see the light? Perhaps it won't be until when they are at interviews and are asked about their experience with digital as well as traditional media.

Monday 14 January 2008

Searching for the next big engine online

I've recently heard about a UK search engine that I think could be big in 2008. is a search engine where users make money for charity every time they search. The user chooses which charity they want to raise money for and 50p in a pound raised goes to their charity. The money is raised thanks to advertising on the site.

I asked Anthony Mayfield, from digital marketing company Spannerworks, whether he thought everyclick had the potential to be big. He quickly dismissed the possibility - I assume because it doesn't search the same number of webpages that Google does. But the site is starting to get more coverage for example in the Guardian. And aims to raise £1 million in 2008 as it expands to the States.
Hopefully you'll hear much more about everyclick this year and maybe even start using it. But until it has the power to search as many sites as Google and co, I fear it may not be as successful as the charities will be hoping.

Sunday 6 January 2008

My BBC Radio Oxford Sports Reporting

Over Christmas I have been reporting on football matches for the sports programme on BBC Radio Oxford.

I covered five games...

Yesterday (5th January) I covered the Abingdon United v Paulton Rovers match. The match was abandoned, find out why by CLICKING HERE.

New Years Day took me to the local derby between Oxford City v Abingdon United. CLICK HERE to listen to a montage of my reports from the match.

I reported at Ardley United v Milton United near Bicester on Saturday 29th December. CLICK HERE to hear me in the freezing cold conditions.

On Boxing Day I took in Banbury United v Brackley Town in the Southern League Premier. CLICK HERE for my take on the game.

On the 22nd December I travelled to Brackley to cover their match with Halesowen Town. CLICK HERE to listen to my reports on the match.