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.