06 March 2014

BBC3 - Digital Zealots, Put Up Or Shut Up

The future is digital, and multiplatform. We know that.

Content, whether that be news or entertainment, is what matters. That content, comprising audio, video, images or text (in whatever combination) can be delivered to a bewildering multiplicity of devices by methods usually, but not always, involving the internet. Radio, TV and print are no longer discrete and exclusive media, but are simply three well established platforms within an ever-expanding range of options.

So far, so commonplace.

Then why the fuss if BBC3 comes off digital terrestrial broadcast TV? Why a campaign to 'save' content delivery to an unwieldy black box (or more likely, panel) in the corner? Illogical, Captain.

28 February 2014

The Hunger for News

The hunger. You either have it, or you don't - and it's the defining characteristic, in my 20 years of training broadcast journalists, of those who are going to succeed.

I can guarantee that ahead of other important factors such as work ethic, determination, voice and craft skills the first trainee from each class to be employed will be the one who really needs their fix of news, has a yearning to find out more and gets a buzz from doing so. Certainly the degree classification doesn't come into it.

I was reminded of the fact listening to Nicola Furbisher give her talk on the final day of Leeds Trinity's Journalism Week. Some of those in the theatre felt the hunger too, you could see it shining in their eyes. Her words were food and drink to them. They might just make it. Others were detached, heads-down. They still have time to learn. Some weren't there at all, preferring an extra hour in bed before coming in mid-morning to be entertained by the day's star name off the telly. They'd be well advised to start researching careers in retail right now.

I'm also bemused by the number of young people who apply for Journalism degrees without any discernible interest in journalism at all.

24 February 2014

There'll Be Another One Along in a Minute

Technology can do wonderful things for broadcast journalists. With near-universal 3G coverage and extensive superfast wifi the old issues of getting material back to the newsroom are gone. One click and the audio or pictures ping up on an editor's workstation - and those shiny, shiny smartphones can do audio, HD quality video, texts, email and Twitter all in the palm of your hand.They can point you to the nearest Starbucks even if they can't (yet) make a brew. And it's even possible to make the occasional phone call on them.

My trainee journos at Leeds Trinity are well clued up on the possibilities, and over this week they'll be putting theory into practice, producing multimedia web pages as they follow top industry speakers taking part in our annual Journalism Week. If it moves or squeaks within a hundred metres of the Mary Hallaway Lecture Theatre it'll be on the web within seconds. Just watch the hashtag #ltjw go global.

There is, however, something in all this that worries me.

21 October 2013

An Open Letter on Open Democracy

I've written here before on the topic of open democracy. In particular, on why we should make the workings of Leeds City Council available to residents through the audio and video recording of meetings.

Such openness is a relatively new idea.

Cameras and microphones can be scary things (it appears) for some Members, and the Council still has to formulate a policy on what it's going to do with journalists, students, bloggers and others who want not only to attend meetings but also report, comment and share what happens with audiences and varied communities of interest.

The waters have also been muddied by Eric Pickles. The Conservative former Bradford Council leader tried, 30 years ago, to drive through a raft of often controversial policies on the casting vote of a sometimes bemused Lord Mayor. Now on the Westminster stage as Communities Secretary he's thrown his considerable weight behind open access. Which is a good thing. But that support has inevitably politicised an issue which otherwise would be purely administrative, with some Labour supporters opposed to cameras in Council 'because Pickles wants it'.

The issue of access is to be discussed by the Council's General Purposes Committee on 28 October. What follows is a letter I drafted together with colleagues from the other Universities in Leeds who teach Journalism urging members to allow greater access. It's reproduced here in the same spirit.

03 September 2013

Grand Ambitions for Leeds


Times, they are a changin’ in the Grand Arcade as an appeal’s launched to restore a shamefully neglected Leeds icon. In this article, originally commissioned for the Leeds Culture Vulture website, I share some memories of the Grand Arcade Clock and look forward to its restoration.

21 August 2013

IR News - What's The Point?

There are only two reasons to provide news on British commercial radio. Because owners have to, or because they want to.

Thanks to the cack-handed and haphazard way the industry has been regulated through much of its forty-year existence commercial radio news has come to be regarded as a burden rather than as an opportunity to grow audience, and particularly audience loyalty.

Worse, those who don't understand news are all too often in the driving seat, forcing journalists to do their job badly.

This post will attempt to flesh out some of these arguments.