Featured Post

What a Journalist Isn't

I'm sick and tired of the abuse journalists are getting at the moment. They don't deserve it, at least real journalists don't - ...

17 September 2018

Your First Day in Training

It's start of term today for dozens if not hundreds of wannabe journos as they arrive at universities across the UK to embark on a course.

It feels odd, because it's the first time in a quarter of a century I've not had to give a speech to an incoming class of trainees.

For most of that time, for very good reasons, my class started in late January or early February.

My priority was always unashamedly employment, job outcomes and placement opportunities. Going on placement in October and November opened many, many more doors to my candidates than is possible in April or May, a time of year which suits the mindset of traditional University types.

But whether class starts in January or September, the gist of my opening remarks was much the same. So I'll take the opportunity to make them anyway, just this time to a virtual audience. I hope you find at least some of them to be of value.

29 August 2018

We're Not All Posh

You've heard the expression "repeat until true".

Especially so in the age of memes, falsehoods can be repeated over and over until at least a substantial proportion of the audience believe them to be facts.

"Carrots help you see in the dark" originates in Second World War propaganda designed to shield the development of radar, whilst simultaneously boosting the mythic status of the RAF and helpfully creating demand for surplus veg.

"Walt Disney's cryogenically frozen waiting for science to cure cancer" is another. He isn't.

Neither is "Channel Four looking for a new national headquarters". The meek way regional journos have swallowed the spin on that channel's petulant refusal to give up its London base is shameful.

But the lie I really want to nail is the suggestion that all journos are posh. We're not. And the meme created round the suggestion we are is actually harmful for all of us who've devoted a career to helping diverse candidates into the profession. Here's why.

15 July 2018

Keeping It Real - The Case for Immersive Newsroom Teaching

One of the major challenges in news training is making the student experience as realistic as possible. It’s an objective that sits uncomfortably with the norms of university life, because it requires total immersion in the newsgathering environment over a period of time.

A key feature of the postgrad course I ran for two decades at Leeds Trinity University was the “month on air” – 28 consecutive days of radio news for BCB 106.6 FM, with trainees providing bulletins from 0800-1800 weekdays and 0800-1200 at weekends. They also did a fortnight of live TV programming, originally with cable TV, more recently online.  
Compare that with the sector norm, which is quite often a single newsday at the end of a module, maybe two consecutive days if the institution has taken on board guidance from the BJTC.
I’ve seen course leaders literally wringing their hands at the prospect of finding just fifteen days a year in the timetable for all newsdays … “that’s not how universities work!”. 

Well, it should be. This post, originally commissioned by my good friend Dr Richard Thomas for the Journalism Knowledge Exchange (@JournalismKX) website, sets out why.

19 June 2018

What a Journalist Isn't

I'm sick and tired of the abuse journalists are getting at the moment. They don't deserve it, at least real journalists don't - but that's the problem.

The title has become devalued, muddy, imprecise because basically anyone with a keyboard and a wifi connection can call themselves a journalist. Is it any wonder the punters have become confused?

Rather than trying to define what a journalist is, it's probably more useful to start by making clear what a journalist isn't.

02 April 2018

Regional Blindness

I'm just back from a week spent in Cornwall.

It's a part of the British Isles I've never visited before. I was in the habit of heading down the M1 and turning left for France, but since the Brexit fallout means my Pound is only worth 7 Francs or so today in real money (instead of the 9 or 10 that mean decent food and accommodation is affordable) we decided to turn right instead and head for the West Country.

We had a great time, thanks for asking. The Eden Project, couple of fabulous National Trust places, and some cracking little seaside villages that give Robin Hood's Bay a run for its money. But as I explored around Bodmin, St Austell and the wonderfully-named Lostwithiel I realised this is a part of England .. my own country .. I know next to nothing about.

Why's that? Regional blindness. It's the reason why more .. much more .. network TV and radio production needs to be moved (at gunpoint if necessary) out of the comforting embrace of the M25.

21 January 2018

Heart and Soul

I'm just back from a lovely weekend in England's lake district, doing the winter warming hygge thing of good food, wine, board games and hot chocolate with some close friends lucky enough to have made their home there.

The Lakes are a rare bit of "the North" Londoners are likely to have experienced, even if they think of it as "sort of Scotland" as they drive around in their company SUVs just off the M6, getting the wheel arches all dashingly mudspattered in a way the weekly shop at Waitrose can't match.

They're also home to two traditionally-programmed local commercial radio stations, The Bay and Lakeland Radio, although not for long as they're about to be assimilated by the Borg-like Global as they roll out mega brands Heart and Smooth into Cumbria.

I have mixed feelings about that.