Sunday, 14 April 2013

Journalistic Leads

    What is the best way to start a feature article? Well this is a widely debated subject amongst journalists because there really is no wrong right answer; it is utterly dependant on the content of your article. Peha and Lester define a lead as "your beginning: the first sentence or paragraph that gets the reader engaged." (Peha and Lester, 2006).

      Peha and Lester also question how long a lead should be,  "How long is a lead?...As short as possible and as long as it needs to be." (Peha and Lester, 2006). This basically means it's utterly up to the writer- whatever you think works best may just be the best lead to use.

     But fundamentally, a lead cannot simply provide a summary of what the readers can discover if they opt to read on like those found in a classic news story. Instead, it must be more like a gripping introduction to an essay but with a splash of journalistic flair that encourages your readers to read on.

     If, like me, you find it difficult to trust your instincts when it comes to writing, there are various types of leads to chose from:

The Delayed Lead: This type of lead gives nothing away. It simply aims to attract readers without even informing them what the article is really about. The delayed lead is a difficult one to master because it is tricky to know where to draw the line between divulging all your best facts and quotations and leaving your readers in the dark. It allows readers to construct their own opinions on your subject matter before reading on. An example is, "They sit around our houses for weeks on end gathering dust and get passed from person to person. They turn up to meet our friends, they’re with us on long haul flights, in the bath or even whilst curled up on the sofa."

The Narrative Lead: This type of lead does exactly what it says on the tin; it tells a story and creates a picture in the mind of the reader. If used correctly, a Narrative Lead will set the scene and place your readers in the setting you are describing, almost like a short story.

The Soft News Lead: Soft News leads tend to be concise but do not simply sum up the article. They can be thought-provoking questions or issues that really get your readers thinking. Their main purpose is to spark an emotional interest of some kind, even if it is a negative reaction.

The Bright or Zinger Lead: Similar to the Soft News lead, a Bright or Zinger Lead includes something poignant or a little-known fact to attract and retain the attention of readers. For instance, "Did you know nearly 4 million children in the UK are living in poverty?"

The Anecdotal Lead: This type of lead almost reads like the beginning of a short story. It introduces your topic or interviewee and provides description of an issue, person, object etc.

    These are just a few examples of how to lead a feature article and there are many other varieties besides. How you begin your article is a very personal choice and different journalists have different opinions as to what works best. Personally, I love writing narrative leads because the amount of description you can throw into a couple of sentences is astounding, as is how much you can bond with your readers through it. Feature leads do not have to be as concise as those found in news stories and allow journalists to place their own voice into their writing and have more time to relate to their readers, perhaps even on an emotional level.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

How Does Social Media Effect Journalism?

    As the world stands, most of us are well aware of how to post a picture on Facebook, re-tweet something on Twitter or blog about something using Wordpress. But social media is not just for keeping up to date with your friends; journalists make use of social media to interact with their readers as well as attract new ones.

    Well-known and well established journalists such as Henry Winter (The Daily Telegraph) and Jonathan Freedland (The Guardian) and publications like NME, Kerrang, Nuts and The Guardian all make use of what social media has to offer. They regularly update their Twitter feed throughout the day with news stories, comments on recent news, links to their own copy and attempts to gather public opinion on issues and news. Many publications and journalists also tend to post regularly on Facebook, Storify, Instagram and most other social networking websites you may care to mention.
     'The Online Journalism Handbook' by Paul Bradshaw and Liisa Rohumaa states that "We are all online journalists." (Bradshaw and Rohumaa, 2011), which is a statement that makes me very fearful for my future career. If most members of the first world public know how to use social media then what sets me apart from everyone else? It seems the copy you produce is still the main aspect that has the potential to make you stand out as a journalist.

    It also seems as if self-publication of copy on the internet has belittled what many journalists publish, simply because it is not in the traditional print form. The book also states that "some fear that "traditional" skills of news gathering and news writing will disappear..." (Bradshaw and Rohumaa, 2011).  But it is, arguably, possible to make use of these traditional, tried and tested techniques as well as publish your copy online.

   Even if you establish a connection with your readers and attempt to retain their interest by producing a variety of copy and utilising your own personal voice, the best reception will arise from the content in your writing. Social Media can simply make more people aware of what you write and inevitably expand your readership.


Monday, 11 March 2013

Media and The Law:

     Although I have been writing journalistic pieces for a number of years, I have never seriously considered how involved the law is. But thanks to ‘Law for Journalists’ by Frances Quinn and a lecture from David Mascord, that’s all changed.

The Damage of Defamation:

Defamation: "... the publication of an untrue statement which tends to lower the person it refers to in the eyes of reasonable people." (Quinn, 2011)

According to Quinn, Defamation can occur in:
- Direct criticism
- Hints and innuendoes
- The effect of words and pictures together
- The effect of context and juxtaposition
- Reporting of rumours
- Untrue implications drawn from true facts (Quinn, 2011)

    Defamation was the first aspect I came across with regards to media law. Basically, it means publishing something that may lead to ruining someone’s reputation, make them the object of ridicule or causing people to think they are incapable of their job. And surprisingly, it’s not just about celebrities fighting for more publicity, although you are far less likely to be sued for potentially offensive material if you aren't wealthy.

   Interestingly, the person claiming for defamation doesn't even have to have any substantial evidence of the defamation; only the potential. So even if the journalist did not even intend to cause it, the law is on the ‘victim’s’ side. All the claimant needs to prove is that the statement and/or image was published somewhere and some form of identification and that it deforms them.

    Unsurprisingly, changes in the world of journalism have led to variations in the law, such as social networking. You can even be sued for repeating someone else’s reformatory statement! If that’s not going to make me more vigilant when re-tweeting, I don’t know what will! Even  books can be defamatory.

The Only Way is Ethics:

       As a journalist, I have a ‘Privilege’ to report aspects of public interest objectively but luckily, the term ‘honest comment’ could legally save me against my opinion. But let’s face it; it’s pretty tricky to review something like an album or film without stating your personal view.

    Notably, there are only two organisations in the UK that deal with media regulation; the PCC (Press Complaints Commission) and Ofcom who oversee the broadcast side of things and have much more power than the PCC.

    Although I have never interviewed a child, it was fascinating to discover the ethical boundaries of it. For one, the press cannot identify children under 16 who have been involved with sexual offences  You must also legally inform someone you’re interviewing, that they are being recorded and that their statements may be published.

Copyright Rights:

     The laws of copyright are designed to protect someone’s intellectual property; their work and reputation. That’s something I already knew. But I wasn't aware that, the rights to a novel for example, extend to the author’s life and 70 years after their death. In fact, it was extended to help benefit the friends and relatives of those who are successful writers of web and print material.

    Something that came as a relief for me, as a freelance journalist, was to learn that you automatically have the right to copyright your own work when you produce it. The only way you can transfer copyright to someone else is if you officially assign it to them.

    I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the basics of media law and just how cautious journalists have to be. There’s a lot to take into account next time I click publish!

Friday, 8 March 2013

We Buy Ltd Break In: The Story Behind The Story

    My partner and I were searching for a news story in the Winton area of Bournemouth and came across an interesting piece in the Bournemouth Echo.

    The story was about a recent break-in and robbery at a pawn shop on Wimborne Road. Although the story had already been reported, we both felt that there was more depth of information to be found that had not already been found- the emotional reactions and responses from those working in the shop.

   My partner and I ventured into Winton, and after searching for the shop, walked in and waited for the shop's director to return from a break. I noticed that the Bournemouth Echo version of the story was placed in We Buy Ltd's window, reflecting how much the robbery had effected the store.

    We Buy Ltd's director, Joe Li was a very obliging and helpful person to interview. My partner and I were very lucky in the sense that he was emotionally honest and answered every question we put to him in a wealth of detail.

   For instance, we asked Li how exactly the incident occurred, why he thinks it occurred and how such crimes could be prevented in the future. Not only did this give a new angle to the story, but also put a forward spin on it. Li's wealth of detail was astonishing and he seemed so willing to provide us with extensive answers to deter criminals from carrying out such crimes.

   Although I am aware that not all interviewees will be as helpful and responsive as this, it was a very positive and motivating experience to have.

     Interviewing places me outside of my comfort zone, but I came to find that I thrived on the challenge of find a story, working out a new spin on it, carrying out an interview and eventually arranging my quotations and research into a news story.

Friday, 1 March 2013

We Buy Ltd Break In!

      We Buy Ltd in Winton was broken into this weekend.

      The incident occurred between Friday 25th January in the evening and 10am the following day. The store now faces £15,000 worth of bills following the burglary. 

      Local police were informed soon after and a CSI team were also called to the scene. The pawn shop's director Joe Li described the CSI team as “Very helpful” but stated that the uniformed police were somewhat less so, “They don’t seem to know what they’re doing.”

     Li explained that he came into work on Saturday morning to discover glass on the floor and a smashed cabinet and items including iPods, laptops, cameras and phones missing.  He also said that the back door was open but there seemed to be no sign of forced entry.  When asked by We Buy Ltd have may been targeted, Li speculated that, “It must be the stock being displayed that attracted them.”

   “I’ve still heard nothing”, said Li when asked if the Police had been in touch. He also felt the Police could have done more to rectify the situation,  “Of course they could!” he said.

     Employees of We Buy Ltd discovered a footprint outside and Joe Li appeared frustrated that it has not been studied further. He also speculated that the crime may have been an inside job due to the lack of damage to the exterior of the store.

   Li has been delighted with feedback from the local community, “Lots of people found out about what happened and have come in and said sorry. That’s been nice.” he said.

     However he is concerned about maintaining customer relationships. “I feel obliged to treat them well.” Li also expressed his irritation with replacing customers traded-in items,  “They need to be replaced.”

     Since the break in, an ADT alarm system has been installed in the shop, “Which should alert the Police directly in about 2 or 3 seconds.” said Li.

     Anyone with information should contact the police immediately. 

Friday, 15 February 2013

Feature Fears

    Feature writing is something I have always found difficult. Writing news stories, however, seems so simple; write a short, summary lead of about 20-25 words, use decent quotes from a variety of sources, try not to include your opinion and always use the inverted pyramid structure. But features must include emotions and show the reader a story rather than just tell them through facts. 
    Roy Peter Clark's 30th of June article 'Reviving the Feature Story' expresses the importance of feature writing and what the future may hold for it. He states that, " Readers like stories, even news stories, written in feature style.” and how important features have been for expanding journalistic writing in general, especially because of a large readership behind human interest stories. He also explains that features must not be news stories but actually comment on something relevant and news worthy.

    As a journalist, when writing a news story I constantly have to restrain myself from allowing my own views, opinions and emotions to creep into my copy. But with a feature, you have the chance to sway your readers towards a particular view point through the way that you write your piece and the sources and quotations that you use. Clark emphasises several key characteristics of feature writing, including illuminating "...lives lived in our time." This gives writers the chance to try and connect with their readers on a personal level rather than providing them with a string of well-organised facts and quotations.
     Clark also highlights a complicating factor, "In the last 30 years, my time frame, news stories have been written with more feature elements, and many features are written right off the news. So the lines between news and features have blurred." But features provide journalists with a more extensive chance to capture their readers' attention and retain it and explore an issue or recent piece of news in depth. You can also give your reader more of an insight into who you are as a person and as a writer.

    According to Chip Scanlan in an article published in May 2003, the purpose of the 'Nut Graf' or summary lead of a feature is  to "...hook the reader, followed by alternating sections that amplify the story’s thesis and provide balance with evidence." Their content should include a justification of why the reader should care about the issue you're writing about, a lead that connects "... to the rest of the story." and some supporting material.  Scanlan also stresses the significance of never giving away the ending!

     It is interesting to note the different crossovers between various forms of writing- from creative writing, to news story writing to feature writing. Perhaps to be as good a journalist as possible, you have to have good knowledge and skill when it comes to all writing styles.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

What Does The Pope’s Resignation Mean for the Catholic Community?

        With all the hub-bub over recent changes in the Christian community, such as the passing of a bill to allow homosexuals to wed in the eyes of God, the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI comes as no surprise to some.

    It was reported by the BBC, amongst hundreds of other publications the world over, that the Pope has decided to stand down from the 28th of February this year. He has been the head of the Catholic Church for 8 years and is the first Pope to resign for 700 years. The only reason provided was Benedict’s declining mental and physical state.

    The decision has left to uncertainty in the Church and for its overall future. Could the recent revamps in the community have anything to do with Benedict’s sudden change of heart? Despite his opposition to homosexual acts in all forms, many countries across the world have legalised gay marriage whilst Benedict has lead the Church.

    However, he has apologised for the Catholic connection to sexual abuse against children and its failure to prevent it on many an occasion. Although such allegations have led to severe decline in young people attending mass in the West, the Church has done very little to encourage a restoration of the faith.

    The 85-year-old leader is expected to go into isolation after his official resignation and a new leader of the Catholic Church is expected to be elected as soon as the 24th of March this year. Several frontrunners have already been highlighted to take over the role and Benedict has stated he will not interfere in his successor’s affairs. 

    Will the Church continue to change in the future? Will the new Pope bring about even more variations to the faith? There has been a great deal of confusion for years with regards to what is moral in the eyes of God and what the Bible means or which Christian denomination is the right one. But with apparent uncertainty from the Church’s leader, the future seems somewhat bleak.