Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

A fresh lick of paint…

Posted in Adam, Broadcasting and Media, International Development, News and that by Adam Westbrook on October 6, 2008
A fresh lick of paint

A fresh lick of paint

So this blog has been running now for just over two years in its current form and I decided it’s high time for a redesign.

I’ve chosen a new look (aptly named The Journalist) although I’m not entirely sure of it yet. I’ve also reorganised my articles, the older ones of which were first written before tagging. I’ve deleted all the categories which had run into the hundreds, and replaced them with four simple ones for easy searching:

Adam: for any posts about me (thankfully few and far between)

Broadcasting and Media: for any news/comment about the broadcasting and news industry

International Development: for anything on Africa, foreign affairs, human rights and poverty

News and that: for those spur of the moment posts which happen when I find a funny video on Youtube.

So, two years and this site has been looked at just over 28,000 times which is nice.  The most popular article is still one of the earliest, a random comment on Ghana’s homosexuality laws which clearly shows up on google searches for dating sites! Also inexplicably, a post about coverage of the French general election in 2007 is the second most popular.

And in terms of what I’m churning out, “Broadcast Journalism”, “Journalism” and “The World” are the biggest tags (see right over here –>)

My student blog Adam Meets World still exists (thanks to Warwick Uni for keeping it up)-that dates back to 2004. I’ve also started a new blog to track my attempts to go green – it’s called One Man’s Battle With His Own Apathy.

Is anyone reading it? Who cares, I like writing it.

Human Rights: 60 years on

Posted in International Development by Adam Westbrook on September 21, 2008

This year marks 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was first penned.

The Observer’s Review supplement’s put together an excellent special today on how the rights have ultimately been ignored over the last six decades.

What’s struck me recently is how little any of us know about our human rights. I’m an educated sort of bloke, good upbringing an all that. But ask me any details on what are the fundamental protectors of my free existence, and I can’t answer much.

I know there’s something about freedom of religion, and freedom of expression and freedom from torture. And that Eleanor Roosevelt and World War Two had something to do with it.

But scarily, that’s it.

How, I wonder, are we all supposed to ensure our Human Rights are protected, when we don’t even know what they are?

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The Big Bang Con

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, News and that by Adam Westbrook on September 10, 2008

Ten years of constant work. £5billion. The scientists were ready for the experiment which could have ended the world.

While experts have rubbished the chances of the CERN experiment going wrong,  that didn’t stop the media having a field day.

The talking heads had been lined up- what would happen if a black hole appeared? The headlines were written. The betting shops that their odds decided: 666,666,666,666 to 1. The radio stations had their voxes: what would you do if the world was about to end?

Except it never was going to end. Well, not today.

Its the end of the world as we know it...

It's the end of the world as we know it...

You see, we’ve all been the victim of a bit of a con. Or some kind of calendar mishap.

Yes the big experiment was switched on today with some excitement, but read a little further down this article on the BBC News website, and you find a rather revealing line:

“Cern has not yet announced when it plans to carry out the first collisions, but the BBC understands that low-energy collisions could happen in the next few days.”

Ah. So there never was going to be a “collision” today. And the collision being the thing which the sceptics think would set off the end of the world, makes that a bit of a big deal. None of the coverage bothered to mention that little fact…

More likely if the end of the world does happen, it’ll be while we’re all least expecting it.

Best get some more voxes in then…

That Russell Brand speech in full

Posted in News and that by Adam Westbrook on September 8, 2008

So old Russer hosty-wosted the MTV VMA’s last night, despite being a virtual unknown Stateside. Caused a few upsets though, mixing sex and politics, when we know only Sarah Palin’s daughter’s allowed to do that.

Enough wise-cracks from me, here’s what the man with the massive mullet said:

On the US elections:

“As a representative of the global community, a visitor from abroad, I don’t want to come across a little bit biased, but could I please ask of you, people of America, please elect Barack Obama, please, on behalf of the world.

“Some people, I think they’re called racists, say America is not ready for a black president.

“But I know America to be a forward thinking country because otherwise why would you have let that retard and cowboy fella be president for eight years.

“We were very impressed. We thought it was nice of you to let him have a go, because, in England, he wouldn’t be trusted with a pair of scissors.”

On Sarah Palin’s daugher Bristol:

“That is the safe sex message of all time. Use a condom or become a Republican!”

On himself:

“…a little sex once and a while never hurt anybody.”

“I’m famous in the United Kingdom. My persona don’t really work without fame. Without fame, this haircut could be mistaken for mental illness.”

Meanwhile at the other end of the country, another Brit was making a big impression in America. Misery guts Andy Murray got through to the final of the US Open. Very cool. But incidentally I was talking to people on the street in the UK today and the phrase “couldn’t give a toss” was an oft repeated one.

I wonder then, which Brit made the biggest impression on the US of A last night?

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Accra Aid conference: “priorities need to change”

Posted in International Development by Adam Westbrook on September 7, 2008
Can we halve poverty by 2015?

Can we halve poverty by 2015?

I haven’t written about development issues for ages – but last week’s Aid Effectiveness conference in Ghana is a good place to wade briefly back in.

Held in Accra, it was designed to find ways of making aid from developed countries have more impact in the countries they’re supposed to be helping.

Three years after the Paris Conference – where 100 countries agreed to do more to sort this out – it is still a huge problem.

Countries like the UK, France, Italy and America all promised to donate more cash – but shamefully they’re not making good on their promises.

“In simple terms” says Professer Jeffrey Sachs in an interview on Hardtalk, “the limiting factor holding back our progress towards the [Millennium Developement] Goals is the richest countries coming up with the money they have promised.

“We live in an age of cynicism and resistance, but we are not asking goverments to do anything they have not already promised. Some countries are delivering on their promises made in  2005 but where are France, Germany and Italy? If these countries are lagging then by far the biggest lagger is the US where we are committing only 0.17% of our income to development assistance.”

There’s only seven years left until we’re supposed to have reaced the Millennium Development Goals. At this rate that won’t happen.

Meanwhile blogger par excellence in Accra EK Benah was at the conference in Accra last week – check out his posts here.

Something a bit different from Beijing

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on August 9, 2008

There’s no stopping it. The world’s going Beijing crazy for the next two weeks.

There’s allsorts…sport, opening ceremonies, tibet, demonstrations, human rights…..

But here’s something a bit different, and a bit brilliant from documentary filmaker Rachel Dupuy via the also briliant Current TV:

Hip hop Grannies

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Countdown to Beijing

Posted in International Development by Adam Westbrook on August 5, 2008

So it’s less than three days until the Olympics launch in Beijing.

And with little sports gossip, journalists are asking whether the Chinese government has lived up to its promises on human rights.

And of course the evidence widely suggests they haven’t.

Now if there was any justice in the world, human rights would matter more than money: and the IOC would swiftly pull the plug on the whole games.

What’s more important? Athletics or human rights?

But of course the games will go ahead, protests will be silenced, and the world will again will stand aside in the face of massive injustice.

If you don’t want to watch that happen, I recommend watching something else instead: perhaps this excellent report from Sky News producer Holly Williams and the BBC’s most recent Panorama programme.

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The Floods: One Year On

Posted in Adam, Broadcasting and Media, News and that by Adam Westbrook on July 23, 2008

Last year I reported extensively on the widespread flooding which affected parts of Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire.

It was the first big story I ever covered and in the year since I’ve reported on the slow clear up and the impact it has had on local peoples’ lives.

To mark the first anniversary this month I was asked to produce a 30 minute documentary for 102 Touch Radio looking back at the events and asking if anything has changed.

I’ve uploaded the programme in two 10 minute chunks for anyone who wants a listen…enjoy and any comments always helpful!

Click here to listen to Part One (10’00”)

Click here to listen to Part Two (10’30”)

“Why don’t we promote the positive?”

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, International Development by Adam Westbrook on May 6, 2007

Here’s a really interesting statistic, you probably didn’t know: 60% of all the people who access the BBC News Africa page via their mobile phones…do so from Nigeria.

Frontline logoIt’s just one of a whole host of interesting points to come out of a debate on how the media cover Africa at London’s Frontline Club this week.

And the big question that came out of it was: “why don’t we promote the positive?

Here’s another fact that proves the point: Zimbabwe has the continent’s worst economy. Inflation was at 1600% last time we all checked. And it get’s argubly the most coverage in the western media, alongside the conflicts in Somalia and Sudan.

And the country with the continent’s best economy? Angola – it’s growing massively. But when was the last time you saw an article on Angola in the western media? Well I’ll help you out a bit: June 16th 2006 was last time a specific article was published in the New York Times.  When was the last time you saw it on a TV news bulletin?

The debate was handed to an audience of journalists working from Africa and they raised some interesting points – here’s a summary:

  • Western media has a “soft touch” with Africa, born out of colonial guilt.
  • Most African newspapers are now online, so there’s no excuse for not knowing what’s going on.
  • Is there an Africa fatigue?
  • Western editors follow the news agenda like a flock of sheep – courageous editors and reporters are needed to break away and cover the uncovered.
  • We are failing because we’re not making African stories interesting to western audiences.
  • Is it time to help normal people in Africa tell their own stories?
  • And the most worrying point: “Nobody cares – editors don’t care.”

And the one thing I’d add to that myself is money. A problem in the eyes of coin counting editors is that it just costs too much to report on Africa. Maybe the answer might come from enterprising young multiskilled journalists going out with cheap kit and reporting it at a lower price? Who knows.
So is all news out of Africa bad news? For the most part yes – but then most news out of anywhere tends to be bad news. I definitely agree with the point that we’re not making it interesting enough and we’re not connecting stories from Africa to our own lives.

And with hundreds of western corporations investing in Africa, we are most definitely having an impact on the shaping of the continent. And not always for good.

There are many journalists and bloggers freelancing in Africa at the moment – I’d be interested to see what they think…

Where there’s smoke…

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on April 27, 2007

Making live TV news is hard enough, but when the gallery fills with smoke, you know it’s about to get harder.

But never ones to let a good oppurtunity go to waste, the journos at CNN apparently leapt out of the pub and filmed “compelling images” for ITV’s London Tonight.

Nice.

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Tout-mange

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on April 16, 2007

EscargotWith still a week to go until the French go to the polls and the networks’ attempts to bring the election to life has already grown tres thin; never before has there been such a thin selection of ideas – and parading of such gross stereotypes.

You see, for many top correspondents assigned to cover the elections, the truly unpredictable battle between right and left, Sego and Sarky, just months after riots in Paris…. is actually a chance for a leisurely promenade through the delights of rural France in the spring.

Robin Oakley, CNNAs Charles De Gaulle once said,” ponders CNN’s European Political Editor and Harry Enfield’s dad Robin Oakley at the top of a package today, “‘How can you govern a country which has 243 different types of cheese?‘”

That’s right: for the top hacks in Paris this week, it’s all about the food.

Every report I’ve seen about the upcoming vote, and the social debates behind it has been set in a food factory.

So the BBC’s Jon Sopel started off News 24’s coverage last week sitting in a cafe in Dijion. For no apparent reason it seems, other than it was sunny and nice looking. And to begin us on our journey through racial tensions and mass unemployment, let’s go visit a mustard factory. Jees.

Meanwhile back with CNN’s Robin Oakley who took us for a grand Keith Floyd style meander through the vinyards of Bordeaux on Friday, and thought to mention the elections at least once or twice.

And after what was clearly a tough weekend of eating food, he was back today reporting from….a patisserie.

Expect great insight throughout the week from Jon Snow, petite pain in hand and Peter Snow illustrating the split of the parliament on the side of a wheel of Brie.

Sacre bleu!

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The trend’s already begun

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on April 5, 2007

Last month I wrote what has to be the most pessimistic of predictions for the future of Channel 4 News, probably Britain’s best quality domestic news product.

A report in the Media Guardian today seems to provide evidence the path to this future has already begun. The amount of “serious factual” programming on the channel appears to have fallen by 25% according to Ofcom.

On the up, unsurprisingly: crap like Supernannies and Big Brother.

But it’s not just Channel 4. The BBC’s flagship 10 o’clock news is potentially facing budget cuts in light of the lower-than-expected licence fee agreement in January.

And as Adrian Monck’s been writing recently, ITV’s news service is tightening it’s belt, with what I only feel able to describe as a piss take new deal.

And that deal’s due to expire…..in 2012, when analogue broadcasting (with it’s requirement for public service news programming) is due to be switched off. It’s not looking healthy.

Incidentally, I’m about to write an essay on news as a commodity…it looks like I’m going to have a lot to talk about!

So the hint is, don’t work in British TV news. Work for the Americans instead. I’m doing an internship at CNN International at the moment which is very interesting and suffering much less from a lack of the greens.

Note: Apologies for the lack of writing recently. The end of term project took most of my energy and my contract at CNN has taken most of my ability to write about what goes on there! Nevertheless I’ll try and bash something out shortly.

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