Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Next Generation Journalist: on sale now!

Posted in Next Generation Journalist, Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on May 20, 2010

I’m very happy to announce Next Generation Journalist: 10 new ways to make money in journalism is now on sale!

At 68 pages, it’s a bit of a beast, but packed full of ideas, inspiration, advice and step-by-step guides on how to survive in the new world of journalism.

What’s inside?

  • 10 new & exciting ways of making money in journalism (you can get a sneak preview of them on journalism.co.uk)
  • 7 bonus chapters covering the practical nuts & bolts
  • 12 interviews with the people who are already making it work for them
  • 30 things you can do right away to make the new career paths happen
  • 2 introductory chapters which guide you through how to decide what you really want

Click here to see the book’s contents!

Introductory offer

All this is yours for £6.50 for the UK & Europe edition and $9.50 for the North American edition.

This price won’t last long though – it goes up to full price in less than a week!

Reviews

The first reviews are starting to come through. The Not On The Wires blog describes it as “a much needed breath of fresh air”. Video Journalism pioneer Michael Rosenblum calls it “Required reading for every journalism student in the world.”

Get your copy now!

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Another weekend video treat

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on February 15, 2009

For anyone who’s been snowed in recently…

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Police seek Hamster murderer

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on February 5, 2009

TV news producers: a good example of why default graphics images are not a wise idea:

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See you in 2009

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on December 18, 2008

Just a quick one to say I’m leaving the UK for the next couple of weeks for a rather less festive Christmas!
I’ll be in India, and rather than blog, I’ll keep you updated (where possible) via Twitter

http://www.Twitter.com/AdamWestbrook

Happy New Year!

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I’m on twitter!

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on December 9, 2008

Apparently there’s a moment when you ‘get’ Twitter.
I haven’t reached it yet, but go on – add me!
http://www.twitter.com/AdamWestbrook

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Call centre journalism

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on February 4, 2007

For some, there’s nothing more frustrating than calling a UK helpline only to find the call directed to India. It’s something we’ve all come to expect from the big banks and insurance companies.

But the news agencies? Surely not.

So I was surprised to read an article on BBC News Online about the internationally respected Reuters news agency outsourcing it’s Wall Street financial coverage…to Bangalore.

The latest financial information from the trading floors in New York will now get to the business people who need it in New York (and London, Paris, Berlin etc) via India.

Like our beloved call centres, the sub continent outsourcing is for financial reasons. So is the largest financial news agency in the world becoming a cheap skate?

David Schlesinger, Editor-in-Chief of Reuters says he could hire a hundred Indian journalists without firing a single one in his New York office. He told the BBC:

“Now we can send our New York journalists out to do more interesting stories. This is good for our business and good for journalism.”

Maybe so; if the journalists in Bangalore are trained to the same standards then there’s no worry. Perhaps its another example of the ever shrinking world that this information can go out before it comes back in.

“I encourage them to read the NY Times and Wall St Journal online every day.”

And if it allows more quality journalism to go ahead then I ain’t complaining. I just won’t be calling the Reuters helpline anytime soon.  

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Write on

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on February 2, 2007

Apologies first off for the terrible pun which is supposed to be the title of a blog about good writing. Can’t have everything though.

I’m feeling pretty drained after an intensive few days in the first of a series of masterclasses that make up part of my journalism course at City University. Alongside watching Guiness adverts over and over, realising our collective cultural and historical ignorance and sweating away in a box size room full of 40-odd people we’ve also been given an introduction to what I’ve realised is one of the main pillars of journalism: good writing.

It’s perfectly easy to make it in journalism as an alright writer (and probably a shit one too) and plenty do. This week with department head Adrian Monck was about trying to be a really good writer and taking writing seriously.
And in the last few days we’ve got to read and watch some pretty brilliant stuff. The classics were in there: Michael Buerk’s famous reports from a famine ridden Ethiopia, and the beautifully crafted introduction to the World At War. You get a whole new appreciation of them when you try and improve them, and instead write something laughable.

It’s all made me realise how important good writing is even in television, where the pictures are supposed to tell the story. If you look at some of the most famous journalists, they’ve all been good writers: (my favourites) Ed Murrow, Bill Neely, Barnaby Phillips and Matt Frei.

And why is good writing important? Here’s Vin Ray in his rather good book Television News:

“If there’s one area which really separates the best correspondents from the rest it’s good writing…the best scripts can be defining moments in themselves; and the very best are, once heard, never forgotten…good writing and delivery and a lightness of touch will lift and illuminate the driest and most difficult subjects.”

So here’s to good writing. I don’t think I’ll ever achieve it, but I’ll at least try. And if you’re wondering what the hell I’m on about, here’s an example of something special: the BBC’s Matt Frei on poverty in Japan; it’s creative, surprising, conversational and hooks you in:

“It’s 11.15 am. The queue is getting longer – and more nervous. Some people have been here since dawn. Expectations are rising. They’re afraid the free bowls of soup will run out. For many this could be the only hot meal of the week. Listen to the sound of hunger:

[NATURAL SOUND]

No this is not North Korea. Nor a slum in China. But Japan – and these are the homeless of Osaka.”

From Vin Ray, Television News

A good start for Ban Ki-Moon

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on January 27, 2007

Three weeks in and the new Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon’s begun his first foreign tour. And he’s chosen Africa as his first stop.

Ban Ki-MoonToday he’s been in Kinshasa, the capital of a country which let’s just say had an eventful 2006. After months of wrangling, violence and uncertainty, elections were held in the D.R. Congo; the country can now justify the “democratic” part of its name.

Incombent Joseph Kabila won convincly with his rival Jean-Pierre Bemba joining the opposition…the country now seems on a more stable tack.

Addressing the Congolese national assembly today, Ban Ki-Moon hailed last years elections as a sign of hope for the country and urged law makers to start a “good governance pact” to see it continue.

After this, the UN Sec-Gen’s heading to the African Union summit in Ethiopia and meeting the not-so-applauded Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir.

A good sign

To visit these countries first is a promising sign. It shows that Ban Ki-Moon’s serious about following his predecessor Kofi Annan’s commitment to peace on the African continent.

It would be easy for the South Korean to put more emphasis on problems closer to home, like the North Korean nuclear missile issue, but he’s made it clear that issue won’t take the spotlight off Africa.

And with Darfur still rumbling on, often without notice, Ban’s come at the right time.

Kofi AnnanBut we can’t get our hopes up too much. Africa was Kofi Annan’s mission too, taking his post in the raw years after the Rwandan genocide. And while victories for peace and progression have come in some places, like Liberia, Sierra Leone and D.R. Congo, Somalia only got worse and now Sudan’s in turmoil.

With so many concerted efforts gaining pace elsewhere to erradicate malaria and tackle HIV, Ban Ki-Moon needs to show he’s not all talk but a leader who can tie these threads together and really make change happen.
He’s got 10 years, starting from now.

Torture in Egypt

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on January 26, 2007

On Wednesday, the BBC Ten O’Clock News broadcast a report by their Egpyt correspondent Ian Pannell uncovering endemic torture in the country’s police cells.

A number of videos have starting appearing on the internet, the latest of which shows a man, under arrest, being sexually assaulted with a stick.

Ian Pannell’s report on Wednesday night contained part of this video. To say it is shocking is a massive understatement. Everyone in my flat fell silent when the piece was shown, and it’s been hard to forget.

But it’s caused a bit of a furore on the BBC Editors’ Blog this week. Opinion seems divided on whether it was right to show the video. Some were outright against it:

“I totally disagree with the display of the extremely disturbing pictures displayed on the news. The story was disturbing enough without the graphic images. We are cabable of understanding and believing a story without seeing it….I think the increase in graphic images of people in distress or killed in conflict and so on, on the news is a sad reflection of obsession with sensationalism…”

And some were OK with it:

“Good for the beeb to bring this to a wider audience. By dealing with it responsibly (and not focussing on the gruesomly sensationalist) it’s brought the shocking practice to light – and making people notice.”

The editor of the Ten Craig Oliver seems happy with his decision saying he believed they struck a balance between a need to show what happened “with concerns about exposing the audience to graphic images.”

Bodies in Bags
But should there be a need to strike a balance? I am totally in favour of the BBC reporting on this in the way it did. The role of journalism after all is to expose wrong doing and hold those responsible to account. Some moan that a British audience shouldn’t be exposed to an Egyptian problem, but hey – 700,000 Britons go on holiday to Egypt each year…feel like a holiday there now?

I don’t.

But it brings up the old issue of when is it right to show graphic images. When I spent a training day with the ITV news team last year we got to edit together a practice report about more deaths in Iraq using agency footage.

The 3 minute long tape from Reuters showed blood on the walls, bodies in bags, and distressed women and children.As young idealists we included lots of this – we felt we were telling the story truthfully. Our mentor was shocked and said the images we chose would never make it onto the evening news. It’s too upsetting.

But surely it’s the lack of images like these that have left the Iraq conflict sanatised and detached. All we take away are yet more deaths, more statistics and more burning tyres. And how does that help anyone? 

Click here to watch Ian Pannell’s report.

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Another youtubeauty!

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on January 23, 2007

After the popularity of the two insane youtube vids I linked to a few weeks ago, here’s another youtubeauty, this time paying tribute to the Apple iPhone.

Enjoy!

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1 in a 1000

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on January 21, 2007

“Hi is that Max?”

“Yes it is.”

“Hi Max, it’s Adam from BBC Coventry and Warwickshire. How are you?”

“….not too good considering a tree’s just crushed my car.”

That’s how not to brief a guest just before you put them on air.  I was working to the Drive Programme on BBC Cov & Warks and the weather, not for the first time, was making the headlines.

The day’s planning for the programme had been pushed aside in light of the falling trees, powercuts and general chaos caused by last weeks 99mph winds. And it was a great example of local radio reacting to a breaking news story. We were getting dozens of calls from listeners, all eager to tell us what the situation down their road was like, all interacting with the station.

It was an exciting end to an interesting few weeks seeing BBC Local Radio in action. I was regularly impressed by the ideas and creativity that came out of the daily meeting (I’ve decided an ideas meeting is a must in any newsroom) and above how in touch the station was with it’s patch.

Rather than wait for news to come in via councillors, press releases and the like, there’s a real effort to get out and react to what the listeners care about.

BBC Coventry and Warwickshire open centre in actionThe studios in Priory Place, Coventry contain an Open Centre – a new idea in local radio. It’s a wireless hub, cafe and computer classroom all in one and it tries to encourage people to come in even just for a drink. Seeing as many people don’t know where the studios of their local stations are I think this is excellent.

Most impressively, Coventry’s pioneering a citizen journalism scheme called Citizen 1000; The aim is to recruit 1,000 citizen journalists to come and report for the station – whether by phoning in with a story, doing a film review or talking about sport.

Within it’s first three weeks of launching, several CJ’s had phoned in with tip-offs and these became stories that no other rival would get.

That’s absolutely brilliant, and this symbiotic relationship between local radio and local community is something the BBC (and commercial rivals) should seize upon right away.

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CoJo baby yeah!

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on January 18, 2007

Austin Powers has his mojo. And now the BBC has it’s CoJo.Austin Powers

To the rest of us that’s College of Journalism and it launched it’s new online service this week.

The College itself was set up as a result of the Hutton Inquiry and the BBC’s own internal inquiry which suggested that BBC journalists get more regular training, partly so that fat morons like Gilligan don’t get on air while still in bed in their pyjamas.

It is with some irony then that the man chosen to “edit” the college is none other than Kevin Marsh – the unfortunate editor of the Today Programme on the morning of Gilligan’s imfamous broadcast.

And Marsh is confident:

“CoJo online will become the best in the world because BBC journalism is the best and most trusted in the world. And it will draw on, build on and pass the lessons of that journalism and those journalists”

he wrote in this week’s edition of the BBC in-house mag, Ariel.

But CoJo Online is only available to people with access to the BBC intranet gateway. So I’ve taken the chance to have a good snoop while still in the loop so-to-speak.

And I’m impressed.

It’s a positive gold mine of journalism practice, info and advice, with films, tutorials and links to other resources.

It’s full of videos, like midlands video journalist Mark Egan taking us through a typical shoot. And correspondent Allen Little fronts an inspiring piece on writing for radio.

I’m confident about it because the man behind it is Vin Ray, and he’s written the book which is my bible. It’s called Television News and if you don’t have a copy then get one. 

So I hope it’s embraced and used by journalists – even experienced ones – without too much snobbery; it’s a wealth of info on not just how to be a journalist, but (as Vin Ray would say) a really good one.

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