Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Broadcast Journalism: a bibliography

Posted in Adam, Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on November 1, 2008

Here’s a post which has been sitting in my draft folder for more than a year! No Idea why I never published it at the time…but here it is. Other journos: feel free to add your own suggestions or reviews of the below!


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What do BJs really think of VJs?

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on October 19, 2008

Overheard sitting outside a Crown Court on Friday: a BBC regional TV reporter, an ITV regional TV reporter and their respective cameramen on Video Journalism:

“I would feel so unprofessional”

“Yeah it’s like student telly”

“And I wouldn’t be concentrating on my questions or answers, just worrying about whether I’ve pressed record”

“Yeah don’t you have to set your own white balance or something?”

“And it’s such a lonely existence…”

Even if any of these slightly dinosaur views have any merit, they’re more than outweighed by its flexibility, creativity and the power of its alternative narrative.

But still it shows that the people who are going to forge the way in VJing over the next 10 years aren’t the ones on TV at the moment!

Money, money, money

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, News and that by Adam Westbrook on October 15, 2008

I spent a large proportion of today standing in the cold outside a fish packaging factory in Grimsby.

Yes, it’s only the highlife journalism for me! Why? Well because 500 people could be made redundant there – after the company’s Icelandic owner struggles with the credit crunch. It could be a massive blow to the region’s economy, and people.

Oh there it goes again.

The. Credit. Crunch.

If you’ve read this week’s Weekly Radio magazine, my former tutor at City University’s Broadcast Journalism course in London, Jan Whyatt has made some interesting points about coverage of the financial crisis so far.

“In my experience, a lot of journalists are not all that numerate. They don’t really feel feel comfortable with financial news. The people that recognise and accredit journalism training should strongly consider making it an absolute requirement to pass an exam demonstrating numeracy.”

I totally agree. I think the media has largely failed to analyse the crisis, other than with graphics of downward graphs and (the BBC’s favourite) a statistic slowly getting larger in the centre of the screen. Peston’s always good quality of course, but unfortunately he’s not available for every market. Radio meanwhile has struggled with its brevity.

I don’t just think our journalists should be armed with better knowledge; I wrote ages ago I think we ALL should!

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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.

And so it begins…

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on September 29, 2008

Has it been 18 months since I wrote this?

‘….broadcasting on an analogue signal, all of the terrestrial channels have a certain public service remit. They’re all using large amounts of airwaves which belong to the public and in return they’re expected to provide us all with some news….

‘…But hark, on the horizon, the looming spectre of the digital switchover…and…a channel’s news remit will expire too.  Some channels – likely ITV and Five – may well say “screw news – why should I waste my money on that?”’

Last week of course we had the sad announcement ITV’s local output was becoming regional.

And today, ITV boss Michael Grade says “we risk loosing national news bulletins.

‘Grade voiced his concerns that national news might ultimately not be financially viable at a Royal Television Society London conference on Friday.

He said: “In a PSB world, you get guarantees in terms of privileges. In a non-PSB world you do things for as long as you [commercially] can.”‘

Well, news never was financially viable. I can’t believe that’s a surprise to Mr Grade.

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It’s not easy being a newsreader

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, News and that by Adam Westbrook on September 25, 2008

I’ve worked in some sauna like studios before, when the air-con’s stopped working, but this is a bit ridiculous.

Respect to the guy for keeping on reading though!

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The people who refuse to get screwed by the system

Posted in International Development by Adam Westbrook on September 14, 2008

For anyone who doesn’t know I recently moved ‘up north’ to start a new job, working in Hull. So far, so good, and already it’s proving eventful and interesting. Two experiences in the last week have got me thinking about the state of modern Britain, and what appears to be our rapidly deminishing rights and freedoms.

In the dog house

On Monday, I was sent a report from a freelance court reporter in Hull about a case which had just been thrown out of the courts. 57 year old John Hirst, from Hull, an ex-prisoner,  prison reform lawyer – and well known blogger – had been hauled before the judges after his dog was accused of biting a park warden.

When John appeared in court, the prosecution were able to offer no evidence and the judge duly threw out the case.

But not before John had been arrested and questioned. And not before it cost the taxpayer a rather large amount of money (John told me he reckons it’s about £20,000).

Speaking to John on the phone he was “livid” about what had happened and how the case had been allowed to have gotten so far. If it had gone as far as a trial, then it would have cost even more. But there are some other things that worry me about the story.

First up is the supposedly heavy handed response from the authorities. John told me six police officers came to his house after the complaint was made, handcuffed him and took him to a police station. His dog, Rocky, was separated from him and kept at the police station. What defence does any citizen have when this kind of thing happens?

Luckily the justice system came through, but there’s another worry too.

John called me again later in the week, concerned there had been no response from the authorities. True, Hull City Council had refused to comment, saying the police led the prosecution. So I want to find out what the police files on this say, but doing a bit of reading up this weekend it’s not looking promising.

Heather Brooke, the well known journalist and freedom of information campaigner, says Britain’s supposedly “open” legal system is the opposite. Trying to get access to what should be public files is near impossible. Still I won’t let that stop me trying. Let’s see if the FOI Act can uncover more…

Your invite’s in the post

Less than 24 hours later I found myself in Hedon, a small village outside Hull. Today though it was hosting some big(ish) political names. Namely the Environment Secretary Hillary Benn, and local MPs Graham Stuart and David Davis.

Mr Benn had been invited up to talk flooding, and specifically why the EA wants to flood acres of farmland instead of paying for flood defences. We, the assembled media, were there too, hoping to get a soundbite off the Minister.

Waiting outside Hedon’s small town hall, I was approached by a man called Simon Taylor. He lives on a small piece of reclaimed land called Sunk Island. He, along with 800 others were probably going to loose their homes to the Humber River within the next 20 years. That almost certainty meant they couldn’t sell their homes, and are going to have to stay to watch it happen.

A charming and polite man, tall with a bristly moustache, Simon was angry because he was standing outside the meeting, and not in it. The hour long coflab, involved the three politicians, local councillors and a select group of farmers. But the ordinary people hadn’t been invited along. “I’m going to lose my home, and I haven’t got a voice,” he told me.

I chatted to Simon and interviewed him about his worries. But later on he did something which few people would bother to do, or be brave enough to do.

Sure enough, Hillary Benn emerged to give a brief statement to the press before speeding off to his next gig. That left Stuart and Davis left to show off about how they’d got a government bigwig to come all the way up to Hull. But their words were interrupted when to my left, a voice raised above theirs and said “excuse me, why wasn’t anyone invited. We’re going to lose our homes – I think we would have liked to have had a word with the minister.” Like the fiercest of political reporters Simon pressed the question and wouldn’t let it go.

Flustered, Graham Stuart admitted it was a problem of space rather than anything else, and promised a public meeting was going to be held next month. But will Hillary Benn be there? Who knows.

But Simon’s stand is important: denied a voice by modern democracy he persisted and fought to get an explanation. Without him there, the politicians and the media would have skimmed over Sunk Island, and the 800 people would certainly have lost their voice.

Two people then, screwed by the system, and who fought it – and arguably won. In the space of two days. In one city. How many more cases like this are there? And how many don’t get heard?

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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…

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”)

News and the credit crunch

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on July 8, 2008

“Oh dear, more economic gloom”, says Jon Snow, rather glibly, in his daily ‘Snowmail’ briefing this evening. Today a major group of businesses have announced what some had feared, and even more already knew: that we’re heading towards a recession.

Banks aren’t lending, so people can’t borrow as much money, so they’re spending less, so businesses are earning less, while oil, food and energy prices continue to soar, meaning we have even less money…and so it goes on.

It’s bad news for a lot of people, but I’d thought it would be worth looking at its impact on the media industry.

Not that people should have much sympathy for an industry of overpaid, middle class trouble makers -but it is having an impact. First in the commercial sector, and today, we’re told, even on the mammoth BBC cash cow.

One industry I know is suffering – and has been one of the first to suffer – is commercial radio. High overheads need to be paid for by adverts. But when the companies can’t afford to pay for advertising….

So we’ve seen a raft of cost cutting measures across all areas. After buying out GCap, Global Radio decided to network on more than 30 stations, saving themselves the salaries of 30 presenters.  Some journalism jobs are going too. Then one radio group The Local Radio Company sells six stations which are losing money – reportly flogging them for a pound each.

Commercial TV too is feeling the “pinch” and it’s local/regional output that’s suffering. Today we hear ITV is to completely scrap it’s nightly 30 minute news programmes, replacing them with a weekly current affairs programme instead. So goodbye local TV news.

There’s still lots of talk of “weathering the storm”, but I don’t think these changes are neccessarily temporary. The two examples above – of increased networking on radio, and the loss of daily local news on ITV – are permanent significant changes to how broadcasting is done in the UK.

Meanwhile over at the glittering palaces in White City, the BBC says even it’s tightening its belt. Speaking at a briefing this morning, the Director General Mark Thompson said inflation was “running significantly higher than [the level on which] the BBC’s [licence fee] settlement [was based]”. They’re already looking at cutting 2,500 jobs, although they said they hoped to avoid wider redundancies.

Even if we don’t have a recession, it looks like the media landscape in Britain will be changed forever anyway.