Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Iraq: the first draft

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on April 15, 2009

The first draft video report I shot in Iraq is on Current TV’s UK website this week.

I’ve uploaded a draft to see how their target audience respond to it, whether they like it, hate it or don’t bother watching it, it will be interesting to see.

Sadly the quality of both the audio and the video have taken a battering in the upload, but the gist is there. It was shot on my Panasonic NVDX100, and cut on Adobe Premiere Elements. The music and non-video images are all published under the Creative Commons Licence, and found using some of the sources I described here.

It’s the latest step in my plans to build a multimedia website on my assignment with British troops in Iraq, before they finally withdraw in June. More on that soon! In  the meantime, whether you’re a regular visitor, a media professional, or a passer-by, I’d love to hear your feedback on the film too – the good, the bad, the ugly…

bloodtreasure-screenshot2WordPress doesn’t let me embed Current videos, so click on the image to visit the video.

To find out when and why I was in Iraq, check out this previous blog post.

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What’s your “news eco-system”?

Posted in Adam, Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on November 25, 2008

The BBC have carried out some research into how the modern homo-sapien consumes its news. They asked a load of people to keep a diary noting everytime they checked up on the news, and how they did it.

Steve Hermann writes about the results here.

Interestingly, their researchers described each person as having their own “news eco-system”: ‘where an individual might read several papers, hear news on the radio, look at various websites and/or TV channels for news’.

Well I hope that pattern isn’t news to the BBC.

But that’s an interesting term, and got me wondering what my news-ecosystem might look like….

0630: BBC 5 LIVE – DAB radio, in bed – to find out the headlines and who’s saying what

0800: Viking FM – DAB radio, in bed – to see what stories I’ll be sent out to cover that day

0830: Radio 1 – radio, in car – to get an idea of how Newsbeat are tailoring the news for their audience.

0900: Scan through the local papers, plus Mail, Mirror and Sun – to get an idea of what our listeners are reading.

Mid morning – a catch up with the big stories online. I also check Media Guardian, BBC News Online, NY Times. I also get email alerts from various sources.

All day – brief glances at Sky News in the office. I’m also drip fed news via IRN’s wire service.

1330 – BBC Look North – to see what the opposition are up to; inevitable plug of Peter Levy’s show.

Evening – check up on social news: Facebook, Google Reader/blogs and Twitter all tell me what people I’m interested in are up to.

1900 – Channel 4 News – but these days for just a few minutes. On Friday’s I love Unreported World.

Evening – alternative news sources if I have time: Current TV

There you go – I count 17 different sources (20 if you breakdown all the local papers, 50 if you add each blog). Each one consumed for no more than 5-10 minutes, and each one I select, chew and spit out as I please.

So what could be a useful conclusion for the future of news? It can be alternative. And it needs to be short.

What’s your eco system? Post below, and maybe we can give David Attenborough a ring!

My TV manifesto

Posted in Adam, Broadcasting and Media, International Development, News and that by Adam Westbrook on November 11, 2008

I’ve been working in broadcast news for two years now, and I’ve been following it, I guess for five. And well, I think I’m just a bit tired with it all. With the formats, with the delivery, with the writing, with the style, with the editorial choices.

Surely there must be something different?

Here’s thing: I don’t think there is. We all know radio is in a state, and as for TV? Well I could write a long diatribe, but it’s been done already, far more succintly and wittily, and then put on television by Charlie Brooker:

Watch part one here:

Then part two here

And part three here:

Whether you like it or not, or whether you think it’s the way it’s always going to be or not, I am convinced there is room for something different.

Something aimed at a younger audience; with a journalistic transparency, a complete fluid harmony with digital and web technology, delivered differently, cheaply, eco-friendily, telling different stories, off the agenda, breaking the rules, offering something new.

To avoid sounding like the Alistair Darling when he gave his speech about how to fix the economy the other week (and didn’t actually announce anything), here is – for what its worth – my own TV news manifesto. Just some ideas; debate them, slate them!

a new news manifesto

This is my own idea for an online based alternative news platform. At its heart is a daily studio news programme, uploaded to the website and to Youtube. It is of no fixed length – only dictated by the content.

Content

Ignore the stories of the mainstream media. That means crime stories are out. Court stories with no lasting impact are out. Surveys, unless by major bodies are out, so is the sort of PR pollster rubbish that fills the airwaves. If people want that they have no end of sources. This will be different.

Solution journalism?

Rather than just reporting on a problem and ending with the cliche “whether this problem will be solved is yet to be seen” there’s a good argument for solution journalism. Jake Lynch and Anna McGoldrick suggest it as part of their own ideas on Peace Journalism (could it be adapted to non-conflict reporting?)  Reports which examine how a problem might be solved rather than just reminding us there’s a problem.

A younger audience; a digital existence

A programme for the ‘web 2.0 generation’. That’s the people who blog, use facebook and myspace and exist in a digital online world. It’ll be up front and direct, but not patronising like Newsbeat‘s “something bad has happened in a place called abroad” style. VJ pieces will be created for web use not to mimic TV styles.

Video Journalism

At its heart will be the ethos of video journalism. David Dunkley-Gyimah laid out his own manifesto on this here. As well as staffing young creative VJs for firefighting stories and assignments, this brand would tap from a huge source of international freelance sources as well as other existing solutions like Demotix and Vimeo. Stylistically it would take its cues from already successful projects like Current TV. Packages are edited fast and with attitude -they know the rules of conventional film, but aren’t afraid to break them.

Focus

It would have an international focus, remembering the unreported stories. It believes the phrase “if your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”. It would focus on unreported issues and people with the story tellers getting right into the story. Creativity is the norm, and the packages do not try to emulate TV news in content or form.

But what about the main agenda?

This wouldn’t be ignored – but would be wrapped in each show in a “newsbelt” form – “the stories the other shows are talking about” It would need to feel connected to the national agenda but not neccessarily following it.

Transparent

A key element to this type of journalism would be transparency in reporting and editing. Packages would be VJ produced – from the root to the fruit – and VJ led. In other words the viewer follows the VJ as they investigate and tell the story. If it’s from a press release the audience deserves to know that. There would also be an openness in editing with misleading cutaways, noddies and GVs removed, and edits to interviews clearly signposted (for example through a flash wipe). Agency footage labelled as such so viewers know it’s not inhouse. Images of reporters can appear on screen as they cover the story.

Delivery

The platform is digital – through an accessible, well designed fluid website. Viewers can watch whole shows or individual reports. Each show would have no time requirements as broadcasters do. It would need to host an online community of viewers who watch, comment, submit and review. They are reflected in the content. The people at 4iP lay it out quite nicely right here.

Attitude

The journalism would have attitude, and would be not afraid to take risks. At its heart is good story telling and brilliant writing. Creative treatments would set the standard mainstream broadcasters will adopt months later.

Cheap and green

The video journalism model is cheap and green. One man bands on assignment, sourcing, shooting and cutting themselves. No need for live satellite link ups or expensive foreign trips housing 5 people in big hotels (what’s wrong with a hostel?) The central programme itself would be studio based but avoiding the “absurdist cathedrals of light” preferred by the mainstream. Solar powered lighting? Light cameras on light peds?

Presentation

The central programme is relaxed, young and doesn’t appear to be trying too hard. The team have the mind set of the Daily Buzz and create great moments even when they’re not trying too. Stylistically the presentation takes its cues from a more fluid version of C4 News in the UK, with almost constant (but not distracting) camera movements.

This news platform doesn’t need to report the mainstream stores – because there is a plethora of media to do that already. It avoids the distorting pressures of the other networks, like the need for live pictures from the scene, uninformed 2-ways and time pressures. It focusses on bringing something new, but allowing analysis too. It’s VJ packages are well produced – but do not try to emulate the style of TV news.

That’s pretty much all I got. As i mentioned I strongly feel there is a demand for a new way of doing things-we just don’t know what that is yet.

And just a quick disclaimer: I’m just a young broadcast journalist with only 2 years under my belt. I certainly don’t suggest this any good a solution, or that I should have anything to do with it. But for what it’s worth I thought it was worth jotting down.

You might agree, or you might disagree…stick your thoughts in the comments box!

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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Current TV: Crisis in Kenya

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, International Development, News and that by Adam Westbrook on February 17, 2008

Occasionally I get enough time to watch some Current TV.

It’s almost always worthwhile.

I say tomato, you say Tomato?

Posted in News and that by Adam Westbrook on February 13, 2007

There are plenty of differences between British English and American English. Tomato/toma(y)to…trousers/pants…petrol/gas.

But reading the latest blog from the Current TV producers across the lingual pond has produced this humdinger:

In December of last year, just before the Christmas holiday, my father’s home was burglarized in broad daylight.

Burglarized?!

Reading the comments, it doesn’t look like I’m the only pedant on the block.

Tagged with: ,

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Current TV comes to the UK!

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on October 8, 2006

Exciting news from the media world this weekend: Sky’s announced plans to launch US network Current TV in the UK and
Ireland in spring 2007.

…..well I’m excited anyway.

And you might not be dribbling away like me because you probably haven’t heard of Current TV…so allow me to enlighten you.Current TV wall

Launched last year by the 21st century’s own version of Captain Planet, Al Gore, Current TV is
America’s first “user generated” network. This means that around 30% of its output is produced by its viewers, ordinary peeps like you and I.

Some are professional film makers, some journalists. But they all have a story and a passion to tell it.

Each film (or “pod” as they’re known as) can be between 1-10 minutes long or thereabouts.  First users upload their films where they’re watched and voted on by other viewers. Those deemed good enough for broadcast are given the “green light” and it enters the network’s schedule to beamed across
America.

A quick peruse on the site reveals coverage of a hunger strike to call for the recall of US troops in Iraq, the story of a young Brazilian emigrating to Europe and a film about an oil spill in the
Mediterranean.

It’s great because anyone can make a film as long as they’re interested in the subject. So events that would be ignored by network media gets due coverage; issues big business would prefer we didn’t know about get exposed. In other words Current TV does what good journalism should do but often doesn’t.

And the fat cats are sitting up and taking notice too. Current has the one thing big business gets hot and sticky about: the attention of the 18-34 market. Young people make these films and young people watch them too.

So I’m excited about Current TV coming over here. Partly because it’s a great chance for young British filmmakers to get stuff on air and because it’ll be fascinating to see what us lot will make programmes about.

Oh and did you know they pay up to $1,000 for pods that make it to the air?

Al Gore’s excited too, he said the UK deal is: “a big step in fulfilling Current’s mission of sparking a global conversation among young adults