Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Taking the plunge…

Posted in Adam, Freelance, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on September 11, 2009

I’ve been writing about it for weeks, thinking about it for months: and now I am very happy to announce at the end of September I will be going freelance.

Yes that’s right I’m jumping: I’ve quit a great, steady job….in the middle of a recession.

Madness you might say.

But while commentators everywhere see decline, cutbacks, redundancies, dropping standards and the end of journalism as we know it Jim…I see opportunity. Everywhere.

And it’s opportunity to be grasped with both hands.

I’ve written plenty about what I think the journalist of the future will be like, and what skills they’ll need: now I’m on a mission to find out if I’m right. I’m moving back down to London, where I’ll hopefully be contributing to a range of outlets in a range of media.

So there’ll be some changes round here in the next week or so, as I get my branding & portfolio sorted out.

In the meantime there’s a job going in arguably one of the best independent radio newsrooms around.

Image: Max Haibane

Image: Max Haibane

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“This is why we’re entrepreneurs”

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on May 15, 2009

An inspiring video: times like these are the best to get out there and make something happen.

Hat tip: @Zee at TheNextWeb and NewsCred

Changing media: the human victims

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on March 15, 2009

A lot of the talk about the death of newspapers and the new media revolution can be quite excited, proclaiming a new era.

But let’s not forget the ‘death of newspapers’ has human consequences too.

The recently closed Rocky Mountain News in the US  ‘covered it’s own funeral’ and produced this emotional account of its demise:

(Hat tip: from dead trees to moving pictures)

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5 even quicker ways to improve your newswriting

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on January 28, 2009

writingNot long ago I put down Three Ways to Instantly Improve your Newswriting.

It’s occured to me since, there are even more – even quicker – ways to instantly make your copy shine just that bit more.

Note: these ones are more for broadcasters, who write to be heard not read.

01. Get rid of “that”

Once you’ve written some copy, go through it and remove the word “that” and see what a difference it makes. For example:

“The International Monetary Fund has said that Britain will be hit hardest by the economic downturn.

It has predicted that the economy will shrink by over 2.8 percent in the next year.

Meanwhile the Institute for Fiscal Studies claims that the British government will be saddled with debt for the next 20 years.”

OK, so remove the “that”s and we’re left with something which slips off the tongue far more easily:

“The International Monetary Fund has said Britain will be hit hardest by the economic downturn.

It has predicted the economy will shrink by over 2.8 percent in the next year.

Meanwhile the Institute for Fiscal Studies claims the British government will be saddled with debt for the next 20 years.”

02. Contract words

This one is simple and should become automatic for broadcast writers. Contract everything where possible:

He is –> He’s

She will –> She’ll etc.

So our recession copy above can be improved further:

“The International Monetary Fund’s said Britain will be hit hardest by the economic downturn.

It’s predicted the economy will shrink by over 2.8 percent in the next year.

Meanwhile the Institute for Fiscal Studies claims the British government’ll be saddled with debt for the next 20 years.”

The only possible exception is ‘will’. It’s not so easy to contract that down – although I’ve done it after “government” in the example above.

03.  Knock it all into the present tense

Especially the top line. News is about what’s happening now. If you can’t put your topline into the present tense, you need to find a new angle on the story. If you can’t do that, it’s time to can the story.

“The International Monetary Fund says Britain will be hit hardest by the economic downturn.

It’s predicting the economy will shrink by over 2.8 percent in the next year.

Meanwhile the Institute for Fiscal Studies claims the British government’ll be saddled with debt for the next 20 years.”

04. A new top line

Let’s be honest, this copy is pretty boring. More bad news about the economy. Instantly sharpen it up by sticking in a new top line – something short pacy, which sums up the whole story.

Another headache for Gordon Brown tonight…

The International Monetary Fund says Britain will be hit hardest by the economic downturn.

It’s predicting the economy will shrink by over 2.8 percent in the next year.

Meanwhile the Institute for Fiscal Studies claims the British government’ll be saddled with debt for the next 20 years.”

05. Over is out

This is the one thing that turns me into a grammar nazi: the difference between “over” and “more than”.

When you’re talking about numbers, figures, statistics, you use more than. You can’t go over a number. You go over a hill.

So it’s “…the economy will shrink by more than 2.8 percent in the next year.”

Five quick steps and we’ve knocked that boring bit of econo-copy into shape.  On top of that, I’d get rid of the long organisation names and replace a few ‘says’/’claims’ with ‘reckons’.  But you get the point.

Any other tips you’ve picked up? Stick ’em in the comments box!


Radio gaga

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on January 7, 2009

A great find from James Cridland here:

A TV news report about how commercial radio is struggling under recession. One station has gone out of business, two companies have merged, and critics are blaming over regulation.

There’s only 1 thing: this report was broadcast in 1984….

Some things to look out for in the first 3 minutes:

  1. A very young looking Nicholas Owen
  2. Peter Sissons unable to read an autocue, even 25 years ago
  3. Timmy Mallett acting like a complete twat

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7,747

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, News and that by Adam Westbrook on November 22, 2008

It’s difficult in journalism sometimes to get across the scale of something, which is inevitably huge, but also so slow moving it’s barely noticable.  Reporting climate change is the obvious one which springs to mind.

But the current recession/economic downturn/credit crunch is another difficult one.

My patch is bearing the brunt of job losses, but how do you convey the scale of it all, especially at a national level?

Well I’ve just spotted this at the bottom of a Guardian article online, the simplicity of which can leave you with no doubt. Sometimes maybe, you just let the figures speak for themselves:

Guardian Unlimited

Guardian Unlimited

Apocalypse soon

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, News and that by Adam Westbrook on October 14, 2008

I wrote a while back about whether the UK media industry would weather the [insert “economic storm” metaphor here].

I reckoned it would be changed significantly at least.

But according to Charlie Beckett writing about a Polis speech by the Guardian‘s Emily Bell, that was a bit of an understatement…!

“We are on the brink of two years of carnage for Western media. In the UK five nationals could go out of business and we could be left with no UK owned broadcaster outside of the BBC. We are facing complete market failure in local papers and regional radio. This is sytematic collapse not just a cyclical downturn.”

Never get out of the boat...

Never get out of the boat...

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Perverted news judgement of the day

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, News and that by Adam Westbrook on September 20, 2008

Now we all make dodgy editorial judgements sometimes, but I really can’t fathom this one from the editors at BBC News Online….

BBC News Online, Saturday 20th September 2008

BBC News Online, Saturday 20th September 2008

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