Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Looking for awesome multimedia training?

Posted in Adam, Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on February 12, 2010

…then look no further!

If you’re in the UK in April and looking to skill up on your video shooting, editing and radio skills then the Journalism Weekender will be perfect for you.

News agency Feature Story News have team up with Newsleader Consultancy to offer an awesome weekend of hands on training on professional camera and audio skills. And I’m happy to announce I’ve jumped on board to help out over the course of the weekend as well.

According to the site, you’ll get a lot out of it:

…sessions on writing and presenting as well as the skills of multi-media working, including using social media; Practical assignments in either TV or radio; One to one coaching including CV building; Final session on marketing yourself to the media market.

Tickets are on a 20% discount ’til end of play Friday so if you’re thinking about it, think quick!

More training

On top of this, I’ve also been invited to join the KM Group of newspapers & radio stations in Kent later this month to share advice on multimedia, video journalism and making the most out of social media.

If you’re interested in finding out more, drop me a line!

Photo Credit: vinodvv aka vcube on Flickr

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Still doubting the power of good audio?

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on February 9, 2010

Cleverly used audio (both natural sound and music) can tell a story – even when the pictures are as simple as…well, a Google Search screenshot.

Here’s how Google used it to great effect with their Superbowl halftime ad:

Give audio a chance!

Want to know more about audio? Check out my 6×6 guide to using it properly, and tips on making a great audio slideshow.

What does #digitalbritain mean for journalism?

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, News and that by Adam Westbrook on June 17, 2009

Hello, operator?

"Hello, operator?"

With the sort of hype only the media can generate when talking about itself, Lord Carter’s long awaited Digital Britain report has been published. It’s supposed to be the blueprint for Britain’s place in the digital world. But is it putting us in a good place?

It comes as journalism’s plight grows even greater; ITV news, Channel 4, countless struggling radio groups and newspaper holdings will all be sifting to see if it contains their saviour…or their downfall.

01. Broadband

The Promise: 2Mbps broadband for everyone (and “action separately to address the issue of next generation broadband”)

Result?: epic fail. While broadband for everyone is great, 2Mbps […buffering…] broadband is inadequate for […buffering…] the growing needs of digital journalism including […buffering…] the huge demand for […buffering…] video on demand. Separate action to […buffering…] investigate faster broadband looks like […buffering…] the buck being well and truly passed.

Meanwhile, in South Korea: “1Gbps Downloading by 2012

Will it help journalism? Not really. If online video and multimedia is going to start picking up the cash from traditional media it needs to be reliable and fast.

02. Radio

The Promise: All national radio stations to be on DAB only by 2015 ending use of analogue. Spare FM frequencies for “new tier” of community radio. More local news.

Result: fail. DAB is soo last decade, and while the radio sets look quite pretty, by the time this is rolled out, we’ll all be listening to radio on our iPhones. Over the internet. The folks at MixCloud rightly pointed out last night the real investment needs to be in online radio, and making sure the network can cope with it. It also says nothing about the plight of local commercial radio stations, caused by the filthy binge on new licences by Ofcom.

Creating a “new tier” of hyper local community stations is a nice idea – provided they don’t have to be commercially viable. And more local news? Who Lord Carter expects to pay for that (when newsrooms across the land are cutting staff) is a mystery.

Will it help journalism? An emphasis on localness might fool some Whitehall bureaucrats into investing more in local journalism. But don’t hold your breath.

03. Regional TV news

The Promise: 3.5% of BBC’s licence fee (~£130m) to be available to help regional TV news on ITV

Result: good news for ITV. It has been long argued on all sides, the BBC needs strong competition in regional news to keep its standards up. And while that is the case £130m is a lot to spend investing in the  “a local lady has turned 100” fluff which ITV regions currently put on air.

Will it help journalism? In the short term ITV local news does need the cash, and this might even save some jobs. But once again Lord Carter has missed the trick. What we need is a new way of doing television news, for example Michael Rosenblum‘s VJ newsroom model. Meanwhile, no word about the BBC’s real competition: Channel 4 News.

04. Hyperlocal news

The Promise: No promises here, just a recognition that grassroots online projects are good for democracy

Result: fail. Lord Carter says he likes the growing number of hyper-local community sites, but says there can’t be a gap between what these start ups offer, and what the traditional big boys offer. So he’s investing in making sure newspaper groups and the BBC can offer better online, including, bizarrely, an idea to let newspapers use BBC video content. Considering the row over BBC Local in 2007, that’s pretty hilarious.

Will it help journalism: well there’s no promises here, so it’s up to the people to forge the way.

05. Childrens’ Programmes

The Promise: Money to help Channel 4 develop services for that most difficult of audiences: 10-18 year olds

Result: good news. Channel 4 are best placed to understand this market, and embarrassing dad-dancing attempts by the BBC have shown they’re not really “down with the kids”. It won’t solve Channel 4’s funding crisis though.

Will it help journalism: any investment in actually creating content is a good thing.

All government reports, like Christmas presents from your grandparents, are always a little disappointing;  sadly yesterday’s report fails to really grasp or embrace the mouth watering potential of the future.

Lord Carter: as us bluggers and twotters and myface yoof types say: “epic fail”.

“Why journalists deserve low pay”

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on May 20, 2009

Fascinating article thrown my way through Twitter today: “why journalists deserve low pay“.

As a journalist, on low pay, I was immediately angered by the title. And therefore had to have a read. Annoyingly its author, Robert G. Picard, makes perfect sense. This is not so much an article on why journalists deserve low pay (for now); rather a thesis on the very reason journalism, as a concept, is struggling for breathe.

Broken down it says:

Economic value is rooted in worth and exchange. It is created when finished products and services have more value – as determined by consumers – than the sum of the value of their components.

That’s the first time I’ve seen what I do broken down into its raw economic terms.

These benefits used to produce significant economic value. Not today. That’s because producers and providers have less control over the communication space than ever before,

So the reason newspapers aren’t making money, and radio & TV are losing money: they’ve lost their economic value.

Journalists are not professionals with a unique base of knowledge such as professors or electricians. Consequently, the primary economic value of journalism derives not from its own knowledge, but in distributing the knowledge of others. In this process three fundamental functions and related skills have historically created economic value: Accessing sources, determining significance of information, and conveying it effectively.

This too has been diminished by the internet and social media. So not only has journalism lost its value, so have journalists.

Today all this value is being severely challenged by technology that is “de-skilling” journalists….until journalists can redefine the value of their labor above this level, they deserve low pay.

It’s so refreshing to see our profession reduced to its raw bones; and until we solve these core issues of value in what we do, no pay-wall or subscription fee will save us.

When bi-media newsrooms go too far

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on February 11, 2009

There’s always been praise for bi-media newsrooms. Multiskilled journalists supplying for TV, radio and online.

And I agree, it’s a valid cost cutting measure.

What isn’t acceptable though – in my opinion – is the taking of this concept to the extreme and playing TV packages out on radio.

I’ve heard it done a couple of times on BBC local radio,  and you can tell because the report you hear in the news at 1, is the same as you see in the news at 1.30.

Why isn’t it acceptable? Because TV and Radio are their own seperate arts. TV requires tight scripting to pictures. Radio requires good writing to explain complex stories.

And you end up hearing lines like “as you can see behind me” or “this is the moment two robbers were caught on CCTV.” Not to mention gaps of natural sound which are used to punctuate TV reports.

Simply: get a journalist to produce 1 piece for 2 separate mediums…and both mediums suffer.

Hello, everyone’s talking about it…

Posted in Adam, Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on November 13, 2008

The “future of news” is appearing more and more in public debate and discussion I’m glad to say.

In particular, Current have trialled running a strap with live Twitter updates onscreen during live broadcasts. I like.

The debate continues!

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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!

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!

(more…)

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