Self Reflection

I have found the blogging process useful in many ways. It provides an outlet for my writings, and encourages me to report on news stories and developments. It also encourages me to seek out news from across the internet.

I find social media to be a powerful, modern tool for communicating and sharing information. I would like to gain more ‘followers’ on Twitter, as I would like to engage more with people online. I often re-tweet and occasionally reply to people, however I have realised that I need to be more active in gaining followers. Twitter, alongside other social media platforms, allows people to communicate and engage on an unprecedented level. In my search for stories, I uncovered several articles that dealt with Twitter tips and hints, aiming to provide information for users to get the most out of Twitter. I found that Blogging often goes hand-in-hand with Twitter, and together the two can form a powerful mode of communication and sharing information and articles. I often use Twitter to gather news articles from across the internet, and have a newfound appreciation for Twitter ‘lists’.

While my blog has many views, I feel that I need to engage more with people. I do not often get comments or ratings on my blog, and feel that this in combination with my low follower-count on Twitter shows that I need to engage more and gain more followers. Hopefully, this will lead to greater engagement and feedback, which in turn will inspire me to blog more frequently. I have found it difficult to maintain my blog with my dissertation and other university assignments, however it is my hope that I begin blogging with more frequency.

I would also like to branch out with more topics and categories. For the moment, my blog is mainly focused on news stories although I would like to cover technology and science developments as well. The News and Journalism unit exercises has also inspired me to share more of my personal journalistic endeavours on my blog, which will hopefully inspire me to share more on my blog.

Occupy from the Inside

Following my coverage of the BCCA occupation, I tried to get my article into the Bournemouth University newspaper, ‘The Rock’. Unfortunately, before the paper was due to be printed, new developments meant that my article was pushed aside. Members of the Occupy movement had ‘occupied’ Bournemouth University’s pedestrian entrance. They wished to speak with the university’s Chancellor, who is also the President of the UK Supreme Court. Naturally, this development so close to the campus took precedence, and my article was not published.

The Occupy development gave me a window of opportunity, however. Continuing from the patch reporting, and the subsequent unpublished BCCA article, I was keen to gain more real journalistic experience. I felt more confident about tracking down and speaking to sources, and with finding ‘news-worthy’ events to report on, and despite my article remaining unpublished, I still felt keen to write for the newspaper. As such, when The Rock approached me to report on the occupancy of Bournemouth University, I agreed. I would be able to incorporate some of my previous reporting on the BCCA site, as well as report ‘from the inside’ of the university occupiers. I felt that this would give me valuable experience, and I was keen to learn more of the wider Occupy movement.

I spoke at length with the occupiers, finding out their aims and goals. My reporting led me to court, where the occupiers were on trial. Talbot Village Trust, the owners of the land that the occupiers are camping on, were seeking to evict the occupiers. In this, they were successful, with the judge issuing an “order of possession forthwith.” My first time in court was an unforgettable and valuable experience, and I was glad I was able to follow the Occupy members into court. Afterwards, I caught up with Gary, one of the representatives of the encampment, and we headed for a ‘debriefing’.

Overall, my journalistic reporting led me to new and valuable experiences. My article was eventually published in The Rock, and I feel that I gained useful experiences in journalism. I was also pleased that I managed to understand and gain insight into the Occupy movement first-hand, speaking to several members and understanding more about the group’s aims and goals.

How to use Twitter (pt.2)

Blogging edition.

During my search for how to get the most out of Twitter, I came across an article from problogger.net entitled “How to use Twitter – Tips for Bloggers“. Twitter is a powerful tool for communicating and sharing information, and so I thought I would share the tips of the blog here. The tips are written below, however I recommend viewing the article to get the most out of the tips. Only the headings are stated here, as the intention of this post is not to copy word-for-word the blog but to point bloggers in the right direction. Blogging and Tweeting go hand-in-hand, I always think, as both are forms of communicating and sharing information. Twitter is a powerful tool for publicising blogs, and engaging with followers.

1. Define the outcomes you want to achieve

2. Stay disciplined with your objectives

3. Be original and useful

4. Learn that every tweet counts

5. Monitor your reply ratio

6. Learn to use Direct Messages

7. Ask Questions

8. Don’t be a self-centred Tweeter

9. Be active

10. Promote your twitter feed

11. Connect with others in your nice

12. Pick an avatar and profile page that reinforces your brand

13. Consider your personal tweet strategy

14. Find your voice

15. Work with the rhythm of your followers

 

How to use Twitter (pt.1)

I realised recently that Twitter can be under-used, with some aspects or tools overlooked. For example, upon reading an article (How to: Use Twitter lists) recently I realised that I do not use lists as often as I should.

Twitter lists allow you to group people or organisations into modifiable lists, letting you group people/organisations by categories or names. As the article states:

In other words, you can create a list that groups together people for whatever reason (the members of your family, for example), and then you can get a snapshot of the things those users are saying by viewing that list’s page, which includes a complete tweet stream for everyone on the list. Lists allow you to organize the people you’re following into groups, and they even allow you to include people you’re not following.

 Lists can be both private or public, allowing you to recommend lists or hide them completely. Once you have created a list (e.g. “NGOs” or “Journalists”), you can then view the list’s feed, showing you a Twitter feed of related, relevant tweets pertaining to your category, for instance. You can even list people that you aren’t following, to save you clogging up your regular feed.
You can find lists to follow in numerous ways. Mashable lists two here:

Listorious – Listorious is a third-party site that maintains a categorized directory of Twitter lists. You can search or browse through lists by category, and find the most popular lists.

TweetMeme Lists – Readers of Mashable will be familiar with TweetMeme, which exposes the most tweeted links on Twitter and powers the “retweet” buttons on all of our articles. Just like it does for links, TweetMeme also finds the most tweeted about Twitter Lists.

Boscombe and the BCCA

As stated in my previous post I reported on a story in Boscombe for a News and Journalism assignment. I uncovered a story which I followed up after the assignment was handed in, as I was keen to report on any further developments. The Boscombe Centre for Community Arts (BCCA) building was occupied by members of the Occupy movement and associated groups such as Anonymous who were fighting Bournemouth Council’s plans to demolish much of the historic site and build flats for first-time buyers. The occupiers wanted to restore the building to its original purpose, opening it up to the community once more. I uncovered an offer by a local GP to purchase the site and open a health clinic inside the building as well as retaining, and restoring, the community arts facilities. After reporting on this, I decided to head down to the site once more and report on further developments.

Although my assignment was handed in, I knew that the occupation was not finished and decided to report on the occupation in a larger article for Bournemouth University’s newspaper, ‘The Rock’. Booking out a DSLR camera and a dictaphone, I headed down to the site and took photographs and interviewed the occupants again. That evening, the BCCA was host to a poetry evening. A mixture of occupiers and residents gathered in front of a makeshift stage, where people took turns reciting their own poetry in the once disused auditorium. A guitar hooked up to an amplifier, as well as a drum kit, were also present, leading to jam sessions. Melodic guitar riffs were played in the background as the poetry was recited in the dark hall, with only the stage lit. Occupiers had painted their own artwork, and set it up around the stage and in a room which was becoming an art gallery. It was a moving night, and I was glad to have attended. I managed to grab some useful photographs and quotes, and although I was there as a journalist, I felt moved by the aims of the occupiers. They wanted to reopen the community centre, and felt that the council was ignoring the wishes and needs of the local community. As one occupier said to me, if Boscombe gains more houses, it will need more community centres, not less. Despite trying to remain objective and detached, I felt that their aims were honourable, and resonated with their cause.

What began as a report for a simple 300 word article turned into something greater. I felt that the BCCA story was too important and interesting to ignore, and so headed back after the assignment was handed in to report on the poetry evening and see how the occupiers were getting on. In doing so, I felt more comfortable with seeking out and reporting on news stories, as well as finding and speaking to sources. I felt that reporting on the BCCA story was a valuable experience, and I was glad that I followed it up.

Patch Reporting: Boscombe and the Arts Centre

As part of our News and Journalism unit, we were each assigned a “patch” of Bournemouth and tasked with finding and reporting on a story in that area. I was given Boscombe, an area of the South of England that faces high deprivation and poverty levels. This was my first real experience of journalism, and of scoping out “newsworthy” events to report on. I wondered how I was going to find a story, and how I would find relevant sources.

I headed down to Boscombe on several days, trying to find a story or event to report on. I had heard of the Occupy movement taking over an abandoned arts centre in Boscombe, and decided to check it out. Upon heading to the site of the Boscombe Centre for Community Arts (BCCA), I found the gates locked and nobody about. Decided I would rather not break in, I headed back and thought about ways to tackle the story. Once I got home, I decided to use social media to track down the occupants, and without much searching I found the BCCA occupation Facebook page, as well as several affiliated pages. I joined the group, and began speaking with several of the occupiers, arranging a time for me to visit the building and interview some members. I felt like I was making progress, and felt like I had found a story that was worthwhile and ‘news-worthy’. The occupiers were fighting to re-open the abandoned arts centre to the community, while the council had plans to demolish the historical building and build brand-new flats for first-time buyers. The story was definitely news-worthy, I thought, but it had also been reported on in the local news. I knew I had to find a new angle to the story. With some digging, I uncovered a piece of information that I felt was unreported, and perhaps crucial to some bigger picture.

I discovered that a local GP had offered to buy the building and the site from the council, and re-open it to the community. On top of this, he wanted to build a drop-in clinic inside the BCCA building. This health clinic would aim to tackle many of Boscombe’s issues including health issues and drug and alcohol addiction, allowing for a safe place where residents can drop in and be treated without fear of stigma. Boscombe has high levels of deprivation, poverty and health issues, and the GP aimed to tackle these issues. However, I found that this development was unreported in the local news, despite feeling that this was a crucial aspect of the story. The council stated that their plans to build flats was aimed at tackling Boscombe’s issues, yet it was clear to many that Boscombe needed more than new flats for buyers. It needed a community aspect and further investment in healthcare facilities. The GP’s offer was turned down by the council, and the development went unreported.

I tracked down the GP, a Dr. Ni’Man, and spoke to him on the phone. I wanted to discover his intentions behind the offer, and gather some quotes from him to use in the news article. After doing so, I pieced together the story and wrote the 300 word article for the assignment. However, the news reporting that I did went further than the assignment, as I eventually wrote a longer piece on the BCCA occupation, intended for the Bournemouth University newspaper, ‘The Rock’. I was surprised at how I was able to uncover such a story, which I felt was important to the local area, when I began with no set ideas. Once I began to follow an interesting angle, however, pieces seemed to fit together and I was able to discover more of the story, and more to report on. The sources that I contacted were keen to speak with me, and helped me to piece together much of the story. The exercise helped me to feel more confident in doing journalism, and led to a larger article which I penned for the university newspaper.

Reflection on Newsgathering

Recently, we were tasked with a news-gathering exercise for our News and Journalism unit. We were to find out how Bournemouth University was “responding to the cold spell”, and set off across the campus to interview people. The campus was fairly empty, mainly due to a combination of the cold weather and the early start to the day. 10:15am is still seen as the crack of dawn for students, I mused. Nevertheless, we approached those that we encountered, hoping to gather quotes and information to aid our task.

At first, we felt slightly out of place. Those that we did encounter were generally wrapped up warm and rushing to their lecture or the warmth of the inside. We were also aware that our question regarding the cold weather was not the most interesting of topics. Nevertheless, we persevered and found some interesting people to talk to. It seemed as if each person had an interesting tale to tell. One of the first people we stopped was a student from Gran Canaria. She overslept and missed her first snow the previous week, when it settled on Bournemouth’s soil for a few hours. She complained that she had no money for scarves, and was keen to head inside into the warmth. We spoke to another student named Max who had a penchant for sky-diving, a Scottish visitor who said the cold weather was actually “quite nice”, and two students named Laura and Lizzy who said they were keeping their heating constantly on at home, not able to brave the cold. Afterwards, we headed into the library and spoke to a student named Ari who hailed from Northeast China and said the cold snap was “alright for him”. He told us he preferred the weather in Bournemouth, as temperatures at his hometown fell to around -31 degrees.

Although we were apprehensive at first, we quickly felt at ease speaking with people. It seemed like everyone had a story to tell, or had information to share, once asked. In doing the exercise, we spoke to many interesting and diverse people, all reacting to the cold snap in different ways. While some kept their heating on constantly, others enjoyed the ‘mild’ Bournemouth weather.

Journalism: The bridge between the truth and the lies

I’ve always been interested in writing. As I grew older, I realised that I would love to write for a living and so I was drawn to journalism. Although creative writing also inspired me, I loved the attraction of journalistic writing. For me, creative writing would be something I did in my spare time, perhaps writing the odd segment for a never-published novel, while journalism was a potential career. Journalists, we are often told, are sometimes seen as gatekeepers. The fourth estate. The bridge between those in power and those who elect them. Throughout history, the power of journalism to inform and shape debate and opinion has been shown time and again, and journalists are needed now more than ever.

Journalism attracts me because of the nature of the job – writing profusely and investigating new things, meeting new people, sharing new experiences. Although I currently don’t have much experience in journalism, I aim to gain more and improve my skills in this area. Journalism is such a broad area, which is another attraction for me. I have always been in awe, and inspired by, investigative journalists. Their work has helped inform the public, shape government police, bring to light repressive regimes and illegal activities, and countless other achievements. Journalists such as John Pilger and Greg Palast, amongst many others, were a source of inspiration for me. Other areas of journalism that interest me are war, conflict and terrorism reporting as well as political journalism. It is my aim to gain more experience in journalism, to become comfortable in the various practises and gain valuable writing skills.

Journalism is under attack at the moment, from censorship, restrictive laws, and the threat of increased regulations which could harm the freedom of press. Even the internet, a tool used for freedom of expression and connectivity, is a potential threat to journalism. The rise in ‘citizen’ journalists for example and the near-instant speed that news, images and video can be shared means that traditional journalism will have to change and adapt, or risk being damaged… However, it is also true that we need journalism now more than ever. With governments threatening to censor the internet, with oppression and conflicts still raging across the globe, with government corruption and propaganda still present, journalism is still the bridge between the rulers and the people. The gap between the truth and the lies.