Posts Tagged ‘news’

Hounslow industrial complex is a collection of s dull, grey buildings on the outskirts of London. Until you step inside.

Beyond the reception area is a giant open plan studio/office. The centre of the room is a gravitational field; all the hard work ends up here at some point. There is a circular desk with multi-dimensional cameras with the ability to pan and orbit around the central subject – Anna Jones. To the left of her desk is a set of couches, polar opposite sits a raised platform where the newsreader can stage interactive video-links on a 20-foot television rig.

The real work of the producers, directors, sound engineers, cameraman, live journalists, silent journalists, researchers, developers, editors, technical advisors and app makers – it all takes place within four walls. The runners pace back and forth between office spaces like comets from planet to planet in a solar system.

To avoid being caught by the 24-hour rolling live cameras there are walkways raised above the studio. These pedestrian zones lead to other filming nooks and editing crannies.  The runner will take one sheet of paper to one writer who will then transfer it on to an editor, forwarded on to the producer and then it will be displayed in front of the newsreader for the world to hear.

Sky News is a smoothly running, efficient operation “if one link in the chain broke the entire thing could fall apart”.

The Head of Foreign News Sarah Whitehead explains to Coventry University students that even the shift changeovers are effortless.

“I haven’t been here long so I’m not best at it yet, but the changeover happens at 6.30. These people have been in since 6.30 this morning and their replacement comes in at 6.20 runs them through the notes and emails and it keeps going.”

For a station that’s online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, creating a seamless transition is essential for the viewers who pay close attention.

“The only complaints we get are at 9 o’clock when some people are going home and there may be background noise, apart from that it’s a fairly quiet work environment. Everyone is aware it’s a live studio.”

Compared to the BBC studios, many of them pokey little buildings that have needed renovating for 20 years, Sky has the edge on style and efficiency – two things that come at a great price.

“It’s definitely a loss-leader, but all news is.”

Despite the ‘effortless’ and smooth exterior of the uninterrupted news network Whitehead acknowledges the level of effort required to complete this job, day-in, day out.

“It’s a big commitment, but this job is the best in the world. You need energy, you need to be passionate about news and you need to know what you want to do.”

Sky is the biggest private news rival to the BBC, and in the world. It is the current epitome of State Vs Private ownership. The Murdoch’s latest scandal has had literally no effect on the BSkyB Company – at least from a 24-hour news perspective. They are still competing.

When asked about the competition that drives the new Head of Foreign News “If it comes down to if we’ve got the story first, or if we’ve got to wait to get it right, we have to wait to get it right”. Unlike the publicly funded broadcaster, they are not afraid to spend money to make it right. “I’ve gone a bit over budget for this week, I’ve probably spent around £60,000” Whitehead said on a Wednesday.

From a personal and individual standpoint no journalist may harbour strong feelings about who gets to reveal a news story first “I’ve worked with Jon Williams (Head of BBC World Service) in the past, and he said how hard it is telling employees family’s that their dead, I’ve been there with him for a lot of it. When Alex Crawford broke the news of the fall of Tripoli she was with a huge convoy and probably safer than if a BBC employee left 20 minutes later.”

Despite ensuring safety above anything else, there’s no doubting the company’s competitive edge. Sky News chose to release an unconfirmed video of Saif Gaddafi being captured simply by noticing the plaster on his hand. It was a bold move but one that paid off.

“There were perhaps 5 stories of Gaddafi being caught before the real one leaked. We had seen a feed from Reuters that Reuters hadn’t even seen, we could only tell it was him because we zoomed in on his hand, he’s got that thing on his hand”

Sky News is the current media giant will the style and grace to rival of the BBC. Will it last as long though?

The BBC is a national institution, one that has the benefit of public funding, whether the public want to or not. It may not always look pretty but it has substance, standards and heart. Sky has the backing of advertisers and investors, just like many other private companies have before. Financial backing can disappear all too quickly with AOL/Time-Warner is an obvious example. Can the swanky smooth attraction of Sky survive? It all depends on whether you think looks can last.


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As a journalist there are a number of different image options you can use to enhance the story. There are also design issues to take into consideration as you have to pick the right image to go with the story, both in terms of how it relates and what kind of tone the picture sets.

Image courtesy of Ecadamy.com


There are 5 main different ways of obtaining an image to connect with a major story.

  • Press Offices

Every company will have its own press office where they will have a range of images that may or may not relate to the subject or story you’re writing. The positives is that they are usually willing to give you one to promote their product but they may not give you the image they want. If you’re writing a story about a Ferrari being set on fire, Ferrari probably don’t have or want that image circulate. They will usually oblige with a photograph but will give you the photograph they want you to use to make the product look good.

  • News Agencies

Associated Press or Reuters are two big companies that have hundreds of people in each country working for them. They attend any story that they think someone might be worth writing about and will usually have a wide range of stylistic photographs from many different perspectives. The drawback to these guys is cost and as they are usually photographs about a certain thing, they can usually only be used for one story. Paying a lot of money for the rights to one image when it’ll be worthless after you post the story is not always worth it. As these agencies are so big they will also supply to many other people. You may see the image you paid a lot of money for splashed over many other news outlets.

  • Archives and Picture Libraries

If you’re working on a budget these can be good because you won’t always have to pay for it, or at least it may not cost you much. However these images aren’t hugely up to date as the main reason they have it is because the rights have expired. If you want a photograph of Rupert Murdoch, they may have one, but one from when he first inherited his newspapers.

  • Indivduals

If you are a local writer, or a national news story has broken about a local issue or tragedy, you can go to the individual the story is about. This is a good way to get an exclusive photograph if you are there before anybody else. It can potentially cost very little. If you give £20 to someone for the official rights to use a photograph that means very little to them personally, but may have exclusive headline image, you could then sell the rights on for £20,000 if the story picks up speed in the national press. This can sometimes be unethical and immoral. If the story is about a personal tragedy, do you really want to go into the home of a story subject, connect with them and exploit them for a poxy image?

  • Commissioned Shots

The good old fashioned way of getting a photograph is getting a camera yourself or pay a highly skilled photographer to get it for you. Once again this is an issue of cost – the better the photographer or photograph, the more you’ll pay. It does take away the personal backache of chasing down a photo and you can usually ask for a very specific photo i.e. someone looking sad, coming out of a courtroom after an unsuccessful trial,


What’s wrong with online images?

If you’re going down a low budget route you can go on to websites like newspress.co.uk or search through rights free image websites like morguefile.com, you can of course search through thousands of images on Google.

This brings up it’s own problems of who owns the rights to each image (and quite often you may have to sift through thousands of pornographic photos before you find that image of two women genuinely playing table tennis). If you go to the Google Images homepage however you can adjust the search settings in Advanced Search options. Tick the box to search for Commercial Use.


Image courtesy of Smash&Peas

  • Do you want landscape or portrait?
  • If you are looking for a striking image of a single person you probably want him in the centre of the photograph.
  • You may want to include background business, try cutting in the image in to 3rds. Get the focus of the image on the cross-hairs of two of the 3rds – this can help show situation or circumstance.
  • The depth of the field is important and in particular what’s in focus. Change the F/number to adjust the subject.
  • Movement

    Courtesy of Chris Grosser Photography

Shutter speed can dramatically change the style and feel of an image. It can be used to get the best effect for cars driving, runners… running or perhaps if there’s a lot of action happening like a music performance.

If you are looking for not much blur you want a fast shutter speed like 1/500th of a second.

If you want a lot of blur slow shutter speed (1/15th) is what you’re after.

Panning can also help the effect of your blur. This can be especially brilliant when shooting a racing car.

  • Distortion and Perspective

If you want a promotional shot that looks quite dramatic and exciting you’ll want an extreme perspective but for a simple shot to fully capture the ‘real’ essence of the subject a flat perspective – similar to your personal digital camera will do.

  • Colourfulness

Speaks for itself.


The right image has to suit the story’s slant and angle. For this you need to focus on the colour of the image, the pose of the subject, the angle the photo was taken from. These variants will have different results. What may be good for an labum cover, may not be good for a news story. What may be good for a news story, may not be good for a feature.

Obviously News Value is important, if it’s not topical it might not be worth anything – I’ll refer you to the Rupert Murdoch comparison I made earlier.

Availability is important – you may know of a photo, but can you get to it. Is it sendable? Printable? Has it been exclusively paid for by another company? Rights of the image will link in to this.

What information does the image convey? There used to be a time where to find out the 5 W’s of a photograph, all you had to do was turn it over and read the information written on the back of the image. In a digital age this isn’t all that possible but sometimes there will be telling signs in the photo. Perhaps there’s a road sign, or a name tag around someones neck. Maybe the image has the poster of the titled event you are reviewing. If the image has an unnamed person standing in front of a perfectly plain brick wall – that may say nothing.

Technical Quality




Colour Balance

Original Size, resolution and compression

All the above are hugely important in what you can and cannot use in different media forms.

Online                            Image                                   Print

72 dpi                            Resolution                        288 dpi

JPG, GIF, PNG            File Format                       JPG, TIFF

High                              Compression                    None, Low

Small                             File Size                             Doesn’t Matter


25 pixels                      Small Image                      300 pixels wide

100 pixels                    Big Image                           5000 pixels wide

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To report news there is a very simple structure that can pretty much guarantee the news story is readable should you follow it. Its an inverted pyramid.


\         OVERVIEW          / Important facts come first reader understanding.

..\                                  /

……\                            /  Expansion puts it into perspective.

……….\                   /

…………..\ detail/  Specifics and data back up the facts.

………………\  /


It delivers the story efficiently

It allows cutting from the bottom (used less now with modern printing)


Doesn’t allow people to get to interested in the story

It gives the story away straight away.

The inverted pyramid doesn’t allow for drama and is less used in feature writing, but it allows the readers to get a feel for the story and know the news. immediately.

The Language of news is key to inform people of the latest events and depends on the readership.

They should be short, active sentences

Short, simple paragraphs

Tell the reader what the story is about. “If you told a friend about an important story, how would you say it?” Noakes (2008)

As a task we had to write a hundred word news story about a press statement in our chosen field (available on moodle). I have written mine for a tabloid newspaper like The Sun.


8 people have died and 120 have been left injured in Hungary near a town called Ajka. The local aluminium plant – MAL, may have overloaded a storage facility full of toxic waste. The World Wildlife Fund had taken pictures three months ago showing red sludge seeping out of the plant and Zoltan Bakonyi – the head of MAL has now been arrested for what the Hungarian Prime Minister calls ”human negligence”. The charges are said to be on suspicion of public endangerment and environmental damage the company could pay a fine for up to £64 million.

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M42MC – In other words ‘Law Ethics and Public Administration’

The first week is always just a haze of various information thrust in your hands, and important information displayed and said that you will expect to keep in the back of your mind until the day you graduate, but it is, in essence, simple. You turn up they give you information, you go home. Even with the Induction week project it was mainly a demonstration in what they expect from us over the next year.

Fresh out of the first lecture, the students are running, and from the moment Marcos Young began talking that’s exactly what they have been doing.

We. We have been doing, because of course I am here too. Running like crazy. I wish I was a bit fitter.

There was some really interesting live discussion though as Marcos introduced this particular class. He asked us what the top story of the day is, and ultimately, no one answered. This is another learning for us to take away. We are journalists now, we must conduct our lives as such. That involves listening to the radio – Radio4, local radio, 5live – anything that contains news we must know whats going on, where its going on why its going on, who its… you get the picture.

With the class being so brief the learning’s were simple and straight forward.

When reporting news that affects local environment make sure you are going to the right person/place/office to ensure you get the right information. If I were reporting about bin collection in Coventry, would I ring up the Warwickshire Council or the West Midlands, or the city council, or the district council? Even if you know the answer to the question, check it.

I will also (if I want to pass this module it seems), set an allowance each Monday to buy the Guardian. Every job I’ll ever want will be posted in the job section each week and I must also of course grasp an element of news before I attend this class or I’ll end up looking very silly indeed. I don’t think journalists get much in the way of a break – now I understand why even when Jeremy Vine isn’t on the radio, his twitter feed is still constantly updating about news outbreaks.

We also spoke about creating radio news packages and how it seems we’ll have to be making one pretty soon. I have already begun thinking up of ideas regarding the Olympics coming to town for football and how the road outside our building has gone through a revamp. They seem to have a sort of diamond shaped roundabout built up, with no road signs, markings or lights to help direct the several hundred auto drivers that will go over it in the next hour. (UPDATE)

The red square of suicide


Radio News Packages are pre-recorded and can last between 3.30 and 5 minutes, it generally has to contain 3 contributors and you have to think about background sound to create the illusion of time space and atmosphere. I must also think about target audience (as with everything I’m going to be doing for the next year). If I’m recording a piece for Radio1 it’ll be full of atmosphere, jingles, short clips (not soundbytes) of the contributors but if I was recording for Radio4 it would be straight talking and information longer clips and no effects in any way.

I’m not sure if we will be doing this task in the afternoon session of this class but one thing I know is I’ll be running through that one as well.

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