Bracken Stockley, Broadcast Journalist: Showreel

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Currently News Reporter for ‘The Justice Gap’.

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Critical Reflection of my factual documentary for my FYP: ‘Time to take Stock?’

For my final year project I have filmed, produced and edited a 15-minute documentary on the subject of miscarriage of justice. The case concerns a man named Tony Stock, who was sentenced to ten years in prison for his alleged part in a brutal robbery in Leeds in 1970. Stock fought to overturn his conviction until his death at the age of 73.

I chose to make this particular kind of factual documentary due to my enthusiastic interest in law. Alongside my journalism degree, I have spent almost two years writing for a national online trade magazine about law and justice in the UK. The experience that I have gained through writing for the publication, the Justice Gap, has given me the confidence to produce a strong piece of work on the subject of miscarriage of justice. My editor at the magazine, Jon Robins, introduced me to Stock’s story and approached me to make a video about his case. It was a great opportunity to merge my work for the Justice Gap with my final year project. I have therefore created two documentaries: a longer and more detailed version for the law publication; and a more concise and marginally shorter version that forms the focus of this critical reflection that has been submitted for my degree.

By definition, the purpose of a documentary film is to present facts objectively to inform or teach an audience about a specific idea. It was my aim during this project to explain to viewers the key facts of Tony Stock’s case so that they could make an informed decision on whether or not they think the case deserves to go back to the Court of Appeal for a final time. Although the documentary lends itself to a specialist audience involved in aspects of law and justice, it should have general social appeal as well. The case is extraordinary for being dismissed once at the European Courts of Human Rights and a further four times at the Court of Appeal. Until recently it was the only case that the Criminal Cases Review Commission had referred back to the Court of Appeal for a second time. The documentary raises two questions : why has Stock’s case gone to appeal so many times? And why has it been rejected on every occasion?

In order to shed some light on these areas, I filmed interviews with members of Stock’s family as well as with experts who had specialist knowledge of Stock’s case. Prior to the interviews I had to decide whether or not I was going to be present within the documentary or take a step back from the role of presenter and interviewer and bring in an expert to guide the audience through Stock’s case. I decided to remain behind the camera but maintained a key role in the content of questions asked in interviews as well as writing the script.

I thought that the ideal person to present the documentary would be my editor at the Justice Gap, Jon Robins. Robins spent years studying Stock’s case and released a book towards the end of last year on the alleged miscarriage of justice. It was at the launch of this book at Westminster where I was able to meet some of the key players in the case’s defense. During the launch various speeches were made regarding the case, which I filmed and used at the beginning of the documentary, to engage the audience, and at the end to summarise the case. Whereas the interviews with the experts provide informative reflections on the case, the interviews filmed with Stock’s brother, Alan, and children Antoinette ‘Twinnie’ and Steve provide a more personal view of Tony Stock for the audience to relate to.

As with most documentaries, an unavoidable bias began to formulate with the progression of the project – as this documentary would not have been created if there was not a vision in mind from the start. The questions of How? and Why? become increasingly important. As a journalist it is always important to maintain impartiality within your work. However, I believe that there needs to be a certain degree of sway when making a documentary in order to develop a film that an audience can connect with. Therefore I would argue that it is normal to expect inserts of personal opinions that shape the film and add to its ultimate presentation.

The working title of the project was ‘A day in the life of Tony Stock’. Originally, the documentary took the audience on Stock’s journey from the Royal Courts of Justice to the Blind Beggar Pub, in Whitechapel, following his second failed court appeal in 1996. Although this remains a key part of the documentary, it became apparent that a wider view of the case was needed. I decided on the title ‘Time to take Stock?’ By definition, ‘to take stock’ is to review or make an overall assessment of a particular situation. Not only this but it gives the documentary a purpose to answer an unrelenting question. Stock’s case went to the courts on numerous occasions but exploring all aspects of these appeals, in too much detail, risks confusing the audience. I created a visual timeline graphic, using Final Cut Pro, as an aid to viewers to better understand the chronological order of key events. In addition, I made a graphic showing Stock’s photograph in a line-up to help illustrate a point that the presenter is making about the conduct of police during their investigation.

Creative use of technology is important groundwork for producing an interesting documentary for a viewer. All equipment used in the documentary had to be light enough for me to carry to each location as everything was filmed independently by myself using a single DSLR camera on an adjustable tripod. I played on my strength as a video journalist to create different camera angles to give the appearance of more cameras being used. It was vital not to stay in one position too long and risk the viewer losing interest. Sound is one of the most complex components to perfect. I therefore took a separate JVC camera to each interview to ensure the best possible quality, using either a gunmic or radio mics depending on the nature of the environment. For example, when filming the presenter walking through London, the best equipment to capture sound was the radio mic. However, I made sure to attach a wind protector to prevent too much interference. Forward planning was key. Prior to interviews I would book out three or four extra SD cards and batteries as high quality DSLR cameras tend to go through battery and memory much faster than any JVC camera.

Creating a typically ‘70s feel to the documentary was an important factor for me to consider for the audience. In sourcing material to help the audience visualise Leeds in the 1970s, I was relying entirely on photographs and footage that had been taken before various reconstructions of the Merrion Centre. The iconic black and white picture of the Tesco store was taken from the original case files. This, along with the picture of the blood at the crime scene, and Stock’s musgshot and identikit, were given express permission to use by Stock’s family and lawyer. These photographs were also ‘safe’ to use as they had been previously published into the public domain via the Justice Gap website and the photograph of the Tesco store also featured on the front cover of Robins’ book.

Additional photographs were sourced from Leeds Library and Information service. I discovered these photos on ‘Leodis’, an online photographic archive, managed by Leeds Library, containing over 59,000 images of Leeds. I was granted permission to use the photographs by the library. However, many of the images were given to the site by private contributors and in one case I had to seek additional permission from the original source, Mr. K. S. Wheelan. Picture quality is very important to me so I paid an additional fee to receive high resolution copies of the photographs.

I sourced one archive photograph through Creative Commons on Flickr and found an old Austin Allegro Police car to further establish a ‘70s ‘feel’. West Midlands Police had shared a number of historical images as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations in 2014. Under the Creative Commons: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license I was able to copy and redistribute the photo in return for attributing the photograph and linking to the license in the credits.

There were certain limitations in creating an authentic feel within the documentary due to having next to no budget. In 1979, World in Action aired a documentary ‘The Thursday Gang and Mr. Stock’. I sought permission from ITN Source, who own the copyright of the footage, to use short clips – including an interview with Tony Stock while he was alive – something impossible for me to attain myself. Although permission was granted to use the footage privately for my dissertation, ITN were unable to grant me permission to use the footage publicly without paying licensing fees. I decided not to use the footage altogether as I really wanted both versions of the documentary to be available for anyone to view. I also sought out permission to use an old video from the late ‘60s of the Merrion Centre, featured on YouTube, and was granted permission by the original source to use the footage solely in my dissertation piece.

I used newspaper clippings to illustrate key events in Stock’s case. I sourced these clippings from Robins’ previous research for his book, published on his website. For these photographs I am relying on the journalistic defense of ‘fair dealing’. Fair dealing is an issue I have had first-hand experience of. Earlier this year, an interview I conducted with John Denham was used by Channel 4 in their programme ‘Immigration Street’ and this was taken without my permission. However, as Channel 4 had ‘fair dealed’ only a few seconds of my original interview and credited the video accordingly, I had no problem with them using the footage. Fair dealing is a strong legal defense as long as material is used appropriately, it is in the public interest, and if it is used in the right context – such as highlighting a news event.

I was granted access to a couple of letters that Stock had written to his family, during his time in prison. My aim was to find somebody with sufficient public influence to read the letters in Stock’s voice. TV Star Ricky Tomlinson, a fellow Liverpudlian and campaigner of justice himself, seemed like the perfect candidate. Tomlinson was briefed on the case but unfortunately was unable to assist due to restrictions in his contract.

Although my vision for the letters didn’t work out, my ambitions were still high to share the documentary with a larger audience and so I decided to seek permission to use a song called ‘Bad Dream’, composed by Nick Thorburn (also known as Nick Diamonds) to play underneath the documentary. The song is famously known as the theme tune to the successful American podcast, Serial. I contacted Serial and explained the nature of my documentary and they kindly passed on the details of the composer. Nick Diamonds expressed interest in the documentary and generously granted me permission to use his song, free of charge, publicly, for both versions.

The ultimate goal of my documentary was to present a fair, balanced, and objective representation of Tony Stock’s case. Many stylistic elements have been added to affect the audience emotionally, as well as intellectually. Through the voices of those interviewed, an argument is made to return the case back to the Court of Appeal. Although some elements are there to sway the audience’s emotions, I do not believe that the documentary is unfairly favorable to Tony Stock. The reasons given by the courts for the multiple rejections of the case have been sufficiently explained and presented to viewers to make their own decisions.

Due to certain restrictions on the length of the documentary that I am submitting for my final year project, there are aspects of Tony Stock’s life excluded from the project – such as his troubled past, details of his hunger strike in prison, as well as details of the policemen who managed the investigation. However, it is my hope that the documentary will draw people’s attention to Stock’s case so that they may explore it further.

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Time to take Stock? Factual Documentary for FYP

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For my Final Year Project I have filmed, produced and edited a short 15-minute documentary on the subject of miscarriage of justice. The case concerns a man named Tony Stock, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his alleged part in a brutal robbery in Leeds in 1970. Stock fought to overturn his conviction until his death at the age of 73.

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Becci Hey – Josh’s Story (Safe Drive Stay Alive)

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On April 27, 2012 Josh Bryant was tragically killed in a car crash. He was just 20 years of age. Josh’s Mum, Becci, now tells his story to thousands of students across Surrey and Hampshire in hope that sharing Josh’s story might save at least one life.

Becci joined the team at Safe Drive Stay Alive in 2014, who are a theatre based education production that aims to raise road safety awareness amongst young people and to positively influence their attitudes to driving.

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Rosemary Edwards: Series Editor of ‘Springwatch, Autumnwatch & Winterwatch’

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Rosemary Edwards is the Series Editor of the BBC’s ‘Springwatch, Autumnwatch & Winterwatch’. Interview filmed at BBC Bristol.

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A time for change: an investigation into the market strategies used by ‘The Lady’ magazine in the 21st century.

Increasingly, companies are expanding their virtual presence to capture new audiences and seek higher revenues. Magazine publishers are under continual pressure to move away from the traditional journalistic practices of their predecessors toward integrated, multimedia content creation. Readers now expect publications to generate print, TV, audio and digital content for a multitude of different platforms – a far cry from simple adverts on a printed page around stories. Everyone is looking for new ways to engage readers and ensure that their brands are everywhere consumers need and want them to be.

Many print magazines are now delving into the potentially crippling, competitive online world – not only offering readers to download their ‘favourite magazine’ straight to their digital devices but creating constant flowing multimedia content to share with readers, all-day-every-day. By offering content online to users (for a small price) ahead of a print publication, publishers can rake in additional revenue as the attractiveness for users lies as much in the timing (and “early exclusive” appeal) as in the quality of the content.

Numerous magazines have redesigned their websites to incorporate multimedia development: giving readers the option to ‘share’ articles with friends and family via social media (largely through Twitter and Facebook) – an extremely innovative and fantastically free way to self promote and attract new readers.

Multimedia for the web or tablet editions has become an integral part of the editorial process. For the tablet, that means providing interactive features or videos. Publishers initially had high hopes for digital tablet versions of their magazines following the launch of Apple’s iPad in 2010. However, even the most successful magazines of the print world report just a few thousand sales at most.

ABC circulation figures reported that sales of the hundreds of paid-for weekly and monthly titles fell at the beginning of 2014, by 4.4% – compared with the previous six months. Not long after, all women’s weekly magazines (bar three) saw their average circulations plunge in the second half of 2014. One of the magazines that bucked the circulation trend was The Lady magazine, achieving a circulation of 28,537 (print and digital) – up 3 per cent more in the second half of 2014 than in the same period a year earlier.

The Lady was founded in 1885 by Thomas Gibson Bowles. He also founded Vanity Fair, in 1868, but sold his stake in that title in 1889. The Lady was the go to place for those looking for a nanny or a butler and the magazine, said to be the Queen’s favourite read, spent many years cocooned in a 1950s version of England. The magazine is thought to have peaked in the 1960s with around 80,000 readers. Last month, The Lady had cause to celebrate when it turned 130 years old. The well-establied and historic magazine boasts the title of being Britain’s oldest weekly women’s magazine but with a considerably lower readership than it has enjoyed previously in the 60s – the necessity for change became crucial at the turn of the century. The Lady’s iconically Victorian office is based in the centre of London’s Soho and is run by male editor, Matt Warren. Warren was brought to the magazine as assistant editor by his predecessor, Rachel Johnson, in late 2010 and took charge when she left in January 2012. Johnson attempted to raise the profile of the magazine through the fly-on-the-wall Channel 4 documentary, ‘The Lady and The Revamp’.  As well as this, she worked on developing the brand by introducing new contributors such as Joan Collins and Sir Tim Rice. The documentary appeared to work initially, with circulation rising by around 7 per cent year on year to 30,769 in the first half of 2010. However, circulation dropped off again in the following months.

In a recent interview, I put forward the question to current editor, Matt Warren, how important is it in the magazine industry to change and adapt to attract new audiences?

“I think it’s enormously important that you keep changing. ‘The Lady’ was founded in 1885 and it’s had to evolve.

Even if you’ve got the same core reader who may be a woman of about 55 – who’s relatively affluent – her interests will change over the course of 100 years or 20 years or even 10 years and you’ve got to keep up with that. So even if your ideal demographic remains constant, you still have to be able to evolve with the times otherwise you just end up looking very fusty and dusty on the newsstand.”

Readers are becoming increasingly technically savvy and The Lady has clocked this by introducing a digital edition of the magazine to purchase online as well as giving readers the opportunity to share articles via social networking sites, Facebook and Twitter.

Warren stressed the importance of keeping a very close eye on who you are and who you are trying to appeal to, so that while you’re evolving you make sure to maintain your own identity as well, adding: “there’s no point just completely losing sight of who you’ve been in the past to something completely new because then your reader will wonder what on earth has happened – so it’s balancing the two”.

Matt Warren is believed to be the first male editor of the magazine for around 80 years. In 2013, he was named Editor of the Year (Women’s Brand Weekly or Fortnightly) by the British Society of Magazine Editors.

“I think you can have a male editor of ‘The Lady’ because it is a different sort of magazine”, he says. 

“It’s largely for people first so I think some magazines go: ‘men are interested in six packs and women in bikinis; women are interested in diets and gossip’ and there’s this ridiculous stereotype that tends to pervade the media.”

Although the magazine offers content that appeals to both sexes, Warren explains how it’s title can sometimes deter their male readers:

“I think if you were founding a magazine today you probably wouldn’t select the name ‘The Lady’. In some ways it’s fantastic because it links us with our heritage and when you hear the word ‘The Lady’ people think it’s trust worthy, it’s been there for a long time, it’s historic, it’s about heritage, it’s about reliability.”

However, there are still those who make swift-judgment decisions on the nature of the magazine. Warren explains how people’s prejudices of The Lady being ‘a bit old-fashioned’ are ‘unavoidable’ and that a lot of people may not even pick up the magazine but if they did perhaps they’d find something quite surprising in it.

Warren indicated that from about 1975 through to mid-2005 The Lady didn’t evolve and remained almost exactly the same magazine and it started to look ‘very dated’. Many changes have been made since, and plans are currently afoot to launch a new Lady website, which he says will be aimed at a younger audience. The Lady’s unique selling point is that it is unlike a lot of other magazines – offering readers something a bit more ‘quirky, interesting, different and challenging’ rather than ‘celebrity gossip’ and ‘salacious’ content. At the turn of the century The Lady had to decide what they were going to do with the magazine. One option would have been to become like other women’s magazines but in a crowded market they would have just vanished without a trace so what set them aside was their difference – the fact that they offered a genuine authentic alternative to a lot of other women’s magazines. This is perhaps the secret of The Lady’s recent circulation success. Women’s lifestyle and fashion titles saw their average circulations decrease by 0.9 per cent year on year on average in the second half of 2014 and perhaps this is because the content remains very much the same across these publications.

The Lady’s publisher and chief executive is Ben Budworth (founder, Thomas Gibson Bowles’ great grandson). Although the magazine has, and still is, successfully evolving, it has still kept many of its beloved features such as the Ladygram puzzle and Agony Aunt. From its beginning in the 19th century, the magazine has set out to help readers find a nanny or a butler, and keeping true to its past, launched The Lady Recruits online in 2013, offering a service of specialist recruiters, highly experienced within domestic service who now dedicate their time and efforts to recruiting private household staff. Advertising (particularly fashion) always has, and always will be one of the main tools in attracting revenue and this is true in The LadyThe Lady magazine is the longest running weekly women’s magazine and still holds a firm place in the industry when many others have failed. Perhaps the key to its circulation success is its loyal readership and its understanding to evolve but also to maintain its core values.

Traditional print titles are not only losing circulation but are also losing their relevance online and offline as women turn to alternative online and tablet brands. Digital rivals are producing better tablet and online offerings. Magazines must keep up with the times but maybe the key is not in competing to produce the most innovative and technologically advanced websites but to offer all the advantages of this digital world without losing their integrity.

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Media Law Update (11 March): Reporting Elections

Personal commentary on reporting elections:

Journalistic obligation for accuracy and impartiality is greater than ever at election time. This is because it is through our reporting that, we as journalists, will assist the democratic process to allow voters to make their choices.

The main focus of this week’s blog is to identify the public interest when reporting elections: up to what point is it to the advantage of the public to know certain information? I will also be taking a look at how the rules might apply in common reporting situations.

There are special rules in force that apply to broadcasters. Fair reporting of elections is especially important as (like Lord Bingham said in 2000) the Press is the ‘eyes and ears of the public’ and ‘it is very largely through the media that (the public) will be alerted and informed’. This is never more true than in the case of elections or referendums. It is a journalist’s duty towards the public to provide a balanced  argument of all major parties, as it is the public that will be expected to make choices as citizens – and this is often based on the information we, as journalists, provide.

During the last general election in 2010, police had to investigate allegations of electoral fraud in Halifax after thousands of postal ballots were delivered by hand to polling stations on the day of the count. Electoral fraud is not an uncommon practice here in the UK and it is something journalists should be aware of.

However, the case of Phil Woolas is possibly one of the most famous examples of misconduct during an election. For the first time in 99 years an election court removed an MP from his seat following breaches of electoral law. The Election Court consisting of two High Court judges, ruled that the Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, had misled voters by claiming his LibDem opponent had “wooed” Islamic extremists. The judges decided Woolas knew this to be untrue. The accusation was that Woolas’ team had ‘deliberately tried to stir up religious tension’ in the last days of the campaign.

In the News:

Earlier this year, an article published by Press Gazette, explains how Ed Miliband has appealed to media covering the general election to concentrate on the “issues” at stake and not question the motives of politicians competing for power. Speaking at a dinner for political journalists in Westminster, the Labour leader warned that public “cynicism” about MPs had a corrosive effect on the whole political system.“You will shape this election too,” he said in a direct appeal to journalists.

This plea from Miliband for journalists to consider the content of articles published around the general election re-affirms the media’s key role in informing the public.

To round up:

It is a journalist’s duty towards the public to provide a balanced  argument during election time and broadcasters can publish this ‘balance’ over a period, days or weeks. Programme makers need to maintain a log of party coverage in order to keep on top of this.

Law Notes: Reporting Elections

The relevant law is The Representation of the People’s Act (1983) as amended.

Danger areas for journalists:

  • False statements about candidates.
  • Maintaining impartiality.
  • Reporting opinion polls or exit polls.

Breach of any of these is considered a potential criminal offence.

False Statements

It’s a criminal offence ‘to make or publish a false statement of fact about the personal character of or conduct of an election candidate’. It is also an offence to claim a candidate has withdrawn – if the publisher knows it to be false. False statements will almost certainly be defamatory. But an election will not wait for the legal process to catch up so if a candidate can prove a prima facie (at first sight) case then an injunction can be granted against repeat publication.

Maintaining Impartiality

For broadcasters maintaining impartiality is an absolute requirement and this is contained in BBC and Ofcom codes. In practice this means giving equal time and weight in script to candidates and arguments of the major parties.

  •  Major parties are defined by Ofcom, England, Scotland, Wales and N.Ireland.(England = Con, Lab, LibDem, UKIP; Wales = big three + Plaid Cymru; Scotland = big three + Scottish National Party; N.Ireland = Democratic Unionist Party, Sinn Fein, Social Democratic and Labour Party and the Ulster Unionist Party).
  • Minor parties or independent candidates are treated differently: ‘Broadcasters must also consider giving appropriate coverage to other parties and candidates’.

Broadcasters can publish this ‘balance’ over a period, days or weeks. Programme makers need to maintain a log of party coverage.

How to do constituency profiles for radio or TV:

At election time this is one of the most common types of coverage. Journalists love finding and going to marginal or ‘bellwether’ seats. The contest here can point up trends not just in that seat, but regionally or even nationally. Ofcom rules (and fundamental journalistic fairness) dictates that if a journalist interviews one of the major party candidates, they must carry sound bites from the other two (or three in Scotland/Wales) as well. Journalists may mention one or two minor party candidates in script, or feature them in vision if the report is TV.

How to do candidate profiles:

As a journalist, if you want to devote entire reports to individual candidates, or party campaigns in an area, you must make sure you achieve balance over a longer period (e.g. two days or a week of coverage). The advantage here is that editorially you can achieve greater depth of coverage. But it is important to bear in mind that generally speaking in broadcasting, all coverage is helpful to a candidate. So ensure that your tone of coverage is challenging to their ideas, and contrast in script their plans with their rival parties. If a journalist runs a profile of one particular candidate or party, they need to make clear to the audience that they will be running similar profiles (elsewhere in that programme/tomorrow/later that week) of other major candidates or parties. However, it is important to keep in mind that the same audience will often not be tuning in on subsequent days.

Further considerations for programme producers

Strict impartiality rules at election time means journalists must be realistic about commissioning political reports. In Scotland or Wales journalists will need to carry at least four sound bites. That will probably be a minute in itself. Journalists either need to allow a proper duration or not cover the story at all.

Opinion polls and exit polls

Opinion polls are only as accurate as their methodology, and when they were carried out. When judging their news value, journalists need to consider the sample size, how the fieldwork was carried out, and the reputation of the polling company. For example, telephone or internet polls are considered less accurate than face-to-face interviews. Always take note of the pollster’s ‘margin of error’ and relay this information to the audience. Apply context and impartiality. It’s an offence to publish before close of polls any information about how voters have cast their votes, if it’s based on interviews with voters after they have voted, or on organised exit polls.

Reporting on polling day:

Must be confined to the weather (which can be important to a result) size of turnout, and factual reporting of when leading party figures may or may not have voted. Controversial matters, such as the state of the NHS or immigration, must not be reported for fear of influencing the ballot. In recent years stories of voting problems or allegations of voting fraud in the UK have become more common. Cases of fraud can go to court.

Implications:

  • Parties will need to be much more careful with their literature.
  • The wording of how journalists report candidates claims and counter claims is likely to be scrutinised much more closely.
  • Maintaining accurate notes is vital as evidence.
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