Critical Reflection: Year Two Semester One

WINOL is primarily based on a local community audience although there is argument over its actual age demographic. Staffed entirely by students and overseen by tutors and guest editors, our weekly bulletin and online magazine attract a variety of visitors. It’s important to analyse our circulation figures to determine which stories are attracting the most attention.

In October 2013, WINOL ranked 1,309,425 globally and 38,579 in the UK in its circulation figures. An encouraging 44% of our 842 unique visitors were returning viewers showing a substantial loyal readership – key to the success of any publication. However, a disappointing 62% of readers left the website after viewing a single story.

Throughout November WINOL has improved its ranking globally and in the UK rankings. Traffic to the site fell to nearly half of that of the previous month with a total of 426 unique visitors although there was a slight percentage increase in new readers. Despite our circulation figures being lower than expected on the site, this month saw our highest amount of YouTube views of any bulletin this term with an impressive 223 views on the 6th November. Reasoning behind this lies with the large bracket of human interest with both highlights from the Rowenna Davis interview (national audience) and the coverage of university strikes across the UK.

Our global rankings as we approach the end of term in December have impressively improved as we stand 773,133 in Alexa rankings and our UK ranking is higher at a pleasing 30,063.

We were fortunate this semester to get some great feedback and constructive criticism from our guest editors Ian Anderson, Joe Curtis, Angus Scott, Graham Bell, Chris Coneybeer, Will Boden, Claudia Murg, Paul Wood and Poonam Bahal. Recurring areas to improve on included more pictures, better sound quality, a clearer audience age demographic and a larger focus on the order of the news agenda and quality of content in packages. Many of the guest editors were impressed with our efficiency as a team in production and on the news team and praised us on our hard work.

This semester my role on WINOL was Sub-Editor and AV Producer. My main role as AV Producer is to assist the production editor in setting up and running the studio, organising OBs, and helping out with the post-production of video and audio. Our main production days for WINOL include Sportsweek on a Tuesday and then the Live at Five Bulletin on the Wednesday. The rest of the week consists of subbing new stories as they come in and keeping the site up to date.

As a member of the production team I was taught how to set up the studio in terms of: lighting, vision mixer, green screen, cameras, autocue, VT software and sound. I’ve found that an understanding of production is very useful experience to prepare for a career in journalism after university as it presents me with a diverse set of skills providing me with more options. Every two weeks I swapped my role on production so that by the end of the semester I was trained on all of the equipment.

My first role on autocue was great experience especially when filming the meeting between Police Crime Commissioner, Simon Hayes, and Chief Constable, Andy Marsh – to which the video alone gathered 328 views. Not only allowing me to practice my technical skills in the gallery, I was able to take in interview skills by watching the third years. Last minute changes to the script made autocue especially challenging although I overcame this by maintaining clear communication with both the presenter and the news editor and it was a difficulty that we overcame as a team week after week.

My role on the vision mixer involved switching between camera screens (when the presenter was talking) to the VTs (to show packages). It was exciting to try something new and I enjoyed learning how to use this equipment. In addition to the usual bulletin, one week featured an in-studio discussion with our political correspondent, Alex Delaney. This required a reliance of judgment on my part to switch between cameras to keep the flow of the interview interesting for the audience.

Although seemingly easy I found that my two weeks on sound needed a lot of focus and attention to keep up with UPSOTs (additional sounds over presenter), NATSOTs (natural sounds on tape) and OOVs (out of vision audio). One week we had a live stream discussion between a reporter in the newsroom and our presenter in the studio. Although ruthlessly testing the sound beforehand there were still some technical errors in the broadcast – although with the equipment that we had on the day paired with our strict time constraints it was, unfortunately, unavoidable that the sound quality was slightly compromised.

The role of being on VTs entails checking packages and making sure that they are in the correct formats, putting them in order, and being in control of airing them during the bulletin. Compared to my other roles on the Production team it was definitely the easiest role that I have done although it is still a vital role in producing a successful bulletin.

During my first week as director I had to make a swift decision whether or not to go on air at three o’ clock when a couple of VTs had still not loaded properly onto the drive. This proves how important the role of VT manager is and also demonstrates that anything can go wrong. I decided to role at three o’ clock despite this problem which was the right decision as we overcame this problem as a team and the rest of the bulletin ran smoothly. In our final bulletin there was a major layout problem in script that threw off autocue and left a reliance on the presenter and his hard copy and pen. My dilemma as a director this week was not that the autocue was down but that there were identical errors that we had no time to correct in the hard copy. Story order jumped from seven to nine and there were multiple ‘Coming ups’ in places that there shouldn’t have been, confusing all members of the gallery. Despite this we still ran on time at three o’ clock, as we did every week, and the presenter that week did extremely well in recovering the script.

Sub-editing has been a work in progress this year with some definite improvements but still a long way to go. My subbing this semester has improved my own writing skills as I have been sifting through grammar, fact checking and working closely with the BBC writing style guide. This will certainly help me with writing my own articles next semester and has given me a healthy respect and understanding as to the lengthy process of writing and publishing a story. During this term I have come across a few fatal errors with names being spelt wrong. I addressed these errors with the reporters and worked with them to make sure that work was to be properly proof read by editors before being submitted to our subbing team. This semester we came up with a ‘Subs board’ to delegate news reporters to specific subs – this vastly improved communication and now has a permanent place in the newsroom.

Additional roles I took on in production included camera training and the filming of studio interviews. This semester I signed myself up for camera training on the Canon 650D DSLR digital and filming kits. This training proved invaluable when assisting filming of Nadine Forshaw’s interviews with UKIP’s Diane James and Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Southampton Itchen, Rowenna Davis.

This semester, as well as production, I joined the Absolute:ly team in features in which I produced two articles a week for the magazine. Some of my articles included: Fur and Leather: Fashion or Faux Pas, Luscious Lipsticks you can’t live without, Spirithoods: the Ultimate Accessory, Curvaceous Curls: How to Maintain your Mane, Sun Kissed Skin or Streaky Sin, Evil Excellence: Halloween Special, Perfume Special: Does Money matter, My Week in Beauty, The Perfect Top Knot: Video Tutorial and Statement Jewellery you won’t mind putting your neck on the line for. It was great to experience an environment whereby you had to pitch your ideas for the magazine every week in a features meeting as it’s good preparation for real life journalism. I was really pleased that my first video tutorial had nearly 50 views on Youtube and working with video and spreads allowed me to become more familiar with useful editing software such as Adobe Final Cut Pro, Fireworks and Photoshop.

As well as my articles I helped produce the Absolute:ly Modernism and Existentialism photo-shoot which was a great success. After emailing round multiple model agencies and clothes companies it became apparent how difficult it was to produce a professional looking shoot for free. My role in the shoot was to find both the male models and their clothing and to style them on the day – paying special attention to choosing their ties and glasses. I also rented two cameras from the loan counter: one for the photographer, and one for my personal use to take pictures of the process. I was lucky enough to find some perfect male models for both styles who were willing to work for free and who between them brought along thousands of pounds worth of clothing and accessories to work with. With the shots from this shoot we have created multiple magazine spreads and a short video with voiceovers explaining the context of our shoot and how we achieved the looks.

As a team on WINOL we have achieved great success this semester although there is always room for change and improvement. The introduction of Access Winchester has been a big hit with viewers and in features we have merged all of our magazines into one super magazine: Here and Now – to make it easier for our audience to find and access different areas of the site.

In news, reporters produce at least one package a week for the Wednesday bulletin as well as their text stories. In features, I had been working on two articles a week, which in reality was too much in order to produce extraordinary pictures and text consistently. Our best feature, by far, was Modernism and Existentialism that we had been working on for weeks which proves that less can really be more in fashion. Deadlines should therefore be more flexible in features giving teams more time to produce some really strong and impressive work.

Traffic for WINOL is largely produced by its presence on YouTube, Twitter and winol.co.uk, however evidence from WordPress’ WP Slimstat for December 2013 shows that in our rankings for this month the site has had 173 Facebook Shares. This indicates evidential interest for Facebook users and therefore it would be beneficial to create an official WINOL Facebook page as an additional social networking tool to improve traffic on the site.

With a high percentage of our viewers accessing us through twitter it is important to focus on attaining more followers. We should produce a system whereby the social organiser sets all WINOL participants to collect a goal of ten followers a week – even if each individual only achieves half of this we would gain a considerable audience.

To take WINOL a step further next semester we need to include more ‘Breaking News’ stories. Some actions have already been put into place to support this in the form of the ‘skeleton story’ suggested by guest editor Paul Wood. The theory of this is to draw as many people to the site during breaking news and then building on the story throughout the day. In addition, Search Engine Optimization is key to improving traffic on the site.

BA and MA Journalism courses at the University of Winchester, won best TV News Day this month with the WINOL Budget Special at the BJTC Awards 2013 so we have plenty of success to build on. Our main criticism this year from guest editors was that reporters are being held back by technical difficulties. With some more training and work on equipment we can soon be producing consistently strong packages on a weekly basis.

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About brackenstockley

Contributor to the JusticeGap and WINOL. Currently studying journalism at the University of Winchester (Year Three).
This entry was posted in Critical Reflections, WINOL: Absolute:ly Magazine, WINOL: Bulletin, WINOL: Production. Bookmark the permalink.

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