Critical Reflection: Year Two Semester Two

Winol is constantly changing to improve its content and this term has seen extensive changes to our team as well as our website output. Our news team has been much smaller this year and reporters have had to work around the clock to produce packages every week. Our success spread nationally this term when four students from Winol competed in The Times and The Sunday Times competition, ‘Build The News’, and won the judges prize. Features has seen a new lease of life and been given its very own place on Winol’s FrontPage. Students also produced a brilliant ‘budget’ special bulletin, with reporters conducting interviews live from London as well as hosting in-studio chats. Sports has diversified into new areas besides football and the team even produced a Winter Olympics influenced special using inventive filming techniques with a GoPro camera.

We have had a range of guest editors this semester from a variety of professional backgrounds. Not only does this help us receive invaluable feedback on our work, it also helps build up our contacts with professionals who work in the industry. Many of our guest editors this year have been alumni from our own course including: Sam Homewood, Claire Lomas and Joe Lipscombe – all of which are now working in top media corporations such as ITV, ITN and SKY NEWS. This has boosted morale within the team and given us confidence that we are all capable of achieving our goals. Other guest editors included: Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Southampton Itchen, Rowenna Davis, and local MP Steve Brine.

Although the content this year has been increasingly impressive; circulation has been poor in comparison with last semester and this was particularly noticeable around February. This was most likely due to the fact that we no longer had someone in charge of social media and therefore promotion on Twitter and YouTube was sparse. However, social media promotion has vastly improved since then, although Winol currently has a UK ranking of 88,406 compared to last semester’s 30,063 in the Alexa Rankings meaning that we still have a bit more work to do in boosting traffic for the site.

Personal Evaluation:

My aim this semester was to try a different form of journalism and I made the move from production and features to news. I chose the role of police and crime reporter as I have taken an interest in law since coming to the University. Initially, I found the move challenging and naïvely approached the first couple of news conferences without backups and struggled to produce packages when my interviews fell through. However, I learnt quickly from my mistakes and made sure I produced a package every week and finding stories became easier as I built up my contacts with the police. In my first week I produced a package on the death of MEP candidate, Del Singh, which lacked many of the key elements of a well-rounded news package such as: sequences, a video interview or a PTC. Although I had carefully written my script to the pictures my voice was shaky and weak and lacked authority. I believe that my voice has improved since the beginning of the semester and this is largely due to my increasing confidence within the team.

Organising and editing the COMPASS meeting between Crime Commissioner, Simon Hayes and Chief Constable, Andy Marsh, built up my confidence and has given me great contacts as well as teaching me invaluable editing experience on FinalCutPro. I spent a week planning for the meeting in advance and kept in contact with the Commissioner’s office to make sure that everything went to plan. The COMPASS meeting (4th Feb) went very well and I received great feedback from the Commissioner’s office and they even suggested striking up a contract with Winol to produce their future meetings. I spent the next day (5th Feb) editing for my own package for Winol as well as producing five separate videos for the Hampshire PCC website and YouTube channel. To my disappointment I was unable to use my work in our upcoming bulletin, as an embargo had been placed on the footage so I had to wait until the following day (6th Feb) to publish the news on the Winol website. Producing and editing the COMPASS meeting was an important learning curve for me, not only for improving my skills, but also in understanding the politics of journalism.

I consider my first ‘whole’ news package as the story I did on the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) project. For the first time my package included interviews arguing both sides of the story as well as the use of sequences and a PTC. Visually, the story was weak and I created a reconstruction to make the package more interesting. Feedback was mixed on this particular package as the news peg was confusing however, using DSLR cameras in my interviews made the pictures very strong and I was pleased with the final outcome.

My biggest story this semester was a National story on the use of body worn video cameras by all frontline officers in Hampshire. I had been following this story since January and arranged a meeting a month in advance with the Chief Constable to discuss his progress in promoting the cameras. I produced two news packages on this subject, one in February following news of the cameras from the COMPASS meeting, and a follow up in March which included opposing views to the cameras in the form of two Skype interviews: one with the Deputy Director of Big Brother Watch, Emma Carr, and the other with Director of the Libertarian Alliance, Sean Gabb. I am very proud of this particular story as I had put a lot of planning into the overall feel of the package – including real life police footage from a burglary in Waterlooville, in Hampshire, as well as footage taken on the day of my interview with the Chief Constable from a body worn video camera, taken from two separate angles.

As well as producing packages on local police and crime stories I also produced my first court report surrounding a triple conviction for dangerous driving, assault and perverting the course of justice. I am pleased I had the chance to gain this experience although I do not think that my best abilities lie with court reporting as my shorthand isn’t very strong and I struggled with finding pictures. Overall, I have massively enjoyed my role as police and crime reporter for Winol. I believe my strengths are in the quality of my filming due to training on the DSLRs and in the quality of sound in my packages. My main weaknesses lie with my voice and PTCs although I believe I have improved over the last few weeks in controlling my voice. It is mainly through trial and error that I have reached the point that I am now in producing packages and I am happy with my progression. Presenting a SuperWinol at the end of this semester has also helped me with my confidence infront of the camera.

One of my main highlights from this semester is the work that I have produced for the Justice Gap. Shadowing interviews with both the head of the Bar Council in London as well as American film director and investigative journalist, Amy Berg, was brilliant experience. I also produced six stories of my own, one of which generated some of the highest ratings the Justice Gap has ever seen.

Improvements:

News on Winol can be improved by reporters coming to the news conference with a range of stories so that the news editor has more of an option over what stories to keep or spike. This will improve the quality of content in the bulletins and encourage a healthy competitiveness between reporters to get their stories to the top of the news agenda.

I would recommend getting rid of our usual production process of running the bulletin through the news studio and instead have presenters in more interesting locations, filmed on DSLR cameras for premium picture and sound quality.

I think that alternating news editors every week between Brian, Chris and Angus worked well as opposed to last semester’s agenda run by students as communication has improved as well as seeing an improvement in reporters reaching their deadlines.

I think that feedback on news and features needs to be more evenly distributed as we sometimes run out of time to fully go over features in Monday debriefs. The bulletin’s viewership can be improved by more of a collective effort to promote Winol – possibly by giving every reporter access to the passwords to tweet directly themselves from our Twitter account.

I am proud of my work on Winol this semester. Despite my slow start to producing packages I’ve managed to pick up new interview techniques, different use of voice control and better picture and sound quality. I still have many improvements to make in these areas that will come with more practice.

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About brackenstockley

Contributor to the JusticeGap and WINOL. Currently studying journalism at the University of Winchester (Year Three).
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