Archive for March, 2010

Cultivate Your Specialist Subject

March 31, 2010

After more than 30 years in journalism Greg Hadfield  (pictured above) left as head of digital development at the Telegraph Media Group earlier this year to joinCogapp, a leading digital agency. He said he believed it was smaller companies such as Cogapp that were shaping the future, rather than repeating the mistakes of the past. He said the most exciting innovations would continue to emergy from remarkable individuals working alone or in small groups, not from ‘monolithic media’. Greg visited Brighton training centre Journalist Works to share his experiences with students.

By Louisa Hannah

There has never been a better time to be a journalist according to Greg Hadfield even though the traditional route into the profession is becoming increasingly difficult.

Talking to students at Brighton’s Journalist Works Greg said they might find it hard to see a structured route into journalism – but they could be successful by looking beyond the norm.

“It may be difficult to get a reporter’s job on a local weekly, so think about other ways of getting your journalism funded. A great example is to work for non-governmental organisations – Greenpeace, Christian Aid or charities which have communication channels. Look at organisations that send people to disaster areas to report the stories of real people. It might be print, video, audio or first person accounts via websites, often these organsiations do it better than other news providers.”

Greg advised students to cultivate a specialist subject to write about to create a niche in the market.

“The future of journalism resides in the creation of premium content. Get your foot in the door with a passion for a subject, either as a team or alone. Young people these days are interested in journalism, they don’t want to be told by editors what the news is, they want to engage in news and help to shape it. People now want to be partners in news, have conversations about it, before, during and after events happen.”

Students should understand the different forms of the digital era, it’s potency and what it offers. Referring to the impact of online journalism on print, as debated in a recent intelligence squared discussion called “The Future Of News”, Greg said journalists have always been citizen journalists.

“We have never pretended to write beyond ordinary people. We have no more right than anybody else to write news or have special access. Online news means we are now closer to our consumers and if that means getting more comments and feedback, good or bad, I would rather hear it.’

He pointed out that the boundaries between people’s personal and professional personas were blurring because of networking sites such as facebook and twitter.

“This might result in dual personalities, but you have to embrace the tecnology. Don’t undersell yourself, know what you want and don’t blame the world for not accomodating you. Cultivate an outlet for your journalism while you are looking for a job.”

Greg’s final piece of advise for students was to get out there and just do it.

“Don’t be scared of failure and error. Accept that you will make mistakes — it’s better to make them now than later when you are a shining star.”

* Log onto to hear the debate on “The Future of News” as discussed by Andrew Neil, Turi Munthe, AA Gill, Claire Enders, David Elstein, Matthew Parris and Jacob Weisberg. The debate was held on March 24, 2010.



What’s The Value Of News?

March 23, 2010
                                            Is this news?
 News sense is a vital skill for trainee journalists – but not always as easy to pin down as contempt of court or the structure of local government.

Deciding whether a story is news worthy becomes second nature after a while on the news desk, but doesn’t always come naturally for trainees.

Editor of the Argus, Michael Beard, told students at Brighton’s Journalist Works stories for his newspaper should be selected primarily for their human interest value.

Mr Beard said students should think about news selection in terms of what impact issues have on readers: how much it will hurt, cost or affect them.

Journalists often select stories and angles intuitively. They know news is a commodity to be sold but may be unaware they are adhering to a common set of news values followed by journalists for decades.

One of the best known set of news values was first recorded more than forty years ago by media researchers John Galtung and Marie Ruge.

They made their list in 1965 and it is still the subject of debate by journalists and academics alike.

Gultang and Ruge analysed international news stories to find out what factors they had in common, and what factors placed them at the top of the news agenda worldwide.

A story which scores highly on each value is likely to make the front page of a newspaper or tv news bulletin.

Many of these values are relevant to trainees once they are sourcing stories, for example; negativity (bad news is more newsworthy than good news), unexpectedness (if an event is out of the ordinary it will have a greater effect than something that is an every day occurrence and conflict (opposition of people or forces resulting in a dramatic effect, stories with conflict are often newsworthy).

Some of Gultang and Ruge’s other news values worth looking up are: frequency, threshold, un-ambiguity, meaningfulness, consonance, continuity, reference to unique nations, reference to elite people, composition and personalisation.
A more recent set of news values were published by Harcup and O’Neill in 2001 after they studied the UK National Press

They found the following values to be important for the British Press (in no particular order):

The power elite: stories concerning powerful individuals, organisations or institutions.

Celebrity: stories concerning people who are already famous.

Entertainment: stories concerning sex, show-business, human interest, animals and unfolding drama, or offering opportunities for humourous treatment, entertaining photographs or witty headlines.

Surprise: stories with an element or surprise and/ or contrast.

Bad news: stories with negative overtones such as conflict or tragedy.

Good news: stories with positive overtones such as rescues and cures.

Magnitude: stories perceived as sufficiently significant either in the numbers of people involved or in potential impact.

Relevance: stories about issues, groups and nations perceived to be relevant to the audience.

Follow-ups: stories about subjects already in the news.

Media agenda: stories that set or fit the news organisation’s own agenda.

There is no doubt that news values are evolving. The popularity of reality shows, the blurring of news and celebrity news, the phenomenal rise of citizen journalism – all impact on traditional news values and news processes.

Some people question whether traditional news values are still relevant today. But as future gatekeepers of the news, trainee journalists would do well to at least consider them, if not actively join the debate.