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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

WINOL Critical Reflection [Year 3]

Critical Reflection
As News Editor this semester, I had a huge amount of responsibility to produce consistently good bulletins week after week.
My first week was very difficult as the majority of the focus was on covering the BJTC awards, which meant I was fully in charge of the first bulletin. Meaning I chaired the news meeting alone, with some help from the Year 3 reporters. After the first meeting, I decided the stories weren’t really good enough, so I gave them feedback on the ideas, and arranged another meeting 3 days later on the Thursday.

I printed off the upcoming meetings from Winchester City Council, Southampton City Council and Hampshire County Council, and pinned them onto the news board for the reporters to get easy access to the information. This meant they always had a place to start when thinking of stories in the first few weeks. This seemed to help a bit, as my 2 political reporters Tom and Faith went to a council meeting early in the semester.

In the first few weeks, we had a large number of reporters delivering content that was broadcast-worthy. There were too many to fit all of them into the bulletin. So I decided to create a playout for the end of the bulletin where we would display all of the unused packages in 5 second bites to promote our extra content and direct people to the website where the packages would be featured. I feel like it was great way to utilise our overflow of content.

We planned to provide coverage of student protests that were happening in London. It would have been a great story to have, as it had protestors from Winchester. As the campus news service, we could utilise as the source for student updates. We had a live blog, but had no footage or images for the bulletin, which was a disaster. The two reporters I sent to London got their footage, but didn't give themselves enough time to upload any of it. Despite instructions to send us images throughout the day, they failed to do so, which left us with nothing to use, so we couldn't even make an oov out of it. The problem was partly that we didn't do enough planning on the Tuesday, and should have done a practice of uploading the footage on the Tuesday too, but that didn't happen. The reporters should have done this, but I feel that I should have been more instructive on the Tuesday to get it all planned out. Unfortunately I had to spike the story for the bulletin, however I found it to be a good lesson of how important planning is, particularly for a live story like this that we know is going to happen.

I had noticed that the bulletins were looking very overbearing, and had nothing to break it up. It was package after package. On the 4th WINOL of the semester, I decided to add a 'coming up' to the bulletin. It is something which I believe had never been done on WINOL before, and I consider it to be a good innovation as it has done a great job of breaking up the bulletin and promoting our upcoming stories. The top of the bulletin tends to be very heavy; the 'coming up' reminds the audience that there is lighter stuff still to come. I noticed pretty much every news programme, such as BBC South Today and Channel 5 has one, so it is now standard practice to have it in a bulletin. I also managed to get some of the reporters to record coming-up PTC’s at the scene of their stories, which gave it an even greater effect,

OOV's played a big role in the bulletins this semester. During the week that I introduced the 'coming up', it was decided to try and create an oov belt to follow straight afterwards, which would include graphics and a bed, providing the 'news in your area'. However, this isn't exactly what happened. We struggled to find a good bed, and settled for no bed at all, and used no graphics because it didn't really work leading into the stories. Instead we just had the 2 or 3 oovs connected together.
On other weeks, we had oovs that could stand alone as bigger news stories, such as the US Storm story, and the Jamie Dack court case, and the Barton Farm update that the campaigners and given up. These were moved further up the bulletin away from the belt, and were another way to break up the bulletin, giving it some light and shade and multiple layers.

I wanted to get some fresh stories from the Wednesday into the bulletin each week. To do this I put a reporter (sometimes 2 or 3) on the wires, checking to see if anything breaking came through on the day. This often led to update pieces such as Barton Farm, and the sex hotel story. This was great as it helped give us the live feeling, making it fresh and also showing ourselves constantly tracking the stories we cover. Which we have done a lot this semester with multiple packages on stories such as the Ford closure and the on-going wind farm debate.

We put new tape on the news board early this semester, green for these stories going into the bulletin, yellow for the finished packages that we can still use, and red for the spiked stories. On some weeks, the yellow was empty, which I didn't want, to combat this I sometimes took unused stories from sport (such as the Pompey news piece and the wrestling package) to bulk up the yellow so that we had back-ups in case something went wrong. This was another reason why I liked to try and have fresh stories from the Wednesday, to bulk up the yellow section of the board.

I got an idea from Claudia Murg when she came in one week and mentioned that reporters should be able to talk 30 seconds straight about their news story without any problem. I decided to try this at the next news conference, giving each reporter 30 seconds to explain their story and get the idea cross. However, when it came to do it on the 19th November news meeting, I could tell straight away that it wasn't working. It just made reporters stumble over their words and rush to fit everything in, which just meant they had to explain everything again anyway. The hope was to streamline the news meeting, and make sure reporters had researched their stories, but it didn't quite work.

Features were good this semester, a big improvement compared to recent years, because it had a schedule, monitored by lee Jarvis (features editor). The Paul Blackburn interview has been a huge success, with over 500 views in one week. I was asked by Tom to help film the interview, and controlled the camera facing Tom for the interview, and was pleased that it turned out well.

I was involved in the HPCC debate, which was organised by Louis O'Brien, and was a cameraman on the night, filming 3 of the candidates, which meant moving smoothly between each of them as they spoke throughout the night. It was a sold out event, and was a great way to showcase the candidates. It helped promote Winol, as a few members of the audience approached me after the debate, and asked where they could view the stream.

I wasn't too involved in the BJTC award ceremony, but I was in the audience when it happened, and thought it was a very professional production, and was a great way to promote ourselves.

I helped a bit with WINOL's new Tuesday Sound Radio takeover. For the first week I helped Nadine with some of the script work and story ideas, and also read out 2 of the news bulletins for that day.

The website was a massive improvement this semester. I feel that the switch from joomla to wordpress was the right decision, as it better fits what we are trying to do on Winol. We managed to feature a lot of content on the homepage, which was important because of our constant expansion. This has included a new fashion magazine, and a new arts part of the website. It is also easier to add new content, and meant that we could use pictures in better way.

Along with Sam (web editor) we have managed to improve the regularity and quality of WINOL's written articles, which were previously an afterthought in previous semesters. We encouraged written stories to be on the website by 5pm on Wednesday's to coincide with the bulletin. Gradually over the weeks, I eventually assigned reporters to days over the week to put content on the website. This kept it fresh and brought the site to life in a way it never really was before. This affected the type of stories that featured on the website, as we had a broader area of stories. Including many that wouldn’t make good packages. This meant we could cover more areas of news, and helped with expanding our audience.
The main issue we had with written stories were the pictures used. We mainly wanted action shots and faces. Although, this improved slightly over the semester, the best solution was to make the website less picture-dominated, and more about the text, which happened when we switched to broadsheet.
WINOL started with a fairly low Alexa ranking at the start of the semester (close to 2 Million) because of the website's lack of activity over the summer. However, the emergence of competition from other journalism courses such as East London Lines (at Goldsmiths University) was brought to our attention when they were second place for Student Website of the Year in the BJTC awards. We then began to track their site, and learn from it. Over the next few months, our Alexa rankings (both Global and UK) continued to improve week after week. By the end of the semester we had overtaken East London Lines, reaching the top 500,000 globally, and the top 10,000 in the UK.
We also have a better Alexa ranking than the Hampshire Chronicle, but are behind the Daily Echo. However, we have tracked the Daily Echo frequently over the semester, and have noticed spelling errors in headlines (including on the front page of the newspaper). We also beat the Daily Echo at reporting number of stories, including an arson court story which we reported a week before them, but it then lead their front page. Beating local rivals to stories is a good way to establish ourselves as one
We also kept an eye on other rivals such as Leeds, Westminster and Bournemouth. It was very useful, because it gave us ideas of where we could improve. Such as making our Twitter more prominent and also making sure that the site was getting regular updates to keep it fresh.
We also improved delivering the bulletin Live at 5 every week, which helped rebuild a viewership because they could start to expect the Wednesday bulletin to be up at 5 every single week.
Promotion for news stories is something that could have been improved. We made multiple attempts during news meetings to think of ways to get our best stories across to a wider audience. This included reporter setting up WINOL twitter accounts, which some did, but I don't feel they were interconnected enough to get the full benefit. We needed to contact more people influenced by the story, and maintain a good connection with the people we spoke to about the stories and send it to them.


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