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Posted on 11/06/13

How Not To Annoy A Journalist

By Kate Joness

Knowing how to keep journalists happy is a very useful skill for any business owner. But Alex Wake, a lecturer in the RMIT school of media and communication, says many small businesses simply don't know how to handle the media. They make common mistakes born of ignorance or anxiety that often earn the ire of journalists, she says.

Wake lists 10 things that annoy journos and editors. Avoid them and you may have a successful working relationship with someone in the newsroom.

1. Repeatedly asking when a story will be published

Do not ring a journalist constantly asking for publication dates and details. One Fairfax editor says this is her top annoyance. “We don't know,” she says. “It depends on what news is happening on any given day. I must get this 10 times a day and it just wastes my time.” To stop yourself from badgering journalists, set up a Google Alert so you are immediately informed when your article has been published.

2. Confusing editorial with advertising

Requesting information to be published that makes a business look good is a huge no-no.This often happens because businesses don't understand how the media works and they see a phone call from a journalist as an opportunity for a free plug.

3. Asking to see copy before it's published

An ethical journalist will never show you an article before it's published. Doing so would create pressure on the journalist to change the story to flatter someone, hide unpleasant truths or help push someone's agenda.

4. No news sense

You may think you know news, but don't try telling that to a journalist. Journalists have a sharp news sense and understand what their readers, listeners or viewers want to know about. News is topical and often involves conflicting opinions and values. Journalists understand this and don't appreciate being told how to do their job.

5. Time wasting

When a journalist approaches a business for a comment, some people dilly-dally about getting back to them with an answer. Their organisation doesn't have any processes in place for dealing with the media and that's really frustrating for journalists, especially if the comment is not for a hard-hitting investigative piece. Often journalists are seeking a balancing opinion for their articles and need quotes from “both sides of the fence”. For example, they may speak to a florist about what's on offer on Mother's Day and need to balance that with quotes from another source criticising the commercialism of the day. To read the full write-up, click HERE

Posted on 08/01/13

Trends in journalism to look for in 2013

By Richard Milnes

Thanks to the Internet just about anybody can be a journalist, photographer and publisher. This is one of the most obvious factors at play in the changing world of journalism. Some of the general trends in journalism that we should see in the coming year are laid out below. Some of these trends have been gradually evolving over prior years.

The cost of a camera is within reach of most people.The availability and quick access to a camera has also increased with many mobile phones having built in cameras. The speed at which photos can be shared is also very quick now with the popularity of social networking tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and so on.

Increase in the number of media outlets and ease of access The Internet has given the individual the power to communicate with the whole world. For example, YouTube and Facebook have become media outlets that everyone can access and publish to. A few people have become overnight celebrities after appearing on YouTube videos. The rise ofthe ‘little person’ – citizen journalism Sites such as Demotix, Citizenside and Alamyallow pretty much anyone to submit photos.

As reported previously London based Demotix was recently acquired out right by Corbis to become its breaking news section. LA based Splash provides Corbis’ entertainment news. Citizenside is affiliated with AFP. It looks like some of the big players in the photography industry have realised this shift and are expanding their media outlets to allow more people the ability to provide them with news.

Sites like Digital Journal give budding journalists the opportunity to report from a different perspective. Other sites such as Suite101 allow people to write about whatever they like and it doesn’t have to be news worthy.

The rise of Asia Asia accounts for over 60% of the world’s population, yet is relatively under reported. As this part of the world becomes more prosperous and the ‘developed world’ becomes less prosperous more and more news should come from this area. As China slowly moves towards more freedom of the media this will also open up more opportunities. Photojournalism sites that can use on the ground reporters are doing particularly well in certain places where it would be dangerous to send journalists or not cost effective. They rely on local people who blend in much better and can do the job for a fraction of the price. A good example of this trend is the reporting of the death of Osama Bin Laden. Perhaps the biggest news story in the past few years.

To read the full article, ckick here

Posted on 27/08/12

Is Twitter Killing In-Depth Journalism?

Sapa Features

The Twitter age is killing in-depth journalism, while local newspapers are becoming extinct — right? Then what is a talented young New York Times reporter doing founding a website devoted to in-depth local reporting?

News aggregators, 24/7 news cycles, 140-character Tweets and attention-span-challenged web users have transformed much of the US media into the journalistic equivalent of McDonalds: quickly produced, easily consumed.

Times freelancer Noah Rosenberg says his “Narratively” website, which he hopes to launch next month, will be more like a long-simmering stew.

“There’s been a push against the 24/7 bubble, the echo chamber,” Rosenberg said at a Brooklyn cafe that sometimes doubles as his start-up’s office. “We’re really slowing things down.”

Narratively’s stable of about 30 young New York journalism high-fliers will ignore breaking news for original, behind-the-scenes material that takes a long time to report and — at 5,000 words — a good while to read.

There’ll be no breaking news, Rosenberg said, but stories “you can dust off in one year, two, three years down the road and they’ll still have some meaning.” When the popular BuzzFeed homepage carries of slideshows like “Cutest Pictures Of Cats AndBabies,” Yahoo.com’s “Trending Now” is mostly showbiz, and big media organizations chase inherds after the same news, Narratively’s ambitions might seem quixotic.

But Rosenberg is part of a surprising revival in which sites like Atavist.com and Byliner.com, both founded last year, and Longform.org, founded in 2010, are finding new ways to turn high-quality, lengthy non-fiction into a business.

“We’re really tapping into this energy out there,” the 29-year-old said.

The collapse in newspaper advertising revenues has reduced the number of publications with resources to produce long-form journalism to a small elite — the likes of the The New Yorker, The New York Times’ magazine and a few others.

Where the new in-depth outlets are different is that they appear only online, meaning they never run out of space on the page and can more readily explore the possibilities of digital technology.

Paul Janensch, a journalism professor at Quinnipiac University, says that’s good news, because the traditional US media has often allowed long-form journalism to become verbose and self-indulgent.

“I don’t have the time for that and I wonder how many people will wade through it. It’s very forbidding,” he said.

“My hope is that with the Internet there’ll be not just long form, but new ways of conveying a lot of complicated information.”

To read the full article, ckick here

Posted on15/04/12

The Lady With A Camera

Media Hive News Network

Sabeena Gadihoke, associate professor (video and TV production), AKJ Mass Communication Research Centre at Jamia University, New Delhi,dwells on the incredible life and times of Homai Vyarawalla and photojournalism is only one aspect of it. Media Hive presents the abstract of a feature (written by Sangeetha Devi Dundoo) published recently in The Hindu:

Sabeena Gadihoke (in the picture) knew Homai for 14 years, from 1997 to Homai's last days in January 2012, and is sought after for any individual or institution that wants to learn about the grand old lady of photojournalism. Ironically, Sabeena had never heard about Homai prior to 1997.

“I was researching for a film on women photojournalists and already had two women in mind. I wanted a third person. I came across a news item on Homai. I had never heard of her before. I was intrigued, travelled to Baroda and met her. I made Three Women and a Camera, but felt that the film was inadequate for a person such as Homai. It was the beginning of my obsession. I got a grant to do a study on women photographers and visited her each year. I recorded interviews with her, not just about her career as a photographer,” says Sabeena.

Sabeena was stuck by Homai's self-reliance. “Homai herself would state that like Robinson Crusoe, if she was stranded on an island, she would survive. She could cut her hair, stitch her own clothes, fix electrical and plumbing fittings, repair shoes, make furniture, layer bricks like a mason… People called her Homai Kabuliwalla because she never threw away anything. From her, I learnt about life, cooking, Ayurvedic remedies and much more. Somewhere down the line I began writing my book on her (Camera Chronicles of Homai Vyarawalla, published in 2006). She had razor-sharp memory and from her I learnt about the history of the century,” says Sabeena.

Homai also knew when to step back. It is widely known that Homai quit photojournalism in the 1970s. “She never picked up the camera again, not even for her son's wedding,” says Sabeena. The stepping back occurred when Homai sensed the degradation of value systems in society, including her workplace, post the Nehruvian era. “As the number of photographers increased, there came security barriers between politicians and photographers making the task tougher. She did not want to jostle between other photographers,” adds Sabeena.

A frame from an archival footage shows the diminutive Homai Vyarawalla, clad in a sari, walking away from the crowd, balancing a camera in her hand, soon after India's Independence. Homai cut the clutter in her own way as she captured the first three decades of India's Independence through her lenses. She knew the ‘right photographic moment'.

Sabeena Gadihoke took the audience through her audio-visual presentation ‘Homai Vyarawalla and her Chronicles of India' at Kalakriti Art Gallery, as part of Art Adda, an initiative by Channel 6, Alliance Francaise, Goethe Zentrum, Moving Images and Manthan. A photo curator, Sabeena is now researching for a dissertation on the cultural history of photography in India.

Posted on15/03/12

How to Write a Radio Play

By Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee
Media Hive News Network

Radio is an extraordinary medium. A radio play can travel through time and space, between centuries and continents. It can take place in an aeroplane, down a goldmine, on a ship; it can also take place within the confines of somebody's mind. All this can be done for a fraction of what it would cost to do the same in film. But in every case the audience has to be attracted, and its attention held, by the means of sound alone.

The radio dramatist needs a creative interaction with the listener, and the ability of the radio dramatist to create a unique world in the listener's imagination is a special quality generally denied to TV viewers or theatregoers. Theatre, film and TV plays paint the colours for the audience, whereas the pictures in the mind of the radio listener are individual to that person alone. This gives radio a special intimacy.

Radio is very good at dramatising what people are thinking. The contrast between what people says and what they think can be shown very effectively on radio. 'Interior thought' is a convention which is special to the radio medium. In radio the listener can be instantly transported inside the head of a character and can hear those secret, private thoughts that are often better left unsaid. Radio drama has been described as 'The Theatre of the Mind'. The potential conflict between exterior dialogue and speech and interior thought creates a special ground of conflict which is a fertile area for the creative radio playwright.

The key to writing successful plays for radio is to realise that the listener can only understand what is going on by what he or she hears. The physical environment and the appearance of the characters depend on what they say and the images created in the listener's imagination by words and sounds and/or music.

What makes an effective radio play?
There is no formula for writing a good play. However there are certain thumb rules and some examples of successful and popular radio plays. BBC tried to coalesce what the two award-winning British radio dramatists, Marcy Kahan and Mike Walker had to say on this in a kind of guide book. However like all creative art, it has room for innovation and experimentation.

Themes
You can write a radio play on practically any subject. Your play can be set in the past, present or future. Unlike a film or a television programme you do not have to ‘show’ anything. Therefore the constraints of visuals and budget for materialising the visuals are simply not there. Therefore radio play offers greater creative freedom to the writer. However, try not to cram too much in, whether in terms of events or ideas as radio medium has its limitations in terms of ‘registering the facts in the listerner’s minds’. Without the visual clue, too many characters, events and ideas will crowd the the listner’s mind and impede understanding and appreciation of the play.

How to Structure a radio play
A radio play has scenes like a stage play, but these can be swift and fragmentary, as well as long and solid. It is useful to think of a scene as a sequence. One sequence, or scene, might consist of one line of dialogue, or it might just consist of a crucial sound effect (know as FX). Vary the pace and length of scenes, as well as their background acoustics and 'location'. A radio play which has six ten-minute scenes, each set in a dining room, is likely to be less effective than a play which varies its scenes and settings. Drawing in the listener immediately is crucial. Construct the beginning of your play with care. Marcy Kahan says: "One of the golden rules of playwriting is that you must always start the story as late as possible because that's where the conflict is. Begin with a crisis."

Sculpting the characters
Do not have more than 6 characters in a half hour play. There is a risk of confusion if you do. Remember also that the listener only knows the character exists if that character speaks, or if another character refers to him or her by name. Get under the skin of your characters. Get to know them really well. Each will have their own individual speech mannerisms. Don't have them all speaking in your tone of voice.

Mike Walker advises: "Establish your characters clearly because you could say that most drama is about two characters in conflict across a table, even when it's about three or four characters, it's about characters in conflict with each other or with life or - as in Samuel Beckett's plays - in conflict with existence. And if there's no conflict, there's no movement. Also, you can play with the listener's expectations. If they think they're going to encounter the hero here and the villain there, swap them round, so you're slightly wrong-footing the listener - you're not upsetting them so they turn off the radio - but you're raising the listener's curiosity."

Developing Dialogue
Good dialogue is not simply a matter of stringing together different conversations - every bit of speech must help the plot move in some direction, increasingly involving the listener as it does. If you have a problem with a scene, ask yourself what is happening at this point? If nothing is happening, that's the problem.

In addition to speech, the writer needs to think about sound effects, music, and, something rarely appreciated by the inexperienced writer, silence. Silence can convey a variety of things: suspense, anxiety, tranquillity. Pauses also help listeners take in what they have heard and help prepare for what happens next.

Remember that while the audience can't see the characters they don't want to be told what they are doing in clunky dialogue.

Mike Walker says: "Try to remember that as far as possible, characters shouldn't actually answer each other's lines, they should jump off from each other's lines onto something else, or turn corners or surprise people. This will also create movement."

Thinking in sound
A variety of sounds is essential for holding the listeners' attention and engaging their interest. This variety can be achieved by altering the length of sequences, the number of people speaking, the pace of the dialogue and location of action.

The contrast between a noisy sequence with a number of voices and effects, and a quiet passage of interior monologue (the actor thinking aloud to himself or herself) is very effective. There is also a good contrast to be achieved between an indoor setting and an outside setting.

Sound Effects
These should be used sparingly and effectively. They can be used functionally, e.g. door opening, or to create a mood, e.g. dogs barking in the distance on waste-land. If used to excess they become tedious and pointless.

Adjusting to fit
Radio plays must run to exact lengths as the programme schedule is always fixed. There is no way of measuring the number of minutes by the number of words or pages. The only reliable method is to read the script aloud against the clock, making allowances for sound effects, music and pauses.

Radio plays can very rarely be produced without some changes to the script sent in - this applies even to very experienced writers. If your script is accepted for production, be prepared to work with the producer, making cuts and changes in scenes if necessary.

Setting your script
A clear layout helps to read your script quickly and easily. Scripts should be typed if possible, using one side of the paper only. Names of characters should be clearly separated from speech and should be given in full throughout. Type all directions and sound effects in capital letters if you are writing in English or in bold letters if you are writing in languages where there is no upper and lower case. Please attach a synopsis (a brief summary) of the play to the completed script, together with a full cast list and brief notes on the characters.

7 tips for writing Radio Play

1. Create a visual picture. Writing for radio requires you to paint a picture in the audience's mind. This means the use of descriptive words to build up images that enable the listening audience to identify with the characters, the world the characters live in and the atmosphere for each scene. Use of color is very important to create the image in the listener's mind; for example, have the characters mention such things as "the vast blue sky", "the shimmering red evening gown", "the bright yellow VW", "the luminous orange iPod", etc.

2. Use the narrator device. A narrator is very useful in the context of radio:
a. The narrator can lay out the scene, explain action sequences and wrap up the scene.
b. If you are writing a radio serial, the narrator can summarize the previous episode's action.
c. The narrator can switch between scenes: "And meanwhile, back at Joey's pad, the dogs had eaten all the party food...."

3. Create action through dialogue. Since all you have to work with is dialogue rather than props, a setting, or visual cues, your dialogue will need to work hard. It can be used to describe action as it is taking place: for example, "Oh look! Jenny's car is rolling through the fence of that field and into a ditch. And George is running after it as fast as he can! Should we help?" Use verbs to paint your active scene and be as descriptive as it is possible to be in a conversation or discussion to describe the scene occurring around the action.

4. Make the most of sound effects. Sound effects are the radio playwright's best friend and also the entertaining part. Work in sound effects to bring the play to life. Consider such sound effects:
a. Doors - opening and shutting them creates options for bangs, squeaks and knocking; doors in the wind create the opportunity for a relentless soft banging or a creaking etc.
b. Street sounds - children's cries, school bells, scooter zooms, freeway traffic, street vendor's cries etc.
c. Kitchen objects - a kettle whistling, a toaster popping up, knife scraping butter into toast, lids of jam jars being popped open etc.
d. Astounding noises - things to wake up your audience such as an explosion, a car crashing, an angry mob shouting etc.

5. Include music. Music in the background can help to set the mood of your play. Obviously, you can match music to feelings, such as sad music for sad occasions featuring death or loss; happy music for good news; suspenseful music for a scary or worrying moment and fast music for increased action or a chase. Music also sets the opening and closing tone of a radio play, serving as the aural curtain for your play.

6. Create believable characters. As with any play writing, you need characters who are believable. Yet, radio allows you some leeway; you may write quite a number of characters into your play but when it is produced, the actors may be able to change their voices to cover quite a few of the characters without needing a large cast. Therefore, do not feel hemmed in by worrying about the lack of recording space!

7. Be precise and clear with your language. Everything must be clear in the language because your listener cannot view a character using facial expressions, waving arms about or throwing objects etc. Silence must be used carefully so as not to convey an empty space; silence cannot be used for great effect on the radio as it makes listeners think the power has gone off. Use it sparingly. 

References: (http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/arts/features/howtowrite/radio.shtml
http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Radio-Play)

(The author, a journalist turned media academician presently heads Dhenkanal campus of Indian Institute of Mass Communication. He can be contacted at mrinaliimc@yahoo.in)

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