Thursday, 20 December 2012

WINOL Year Three - Weeks 1 to 9 - Review

In this post I'll be looking back at my time on the WINOL features team in my third year at the University of Winchester. This post will serve as a means of summarizing the main events each week during the term.

Note - This post will not serve as my critical reflection. My critical reflection covering the term can be found here


Week Two

The first main challenge for the WINOL team involved organising and filming the 2012 BJTC Awards. I was given the task of filming behind the scenes as the WINOL team prepared for the evening. I filmed the rehearsal process, along with some interviews of the students carrying out their own roles.

I wanted to make the feature feel as professional as possible, and I feel that edits made in Final Cut using on-screen text gave the piece a nice polish.

I filmed over the course of two days. My first day was spent filming the rehearsals and WINOL team meetings and the second day was spent interviewing the winners and gathering shots of the audience.

My final piece can be viewed here:

Among those interviewed in the final piece are:

1) ITV News Presenter - Alastair Stewart OBE
2) BJTC Journalist of the Year - Natasha De Silva
3) Journalist of the Year - Andrew Giddings
4) WINOL Editor - Ewan Kennerell
5) Producer - Henry Lewin-Titt
6) Graham Marshall
7) BJTC 'Best TV Newsday' Winners - Cara Laithwaite / Domonique Jenkins

The BJTC Awards kept the features team and a number of production members busy, so any content that went onto the website in Week 2 was related to the awards. At this point in the term, website progress was slow as we were only just getting to grips with implementing a concrete website template.

Kate Drummond also uploaded an image gallery to the website, which became the first of many on the website. Analytic data gathered over the following weeks later showed that the gallery gained some good traffic from across the web. The features board also had some strong content on it, so the coming weeks looked promising.

The News and Sports team were occupied with producing the first WINOL bulletin of the year. Among the headlines were stories on the BJTC Awards, a Southampton Sex Hotel and Rhinos at Marwell Zoo.

I thought it was important to emphasise the BJTC Awards in the WINOL bulletin and this was done effectively. Although I didn't edit the content that went into the package, I was glad to see my interview with Alastair Stewart was included. I feel I did well framing the interview, although the lighting was slightly problematic  I wanted to conduct the interview in the room where the awards were held, which meant having to put up with some blue lights above Alastair.

The package started with some footage of Alastair presenting for ITV, which was effective in showing viewers his background in the business. Alastair is a particularly strong and professional newsreader, so it complimented our bulletin to have him involved. Mentioning winners from the University of Winchester also looked very impressive.

As it was the first bulletin, there were a couple of technical issues with some of the packages. Obviously, this was to be expected, and I feel as a whole the bulletin was strong.

The first story from our Political Editor was well paced. We've covered Barton Farm many times before so ultimately the package served as an update on an existing project. The piece was slightly let down by recycled shots of the Barton Farm site. Clearly, the site is relevant to the story, but for viewers, having to look at different angles of an empty field was repetitive.

The story on the Southampton Swinger's Club was very strong visually. I thought the shot taken during the interview, which had both George and his interviewee in vision, was a refreshing variation on how we usually conduct our interviews. The VT was slightly let down at times by the audio quality. As far as I'm aware, this was the first time the News team had made use of the lip mics, so it was going to take some time to get the best out of the equipment.

Next up was Thomas Baxter's VT on mobile glass collection schemes. There was no reason not to use a tripod for the shots of the bins, particularly as it was a stationery object that was being filmed. The interviews were also framed incorrectly. The first saw the interviewee looking straight at the audience, with the camera tilted slightly. The second interview, although framed better than the first, was also slightly wonky. The shot should also have been pinched in during editing.

The Sport packages in the first bulletin of the year showed good promise. There were some nice shots, particularly in the AFC Totton piece. I also thought that Liam Garrahan's use of a slow motion replay looked very slick. It's something that is used all the time on other local sporting shows, so it suits WINOL very well.

Our first 'and finally' of the year was on Marwell's charity campaign. I thought Ellen's piece to camera with the rhinos behind her was a nice addition to the bulletin.

Week Three

Our week three WINOL bulletin saw some major improvements from the reporters, with less technical issues and problems related to interview framing and sound quality.

Ali was in the newsroom delivering the script this week and I thought the change of scenery was refreshing.
Without the help of an autocue, which would be present in the studio, Ali did well to remember the script and deliver it with confidence.The presenter was well lit under the corner lights in the newsroom and the backdrop, with the computers and reporters partially in vision, looked professional.

This new setup gave audiences something new to look at instead of a stationery background, which is what the studio offers.

Our Political Editor's piece on the Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner Debate served as an effective way of profiling each candidate up for the role. The WINOL team was to cover the debate itself, so it was ideal to give audiences an idea of who they'd be watching on the night. The profile piece on Jacqui Rayment was well edited, but the sound quality dipped slightly during the fact card graphic.

The interview with Jacqui was also slightly blurry as the shot had to be pinched in significantly to avoid an issue with a car number plate behind her.

Week three's bulletin contained arguably one of the strongest sport packages WINOL has featured in a while, Liam Garrahan's piece on Fabrice Muamba and life saving medical equipment. I feel that what makes the piece so interesting to watch is the variety of shots, the interesting subject matter and the effective use of still photos and archive content. Both the interviews in the piece are framed well and sound quality is strong throughout.

Harry Parkhill's University piece was a decent story, but technically it was poor. The sound levels and quality in particular were inconsistent, which sounded odd to the viewer. The opening line of Harry's piece was recorded in two different locations, which explains the dip in quality. The piece also starts with a piece to camera, which we're reminded regularly to steer away from. Generally, a piece to camera fits well before the first interview in a package.

The story on the toll bridge was well constructed. This is a story that affects local people directly, so in this instance the use of vox pops was justified. The camera was very overexposed throughout the VT which was disappointing  It was pointed out in the debrief that the story possibly shouldn't have made it into the bulletin simply for this reason alone.

Overall, though, this bulletin was a vast improvement from the one before it. The reporters had clearly taken on board the advice from their first efforts and have done well to build on their performances.

Week Four

The WINOL bulletin produced during week four was slightly late getting onto YouTube and indeed the website, but featured some strong content including the resignation of a Southampton Councillor, a story detailing the outbreak of scabies at the University of Winchester, coverage of the US Presidential debates and a report on a local arson case.

The headline sequence for the bulletin, editorially, was strong. The leading story on scabies was vital to cover because the issue directly affected students on campus. I believe that our coverage of the event was professional, informative and well produced considering the time constraints.

Our 'but first' piece saw George Berridge in the studio to discuss the resignation story. George spoke confidently on camera and the 'I spoke with' line that led into the Royston Smith interview felt very professionally done.

Introducing an in-studio chat and combining that with VT segments kept the bulletin varied. This was the first in-studio piece of the term and it was well delivered. Our guest editor, Chris Coneybeer, also said he felt the setup was interesting to watch as a viewer and something that should be used again on WINOL in the future.

WINOL's Political Editor Lou O'Brien then addresses the camera in the newsroom in the same location as Ali-Al Jamri did during the previous week. Again, this PTC location is ideal when it comes to lighting levels. Crossing over to the newsroom gives the sense that WINOL is constantly producing and gathering content, which is true.

The package on Stephen West and David Goodall was effective in providing audiences with the information needed to form an opinion on the candidates key policies and political history  As with the previous week, the audio quality in the VT was slightly inconsistent. The scripting, however, was very well paced and delivered confidentially.

David Goodall's interview location wasn't ideal and it was pointed out in the debrief that talking to somebody by the side of the road should only ever be a last resort.

Our next story on the scabies outbreak at the University of Winchester made the most of still images and archive content. The images of the virus under the microscope were interesting pictures and gave the piece a nice opening. The interview with Harry Stow was well framed and well lit, which was encouraging considering some of the interviews we'd seen in the weeks before. 

Next up was Harry Parkhill's story on American voters. Although the package started with a piece to camera, which we're told during debriefs not to do, I thought in this instance it worked well. It was nice to see a reporter do a piece to camera right in front of the action and Harry's PTC with the audience behind him, visually, was strong. The walking piece to camera was also a nice touch.

The report on the arson case was a powerful package, made even more engaging through the use of the photos of the burnt flat. It was vital to the VT that still photos were included, and Christina Michaels did very well in delivering the report. The piece to camera outside of the scene of the incident was well delivered and the inclusion of a mugshot was also very effective.

Week Five

The headlines this week included the Ford factory closure, vulnerable residents during Halloween, the Basingstoke Bison and the 'pub bus'. 'The beers on the bus go down in rounds' line in the headlines was a nice play on words and something that would put a smile on the viewers face. It's a light-hearted story, so it was right to have some fun with it. Another gem courtesy of Sam Ashton!

Our first story saw WINOL's Politcal Editor in the studio to discuss the upcoming Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner debate. Much like the previous week, the focus went from an in-studio chat to a pre-recorded VT. Again, this process worked well.

The interview with Simon Hayes was framed nicely, but Simon was in front of a plain, white wall. It goes without saying that this was an extremely boring backdrop to a fairly interesting interview, which took away from the clip slightly.

Faith's story on the Ford factory closure was well structured, considering that it's the type of story where gathering shots can be quite tough. The quote that appeared on screen wasn't ideal and obviously an interview would have been better, but in saying that the quote wasn't on the screen long enough for me to get bored of it. It was an interesting, relevant quote that needed to be included to bring balance to the story. The ending PTC was also well delivered.

Our story on Hurricane Sandy featured a strong, emotional interview with a student affected by the storm. Our guest editor, Graham Bell, said:

"The best thing about today was taking the US storm story. It's taking that national story and making it local. That's getting a real understanding of the audience which is what Winchester news is all about".

The next report on the car park boycott opened with a voiceover that was severely lacking in terms of audio quality. The interview with the Councillor was also unintentionally amusing due to the long pause in one of the answers. Ideally, this would have been the perfect place to use a cutaway shot to hide the edit.

Week Five marked some major improvements in terms of the WINOL website. A strong selection of features have appeared on the site and it seems the web team have decided to stick with a particular Wordpress template. This is great news, as now we can work off this base to expand the website further.

Our first competition launch is also gathering momentum. With the help of social media, we've been able to plug the competition in a number of places where it'll be seen. I also helped to hand out advertisement slips with Ben Hatton.

Week Six

Week Six on WINOL saw Myself, Lee Jarvis, Sam Sheard and Kirsty Phillips spend the evening at the US Embassy as part of WINOL's coverage of the 2012 American election.

My full report of the evening can be found here:

The final behind-the-scenes package I produced can be viewed below:

Week Seven

This week on the WINOL bulletin we changed things around in the studio and had the presenter sat on the desk during the headlines. Looking back on this alteration, I don't think it looked as professional as we had hoped. Although the script was delivered well by George, he looked awkward and uncomfortable in the position he was in. It's worth noting that perhaps it would be better for the presenter to stand up during the headlines, much like Channel 5 News.

In the headlines we had a story on the debate, a continuation on the Ford story, Basingstoke Bison and Winchester graduation ceremony.

We began the show with Ali Al-Jamri in-studio to discuss his work on the 2012 WINOL American Election special. It was a strong idea as it gave us a chance to show off the efforts that had gone into ensuring the show was a success. The content we produced on the nights building up to the election and on the day itself were very impressive and made front page news over at

Our Political Editor's package on the debate was visually very strong. Lou did very well to pack out the Stripe building on the night, and overall the evening was a huge success. On a personal note, I'm proud of my work manning the camera at the front of the room. From that location, I was able to get some great reaction shots from the audience as the candidates fought their corners.

The next story, looking at the Ford closure, began nicely with a shot of the closed factory gates. The package also made use of creative commons content in the form of pictures of George Osbourne. These stills added to the piece and helped provide the audience with some context. The interview clip featuring Ray Finch contained some strong, emotive quotes.

Ellen Milliard's story on the Ash tree disease was a well structured piece that made use of some nice visual elements. I thought the walk and talk with the interviewee was a good idea, but it would have made more sense to have him walking towards the camera instead of away from it.

Our story that ran just before this weeks 'and finally piece', which covered the Winchester graduation ceremony, was very important for us to cover as a local news team. Visually, the event was particularly engaging for audiences and the shots of the students emotions during the event were well captured.

This week on the features team the focus is on our December edition of WINOL Here and Now. There's some strong content in the pipeline that has been placed onto the planning board, and if these projects come through, we'll have an editorially strong magazine ready to showcase.

I edited and uploaded onto the website the features highlights of the American Election. Despite the fact the election has been and gone, it's the sort of content that will still gain traffic. Surprisingly  a clip I uploaded of Russell Watson singing the American National Anthem has already gained over 400 views.

Week Eight

This week I missed the filming of the WINOL bulletin as I was in Southampton at an Innocence Project talk. I rented out some camera equipment and with the help of Lee Jarvis, travelled to the event in the hope of getting an interview with Paul Blackburn, a man who was wrongfully imprisoned for 25 years.

Originally, I travelled to Southampton with Brian Thornton and a group of students to see a guest speaker called Ray Krone, an American man who was serving a life sentence on death row. Coming away from the talk, I felt inspired by Ray’s story and knew that exploring the subject of miscarriage of justice cases would be ideal for WINOL features.

Ray’s story was particularly interesting, but it wasn’t relevant to the UK’s legal system. This was when I decided to talk to Paul Blackburn, who was at Southampton the week after Ray. I'd been informed prior to the talk that filming in the building in which Paul was speaking was prohibited, so I went to the event with Lee Jarvis prepared to conduct the interview outside the venue if I had to, even though I knew this wasn’t ideal. I wanted a confessional interview and carrying that out anywhere other than a quiet location inside would give the wrong effect.

I decided to approach Paul at the end of his talk and asked him if an interview at Winchester would be possible. He said he appreciated the fact I’d asked him in person instead of via email and agreed to talk to me in Winchester.

Week Nine

This week my main task was arranging and filming my feature interview with Paul Blackburn.

The interview itself went well and what Paul told me was genuinely heartfelt. It was both the hardest and most enjoyable interview I've done for WINOL. In the end, I spent almost an hour talking to Paul about his experiences.

I feel the three-point lighting configuration, built with the help of Graham Marshall, gave the interview a nice visual polish. We were somewhat limited by the room we used in terms of space, but the way in which we positioned the cameras ensured this wasn't noticeable at all. Lee Jarvis and Dan Mackrell worked well on the cameras and framed the interview nicely.

If I'd had more time to work on the feature, I would have liked to produce a mini-documentary studying Paul's case and possibly more on the Innocence Project and its work as a whole, using other contacts at the Southampton Innocence Project and Paul's solicitor.

Since editing and uploading the interview with Paul Blackburn, the video has reached around 700 views and 34 likes on YouTube. It has become my most popular piece for WINOL and has also managed to generate the most views of any video uploaded to the WinchesterJournalism YouTube channel this term.

My final piece can be viewed below:

Our guest editor this week, Ben Mitchell, was thoroughly impressed by our WINOL bulletin. He said: "I was very impressed. I felt like I was watching a real TV broadcast that would work very well at the BBC, ITV or Meridian. I thought it was a great piece of Journalism."


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