Module Analysis

Journalism is changing. The web is a platform offering numerous opportunities for writers, but with little filtration. Wikipedia in point, articles can be written and modified by anyone, so the onnus to fact check and research is diminishes in importance. Since the Internet has turned the consumer into the producer (or prosumer) the traditional role of journalists is becoming somewhat superfluos; why pay journalists to write a column when everyone from housewives to rockstars are starting their own blogs?

Through this module I’ve learnt how to effectively use blogs and social networking sites like Twitter. Previously I had set up a Twitter account, but wasclueless as to its potential. Each tweet, from established news sources in particular, is like a headline in 140 characters or less. After the initial class on Twitter I found myself a frequent visitor of the site and I feel it broadened my outlook on news access.

Having set up a few blogs in the past via WordPress I was already familiar with the site. I still enjoyed writing the individual module blog, however, as it focused on areas of the Internet I hadn’t really explored before, like Google Reader and Google News. Through the group blog I learnt more about the inner workings of WordPress and realized that my blogs in the past weren’t quite set up properly and thus not reaching their full potential.

As well, the group blog got me to reflect on blog design and its importance for appeal and organization. Group blogs take considerable planning in delivery and consistency of design, and as production editor I enjoyed the task
or creating a schedule and ensuring the group stayed on task.

I’ve learnt a lot through this module and I will continue blogging for many years to come!

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Audio – Suha’s lost interview

The interview and podcast I completed for the audio module were intense learning experiences for me. Initially, I had planned on interviewing my grandmother about her experiences during WWII, as well as doing a podcast on women filmmakers at London’s Birds Eye View Film Festival. Due to ill health my grandmother was unavailable so I reorganized my ideas and re-worked my recording plans.

I managed to secure an interview with Suha Arraf, Palestinian documentary filmmaker, whose film Women of Hamas was screening at the aforementioned film festival. I was nervous interviewing Suha because I had seen her film and was unsure exactly what questions to pose. The interview went great, but my zoom recorder mixed up my audio files and Suha came out sounding warped, thus I could not use this for my project. This was certainly a blow, as I had done all the work and secured a great interview; I was fairly upset.

Suha’s interview was out, so I used an alternate interview with Len Aldis, Secretary of the Britain Vietnam Friendship Society, that I had gotten while at Spitalfields’ International Women’s Fair. I also used vox pops from the Fair for my podcast. This was not ideal and I was disappointed in the class, and the fact that my first interview was not salvageable. Still the class overall was good as I learned the basics of Audacity, the audio editing software.  

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Video diaries and Chinese New Year

I chose to centre my video projects around Chinese New Year because it was an event occurring during the run of the class, and several of my friends within the exchange program are originally from Hong Kong and they offered to assist. When first discussing the idea with my friends I asked them what the most important part of Chinese New Year was for them, and they all said FOOD. I took that as my thesis and ran with it.

Interviewing my friends from Hong Kong proved to be somewhat challenging as one dropped out of the project due to on-camera shyness, and the other felt more comfortable being interviewed in Cantonese, her native tongue. I didn’t mind my friend, Peggy, responding in Cantonese, but it meant a longer time editing, as well as getting the original footage to her so she could assist with a translation. Even now, I believe some of the translations are not as direct as they could be; they are more round about explanations of the topic being discussed.

The only comment I have on how the overall video project could have been improved is if there had been better organization with the footage. I covered the topic through sit down interviews, cooking demos, vox pops and B-roll footage of Chinese New Year celebrations in London. When it came time to edit, I had too much footage and no idea had to organize it. I created storyboards and came up with a rough draft, but Reza suggested it was not captivating enough, so I started over. Thus, the reason I had to split the project into three segments was because there was little cohesion in the different footage I got, apart from everyone’s enjoyment of Chinese food!

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The Fat Sausage Retrospective

The Fat Sausage blog looks at food and recipes from a student perspective. The idea was interesting and fairly unique, although there are similar blogs currently online, like studentcooking.tv. The blog group used such sites, and others with comparable content as references when creating our blog, and tried to maintain a consistency in theme and tone throughout. For instance, the blog

Courtesy chestnutmeats.co.uk

http://gradcooking.blogspot.com/, which was extensive in posts, but lacking in design, gave the authors hints on things to try, but also to avoid.

The Fat Sausage worked as a blog because the writers, being uni students, had a strong connection to the intended audience. The writing was well crafted, in most respects, and the group did try to preserve a framework for writing, publishing and picture placement. From start to finish, The Fat Sausage worked efficiently and all the authors stayed true, more or less, to the schedule set out in the week prior to going live. The real success of the blog can be seen in the number of views throughout the two weeks, with our busiest day, March 22nd, totalling 129 views; fairly impressive for the blog’s second day. The comments also demonstrate an outside interest in the blog, because on the final day of posting, April 4th, there were 52 comments on 51 posts. The authors were all proud of this figure; even if several posts came from parents, friends or family members.

Overall, the blog worked well, but there were certain areas that could have been improved upon. The blog needed to use social networking better or more extensively to gain a better following and get similar bloggers interested in the site. Finally, the blog’s name could have been better researched, as all the other sites refer to student or cooking within their titles and are much easier to find because of it. Whereas The Fat Sausage, while amusing and appealing to the male student’s sense of humour, was not as effective as it could have been in generating traffic.

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BBC video & Guardian film art

The BBC News site offers a number of videos, mostly clips from earlier TV broadcasts. One particular video, Large Solar Flare Captured on Camera, exemplified the quick delivery format popular on the site. The solar flare story was short and to the point with very little substance, and seemed more like a piece to whet the appetite rather than satisfy someone hungry for the story. Also, this story seemed to come out of nowhere, with no links to other relevant material and only a brief explanation of the event (the flare) itself. The piece could have benefitted from interviews with NASA professionals, experts in the field, or even just a glimpse of the reporter detailing the story, as opposed to just voice over. Interviews and additional material may have been featured in the TV broadcast, but a little more could have been done for the web content.

The Guardian seems to put a little more effort into its video material. A mix of editorial types, the Guardian online seems to favour more artistic film styles as well as cut and dry news or how-to videos. Gaddafi’s pipeline a livedraw animation by Peter Blower, exemplifies the Guardian’s inclusion of unique material, lacking from other news sites; the animation is like an editorial/political cartoon come to life.

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Online news sites: some comparative shopping

The Onion: scroll is too long on homepage and the site is a little too cluttered with information and ads. Because the site functions as a news source as well as a store for Onion merchandise the pages become too crowded with t-shirt ads; all Onion products should be advertised on a separate page.

New York Times: homepage looks like the frontpage of a newspaper so kudos for that, but the type size is far too small for the human eye to read accurately. There’s a reason why the packed newspaper format works better in an actual newspaper. The best aspect of the site is the links at the left side that again look like the contents area of a newspaper (love it). On the pages, like WORLD, the organization is a bit too jam-packed, as three columns on a computer screen is too much, especially since the middle column of information looks out of place – all squashed in there.

Sunday Times: love the homepage! Like NY Times it organizes its info into columns, but the width allows for better readability. The font is large and easy to read, the story links are set into blocks relative to sections, i.e. Business, Sports etc. However, it was difficult to find an RSS feed on the page, I’m not even sure if the Sunday Times has one. I like the links to the other Times sites, and overall this site has the best design thus far.

Montreal Gazette: now for some news from home! The website design is rather dull, the scroll on the homepage is a little too long and it feels as if the links and become repetitive when scrolling. For instance, I don’t think it’s necessary to have a ‘Headlines’ section in the middle of the homepage when most of the info and top stories have already been presented earlier in the scroll – poor planning there. But, unlike the Sunday Times it’s RSS feed is visibleat the top of the page.

courtesy creative commons

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Chinese New Year Traditions: in brief

I set about to learn what customs, traditions and foods were important for Chinese New Year. Being of Western heritage I was relatively unfamiliar with Chinese New Year celebrations, and even though my home town, Montreal has a small ChinaTown I had never visited during New Year. I interviewed my friend and fellow exchange student at Westminster Yumei Lee (or Peggy as we call her), who generously helped provide answers in Cantonese (as she felt more comfortable speaking in her native tongue) and translated her responses into English for use as subtitles. This video is as much Peggy’s as it is mine.

Check out these other Chinese New Year related videos made by yours truly

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