Time To Transform Our Media.

Melissa Compton.

I woke up this morning to an email, showing me a retweet from an ex lecturer of mine, it was someone questioning the values of the staff at a certain publication because of an article, and it got me all fired up here’s why.

These are challenging times to be sure and while drive and ambition are valuable assets, working in media is as competitive and tough as it’s ever been and I don’t think it matters whether we are talking about racism, domestic violence, or any of the other hot topic right now, I am a strong believer that education or in some cases re-education is the key to transforming our world for the better.

Here’s the problem with our media universe, I honestly believe this is a worldwide issue and it is in no way restricted to British media, currently we teach media students to aspire to and seek out fame and glory over all else, then we rightfully complain and challenge professional that put out stories that lack values at their core or in someway give a platform to someone with flawed values. We can not have both ways, if we teach that fame and glory are the goal we always run the risk of reduced values and lack of integrity. One of the first thing that was presented to me during my journalism education was the National Union of Journalists Code of Conduct – I was in university and failing to keep to it was automatic failure. It was a defining moment for my career because now that Code of Conduct is the framework for all I do and honestly I think it should be adapted as a framework for all journalism – most of it is common sense, but it does teach accountability and honestly with some media causes barely covering journalism it can be a vital tool.

But here’s the thing imagine the difference we could make if we just taught media students to aim for better values, to write honest, straight-forward work, to remove the element of fame and popularity and to write and publish journalism, that represents honesty whatever the topic happens to be articles that show both sides of a story instead of a single angle. Holistic journalism is the way forward, when you think of all negative coverage publications and media in general receives if we were presenting a balanced view we could avoid it. That starts with how we teach our students, with the publications we start, with the publications we support for instance I have never brought any other paper than The Guardian – because generally I like their approach and some of their opinion pieces, but if they covered a story that conflicted with a value of mine I wouldn’t buy that copy.

Change start with small steps, I believe that the power of education is not being tapped into enough, we are still teaching outdated attitudes and structures, the hunt for fame and glory worked well during bloom periods like the 90’s but we are in a new world a new time and it’s time the media industry as a whole transformed to better represent that time – after all any media is simply a re-representation of something.

I can remember attending a meeting for a MA in Journalism course, and being told things like we’ll teach you to write for a big London magazine 99% of our students go on to write in London, we’ll teach you to walk away from publications and companies that don’t pay you the going rate which they considered to be £250.00 per article (why then does every journalist I know have a second job?) We’ll teach you what you can and can’t say, ask, print. It’s not hard to understand why I decided to walk away and start a my own publication with my own values, none of the above was of interest to me, firstly there’s no point demanding a fee people can’t afford to pay but essentially what as a student I wanted to hear was how they were going to help me develop my talent, would they teach me to pitch articles, or manage a freelancer business, or find publications whose values matched my own. Honestly London wasn’t a draw for me, big and glossy wasn’t where my intentions were set, quality of my work, integrity, accountability writing in a way that enhanced the experience of people where I lived these were my values. I left that meeting with the opinion that if I studied there, they would destroy all that I held dear about myself and turn me into another one of those fame-hunter types that I was encountering everyday.

For me it’s always been about the quality of the writing, one of the reasons I always say if I could write anywhere it would be Norwich is because the city fosters a creative freedom that is hard to find else where. So in a world where everyone is starting to question everything let’s write in a way that provides the answers without losing our values.

https://www.nuj.org.uk/documents/nuj-code-of-conduct/

Writing for Magazines: our advice and guidance.

Following a comment I received yesterday I decided to put out an advice blog about writing today.

Here’s the thing, I here the words “I have no experience” too often. Some of the best journalists I’ve met had little to no experience, I started with no experience. Every writer out there regardless of what they write started because someone liked something they wrote and gave them an opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong if you want a job as a journalist with a newspaper or magazine that accredited qualification is essential and invaluable if you work in news journalism it teaches you the legal framework what can and cannot be done as well as how the world and journalism works. But let’s take blog writing for instance every business has a blog these days it’s basically a conversation, the blog is a conversation you have with your public, your supporters much like this conversation I am having with you right now. Reviews contain certain elements but can be learned quite quickly by reading reviews by other journalists brings me to my number one tip.

1. Read as much as possible i.e if you want to write for a local community magazine read all their articles.

Before I wrote my first review I read every article Carl Marsh – Cardiff Times/Buzz Magazine had written to date, then I read articles from the two other journalists at Cardiff Times. (I tend to extremes, but you get the idea.).

2. Develop your own style, people are likely to remember you for the things you write. There’s no right or wrong here just be you. I was called “you wrote that “Hair” review” for months in Cardiff. (Hair the musical, I am rubbish at hairdressing.)

3. There are straightforward book that teach you the basis on writing reviews, features etc I will put recommendations at the end. At my very first interview for a job in a media office at Journal Publishing Plc in West Midlands, the manager interviewing me said “I give everyone a chance, but you never know who’s going to be good at this job” and it’s true, it stayed with me through the years and I adopted it as a sort of mantra in the end.

4. You will learn more from practical experience and colleagues, than you will from a book. Honestly I am starting to practice things now a colleague suggested a year ago. and I constantly and annoyingly picking Rob Turner’s (Reynard City) brain on stuff.

5. Write about what you know, start with something your confident with you may just fall in love with the theme.

6. It’s about trying, editors tend to be busy people and therefore are quite straightforward: they will let you know politely (hopefully) if they think its not for you. and if you’re lucky enough to work in a media office, remember not all media offices are the same, I can remember walking out on one media office declaring I would only write freelance from then onwards only to walk into another one 2 weeks later and love it.

Oh if you should write and love it and decide to do a qualification research the accreditations each section of journalism has there own body for accreditation.

Resources:

Feature Writing for Journalists by Sharon Wheeler –

Available from amazon.co.uk £10.71

Writing for Journalists by Hicks Wynford , Sally Adams et al –

Available from amazon.co.uk £15.21

National Union of Journalists Code of Conduct available here: https://www.nuj.org.uk/about/nuj-code/ – I use this as a guideline its mainly common sense.

http://www.issu.com – read magazines for free.

You can read the Norwich Nights Magazine blog regularly.

The message of this is if you want to write just go for it.

P.S and just ask, have fun. The best journalists have a natural curiosity about everything around them.

Melissa Compton (Editor)