Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Netflix of television journalism how it lived, failed and its ideas live on.Pt III

The frenzy during its launch both excited and terrified the media. A bunch of twenty somethings were about to be unleashed and they possessed something of the dark arts of television.
They could do just about everything that needed done by specialist in news gathering. Today, no question they would be data genies, SM specialists and television-journo-scientists.
It wasn’t about what journalism was as whatever they required outside of it to give it a boost, both in the storytelling and blurring the lines of disciplines.
Backed by tens of millions of pounds and one of the UK’s most respected media moguls, Sir David English, who adopted a hands off approach, every mogul from around the world worth their salt would visit the station to see them, and the equipment at work.
Before YouTube was conceptualised, the station ran a programing schedule controlled from a PC which automatically cued the news like a Juke box. IThey were also the first in Europe to transmit live on the web.
This is the story, you’ve never heard. It’s not alone, as you may be able to recount innovations you know of that should be heard, but this is one of them — Innovation at its zeitgeist. And how the idea lived, died with the closure of the station, and its legacy lives on. That legacy has a currency for television today and the role universities could play.
I’m David. I was one of the group (2nd row, 1st left picture) — chosen with thirty journalists from three thousand candidates. Before that I worked on one of the BBC’s most innovative current affairs programmes, BBC Reportage,in Apartheid South Africa eventually reporting Mandela’s inauguration and then working for Channel 4 News and Jon Snow.
In 2005 I became the first Brit to win the coveted Knight Batten Award for Innovation in Journalism, and have lectured (as a visiting professor) and taught innovation around the world e.g. Russia, China, and Africa and presented at places like Apple.
In my last post, I spoke about how television journalism generally rarely led in innovations in tech, which was exploited outside. It was very good at adapting external ideas — from cameras, studio settings, satellite transmissions and latterly in online and its use of video players alongside social media. These usually occurred after lengthy considerations. Yet in 1994 — a group of executives stuck their neck out and did something.
Unlike any other news outlet in British television you can mention today, out of the stations thirty journalists, those from Black, Asian or ethnic backgrounds, or that were women was above the average of any mainstream outfit then and today. The stories came from their communities and viewers. It wasn’t uncommon to be walking down the road and have a van driver shout “Oya Channel One”.
They innovated within the story, the way they told the story, and the range the range of stories. Its journalists abandoned the industry’s style by mixing up genres to cinema — the very thing 40 years ago that was abandoned ( see Pt II).
Dimitri Doganis (2nd back row, 2nd from right above photo) was one of the youngest journalists. Today, he’s an Oscar nominated, BAFTA winning filmmaker who founded RAW TV and talks about innovation at Channel One.

I reserve the greatest sense of innovation for the fact this little known outfit Channel One pioneered videojournalism, selfies, multiple storytelling and reality programming.
A decade later that experience and craft skill would lead to me winning the Knight Batten Award for Innovation in Journalism, International Videojournalism Award and other labels.
Many of the gang of thirty continue to make an impact on the industry in one shape or another: Marcel Theroux (back row, 3rd right) makes exemplary documentaries (as does his brother Louis); Rav Vadgama @TVRav ( not in the picture) is the videojournalist/ cameraman/ producer/ director who brings stories with correspondents to Good Morning Britain, Sacha Van Straten @svanstraten to my right is doing amazing things in technology with education, and Rachel Ellison (front row, Left kneeling) is an MBE, having worked in Afghanistan.

That experience combined with my background too as an Applied Chemist, a passion for art (I was an artist in residence at the London Southbank Centre) and deep interest in culture and politics, led to the creation of a media lab, where we (students myself and colleagues) could interrogate media in ways it rarely does.
Generally making sense of media in education and media largely revolves around cognitivism and semiotics — a culturalised system. One is about common sense, the other learned values. But it’s missing something that we introduced into the lab. An insight into what’s happening in our brain during storytelling.
How do words and images shape our behaviour at a cellular level and why are teenagers less interested in say news? Combining cognitivism, behavioural theory, parts of neuroscience, entrepreneurialism and psychology, we enter a new approach to media and one that I believe every training and teaching centre should adopt, and how educating the public could insulate them from “dead cats and squirrels” and spin.
Did you know that even before social media arrived, youngsters would feel restless or watch television for hours, whilst doing their homework, and that as a parent you’d tell them umpeenth times about making up their room?
Generally their lack of interest to character driven films above plots is also a symptom. In her book Inventing Ourselves Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore provides some answers. New knowledge in neuroscience shows the prefrontal cortex — the front part of the brain where decision and executive functions take place is still growing — up until around 25 years.
Professor Paul J. Zak’s work includes hacking Oxytocin — a hormone associated with social bonding. He’s been working to understand how stories motivate and says: developing tension during the narrative. If the story is able to create that tension then it is likely that attentive viewers/listeners will come to share the emotions of the characters in it, and after it ends, likely to continue mimicking the feelings and behaviors of those characters.
Whilst a paper I delivered on Memory which included talking to a former colleague of mine Professor Catherine Loveday narrative she says:
A news story is a shorter piece of information. It may be something that doesn’t engage you as much and so you don’t pay too much attention to it. More importantly it hasn’t necessarily got a narrative that runs through it. So you don’t invest in the story psychologically or immerse yourself the same way you would a film in which you’re relating to the characters integrating it with your own knowledge base and experience.
It’s perhaps early days for factual storytellers and news, but fictional storytellers have been aware of the psychology and neuroscience for a while. Perhaps it’s about time all journalism students should as well.
You can read here part I and II

Author Dr David Dunkley Gyimah is a winner of the Knight Batten Award for Innovation in Journalism, and National Union of Students Teaching Award. He’s a former BBC Newsnight, Channel 4 News and BBC World Service Journalist, whose work is featured in several academic books

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Mobile Journalism Futurism. Where do we go from here?

It absolutely blew them away. As the man who would be President of the United States of America made his way through a throng of people towards the stage, mainstream media (MSM) faced a searing problem they did not know.
They waited outside, cameras fixed to their tripod, but when John F. Kennedy started to walk through his adulators no one could follow him, except one person. Albert Maysles. Maysles was part of the new Cinéma vérité band of brothers, who were revolutionising filmmaking and what it meant to be mobile, swift, immersive, intimate and creative.  
Whatever you read about in mobile phone storytelling today can’t be told without these guys, and whatever you think you’re doing new in film making language in mobile, forget it, it’s already been done. Countless filmmakers like Ridley Scott were influenced by, particularly, Robert Drew, the father of Cinéma vérité.
Problem is we have short memories. The 60s might as well be a time tunnel, and even when we do know, we choose intentionally to ignore, otherwise we can’t make that claim of being the first, in say mobile, or immersive, or intimate journalism.
Robert Drew, his camera friend Albert Maysles, D.A Pennebaker and Robert Leacock changed the world in the 1960s. There’s a fine BBC film which backs this up too. I’m a philosopher, journalist, entrepreneur and educator and whilst undertaking my doctorate exploring the history, cognitivism and psychology of film through journalism, cinema, photography and video, I made it my point to track down these 60s heroes and try and understand through a new lens of multimedia, mobile and videojournalism what we might be missing today, and how we might benefit from their deep wisdom.
At the point that Maysles speaking at the Sheffield doc festival held his camera aloft, snugly tucking himself into Kennedy’s slip stream, in one unbroken 20 plus second shot, he nails it (see video below).
Soon after, in a hall of cheering fans, the shot fixates on the next @fotus’ hands fidgeting. Perfect. How could anyone wish for anything more? The explicit and the allegorical diametrically morphed into one sequence.
Like a 12-pound new born baby, mobile journalism had arrived with aplomb.
This is Primary (1960) and this is my interview with Robert Drew, which I played at Apple store in London. Primary is part of the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress.

History can’t be erased. ‘Mobile’, ‘intimate’, ‘immersive’, ‘cinematic’ — scratch the surface of film knowledge and authors such as: P.J. O’Connell, Peter Wintonick, Jill Drew, and Brian Winston lay out the case. We’ve been here before. ‘I don’t think much has changed since the 1960s in styles say Professor Winston, an Emmy winner and prodigious author of books. ‘…but I could be wrong’, he adds hesitantly.
Recently in a room of avid filmmakers wanting to learn the art of 21st century journalism on a mobile, we put on an experiment and hands-on practice to test various recently claimed theories. I show the delegates a 2 min of six videos and ask if they could categorically pick out the films that were shot on mobile. I’ve listed the videos and links at the end of this post.
Some get one or two, but the consensus is a degree of uncertainty. Thus far, I make the assumption, there is no universal or general lingua franca that the mobile phone, as a convenient camera, has spawned. However, there are pockets of cleverness, born of the use of using a small camera, which distinctly shows up. In a granular deconstruction of Philip Bromwell’s film by delegates, one picks out the coffee bean shot at 1.23. Bromwell places his camera in a pot, with Elvis, his subject, pouring coffee beans on top. Few cameras e.g. Go Pro Sony W800, could capture the same aesthetic.
They also pick out an aesthetic quality. Bromwell’s use of what in the business is known as extreme close up. In 1928 Carl Theodor Dreyer’ s Joan of Arcpublicly got there first. But perhaps by using the wide shot sparingly and more close ups we could be moving into a new framing ontology. And for trainers swearing by the mobile phone’s exclusive intimacy. Er, caution! In Salesman, a hard hitting seminal doc about Bible salesman in the US, by David and Albery Maysles there are several scenes that will have you likely describe as intimate. As the late Roger Ebert expressed:
The newer technology dovetailed with Direct Cinema’s philosophy of caring more about intimacy and immediacy than classical storytelling and slickness.
The verdict? Mobile phone journalism today as a movement that attempts to furrow an indelible stylistic path, different from predecessors, is still wide open — still in its infancy. In Moscow, working alongside Oksana, the of the region, she uses her mobile attached to a selfie stick to invade personal spaces, where the presence of the filmmaker would make things awkward. The camera is thrown around as the selfie stick gives rise to a crane-like effect.
How an innocent small piece of tech could perform near the thresh hold of a professional cameras put us all in awe — all of which make today’s mobile journalism a viable, low cost option to filmmaking. That is its USP. Editing, post production, sharing to social media is something Robert Drew and friends could not do. There’s an economic imperative, but it mustn’t be confused with an excellence in film language. There is a reason why given a larger budget award winning mobile filmmakers opt for different equipment like the Arri or Red.
All this is not to say journalism using a mobile phone has had little to offer. What has been marvellous has been its equivalence — it‘s ’like having an army swiss knife to crack open a high security building. The true frontier often ignored is the skill set of the trainer or journalist. It’s a philosophy of filmmaking that enables one of the world’s most respected filmmakers Steven Soderbergh to produce a film on mobile called Unsane.
And here what we should be studying above all in reaching new audiences is narratives which get to the psyche of audiences. This ladies and gentlemen is Cinema and if you’re interested I invite you to read this article, The Information Illusion, I posted not long ago.
These films below, for a university, hotel and a corporate event in Jaipur were shot on mobiles.

Shot on mobile below

Monday, May 29, 2017

Building Digital Transformations:The agility of branding, university communities and website modelling.

In our airy, white-walled office, we’re on a mission, to produce one of the first  Masters course  in the UK that merges journalism, image production and interactivity — a new kind of MA. 

“Agile business innovation is not only continuous it’s relentless”, says Neil Perkin and Peter Abraham in Building the Agile Business through Digital Transformations.

We’ve been relentlessly steering disLAB through what is a digital fusion — entrepreneurs meets academic enterprise, with the support of our faculty. The Digital and Interactive Storytelling LAB is a platform of tech with story and factual narrative, with cognate fields: philosophy, sociology, history and behaviour orbiting the nucleus.
Inside that nucleus its mitochondria comprise the image microscopically inspected by Dr Massimiliano Fusari whose passion is the continual investigation of its elasticity beyond its shape and form, both pragmatically and theoretically — the meta image.
Dr Sandra Gaudenzi’s expertise brings into sharp focus a historicity of i-Docs enveloping a multiplicity of moving image forms and how artefacts and projects are guided to completion, and then there’s me, a peripatetic journalist who sees the answer to future journalism’s form in the DNA strands of factual cinema and Art. It’s a construct, where filmic principles may be similar but the nuances in culture open the way for creative forms of expression.
If the biological references seem over done, perhaps that’s because our coming together frames another interesting facet, that is our lab ethos writ large in our title.
The question isn’t just about equipping cohorts with skills to make it into the musical chairs of employment made available by job hopping and retirements in main stream media.
The idea is to support cohorts to ambitiously develop their interests as innovators, hence diversity of ideas and people is greatly encouraged. In his best seller Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson writes that innovation is served by connecting people in an environment that ‘expose[s] a wide and diverse sample of spare parts — mechanical or conceptual — and they encourage novel ways of recombining those parts’.
As a team we’ve come to practice what we hold dear. Hence when we’ve looked outside for answers, we’ve been able to also pull on our own resources; the disLAB conference, or a video promo are examples.
The latter was completed in five days from concept to fruition — shot on a mobile phone and drone. In the video, there are multiples assets at work.
Photos curated in a professional photographic studio, typography, MTV cuts, and a tech-aesthetic from an interactive white board. It’s as much our calling card as what awaits any potential student joining; the art of promos, alongside innovatory news-based productions.
At the final disLAB meeting, Simon P.P. Williams, COO at Mitenkai expressed the view, echoed by others, that the disLAB event could have been longer. What if we actually did that? What if we held an open day of disLAB lecturing and experimenting, taking the community we’ve come to know on a fresh journey.
The word that might come to mind is hackathon, but I see it as an opportunity for something else. If you frame a lecture or a practice, the use of practical, commercial and theoretical skills buoyed by, say, spot research yields something akin to a a lab research programme.
Imagine for instance inviting ‘thick description’ research into product building supported by classical and contemporary book club reads? Imagine leaving the lecture room for the locations to problem-solve? And then documenting them as an epic interconnected media fest. “How to be a top writer in Journalism,” I asked in a previous post after @medium informed me I was on their top writers list. That needs sharing.
Just a thought! Again, agility and innovation last Tuesday took centre stage. Following an upbeat meeting, we needed a new website to reflect our plans and to announce to cohorts our intentions .
Five days later and a couple of death marches, hacking at HTML and CSS often from Six in the morning to One at night, I’m back in my dotcom days. The first phase of the new site is nearly ready [see screen shots below].
Meanwhile, Mass has just completed created a video presentation to the UN for one of his projects, and next week we’ll be creating a series of short videos we’re calling ‘great tips’. Sandra demonstrates how to prototype a virtual reality framework before stepping into the real thing.
That mission statement we had has legs.  It’s starting to run. Your company would be very welcome.
To know more about the disLAB, you can find us on our twitter feed DisLAB or from our website/individual accounts at disLAB. That address will change in a couple of days when we officially launch and make the comments section active

Sunday, May 07, 2017

The Fake News Challenge - ‘If corporates can do it, why can’t you?’, they ask.

At that given moment, Edward Bernays gave his cue whereupon a group of rich debutantes in a parade walking down New York’s fifth avenue pulled out cigarettes from their stockings and lit up. They’re smoking torches of freedom, the PR guru would tell awaiting press and photographers. Freedom? Why yes, the fight for women’s liberation.
Edward Bernays, often cited as the father of PR, had successfully pulled of his first domestic fake news story (1929), in the process polluting the suffragettes movement by aligning it with a corporate sponsors urge to shift more cigarettes. It made headlines around the world. Welcome to PR, a name Bernays coined because it sounded good.
‘I decided that if you could use propaganda for war, you could certainly use it for peace and propaganda got to be a bad word because of the Germans using it…so we found a word, council on public relations. (see here: 8.01")

Bernays would successfully deploy other false news events, masqueraded as real news. When the Pork industry wanted to off load more of its product, but curated meat had limited outlets, Bernays paid doctors to tell the American public a bacon breakfast (with eggs) was good for you. They lapped it up and that diet which has stuck with us today has made its own indefatigable contribution to the cholesterol/fatty diet debate.
Today, a sizeable chunk of news will feature PR companies of one hue or another peddling their clients’ pov falsehoods to hike their profits — from chocolate is good for you, smoking causes you no harm, and nuclear fusion in a test tube will bring unlimited energy. Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons, in 1989, yielded one of the most torrent backlashes in the science community. Notwithstanding the duos impeccable credentials, even when other boffins doubted, the newspapers knew they had the equivalent of Freddie Star ate my Hamster. Incredulous, if not dubious, but it grabbed column inches.
‘If corporates can do it, why can’t you?’, perpetrators ask. In a world of limited news outlets, news producers were either culpable, or duplicitous, but that was fine because there was a sense it was manageable. The joke was on others. The deliberate attempt to smear football fans and family at the tragic loss of life in Hillsborough showed a malevolent deeply darker side. In 1992 at BBC Greater London Radio, a network television reporter describing the LA riots extolled how blacks were looting stores. ‘Hang on!’ said a producer, who promptly rang the network’s news desk to complain there were blacks and whites.
And now with a galaxy of sites purporting to be news producers, this thing, now given a brand name, ‘fake’ has ‘gotten out of control’. The BBC’s first director general Sir John Reith said almost 100 years ago, when confronted with the idea that news could be synchronous like CB radio, that you couldn’t trust the public to know what to do with this power. Whether knowingly misleading, or lacking the evidence in the first place, neither contributes to the good health of knowledge and beliefs we will use to make judgements.
Recently, Facebook weighed in with what it sees as a helpful address to fake news. Check the url, it says and a slew of other things , while staying in the wall garden of FB. Mike Caulfield in a riposte was having none of it. FB’s measure were cosmetic enough for anyone to code a bit here and there to shore up the “about us” page, or become more sussed spelling correctly.
The problem isn’t a set of listicles as a fact check, but a deeper critical cognitive awareness of stories examined via different methodologies. At the heart it’s detective work, which requires substantive cross referencing, and not necessarily trusting what your eyes and ears are telling you.
The problem with the screen generation, a journalist friend tells me, is few people want to go back to the source to find the origins of the story. Storyful, a digital agency launched by a former news correspondent, Mark Little, showed a blue print for how social media companies could verify news and its source.
In his book News, philosopher Alain de Botton makes an obvious point. We teach young people about Shakespeare and the classics, but not much in the way of media literacy to decode newspapers and television, he says. The Internet and social opens a new dimension where competition, the pace of story turnover, and the clicks monetised as capital (Bernays in the 21st century) is a toxic allure that isn’t going away any time.
Part of the behavioural problem is the atomisation of the news ecosystem. When once a team of people were responsible in a work flow to spot fakers or there was a corrective body, however toothless, today stretched news orgs rely on the solitary judgement of a journalist. PR and fakers with deep insights into story structure and agenda know where and when to set of a literary time ordinance. If you write it to look like news: grabby lead, W5H, quote in second para — job half done.
Then there's the inevitable, adduced by social scientist Gustave Le Bon in the 1800s. People in a crowd act irrationally and can easily be swayed to act upon their fears.
Furthermore, all it takes is for any social network to take a bite exposing themselves to the blue dye for the whole network to become tainted. You’ll hardly manage any blow back too when your upbringing has fed you with stereotypes and sensationalism . Yes! Father Christmas is real.
The panacea, or quick fixes are as illusionary as the items. The wisdom of crowds suggests if you talk to enough people for corroboration, the truth will out. But that depends on the crowd/network. Thankfully, pro agency websites e.g. Reuters can still be relied upon. But vigilance and a new raft of technological features may in the end kick this thing sideways, for a moment.
Fake or hoax news is never going to go away. Wasn’t it just over a 100 years ago that two of the US’ biggest newspaper tycoons Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal went to yellow journalism war? Same colour today just different actors.
More on medium or see what David is up to at

What Did Journalism Ever Do For Us?


Here’s my story! Skip if you want, but this is my intro to journalism
I was being moved from one foster parent to another in the UK before my Dad hauled my sisters and I off to Ghana, where he’s from. I got put into a boarding school (with a cadet military wing) set up by Eton missionaries. Exciting, but bloody hard life for a 12-year-old. I wrote an article for our school mag about the Neutron bomb when I was 13 about humanities impending apocalypse. Precocious!
Couple of boys used to read this American magazine called GQ and dress up like dandies. In 1981, I got caught up in the cross-fire of Ghana’s military coup wearing cadet garb. We boys were helping to look after an international football game when warring factions of soldiers kicked off. People had been sold this fake report that the country was being invaded by Libyan soldiers. I got heckled and pointed out because of how I looked, so had to flee home for my life, shouting in twi (native language) I was Ghanaian.
There were only one or two professions I was meant to pursue. That was the patriarchal way: a doctor, or a lawyer. Law, uh, uh! I baulked at medicine, when I was shown a face being peeled off by medics. Nearest stop was pharmacy and I was pretty close, before at Uni — De Montford Uni in Leicester (It was a polytechnic then) — I discovered journalism and started freelancing for the BBC and writing for our university mag.
Thirty years on with journalism in turmoil or in an excitable state, depending on your point of view, and a doctorate that explores cognitvism and storytelling, a friend who always refers to me me as Geezer asked me: What Did Journalism Ever Do For US? Apologies to Monty Python followers.

Wecan all tell stories, but journalism’s structural form of storytelling is predicated on the psychology of crowd behaviour. It can be learned by mimicry, hence you don’t need a Masters which acts to accelerate the process of comprehending the dynamics of words and images on our emotions. Hence, that’s why citizen journalism was never a contested form, and the lines between journalism and marketing is a blur . What did journalism ever do for us? It taught us how to reduce what could be complex events and issues and reduce them to easily accessible experiences. It taught us, consciously to intuitively, how to produce breathless adventures that tickled the amygdala of our audience — that part of the brain that controls our reaction to stimuli — accentuated by visual, auditory and kinesthetics regions of the brain. Take South Africa’s first all-race election that @MsAlliance tweeted about yesterday. It was a momentous event, which I had the opportunity of reporting and producing on from the ground for the BBC World Service, BBC Radio Four and ABC News.

Then there’s stories I’ve produced near the Turkey-Syrian border, China, Egypt, a training project with journos in Russia, and a diving expedition in the Dardanelles looking for WWI ships. You become a story teller by dint of experiencing and recounting these things. The manner in which we unreel the plot of a story, something Russian formalists detailed, altered the reception and desirability of the story. In other words we could both have the same information, but one of us could alter the structure of our reportage, we’d have a different affect on our audience. However journalism offers a particular social framing and linearity for storytelling with conventionalised rules. In television, its methodologies are creaking under the weight of cultural and tech developments e.g. the Net and VR.


The ideal in journalism is to understand quadrants of a story that are unreachable by standing in one point, by listening to a point of view, therefore at its best journalism gives you access to share the company of diverse, interesting, and on occasion unorthodox people outside of your now nominal (Facebook) filter bubble. Without journalism, how do you hear about the other side or meet people you normally wouldn’t? I interviewed South Africa’s arch racist Dirk Coetzee who ended our interview by saying if I’d been this close to him ten years ago, I’d be looking down the barrel of his gun. When a couple of Afrikaners found out I was a Brit they urged me to atone for the British use of concentration camps in SA. My tax advisor, a former Storm Model thirty years ago wants to revolutionise the British tax system and asked me along to a meeting with Tax revenue department which I filmed here. What an experience. I was in Russia recently working with regional journalists getting a different and nuanced perspective about events in Russia. Journalism provides you with a legitimate excuse to explore the other side if you’ll take it?


In the 90s I was recruited as part of thirty people in an experiment to become this strange animal called a videojournalist — journalists who could shoot, direct, edit and report, as well as produce stories in multiple forms. I was watching Anthony Joshua’s world title fight on TV with Klitschko and thought back to when I was one of two videojournalists employed by Team Lennox Lewis to document his fight with Tyson in the US. Journalism as a discipline/vocation needs technology to develop as a business.
Urging the industry to introduce new technologies in the 1970s, without wanting to pay for it, television execs realised tape-based stories could cost less and allow more stories to be produced that film. Technology is a bottom line issue.
As an individual it forces us to be entrepreneurs and to engage with as many different technologies, trying to find fixes to new ways of telling stories and figuring why they work, and what they bring.
About ten years ago I was invited, as part of a ceremony, to speak at the Washington Press Club after designing and building in HTML/CSS/Java an online brand about multimedia story forms ( see end of piece). Unfortunately, the word “Journal” and “ism” is moribund. If you were a Martian landing on Earth, you’d rightly ask “where’s the journal?”. We no more write in a journal any more than engaging in the public perception towards the fixed ideologies from its ‘ism’. Hence each tech piece that could liberate us from the narrow confines of story telling drags us, sometimes kick and screaming back to the 20th century. Are there are parallels between Newtonian physics and Quantum states with journalism circa 16th century and today?


Journalism is piquantly constructed stories created to appeal to targeted audiences. News journalism is but one of its many strands — as documented in Andrew Marr’s My Journey. There is no such thing as objectivity, though rightly we strive towards it and the boundaries between PR and journalism are paper thin. Rather than provide us with all the answers, as we’re led to believe, journalism should be an adjunct, to make us more critical of what we see and hear echoing the mythical sentiments of one Mr Paxman who’s purported to have said, why is that lying bastard lying to me. In its poetic form it gets under the skin of power, and brings comfort to the oppressed. Too often though its television and nupes form can be a blunt 5-minute instrument, filler, crude and sensational troll to our irrational fears. The world is too important to be left to journalists, said someone, because they assemble complex issues as if they were IKEA packs.


For all it says turning spatial and temporal information and data into cause and effect narratives, it is significantly dependent on the journalist — as a matter of interpretation. Apriori knowledge matters in shaping narratives, not withstanding craft skills. Our beliefs, Descartians “who we are” infect our stories. Who we are, how experiences shape how we think, how our brains are wired is so concealed we ignore its potent force. For that reason, approaching a story from different sides means allowing for diverse views, diverse people, genders, and points of views — if we desire a more rounded story. However we routinely ignore these. Journalism should make us aware that education and diversity are critical in political spaces, if we believe inclusivity is paramount to development.


If we allow it, journalism by its own shortcomings, urges us to search for alternative answers to problems. In When Old Technologies were New author Carolyn Marvin paints a picture of the development and usefulness of emergent technologies. By the time a technology becomes public facing, much of its philosophy and psychological use has been pre-shaped by a few people. There’s a moment in the 196os when the father of cinema verite Robert Drew captures cinema as journalism on film and shows it to a network editor. “You’ve got some nice footage there”, the editor says blissfully unaware that the footage was the story. VR, 360 Presence Reality, Bots present new possibilities to crystalise information but through whose prism and hegemony. Thus far, journalism has found little answers to Dr Ernest Dichter’s depth manipulators. One of the ideas we advanced at the Digital and Interactive Storytelling LAB is fashioning videojournalism alongside a broader palette of image and textual narrative — something Drew did, and Vertov did before him. It’s called artistic videjournalism or cinema journalism and we’ve used it effectively on a range of stories and teaching the next generation.

Postscript — Filming in China

Does VR fundamentally shift the heuristics of making a movie and hence its biggest failure thus far is a) our wanton application of Euclidean thinking to understand circular geometrical space? b) What’s its aural sound equivalent? c) Does revising its conceptual production mean going beyond our nominal way of 2d spatial geometry? Is mobile journalism real or an invention by marketeers, and if it is can I tell a mobile production shoot as its USP apart from a conventional camera shoot? Is our predilection to shiny objects and the fear of being left out the reason we rubberneck into attending tech conferences?

End Notes

It’s invidious to use the word “Us” inasmuch as who is “Us”, but I thought of leaving that open to interpretation.
Dr David Dunkley Gyimah heads up the Digital and Interactive Storytelling LAB and publishes