Friday, September 30, 2011

I want to be a journalist

Mr Westbrook's right. His post on 10 ways to make the most of your journalism course hits the right buttons.

Adam also gives a reality check for aspiring journalists. 14k a year- that's if you can find a job at the end. These are indeed tough times. In the UK it's 2000 new applicants for roughly 200 media jobs - a piece of stats quoted from newsbeat about four years ago.

It does beg the question. Why you want to be a journalist in the first place, really?  But the world needs nosey parkers. I mean those who are bothered by things and can see how journalism can be used to scratch that itch.

As Marr writing in My Trade says in the UK we've not quite mastered journalism as a profession. It's something you kind of fall into and then haphazardly make your way. Well, you can't even rely on that any more.

I tend not to speak directly about what goes on campus. Even in the digital open world, some things must remain safe for students and participants to engage in without feeling exposed. That's what are classes are "safe environments' to make mistakes - an artistic practice, which journalists might call Chatham House Rules.

Hopefully within are safe system we can harness a spirit too of reciprocity. However speaking in general terms, hopefully class of 2011 have already had a taste of journalism 101.

In other words a simulation of the real world in the lecture environment. Broadly and it's one that many students share, journalism can still come across as a light switch which is a given. Quite literally you grab the switch of the wall and et voila' you're now qualified to do societies' bidding.

Adam draws your attention to the pros and conversely cons. If there is a wider observation about trainee journalists it's what academics would refer to as what constitutes  a "comfortable epistemology".

Fortunately, and if it were the case I wouldn't say - at least this year, but everyone knew about 9/11. Last year that wasn't the case with one student, who needed prompting several times before making the connection.

9/11 just wasn't something the student was familiar with. But 9/11 is just a wider reality and expression for journalism knowledge.

The journalism curve that shot up so exponentially in 2005 has stabilised, with my mother even knowing what a tweet is - and she is most definately non-techie. This plateauing is a source of jubilation and trepidation.

We're moving storytelling on - (sigh!) finally, but now everyone can do what you do. However, employers as a matter of employment evolution, need a fresh crop of youngsters to fill in the yearly musical chairs of retirements, resignations and those moving on.

So there's still hope for the job, but the suits now can't be hoodwinked. "Er Yes really get a twitter account and you'll save your paper".  Quite! At a conference with now Guardian Journalist Jemima Kiss years back, I remember someone from the floor saying all managers needed to "hire a youngtser, and not just for Christmas".

Then tweeter was an insult to be confused with twit.

The Today Journalist
Today then young aspiring journalists might need a little bit more, which combines academic rigour, technical saviness and a maturity that allows them to oscillate from team work, to isolated periods of being alone, either as entrepreneurial journalists or freelancers. Yes, it goes on, but each year, requires a new confidence to cope with the world.

It boils down to using the year to learn something often not taught, but by default made available - human behaviour in a digital age. Why will one person read your blog, as opposed to a lot more? How do you make your presentations attractive, while being caustic with your keys? What is it that sets us off?

One student who wasn't on our course wrote "journalism sucks". Already? Whilst another lamented what was a facile exercise in monitoring and deconstructing media?  Deference aside, a sought after commodity within any discipline, sometimes its difficult to ascertain cause and effect- unless you're in the army and you don't question that.

No, I'm not suggesting you don't question. In fact question some more and some, but at the point where your lecturer tells you "it's time for a death march", you could trust them.

As Dorothy Byrne says in results from my Phd enquiry; '"Those doing news now could trust us TV lost a bit more, we have been doing it much longer than them". Yep and I can hear the counter argument too, but there is a case to had here.

 And if you don't know what a death march is....

So here's my two bits to bolt on to Adam's. Journalism doesn't stop outside the lecture room, in fact that's when its intensified. Become voracious at everything - including steep lessons in contemporary and classical media histories.  Social networks for instance did not start with facebook. grrr! Thomas Hobbs Intelligent Commonwealth more than 400 years ago

"Commonwealths ( woops, sorry Hobbs) Social Networks can be formed in two ways: through institution, or agreement; and through acquisition, or force. Although the group of people taken by force under a sovereign’s rule may resist the acquisition and depose the sovereign before he takes control"

Discuss and Share, not just tweets, but that round table drinks session at the pub. If you can squeeze in the EU bail out and what the heck it means, in between Desperate Housewives, you're morphing into the journalist.

We're entering a pernicious time in world politics, the economies doing its impression of a shark with tonic immobility. Money men meanwhile are lining their pockets with the fear that if the world collapses, they'll find a new home on Mars.

Oh yes - all of a sudden it will make no sense.

A labour party is in stasis, with a leader who looks like he's taking lessons from Thatcher, while the incumbent rulers are about to go to their conference and tell us we've never had it so good. By this time next year, the UK and a number of countries will not be what they were. The US elections looks like being the mother of all ding dongs.

All this is grist for the clever journalist, but it won't come looking for you. It's who dares wins. Truer back then, ever more so, now.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Political wastelander in Liverpool

Add caption
So, what will Ed Milliband's resignation speech be in 2014/15 after a defeat in which the majority of the populace would have been yearning for an alternative to the status quo?

Something saccharin and how he'd giving it his best shot, and a smacker thank you to party loyalists. The incumbents of No.10 couldn't give away the keys to government even if they tried.

Politics gives rise to that psychiatric condition known to others outside it of "distinct disillusionment".

It's when you're bestowed with praise for being a perfect leader, while unbeknown to the nominee reasons that have little to do with their own ability.

Call it the Over-X factor. Once the judges praise an individual, they often run the risk of believing in their own magnificence only to come hurtling back and burrowing into earth with a phsssh of a thud.

As the Labour party prepare for the week in the news at their party gathering in Liverpool, what must activists be thinking, as council in some roman tragedy silently tuttut against him.

Until two months ago, Ed still looked like something out of a Disney character. He did what he could but it never stuck. How close did he come to being shown the door? We might never know, until the gamble of going up against the Murdocks presented himself.

Perhaps he had no choice. Last chance saloon and all that. But it won him credits, that in reality now, he still doesn't seem to know how to cash.  Unless the cynical ploy of Uni fees being pegged to £6k is what he perceives to be a vote winner.

Why do people believe to possess something they don't; their delusional state screaming at everyone but them. At least King George VI had a stutter which accounted for an uneasy quiet across the auditorium.

That's because every potential incumbent enters politics and reach for the highest office looking like something of a nerd. They all learn on the job. They all try to convince us they are prime ministerial material.

Blair's Bambinism made him to inexperienced; Foots intellectualism suited ideologists but heavens what would he do if he got in. Cameron and co were the Bullingdon privileged. Even those who showed their metal were seen through understudy eyes. Winston Churchill just wanted to shoot em up.

There's a great film in the archives of a heist in the early 1900s, when the siege turns nasty and police corner the villains in a house that would eventually burn down, Churchill as Home Minister can be seen in old cine camera shot wielding a gun.

The summer hols appears to have done Ed some good though. He talks with the wind of a slalom behind him, jabbing at every point thumb pressed to index finger, and fixing his interviews with the stare that would make goats keel over an die.

Politics Media school course 101. If you close your interviewee down or come swiftly on their heels you negate any notion you're a ditherer. The electorate love that. Yes only if they're all jabawabers.

Trouble is Ed could do a Maggie, lower his voice range for a more masculine effect, and correct his posture so he looks inches taller,  but is anyone listening as we shuffle our feet looking at the specks of dirt.

The conceit of the disillusionment  means even if the patient is told they're still in denial. So to 2014 it will be, and the winner paradoxically will still be Mr Milliband.

For his loss and loss alone won't hide the fact that he led her majesty's opposition for so many years, and built up a small nest of supporters who will now acquaint him post-leadership with the hall of fame. History has a habit of being kind to those who falter. Milliband can count on that.

People of Color Must Innovate or Die in Digital Media

 On Media Shift from January, the ff from Knigh News Challenge Winner Retha Hill :

In December in this space I asked about the lack of minorities at new media conferences -- both as participants and as speakers. The blog post generated a lot of comments; a Twitter discussion, and the start of a list of wonderful experts -- all persons of color -- who can help make your next new media conference a success..  You can read more of Retha's post here

This is what I posted back

Hello, Retha et al,

I'm a tad late to this ongoing debate. Perhaps I need to get my bookmarks in order?  But I would add that while the cause, a lack of diversity in digital is as much an issue in the UK, I posit a number of suppositions why this is so our end.

I've arrived at these from my position as a senior lecturer and fmr broadcaster e.g. BBC and digital media maker over 25 years. Of course these deserve some empirical research but here goes:

1. There's a blurring division between digital now as a media industry and mainstream media when it comes to major job prospects. Hence mainstream media's Achilles of a lack of diversity has been passed down/up the technology food chain.

2. Whilst in the UK, there have been initiatives to encourage ethnic employment, which were geared towards a political era e.g. 80s and 90s, I'm not sure there have been any specific running initiatives of note encouraging diversity in the digital age.

2a If anything an underlying notion would have it that since digital apparently levels the field, there's little inclination to support diversity in digital e.g. encouraging more speakers of colour, or job prospectors. Democratization, as an oft repeated phrase suggests anyone can do this if they get the tools.

3. The lack of diversity at conferences may be visible, though arguably in the UK in the digital mags there's a high number of people of colour as pundits. However there's respectable levels of  activity I see outside from diverse groups. So perhaps it's about relevance. Many of the conferences being staged around digital have a high bar to attract industry figures and correspondingly medium to high fees.

4. A cause - effect of the steep and competitive knowledge economy has led to stark tiering, most obvious in education and media. You only have to cite the number of blogs by diversity groups /individuals within mass-distributed networks as an example.

5. This here is an interesting one for me that needs investigating, but if the net is about social networks e.g. communities and cultural attractors, even though any app purporting to help the aforementioned will have universal values, there s a perceived notion amongst pros I have come across that strategies to attract specific varying groups has a reduced need for others. 

How do we combat these and the many more other digitalists have noted? For me, its encouraging groups and individuals to become more interdisciplinary, to continue to probe into areas that mainstream and mainstream digital are yet to access. It's not a panacea, but it might help a bit for this and the next screen generation.

UK Knight Batten Winner 2005

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Movies of the mind

The idea of storing data in your mind like a mobile hard drive may not be far fetched.

In a fast approaching world where all data is being shared courtesy of the Facebook Internet by-law of 2018 - 'Share or we'll kick you offline", the only place to hide data may not even be a hole in your cranium.

Credit: Image courtesy of Freie Universitaet Berlin
If scientists can drive cars now purely through thought and electrode cables, then how far till we a) attempt to manifest these thoughts in a corporeal form e.g. movies, and then for someone to hack them anyway.

That's another discussion.

Movies of the mind already exist. Fictional Cinema. The illusion of the zoetrope - of flickering images that convince us of movement is a conscious aberration which we've shrugged off and accepted.

But creating films from the mind, well - that could involve a different sort of data excursion. Liquid films, altered realities.

This whole schema kicked at me this morning thinking about projects for the forthcoming festival of death at the Southbank.

Jude Kelly OBE, the Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre called us ( artists in residence) for a meeting about what we might have planned. I have got several, but one involves a taxonomy - which has emotional as well as business/ commercial values.

Language lives. We find new ways to express ourselves linguistically, though when was the last time you did this visually. Cinema linguist Christian Metz would have had something to say about this.

VideoJourney Beginning


Journey Beginning is an example of work which expresses transitions. In many way it represents the aestheticization of data again. By that I mean, we have become pre-occupied with making everything look appealing, as opposed to beautiful ( Kant), though I accept beautifying data is also on the rise.

Hans Rosling in this video on TED is beautfiying data

In the midst of writing this post, I went over to my tweet account and saw this:

Michael Zimbalist
by evanvucci
Scientists use brain imaging to reconstruct the movies in our minds. You've got to watch the video to believe it. Wow.
Amazing ! We're nearing the area of videojournalism transcendentalism or reverse psychoanalysis. 

where were you?

Another world's sun

Out there

Last remnants of the old world

The road of no return

Sunday, September 18, 2011 research, strategy & practise - new ideas for the future

The mood is changing. Slowly, surely in redefining critical theory from an unfurling future of journalism,  we're reconciling attributes that previously were divided: research and practice.

Part of the cause has been educational cutbacks, the other has been policy changes. The result, to push for academic research, which brings kudos to an institution and individual, with practical current knowledge of the status quo  - a tall order sometimes.

By research I'm referring to a reflective practice of interrogating existing knowledge or finding new ideas. And broadly, broadly, speaking practice in industry can be that which is traditional i.e. it always happens this way, or artistic.

Artistic practice rarely gets a look in within journalism which is rule-bound. It should, and will increasingly become so. That's the essence of multimedia at work.

The rub between theorists and practitioners is a perennial one. Theorists might talk about changing semiotics, practitioners film/shoot what feels right. Critical theory and strategy emerges from studies, yet the parameters of what and how we study sets up its own truth value.

Old journalism needs new creatives. Well yes, it always has, but what's different this time? And what are the certainties that still need to be retained?

Meanwhile, the thought becomes: How do I do this, better, yes, OK, but financially competitive than before, Or otherwise how do I do this at X cost and reap a dividend of Y profit.

We want to create the polymaths; I welcome that, but as an exercise its futile if there is no incentive from within oneself and what's perceived as industry expectation.

Shifting Media Aesthetics
When I use a third-shift aesthetic in my work. The term second shift emerges from Prof. Caldwell's book on New Media in 2003, I'm referring to collapsing different disciplines and rewiring a new practical-theory. However I can, I believe only understand what that process will yield if I have sufficient knowledge of both disciplines - as practice.  I must also be aware of what's going in industry.

Multimedia Sound from

Good multimedia I contend comes from an implicit deep understanding of sound/ audio and the image within the context also of creativity. That's why we bookmark sites like Devigal's Interactive Naratives, Multimedia Shooter and Honky Tonk Film's , to name a few. 

Creating websites from scratch which, my site, stands as one example that may have little currency for someone entering mainstream, I know that! But it otherwise may foster an entrepreneurial spirit. This is the currency of research and practice in action.

The schism between research and practice manifest itself all the while in Hollywood.

Experts talk about catering for the audiences, while another set claim the audience does not know what it want's until it's given it. No one was crying out for a film called Avatar, or Blade Runner. These were visions of the practitioner, but we all flocked to the cinema.

At some point research and practice combined:  audience research kicked in, defining publicly in this case an alternative ending to what Ridley Scott wanted. He would later release the Director's cut.

The point here is that storytelling is phenomenological, it emerges from within you. The subject informs you, and whether by rote or artistic practice you set about building your creation. You the creative decides.

Converging Research and Practice
So here's a question. Has the Internet changed journalism? There's a philosophical pursuit that despite the turmoil of the last few years can still be justifiable written up as "undecided". Arguments and sophistry, as opposed to dialectics, set out to mark victor and vanquished.

"You want the truth, you can't handle the truth" was uttered from A Few Good Men(1992). In practice, the truth combining practice and theory is an evaluation that reveals elasticated flaws and truths on both sides. It depends who you've read, who you cite, and how they tally with your own beliefs, and the logic of your own argument.

For a good while now we've been caught in an eddy of an industry looking for answers, sated by one mega conference after another extolling what's next. It's big business now, though less frenetic than it was three years ago.

Bridging what exists in journalism industry real world, with theory/practice in academia can often be the tail wagging the tail of another dog. The industry looks to new ideas from outside itself, but often may disregard them, until as such time its perceived as a critical mass effect.

Editorial systems often mean one person holds the key to any change. And sometimes for  legitimate reasons change cannot be implemented.  Real world issues such purchasing new macs are prohibitively expensive when for the last twenty years you've been windows-based. The practice-theorist ought to know that.

Yet often theorists and practitioners clash. Real world, and exercise world are parallel universes, touching each other but not, well, overlapping. That's what could change. If the future sees more of the convergence of practitioners with research knowledge who knows?

We might start producing some interesting truths.

David Dunkley Gyimah has worked in the industry since 1987, and lectured Masters, as well as MBAs and industry professionals since 1997. He is currently completing his practice-based PhD with SMARTlab, University College Dublin. is where he discusses industry practice and theory.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Creative fight Club - working after the Storm (Brian Storm)

Tyler Durden: I want you to hit me as hard as you can.
Narrator: Why?
Tyler Durden: How much can you know about yourself unless you have been in a fight.


Fight Club is a phenomenal film on so many levels: the script, the directing (Finch); and the philosophy embedded in the above statement.

Now for the many of us who don't want a fisticuffs and bruised body's there's something else to savour.

I rephrase: How much do you know about yourself unless you have been in a creative fight?

As much as I can, I take the chance. I cheat a bit because as a lecturer I get some students who creatively push me. Educationists and trainers know about this. But then there's the other side, the hardcores.  These are the pros at the top of their game who in Bergsonian speech:

"...imagines relations of magnitude, which adjust themselves to one another. mathematical functions which go evolving and developing their own content: representations, laden with the spoils of matter".
Bergson's talking about philosophers getting to grips with consciousness and images in Matter and Memory published in 1912 (I have become interested in memory as storytelling). Yesterday I was in Brian's creative fight club. Brian Storm of MediaStorm.

"After Fight Club Brian we all started seeing things differently" - (Fight Club script).

Creative Nudge
You know what it's like, someone, sometimes, does that. And then YOU raise your game. They're human catalysts: the preacher, the pastor, the professor, the evangelist.

Sit down and listen. Really listen. Humility matters. Because sometimes it's not only what they say, but the chain reaction of a series of unintended consequences that they trigger.

Brian Storm with Ex BBC Foreign Affairs editor Vin Ray and a couple of us in the Frontline Club after Brian's session
In the bar later we had a chance to catch up. I saw Brian present in Miami Wemedia  two years ago. I was "squint eyes" impressed then, as I was yesterday, but this time I got a more in depth measurement of his philosophy over the day as he set about deconstructing what MediaStorm does and its knowledge value.

I have worked for BBC Radio over many years before going into TV, so I reckon I have a firm understanding of many of the principles of sound and few people do sound/ audio better than the BBC. But Brian has found an illustrative way of informing learners that is elegant, powerful and compact.

This is one of my first BBC Reports in 1988, having just graduated It's Nelson Mandela's Tribute Concert at Wembley with Peter Gabriel, Natalie Cole, Anita Baker, Neil Kinnock MP etc.

Uber Adam Westbrook and Producer/Director
Jane (Fandango Media)
On his format for storytelling he's tapped into the rich seam of Sassure's and Walter Benjamin's semiotic to unveil the meaning of the image. It's a masterclass in visual language without the accompanying epistemological terms of signified and signifier or Benjamin's Punctum.

His publication continues to grow as he builds on a strategy of firstly an absorptive form of storytelling, yet also addressing subjects, that mainstream media would deem difficult and thus leave. I speak from experience here having sat in untold number of network TV editorials. Therein lies Brian's humanitarian spirit, displayed further when he talks of his company as purpose-focused, rather than profit-focused.

And then from his past, which raised a chuckle for me, how he has drawn from a penchant to experiment and build, whether it was at MSNBC or Corbis. The irony, where he tried to do so much, but ultimately hit a ceiling became the defacto inspiration that forced Brian him to make his own way, and what his company is today.

Chuckled, sorry, yes, because I too remember the dark days and nights of quasi death marches creating CD roms on Director 1; burning through hundreds of CDs because they would not self auto start, because a line of lingo code gone astray.

Playing to the Audience
Then there's Brian's hidden pièce de résistance - his player. Built from the ground upwards, it's frankly something you might have expected from a bespoke tech-player company e.g. Brightcove et al. But it isn't because Brightcove's profit perspective I suspect rather than the customer focus played to a different strategy. One that had many users smarting when Brightcove announced they would cease to share their player with the creative community -sans fee.

The elegance and backendness of MediaStorm's player  hides a potency that is persuasive. It's designed to meet the solutions a producer encounters. You want one :)  It's a matryoshka gift when Brian breaks open the back of his company's two year old upgraded website - now skinned via drupal. Nice!

The Business end of making money amounts to a book: How to make cool media and sell - MediaStorm, I suspect will be in a bookshop, their own online bookshop - sometime. All of this all snuggly bound together; textual with arresting imagery.

Part of the art of creative fighting is to talk about your philosophy by engaging with others, without any hubris of talking about yourself. What emerges then is a series of narratives of life stories and how to overcome one hurdle after another.

And each hurdle represents a problem that is universal; so it has relevance to you. The brand and the knowledge go hand in hand; they become one in the same. Just as if you wanted to understand ET, you'd interview Spielberg, so here to understand a range of media variables in the intensely-unfurling-evolving-media, you speak to Brian.

My motto has always been, "if it hasn't been done, it's waiting to be done",  and the journey to get something accomplished is a narrow and lonely one -at least for a while. And that lastly don't hide it, don't leave it under a bushel, but that in the process you will find naysayers telling you it can't be done.

That's almost the theme for doing a PhD in the academic world. Brian reminded me and many others of the creative fights needed to up our games in in the public world. There's work to be done after the Storm.


Apple Profiled David Dunkley Gyimah is a Knight Batten winner in Innovations in Journalism and an International Award winning videojournalist, among other accolades. He publishes the award winning and is a senior university lecturer, artist in residence at London's prestigious Southbank Centre and is completing his PhD in innovative news at the SMARTlab University College Dublin. His part includes working for the BBC, Channel 4 News, ABC News ( South Africa) and devising news programmes and training programmes around the world over a 25 year career.

If you into creative media working with the BBC we're organising another creative fight club" on videojournalism. I can't wait.

p.p.s  A big thank you to Charlotte and the FrontLine Club for hospitality - as usual. And for the free membership for yesterday only of the Front Line Club. Hurray!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Art of Doing Something Artistic

Artist in Residence with Southbank Artistic Director Jude Kelly OBE, third from left

Summer is set to tuck itself into its shed, as autumn makes its long-nights presence felt. And amid the concrete fixed facades in East Wing of London's cultural playground sits a beguiling sight.

It could be construed as a piece of art, and perhaps is one, but its main function is the meeting place for the Southbank Centre's Artist in Residence.

If you happened to pass by it at about 9.30 a.m yesterday you'd have caught us seating cosily inside catching up on what we're doing and our plans ahead.

Artists like, Poet and writer Lemn (Sissay) whom I haven't seen for a good while; he's just come back from touring Australia and is about to commence work with a hospital, plus the many other things he does.

And then Oliver Coates, an in demand solo Cellists and musician, who has recently completed a projected using the bowels of the Royal Festival Hall's hidden tunnels: the scene is something out of The Shining.  The lists of Artists is here

Meeting and sharing ideas with fellow artists is invigorating and then the bar is always raised and some with Jude Kelly, Southbank Artistic Director, mapping out plans for the Southbank in the months ahead and the work she would like, love to see from her artists.

This includes the up coming Festival of Death; Festival of the World; a Festival in collaboration with Brazil and then the Olympic games project.

For the Festival of Death I'm considering a narrative of the funereal procedure of Ghanaians, and the experience of my family when my father passed away two years ago and we had to take him back to the family's burial place in Ghana. The whole process was documented with pictures and is quite something.

A more filmic project explores what I'm loosely calling "A right to passage" which will explore space, movement as long tracks but delving into psychoanalysis - sans flaws.

Picture of Sensations - The Been Tos

Prempeh College 1978
A close friend sent me this picture.  It all came flooding back.

Our lived pasts, a rich past, which like precious mementos are stowed away until as such time they are needed: for reflection, a laugh, to recall faces.

In this sea of faces, I'm there, albeit faceless. 

This is Ghana in the 70s, a house photo for the school that would serve as my home, surrogate parents and foster carers: Prempeh College.

They were I remember at first some of the loneliest times, which would grow into some of the most fruitful. For unlike most of the 'green horns' - the term given to first years or sophomores - I was a "Been To".

Been Tos were children defined by their peripatetic nature. They would have been born elsewhere, mainly the UK and US, but at some point following a ritual of African parenting have been hauled to their parents motherland.

I say their parents, because before that journey, there was little sense that we were from Africa or specifically Ghanaian. The law under which we were born - English Law in my case - gave us the sovereignty of being British.

We spoke with English accents, had a British sense of humour and favoured fish and chips over fufu.

And then one day, one day, you found yourself on a 747, days before drugged with every conceivable tropical medicine, heading off to real home.

Your parents regaled. Now son, this is where you're from. But as you touched into Ghana, wrapped by that clenching humid hot weather, you wondered if you were from here, why did this all feel so alien.

At Prempeh College in the hinterland of Ghana, you were made to feel something of a Ghanaian - but more an immigrant of sorts classified as a "been to".

If you failed to understand any of Ghana's customs, you could either be excused for your naivety as a 'been to" or punished for your supposedly uppity behaviour, scowled at for being a "been to".

And I wasn't alone we were a tribe, a community, who shared our stories for comfort talking comics and cornflakes.  We were a class. In the above picture there are at least a dozen boys who had "been to" London or the US. Thousands of parents did this, depositing you in any number of Ghana's ex colonial schools.

Prempeh was set up by an Eton scholar and clergyman, as part of the brief of the church to spread the word of God. The Brit's God.  Sometimes we laughed, I may not have been able to make Eton, but I made the African one.

The Been Tos and the ritual of forced approved repatriation happens less now I'm told. It was confined to first generation Africans (Ghanaians) who had made Britain their home in the 1950s. They pined to go back apalled by the lack of respect their charges gave them, by the upbringing Britain facilitated, and in particular by the Brit school's that could not instill that sense of militaristic discipline.

Britain had yoked off this apparent constraint with the 1960s free love era, which for African parents in England signalled the downfall of humanity. "What do you mean my son can now defy me?"

Whatever we are or have become is shaped in great measure by our environment and lived pasts. It was in Ghana I developed a love for photography and writing. The thousands of photographs I would take live somewhere in a girlfriend's wardrobe - if they still exists. Her name as I recall was Diana Grunitaki  Tay from St Monica's school.

Kodak Camera 1970s
I left Ghana in the 1980s,  and as a sign that I would return to continue being a "been to" left everything including my early writings and pictures taken on my Kodak Instamatic. I did not return as planned,  though I have visited several times, but not as often as I would like.

Which is why this picture is so precious. Deleuze referred to an experience of sensations, with no apparent logic of cognisance or semiotic. Its immanence is its display of force, rhythm and duration, and for me of memories deep down.

As I write this, I'm listening to Radio 4 Today programme - a debate on what caused the riots in the UK. Remarkably, "Been Toism" has a voice in this debate, for our parents knew something of parenting in the 70s that whether we liked or not involved a loose programme designed to help our upbringing.

Thanks for the memories, with a plethora of social costs and gains.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

New Journalism: journalism-of-self but at what cost?

The Journalism-of-self, but there are costs
We can all take stock now. Some already have and I know I have written around the subject before. Yet some of its themes and my understanding have grown.

It comes in many guises, but ultimately it's the journalism-of-self. This is different in ways to other journalism, because the journalist-of-self is the Brando of the unfurling profession which professes all the world is my stage. Its actors are rebellious, adventurous, soloist, at times wary of company.

But for all their flaws, the actor-of-self, starting out on their career recognised Stanislavski, as much as they did Strasberg or at least the techniques they passed on.

Journalism-of-self is now embedded into our psyche, prefixed by such conferences and training manuals as "Everyone is now a journalist, "Twitter and Facebook journalism"  and the 'hail videojournalism".

Any argument to the contrary is drowned out within the sphere. But the conversation or truthfully enquiry is a philosophical one which often negates asking what journalism is or its function today.

Philosophical because systems undoubtedly change via socio-cultural, technological and the historical and thus any interrogative question seeks to understand the core.

The latter, "history" implies even the best history academics, through their own narrative discourse rarely tell the same story in its whole. In years to come Berners-Lee will still be the father of the web, but antecedent's and protagonists will change as new information becomes available.

Take Mike Conway's superb book on the history of broadcasting published two years ago. I mean who would have thought there was still a treasure trove of info to acquire for a subject that's been so fastidiously combed over.

So whatever constituted journalism in the 80s, compared with now may have general variables: inverted triangle n' all but different specificities. One reason why Bradshaw's rework on the triangle has lit up academia and the workflow of institutions. These are philosophical enquiries.

This however is not a treatise on what is journalism, but a side spin of its rump. If we can do it all, why do we the association of others and note I distinguish between associative journalism and social. A post for another time. captured me talking about associations in  in 2005. And even though I advocate the "wisdom of crowds" approach, we assume and hope the crowd has proponents who can intelligibly deconstruct our wishes.

Old Journalism reworked values
So moored with a presumed new function of defined journalism; and if you haven't in the face of Murdoch's crisis, Schmidt's MacTaggert Lecture on google's interface with TV, or Dan Gillmor's now lengthy dog-eared We the Media, then this means nothing to you.

This quest assumes stories and their genesis are becoming an irrelevancy. What riled the outsiders, within the onset of convergence culture circa late 1980s looking for change in story plurality, contextually, interpretation and analysis hasn't quite been the seismic change.

Change which says "I kick you, you kick me, and then a third party sees if he can kick both of us", can be a tad tiring.

Our attention, quite rightly turns to its distribution in that if the best story in the world can't reach an audience and fails to attract anyone, it fails a primary function.

But the journalism world as it unfolds according to one good friend has metamorphosed into the "google journalist". And herein lies the danger for the journalist-of-self.

Google journalism is perhaps a harsh term, given what the proponents have done in using search as investigation et al, but the name conjures up  an indelible image of the vampirish journo who never sees the light of day or night for that reason.

If we're relying on the vortex of stories weeded into our filter-bubble - so eloquently explained here by Eli Pariseri- that's a concern. If we're not hammering from the ground, or not consulting wise counsel in at least the mechanics of traditional journalism [for want of a better world], we're not fit for 21st Century purpose.

This figure merely serves as a model for enquiry,  translating Mathematics to social issues. So I'm simply taking a view of an issue and positing how it might be viewed when thinking of an issue in journalism. This method is not uncommon. Journalism invariably fuses multiple disciplines; more recently data journalism in computing and trends. I'm trying to understand how something as formidable as imaginary numbers I learnt in my grad days can have some application to what I'm doing now. An abstract which will hopefully develop further critical thinking.

Looked at it through the prism of maths, at least, that's how I rationalise change, we're used to the x-y axis and elements of the z have appeared but where's the "i"? In Maths the imaginary numbers quotient as brilliantly explained here. It's an attempt to see past the obvious as an integral means of new enquiry.

Witness how Paul Lewis from the Guardian says even reporting from the ground, journalists covering the riots in London largely got it woefully wrong. How so? I've not seen any study to confirm this view but I respect, as many other journos do, Paul's view that something's wrong in Dodge.

The internal review that purports to answer what the best of journalism does and then how, a more testing question, in the "holy cow - everything goes world" can be quite elusive. Question: has any journo institute dissected what could have been a model of reportage for the riots place. Paul proffers some answers.

And in speaking of wise counsel, when was the last time outside of a $695, 40 minute talk sprint, you heard some of the giants of the profession discussing their craft?

This all infers something, which we knew but elided through a dash of supposed schadenfreude.   Schmidt hits on. Any system relies on the savvy of new and currency of tradition (old) to survive - particularly when tradition has a stake in the status quo.

So, for instance that television screen is not about to disappear anytime soon, and those newspapers the minute they do watch how trend-setting companies will introduce us to vintage 2015 - and what newspapers looked like.

So what does this all mean for the journalism of self, that incidentally I have been an ardent apostle?  It says the discourse needs to shift from tech to language, the art, the practitioner sans po-faced and some of the practices of evaluation Carrol elegantly records in On criticism Thinking in Action.

That within this discourse which heaven help us should be dialectical rather than solipsistic, there's room for good practices to be the source for us to chew and reflect over. And one that doesn't reduce factual storytelling to exclusively assuming its anyone's game.

My head of department SMS'd me this morning, saying how he'd read a citation of me at a conference saying "leave me alone".

If there ever was an aphorism for the journalism-of-self it would be this. Yet it hides a fallacy, in that "Leave me alone" only ever makes an impact when the time leading up to that has been an inculcation of many association.  When Brian Storm talks of collaboration, this is what he's alluding to.

Brian Storm, Jesicca Stuart, Tom Kennedy and David Dunkley Gyimah

We both agreed collaboration is the new, er old black, even in the face of the the Dietrich's I want to be alone.

In a few weeks new cohorts of future journalists will start their journey into the known-unknown and many of us will enthuse about the new new thing.

But the danger and one that has seen its roots sprout furiously since the convergence culture took grip, is the you can do it by yourself comes with a note of caution.

For the soloist figuring out the planes of journalism, there's another older reality beyond the journalism-of-self. As many actors sometimes end up musing about their partners, the best performance comes from studying others, and via the generosity of the other actors.

We can all push this out, but it takes a bit more to get it in - in the first place, and I am mean proper in.