Friday, 24 May 2013

Magazine Feature

I've written a piece for Absolute:ly magazine called furry fashion. It's effectively cute animals wearing clothes accompanied by some light hearted captions, when I interviewed Ian Murray of The Daily Echo he said 'people love cutesy animals' and I thought that incorporating that love of animals with fashion would work for a nice witty feature. Here's the link:

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Removing hiss from audio

Removing ‘hiss’ from your audio:

·      In the audio window, under audio enhancements, open the equaliser by clicking on the small picture of an equaliser.

·      At the bottom of the graphic equaliser, switch the setting from 10 bands to 31 bands

·      Drag the furthest three channels to the bottom. 

Friday, 14 December 2012

Critical Reflection WINOL term 3

Sam Ashton critical reflection
This term for WINOL, I was given the role of web editor, my duties would include:

·         Attending news meetings and arranging for written stories to be added to the site
·         Subbing written stories on the website for legal and grammar issues
·         Making the website more user friendly
·         Improving the Alexa ranking of the website by improving search engine optimisation (SEO)
·         Uploading features to the site
·         Ensuring that the site remained consistent in content
·         Uploading the main news bulletin in time for 5 o clock every Wednesday
·         Uploading Sportsweek

 this is something that I was not particularly comfortable with at first, not being particularly savvy in terms of web development and specialist programmes, I thought it would be something that I would struggle with somewhat. I took some time over summer researching Joomla, the content management system that we used and looking through some tutorials, but was still not very confident with it. I discussed this with Jason French, the web development editor for WINOL and we decided that a change in content management system would be the best way to move the website forward in our own way. We knew that WordPress was a popular content management system, and as it has a similar layout to Blogger, which is already used by all of the WINOL team for blogging, we thought it would be the easiest system for everyone to learn, and get used to. According to W3Techs, WordPress is used by 17.5% of all websites on the internet compared to Joomla’s 2.8% (as of November 2012).
Fortunately, I had Jason (who can only be described as a bit of a genius in web development) to take control of the switchover from Joomla to Wordpress, although unfortunately, this would take a couple of weeks to complete, something that we should have started on over summer, so that content could start to be added to coincide with the regular TV news bulletin. I took control of the Joomla system while Jason was working on the switchover so that content could still be uploaded in the meantime. In previous years, I’d felt as though the website, and text based stories had been somewhat an afterthought so I intended to ensure that we WINOL was known as a news website, as much as it was known for its weekly Television bulletin. If we had daily content on the site, it would attract more visitors, and therefore improve our Alexa ranking, which was somewhere around the 1.2 million mark globally at the start of term (this was after the summer break – 3 months of not being updated). We wanted to break comfortably into the top 1 million and consistently good content was the only way that we would achieve this.

For the first couple of weeks, we started to see immediate improvement in the look of the site, it was being updated with around 10 stories weekly, the only problem was that these were all coming on a Wednesday, people were simply reversioning their stories from the bulletin which was still an improvement, but it wasn’t going to help us move up significantly in viewers.

When the WordPress migration finally took place, I was able to delegate days to members of the news team that they would be in charge of finding stories to put up onto the website, I wrote up a web bible, instructing everyone how to put stories onto the site ( and kept that updated as the site changed. I instructed people to save their stories as ‘pending review’ and subbed stories to ensure that they were legally safe and properly written.  We then finally started seeing daily updates to the website; it was starting to look like a live news website. One problem that we faced consistently throughout the term was quality of pictures. At first, all news stories had a thumbnail picture, but too often these were of ‘guilty buildings’ or dull mid-shots of people. Chris enforced a rule that all pictures had to be either a face, or an action shot, as these were the two most interesting type of picture. We decided to change the layout of the site, so that only the top story had a thumbnail picture. This made the site visually led, so our top story would usually be the one with the best picture. I also had to ensure that the news team added tags to all of their stories, this is another perk of WordPress that helps our stories to appear on search engines.

This term, for the first time, WINOL has had a rival. East London Lines are a student run news website based at Goldsmiths University in London. They’re similar to WINOL in that they are a local news network, but their web based content WAS considerably stronger than ours, and their video output considerably weaker. At the start of the term they were miles ahead of us in Alexa rankings, due to their constantly updated string of local news. They came second in the BJTC’s website of the year award, so we knew that we had to be better than them to be in with any chance of an award next year.  We started a student journalism league table on the site, so that we could track our own progress against that of East London Lines and other journalism courses across the UK, this was based on Alexa rankings. As of the 10th of December WINOL has a UK Alexa ranking of 10,424 and a global ranking of 477,045. East London Lines had a UK rank of 24,950 and a global rank of 581,311. We managed to overtake them towards the end of term due to our consistently updated online news, our regular and reliable news bulletin on Wednesdays and a huge step forward in terms of features. This means that WINOL is well within the top 500,000 websites in the world, as Google estimates about 50 billion web pages in the world, that’s pretty good. Jason has really helped with this by removing iframes from the site, previously, there was no way to link to separate pages, as everything was under one iframe, but now every page has a separate web URL which allows search engine spiders to crawl through the site more effectively, making us easier to find.
Another aspect of WINOL that was hugely worked on this term was social networking, which was left in the control of Hannah. We finally set up a Facebook page which currently has 106 ‘likes’ and made sure that we updated that regularly. We also made better use of our Twitter account, I asked all of the news team to ensure that they tweeted regularly whilst working on stories for WINOL to make our twitter feed reflect the busy nature of the newsroom. Our Twitter currently has over 1000 followers, which has surely given us website hits.

I have tried to remain active in the newsroom aside from being web editor. In the first week, we hosted the BJTC awards, hosted by Alastair Stewart. I took on the role of managing editor which basically consisted of making sure that everybody was in the right place at the right time and knew exactly what they were doing, this included the rest of the production team, and all guests. I assigned members of my team to certain guests, Ben and Alex waited at reception for students and nominees, whilst Jason took care of Alastair Stewart. I arranged details with vice chancellor Joy Carter for her arrival. This all went as planned and general organisation was very good, the only problem being latecomers having to be refused entry once the event started. They were understandably upset, but unfortunately this was unavoidable. The event was a great success and a great way to advertise Winchester Journalism to other journalism students from around the country.

The following week I had the responsibility of taking the BJTC award footage and editing it into a package. Henry had helped me with the ordering of our shots, so I wrote a voice track for the piece. I decided that I needed to make Alastair Stewart the key focus of the news package, although we wanted to make something of the fact that we won awards, the real news story was having a celebrity presenting the awards for us. I wanted pictures of Alastair Stewart in his more familiar setting, presenting the news, so took some from Youtube, I was allowed to do this as it was only around 4 seconds and was helping us to tell a current news story (sort of), so counted as fair dealing, we showed the clip to a copyright expert and he said that it was safe, although we were slightly pushing our luck. I wanted a catchy opening so went with "from bongs to gongs" incorporating the big ben bong sound that is so well associated with ITV's ten o' clock news. I was fairly happy with this package, it was the leading story in the bulletin and the intro seemed to work really well. I also felt like I'd written to the pictures quite well throughout.

After this, I was asked to take on the role of headline writer for the bulletin. This was something that I particularly enjoyed and something that I would love to (somehow) get into one day. Some of my favourite headlines were “scabies gets under the skin of Winchester students” regarding a scabies outbreak, “polar beer” for a story about a beer being sent to the arctic, and “the beers on the bus go down in rounds” for a story about a bus that had been converted into a pub.  

I also arranged and filmed one of the terms most successful features. It was with a local man, named Edgar Feuchtwanger, who as a Jewish child growing up in Munich, lived on the same street as Adolf Hitler. I’d seen that the BBC had done a written article and a radio piece on him and realised that he lived in Winchester. I searched for him on Linkedin (a sort of ‘professional’ version of facebook) and sent him a message and fortunately he replied with his contact details. I told Lee, the features editor, and we arranged a time for the interview. It was a great interview, well framed and correctly coloured and by far the most interesting interviewee that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. We ran with the headline “I was Hitler’s neighbour” as that was probably our best quote. This feature has been measured by WordPress as the most popular on the website, and has brought us a lot of traffic. I sent a copy of the interview to Edgar and he got back to me with some feedback that he had received after sending it around, one of them coming from the Cambridge University alumni office saying “a very professional job indeed. A bright journalistic future awaits them.”

Features on the whole have improved hugely this year, there have been two competitions, which were both well received and gave us some traffic, and a confessional interview with Paul Blackburn, who was wrongly convicted, and spent 25 years in prison. We even have a dedicated fashion page and a review page, just showing the much needed depth that the features department finally has. The bulletin has remained consistent and been generally pretty good, as has Sportsweek. Both have given the website a constant midweek boost. Special projects also deserve a mention, the hosting of the BJTC awards and the US election special were both great ratings winners and were pulled off brilliantly. The election special even got us a mention on reputable journalism website

After Christmas I will have to begin work on my FYP, the innocence project initially drew my attention, but I soon started losing interest, making me think that I probably shouldn’t choose it as a dissertation topic. I hope to be able to carry on my work as web editor as my FYP and continue to oversee the rise of

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Law update/revision: The stages of processing and reporting a crime

When reporting crime, it is important to be careful not to stray into territories where you may be in contempt of court, these are the stages that Journalists should think of when reporting crime.

Stage 1: A crime is reported, no one has been arrested, police are searching for the perpetrator(s) and witnesses. There is at this stage no restriction on what a journalist can report, (as long as it's true, of course)

Stage 2: Police make an arrest (or issue a warrant) The case is now active (even if charges have not yet been brought) Journalists are now at risk of prejudicing a future trial, so must be careful with reports. Should seek legal advice before publishing anything.

Stage 3: Police make charges, meaning that a court case is probable, you can now only report facts that you are certain will be uncontested. E.g the charges that will be faced, the fact that somebody has died (for example), the name of defendant and victim. Only solid facts, nothing that will give the jury any additional information before it's heard in court.

Stage 4: Magistrates Court hearing. Seven points, outlined in last blog post.

Stage 5: The trial, reporting only what is heard by the jury, not including things shouted from the public gallery.