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"Write something worth reading or do something worth writing" A blog by Amy Willis, a multimedia journalist based in London

Are recent newspaper job losses due to the credit crunch or a general shift in media?

I receive my daily Holdthefontpage news alerts with mild anticipation. How many redundancies today? In the last week, North West publisher CN Group shed 30 jobs and will be selling off two radio stations, Newsquest editors of York titles, the Daily Press, weekly Gazette and Herald face redundancy, and three sub-editors at Torquay’s Herald Express could face redundancy as well. This all from just one daily news alert.

At a Cardiff journalism school lecture this week, Rick Waghorn of MyFootballwriter.com said these redundancies are part of a general shift in media. He explains how readers have moved online and no longer need their local hard copy and sub-editors are becoming redundant as general page templates are being used instead.

This is not the first time I have heard this. Four weeks before Mr Waghorn’s comments, Matthew Yeoman of Custom Communication, said: “The bad news is this business is crumbling around us. Social media is killing the advertising industry and the media industry needs this money.

“The media world is changing and people are having to rethink their businesses.”

Whilst there is no doubt that the media world is changing and people are being made redundant, I challenge the view that this is simple cause and effect.

It is all too convenient that the people who hold these opinions have online media businesses, businesses which would flourish if this really was the primary reason for all these job losses.

I would argue instead that the state of the economy is the cause. Mortgage rates go up, people rein in their spending, companies do not receive as much revenue, advertising budgets get slashed and newspapers bear the brunt – redundancies are the clear effect of this.

The Daily Telegraph office- embracing the shift in media

The Daily Telegraph offices embracing the shift in media

The shift in media is being used as a scape-goat, bosses too proud to admit that they have been affected by the recession. In truth, the media had already started to shift a long time before the credit crunch and for a while newspapers embraced it: the Daily Telegraph rearranged their office (see image) and created MyTelegraph, websites were launched at most local papers and the BBC embraced all sorts of online technologies (live streaming, tailored news alerts etc).

In all this doom and gloom the shift in media offers a shinning light of hope. If the cause is the recession rather than a shift in media, then this is but a short term problem. When the economy picks up (yes it will happen eventually) the shift in media will open up a whole new range of job opportunities in both online and print. Not convinced? Well, let us wait and see.

Filed under: blog posts, Online Journalism, , , ,

Good news for Cardiff surfers as bilingual surf shop opens in the city centre

Lobster Bob, sponsors of the Welsh surf team, have opened a bilingual surf shop in Cardiff city centre.

The shop, which covers two small floors, opened last week on Queen Street opposite the Capitol Centre. There are Santa Cruz surfboards, Gill wetsuits and a range of surf clothing brands including their own Lobster Bob range. They also do board wax but only under the Billabong brand.

Lobster Bob also arrange surf lessons both for beginners and advanced surfers. Beginner sessions start at £25 and there is an opportunity for sessions with four-times British surf champion Simon Tucker. There are also opportunities to arrange rib rides in the bay.

Lobster Bob also sponsor the Welsh Thundercat racing team and surf kayaker Nathan Eades who is ranked number nine in the world.

lobsterbob1

The Welsh surf team outside Lobster Bob on the day of the opening

John Davies, owner of Lobster Bob, said: “As a welsh company we decided to sponsor the Welsh team to promote and encourage Welsh youth to partake in a hugely exciting sport.

“We decided to move to the city centre having had a successful six months down in Mermaid Quay, and decided what Cardiff needed was a quality outlet that not only stocked great clothing but also great technical gear that allowed people to try different water activities.

“In our first week we’ve had a really positive response from the general public, who both love the location and the range of products at very competitive prices.

“The plan for 2009 is to double the amount of stores again, get involved in more water based activities, run the British Surf kayaking championships and support all our team riders!”

The Cardiff shop is Lobster Bob’s second shop as they also have one in Brighton. Mr Davies hopes the new store will be as successful as their previous location at Mermaid Quay in Cardiff Bay.

Filed under: Cardiff News, Cardiff sport, Surfing, ,

Why The Telegraph started MyTelegraph: a lecture with Shane Richmond, communities editior, Telegraph.co.uk

MyTelegraph, launched in May last year, was a bold move by a national newspaper to embrace the world of the blogosphere. It allows any reader to create their own blog, store all the comments they make on other readers’ blogs and save articles to read later.

But why would bloggers use MyTelegraph over a specific blogging site such as wordpress or blogger? And why would a newspaper embrace blogging when some people have argued that blogging has destroyed journalism?

Shane Richmond, community editor at Telegraph.co.uk, explains how MyTelegraph is not just a blogging platform but it is about being part of the MyTelegraph community.

“People like to see the Telegraph masthead and some just want to talk with other Telegraph readers who may have similar interests”, he said.

MyTelegraph is providing a platform for reader loyalty.

“If most of a website’s traffic is coming from a Google search or other search then the website is not doing well. If someone is simply entering the website to view one article and then clicking away after, it can be a threat to the business. It is better to gain reader loyalty so they go straight to our homepage and navigate from there,” he said (quoting a CNN journalist).

Moderation is something all blog sites have to consider. The BBC, with its BBC blog network, chooses to moderate everything before it is published but Mr Richmond points out this is not legally the best option.

” Although this may seem irresponsible, legally we are advised to offer no moderation because we could be seen to be endorsing the blog entries,” he said.

Mr Richmond explains how the Telegraph and its MyTelegraph members consider free speech paramount. But, he admits, free speech is particularly difficult when dealing with items containing illegalities such as contempt of court and defamation. He explains how Mr Justice Eady ruled last month that online defamation is ‘much more akin to slander than to the usual, more permanent kind of communications found in libel actions’. He drew parallels with internet conversations and pub conversations in that ‘they are often uninhibited, casual and ill thought out’. Mr Richmond uses this example to show how internet moderation is still an area of legal evolution.

He ended on a cheerful note, saying that MyTelegraph and blogs are great because journalists can now join the conversation with little extra cost.

Filed under: blog posts, Online Journalism, , , , , ,

Cardiff Christmas Light Switch-On, 12 Nov 2008

Thousands of Cardiff families were delighted by celebrity guest appearances for the Cardiff Christmas light switch-on outside city hall yesterday (Wed).

Cardiff singer Mared Jarman, aged 14, opened the event with hymn Silent Night in both Welsh and English to get the crowd in the festive spirit.

Only Men Aloud, the Welsh winners of BBC’s Last Choir Standing, followed with a few songs including Christmas tune Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

Children perched on parents shoulders, enthusiastically cheered as The Tweenies danced onto the stage and sung songs including S Club 7 hit Reach for the Stars. Andy Day and character Boo from new CBeebies show Treasure Hunt, got children excitingly shouting ‘he’s behind you!’ as they leapt around the stage.

The event also signalled the eighth opening of Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland in front of city hall. The attraction includes an open-air ice rink, a Ferris wheel, helter-skelter and merry-go-round.

Rob Brydon and Ruth Jones who play Nessa and Bryn in award-winning sitcom Gavin and Stacey, later appeared on stage alongside Real Radio’s breakfast show DJs Angela Jay and Tony Wright for the 10-second countdown.

As Brydon and Jones pushed the big red button, applause came from the crowd. The Christmas lights illuminated and a three-minute firework display launched into the cold night sky.

As the hour long show came to a close at 6.30pm, Jones shouted ‘terrah’ to the crowd and the duo enthusiastically waved goodbye.

see more photos

Filed under: Cardiff News, Portfolio, , ,

Information Librarians

Journalism is about cataloging information. We find it, authenticate it and make it easily accessible to the public.

The information library is complicated. It has no walls. The books have minds of their own. They hide away, the cover can be misleading or wrong, and often you have to read between the lines to understand the full picture. Journalists work hard to use their networks to develop a catalog for the public.

Then the world wide web and user generated content arrived. Access to the web means the public have the potential to view the raw data before it has been verified and before it has been cataloged. They can even add stuff themselves. But they also attempt to navigate it themselves and like any amateur explorer, without the correct equipment or training, it is inevitable that they may become lost, sidetracked and the important information may get overlooked.

This where the journalist as an information librarian comes to the rescue. Not with the barrel of whiskey and a fluffy Saint Bernard but by guiding the library tourist through the important sites, maybe sometimes showing them where the pitfalls might be.

The journalist therefore has an ever increasing importance to develop respect and trust from their information tourist. The way to gain this trust is by allowing people to become part of the guiding experience, to be able to ask questions and to tailor the things we show them to meet their specific requirements. This could be through Have Your Say comments at the bottom of online articles or Related Article options on the side bar. Either way the media is certainly moving in the right direction so far.

Filed under: blog posts, Online Journalism, ,

Shaolin Monks Wheel Of Life

The world-renowned Shaolin Monks performed their Wheel Of Life show this week at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall.

As Cardiff families found their seats and awaited the start of the performance, a musky incense smell filled the air. A loud recorded voice, explaining the story of the monks and their beliefs in the Wheel Of Life, marked the start of the show.

The hall dimmed. Through the incense smoke, the monks emerged, entering through the audience in a ritualistic slow march with the elder monks leading the way. As they climbed up onto the stage, they bowed to the Budda carefully painted on the backdrop and sat cross-legged meditating through the show’s back-story.

Five young monks, aged maybe only six or seven, started the move sequences by flying across the stage in phenomenal acrobatics and demonstrating their incredible flexibility. This drew excited gasps from one youngster in the audience who could not help shouting out “wow” from his seat. Later the young monks also demonstrated their perseverance through five-minute-long headstands and upward splits at either side of the stage.

The elder monks were next, demonstrating the speed and the cleanness of their moves in what looked like the drunken monkey and praying mantis style (see below video clips).

Above: drunken monkey style, below: praying mantis style

Afterwards, especially for audience members with little specific kung-fu knowledge, they demonstrated bare-foot walking over razor blades – proven to be sharp through the ferocious slicing of a melon, followed by a monk-nail sandwich which made the audience squeal with anticipated pain. A Chinese dragon dance with music strummed gently on stage, was performed for those more interested in the artistic element of the Chinese culture.

Almaas Yusuf, 22, a Wing Chung Kung-Fu enthusiast, said: “I wasn’t so sure about the stunts with a super-natural edge to them, like the shattering of spears, but it was impressive to see some very complex kung-fu moves being performed without flaw.”

When asked if he would come again he said: “Maybe, although I do think this show focused on the artistic and spiritual side of kung-fu.”

Two day earlier, the monks gave a taster performance to the media (see video clip below) to encourage a huge audience. Sadly on the evening, the hall was only half packed – perhaps people were unaware of the show or maybe there are not many martial arts enthusiasts in Cardiff.

All round it is a fantastic show to watch if you have some martial arts knowledge but for those just looking for entertainment, the show is perhaps lacking some theatrical components. A basic kung-fu knowledge makes it easier to appreciate the complexity, training and hard work which goes into accomplishing the flexibility and technique required for the move sequences. However, the monks did to some seem bored by the show – perhaps because they have repeated the same routine so many times or perhaps because the element of realism is foregone in place of commercialisation.

Out of five, the show gets two stars for entertainment and four stars for martial arts technique.

It is also worth noting that the view from the upper side-stalls in St David’s Hall is not particularly good and it made you feel slightly disconnected from the atmosphere of the show.

The monk’s public relations officer has not return emails asking for comment.

Filed under: blog posts, Cardiff sport, Martial Arts, Reviews, , , , ,

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