Year 2- Feature Writing

What is a feature?

A feature is a longer piece of writing than a news story. It is everything that is not a news article. Features come in many different types and are widely used in magazines, newspapers and online.

A feature will often cover an issue in greater depth than a news story would do; or it might look at an ongoing story from a different angle.

News Story v Feature

Infographic explaining differences between news stories and features

An infographic explaining differences between news stories and features

A feature is also thematic, it needs to be shaped around a central theme. It needs to be interesting and finely focused. A feature will have an element of topicality, a Peg which is relevant and up to date e.g. the birth /death of someone famous, book/film launch etc.

Features are not meant to deliver the news first hand. Their function is to humanise, to add colour, to educate, to entertain, to illuminate. They often recap major news previously reported.

Features often:

  • profile people who make the news
  • explain events that move or shape the news
  • analyse what is happening in the world, nation or community
  • teach an audience how to do something
  • suggest better ways to live
  • examine trends
  • entertain

Types of feature

Personality profiles– bring an audience closer to a person in or out of the news. Anyone who’s interesting and newsworthy. Behind-the scenes look, warts and all.

News feature a feature article that focuses on a topic of interest in the news. Tend to focus on the people in the stories. e.g. heart disease in the news would focus on facts and stats whereas in a feature maybe come from individual perspective, their struggles etc.

Spot feature focus on breaking news events. Sidebar to main news focusing on certain aspects of the event.

Human interest stories– shows a subject’s oddity or practical, emotional or entertainment value.

Trend stories– examines people, things or organisations that are having an impact on society. What’s new, fresh and exciting. Light, quick, easy to read, capturing the spirit of whatever new trend is being discussed.

In-depth or Live-In– through extensive research and interviews provide a detailed account of a particular place and associated people…e.g. homeless shelters, camps, hospitals, prisons etc.

Backgrounder/analysis piece adds meaning to current issues in the news by explaining them further. Bring an audience up to date explaining how a country, organisation, person happens to be where it is now.

 

 

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Ofcom scenarios

Reporting on a homeless, drug user who has been attacked. He has said that “the police are a f..ing joke. I’ll deck the..”

What are the issues involved?

  • Section 2-Harm and offence
  • Section 3-Crime, disorder, hatred and abuse

2.1 Generally accepted standards must be applied to the contents of television and radio services and BBC ODPS so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion in such services of harmful and/or offensive material.

Offensive material may include offensive language, violence, sex, sexual violence, humiliation, distress, violation of human dignity, discriminatory treatment or language (for example on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation, and marriage and civil partnership).

2.4 Programmes must not include material (whether in individual programmes or in programmes taken together) which, taking into account the context, condones or glamorises violent, dangerous or seriously antisocial behaviour and is likely to encourage others to copy such behaviour.

3.1 Material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder must not be included in television or radio services or BBC ODPS.

hate speech which is likely to encourage criminal activity or lead to disorder

3.2 Material which contains hate speech must not be included in television and radio programmes or BBC ODPS except where it is justified by the context.

3.3 Material which contains abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities, must not be included in television and radio services or BBC ODPS except where it is justified by the context.

 

A witness in an 8 car pile up due to give evidence in court is offered £500 for his story.

Which rule applies?

  • Section 3-Crime, disorder, hatred and abuse

3.6 While criminal proceedings are active, no payment or promise of payment may be made, directly or indirectly, to any witness or any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as a witness. Nor should any payment be suggested or made dependent on the outcome of the trial. Only actual expenditure or loss of earnings necessarily incurred during the making of a programme contribution may be reimbursed.

3.7 Where criminal proceedings are likely and foreseeable, payments should not be made to people who might reasonably be expected to be witnesses unless there is a clear public interest, such as investigating crime or serious wrongdoing, and the payment is necessary to elicit the information. Where such a payment is made it will be appropriate to disclose the payment to both defence and prosecution if the person becomes a witness in any subsequent trial.

 

A builder is accused of ripping off his customers, taking payment for unfinished work etc. You interview the victims but are unable to contact the builder.

Can you run the story?

Not according to:

  • Section 5-Due impartiality and due accuracy
  • Section 7-Fairness

5.1 News, in whatever form, must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.

5.7 Views and facts must not be misrepresented. Views must also be presented with due weight over appropriate timeframes.

7.1 Broadcasters must avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in programmes.

7.9    Before broadcasting a factual programme, including programmes examining past events, broadcasters should take reasonable care to satisfy themselves that:

material facts have not been presented, disregarded or omitted in a way that is unfair to an individual or organisation; and

anyone whose omission could be unfair to an individual or organisation has been offered an opportunity to contribute.

7.11 If a programme alleges wrongdoing or incompetence or makes other significant allegations, those concerned should normally be given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond.

7.12 Where a person approached to contribute to a programme chooses to make no comment or refuses to appear in a broadcast, the broadcast should make clear that the individual concerned has chosen not to appear and should give their explanation if it would be unfair not to do so.

7.13 Where it is appropriate to represent the views of a person or organisation that is not participating in the programme, this must be done in a fair manner.

 

A store in the shopping centre is being closed down and 20 people are going to lose their jobs.

What should you consider before rushing down there to cover the story?

  • Section 8-Privacy

Consent

Any infringement of privacy in the making of a programme should be with the person’s and/or organisation’s consent or be otherwise warranted.

8.6    If the broadcast of a programme would infringe the privacy of a person or organisation, consent should be obtained before the relevant material is broadcast, unless the infringement of privacy is warranted.

8.11 Doorstepping for factual programmes should not take place unless a request for an interview has been refused or it has not been possible to request an interview, or there is good reason to believe that an investigation will be frustrated if the subject is approached openly, and it is warranted to doorstep. However, normally broadcasters may, without prior warning interview, film or record people in the news when in public places.

Doorstepping is the filming or recording of an interview or attempted interview with someone, or announcing that a call is being filmed or recorded for broadcast purposes, without any prior warning.

Also to be taken in to consideration sections 1 and 5: the age of the employees and wether it is impartial and accurate.

 

You name the suspect of a terror attack on air and then further information reveals the true offender.

What must you do?

  • Section 5-Due impartiality and due accuracy

5.1 News, in whatever form, must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.

5.2 Significant mistakes in news should normally be acknowledged and corrected on air quickly (or, in the case of BBC ODPS, corrected quickly). Corrections should be appropriately scheduled (or, in the case of BBC ODPS, appropriately signalled to viewers).

 

 

 

Ofcom Exam

To start the second year with a bang we have an exam on the Ofcom Broacasting Code.

This is “a code for television and radio, covering standards in programmes, sponsorship, product placement in television programmes, fairness and privacy.”

Ofcom is responsible for licensing all UK commercial television services. They regulate the TV, radio and video-on-demand sectors, fixed-line telecoms, mobiles and postal services, plus the airwaves over which wireless devices operate.

The Ofcom Broadcasting Code comprises 10 sections:

Section 1-Protecting the under-eighteens

Outlines the rules around scheduling and content information in programmes with regard to protecting children under the age of eighteen.

Section 2-Harm and Offence

Outlines standards for broadcast content so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from harmful and/or offensive material.

Section 3-Crime, disorder, hatred and abuse

Covers material that is likely to incite crime or disorder, reflecting Ofcom’s duty to prohibit the broadcast of this type of programming.

Section 4-Religion

Responsibility of broadcasters with respect to the content of religious programmes.

Section 5-Due impartiality and due accuracy

To ensure that news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.

Section 6-Elections and referendums

Covers the special impartiality requirements and other legislation that must be applied at the time of elections and referendums.

Section 7-Fairness

To ensure that broadcasters avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in programmes.

Section 8-Privacy

To ensure that broadcasters avoid any unwarranted infringement of privacy in programmes and in connection with obtaining material included in programmes.

Section 9-Commercial references on TV

Relates to broadcasters’ editorial independence and control over programming with a distinction between editorial content and advertising.

Section 10-Commercial communications on radio

Relates to radio broadcast only and is to ensure the transparency of commercial communications as a means to secure consumer protection.

 

First News Production Day

Friday 29 September 2017

The editorial meeting started at 9am with Paul Eliot acting Editor. This was to gather any thoughts or ideas for news stories and discuss what angles could be taken on these. We shared events/news that we  found around the Hull area. Everyone was given a specific story to cover before setting off on their individual research, then writing. (As Paul so elegantly explained later, it is better to come armed with a story you have already found, otherwise you will be allocated a “shit” one.)

I had attended a poetry reading on Thursday as part of the BBC’s “Contains Strong Language” poetry and spoken word festival. I was eager to write about the event as it was taking place throughout the weekend at various venues (Hull College being one of them). Intending to do the story on what people of Hull think about poetry a vox pop would have been appropriate. However, this would be more of a feature and not suited to Hull Central which focuses on news stories.

Whilst looking for a different angle Jackie mentioned that HSAD would be involved in the poetry festival that day.  A poem was to be painted in front of the building, coming out of the main entrance. I spoke to Dave Eccles, Graphic Design lecturer, who was in charge of the project and he told me a little more about the idea.

Unfortunately it didn’t look like the weather was going to permit the poem to be sprayed onto the concrete. Whilst this was being decided I tried to track down the poet, Isaiah Hull, who wrote the poem. I also did some research on his background. I spoke to his PR manager, Shirley May, but was unable to meet Isaiah who had a very busy schedule.

I decided to start to write up the event because even if it didn’t happen that day it would still be taking place. I didn’t leave myself much time for the actual writing part. When they eventually started to create the work I took numerous photos. This meant a lot of time spent editing and re-sizing  in order to post them on WordPress. Our deadline was for 2pm but the article I wrote and published was far from finished.

Paul and John edited our work which was published on the Hull Central website. We gathered to review the final stories.

Reflection:

As a first news production day I think that things went quite well. Everyone wrote a news story and there was some really positive feedback.

Time management and working to deadlines were my definite downfall. I wasted too much time focusing on the wrong thing. I was also pretty clueless as to where to begin and felt like we were definitely thrown in at the deep end. I could have been better prepared for this had I done more work experience.

I enjoyed the day, preferring a more hands on approach to learning. It was good to have the responsibility of going out and finding ways to source and tell a story. We are very fortunate that there is so much happening in Hull at the moment.

 

 

Evaluation of TV Package

I found this part of the assignment quite challenging as I had been absent for some of the sessions. We touched on video in the first semester but this was very different. I read the notes that were sent out but missed some of the most important points.

This is particularly noticeable in my interview. The sound quality is not very good, there is too much background noise. When I conducted the interview I hadn’t been aware of this. I found the quietest spot in a very busy event hall. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an external microphone so the HD camcorder picked up all of the sound. I would have been better off using my phone because it has the option to eliminate background noise. I tried to edit the interview using Adobe Audition but the laborious process didn’t solve the problem.

I chose to do my report on the 6 month celebrations for the Hull City of Culture Volunteers 2017. The events were kept secret so I didn’t really know what to expect or who would attend. I knew that it was going to be an interesting afternoon and a fun story for a TV package.

I was able to interview Nicole Steel, the training and skills manager, who took time out to answer my questions. The interview was completely impromptu but I had previously heard Nicole give presentations so I knew she would come across well on camera. I wanted the report to be light-hearted and informal that is why I interviewed her in the big chair.

I also got some really good interviews from volunteers, unfortunately the background noise with the event film being played on a loop was deafening. Far from capturing the ambiance of the event it drowned everything out.

When I first looked at the footage I was disappointed because I felt that it didn’t do the event justice. I wanted it to be a positive portrayal of the Hull volunteers. It looked very unprofessional. Fortunately I had a lot of material to sort through. This made the editing process very long but I enjoyed that. I managed to come up with a TV package which was satisfactory for a first attempt. It proved to be a valuable learning process. Next time, I will familiarise myself with the equipment and make sure I am able to adapt to the surroundings.

 

 

TV News Packaging Assessment

Lead-in for TV news report

With six months still to go it’s wonderful to see the difference UK City of Culture has made to Hull.

One of the most important contributions  to it’s success are the city’s volunteers.

There are currently over 2,500 volunteers signed up.

Sally Brown reports…

Script for ULAY

Hull is halfway through as City of Culture 2017. (Picture starts here)

The volunteers have played an integral part in the success of events.

They have already undertaken more than 100,000 volunteer hours.

To thank them for their hard work and dedication four celebration tea parties were held at Hull City Hall.

Robert Capa and James Nachtwey, a comparative essay of two photojournalists.

In the face of ongoing technical transformation in journalism compelling visuals remain a potent means to engage audiences. Photojournalism combines two professions, photography and journalism, using powerful images to tell news stories. This essay compares the work of two iconic photojournalists, Robert Capa and James Nachtwey. It will focus on their differing portrayals of war and conflict whilst illustrating their shared values and their key role and responsibility as photojournalists; to witness and document history. Both Capa and Nachtwey have been described as “quintessential war photographers” shaping public perception of global conflict and suffering through their photojournalism. In order to understand their respective motivations for becoming conflict photographers it is important to look at their backgrounds.

Robert Capa’s perspective on war comes from a political stance which reflects the political turmoil surrounding the times in which he lived. He was born Endre Friedmann in Budapest, Hungary, in 1913. As a Jewish teenager, he witnessed discrimination. He became politically active fleeing Hungary at the age of 18 because of his communist allegiances. He moved to Berlin and started to study political science. Whilst focusing on writing he also became interested in photography. Driven out of Germany by the threat of a Nazi regime he settled in Paris. He found it difficult to find work as a freelance journalist and thus re-invented himself as the American sounding photographer Robert Capa. Given his interest in politics and his personal stake in the outcome of the struggle against fascism it was natural that when politics led to war he would cover it.

If Robert Capa was the world’s quintessential war photojournalist from the 1930s until the mid 1950s (often referred to as the heyday, the pre-television day) then James Nachtwey has become the quintessential “conflict photojournalist” of our day. He was born in Syracuse, New York in 1948 and graduated in 1970 from Dartmouth College having studied art history and (like Capa) political science. Influenced by photographs during the Vietnam War and impressed by the power of photos to communicate the immediacy of events, he taught himself photography. From 1976 to 1980 he was a newspaper photographer in New Mexico, and in 1980 he moved to New York to work as a freelance photographer. Nachtwey’s work on war and conflict come from a humanitarian, rather than a political perspective. His stance is also a reflection on the issues that surround present wars which have become increasingly more violent and complicated.

Civil war was, for both men, the subject of their first major foreign assignments as photojournalists. The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) for Robert Capa and civil strife in Northern Ireland in 1981 during the IRA hunger strike for James Nachtwey.

SPAIN. Cordoba front. September, 1936. Death of a loyalist militiaman.

The death of a loyalist soldier was Robert Capa’s most famous and controversial photograph. It zooms in on the instant of death showing the moment of a bullet’s impact on  a Spanish loyalist partisan. The fact that he is carrying a rifle suggests that he is a soldier, although his civilian clothes would suggest he is just an ordinary man. The rifle is positioned away, his arms are outstretched and his eyes closed in a position of surrender. This implies that the man was shot point-blank and not whilst firing himself. It would suggest an unexpected assault, or that he was not able to defend himself.

Capa’s use of contrasts serves to highlight the soldier as the focus of the photo. His black shadow reflecting and intensifying the scene. Almost like the shadow of death. The  figure, his pained expression and dramatic positioning stand out against the dull bare background. The soldier does, however, retain a sense of dignity in his death.

Capa stated that these men “were dying every minute with great gestures and they figured that was really for liberty and the right kind of fight and they were enthused”. In terms of photographic composition it reiterates Capa’s affirmation, “I’d rather have a strong image that is technically bad than vice versa”. The photo captures the essence of events as they happened.

There have been doubts to the photo’s authenticity, whether it was a set up orchestrated by Capa. (The photo, therefore, remains relevant in modern-day issues such as fake news and the manipulation of photographs in the press.) Nevertheless, it became symbolic of the Republican struggle and later as an anti-war image. It has been used as propaganda for both purposes. As Capa himself said, “the truth is the best picture, the best propaganda.”

In stark contrast to the lone, almost heroic, figure in Capa’s photo is this strikingly direct portrayal of the Northern Ireland conflict by James Nachtwey.

shards-of-time-northern-ireland

It is interesting to note Nachtwey’s use of colour in this image, he usually prefers to work in black and white, stating that “colour itself is such a strong phenomenon, in a physical sense, that in a way it competes with what is happening in the picture. It tries to become the subject of the picture.” However, in this particular photo, his use of colour adds to the horrific reality of the situation. The couple in the front of the image are having a seemingly normal conversation. The man’s hands are in his pockets as if he is just out for a stroll. The baby is sound asleep and completely relaxed whilst the mother pushes the pram and shows no signs of tension or fear. In fact they appear to be totally unaware of the events happening behind them. The bright blue colours, the casual clothing, highlight the ongoing, commonplace banality of day-to-day life which contrasts sharply to the brown’s and black’s of the truck. The vivid orange flames screaming out the reality of the situation; the violence and destruction of war.

The photo illustrates how Nachtwey’s first war assignment in Belfast lead him to realise that the front lines of war go right through people’s homes. “All the violence in Belfast was happening right inside residential neighborhoods. And that’s what I’ve seen ever since. Wars are no longer fought on isolated battlefields.”

There is no doubt of the power of photography as a communicative tool. Nachtwey states that a picture can be an antidote to war, ” that a picture that shows the true face of war is an anti-war photograph”.  Capa and Nachtwey’s  use of photography to tell a story follow Shannon and Weaver’s 1949 linear theory of communication. This was one of the first models aimed at developing effective communication between sender and receiver. This theory was further developed by William Schramm who noted the importance of feedback from the recipient. He also believed that an individual’s knowledge, experience and cultural background play an important role which means they interpret the message in different ways. In the case of photojournalism the visual communication of the photograph is reinforced by the written accounts that accompany them. The photos can be semiotically analysed to interpret deeper meanings but the context is of great importance. A picture may tell a thousand words as sight and thought are inseparable but how each individual perceives an image is dependant on comparing it to previous knowledge, comparing it to what is already known.

What sets these two photojournalists apart is that their work was unprecedented. Their reports speak of events that had not been brought to  our attention. Capa covered five wars in his short life time and Nachtwey has covered all the major events of the past thirty years, including war, conflict and critical social issues. Their role has been essential in shaping public perception of conflict and suffering. James Nachtwey sums up this role as a photojournalist: “I have been a witness and these pictures are my testimony. The events that I have recorded should not be forgotten and should not be repeated”.

Their individual styles in recording the truths they have witnessed is very different. Susie Linfield, author of “The Cruel Radiance. Photography and Political Violence” describes Capa as “the optimist” and having a “heroic approach”. Nachtwey, on the other hand is “the catastrophist” producing “graphic and morally complex images”. Both are, however, renowned for getting as close as possible. Capa’s famous dicton being “if your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”. Which ironically led him to a premature death at the age of only forty when he stepped on a landmine whilst covering the war in Indochina in 1954.

Robert Capa redefined wartime journalism by joining soldiers in the trenches and documenting their battle in grim, close-up detail. He “took his camera farther into the fighting zone than had ever been done before” (Life, magazine) His visceral photographs of US forces’ assault on June 6th 1944 were a striking contrast to the politically regulated and organised photographs of the Second World War. He was the only civilian photographer to accompany the first wave of infantrymen onto Omaha Beach on D-Day. The photos he took were the primary visual record of the initial landings.

Normandy landings

In this photograph Capa shows the image of a solitary soldier his stony face clearly visible under his oversized helmet. The use of black and white is indicative of the era in which Capa lived but once again the use of contrasting shades serves to highlight the values. The dark helmet and even darker gun further framing the man’s pale, white face. The blurring of the surroundings mean that the soldier is the only object in view. He is vulnerable, alone and exposed. Capa purposely captured the photo from the front and framed the photo so the soldier is in the forefront, his facial expression captured. Teeth gritted, looking pointedly forward with fear in his eyes. This makes the viewer feel his presence as if he can almost be reached out and touched. The visceral qualities capture the emotion, drama and grim reality of the horror of war.

In 1994 working for ‘Time’ magazine James Nachtwey witnessed the devastating effects of the Rwandan genocide. His role in revealing the atrocities and increasing global awareness opened international debate about humanitarian interventions, peacekeeping missions and sovereignty. Out of Rwanda came several new initiatives.

Sarah Boxer, writer for the New York Times, has said his: “I never look at Nachtwey’s photographs when I am sad: in fact I find his pictures harrowing at the best of times”.

Rwanda 1994-Survivor of Hutu death camp

This image is not the most graphic or tragic image of the Rwandan conflict but it is shocking and powerful.  It depicts a Hutu man who opposed the genocide and was, as a result, imprisoned in a concentration camp, starved, beaten and attacked with machetes. The context helps us to understand the background but the image stands alone as a powerful anti-war statement. A visible reminder showing both the physical and mental impacts of war on the victims.

The composition of the photo draws us to this man, we do not just see the scars, we see a story behind them. The white scars leap out against the dark background of his face, the top scar points to his torn ear. The violent marks of the machete have left a brutal, lasting imprint on his skin. His mouth is open, hands around his throat, reminiscent of the torture he has suffered. We can see the pain and suffering in his dull blank stare. His head is positioned sideways to emphasise his injuries, the pale dull background centering all of our focus on the unsettling image of this man. We are forced to face this man as he was forced to face his tormentors.

“If there is something occurring that is so bad that it could be considered a crime against humanity, it has to be transmitted with anguish, with pain, and create an impact in people – upset them, shake them up, wake them out of their everyday routine.” (James Nachtwey)

In terms of social and cultural impact both men have changed the face of photojournalism and it’s power to provoke thought and instigate change. Nachtwey’s photographic archives are preserved in Dartmouth college were he studied. He was a founder of ‘Seven‘ (VII) photographic agency in 2001 which continues today to represent preeminent photojournalists. Capa’s legacy to the industry was his joint creation of ‘Magnum photos’ in 1947. The prestigious photographic agency which started as a co-operative of photographers is 70 years old this year and continues. Henri Cartier Besson’s summarised its objectives, “Magnum is a community of thought, a shared human quality, a curiosity about what is going on in the world, a respect for what is going on and a desire to transcribe it visually.”

The lives of these two photojournalists are intertwined in many ways. The personality and characters of Robert Capa and James Nachtwey could not be more different. Capa’s flamboyant, larger than life, almost film star charisma deeply contrasts Nachtwey’s quiet, unassuming, lone character. But they share a passionate hatred of war and a deep concern for the suffering of people. Their work has been immensely important in showing the world not just the truth of war but also the enormous gap between reality and what politicians would have us believe. They both possess the qualities needed to document war: talent, sensitivity , humanity and courage. What connects them is their single-minded determination to follow a self assumed mission. To witness and report on war through the universal communication of photography.

 

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