Evaluation- Review

I recently returned to Amsterdam on a Hull P&O Dutch Dash. I was joined by a friend and native Dutchman. I had 6 hours to spend in the capital and Roland was determined to show me the hidden Amsterdam. (It was probably the first time I actually saw the city properly, having taken no mind-altering substances)

We went to ‘Trust’ for a late lunch and the experience was unique. It was for this reason that I chose it as the subject for my feature article. It is hard to describe the place unless you have been, but I have tried to capture the atmosphere in this piece.

The article could be published in ‘The Amsterdam Travel Magazine’, ‘Timeout Amsterdam’, or in the travel section of one of the national papers, either as a magazine feature or in the travel section as part of a feature on Amsterdam. It would also be suited to one of the many food magazines such as ‘Bon Appetit’ or ‘Food’ magazine. I think it would appeal to anyone who has visited or is planning to visit Amsterdam and is looking for different experiences of the city. Or just people who like food, restaurants and original ideas.

I enjoyed writing this review and found it relatively straight-forward. It has motivated me in my ambition to combine travel with journalism. There are so many more unusual places like ‘Trust’ waiting to be discovered.

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Evaluation-Proper Feature

For my main feature I wanted to write something about Hull City of Culture 2017 because it is has been such an exciting year. I have been fortunate to take part on many of the events as a volunteer, so I have a bit of an insider view as to what goes on behind the scenes.

There has been so much written and so many overwhelmingly positive reviews that I decided to come from a different angle. I wanted to hear about the downside of being a volunteer, the negative aspects of the role.

In order to write the article, I spoke to numerous volunteers on the street whilst carrying out their respective roles. I also asked for their stories and anecdotes during the Christmas celebration at the Guildhall, Hull.

Shaun Crummey, Head of Volunteers, was extremely helpful and gave me a copy of the transcript for his end of year speech.

The volunteers also have a closed Facebook group comprising 2820 members. I put a post on there inviting volunteers to share their negative experiences and thoughts. I had so much response I was no longer sure which angle to come from.

I found writing the article challenging. Gathering material was the easy part but actually sorting through and compiling a story proved difficult. I tried to add balance to the feature by pointing out the overall positive side. I didn’t want it to come across as a lot of people moaning and putting a downer on the success of Hull 2017. It was difficult to achieve this balance as some people had quite a lot to say.

The feature could be published as part of a longer feature looking back on the Hull City of Culture 2017. It may also be an interesting article for the organisers to read when considering the 2018 volunteer programme. The article would be more suited to a cultural magazine than a newspaper.

Evaluation-First Person Piece

The feature I wrote is an inspirational story and would appeal to a wide audience. It could be published in a North Devon paper where Steve is a bit of a celebrity. He is well known in his local surfing community, but this story would appeal to surfers around the country and possibly worldwide. It could, therefore, appear in a specialised surf magazine such as ‘Wavelength’ or ‘Carve’.

I am not a surfer myself, but I am a follower. I look at the surf forecast daily and grab my camera as soon as I see there is a swell. I know that there are plenty of stories and anecdotes to be told on surfing accidents. A friend mentioned he knew Steve as he’d surfed with him in Portugal. He gave me his details and I contacted him by e-mail. Getting a phone interview with him proved challenging because he is always on the move.

When I eventually got to speak to him we were on the phone for a long time. At the end of the conversation I realised that we had talked more about his passion for surfing and our shared interests/ mutual friends. It Is for this reason that it is best to interview someone you don’t have connections with. I lost the focus of the story and had to contact him again to ask for more details about his accident.

Overall, I think the piece works quite well. It’s not earth-shattering material but it makes an interesting read. I enjoyed the interview process, this is what I find the least difficult and the most rewarding. I believe I have captured Steve’s personality and, above all, his overwhelming passion for surfing.

Hull 2017: A Voluntary Perspective

2017 has been an incredible year for Kingston upon Hull. The City of Culture Volunteers have played a major role in this success.

The volunteers have been the driving force behind all of the City of Culture events throughout the year. Without the dedication of 2,500 volunteers, who have donated over 350,000 hours, Hull may not have been able to enjoy some of the outstanding moments of 2017.

Sean Crummey, Head of Volunteering 2017, describes the volunteers as Hull’s “collective heartbeat.” At a celebration event for the volunteers, held in the Guildhall on the 13 December, he said: “In 2017 a family, in scandalous blue, was born; brothers and sisters from all backgrounds, an iconic image of a city on the rise.”

There is no doubt that the volunteer programme has been tremendously effective but has the experience been overwhelmingly positive for those participating?

When asked if they had any negative views or opinions about volunteering throughout 2017 volunteers were reluctant to respond. Many said that they had only positive comments to give, others said they did not wish to put a dampener on such a unique experience. However, with any organisation of such scale, there are bound to be some things that do not run as smoothly as planned.

Creating and managing shifts has been a complex process. From partner organisations requesting volunteers help, to shifts being created, posted on the website then undertaken by volunteers. Through the “Better Impact” hub on the web, volunteers are offered a choice of shifts. Personal profiles hold each individual’s specific qualifications, interests and goals. The programme then generates a selection of shifts available which match these criteria. Volunteers can sign up for shifts depending on their own availability. There is no minimum or maximum requirement, although they are expected to complete about 10 shifts.

The problems begin when people sign up for shifts and then subsequently withdraw. This can leave events short of numbers and prevent other volunteers getting involved.  The programme only works when volunteers make firm commitments to events, rather than casually signing up for everything then withdrawing at a later date.

On the majority of shifts there are also those who fail to attend. This impacts others who miss out on opportunities and leads to events being undersubscribed.

Malcolm Scrivener, a volunteer since 7 April 2017, said: “My biggest moan is people just not turning up when other people wanted the shift. I understand people get taken ill, but the regularity of it seems to suggest people aren’t taking to commitment seriously. I’ve been on a ten man shift where four haven’t turned up.”

Maggie Bruce, one of the first “legacy” volunteers who started in September 2016 added: “On my last Ferens shift I was told that there is one volunteer who signs up for shifts there very regularly and has never once turned up.”

Another area which has caused concern is the need for internet access to be part of the volunteer programme. An internet-based information system is the quickest, cheapest and most effective way of reaching such a large volunteer force. But not everybody has 24-hour access or even Internet access in their homes or on their phones. With 57% of volunteers aged 50 and above this has proved challenging.

Zem Rodaway, from Hull, explained: “Whilst I have had a good experience as a volunteer, a friend of mine does not use the internet at all, nor have any access to it. She signed up to be a volunteer because they assured her there would be assistance for those without internet access. She experienced so many problems in receiving information that she decided to withdraw.”

Volunteers who have other commitments have also found it difficult to get the shifts they would like because they have already been subscribed. Janet Windass, a volunteer who works full time, said: “Some people take all the shifts and don’t think of the other volunteers that would have at least liked one shift. By the time I get chance to look at the hub, all of the more attractive shifts have been taken.”

Janet also pointed out that some of the shifts are too long and when it’s cold and miserable they can get “long and boring.”

Pauline Searby Robinson, an NHS medical secretary in Hull , said her worst experience was, “having to stand out in the cold, wet, windy weather with only about four people visiting! (For hours). With grumpy old men shuffling past saying ‘This city’s sh**e and always will be!’ ”

Unfortunately, nothing can be done about the weather and the occasional unhappy member of the public. In general people are extremely pleased to be greeted and helped by the volunteers. The uniform jackets, provided by Arco of Hull, help to combat the cold.

It is interesting to consider the demographics of the volunteers. Seventy percent of volunteers are female, and the average age is 56. There are 25 109 days (approximately 69 years) between the birth date of the youngest and oldest volunteers.

Infographic for feature

For one working-class Hull family the volunteering spans three generations. Sheila Annis and her daughter Caron Mincke were amongst the first wave of volunteers to be recruited and later they were joined by Leanne Ayre, Caron’s daughter. Their experience has been extremely positive. “We rarely get to volunteer for the same event,” says Mincke. “But that’s great because afterwards, we pool the information, telling each other what’s worth seeing.”

However, for a young male Hull University student, who prefers to remain anonymous, being a Hull 2017 volunteer did not live up to his expectations: “As a younger volunteer I was often told that I didn’t know enough about Hull and was left out when volunteering in groups. Also, due to being a student at Hull University, the volunteers assumed that I didn’t have the knowledge to volunteer as well as they did, despite telling them I am from Hull. Many of the volunteers I was on shift with looked down on me and due to this, I decided not to continue volunteering. Never again would I wish to volunteer with such, and sorry to say this, arrogant and self-righteous people. I also know that my experience as a young volunteer was not unique.”

To add some balance, he later added: “I fully appreciate that this is a minority amongst the mass of other amazing volunteers.”

On a lighter note volunteer Jo Whittaker sums up the only down side for her: “one of my personal negatives is just being able to fit it all in. I’ve joked a few times that I could do to foster my kids out this year and have them back in January. I’ve spoken to a few people who’ve agreed that other areas of our lives have perhaps taken more of a back seat this year as we seek to find that ever elusive balance of making the most of this amazing opportunity, while fitting in family, full time work, friends, housework and caring for others.”

So, “where do we go from here?”

The volunteers have been described as “the engine that has helped to drive this incredible year” (Sean Crummey, 2017 volunteer Christmas celebration) but the volunteer programme will not finish at the end of the year. There are plans to harness the knowledge, energy and enthusiasm of the Hull 2017 volunteers to support events and become community activists as part of the City of Culture legacy.  An initial 5-year plan is already in its final stages of development. A short break in proceedings at the beginning of the New Year will enable the organisers to reflect on lessons learned from the 2017 programme.

‘Crazy Steve’ thought he’d never walk again but now he surfs every day

Steve Outram

At 63, you might not expect to be surfing let alone two to three times a day. That is exactly what North Devon surfer, Steve Outram, does, even though just a few years ago he thought he might never walk again.

Surfing is my passion, my driving force. It’s been in my life for as long as I can remember. It’s what I live for and can’t live without. To wake up every morning and to be inspired by the ocean. I’m 63 years old and I’m still surfing.

I learnt to surf when I was nine on holiday with my parents in Cornwall and I just loved being in the sea, the thrill of riding a wave. I was immediately hooked. Fifty years later, every day, I am still searching for the perfect wave. Whether it be here, in Saunton, North Devon, or in warmer climes, I still get that same feeling of excitement when I surf today.

Four years ago, my life took a dramatic turn when I suffered a prolapsed disc in my lower back. I couldn’t understand why this had happened to me. I was fit and healthy and I hadn’t done anything unusual to cause it. It started with pins-and-needles and numbness in my right leg. Then one day as I stood up to catch a wave my leg totally gave out. I fell from my board and plunged under the water, my surfboard smacking me in the neck.

Luckily my fellow surfers saw I was in trouble and helped me to shore. (That’s one of the good things about surfers, we’re a real community.) I was taken to hospital and the CT scan showed I had a prolapsed disc. It had been building up over time due to the many repetitive minor injuries I had incurred whilst surfing. Apparently, it’s a small bulge in the disc and can happen to anyone.

I had to undergo open back surgery, a discectomy, to remove the disc bulge. The reality hit me when they asked me to sign the consent form. I knew there were potential risks, but this was a serious operation. Thankfully, I was under general anesthetic, so the hour-long process passed in oblivion.

The hardest part for me was the rehabilitation, it took me two years to get over it. When I got home from hospital after 5 days I was still in a lot of pain and just doing day to day things like washing, dressing or making a cup of tea where difficult. I wasn’t sleeping well because of the stitches in my back.  Having to rely on support from friends and carers (for which I am eternally grateful) goes against my nature. I am essentially a free spirit and value my independence. Those two years without surfing was like a life sentence to me. I could barely walk let alone stand on a surfboard. What ’s more, the painkillers made me groggy and irritable.

Surfing is not just a sport, it is a lifestyle. My whole life has become subconsciously shaped around surfing.  My mood is influenced by surfing. The only way to recover from this was to keep my passion alive. I decided to start by making my own boards. This meant that I could make exactly what I wanted, the right length and thickness. I had my own personalised board made to measure.

Making that first board gave me the drive and determination to get back out there. It took me a while to get it exactly as I wanted. I finished it on the evening of November 12th, 2016. It was getting dark and pretty cold, but I couldn’t wait for the morning to try out the board. I had been gradually building up to this moment. Hours of physiotherapy and exercises working on muscle and core strength. I can’t describe the thrill of catching my first wave on the board I had designed and built.

My foot is still partially paralysed, but my injury has made me even more determined to get out there and live my passion. In fact, some would say I’m over-enthusiastic. I get told off in the water sometimes for my ‘whoops’ and shouts of joy. My fellow surfers and friends have dubbed me “The Court Jester “and “Wildman Steve”. Here in Saunton I am now known as ‘Crazy Steve’. I guess that comes from the fact that I am still so passionate about surfing at the age of 63 and that I prefer to surf without a wetsuit.

Nowadays, I’ll surf sometimes two or three times a day, even during the winter months when I wear a 5mm wetsuit. I start going out in April without a wetsuit when the sea is quite cold, between 8-10 °c.  I like the freedom you get when not wearing one, I like to feel the water.

Surfing’s addictive, it just makes you feel good, it gets rid of all the tension. You paddle out and you forget everything because you’re so centred on what you are doing. You can see the sets of waves breaking towards you and your heart starts racing. The adrenaline beginning to pump through your body. I get out of the water feeling like “yes, I’m still doing something!”

People think that when you’re over 50 you haven’t got a life anymore, that’s not true. When you’re younger you just think I will do something later and put it off and put it off. As you get older you think ‘right I’m going to go and do that.’

Social media and search engines are the biggest platforms for the distribution of fake news. How can Facebook and Google crack down on the problem and should the technology giants have the responsibility to exert editorial control over the news they deliver to billions of people?

Denzel Washington spoke out against fake news this week calling for MSM to report the truth. He said: “If you don’t read the newspaper you’re uniformed. If you do you’re misinformed.”

This clearly summarises the current proliferation of fake news that is being widely spread through various platforms. Facebook and Google being the main distributors.

Facebook and Google have both been heavily criticised for not doing enough to combat fake news. In 2016 both companies responded to allegations that fake news on their sites may have influenced the US presidential election’s outcome. They aimed to combat this where the money lies, through advertising. Google banned websites distributing fake news from using its advertising service. Facebook updated its Audience Network Policy from not displaying “ads in sites that show misleading or illegal content” to include fake news sites.

Google and Facebook have started to fact check news articles that are published. Content that isn’t trustworthy is now likely to be penalised. They have both teamed up with third party fact checking organisations to combat fake news.

Adam Mosseri,VP, Facebook News Feed stated: “We know people want to see accurate information on Facebook – and so do we. False news is harmful to our community, it makes the world less informed, and it erodes trust.”

The 3 ways they aim to combat fake news is by “disrupting economic incentives because most false news is financially motivated. Building new products to curb the spread of false news; and helping people make more informed decisions when they encounter false news”

https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/04/working-to-stop-misinformation-and-false-news/

Google has introduced new tools which allow users to report misleading or offensive content. In April 2017 they introduced a new product called ‘Fact Check’ that is available in ‘Search’ and ‘News’. Viral stories that turn out to be fake are fact-checked by people looking to stop the spread of misinformation.

However, whether these steps are enough to combat the wealth of fake news that is being produced is debatable. According to a recent study by Pew Research Centre one in four Americans are using Facebook as a source of news. This means that they have a responsibility to ensure that the news that is distributed is accurate. Should these “technology giants” be treated as media organisations, and held accountable for the information from which they profit?

Andrew Smith  (The Guardian 2016)  strongly affirms that “Facebook, whether it wants to be or not, is now a media organisation and must vouch for the information it disseminates”.

Facebook and Google depend on the trust of ‘billions of people’. They have an ethical responsibility to protect democratic ideals. However, the Internet is clearly not a democracy. These ‘technology giants’ have control of what we read, the information that we consume. Should they also be given editorial powers when ultimately their main concern is financial gain?

Bibliography

Smith, A. 2016. The pedlars of fake news are corroding democracy. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/25/pedlars-fake-news-corroding-democracy-social-networks. [Accessed 21 December 2017].

Hern, A. 2017. Google acts against fake news on search engine. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/25/google-launches-major-offensive-against-fake-news. [Accessed 21 December 2017].

Dredge, S. 2015. Facebook and Twitter on the rise as sources of news in the US. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jul/15/facebook-twitter-sources-news-pew. [Accessed 21 December 2017].

Kottasova, I. 2016. Facebook and Google to stop ads from appearing on fake news sites. [ONLINE] Available at: http://money.cnn.com/2016/11/15/technology/facebook-google-fake-news-presidential-election/index.html. [Accessed 21 December 2017].

Mosser, A. 2017. Working to Stop Misinformation and False News. [ONLINE] Available at: https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/04/working-to-stop-misinformation-and-false-news/. [Accessed 21 December 2017].

“The sort of grassroots local newspaper journalism which might have picked up The Grenfell Tower fire safety concerns in advance is being lost.” Discuss.

There has been much criticism of the media coverage of the Grenfell Tower disaster both before and after the event. Safety concerns reported by the residents several years before the fire were not investigated, no journalists picked up on the story. This dates back to February 2013 when the Grenfell Action Group reported that fire safety equipment had not been tested for over 12 months. A further blog posting by the group in November 2016, warning that “only a catastrophic event” would bring attention to the tower block, did in fact come true.

This serves to highlight the decline in local journalism and the need for more local newspapers. As Emily Bell, in The Guardian, May 2017, pointed out: “the stories which expose the causes of the fire, however they emerge, will not make up for the lack of the stories that might have stopped it in the first place. The bitter irony of course is that a story read by a thousand people might have had more impact than one seen by 10 million.”

In 2015 Press Gazette research showed that London had the least local newspapers than anywhere in the UK. There is only one newspaper, with a sole reporter/editor, the ‘Kensington and Chelsea News’ in a borough with a population nearing 160 000. They also found that over the last 10 years local newspaper jobs have fallen by at least 50 percent and approximately 200 local newspapers have folded.

In most towns and cities across the UK there is just one news organisation covering local events in any detail. And in many there is none” (Domini Ponsford, Press Gazette.2017)

The decline of in-depth reporting in London mirrors what has happened to local journalism in the UK. We can see this within our region. The Scarborough News was launched as a weekly newspaper in 2012. It was formerly a daily newspaper. Now there is only one office producing several publications; The Scarborough News, Bridlington Free Press, Whitby Gazette, Malton and Pickering Mercury and Pocklington Post. Four reporters and one photographer cover the whole area.

‘The Hornsea Gazette’, a fortnightly paper, has been incorporated into ‘The Holderness Gazette’ which covers a much wider area. In Hornsea we are, however, fortunate to have a free monthly paper ‘Hornsea Community News’ which is run by a single reporter/editor/photographer. He is of the ‘grassroots’, ‘shoe leather’ style of journalism and funding is through local advertisers.

The reasons for the decline of local journalism are well-known. The Internet, the rise of social media and commercialism being the main ones. Nevertheless, the Grenfell Tower fire illustrates that local news reporting is still vital. That “grassroots local newspaper journalism” is necessary to uncover news stories and bring them to our attention.

As Sam Blackledge stated in The Guardian, December 2016: “The reason most of us become journalists is to uncover information, to dig for truth, to highlight what would otherwise remain unseen. It is not to sit at a desk for eight hours a day, scrolling through Twitter, writing clickbait headlines to chase ever-inflating online audience targets.”

Bibliography

Ponsford, D. 2017. Grenfell Tower fire disaster suggests more journalism is needed in London – not less. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/grenfell-tower-fire-disaster-suggests-more-journalism-is-needed-in-london-not-less/. [Accessed 17 December 2017].

Blackledge S. 2017. Local news reporting is vital – so journalists like me are fighting for its future. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/12/local-news-reporting-vital-journalists-fighting-future-britain. [Accessed 20 December 2017].

Bell, E. 2017. Grenfell reflects the accountability vacuum left by crumbling local press. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/media/media-blog/2017/jun/25/grenfell-reflects-the-accountability-vacuum-left-by-crumbling-local-press. [Accessed 20 December 2017].

Ponsford, D. 2017. The decline of local journalism is a far greater threat to media plurality than Rupert Murdoch. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/the-decline-of-local-journalism-is-a-far-greater-threat-to-media-plurality-than-rupert-murdoch/. [Accessed 20 December 2017].