Friday, 15 February 2013

Feature Fears

    Feature writing is something I have always found difficult. Writing news stories, however, seems so simple; write a short, summary lead of about 20-25 words, use decent quotes from a variety of sources, try not to include your opinion and always use the inverted pyramid structure. But features must include emotions and show the reader a story rather than just tell them through facts. 
    Roy Peter Clark's 30th of June article 'Reviving the Feature Story' expresses the importance of feature writing and what the future may hold for it. He states that, " Readers like stories, even news stories, written in feature style.” and how important features have been for expanding journalistic writing in general, especially because of a large readership behind human interest stories. He also explains that features must not be news stories but actually comment on something relevant and news worthy.

    As a journalist, when writing a news story I constantly have to restrain myself from allowing my own views, opinions and emotions to creep into my copy. But with a feature, you have the chance to sway your readers towards a particular view point through the way that you write your piece and the sources and quotations that you use. Clark emphasises several key characteristics of feature writing, including illuminating "...lives lived in our time." This gives writers the chance to try and connect with their readers on a personal level rather than providing them with a string of well-organised facts and quotations.
     Clark also highlights a complicating factor, "In the last 30 years, my time frame, news stories have been written with more feature elements, and many features are written right off the news. So the lines between news and features have blurred." But features provide journalists with a more extensive chance to capture their readers' attention and retain it and explore an issue or recent piece of news in depth. You can also give your reader more of an insight into who you are as a person and as a writer.

    According to Chip Scanlan in an article published in May 2003, the purpose of the 'Nut Graf' or summary lead of a feature is  to "...hook the reader, followed by alternating sections that amplify the story’s thesis and provide balance with evidence." Their content should include a justification of why the reader should care about the issue you're writing about, a lead that connects "... to the rest of the story." and some supporting material.  Scanlan also stresses the significance of never giving away the ending!

     It is interesting to note the different crossovers between various forms of writing- from creative writing, to news story writing to feature writing. Perhaps to be as good a journalist as possible, you have to have good knowledge and skill when it comes to all writing styles.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

What Does The Pope’s Resignation Mean for the Catholic Community?

        With all the hub-bub over recent changes in the Christian community, such as the passing of a bill to allow homosexuals to wed in the eyes of God, the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI comes as no surprise to some.

    It was reported by the BBC, amongst hundreds of other publications the world over, that the Pope has decided to stand down from the 28th of February this year. He has been the head of the Catholic Church for 8 years and is the first Pope to resign for 700 years. The only reason provided was Benedict’s declining mental and physical state.

    The decision has left to uncertainty in the Church and for its overall future. Could the recent revamps in the community have anything to do with Benedict’s sudden change of heart? Despite his opposition to homosexual acts in all forms, many countries across the world have legalised gay marriage whilst Benedict has lead the Church.

    However, he has apologised for the Catholic connection to sexual abuse against children and its failure to prevent it on many an occasion. Although such allegations have led to severe decline in young people attending mass in the West, the Church has done very little to encourage a restoration of the faith.

    The 85-year-old leader is expected to go into isolation after his official resignation and a new leader of the Catholic Church is expected to be elected as soon as the 24th of March this year. Several frontrunners have already been highlighted to take over the role and Benedict has stated he will not interfere in his successor’s affairs. 

    Will the Church continue to change in the future? Will the new Pope bring about even more variations to the faith? There has been a great deal of confusion for years with regards to what is moral in the eyes of God and what the Bible means or which Christian denomination is the right one. But with apparent uncertainty from the Church’s leader, the future seems somewhat bleak.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

My First Interviewing Experience

       Having only ever interviewed people via email previously, aside from a very brief video interview on a work experience placement, last Friday was not the most comfortable task for me. Particularly after rolling out of bed, hot-footing myself to uni for a 9am start, just being sat at a computer seemed enough of a mission. The cold wind and harsh rain certainly didn’t seem a recipe for running round campus interviewing various people either!

     My task was to get some feedback from different people about their views and opinions regarding the most recent renovations to the university campus. With so little time to get my head around what I had to do, let alone prepare any questions, it all seemed so rushed and spontaneous. But after being paired up, my partner and I began to saunter round the campus.

     At first, we requested a quotation from the reception staff, but were unfortunately informed that contract restrictions disallowed some staff members from expressing their personal views about the university. After this knock back, we opted to interview a number of people, including university students, a lecturer and library staff to get as broad a view as possible. This is also why we did not choose a particular angle for our questions, we simply aimed for an overview.

    Interviewing people was a great deal easier than I first thought, and I realised people were more than willing to answer my questions. The spontaneity of this task piled on the pressure and also, unfortunately, did not give my partner and I much time to have an in depth interview. It was interesting to discover that some of the renovations were not built correctly and may have to be torn down and rebuilt

     It was difficult to bare important interview techniques in mind, including keeping interviewees focused on the question, probing them in a polite manner and not coming across as intimidating. But the experience was made a great deal easier with the use of a dictaphone, willing interviewees and their differing views.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Reform Rush

     The Spice Girls, Black Sabbath, Madness, Fleetwood Mac, Fall Out Boy,  B*Witched…the list is endless it seems. Reform fever has well and truly hit the music industry! Whether it’s simply a last-ditch stab at fame and fortune, or simply a desperate attempt to have a career, bands and artists are wriggling their way back into our lives.
     As bands and artists releasing new material and venturing out on a tour after years out of the public eye, many do not receive the reception they initially expected. For instance, S Club 7 (give or take a few members) have been touring all over the UK in intimate venues for the last couple of years with little to no recognition and when 5ive reformed no one batted an eye-lid even if they got wind of the news.  But the likes of The Spice Girls and Steps have enjoyed success their second time out, with huge tours and much publicity.
Even compared to a decade ago, reality television has also taken hold of the public’s television schedules, with Big Brother, The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent being some of the most popular programmes around. When fused together, musical comebacks and T.V. seem a killer combination for publicity and eventual ticket sales! Steps enjoyed their own show on Sky Living after splitting in 2001. They planned a 14-date tour which sold out in about 10 minutes and evolved into a 22-date tour consequentially and also released a new album ‘Light up the World’ just in time for Christmas last year.
    With the success of Steps, other 90s favourites are jumping on the comeback bandwagon! The likes of B*Witched, 5ive, 911 and Atomic Kitten are taking part in an ITV2 reality documentary series about their own reunion stories called The Big Reunion. Bands taking part are also said to be in talks about a full UK tour following a one-off show at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in the 26th of February 2013. Tickets for the concert sold out within five minutes of the first show airing on New Year’s Eve 2012.
    Financially speaking, it is logical for bands and artists to split-up at their peak of success and reunite several years later than it would be from them to attempt to override changing musical horizons. More money is to be made through embracing the cheesy and nostalgic vibe as opposed to struggling through the industry somewhat unnoticed.

      Even Fall Out Boy have jumped on the bandwagon. Being one of the most popular Pop Punk/Emo bands around from their 2001 inception, Fall Out Boy basked in the glory of tetchy teens and peaked at number 4 in the UK Album Chart. Despite fans have grown from discontented, angsty school kids to adults, the internet-based hype around the reunion is astounding, with endless rumours of tours, albums and basically, the biggest comeback in Emo history is in full swing!
The mass reunions are simply proof that music is like fashion; same old same old. Once something popular is pin-pointed it’s made use of, manipulated, evolved and eventually overdone until there is no longer a reception for it. But fashion is cyclic and audiences are clearly ready to welcome music from their past into their present, judging by recent ticket sales.