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Random reviews, remarks, reports and rants!

Archive for the ‘Online Journalism’ Category

Martial Arts Training at Hutton Hall

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Today I went down to Hutton Hall to record a piece for my Online Journalism Masters course. I spoke to Mohammed Zahir who runs the classes about how he became involved and what the classes entail.

Update: You can read my full posting on the Commpact:Europe website here.

Written by Andy Watt

August 15, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Editing the Turkish video

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As the final project on my Online Journalism Masters course, I am creating a website for community group Commpact:Europe.

During a recent visit of a delegation from Turkey, the guests were given Flip cameras to record what happened during their trip.

I recently got hold of the footage but was disappointed to see that they had regularly turned the cameras on their side, as you would with a mobile phone, meaning a large proportion of the film was recoded sideways on and when rotated, had a very narrow view.

This meant that a lot of the film was unusable, but using some footage I had previously shot, along with the film I could use from the Flip cameras, I managed to put together a short review of their visit which you can see below.

Written by Andy Watt

August 8, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Funders Conference at Hutton Hall

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Today, a funding conference was held at Hutton Hall with local MP Liam Byrne in attendance. I was there as part of my Online Journalism Masters course to record what happened for the website I was developing.

As well as videoing the start of the meeting, I also audio recorded the event as a backup in case the video was corrupted or the sound was not of a sufficient quality.

After the meeting, I interviewed Mr Byrne about a recent news report regarding academic achievement in his constituency and also about the meeting he had just attended.

As I was planning to use audio and video recordings, I set the camera up on my tripod, framed it and then stood with the field recorder to conduct the interview. However, once I had set the camera up, he stepped forward, meaning his head was outside the screen area. When I watched it back, I was disappointed this had happened and that I hadn’t been able to monitor it while conducting a fluid interview while holding the audio recorder.

To make the framing better, I cropped the screen so the main focus for the display was his face which made to cutting off of the top part of his head less obvious. The uploaded video is below.

Fortunately I had the audio backup which I could use instead and the nature of the interview meant that it would lend itself to video or audio equally.

This would have been an ideal opportunity to have someone live Tweeting what was discussed at the meeting for the benefit of those who could not attend but were interested. Unfortunately, with video, photographic and audio to contend with, I was not able to do this myself.

Written by Andy Watt

July 22, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Designing a page of quotes

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For a page I am designing for the final assignment in my Online Journalism Masters course, I have been asked to create a page showing statements from participants in one of Commpact:Europe’s programmes.

I was asked to take photographs of the people involved and turn them into Polaroid style photographs to display with their statements.

To achieve this, I downloaded an iPhone app called ShakeItPhoto and used this to create to Polaroid effect. Then I resized them on the computer to ensure the size was relative to the length of the quote and added their name onto the blank while section at the bottom of the photo.

You can view the finished page here.

Written by Andy Watt

July 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm

We can work it out!

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The biggest problem I had with my Production Labs project was that the client wanted an animated timeline map showing the Manchester cuts in sequence. No matter how much I searched, I could not find a way to do it within my current abilities.

I even spoke the the Flash developers at the Financial Times, but they said that I would need a lot of expertise to achieve what I wanted. Then over a beer in the afternoon a fellow Online Journalist, Desi Velikova, suggested I look at Tableau to see if that would work.

Firstly, I made sure I had all the longitude and latitude data in the spreadsheet, dates formatted correctly etc and then loaded it into Tableau. At first it just showed a map with one large circle in the middle, but then I found out the default setting was to find the average of the numbers, so correcting that immediately changed the view to one of Manchester with all the locations of the cuts correctly displayed.

Next, through trial and error (as the help facility was anything but helpful), I managed to work out how to add a time element to the map and also change the size of the markers depending on the size of the cut (dropped from the final version) and how to change colour depending on which department the cut was from.

You can see a screenshot of the resulting map below, or to see it in action, have a look on Kijamedia.

Written by Andy Watt

March 24, 2011 at 7:54 pm

SOOBy Bus Cut Report

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Children attending Selly Oak Trust school (for children with special educational needs) have used a service known as the SOOBy (Selly Oak Only Bus)bus for a number of years. This service followed the same route as the Number 11 bus, meaning the children would familiarise themselves with the route and learn how to use public transport, which would be an invaluable skill for them in the future.

In the curriculum section of the school website, the service is listed as one of the programs offered by the school as a step towards independence.

In the Step By Step Program to Independent Travel, it states:

As part of their progress towards independent living and employability, students are encouraged, where appropriate, to become independent travellers.

When students start the school in Year 7, the majority of students travel in minibuses or taxis. A small number join the SOOBy bus.

The same page on the school website describes the SOOBy bus as:

There are two SOOBy buses which run clockwise and anticlockwise around the number 11 bus route. Each bus has an escort. Students who live within walking distance of the number 11 bus route are invited to travel on a SOOBy. Parents and carers, with the school and the school transport department of the Local Authority, decide whether it is appropriate for their children to travel on the SOOBy. In addition, a decision has to be made regarding safe travel between the bus stop and home. Some students are escorted by a responsible adult, and put into the care of the escort on the bus and received from the escort at the end of their journey home. Students who are confident in their home areas but are not yet able to travel to and from school on public transport can walk to and from the bus stop unescorted.

At home time the students who travel on the SOOBy are allowed to leave lessons five minutes early to meet their escorts who take them to the SOOBy. The SOOBy buses are usually the first ones to leave the site.

If the student is to be collected at the bus stop and there is no one there to meet them, the escort will keep the student on the bus and return them to the school. Where school staff will make arrangements for the student to be collected.

The SOOBY bus offers students the opportunity to feel more independent whilst being accompanied at all times and students are being familiar with the route and the skills needed for travelling on the bus whilst travelling on the SOOBY.

With what appears to be the minimum of consultation or notice, this service has been scrapped. Listen to how this cut has impacted directly on one family by clicking the player below.

Clicking on the </> on the right hand side of the player will allow you to share the interview with social networking sites and also provide a direct link to the recording on Soundcloud and also an embed code so you can use it on your own website or blog.

If you would like to use the audio above in your own site, you are free to do so.

Update: We have been trying to get to the bottom of this story, but our investigation has raised more questions than answers. We asked the school to comment on the change to the transport arrangements, but after being told they would provide one, the headteacher changed her mind and asked us to request a statement from the local authority instead.

So we approached Birmingham City Council who told us

The service has been withdrawn due to lack of use with very few children using the service. There was no sense continuing with it as it wasn’t being used; it has not been cut because of the financial situation we find ourselves in, the cut would have been made at anytime. The children who were using the service are now using the home to school system so no children have been left high and dry.

This is at odds with what the parent we spoke to was told, that the removal of the service was due to financial reasons.

We also submitted a Freedom of Information request to Birmingham City Council regarding the wider issue of transport for children with special educational needs. They told us:

  • The total budget for transport cost for 2010/2011 is £10,260,798. This is the total budget for contract hire and bus passes (NB This includes mainstream travel assistance). The budget for guiding costs is approximately £4,000,000.
  • Approximately 4,000 pupils are provided with daily specialised transport assistance and approximately 3,000 pupils receive help with free bus passes.
  • We contract all of our work out to external transport operators so employ no drivers. We employ 660 pupil guides.

In response to a question on how many of these services had been cut since the start of the current academic year (ie September 2010), they said

We make changes to routes as required according to pupil needs, where
they live etc. Our current policy is currently out for consultation for
change and will be subject to Members Agreement.

They claimed not to have any information on:

  • How many children had been affected by cuts since September 2010
  • How many services were planned to be cut
  • How many children would be affected by these cuts
  • How many redundancies will the cuts result in
  • Financially, how much would the cuts to these services save

Interestingly, when asked “Legally, how much notification do schools and the Authority have to give parents that a service is being withdrawn”, they replied

As an authority we have a duty to act reasonably and, although there are no prescribed timescales, the authority would take into account the responses to its consultation on any changes to be made and would also consider whether any transitional arrangements may be necessary as part of any proposed changes.

This final response raises some interesting questions. How much of a consultation was entered into with parents? Were their responses taken into account and how much consideration was given to any transitional arrangements?

We will be looking further into this in an attempt to uncover the truth relating to the removal of this service.

Written by Andy Watt

March 23, 2011 at 10:48 am

Posted in Online Journalism

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We Are What We Tweet – Promo 3rd Cut

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Below is the third cut of the We Are What We Tweet promotional video. I replaced a couple of clips for those with better definition, added the logo to the start and as a graphic during the promo and also changed the text colour to match that of the logo.

Written by Andy Watt

March 22, 2011 at 1:56 pm