Lies, damn lies and statistics!

14 02 2013

This week  Alastair Skeffington and Belinda Kemp visited Brighton Journalist Works to talk to our students about the importance of understanding and reporting scientific and statistical information correctly.

Student Ros Branagan wrote:

New research has shown that 89% of statistics used by journalists are incorrect.

Is a sentence like this over-simplified, misleading, or just plain inaccurate?

These are the kinds of pitfalls that can easily befall journalists, many of whom don’t come from a scientific background.

Thankfully stats experts Alastair and Belinda ran a fascinating, informative and interactive workshop for Brighton Journalist Works students to flag up the essential skills needed to write about scientific data with clarity and accuracy.

For someone like me, who doesn’t have a head figures, this workshop was a must. I had feared flashbacks to GCSE maths, but luckily 100% of this blogger has now learned to fear stats just a fraction less.


Cain is able (the story so far)…

12 02 2013

We always tell our student journalists that time races by on our Fast Track 14-week NCTJ course and this week rookie hack Daniel Cain has taken to his blog to sum up how life at Journalist Works simply shoots by when you are learning new, interesting stuff (and getting addicted to seeing your byline…)

Over to you, Daniel…

After the initial shock of the first couple of weeks on the course things have finally settled down enough for me to get my head around where I’m currently at.

It’s been a whirlwind and I’ve experienced things that I would never have done before I came here (nothing life changing but fun nonetheless). I’ve attended a protest at a university – something I never did in my time there – I’ve helped plant a community garden and I’ve attended magistrates court to take notes on live cases.

From a selfish perspective it’s been great, I’ve had four pieces published (two in the Leader and two in the Argus) but it’s the overall experience that has had the biggest impact and left me feeling like I am actually getting closer to my dream of becoming a paid journalist.

We’ve had some inspiring speakers visit us so far. We got to meet the Fleet Street Fox just a week before she revealed her real identity in the Times, we heard from the Chichester Observer editor Colin Channon and also freelance photographer Andrew Hasson, whose work has been used on everything and everywhere.

Each day brings something entirely new and opens your eyes to writing in a way that you had never thought about before. Take today for example. We had two scientists come in to guest speak about stats and data, on the face of it not everyone’s cup of tea, but I definitely came out of it with a new outlook on how to process information in a way that’s not misleading and now know when the media is pulling the wool over our eyes.

Hopefully my story pool won’t dry up and I definitely need to start putting as much time into PA, production and law as I do shorthand and reporting… but it’s just too addictive seeing your name in print.

Roll on the next few weeks.

The story so far – week one at BJW over…

21 01 2013

It’s the beginning of week two for our NCTJ Fast Trackers and we think they are settling in rather nicely. The first week is always a bit scary but from reading the shiny new blogs that the students have been setting up (or updating – oh yes, we were impressed at how many already had blogs) it seems things are going well.

Here are a few extracts from some of them…

Nicolle Payne: “The course itself is amazing, tiring and fast paced. Just as promised. Of course the news writing was very interesting, keeping a list of sources of news on how to write a good story, with all the dos and donts of intros, was very helpful. But what really excited me was getting my patch, even if it is a large one, all the way from Rottingdean through to Seaford. It just means there’s more to write which can never be a bad thing!

Joe Riddle: “Learning shorthand seemed a very daunting prospect when I first opened my textbook and was faced with a wall of what looked like sanscrit or Egyptian hieroglyphics. I was sure it would be impossible to master this alien language in a mere 14 weeks. As it happens I seem to be getting the hang of it rather well and am suitably pleased with myself, whilst at the same time taking nothing for granted.”

Annie Hayes: “Having already taken Media Law (and my Court Reporting exam) with Brighton Journalist Works last term, I thought I’d totally prepped myself for how busy my life was about to become over the next few months. WRONG. It’s only Thursday evening of week one and I’m bone-achingly exhausted (it turns out commuting between Southend and Brighton every few days is knackering), I can’t stop thinking about shorthand, and every time I hear anyone speak about anything I keep checking to see if The Argus have already covered it and wondering if I can make it work as a potential news story with a new Brighton-based angle. We haven’t even started Subbing yet. Or the dreaded Public Affairs.

These things all sound bad, but after almost 2 years of working in what is a essentially a modern day factory (call centre banking), I can’t begin to say how exciting this all is. I’ve been so happily busy I keep forgetting to do normal people stuff like have dinner, text my friends, watch telly, re-tweet pictures of baby animals, sleep…

Good luck in week two everyone!!



First day at Brighton Journalist Works, according to Claire…

15 01 2013

Ah, the first day of  our new, shiny Jan 2013 Fast Track has passed and all those nerves and starting-something-different jitters have calmed a little for our students.

Delighted to see new student Claire Maxwell has already blogged about her first day – fancy a look? Click here then!


Our MA student cock-a-hoop after hula footage run by Argus

6 12 2012

Never let it be said that students (well, ours anyway) are anything but an alert bunch when it comes to spotting something unusual. MA student Jonathan Barton was having a gentle Sunday stroll through Brighton when he came across a flash mob of hula hoopers raising money for charity and thought he would video the spectacle. His reward? The Argus, Brighton’s local daily, picked up his footage for their website. Here it is…

Well done, Jonathan!

In the thick of it – MA student reports on MP fracas

16 11 2012

There’s nothing better as a journalism student that finding yourself in the middle of a breaking news story.

One of our MA students Nick Chowdrey was studying in class on the University of Sussex campus this week when Hove MP Mike Weatherly got into a spot of bother.

Here’s his blog post….

Today I had the chance to engage in some real life reporting!

At approximately 13:50 the fire alarm sounded during my Journalism in Transition lecture in the Silverstone Building on the University of Sussex campus. We quietly filed out to the front of the building, where we noticed a riot van had parked outside on the road.

Nothing seemed to be happening, so I went across the courtyard to get a coffee. Suddenly, a huge amount of shouting and banging erupted from the entrance to Silverstone. I looked over and saw a group of 20-30 people swarming the police van as it tried to pull away.

Officers were battering people off the sides of the van. I left my coffee behind and ran outside, taking video footage.

I spoke to two young girls shortly after I stopped filming who told me that they were squatters protesting about the recent criminalisation of squatting in the UK. They had chased Mike Weatherley, MP for Hove – who was due to give a lecture on the subject at the university that day – into the building. Police were called in to rescue him.

Daisy Stevens – one of the young squatters, who can be seen in the above video wearing a red jumper and black scarf – told me that they were angry at the dawn evictions taking place across Brighton. Daisy’s friend, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “we want him to be as frightened as we are.”

Putting into practice my two months of journalistic training, I immediately tweeted on the issue and my video was posted up on The Argus website:

Apparently, the BBC now has the video and it may be used tonight on South East today. Although I’m not sure how they’ll get round the amount of swearing… Either way, exciting times for the aspiring video journalist that I am!

The experience was incredibly thrilling. The wobble from the video is so bad because my hands were shaking with adrenaline. It reminded of being on stage – so many bits of information were flooding back to me at once and I was ready for anything.

I can only imagine what it must be like, for instance, for journalists embedded in areas of conflict.  I’ve always wondered what could possibly attract people to do that job – now I think I understand a little better.

‘I love media law’ and other stories – starting out at Journalist Works

18 09 2012

During their first week at Brighton Journalist Works students hit the ground running.

As well as attending classes, students are finding stories for their community reporter patches, met some of Brighton’s hacks and hackers and taken part in a pop up digital newsroom.

What better way to end your second day at Brighton Journalist Works than in the pub?

It was a temptation few could resist as the majority of the new NCTJ fast-track students joined journalists and developers at The Eagle for the September Hacks/Hackers Brighton meeting.

Billed as part of the Brighton Digital Festival, speakers Aral Balkan and Joanna Geary talked about online communities from different perspectives.

Tom Harper

I then had my first more general journalism experience as I went to the hacks/hackers meet-up at The Eagle pub in Brighton.

Some elements of the talks we were given went over my head, but I found a lot of the discussion very interesting and it undoubtedly gave me a greater understanding of aspects of journalism which I had not really considered before my course had started.

Kristy Barber

After being let out half hour early, we headed down to the Hacks and Hackers talk in town. There we heard a talk from a pretty enthusiastic american guy called Aral Balkan.

He did a pretty awesome talk about Twitter, Facebook and a new app called which is basically the same as Twitter and Facebook however you pay £2.50 a month to keep your stuff private from the company ‘It’s your real-time feed, a home for meaningful conversation, where you control your data’. Pretty nifty stuff!

Then there was another talk from Joanna Geary, Guardians Digital Development Editor about the importance of community within the news.

It was a pretty cool talk and she seemed like a lovely lady however I don’t think my knowledge is that good yet to understand what she was talking about, I did catch on to an argument that was brewing between a few people in the crowd with was quite entertaining though.

Amy Roberts

Aral put on a very interesting presentation – all I’ll say is “is your privacy worth more than a pint a month?” if the answer is yes, get following Aral on Twitter!

Joanna is a very interesting person but to tell you the truth, I had no idea what she was talking about, it was a little too advanced for my knowledge but everyone else was enjoying and following it.

There were debates flying from every angle of the room, which was quite amusing to say the least. I also recommend following Joanna on Twitter!

Expert liveblogger Adam Tinworth wrote two pieces within ten minutes of the end of each talk: Aral on identity and privacy and Joanne Geary: So all that online community stuff is sorted now…

Hacks/Hackers Brighton organised a pop up newsroom and skill sharing session at The Dome as part of the Mini Maker Faire at the Digital Festival.

Alastair Reid, Jamie Walker and Chris Cox went along to see what they could find.

Jamie ventured outside the faire to the Brighton Food Festival in the streets outside The Dome and wrote how Brighton was over run with events for the Hacks/Hackers blog

Alastair experimented with digital storytelling and wrote his piece about Robo-Xylo and Scalexercise, uploaded video and pictures to the blog via apps on his smartphone.

Samantha Graham found her first story:

As part of our reporting course, we have to complete a portfolio of 10 different articles. Some of these can be community stories from our ‘patch’ (we’ve all been allocated an area of Brighton to cover for the Argus newspaper). My patch is Hove Park & Goldstone Valley, Aldrington, Hangleton & Knoll and Portslade.

So I took a trip to my patch and just drove around to get to know the area. I checked notice boards, churches, communtiy centres – and I actually stumbled across Hangleton Park Community Festival! I had a chat with the Friends of Hangleton Park and the chairman/organiser, Dave. My first story!

So did Kristy Barber:

Thanks to a link I saw my mum post on Facebook today, I’ve been able to get in contact with the news desk downstairs about a big event in Worthing this weekend that they haven’t covered yet. They asked me to write something about it by 6pm today to go with a feature in tomorrow’s paper, so fingers crossed I’ll see my name in black and white tomorrow morning.

Gareth Davis was the first to have a story published in Brighton’s daily newspaper, The Argus.

He discovered a woman’s homage to Team GB’s medallists in Hangleton.


Kristy was the first to write about her struggle with the squiggles:

Strangely enough, I’m starting to get the hang of it. It feels weird though because 2 days ago it all looked like a load of gibberish to me but now I can actually write sentences in the stuff! I’m so cool I even send a little message to my boyfriend in it.


And law

Amy Roberts found a new love for media law:

I love it! It’s so interesting! I really enjoyed learning about the laws surrounding writing stories. A good website to check out is it tells you all of the complaints put in against newspapers and magazines!

Journalism training is tough, but there was a chance for students to enjoy themselves at the end of the week.

They were bowled over after a rigorous week.