Beneath the comfy blanket of open-mindedness

Scene from 'La mala educacion'

Scene from the movie 'La mala educacion' by Pedro Almodóvar

Apart from the news of endless riots in Africa and/or Asia, another topic caught my attention during this week. It was the controversial incident of a gay couple thrown out of a pub in Soho for displaying their affection in public.

I first saw the news in the Guardian , but I was intrigued by the comments of several followers of the BBC programme World Have Your Say on Facebook.

I won’t pick any names or concrete examples, as anyone interested can read them by him/herself, but many of them were against homosexuality or at least against public displays of affection when it comes to love between two persons of the same sex.

Of course, the opinions are very different as they come from people all over the world with different mentalities, cultures and education, but it was strange to find so many comments blaming the two guys who were asked to leave John Snow because they were being “obscene”.

I don’t know what they were really doing and how intimate they were, but as far as I know Soho is far from being a conservative , immaculate place in London. And to kick someone out from a pub because they are gay — well, that’s really racist and discriminative, isn’t it?

So this brings me to what I really want to emphasize, the fact that so many ‘westerns’ pose in the perfect, sincere image of open-minded people that understand the concept of politically-correctness and overcome any barriers of race, religion or sexuality. Which is not entirely true as a gram of racial segregation lays in many of them under that fluffy, elegant blanket of ‘anti-discrimination’ attitude.

I’m sure there are people who really feel that way without any absconded thought, but the rest just likes to pretend that they are better when it’s not really the case.

I am sure there is research on people’s real feelings towards racism – with everything that this involves – but I wonder what the results would be of an anonymous survey on at least 3,000 people coming from ‘civilised countries’ on a similar topic, including matters of homosexuality, immigration, interracial marriages etc.

Unfortunately I don’t think we really want to know the truth, cause it’s much more comfortable to point finger in public and then spit from behind.

I’d rather debate on topics such as ‘priests sexually abusing children/boys.’ That is what it should really bother us and make us nausea rather than two men/women kissing eachother in a pub in a city which is famous for extravaganza and libertine.

London trip: constructive, impressive, innovative. Part 1

I’ve been to London for three days of tours of three different newsrooms and the two big Houses of Parliament. It was a trip designed and paid for by the University of Sheffield for the Web and Magazine journalism students. I will describe it using one word for each place I’ve been to during these days in one of the most busiest and tiresome cities in the world.

This is also a form of a feedback for our great tutor Bill Carmichael who had the patience to wait for all of us and the energy to answer our questions and even to have dinner with us in China Town! 🙂

Group picture in China Town

Group picture in China Town

First of all, I want to emphasize on the importance of this trip, especially, to the Newsrooms because they have offered us a good taste of the real world of journalism. It’s not fake, it’s not an exercise, it is what it is: journalism in some of the largest newsrooms in UK or in the world. We could have never learned about them from staying in Sheffield.

1.BBC Online – impressive
2.The Independent – constructive
3.Daily Mail Online – innovative (yet realistic)

Tour of BBC

Tour of BBC

BBC Television Centre is the name of this huge newsroom with thousands of people working for it. It is impressive to step in a centre where you can actually feel the journalism in every bit of it. TV studios, live broadcasting, phones ringing, tweetDecks refreshing chaotically, TVs on each desk, people typing frantically and a real town underground with shops, pharmacies and cafes. How cannot this be impressive?

BBC Television Centre

BBC Television Centre

The tour just gave me chills. I think it’s every journalist’s dream to have at least some months of work for the BBC. Though what sort of discouraged me was Matthew Eltringham‘s frank response about the hard chances a journalist has nowadays to get a job with the BBC considering the cuts they have suffered in the past six months. However, a man can dream, right? 🙂

The Independent newsroom is, obviously, much more different and smaller. Still, journalists act almost the same: Stamina and nerve all the way. Jack Riley was our host at Northcliffe House, a building that gives home to several newspapers such as Daily Mail, London Evening Standard, Metro and some others which I can’t really remember now. We mostly talked about social media and the roles it plays in the life of a newspaper, in terms of marketing and newsgathering. Hmm, actually I reckon we talked more about the marketing side of social-media and how it helped the newspapers (the 20p “I” too) gain more readers.

Anyway, it was a constructive talk with good questions coming from my classmates. I believe it is also important to mention here that the Independent looks to find an efficient way of payable content like the Times. It is an interesting challenge, but I consider there are too many ways to read the news for a paper to earn money through this system. It should probably upload online some great, exclusive materials worth to be paid for.

Finally, the Daily Mail Online, the newsroom which seems the perfect place for web journalists. It was the ONLY newsroom that gave me the feeling that the WEB Department really matters for a newspaper. I say this because for BBC and the Independent the online seems to be the “necessary evil” (apud Hanne). The web is just an auxiliary tool fed with information coming from TV, Radio and news agencies. It just seems boring to me…but I pray to God to be wrong.

Northcliffe House

Northcliffe House

Unlike many other newsrooms, Daily Mail cares about its website, it might be because it’s the second read/largest in the world after the New York Times? Although they opened their website later than all the others competitors in the UK, Daily Mail tried to change the traditional, sometimes boring, journalism. I know Daily Mail does not have the most qualitative news in the media, but its way of writing them (online) triggers millions of readers per day. I loved it the most maybe because our speakers, Sarah Graham and Claire Bates (former student at Web Journalism, Uni of Sheffield) expressed a really realistic view on what readers want from a news website.

Long headlines that explain the whole story, a catchy teaser, many photos with short captions, some more photos, bullet points, photos again and in the end, a big section of commentaries moderated by people hired especially for this job.

A 24-hour newsroom, with night-shifts and people updating the homepage sometimes within seconds. They have reinvented the traditional journalistic titles. Because this is online and that’s the beauty of it: no space limit. Sure, most of the people skim through an online text and that is why Daily Mail based its strategy on the big, long headlines that would attract a reader and not deceive him with some short, lacking (almost) sentences.

There are definitely different views on this – they don’t teach you this in school; I know some journalism teachers who would die from heart attack if I wrote such titles for my patch stories 😀 – however, it works for them, and it works pretty damn good too. Daily Mail has recently opened two offices in New York and Los Angeles, going after the first place in the world by overrunning the NYTimes. Fingers crossed!

They spoke the truth: rewriting stories is vital for web journalism otherwise you could never get 400 stories a day for your online version. There’s no shame in that as far as journalists use their own words and dig for some more info. In-depth research comes when it’s time for that. Phones are best friends with these journalists and so are the Picture and Video agencies, those which provide them with great content. And on top of everything is the unique style they are using for writing these stories.

Inside BBC

Inside BBC newsroom on Wood Lane

Overall, I think the trips to the newsrooms showed us that web journalism is not as evolved as I thought. I mean, as a web journalist you have to do broadcast and print at the same time, but by using twitter and your multi-tasking phone. Matthew, from BBC, said there is no such thing as a “specialised web journalist”, therefore I ask myself if the online reporters are really doing a journalistic work or if the web will ever become more important than the print? Because, obviously it hasn’t yet or at least most of the traditional journalists don’t see it like that.

My second part on the Houses of Parliament and our political speakers will be published soon 🙂

Westminster

Tour of Houses of Parliament

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