My new camera – Canon 70d

Following on from the advice of the techicians at ITV Granada and sticking to my budget, I invested in a Canon 70D with 18-135mm IS STM lens just before heading back to university. It shoots at full 1080p, 20.2 MP and includes WiFi for transferring photos and video content from the camera to the mobile. The lens so far is absolutely sensational – the AF focus is incredibly quick indeed and makes no noise at all when zooming and focusing. Picture quality is excellent, both on stills and the sharpest of HD video, and handles low light very well.

I’m slowly getting to grips with the many features, this being my first DSLR, and I hope to be able to share some of my results, both stills and video, on the blog very soon.

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Canon 70D with 18-135mm lens. Credit: The Digital Picture

Scottish referendum – The European angle

Scottish referendum – The European angle

The country’s media whipped into a frenzy over Scotland’s decision not to become independent. While it was all well and good to examine the minutiae of the results town by town or city by city, I thought that using my passion for Europe might put into perspective what exactly this result might mean for other parts of the continent. One case study that I am very much interested in, having studied the culture and language for many years, is that of Catalonia, which faces a non-binding vote on independence in November.

The circumstances under which this illegal referendum has come about differ greatly from the diplomatic agreement struck between Cameron and Salmond. For Madrid and Barcelona, it has been soundbites and newspaper headlines that have swayed the debate, as the question of Catalonia breaking from Spain is not one that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed not to consider. So, having been exhausted by breaking news straps flashing for hours about the all-important NO result, I decided to step back and see how Europe took to this either-or scenario.

I decided this time to make a radio package, having wanted to do something in the style of BBC Radio 4’s Six O’Clock News, which uses mostly voicover and few clips to build up a narrative for the listener. Not only does this show some skill in editing – I wanted little more than 2 minutes, typical of this sort of report – but equally it is enough for me to go through the nerve-wracking experience of recording and listening over and over again to my own voice! Writing the script and editing proved to be very quick, given I’ve been following the Spanish/Catalan angle for quite a while through a daily dose of the Spanish/Catalan press and TV news.

Here is the SoundCloud piece:

Work experience at ITV Granada – September 2014

Work experience at ITV Granada – September 2014

I managed to spend 2 days with the ITV Granada team, which I had been wanting to embark on for a while. Having such an interest in broadcast media, especially television, this was a perfect way of exploring how packages are made, how the gallery works, the technical side of feeds, and how the newsroom team co-ordinates sourcing a story, and seeing its progress throughout the day to transmission.

On my first day with the team, I arrived just before half past ten, when I was very warmly welcomed to Granada’s floor of the Orange building in MediaCityUK. I started by being shown around iNews, the software used for newsgathering, scripts and viewing the wires. I started to research various big stories of the day, including unemployment statistics and transport issues.

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ITV Granada studio. Credit: ITV

I sat in on several editorial meetings, going through running orders and ideas for stories, how they’d be presented in the studio and possible talking points to which viewers could contribute.

Afterwards, I took it upon myself to go around the newsroom, chatting to every different cog of the Granada team, from planning, to online and the tech team at the back. Each component part of the newsroom, despite being busy, was more than happy to tell me about their role, ask me about my experience and ambitions, and offer some very valued advice. I was particularly interested at this stage to acquire a good-quality DSLR camera, and I wasn’t short of advice as to what I should be looking for from the tech team. I sat with them for a while, chatting to a freelance cameraman about how technology in news has advanced and how best to approach a camera.

Later in the morning, I accompanied a broadcast assistant and a cameraman to observe a quick interview being filmed in the piazza for the lunchtime bulletin. The lady being interviewed was a survivor of domestic abuse, and was giving her thoughts on a story out on the day that the IPCC had failed in preventing the death of a woman from Southport at the hands of an abusive partner. .

Over lunch, I managed to talk to a former ITN trainee who was very helpful indeed with talking me through my next steps in journalism.

In the afternoon, I watched a package being edited and put together, a lighter news story for the end of the programme which exemplifies the wide remit of stories that Granada likes to cover. It was about a woman who had the goal of visiting every pub in the UK named the Rose and Crown. She had been to many hundreds of pubs with that very same name! Witnessing the images being so carefully edited to fit the voiceover, and being very aware of the package length, it was fascinating to watch how the editor works so judiciously with the reporter to create a 2-minute report; the effort with which it is made is often taken for granted by the ordinary viewer. Over an hour later, and the package was finished, just before the programme began!

The day culminated – and definitely climaxed – with watching the 6pm Granada Reports programme going out live from the gallery. Watching graphics, cameras and lighting co-ordinate with the director and keeping all within time was a great feat by what is a very close-knit team. Having seen the stories develop throughout the day, and having sat in on all of their different stages, the 30-minute programme not only flew by but equally filled me with such a hunger to return tomorrow to see more of how the day develops and quickens in pace in anticipation of the main evening bulletin.

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MediaCityUK and Orange Tower. Credit: ITV

All in all, it was most definitely a busy day which I truly thrived off. Leaving the building shortly after half past six, I certainly couldn’t wait to be back in tomorrow from 9am to start it all again.

Day two began rather early. Living quite far from Manchester meant getting up at 5am in addition to getting a series of different trains and a tram to reach MediaCityUK by 9am. During the journey, I read up on stories, making a note of ones which should be pursued and that Granada was already covering on their morning bulletins. The day started rather more slowly as the team cancelled its normal morning meeting to work on a number of quick, developing stories. During this time, I researched a couple of potential news stories to cover and read around the national news for the day, as well as sitting in on a pre-rec of the mid-morning weather bulletin. I was sat with one of the directors in the gallery, and she offered some really helpful advice again on how to pursue my journalistic goals.

I made sure upon entering the newsroom that I asked for an outside reporting job to be found for me during the course of the day. I was first given the opportunity to go out with a self-shooting sports reporter to a nearby football stadium. Plans changed, and I was then offered a chance to visit a Manchester dog rescue which had a few days previously been arsoned. I I was very much looking forward to seeing how Granada covered such a big, sensitive story.

During the morning, I sat with a video reporter who was working on a report to go out on that night’s programme. The reporter self-shoots and self-edits, and was kind enough to not only show some of his other work and discuss it with me, but also offer advice and listen to some of my thoughts on previous work experience I had with other media organisations.

However, I soon got talking to Granada reporter Matt O’Donoghue, who rushed over to ask whether I would like to accompany him to see UKIP leader Nigel Farage visiting Heywood and Middleton. Farage was campaigning there just a few weeks ahead of the by-election. Before we had to leave, I sat with Matt who offered me the most extensive and useful advice, from pursuing specific journalists I admire for shadowing, to acquiring a camera and what to do with it. I had learned already that nearly all Granada reporters had been taught to self-shoot and self-edit, and so I’d be going out with Matt who would be operating the camera himself. I knew this would be a very fruitful opportunity to learn lots from an experienced, multi-skilled journalist. In the car on the way to there, Matt and I talked more about news, local news, Granada and how to approach the UKIP story.

Matt was planning to gather interviews and a range of shots to use in the coming weeks for various packages, so this wasn’t a shoot for on-the-day material. Arriving in Heywood, a BBC team was there, along with various freelancers. There were large crowds for the UKIP leader, together with many supporters and other people curious to find out what was going on. We managed to have a couple of minutes with Nigel Farage, along with the parliamentary candidate for the constituency, as I assisted Matt with holding the boom mic and co-ordinating where we would go to in the village.

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UKIP offices in Heywood. Credit: Andrew Connell

We gathered more shots, and moved on to Middleton, where it was much more difficult to find out where the UKIP team had gone to continue their campaigning. Matt interviewed more people, and I managed to grab a word with three people of my age who were all UKIP supporters. Matt filmed as I interviewed each of them, asking them what got them so politically engaged, why they specifically chose UKIP and what the party could do to help their local community.

After more time spent doing interviews and following the crowd around, we headed back on the motorway to the newsroom. We sat at the computer watching the footage that Matt had filmed, and talking through what was good and bad about them, from the angles, colour and range of the shot. I also had a chance to watch more of Matt’s work, including several of his most recent reports. Matt has the brief of being an investigative reporter, focusing on crime, miscarriages of justice and stories pertaining to the IPCC.

Shortly after this, I left for the day, knowing that I had learnt and observed so many interesting things from a constantly moving local news programme with a large team of multi-skilled journalists, all of whom had time to listen and care about you personally. It was the most personable spell of work experience I had had so far, and I made sure to ask whether I’d be allowed back again soon. It is an opportunity, albeit brief and very quick, that I’d certainly enjoy repeating.