All 23 entries tagged Cardiff

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June 02, 2007

Not news

On the boards around Cardiff advertising today’s Western Mail:



March 28, 2007

We've Been Framed

Cardiff is probably one of the best-regarded places to study journalism in the UK. Even Johnny Foreigner comes over to study here. We call him McFad. Yet the evidence below suggests this reputation may not be entirely deserved…

March 26, 2007

Don't work with children or animals… or politicians.

Phew… They say you shouldn’t work with kids or animals in television, but I’d recommend avoiding politicians too. It’s not that they run around uncontrollably or piss on the studio floor, but they’re a bit of a chain around your neck. What would have been a fairly flexible deadline is suddenly made precise by having a few demanding egos in the room.

We’ve been recording a Question Time programme with participants from Labour, Conservatives, Lib Dems and Plaid, and things started going badly when the Labour person pulled out about six hours before filming. Three hours of phoning later and we had a stand-in.

We were running predictably late, and started filming at the last possible moment. One candidate was having a nervous relationship with their wrist-watch. As soon as we were done with filming the main take, they got up, even though we needed them to sit and film a couple of inserts. Nope, not gonna happen, it seems. Politician has somewhere else to be.

Later it turned out that they could just about hear our talkback system, meaning anything I was saying in the gallery was getting through to them. Er… right. That’s the presenter’s prompts? The questions being read in advance? The lines of attack? And presumably it included the derogatory comments from the gallery as well then?

Live telly. Pain. In. The. Arse.

January 30, 2007

It's raining shit in Blackpool

What the hell.

How on Earth did Manchester get Britain’s first super-casino? They’d given up and were supporting Blackpool. There’s practically no scope for regeneration. They’ve got a Commonwealth stadium. A massive expansion of the BBC. The Lowry. Imperial War Museum. The world’s greatest football club.

Blackpool has pigeons. And the world’s worst football club. It urgently needs some help.

And yet Manchester got the casino. It’s completely beyond explanation.

The real kick in the teeth comes from the fact that Manchester’s casino will be so close to Blackpool, the seaside resort has almost no chance of ever getting a large casino.

Cardiff put in a crap bid. Bookies had them at 50/1. Which when you read the document from the Casino Advisory Panel looks like shoddy odds. The Cardiff’s raison d’etre was completely rubbished, as was their aspiration to help London host the Olympics. And it gets worse – the government consultation was basically run out of Cardiff University.

It’s been a shocking day for the Council in Cardiff, so it’s no surprise the Leader was nowhere to be seen.

January 25, 2007

Huw says political 'argy bargy' is a gigantic switchoff

I’ve just met Professor1 Huw Edwards (right). Lovely man. But he’s worried.

The audience is changing. We need to know what the audience thinks and why they may or may not be watching.

Because while big news stories like the Suffolk Murders get big ratings (the same audience as big stories got in the 1980s), there’s been a large general decline in TV News watching.

Huw Edwards, speaking at Cardiff Journalism School, 25th January 2007Since 2001 there’s been a drop of 16% in the number of 16-34 year olds watching BBC News bulletins. It’s been worse on other channels and no, they haven’t all been going online.

By 2012, if current trends continue, only around two-thirds of the UK will see any BBC News. It’s currently over 80% each week.

Huw’s worried because the licence fee – which pays his wages – depends on the BBC being seen by as many people who pay for it as possible. If they stop watching, people will wonder what they’re paying for.

Another worry – for politicians, and for me as a budding political journalist – is that the public are fed up with what Huw called “political argy-bargy”. It’s a “gigantic switchoff”. And yet that’s what political reporting seems to have become. Because we care about ‘human interest’ stories. So Gordon Brown’s home life is more interesting than his five economic tests. And yet we hate seeing stories about him and Blair having a tussle. Hmm…

Audiences are fickle. And so Huw’s message was that if you watch the news and think “Why are they doing that!?”, then the answer is that it’s because – often – that’s how you want it. Their very expensive research says so.

Listen to some of what Huw had to say (1m10):

1 Professor? Yup, that’s right. He was in Cardiff to give his inaugural lecture as a Professor in the Journalism School.

January 18, 2007

Fun in the sun wind

A dodgy photo of a fallen tree in Cardiff Eight people dead, thousands of trees struck down. It’s been a crazy day. Apparently part of Warwick Uni’s campus has been closed as debris was being blown off the roof of the library.

I’ve spent the day trying to get video of said destruction in Cardiff (see right – not taken by me, I should add) and if there’s two things I’ve learned today, it’s:

  1. Trying to shoot in 50mph+ winds is fun
  2. Trying to show 50mph+ winds on film is a nightmare

Even blowing trees look tame on tape. I nearly fell over several times down in Atlantic Wharf, but the only way to show the strength of these winds would have been to hang me from a lamp-post. And you can imagine how bad that would have looked…

January 15, 2007

4.30pm is a stupid time for an exam

...I’m waiting. I have a 90-minute exam starting at 4.30pm and have nothing left to revise. I’m all revised out. I know what the questions are going to be, I know how I’m going to answer them. And this waiting is killing me.

Someone on my course said they’d be more likely to read my blog if I put revision notes on it. So here’s a last-minute review of the Barker Review of Land Use Planning, 2006…

Screw residents, let businesses build whatever they like.

And the interim Lyons Report (2006)?


Hope that helped.

Finally, what’s the shortest amount of time you’ve been given to write an essay in an exam? 60 minutes? 45? 30? At Warwick I typically had 45mins per question. Today I have… 20-25. Anyone do better than that? Thought not.

January 13, 2007

Plaid Cymru and the Tories should make friends

Blamerbell, an increasingly influential Welsh blogger, suggested this week that the chances of Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives joining forces after the May Welsh Assembly elections was as likely as Lembit Opik becoming a Benedictine monk.

Mathematically it might do them a favour though. Dr Richard Wyn Jones and Dr Roger Scully of the Institute of Welsh Politics have done the 'electoral math'1 and say that the election in May this year is likely to result in:

Party Projected seats
Plaid Cymru
Lib Dems

There's lots of possibilities. Labour and Plaid Cymru might get together. Labour and the Lib Dems might amble along. But if the Tories want to have any say, joining with the Lib Dems - while politically practical - would be mathematically daft. They'd be trounced. Plaid's their only partner if they want to lead. And as Blamerbell said, it's not likely.

If the figures are accurate, it looks like a Labour/Plaid coalition is inevitable. And that means the next term's going to be even more explosive than this one.

1. A West Wingism that I love.

December 10, 2006

Winning at a mug's game

Last night I visited a casino for the first time. I had no idea what to expect, other than to lose any money that might get taken out of my wallet!

With Cardiff one of several cities hoping to build a regional casino, it was interesting to see this small-scale blueprint for how the future might look. The venue was – as the law currently dictates – quite small. The law also means you have to become a member to play. I got a shiny membership card, which makes me feel I’m already a member of Gamblers Anonymous.

In the casino, there were about four roulette tables and a similar number of poker and blackjack tables. Beyond this were about 12 slot-machines and the same number of computerised roulette tables.

You might not believe me, but we were there for “research” purposes! Holly’s doing a radio feature on casinos and wanted some background noise to use in it. But despite our honest intentions, we did of course end up having a bit of a flutter.

James got in there first, placing £10 on a roulette table. The hole in the corner of the table quickly swallowed all of it up. And seeing how many chips were being lost down this black hole, I began to realise it was virtually impossible to win.

Another reason for thinking this was the number of staff in the casino. With such high overheads, the odds must be stacked in the house’s favour just to cover the cost of employees. The casino was open until 6am as well!

For reasons we still can’t fathom, our luck changed when we played “virtual” or computerised roulette. It’s hard to trust a machine when it knows where your chips are before the ball lands, but the £5 we put down quickly became £30. Of course we pushed our luck and lost some of it again, but still walked away with a tidy £15 profit, which we quickly spent at the bar.

You see, that’s the thing about casinos in Britain. We’re so addicted to our alcohol that I did think that putting the money and the booze in the same place probably made for a potentially dangerous combination. Problem gamblers would – in my opinion – be less of a problem if they weren’t drowning their sorrows and shedding their inhibitions at the same time. The prices at the bar were, predictably, quite cheap.

The venue was nice. It’s hardly Monte Carlo, but it wasn’t the dark, seedy place you could imagine it to be either. And while it can make a great entertainment venue, it’s definitely a good idea to walk in expecting to be a spectator as, even though we made a small profit, it’s obvious gambling is still a mug’s game.

December 08, 2006

Bragging Rights – broadcasters really are better than dead trees

Well, as if we didn’t know it already, it’s been proven that broadcasters are better than newspaper journalists.

It’s always been clear from the quality of questioning in lectures, just as it’s been clear from the circulation figures, but today’s…

4-3 drubbing

of Cardiff’s newspaper journalists by the broadcasters goes to prove that we are indeed, the best.

Special praise should – I’m told (I was on a trek to Aberystwyth and back) – go to Paul “The Rock” Martin and Martin “Toe-In” Jones. And to the weather for putting on a fantastic display of hail.

It’s childish, but we’re already planning to rub salt into the wounds with rugby, snooker and badminton tournaments just to prove our virility superiority.

December 07, 2006

Processing the processes

I’m working on what C.J. Cregg would call a “process story”. Process stories are when an institution makes a decision (or doesn’t make a decision) in such a stupid way that it overshadows the decision (or indecision) itself.

In The West Wing, politicians hated it when journalists started working on a ‘process story’ because it made them look bad. They’d much rather put out a press release on something remotely positive and let the journalists feast on that for a few hours.

In local politics, that doesn’t seem to happen. Cardiff Council does put out press releases about the smallest minutiae, but seems to prefer the “run and hide” approach to dealing with a story they don’t like.

I’m struggling to make my story interesting, as whenever anyone asks me what it concerns I usually spend about ten seconds going “erm…uh…well…er…” before working out what it’s really about.

But hopefully this weekend I’m going to put a human interest angle onto it which – if actually published anywhere – would pull on the heartstrings much harder and make the council look like cold-hearted bastards.

Because as much as public relations people hate process stories getting out, us journalists don’t like writing them much either.

November 23, 2006

The smoking ban is going to put thousands out of business

Cardiff Central MarketThe smoking ban comes into effect on April 2nd in Wales, and small businesses are saying they’re not ready for it.

While larger hotels and restaurants are backing the ban, and expect to do quite well from it, places which have traditionally attracted smokers could lose a substantial number of their customers.

In Cardiff’s Central Market, the Bull Terrier cafe is one such business. Around four in every five customers go there specifically to smoke, but from April, they will have to go elsewhere.

I spoke to the cafe’s manager Sam Maher and asked her about the future of her business once the smoking ban comes in:

The Welsh Assembly aren’t willing to offer financial assistance. In Sam’s words “they don’t care, they’re not bothered at all”. So while many food outlets will see their custom increase thanks to the smoking ban, places such as this which have for decades attracted people because of smoking, look to have a fairly bleak future.

The real future of newspapers

An old edition of the Newbury Weekly NewsLast week I wrote a slightly controversial article titled You’re Buggered, Deal With It. It was a post aimed at those who deny the reality of the declining newspaper industry.

Well today I heard from Sarah Radford, who seems to be one of those at the forefront of Newspapers 2.0 (to use a very hackneyed phrase). She’s an online journalist at Newbury Today which was recently named the best weekly newspaper website by the Newspaper Society.

What interested me most about the site was that the newspaper behind it – the Newbury Weekly News – is one of the few independents left in the country. Most local newspapers are owned by one of the conglomerates like Trinity Mirror or Newsquest. So it’s refreshing (albeit not surprising) to see that it’s the independents who are being the most forward-looking and innovative.

And why?

Well, probably because they don’t have to worry about shareholders. If the success of Newbury Today proves anything, it’s that newspapers and stock markets should only meet in the business pages, and shouldn’t be the overriding business model.

November 22, 2006


Question MarkAs part of the online journalism course at Cardiff I have to write an online feature about journalism, citizen media, futurology, design or ‘online life’, whatever that may be.

I also have to write a post – yes, this one! – explaining what I’m going to do. The trouble is… I’ve already done it. So please carry on reading but ignore the fact that everything is written in the future tense.

I’m planning to visit 18 Doughty Street, the online political TV station run by Iain Dale and a number of other right-wing bloggers. I’m interested in how this original venture might affect political broadcasting – and politics itself – in the future.

I’ll interview some of the faces behind the channel and observe what they do before writing a witty and informative piece about the station. I’ll add some photos and maybe even get an interview with Iain Dale and Donal Blaney where I might ask them all about their venture and put across some searching questions. If I’m really lucky I might even be able to interview the Shadow Home Secretary David Davis and perhaps include some photos of him too. I bet you can’t wait.

Which is a shame, because I’ve not written it yet.

November 16, 2006

*BBC embracing the world wide web

The BBC has been online for over nine years, but only now is it about to join the World Wide Web.

Pete Clifton, head of BBC News InteractiveYou might think I sound slightly mad, but this is basically the point that the head of BBC News Interactive Pete Clifton made today when he spoke to students in Cardiff.

You see, while the Beeb’s news website – imho the best website in existence – has very much been part of the internet, Mr Clifton and his team are hoping to reconnect the site with the ‘web’ through aggregation, wikis, APIs and better use of blogging, vodcasts ( such as the superb STORYFix ) and video.

What does this mean?

It means you’ll be able to use BBC content on your own blog or your website, whether that’s a text story, video (embedded onto your page like a YouTube video), graphic or interactive guide. It means you’ll find more BBC content on places like iTunes and the like. And it means on the BBC website you’ll find far more links to other websites, in recognition of the fact that other people can do many things better.

One example of this is the BBC’s Country Profiles – such as this one – which will continue to have some static information provided by the BBC, but will increasingly have content from further afield, such as a list of the latest stories from Argentina created by other news providers, as well as the latest news in video from the country. What’s most exciting is that this model is likely to be used elsewhere on, and we saw some very impressive examples.

Other interesting parts of the talk were about how far the Beeb’s blogging might go (not very, says Pete), and his views on the BBC iPlayer, due out next April (not very useful for BBC News).

But as an aspiring journalist, the best part of the talk was on how people should apply for a job. Pete Clifton’s mantra was:

If they can’t spell they can f**k off basically.

Good point, well made.

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