Surprise 1-Day Professional Experience

On the 9th March 2011, I was invited to get some paid work experience for the BBC by John Mair – lecturer at my university and also my mentor for the Add+Vantage module I was taking. I figured there’d be students lining up for this, but that was not the case – whether it wasn’t publicized enough or something I do not know.

Anyhow, I turned up at 12 o clock, one hour before the start of a big conference between some of the highest academic minds of the BBC turned up to have a debate over whether Investigative Journalism was dying out or not. I’d already investigated this case several months ago off my own back for curiosities sake – you may remember me being told by guests lecturer Trish Adudu that formats was the future and documentary was dead. Subsequently asking Mark Kermode at the Warwick Arts Centre, the counter argument was clearly that formats is for making money, whereas documentary is more for information, statements, activism, and many other things. Documentary is never really about the money, and thus will probably never die out. However, this conference set to explore the notion even further, adding in the addition documentary style of investigative journalism – something I’d had first-hand experience of during the Demo-Lition protest march in November last year.

I tuned up as a runner, and the first major problem I was given was that one BBC camera operator couldn’t access the internet in the lecture theatre. I shot out and quickly gravitated towards the nearest ‘tech’ mind, which just happened to be a student in the common room. He outlined the solution, and I shot back to implement it. Unfortunately it didn’t work, but my friend had given me all the pieces, and I saw that the operator was trying to connect to the Ethernet rather than the Airport. A quick change over, and I signed in with my name, getting her online.

This was quickly followed up with another task – simply go and get some refreshments from the corner shop. Two drinks – anything as long as it wasn’t diet. I came back with a Sprite and Fanta, making another satisfied customer. But this was when I suddenly got promoted – the man who wanted the drinks, a guy by the name of Jon Jacob, now needed a camera operator himself to operate his ‘Z’ camera whilst he uploaded the podcast. I quickly stepped in. And stood at my post for the subsequent four hours solid (as long as the debate was in progress, I wasn’t budging). Some of the earlier shots were a little jittery, but the pans got smoother when I loosened the resistance on the tripod it was positioned on. The audio stopped several times, which I silently notified Jon of, and which got resolved quickly with the sound engineer.

I learned one key trick during this ‘shoot’ – I was advised by Jon never to keep the person I was focusing on in the centre of the shot. This was the rule of thirds in video – I had to try and keep the spokesman either to the left or to the right of the screen, but never fixated at the centre. After a while, I understood what he meant – the shots just looked better with the space. Subsequently looking back at footage from Hereward, I can see that some of the interview footage from that has centered characters, and it definitely took something away from the piece.

The most notable guests of the debate were Donal MacIntyre and David Leigh, although both interacted with the audience via Skype. Some students from Lincoln University made some good points about using social networking sites to conduct investigative journalism in the future, which would make the job safer for the journalists, but politically more difficult. The general vibe in the room continued what I’d already established – investigative journalism is, like documentaries and many other kinds of media production, a solid and well-grounded genre of media that will exist long into the future. The internet is changing everything, and all media will adapt and change accordingly. The old ways of investigative journalism will end, but a new era will begin, as people will always want to know the ‘truth’ behind the stories of the world.


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