Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Reflecting on the Bristol Mayorwatch projects

One of our citizen journalists live blogging from Bristol's City Hall during the announcements of the local election results in May 2013.
Citizen journalism and Radio

The motivation for Watershed's 'News from Elsewhere' programme of Citizen Journalism projects, devised and led by David Goldblatt, is to introduce the concept of citizen journalism to young people and provide them with the skills and techniques to use this readily available tool for the expression of ideas and opinions on topics that are of interest to and have relevance for the participants.

Combining radio with social media has great potential to add dimensions to each format - the content of radio programmes can be augmented with images on a blog, Twitter can both feed and respond to studio discussion topics, and promote blog posts while Facebook's capacity to extend the community of listeners into new audiences has much scope. For this reason, when a funding opportunity emerged from the University of Bristol, Watershed partnered with Ujima to explore this potential on the first Bristol Mayorwatch project in November and the current iteration.

Our participants - and Bristol - are fortunate in having an organisation like Ujima that alongside its regular broadcasting is genuinely committed to encouraging the city's younger residents to explore relevant local issues and provides them with a platform to reach thousands of listeners. 

Watershed, the University of Bristol, Ujima Radio

Neither Ujima nor Watershed receive permanent funding for this kind of work so it can only be done with financial support on a project basis, in this case with funding from the University of Bristol's widening participation unit. One aim of the Bristol Mayorwatch courses has been to reach communities not always associated with the University in a bid to re-present this long established academic institution as a resource that is not exclusive and can be used by many people. 

As evaluation interviews with some of our participants have revealed, their introduction to the (thoroughly amenable) academics in Social Policy and Sociology have made a real impact and seeded the idea that attending a course at the University is a viable route, especially since learning that there are bursaries available for some to help with costs. The participants are likely to continue their involvement with radio, potentially as presenters so we hope their positive experience will filter through to their future listeners.

Social media and programme research

Our visit to the University with the participants also helped to reinforce the value of Twitter as both a communication tool and as a source of news and information on specific topic areas. The Social Policy team members we met are regular tweeters who followed our @Bristolmayorwatch account which was then also followed by other academics in different parts of the country as well as by some of the local councillors we met during the elections. Using hashtags to search for topics relevant to the radio shows' themes of transport and local democracy gave access to additional material offering different perspectives to more frequently used or formal sources of information.

Balancing social media and radio

It was interesting to observe that on this course Twitter was the most widely used tool in our Social Media tool-box. As reported in an earlier post the withdrawal from service of our preferred blogging platform of the last two years, Posterous, just before the course began unfortunately meant that the new Bristol Mayorwatch blog wasn't introduced until after the start of the course, the News from Elsewhere Facebook page was set up concurrently.

Although both blog and Facebook were easy to post to (using phones - some participants used their own, we provided others - computers or tablets) they were used less than we had hoped. The nature of radio production requires intensive preparation, especially for beginners, and this combined with the late appearance of the blog meant the emphasis shifted more towards radio. 

The admirable aspirations for the radio programmes were perhaps over-ambitious for the scale of the project - the number of sessions originally scheduled (six) doubled in order for the participants to attain the level of skill and competence felt appropriate to deliver a live programme. A further session or additional practice would have been beneficial but there is a limit to how much extra time both trainees and trainers are willing or able to dedicate. The outcome was nevertheless an excellent example of what can be achieved in a compressed time period and did appear to have significantly boosted the confidence of the young presenters.

Sustaining social media platforms 

Within the last three weeks of the project both the blog and Facebook were taken up more seriously (in addition to the use of Twitter) particularly by two of the contributors . The blog proved a useful space to host a more in-depth interview by one of the CJs that was too long for inclusion in the radio programmes. Another of the participants spoke enthusiastically about continuing to contribute to all these social media platforms after the end of this course. 

A new course with similar themes is currently being offered by Ujima but with different partners and funders. This prompts some interesting questions (a subject for a future post or discussion perhaps), both practical and conceptual, about 'ownership' of social media, user voice and audience and the administration and management of these resources. From the point of view of the participants there is concern about the sustainability of these platforms and the impact that their closure, or possible denial of access once a course is completed, might have on the learners who have just begun to engage with the process.

Lessons for the future

If Watershed works on any future citizen journalism projects that combine social media with radio, we'd be looking to exploit the potential for their integration more fully. Prior to the course a shared exploration of how the two strands can complement each other would add to the foundation for structuring a workshop or course. Arriving at a clear and realistic idea of achievable outcomes at the planning stage would help in the allocation of sufficient time for the social media element within the course sessions while improved consultation during the course on any changes to the schedule could help maintain a balance between the two. These modifications would require additional time at the planning stage which would need to factored into funding applications.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Final CJII show

Yesterday afternoon our CJII team applied all they'd learnt over the last few weeks to their two half-hour radio shows on citizen journalism, the Bristol elections and Bristol's transport problems. Each show combined reports on researched topics, vox pops and live studio interviews - what an accomplishment! 

Kally and...
...Ade on air

Ujima team Roger Griffith and Paul Hassan had worked hard to help the participants understand how to structure the programmes and with additional input from David Goldlblatt, an experienced radio broadcaster himself, some essential skills were acquired on interviewing live guests.
Sibs and Ahmed interview Dr David Sweeting under the watchful eye of Roger Griffith
There were inevitably a few mistakes - unplanned re-ordering of a couple of items, some overlong pauses, a few problems with levels, all of which could have been minimised with more practice, but  these were minor drawbacks compared to the overall results of a varied, engaging and coherent pair of programmes. A good follow-on from last week's show on the Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone and satisfying way to end the project.

Jon Rogers - former Lib Deb Councillor
David Goldblatt - Broadcaster, writer and our Citizen Journalism guide
Gratified smiles after successful live broadcast from Ahmed, David Sweeting and Sibs

Monday, 20 May 2013

CJ audio interview with University of Bristol lecturers

On Wednesday last week, 15 May, one of our citizen journalists, Ahmed Bana, interviewed Dr David Sweeting and Dr David Goldblatt from the University of Bristol at Watershed after the Festival of Ideas' "Bristol Mayor's Conference: What is Local Government For?"  

You can read more and hear the interview over on the Citizen Journalists' Bristol Mayorwatch blog.


Friday, 17 May 2013

Run through for next week's Live Radio Shows

Research, scripting, editing, more research, sound checks, trying out scripts, more editing, further research...the programmes are taking shape!

Tune in to Ujima 98 fm on Thursday 23rd May at 4.00 pm to hear the two 30 minute back-to-back live shows researched and presented by our citizen journalist team, with studio guests

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Bristol's Enterprise Zone features on live Ujima radio show

Preparation for the live discussion

After an intense scripting and production session with Roger Griffith last Thursday 9th May, the team refined the shows they've been working on and decided to distill the content into three programmes. Next week (Thursday 23rd May) there will be two half hour shows on Ujima, back to back from 16:00 - 16.30 and 16.30 - 17.00; the theme of the first will be citizen journalism and democracy in Bristol, followed by Transport in Bristol and the Bristol Bus boycott of 1963. 

Presenters Miss Divine and Sib with two of the Ujima show guests Nick Sturge and Alun Owen

But the first live programme in this CJII series went out last night when key team members of the Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone came to the studio for a an hour-long live programme. Our two presenters were from both the first CJ workshop from last year - a welcome return by Miss Divine - and Sib from our current course. The Enterprise Zone guests were Catherine Frankpitt - Senior Communications Officer; Alun Owen - Service Director of the Enterprise Zone; Alison Retter - Bristol City Council Regeneration Officer for the Zone and Nick Sturge - Managing Director of Bristol's Set Squared, an enterprise collaboration between several universities including the University of Bristol.

The presenters had devised questions covering a wide range of topics to ask the guests that included 'what is the Enterprise Zone?' 'What will it do?' 'How will inner city and disadvantaged communities get to hear about opportunities and become involved?' The citizen journalists did an excellent job - a few confusions over guests' names were minor mistakes and easily compensated for with their confidence in asking some searching questions and their deft allocation of fair time to each guest. 

All this was overseen and supported by Paul Hassan and Roger Griffith in the studio - interesting to witness the scribbling and passing of notes and sign language that enable the smooth running of a live discussion show like this that listeners don't get to see! The show was recorded and a podcast will be available soon - the link will be posted here. 

Another of the CJ team, Nas, was tasked with filming the show and some additional interviews with the guests after the show. This is a continuation of her volunteer work with Firstborn Creatives and the films also will be uploaded to the Ujima website and links posted here as soon as they're available.

The crew and guests

Friday, 3 May 2013

At the City Hall for Bristol Council election results

Inside the City Hall reporting on election results
CJ team blogging from the Council Chamber
The City Hall was a lively place this morning - a great sense of anticipation but a few anxious faces too as the results were read out in the Council Chamber. The re-arranging of this session from it's original timing of yesterday afternoon meant that only two of our team were able to be there but they had media passes and did a very fine job of covering the event for two hours through blog posts, photos, interviews and Tweets - including some interaction with University of Bristol's Alex Marsh and David Sweeting that can be seen on the @BSmayorwatch feed on the Bristol Mayor Watch blog.

Since the team had interviewed several East Bristol candidates last week at the Lawrence Hill and Easton Councillor question time event at the City Academy it made the announcement of the results seem more personal and relevant as they were already familiar with the aims and aspirations of people like Dr Jon Rogers (Lib Dem), Rob Telford (Green) and Habiq Jama (Labour).

There was much jubilation in the Chamber from Green party supporters as two candidates were voted in - Daniella Radice and Rob Telford, doubling their presence on the council. Daniella had also been the Green candidate for the Mayoral Elections in November and was interviewed by the previous CJ team on the Ujima Radio show after the elections. She agreed to be interviewed again and we hope to have her on one of the forthcoming Ujima radio programmes.
Rob Telford interviewed about his election to Ashley Ward for the Greens
Daniella Radice, Greens, gets a double interrogation after...
her election to Bishopston ward
Unfortunately we had to leave before the Lawrence Hill results were announced but understand that news of the election of Bristol's first Somali Woman, Habiq Jama, representing Labour, was received with much excitement.

Another interview our CJs had recently recorded was with Guy Poultney, in connection with planning and regeneration in the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone. Guy is a Lib Dem and had represented Lockleaze ward for four years and was on the Council Executive, but was ousted by the Labour Candidate for that ward, Estella Tincknell. We hope to interview whoever is appointed to Guy's previous role as a member of the council committee for Development Control in the Enterprise Zone.

Announcement of Lockleaze Ward's Labour win - and Lib Dem loss.
A disappointing day for the Liberal Democrats in the election results - both Jon Rogers and Guy Poultney had been enthusiastic supporters of Ujima, along with Marvin Rees (Labour), George Gollop (Conservatives) and representatives from other parties. However, the gains and losses in the council and new cabinet appointments will all provide a good source of material for discussion on the radio programmes in the very near future.

Two of the CJ team with Ujima's Roger Griffith

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Election coverage turns into radio planning

We'd aimed to be at City Hall on election day (Thursday 2nd May) to interview some of the candidates we'd met at the Easton and Lawrence Hill Question time event last week and maybe catch some of the 'behind the scenes' people who make the elections work; however on the day access proved problematic so our visit to City Hall was re-scheduled until tomorrow. This is when the results will be announced so probably a more exciting event for the CJ team to cover anyway.

This last minute change of plan offered the chance to focus on a radio production planning session with Roger Griffith so this afternoon we were back at St Paul's Family Learning Centre for a 'chalk and talk' session. The aim, at the time of writing, is that our team of trainee citizen journalists are going to be producing four half-hour programmes, two one week and 2 the following week, dates to be confirmed, but very soon. Quite a tall order for broadcast novices so Roger's extensive experience, methodical approach and analytical quizzing of each team member's suggestions was an excellent lesson in creating order out of a heap of ideas.
Trying to fit all the content into a half hour programme proves momentarily overwhelming for one participant, but...
The features the team have been working on also had to fit in with news, radio idents (Roger sings the Ujima jingle with great flair), show idents, adverts so Roger guided the team through what they'd learned so far on the course, got them to recall the details of the topics we'd been discussing, list the interviews already recorded and identify what research and further interviews and vox pops were still needed.

...with Roger's guidance on programme structure, order emerges.
The first programme will feature the Citizen Journalism coverage of the Elections in Bristol and will include a section with Bristol University's Dr David Sweeting who we met on Monday when the CJ team agreed they'd like him to talk about the election on their radio programme, with a particular look at the reasons for non-voting.  This is still subject to David's availability once the programme date is confirmed but we're keeping our fingers crossed.

With the use of the clock planning sheet, the participants, with advice from Roger, decided how much time should be allocated to each live speaker, whether a guest would be there for just a straightforward interview, a Q & A session with an 'expert', or whether they might have a role as a commentator throughout the programme.

Our own David (Goldblatt, an experienced broadcaster himself on BBC World Service, as well as being the originator of Watershed's citizen journalism projects) will explain the concept of citizen journalism on the show by way of an introduction, and talk about how is has changed the way news is delivered and received across the globe.

The themes for the other shows are Crime and the Criminal Justice system, Transport in Bristol and Economic Regeneration. For this last topic exclusive interviews with key people from Bristol Temple Quarter's Enterprise Zone have been arranged. 

Our team have covered such a lot of ground since we began at the end of March, it's really impressive how they've taken so much information on board. They still have a lot of research, planning and interviews to do for this ambitious set of radio programmes but we're confident they'll succeed, and come through with increased confidence and some excellent new skills.

Topics the team have covered so far