Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Does Mass Effect 3 really need multiplayer?

Many would say that the Mass Effect series of games are one of the, if not the, greatest sci-fi games in history. But does the trilogy really need online multiplayer? The game already has the unnecessary addition of kinect integration through voice recognition...

After Australian magazine PC PowerPlay revealed through a preview of their next issue that the game will have multiplayer, BioWare announced the feature on their forums. It's going to come in the form of 4 player co-op missions. Although playing Mass Effect with your friends will probably be a lot of fun, my main concern is if the development of it has affected the development of single player as that is what people will be buying the game for.

The FAQ on the forums says that the scope or quality of the single-player experience has not been not affected by the development of multiplayer and that the single-player experience has always been BioWare's priority. However, it also states that "your progress in multiplayer will also have a direct impact upon the outcome of the single-player campaign" but later contradicts itself by saying: "And here's the final word on why multiplayer won't affect the single-player campaign in Mass Effect 3." I don't think that multiplayer is a necessary addition to every game, and I hope that BioWare know what they're doing and the single-player is still the absolute best that it should be.

I hope this isn't just BioWare's way of including an online pass with Mass Effect 3 like a lot of other games are doing at the moment to put people off buying their product pre-owned. Other shooters use multiplayer to offer players something more after (normally) a relatively short single player campaign but Mass Effect games have such a comprehensive single-player experience and will no doubt release DLC to extend that experience and I think that this alone will keep people playing and not trading it in. You can explore the whole universe for crying out loud! What more do people want? The universe is a big place though, so maybe you do need to explore it with your friends!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Work experience at The Daily Echo

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take part in work experience at The Daily Echo's Newspaper House in Nursling, stationed on their news desk.

Tuesday 4th

After a tour of the building and being given a desk, I was told to look for some NIBs (news in brief). I found an interesting story about recycling Christmas trees locally and wrote that up.

I then decided to follow up a story that WINOL ran last year, the story about the lack of street lighting in the alleyway connecting St James Lane and Airlie Road. When I was in the area around the new year I noticed that street lighting had been put up so I decided to research why the lighting had been put up considering that the coucil said that "the project was on hold due to complexities" to WINOL in October.

I got the number for a press officer at Winchester City Council from a reporter, Jon, and after phoning them I was told it was a matter that Hampshire County Council take care of. After getting hold of the appropriate person there, she said she would call me back.

Wednesday 5th

For the rest of the week a majority of the Daily Echo's staff were on strike over a pay dispute. This worked in my favour, as I was given more responsibilty and there was a lot more work to do. The news editor, Gordon, gave me some pictures of a toddlers event in Swanwick and a number to ring to get the story and write it up to go in Thursday's Echo. I phoned up and asked a few questions to get the information I needed to write the story as it only needed to be a short one. I wrote it and submitted it to the news desk and it can be seen below.



In the afternoon I went to Town Quay with a repoter, Martyn, to meet some police men who were searching underwater for a missing man that lived on a boat there. It was very interesting and I even got to do some filming myself on a mini flip camera. The story containing the video can be seen below.

http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/8774674.Underwater__search_for__missing__grandad/

When I returned to the newsroom I finally got a call back from the lady regarding the street lights in Winchester. I got all the facts and figures that I needed for the story, for example how much it cost, who paid for it, when it was put up and why. I found out that the main reason for this was because the University wanted students to feel safe when using the alleyway so I phoned up the University and they subsequently emailed me a quote the following morning.

Thursday 6th

First thing in the morning I recorded the 60 second headlines for the Echo's wesite. This is something that they do to promote the stories that are in the paper and hopefully make people buy it. Unfortunately I do not have a copy of it but I did the 60 second bulletin again the following day (Friday) and the recording of that can be seen below.

video

I then went to court with  a reporter, Matt, who had been assigned to do the court reporting that day. We went to Southampton Crown Court and the first case we saw was a first appearance of a soldier who is accused of glassing someone, he pleaded not guilty and date for his trial was set. Next we went into a case where three men were accused of breaking into a chip shop owner's house and stealing money and a lot of electronic goods, including a TV. On this particular day, the wife of the victim was giving evidence. After she had finished giving evidence a forensic scientist gave evidence about a foot mark made on the door of the house that was broken into. This evidence was interesting even though it wasn't very conclusive.

Friday 7th

The Assistant News editor, Jenny, had a look at my story about the street lights in Winchester and said it was great and sent it to be subbed to be in Saturday's Echo and it did indeed appear in the paper and can be seen below.


I spent the rest of the morning phoning round various chemists and pharmacies to see if they had the flu vaccine in stock for a report in to the shortage of flu vaccines in the south. I took part in a bit of undercover reporting and drove to one pharmacy who we suspected was charging over the odds for the flu vaccine but when I asked for it, they had run out. The investigation was a big double page spread in Saturday's Echo and the reporter, Tara, put my name at the end of the report which can be seen below.



My task Friday afternoon was a report that would be making the front page of Saturday's Echo. After being emailed a list of addresses that had recently been burgled, I had to locate them in a street atlas. I then had to photocopy the pages that the burglaries were on, highlight the roads that they were on, and then give this to 'map man' Andy, who made it into a digital map. He came back to me with the map and all the locations had been numbered, I then had to create a key that listed the road names of each numbered location. The map appeared on page 2 of Saturday's Daily Echo and can be seen below.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Media Law - Codes of Practice

The main reasons for having codes of practice is that they provide a benchmark for behaviour and maintain professional standards in journalism. Codes of practice are important for guiding journalists through ethical issues like how far can a journalist go to get a story and what practices are legitimate to use. An example of this would be breaking the law to exploit a criminal, is this a legitimate practice? If the journalist could demonstrate that the story is in the public interest then it quite possibly is!

The key areas are covered in all codes of practice are  ethical behaviour, fair treatment, the respect for privacy and the requirement for accuracy and impartiality. Most codes of practice will also include a code to protect vulnerable groups in society like children; for example identifying a child through jigsaw identification might be a breach of a code even though the child wasn't explicitly identified.

The three main regulatory bodies for codes are as follows -

PCC (Press Complaints Commission)

The PCC regulates newspapers and magazines. It is a self regulatory body and is seen as a toothless tiger i.e. not very fierce. Their code doesn't really mention impartiality and that is why newspapers do not have to be balanced. This can be showed by the sun for example who have a clear political allegiance towards the Conservatives and never include real balance in politics stories. Most of the PCC's polices can be breached if it is demonstrated to be in the public interest.

Ofcom

Ofcom regulates broadcasters so TV and radio. In comparison to the PCC Ofcom are very fierce and have a lot of power. They can order a programme not to be repeated, they can impose fines and even have the power to revoke broadcast liscences. Also if a broadcaster does breach one of Ofcom's policies then it must stated in another public broadcast normally with an apology.

The most famous Ofcom breach or recent times is the Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross scandal where they phoned up Andrew Sachs and left obscene messages on his answer pone referring to his granddaughter. Ofcom fined the BBC £150,000 for this. Other large fines have been imposed by Ofcom for competitions fixes and fake phone-ins. ITV were fined a record £5.675million because viewers were phoning in on premium rate numbers when the competitions were already fixed.

Ofcom enforces impartiality as a requirement for broadcasters but not for newspapers (as mentioned above). They also insist on an absence of bias or preconception all broadcasters must consider the 'axis of debate'.

BBC Code

The BBC code is a guide for BBC employees. It protects the BBC and like the PCC is self regulating and so not as harsh as an independent body such as Ofcom.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Media Law - More on the Freedom of Information Act

The basic principle of the Freedom of Information Act is that "any person making a request for information to a public authority is entitled... to have that information communicated to him" The idea behind it was that taxpayers pay (through tax) for the information to be produced therefore they own the information and should have access to it.

Over 130,000 public bodies are covered by the act and over 100,000 FOI requests are made a year at an estimated cost of £34million. Official figures state that of these 100,000 FOI requests only 12% of them come from journalists. However since you do not need to state that you are a journalist when requesting information critics would that journalists just lie as you would probably get a different answer if you say you are a journalist. Therefore the actual figure of journalists requesting information may be a lot higher.

Tony Blair introduced the Freedom of Information Act in 2005 and when reflecting back on it he said: "You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it." He later explained why he thought it was such a bad idea; "If you are trying to take a difficult decision and you're weighing up the pros and cons, you have frank conversations... And if those conversations then are put out in a published form that afterwards are liable to be highlighted in particular ways, you are going to be very cautious. That's why it's not a sensible thing."

Right now, we are in the golden age of freedom of information. Anything that is written down can be requested and everything before 2005 was written down so all those years of information are highly accessible. However now everything is spoken so there is no access to it.

Freedom of information requests have to be in writing but email is fine. FOI requests can be refused if obtaining the information would exceed £600 or the information is exempt. There are two types of exemptions:
  • Absolute exemptions -  For example, national security and military opertions information and court records.
  • Qualified exemptions - For example, ministerial communications and commercial confidentiality.
The only defense that you have for publishing exempt information is that its in the public interest, the ever so hard to define term, and not merely interesting to the public.

After putting in an FOI request, the relevant authority has 60 days in total to provide the information but they must contact you within 20 days, for example they may just say, "We have received your request." If after 60 days they have not provided the information then you can go to internal review, if that fails as well then you can go to an information commisioner, if you still have no luck you can go to an information tribunal and your last resort is the high court. This would take a lot of money and determination though. Funnily enough this is how the MP's expenses scandal story made it's way into the headlines, as the Daily Mail did not give up and eventually obtained the information and published it.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Media Law - More on Copyright

Without copyright protection journalism never would have flourished. Copyright maintains exclusivity which gives our product value. Respect other people's copyright in the hope they respect yours.

Getting it wrong will cost you money, embarrassment and stress and reputation for competence. Newspapers have been 'lifting' each other's storys for years, they are able to do this but only under strict criteria. The concept of fair dealing is used in newspapers for the purpose of reporting current events. This allows newspapers to lift stories from rival newspapers and even quotes; but they would have to attribute the original newspaper and display them in a way similar to "Ian said to The Sun..." Under the concept of fair dealing the story must also be in the public interest, which it probably is anyway if another newspaper has already reported it. The usage obviously must also be 'fair' hence the term 'fair dealing'.

Not only does fair dealing allow wider reporting of stories in public interest, but I mentioned in my previous blog regarding copyright, it allows criticism and review of copyright material and allows the broadcast of news orbits of film stars so you can also use famous movie clips for free.

Photographs are never subject to fair dealing unless they have a creative commons license, see my other blog about that here. The danger area is the internet, for example YouTube. In the past many people used to make videos with copyrighted songs as the soundtrack however record labels soon put a stop by this by claiming breach of copyright and forcing youtube to remove the audio from the video. YouTube has now found it's own way to get round this too by adding links to download the song from the video. See the screen shot below for an example of this.


The key points to remember about copyright are as follows -
  • Recognise copyright issues early
  • Contacting rights holders takes time
  • Tell others if you have copyright cleared
  • Don't lift material without referencing it up

Friday, 5 November 2010

Media Law - Copyright and Freedom of Information

Copyright

Copyright protects intellectual property. This means something you have done or made yourself. You can't copyright an idea until you have actually started work on it and you can show that someone has copied you. If you work for someone else then generally the copyright belongs to your employer unless there is some sort of special agreement. Also any work that I do for my university course is considered property of the university. The general rule is do it yourself and you own it and it will be protected under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

There is a concept called 'fair dealing' in which you can use certain parts of copyrighted material for reviewing purposes or similar uses. Fair dealing is used in the news all the time when they show football highlights, which in most cases is just the goals. In the corner of the screen you will often see something like 'Pictures from Sky Sports'. This comes under fair dealing and in most cases you will have to credit the person that the copyrighted material belongs to, not doing so will give you less protection under the law. If you wanted to show a film you would have more fair dealing protection if you showed someone watching the film in an over the shoulder shot. For reviewing a film or a video game you would be able to show clips of it as long as you were talking over it and you were only showing the clip for critical or reviewing purposes.

During the production of the WINOL news bulletin this week we encountered a copyright problem which we used fair dealing to get around. To introduce our guest Chesney Hawkes on to the show we wanted to show a clip of his only hit, 'The One and Only' so people would know who he was. We used a 5 second clip of the music video and had a caption saying 'Property of EMI records' over the video which I think is enough to be considered as fair dealing.

For copyright free images there a method of licensing called 'Creative Commons' where you can use images that belong to someone else as long as you credit them and link to their website. There may also be other restrictions like no cropping/editing of the image etc. For more information about Creative Commons see this video interview with Esther Wojcicki, chairperson of the board of Creative Commons.



Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act (2000) is a statute which requires all public authorities to publish all their internal documentation on demand and publish a schedule of all the information that they have. If you put in a FOI request then the authority must provide you with the information in a reasonable time with the absolute maximum amount of time being 60 days at which point you can take your request to an information enforcer. The only excuse for not providing information is that it would be too expensive to do so. All national security and military operations information is exempt.

The website whatdotheyknow.com is a massive online database of Freedom of Information requests and you can also make requests from the website. The great MP's expenses story all started with a Freedom of Information request so this proves that FOI requests can be very useful in providing great public interest news stories.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Directing WINOL for the first time

This week I directed the WINOL news bulletin for the first time ever. I wasn't expecting it to be easy but it was a lot more stressful that I thought it would be. The main problem was the lack of time for rehearsals. This was no one in particular's fault as the news reporters had to keep adjusting the lengths of their pieces due to other stories falling through and I appreciate that but having no news packages at 3 o' clock for a bulletin that's supposed to be recorded at 3 left me just a little bit panicky to say the least!

When we eventually had time for a rehearsal the main things that I wanted to practice were the handovers so both the camera operators and the presenters were happy with them. Chris Ship (ITV's Senior Political Corespondent) was the guest editor for this weeks bulletin and was really helpful in the rehearsal stage of the bulletin. In an ideal world we would have prerecorded the headline because then they would be 100% correct and as Chris said, if the top of your programme is wrong then why would the viewer want to watch the rest? We got the headlines spot on in the last rehearsal and they looked really slick however in the live bulletin I cued the news anchor, Jake too early and he spoke over the soundbite in the headline. I did think when I got the headline with a soundbite in it was a bit adventurous. When there are soundbites in the headlines there needs to be a lot of attention to detail because they have to be spot on, unfortunately due to time constraints we didn't give the soundbite the necessary attention that it needed.

As far as the rest of the bulletin went, I think it went really well. Because of the lack of stories we were quite ambitious and had a live link to Joey in the newsroom during the bulletin which I think worked well and looked really professional. We also had a live studio guest, Guy Butters, the manager Winchester FC which also went well but as Chris Ship said it did look a bit like a game of musical chairs!

The handovers went really smoothly and the presenters knew exactly what camera they were looking in to at all times. There was only one bit where I forgot to get camera 1 to get a close up of the sport anchor, Karen, and then when she introduced the Totton highlights the camera was still on a two shot and the guest was still in shot and this looked very silly.

I don't think I gave the vision mixer, Jon, enough direction during the bulletin as it was his first time doing that job and I was more concerned with VT's and the presenters and making sure they knew what was going on and Jon just had to follow me and this is why there were a few black holes in the bulletin. Luckily we were able to remove them in post production though. However the main problem that caused the black holes was yet again the timings. My role for the last two weeks had been PA and I had a massive problem with the timings then and this week it seemed a lot worse. None of them were correct and this is why I had to keep a close eye on the VT's so I knew roughly when to cue the presenters. This is something that could have been addressed had we had more time to rehearse.

Next week I hope for a much more technically better bulletin with no black holes and rehearsed so well that it looks highly polished and professional. The main thing that I want to get right next week are the timings because if the presenters are given an accurate count down from 10 then they will be less likely to panic and feel a lot more comfortable about when they are to start talking.

Finally, I would like to thank my team in gallery and on the studio floor and the presenters who all did a brilliant job of bringing the bulletin together in a very short space of time. WELL DONE TEAM!

Here is the WINOL news bulletin for 27th October 2010:

Media Law - Privacy and Confidentialty

Privacy

Under Section 8 of the Human Rights Act (1998) "Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." This basically means that everyone is entitled to private enjoyment of family life. This affects taking photographs too because unless the person you are photographing is engaging in a pure public duty then now because of section 8 of the Human Rights act there has to be consent!

There are two types of consent, explicit consent and implied consent. Explicit consent is where a contract has been signed to agree consent. Implied consent is where for example there are posing in front of a camera and it is obvious that they know they are being photographed.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is the right to tell somebody something and they won't disclose it to anyone else. It depends on the importance of the secret and the relationship with the person. To sue on breach of confidentiality the information must have a quaility of confidence, it must have been said in confidential circumstances, there must be no permission to reveal the secret and it has to cause actual damages when told.

The Official Secrets Act is used by the government to protect secrets to do with military operations or intelligence that might help enemies.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Media Law - Qualified Privilege

Privilege allows us as journalists to write or broadcast material which may be defamtory,  untrue, or even both at the same time. It gives us protection from being sued. There are two types of privilege, absolute privilege and qualified privilege.

You have qualified privilege as long as your report is fair, accurate and contemporaneous. Fair would mean that in a court report you would report everything that was said that said in court that day and if for example the prosecution were giving evidence, then you would report all the evidence giving a fair account and then as long as you write/say "the trial continues",then that gives balance and makes the report fair. Accurate would mean that you have to accurately report what was said in court not just roughly what was said- this is where the skill of shorthand comes in very handy. Contemporaneous means that the report must go out in the first available bulletin after the events in court. For a newspaper this might be the following day. However for a news broadcast programme this might be that evening. The report must also be without malice and on a matter of public concern.

There are two levels of qualified privilege -

1.Without explanation or contradiction such as -
  • Public proceedings in a legislature anywhere in the world (For example Russia)
  • Public proceedings in a court anywhere in the world
  • Public proceedings of a public inquiry anywhere in the world
  • Public proceedings of an international organisation or conference

2. With or 'subject to' explanation or contradiction such as -
  • Public meetings - Findings or decisions are also covered
  • Local councils and committees - Findings or decisions are also covered
Findings or decisions in these meetings are also covered, as are written handouts.

In summary your report must be fair, accurate, contemporaneous, without malice and on a matter of public interest. It is also worth noting that you have NO privilege outisde main proceedings, so no protecion for speeches outside the court/meeting or phone calls etc.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Media Law - Defamation and Libel

Defamation is all about the meaning of words in the eyes of a 'reasonable man'. The criteria for defamation is that you what write about the person you are defaming 'tends to' -
  • Lower them in the estimation of right thinking people.
  • Causes them to be shunned or avoided.
  • Disparages them in their business, trade or profession.
  • Exposes them to hatred, ridicule or contempt.

Defamation is also possible via pictures and is common danger in TV. Careless use of background shots with a voice over can be defamatory- for example a voice over could be talking about paedophiles and there could be a clearly identifiable man in a background that is then libeled as a paedophile. People or companies must not be identifiable in certain contexts for example child abuse or fraud. Care must be taken when using 'imprecise' shots.

If you defame someone you are more likely to be sued by them if they have a reputation at stake. Reputation is precious, especially if you are in the public eye, have money or both. If there is a possibly of defaming someone by inferring something or through an innuendo then don't do it. You need to assess the whole context of the story before publishing. When you publish something is when you libel someone.

Publication + Defamation + Identification = Libel

However there are defences against libel - 
  • "It's true and I can prove it" (in court)
  • Fair comment - This is an honestly held opinion based upon facts, or privileged material in the public interest.
  • Absolute privilege - Court reporting
  • Qualified privilege - Police quotes, Council meetings etc

There are the main defences but there are others -
  • Bone and antidote - Where defamation is removed by context
  • Apologies and clarification - Rarely accepted
  • Reynolds defence - Journalists have the right to publish an allegation even if it turns out be wrong
  • Public interest
  • Product of 'responsible journalism'

You will have no defence -
  • When you have not checked your facts
  • When you have not 'referred up'
  • When you have not put yourself in the shoes of the person or company you are writing about
  • If you get carried away with a 'spicy' story
  • If you have not bothered to wait for a lawyers opinion

Again it all comes to recognising the risks and asking yourself questions -
  • Who am I writing about and could they sue?
  • Is what I'm writing potentially defamatory?
  • Do I have a defence?
  • Don't forget that lawyers never mind being asked!