Hello faithful blog readers! I haven’t been such a faithful blogger have I? Well after my extremely difficult, extremely brilliant year at Cardiff University doing the Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism (I passed by the way, yippee!) I have now landed a job.

I am spending 10 weeks implementing a social media strategy with a local travel agency Cruise Nation, as well as creating the first issue of a magazine all about cruising. So take a look at what I’m up to on Facebook, Twitter and here on WordPress and let me know what you think.

Courtesy of andreja2689/Flickr

Courtesy of andreja2689/Flickr

Thanks to the immediacy of the internet, people can experience events and tell it to the world in their own words as it happens. And thanks to modern technology, we can snap it on high quality camera-phones and share the moment with millions in seconds.

This is known as user-generated content (UGC). Some of the best footage of the decade has been caught on mobile phones and sent to websites or emailed over the internet.

Four minutes after a US airbus ditched into the Hudson River, Jim Hanrahan Tweeted: “I just watched a plane crash into the hudson riv [sic] in manhattan”. Soon after, The Telegraph ran with the online headline: “New York plane crash: Twitter breaks the news, again.”

As technology advances, production teams may be the first casualties of the digital media. Craft workers – camera, sound, lights – are no longer needed. Gone are the days of television news teams queuing at local studios to send their coverage to other countries.

It might seem that new media has replaced the traditional forms. But as former foreign correspondent Mark Brayne stressed, journalists are: “The filter; without [them] there is no news.” Like most of us, I waited for the BBC and Sky to confirm and develop reports of Michael Jackson’s untimely death before believing it.

Self-confessed political hack and former political editor of the London Evening Standard, Charles Reiss, considers the digital revolution as an exciting progression for journalism. “The way we do things has changed enormously, but what we are is the same. We are storytellers in a marketplace.” Good journalism will only be a casualty in the digital age if we forget the basic principles of reporting.

Journalists have the responsibility to check facts, report fairly, assess the reliability of sources and protect sources who wish to remain anonymous. But with the rise of social-networking sites, blogs and a multitude of online resources, newspapers and magazines are vying for readership; mistruths are beginning to slip through the net in order to get the coveted exclusive.

Do you hear the news on social networking first? Photo courtesy of fredcavazza/Flickr

The likes of the BBC continue to thrive because it is rooted in values. By taking their traditional values into the digital age, they are providing their audience with the most critical principle in journalism; trust.

Citizen journalists don’t have sub-editors, editors or a healthy bank balance to ward off defamatory cases. There isn’t anybody to check copy for correct facts, spelling, or slander. One Twitter-user discovered this the hard way when he was arrested under the Terrorism Act and questioned for almost seven hours by police officers who did not see the funny side of a micro-blog post. “Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”

Journalists are trained in what they should or shouldn’t put out into the world. The same goes for reporting from the frontline. It can be a dangerous job that needs advanced training and awareness of  safety issues.

Journalistic safety has begun to improve. Rodney Pinder set up the International News Safety Institute (INSI) in 2003 with the mission of keeping journalists and support workers safe while reporting from the frontline. INSI trains and supports journalists, while: “keeping facts before the world” in order to promote safety. Journalistic skills, practices and support will continue into the digital era, helping us to create better content.

Courtesy of jcrakow on Flickr

We must evolve with the digital era. As Mark Byford, the Deputy Director General and head of BBC Journalism explains, the global corporation must: “change to ensure continuity, and change and adapt to continue.” The BBC works in partnership with ABC for example.

This is not unconventional for the modern media. Director of BBC World Service, Peter Horrocks, warns journalists that ‘fortress journalism’ is over. Competing with rival journalists is no longer effective, he warns: “The fortresses are crumbling and courtly jousts with fellow journalists are no longer impressing the crowds.”

Horrocks is right. The audience has a voice, and it’s louder than ever. BBC Trustee Richard Tait gives a great summary of how the digital era has affected our work. “As journalists you have to learn to take it now as well as dish it out. In my day you just produced material and other people got cross about it. But nowadays, if they get cross they will hit back; using the blog, using the web, using the power of new media.”

Social media expert, Claire Wardle, recently explained that any good journalist can empathise with the public, talk to people and embed in cultures. We have access to a plethora of information: police and government websites, niche blogs, and hyper-local sites. We can now engage with the community in a new and exciting way that is economically effective and immediate.

User-generated images are often grainy, the content raw. But it adds a refreshing new dimension to news. We can make content of the process, walk a two-way street with the audience, and show our work in process.

Rory Cellan-Jones sends an AudioBoo from his iPhone. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Ellis on Flickr

“If you don’t cover the little stories, you won’t get the big stories”, the BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones advises.

“Twitter has transformed my journalism”, Cellan-Jones boldly stated. It has allowed him to be a specialist reporter in a field that he is no expert. “If you don’t know, ask somebody who does,” The Times Web Development Editor Joanna Geary advises. The digital revolution allows us to reach out to a whole new landscape.

Journalism equals people, and we now have the tools to tell better stories, thus creating better journalism. Mary Engelbreit once reflected: “If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” If we can revolutionise our thinking, then we can step into the digital era as better journalists.

In two days, my journalism training will be complete. It’s been brilliant, difficult, fun, exhausting, hilarious, and totally worth it.

This week I’ve had my final exams, starting with a news exam. We were given two press releases that we

Light at the end of the tunnel? Photo courtesy of Paulio Geordio/Flickr

turned into news stories for print and online, which we then developed into a feature idea. Next we had a production exam, subbing (correcting) copy (text) and designing the page on InDesign, as well as creating a headline and standfirst.

But yesterday was the most exciting part for me. We had a mock press conference with Pooh Sticks front-man Huw Williams, with three hours to turn it into a feature. This is why I got into journalism; people. Everyone has got a story to tell, you just need to find it.

Now I’ve got my last exam. I have to write a story based on a recent NIB (news in brief). So wish me luck,  and next time you hear from me, I will be a qualified journalist!

A sneaky photo at the Cosmo office

When  I started my course in September, the prospect of work experience at a magazine terrified me. Everybody soon started to get their compulsory placements booked up, but I dragged my heels because I had no idea where to begin. But after working on ivy magazine as the online editor, I started to really enjoy new media. So when a previous student of the course got in touch with the prospect of a social media placement at handbag.com, I snapped it up. After that, an opportunity at Countryfile came up and although I always imagined myself at a women’s magazine, I went for it.

The result? Well, I loved them both. But I surprised myself by how much I loved Countryfile. The office, based in Bristol, was chilled out and the team were welcoming and really helpful. The best thing of all? I got writing straight away. I wrote a few top five’s; Britian’s best wildlife reserves,  Britain’s best outdoor and working museums, and Britian’s best heritage picnic spots, as well as finding great picnic gear and compiling a Googlemap of Green Men in the UK. And my experience with the Content Management System drupal  meant that I could upload and embed my own content. Getting up at 6 o’clock for the commute from Cardiff was pretty knackering, but overall my BBC experience was brilliant.

As I type I am sitting in a flat in Stoke Newington, London, where I’m staying with my boyfriend’s brother and his girlfriend, Ben and Laura. I have been spoiled by them, and have made myself at home in their spare room, which is now considered Vic’s room. Score!

When I arrived at handbag, I was shown to my desk for the week, and given a breakdown of what I would be doing each day. At first it was a bit daunting, but I now have a fantastic idea of which tools and applications to use in order to maximise Twitter followers, Facebook fans and generally getting content out there. I’m in the Nat Mags building, which is home to some of my favourite magazines including Cosmopolitan, Harpers Bazaar and Esquire. And it’s just off Carnaby Street; lethal.

If I had advice for anyone starting out in journalism I would definitely recommend work experience. I didn’t even make that much tea!

I must firstly apologise for my recent absence. Read on, for it’s all in the name of journalism!

Me and fellow magazine journalists at Cardiff University have had an intense few months, where we launched a magazine and a website.

The process began with everybody in the class of 30 pitching magazine ideas. Looking for gaps in the market, everything from an extreme sports magazine to a transsexual publication was pitched. Two magazines won; Re:new magazine, for the recently retired, and Infuse, which eventually evolved into ivy.

ivy was created from the idea that women want more from a magazine; intelligent articles, real women, and guidance on important issues, such as the upcoming elections. On a personal level, I connected with this and felt that I was the demographic. But this wasn’t focused enough, we needed something else. Our 16-strong group decided that sustainability issues were gaining more of a presence in everyday life, so we went down this route.

I volunteered to be Online Editor, not because I was a technical whizz, but quite the opposite. I wanted to learn more about the online world, as journalism is increasingly evolving into the digital market.

We managed to create three magazines and a website in seven weeks, and I’m incredibly proud of my team. ivy blagged an interview with Livia Firth, went to London Fashion Week and got a taste of editorial perks when we were sent lovely products to test.

Ironically, I had to ignore my blog because I had no time to do much else. But I am back, and equipped with lots of online tools which I will be fiddling with, and trying out on you lovely people. Which will come all in good time. Because instead of getting five weeks Easter holidays, I have been on work experience. I’ll be telling you all about it, so check back soon…

This week I began a module called Automotive Journalism at The Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. It probably came as a surprise to my friends and family, particularly since I cannot drive, and because I mostly refer to cars as: big, small, red or blue, etc.  But I was spurred on in the knowledge that  leading automotive professional Dr Paul Nieuwenhuis would be teaching me, who promised that I didn’t need much previous knowledge.

The first lecture started well, with Paul showing us previous female students who had won prestigious awards from The Guild of Motoring Writers. But getting to the nitty-gritty was quite daunting.

The profit margins on car-manufacturing is surprisingly small, at only 5 per cent. Supermarkets, by contrast, make 15 per cent profit. The people in charge of making cars are generally car enthusiasts, who sound like they have more money than sense; they make cars for the love of cars, rather than the money. Quite refreshing, but still very surprising.

©Courtesy of kayugee on Flickr

Over the next 20 years, more cars will be made than in the history of car-manufacturing so far. That means 180 new car factories which will make 300,000 cars annually. I also had no idea that car manufacturers merge and change regularly. “The thing you need to remember, is that this is very complex”, Paul advised.

Paul challenged the well-accepted assumption that Henry Ford invented car production, with ‘Buddism’. Whereas Henry Ford devised a system that allowed the mass production of the Edwardian vehicle, Edward Budd invented the all steel welded body, which developed into the unibody, the way most mass-produced cars are made today.

The car manufacturing process begins with the chassis, which is basically the frame plus the engine and suspension, etc. The transfer press which builds the frame costs about £20 million, per model.

After the car body has been pressed, it comes out in shiny steel, also known as body-in-white. Once the closures are added, it is painted. Ford used black paint because it took less time to dry than colours, as well as being durable and cheap. Ford wrote in his 1922 autobiography, “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black”.

Over the next few months I’ll be tracking the developments and changes to a major car manufacturer. Bear with me, and enjoy the ride!

On November 24, Hollywood mega-star Nicolas Cage was spotted sipping coffee in Cardiff Bay. He denied a Doctor Who guest appearance, and is rumoured to be recording a voice-over.

Cage is one of many hot-shots that have flocked to Wales recently, and it’s definitely not for the weather.

Nicolas Cage was spotted sipping coffee in Cardiff Bay’s Coffee Mania

So what is it about the green, green grass of Wales that is making it a cinematic hotspot?

Wales has been churning out talent for decades, but a chronology of production has been somewhat unhealthy. We forgive it, particularly in proud moments when we hear the Welsh lilt of Catherine Zeta Jones even mentioning our country: “My Scotsman giving the Welsh girl an Oscar, I can’t believe it!” she exclaimed as she won Best Supporting Actress for Chicago, “Everybody in Swansea, South Wales, I love you!”

But her Welsh lilt is overpowered by the smooth American accent she has inevitably picked up. Why? Because in the past, South Wales has not offered enough in terms of production, so our home-grown talent must look elsewhere.

The good news is that this is changing. Russell T Davies’s re-birth of Doctor Who, and consequential spin offs in the form of Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures has certainly helped put Wales on the map. He even managed to get Kylie Minogue down to the so-called graveyard of ambition, that poet Dylan Thomas drearily dubbed it.  Check out KotoriMendes33’s video of Kylie’s guest appearance.

As you walk out of Swansea train station, the plaque on the floor reads ‘Ambition is Critical.’ Without it, South Wales would never have evolved into what it is now. It is no Hollywood, but Valleywood will do.

Penny Skuse, South East Film Officer for the Wales Screen Commission agrees that South Wales is booming right now, “Yes Cardiff (not to mention Wales) does seem to be the flavour of the month at the moment. The television industry in Wales is very strong with numerous companies producing high quality drama, documentaries and animation.

“High profile TV productions such as Doctor Who, Torchwood, Gavin and Stacey and Merlin, all help to bolster Wales’s growing reputation as a viable filming destination, which could in turn generate more productions and thus more economic impact and opportunities for cast, crew and others working in – or even outside – the industry.”

It is this viability that has attracted Hollywood to our humble lands.  In May this year, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Helena Bonham Carter ventured west to Pembrokeshire to film scenes for Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows.

A sneak peek at the new Robin Hood film ©James West

Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett have also paid Pembrokeshire a visit to film scenes for the up-coming Robin Hood movie. The unspoilt beauty of the coast will be the perfect setting for both films which hark back to historic and traditional times. This is why high-profile films come to Wales; for the unspoilt beauty that high-tech graphics just cannot replicate.

Heck, Bollywood has even got in on the action. No, I haven’t heard of Kaun Hai Jo Sapno Mein Aaya either, but it was shot in Cardiff and Caerphilly in 2004.

The 1999 iconic film Human Traffic was written and directed by Welsh filmmaker Justin Kerrigan, and is set in Cardiff. The movie encapsulated the clubbing culture of the era, and was a hit due to its accurate view of the nineties club scene. It was in some ways ahead of its time, and somewhat pivotal in putting Cardiff on the map for great writing, production, and setting.

Cardiff is fast becoming a hot spot for film production

But what about the lesser known productions? Presentable, based in Cardiff, is one of the most successful production companies in Wales, who regularly produce  network and regional television and radio.

You wouldn’t have thought that a Cardiff-based production company launched the now worldwide boom in Late Night Poker on Channel 4, but Presentable is one of the biggest and most successful production companies in Wales, and regularly produces network and regional television and radio.

Or that Telesgop, based in Swansea, has sophisticated broadcast television and video production facilities, and regularly produce content for  Animal Planet, Discovery Channel , BBC and S4C.

Similarly, the award-winning company Green Bay Media, based in Talbot Street Cardiff is one of Britain’s leading television production companies. Who knew?

If you live in Cardiff, chances are you may spot the BBC’s longest running soap opera being filmed. At the ripe old age of 34, Pobol y Cwm (People of the Valley) is the most watched programme on Welsh language channel S4C.

So a whistle-stop tour of film and TV in South Wales shows we are consistently churning out great talent, and providing a beautiful landscape to do it in. Well,  if Carling made countries…