Final letter to myself

May 19, 2010

It’s been already a year since I wrote the last letter. So many things have happened…I am now a brand new person, enriched with a large amount of knowledge and maturity, but always in the search for gaining more.

My first year to the university has been, as you had wisely predicted, one of the best periods in my life. Not only I have learned a lot regarding the journalistic practice, but I have also become a more sociable person, open minded and nevertheless, a more daring one. I have made lots of friends here and have already loads of good experiences to remember over the years to come.

The modules have been extremely interactive and complete and made me play on several occasions the role of a professional journalist at work. I know now much more about broadcast, ethics, about the role of media and publishing in a more complex background. I have done a lot of projects to add on my CV and also started to build a portfolio which, I proudly have to admit, is becoming larger and larger.

Apart from school, my personal life has improved considerably. I am now a member of the Coventry University Tennis Club and I play tennis on several occasions, practising the sport I enjoy so much. I have met the nicest girl ever, but I don’t let this interfere with my aim regarding the future career.

Having said all this, I must admit I am extremely anxious to see what will happen next year and I’m looking forward to a new challenging experience.

Thank you, Alex and see you next year!

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This is England

May 19, 2010

“This is England”, 2006, England

Even before watching the movie, the viewer can predict what it is all about, by only reading the title. It proudly announces: This is England!  The world presented in this production is again one of great challenges, misfortunes and struggle. Stage is set in 1983, in a country dominated that time by an intense search for identity and moral values.

The film does not shy away from exposing social issues and presents them in the most realistic way possible. Issues surrounding poverty, racism and the Falklands War in the 80’s are aspects largely presented in the plot, constituting elements which give meaning to the action and shapes the main idea of the production.

The action is based on the typical life of a working class 12-year-old boy, who, affected by the loss of his father in the Falklands War, decides to join a gang of skinheads whom he accidentally meets. His life becomes on that moment a dilemma, a struggle between the desire to revenge his father and the conscience of the fact that what he is doing is wrong.

After watching it, people are given a whole new perspective on life and society in general. It unfolds a world which it long gone we might say, but in fact it continues to exist at a different scale even nowadays.

122 MC

May 17, 2010

GROUP 16

Claudia Rosu

Marcela Irina Pascu

Alexandra Hagiu

Alexandru Mihalache

Rosu Mihai

Irina Andreea Moise

Cristian Alin Dinu

Roxana Laura Matei

1. Radio advert

Giorgio Spaghetti

2.  Music Video

3.  Video

4. Movie trailer

Football – a way of life

May 14, 2010

I, Alexandru Mihalache, 1st year student at Journalism and Media, Coventry University, can say without doubt that I am mad about football. Mad. I watch football everyday, I follow all the news about it, I even enjoy commercials which have a football pitch or a club chant in it. Football is, in fact, one of the main reasons I have come to England. I could find here a spirit and a culture of this sport which was definitely missing back in my country, Romania.

Many times, when I go to the stadium (meanwhile I have become a fan of Fulham FC), or to a pub to watch a match, I can’t fail to notice the other people who are there and who are living every goal scoring opportunity as intense as I am. This is, in my opinion, football all about. A team work made of millions of people who bring their contribution to the final score, whether we speak about the team itself, the supporters inside the stadium or the ones who watch it on TV and comment on it afterwards.

I have enthusiastically followed all the drama both in Europe and England this year, witnessing a fierce battle for the Premiership, a surprising final in the Champions League, as well as the fulminant performance of a team which brilliantly managed to overcome the statute of underdogs and play in a final in Hamburg (Fulham FC). More than that, I have actually followed the English team to their final exam in the beautiful city of Germany, witnessing the intense drama of the extra time and, unfortunately, the glorious moments of Atletico de Madrid in the end.

These kind of experiences not only amplify my passion for football and sport in general;  they  manage to define and clarify my purposes regarding the journalistic practice and make me want to write, report and inform people about them. I realize, though, that the more I follow the sport events, the better my image about the entire phenomenon becomes. A sports journalist has to be there, after all, in the right place at the right time; just where the goal brilliantly hits the back of the net…when history is made.

The Seventh Seal

April 13, 2010

“Det sjunde inseglet”, 1957 Sweden

The Swedish drama from 1957 is a production which manages to take a step out of the ordinary, but remain in the history of cinematography as “one of the classics”. The entire film is based on a common allegory (the game of life and death), originally outlined with the use of symbols and motifs.

The synopsis of the film is far from being simple and unfolds on several narrative plans. The spiritual struggle of Antonius Block, a knight, who desperately tries to find a meaning of his life and doubts the existence of God is one of the plots. This inner battle reveals the human inclination to spiritual and divine that time, in a world highly tormented by misfortunes (plague, poverty, war).

On the other side, there is the “negative” character, Death, the supreme judge, ruthless and ever feared. However, surprisingly, He (the role is performed by a man) does not appear to match the description, and even accepts the challenge risen by a mortal, to let him fight for his life and win a chess game.      

This is, in my opinion, the most powerful scene of the movie. Showing both characters, one in front of the other, playing life, ironically unfolded on an ordinary chess board suggests the idea of gamble, hazard, where any decision can be fatal or which can lead to the supreme success.

During the game the knight finds his meaning in life and ultimately gives himself a purpose to fiercely fight for his own existence. The family is the one which keeps him alive and which leads him to try and trick Death, by knocking the chess pieces over in order to win more time.

“You are mated on the next move, Antonius Block” says Death. “That’s true” says the knight. “Did you enjoy your reprieve?” “Yes, I did” Block replies.”

The end is revealing. Death cannot be fooled or tricked in any ways. Sooner or later, It will come. The only thing Man can do is to fight during the game (life), try and find the best moves to gain advantage and distract Death for a short period of time.

Skinjuku Incident

April 5, 2010

“San suk si gin”, 2009,  LCE Movie Limited

Derek Yee creates a grandly atmospheric piece of work evoking the black side of Tokyo existing under the glittery clean streets, to bring out an immortal tale that has existed as long as there were cities: a tale of hard-luck immigrants who fight their way to the top against all odds in the world of crime, and for the pursuit of money and power, damn their souls to hell.

In the film we can see how migrants are not accepted into mainstream society and no matter how hard they fight to earn a place, they realize their efforts are in vain. The movie brings into front the main hero, Steelhead (Jackie Chan), an honest tractor repairman who illegally enters Japan to search for his missing girlfriend. The name of the character is extremely significant, as it suggests the hero’s strength to survive in a most dangerous and hostile environment.

The fight into this ruthless world of gangs and brotherhoods, where every step becomes a matter of life and death and any decision can turn against you in a flash finds its meaning in the hero’s desire to survive, especially for the love he carries for his girlfriend. However, the film brutally takes a twist when Steelhead realizes his girlfriend has found a new love.

“Shinjuku Incident” brilliantly succeeds in showing its viewer Life itself, with its ugliest and terrifying sides, revealing a complex battle for survival in one of the most challenging places, Japan. The realism of the scenes and the tension throughout the entire plot definitely makes this film a production worth a watch.


Romani Project

March 19, 2010

I have made a video about one of the romani communities in Romania, a minority highly accused of invading Europe. Usually, romani seem to appear on TV only when a bad thing is done and not when they need help as well. There are several campaigns about this, but there is a general conception that this issue must be avoided in media.  Moreover, the lack of knowledge regarding this issue often led to the wrong conception that “Romanian people are gypsies”.

The following video is an example of pure discrimination and lack of knowledge regarding a country and its social values. The french journalist displays the most condemnable and unprofessional behavior, revealing his total lack of respect towards a UE country.

Mark Powlett – Radio on and off air

February 18, 2010

Since the beginning of the discussion I couldn’t fail to notice the passion and the energy of a man completely satisfied of what life had to offer him. Mark Powlett was a former Coventry University student, graduating with an Art Practice and Cultural Policy degree. Now, over 15 years after, he came to Coventry to share the actual students a part of his vision about the world of media and, maybe, a bit of his sheer enthusiasm.

Before becoming a student, Mark worked for a computer company.Whilst at Coventry and after, Mark went on tour of the UK and performing in numerous theatres before landing himself part on the BBC Children’s Programme Brum as the policeman, Mark confessed how he loved working in Brum as a policeman and worked there for several years before finding out about the BBC offering a new radio presenter job for BBC Coventry and Warwickshire.

Mark admitted that working for a radio station was a dream came true for him, as he always believed that radio gives him a better opportunity to be spontaneous and closer to his audience.   After a long drawn out process and 700 applicants later Mark got the job for the 5-7 morning programme, until eventually being moved to “The After Show” which is 2-5 every week day.

The radio presenter’s visit to Coventry meant a great lesson for us during an extremely inspiring and interesting hour in the ETG 34. At the end, Mark gave us a few tips and pieces of advice regarding out role as journalists and handed in some flyers presenting his radio show and his career. After that, he suggested us not to forget to listen to his show, which was about to start an hour later, which I did, for the most enjoyable afternoon.

130 MC assignment – term 1

January 16, 2010

Discuss some of the pressures that influence the content and the style of a specific newspaper or magazine, giving clear examples from books and media.

The idea of newspapers reflecting the world in an objective and realistic manner is, apparently, long gone.  They have become nowadays rather than instruments for providing information, a clever tool for manipulation and propaganda. In the shortest period of time possible, journalists have now the difficult mission to report not only what happens, but also what the reader wants to happen. The simple process of mediation has become now complex, in which many factors are involved.

The essential element of the media process is the audience. Every journalist writes articles having a clear profile of the reader in mind. He then has to be aware of his needs and values in order to draw his interest and make him a part of the text. When there is no audience to give feedback, the intended message cannot be transmitted.

The concept of “audience” has been a key element of the work of Galtung and Ruge, who have introduced the term of “cultural connection” (Brighton and Foy 2007: 6), as an essential condition for the presented events to have a meaning to the reader. Nevertheless, in order to explore the factors which lead to creating the cultural bound with the reader, the audience itself has to be identified.

A relevant example is “The Sun” publication, the leader of the newspaper market in UK. According to the “National Readership Survey” website (2009), the newspaper has a daily readership of approximately 7,860,000 copies, being preferred mostly by people who come from a middle social class (C2DE).

Age is also important, as well as gender. For example, young people are more likely not to be interested in politics as older people do and be keener on gossip and celebrities, while men are expected to be slightly more interested in “The Sun” because of the sport section and the frequent use of incentive images (“Page three girl”). However, “it is impossible to make sweeping generalizations about newspaper readers anywhere in the world” (Brighton and Foy 2007: 46), but these figures definitely weight in choosing the content of a publication and its style.

Nevertheless, a question which can arise is how does “The Sun” manage to attract such a large number of readers daily? Conboy M. (2006: 8) believes that the publication “emerged to redefine the contemporary tabloid in Britain in the 1970s” and “began to change both the face of journalism and the face of Britain”. “Based on the language of the common man” (Whitby 1982 cited in Conboy, M. 2006: 4), the newspaper looks for the sensational and presents it in the most “courageous” way possible. It has no problem in calling a former lottery winner “a pig”: “Hey pig spender” (The Sun, 14 May 2006), bank bosses “Scumbag millionaires” (The Sun, 11 Feb 2009), or shout “Bloody Shameful” (The Sun, 16 Nov 2009), to Gordon Brown, regarding the letter sent to the family of a soldier killed in Iraq.

However, the use of sensational may lead to certain problems a journalist has to deal with, in terms of ethics and external pressures. A story doesn’t only have to be new and of interest to the readers (Galtung and Ruge), but it also has to be ethical and totally true. The publication’s priority must be informing the reader and not manipulating him, in order to gain an advantage to other competitors or profit. According to Taylor (Conboy M. 2006: 13), “tabloid journalism is the direct application of capitalism to events and ideas.” Therefore, “profit, not ethics is the prevailing motivation.”

The influence of other means of media, especially broadcast, in writing journalism has led to a change in style and language, up to a point where hidden intended meanings are suggested to the readers in stories which at a first glimpse look totally “inoffensive”, mostly due to the pressures of the advertisers, This situation is best described by Conboy M.(2006: 6) in “Tabloid Britain”:

It was a language that was first and foremost directed at building up a palatable

sense of connection with the readers, but found themselves now imported into

a commercialized idiom, accompanied by pictures and advertising, all combining

to cement the idea of the daily newspaper as a worker’s entertainment.

Another good way of advertising a certain publication lies in the stories themselves and the way they are presented to the audience. The more shocking and confusing the headlines are, the more interesting they become. “If it bleeds, it leads”, as A. Williams said. According to Randall D. (2007: 142),” on a British mass market, tabloid journalists may be regarded, paid and promoted according to how many dramatic, possibly invasive stories they produce”, even though they are totally made up or not completely true.

Moreover, journalists, who also have to face the pressure of time in meeting the deadlines and earning exclusivity, sometimes rely on sources which are honest but not fully informed, or, even worse, totally dishonest. “The Sun” has provided throughout time several suggestive examples.

On 19 of April 1989, an infamous and baseless headline following the Hillsborough disaster alleged that Liverpool F.C. fans have attacked policemen while trying to assist the victims of the crush at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. Entitled “The truth”, it drew the anger of the Liverpool fans, but was retracted only in 2004. The controversial article from Nov 17, 1989, headlining “Straight Sex cannot give you aids” (Randall D. 2007: 146), based on the false idea that “chances of getting AIDS from heterosexual were statistically invisible” is also an example of how media can sometimes go past the border of ethics in order to attract reader’s attention.

The ownership of a publication is another key factor in selecting its content and style. A newspaper like “The Sun”, which “proclaimed no (political) allegiance”, preferring to describe itself simply “as radical” (“Forty years of the Sun”), clearly reveals its political preferences and supports a candidate in the elections. “Vote tory this time” (The Sun, 3 May 1979), or “Labour’s lost it” (The Sun, 30 September 2009) put the publication’s objectiveness and ethical approach under question. The major influence of Rupert Murdoch, the owner of “The Sun”, in the British media is subject of controversy in relation to the content of his newspaper.

The conclusion is simple. Newspapers are always under the pressure of factors which influence their content and style. Whether we speak about political propaganda, influences from advertising or just journalistic misjudgments, publications are and will always claim to pursuit the truth and the freedom of information, but will always end up going on a new path, different from the one imposed by the journalistic ethics.

100 MC assignment – term 1

January 16, 2010

Individual Assignment: Critical Reflection

Use the key concepts introduced in the module to critically analyze the media object that you produced during the 72-Hour Challenge.

Produce a 1500 word academic essay detailing your findings. You must remember:

–         to use the key concepts in this analysis

–         use the readings suggested to back up your own analysis

–         use the Harvard Referencing system to correctly lay out your bibliography

The “mediation” of a certain message from a “sender” to a “receiver” (Devereux E. 2003) is complex and active and requires a good understanding of the whole communication process, at its all levels. Therefore, in order to make a complete critical analyze of the media object produced at the “72 Hour Challenge”, the answers at some essential questions are to be found. Who is the “receiver” and what is his role in the process of communication? Does he play an active role in the “mediation”? What is the message and how is it transmitted to the target? In which way is it structured and why?

The “receiver” in the scheme of communication is the target audience; it is an essential element in the process of communication, having the role of receiving the intended message sent through the media object and perceiving its meaning, based on personal values, cultural and social background, giving feed-back.  Without a specific audience, the media process has no role and, therefore, becomes useless.

The concept of “audience” has been a key element of the work of Galtung and Ruge, who have introduced the term of “cultural connection” (Brighton and Foy 2007: 6), as an essential condition for the presented events to have a meaning to the selected target. However, in order to create the cultural bound, which leads to properly transmitting the intended message, the target audience has to be identified, as well as its characteristics.

In the case of the “72 Hour Challenge”, the audience is represented by the group of students who watched the video during the lecture and gave feedback by marking it at a scale from 1 to 10. In this group I include my team from 4C and me, because the term of “audience” does not have an abstract meaning and does not refer to a certain number of people who are standing behind a line, becoming useful only when the media object is presented, in order to give the required feedback.

The audience is made of all the people, including the media producers, who are constantly involved in giving a response to the received message and transmitting it to others, in an endless process. For example, if at a first level the audience of the media object which we produced was represented by the number of people who saw the movie during the lecture, after we post it on “YouTube”, the media object became public and free to see for all the people who were accessing this website and who became, unwillingly, audience.

However, any media object, in order to succeed its goal (which can be gaining publicity, making profit, or even winning a contest, like in our case), has to target a specific part of an audience and try to win its interest, mainly by sharing the same values and perceptions and valorizing them in the media object. This is “audience demographics” and is, according to Bird E. (2003: 4), essential in understanding the role of media, referring to the way “media articulate with such factors as class, gender, race, leisure and work habits and countless other variables.”

Having a clear profile of the target audience in our minds, we created the media object thinking about what it would be regarded as new for the people who watch it and, therefore, draw the attention and the interest. The target audience was, as I mentioned earlier, the students. Therefore, people between 18 and 25 years of age, more likely to be interested in sensational and fictional facts rather than a genuine representation of reality, and, nevertheless, easier to impress by the representation of the media object rather than by the message intended, no matter how suggestive this may be.

This deduction helped us choosing the genre of the film we decided to make and further build the story and create the characters. Genres, as Neale S. argues in the article “Screen” (Boyd-Barret O. 1995: 460), “do not consist only of films; they consist also, and equally of specific systems of expectations and hypothesis which spectators bring with them at the cinema.” This reveals the active nature of the audience in the process of media, as individuals which make use of the cultural background in order to make connections and anticipate the message delivered; they do that by imposing a specific set of expectations and by attributing the media object certain stereotypes.

Another term which relates to the concept of genre is “verisimilitude” (Boyd-Barret O. 1995), which means ‘probable’ or ‘likely’. Tzvetan Todorov (Boyd-Barret O. 1995: 462) identifies two types of verisimilitude, applicable to representations: the generic verisimilitude on one hand and, on the other hand, “a broader social or cultural verisimilitude”, which helps the audience identify the genre and anticipate the content.

My group and I have decided to make a trailer to a fantasy movie, about a world in which people have to embrace and make use of Evil in order to survive. However, as an article of Chatman S. argues (Boyd-Barret O. 1995: 477), “no individual work is a perfect specimen of genre. All works are more or less mixed in a generic character.” In the 72 Hour Challenge media object case, there can be seen a mixture of influences from action films, SF and fantasy.

Even though it is a trailer, the linear course of narration can be easily recognized. If we take the model of narrative structure of Tzvetan Todorov, we can easily notice that the media object can be applied on this structure.

The narrator’s first statement in the beginning of the trailer reveals the “equilibrium”, the usual order of things: “In a world where nature restricts mankind.” Surprisingly, this order is “disrupted” by an external factor, which in this case is the “power of Evil”: “What is womankind could control nature?” Immediately follows the “recognition” of the power, illustrated by a series of scenes which reveal the consequences of such a scenario: car accidents, explosions, ability to bend the spoon. However, the character (Victoria Chambers) does not accept this situation in which she is involved and desperately tries to fight against this “new order”. The succession of lines: “There’s no other way! No, there has to be! “clearly supports the idea. An interesting aspect, however, is that the end is not revealed and the expected “enhanced equilibrium” seems to have been eluded.  This is due to the representation of the media object and the intended message it wants to transmit by the producers (group 4C). By not revealing the end of the story, the trailer fires a hidden, but clear message: “If you want to find out more, watch the movie”.

This permanent dialog between the media producer and the audience, in terms of different messages being sent to the audience through the media object involves, however, two processes; Stuart Hall identifies them as “encoding” and “decoding” (Devereux E. 2003), and both refer to moments which are produced during the process of reading the media object. According to the Stuart Hall model, “both encoding and decoding suggest that we examine both the production and the reception of media messages.” (Devereux E. 2003: 82).

However, the process of decoding does not necessarily follow a moment of encoding (lecture, Dawkins S. 2009), as the audience can reconstruct and re-encode a meaning, depending on the individual culture and social background.  For example, we chose only women to play in this trailer as a reaction to the representation of gender and the dominant ideology that women are “less in evidence than males, and in many ways, are portrayed as weaker sex.” (Boyd-Barret O. 1995). However, a student who watched the trailer, bringing arguments based on his own values, may consider this as discrimination towards men and, in the end, the worst idea possible. This vision brings out a totally new meaning of the message.

Following the encoding\decoding model, an idea which has been encoded by the media producers (Group 4C) is presented to an audience and decoded by every individual who compounds that audience. However, bringing a different meaning to the intended message (in the example the representation of gender) means re-encoding it and, therefore, recreating the message: “’the moment of reception [or] consumption by the reader/hearer/viewer is regarded by most theorists as ‘closer to a form of construction’ than to ‘the passivity, suggested by the term ‘reception’ “. (lecture, Dawkins S. 2009).

“If the audience members interpret or decode the message in an accordance with the intended or preferred meaning, they are said in Hall’s terms to be ‘operating inside the dominant code’ “ (Devereaux E. 2003).

The question which can arise is how free people in understanding media are and how much does the social background influence their choices, independent from their will? The answer is simple. All people live their lives after well defined principles and values, which are commonly accepted and assimilated as general rules, on the basis that “this way is right.”

These are known as “ideologies” and can be defined as “the ideas that legitimize the power of a dominant social group or class.” (Devereux, E. 1998: 19-23 cited in Devereux E. 2003: 99). Karl Marx and Frankfurt school “developed a negative and largely deterministic understanding of ideology” (Devereux E. 2003: 99) and was believed to “serve to the creation of false consciousness among the exploiters.”

In media, the ideology manifests through the use of stereotypes, but which reveal conceptions which are applicable in the everyday life as well. Analyzing the media object, the common use of stereotypes can be identified. The concepts of Evil and Good, with Evil fully revealing its powers (going through the wall, bending the spoon) and the Man (represented as a Woman) struggling to defeat it is one idea which wants to be original, but is in fact an ideology implemented by a social consciousness and assimilated by the individuals. Furthermore, the way characters are dressed (the Evil in a leather skirt), the colours used (“black” which suggests death), or the sound effects, all diegetic and non-diegetic elements combining to create an illusion and integrate the audience in the story.