Tag: media writing

BBC School Report Day: Media Literacy at Horns Mill Primary School, Helsby

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I went back to school last week.

Well, sort of. Last Thursday marked BBC School Report Day, the day designed by BBC Learning to help schoolchildren make their own news reports.

The project is aimed mainly at secondary schools but I joined a colleague at Horn’s Mill Primary School in Helsby to run a news-writing and media-literacy workshop for year six pupils [pictured above].

The day-long project took a cross-curriculum approach and was based around the class’ set text, King Kong.

The class worked in pairs to research, structure and write a series of news reports about New York City.

After the morning editorial conference, we draw up a news list [pictured below].

Here are some of things we talked about:

  • What do journalists do all day?
  • What makes news? How do we find news?
  • Why is direct speech important for writing articles?
  • How is it different to write stories in a media style?
  • What reflections and learning points did we get from the day?

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Here are a selection of the comments from the learners on the day:

  • “I really enjoyed it. We discovered there are a lot of stages to writing a good story” – Oscar & Nathan
  • “It was fun. We found out how to use the who, what, where, when, why, how.” – Jess & Izzy
  • “I learnt about writing stories and that research is as important as writing.” – Billy & Amy
  • “It was interesting to meet a reporter and learn how to write a news report.” – Zak & Keira

* Do you have any tips for leading KS2 workshops? Share your views below.

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BBC School Report 2015

Horn’s Mill Primary School, Helsby

Punctuation: Why you’re all missing the point


* Image via www.badlanguage.net

I’m becoming increasingly passionate about punctuation. No, really [deliberate use of comma].

I even spent ten minutes arguing about the placement of a full stop as part of a conference-call pitch to a tourist board recently. A comma, I insisted, just wouldn’t cut it. It had to be a full stop.

Maybe this grammatical grandstanding stems from years of marking undergraduate work in need of a good proofreader, or maybe it’s a grumpy-old-man reaction to the proliferation of typos creeping into articles online.

Either way, I find myself increasingly correcting semicolons, exterminating ellipses and battling with pedantic zeal my arch-nemesis: the exclamation mark.

So, when BBC 6Music presenter Gideon Coe announced a themed edition of his nightly show based around the concept of adventures in punctuation this week, I was tuning in before my old chief sub could sneer over my shoulder, “That should be an en dash.”

The show threw up a winning combination of great music and stylebook-testing punctuation pondering, such as the majesty of Nick Cave’s (Are You) The One I’ve been Waiting For? [brackets and a question mark] and the mysterious case of the missing question mark from The Smiths’ How Soon is Now.

It’s like the presenter said, announcing a track by the featured artist of the evening, Half Man Half Biscuit (Westward Ho! Massive Let-Down, since you ask):

“Punctuation is important.”

Well said, Gid. And, yes, the Devon village does come as a package with its symbiotic exclamation mark.

I’ll let that one go but, much as I love the music of Jenny Lewis, the gratuitous use of exclamation points (as our American cousins like to call them) in the title of the track Rise Up with Fists!! [see below] cannot be allowed to pass without a yellow card.

The listener-led discussion then turned to great punctuation abuses in rock, notably The REM album Lifes Rich Pagent.

The fourth studio album by the band, released in 1986 and featuring the track Fall on Me, is ominously missing an apostrophe to demonstrate the possessive.

It’s like David Marsh, another stickler for perfect punctuation and the man behind The Guardian‘s Mind Your Language blog, says:

“If only they had used an apostrophe, the meaning would have been clear.”

Of course this is nothing new.

Lynne Truss has been banging this particular discourse-inspired drum since the publication of her 2003 book Eats Shoots & Leaves.

I read it again recently and continue to admire her juxtaposition of scholarly research with deft, light touches of phrase.

But I fear Lynne and I could come to blows about those pesky exclamation marks.

Introduced by humanist printers in the 15th century, it was known as ‘the note of admiration’ until the 1800s and has been treated with caution by grammarians ever since.

Truss mounts a spirited defence of the exclamation mark and outlines a series of suitable uses, ranging from involuntary ejaculations (Phew! Lord love a duck!) to deflecting potential misunderstandings of irony (I don’t mean it!).

But, for me, the exclamation mark is the preserve of writers who simply try too hard. They don’t have the lexicon of language to make their point without honking like a deranged clown with a misfiring hooter.

It’s like Truss herself says:

“In the family of punctuation, where the full stop is daddy and the comma is mummy, and the semicolon quietly practises the piano with crossed hands, the exclamation mark is the big attention-deficit brother who gets over-excited and breaks things and laughs too loudly.”

Gideon Coe was far too fair-minded to boycott the exclamations during Punctuation Night. Indeed, Godspeed You! Black Emperor featured prominently in the evening’s dramatic coda.

But I think exclamation marks are – like Facebook – pure evil. Ban them, now!

What do you think about this post? Comment below.

Liked this? Try also X Marks the Spot.


BBC 6Music: Gideon Coe

Bad Language: WTF

David Marsh: if you can’t use an apostrophe, you don’t know your shit

Writing for online: The feedback from the learners at the second workshop


So busy day then.

I ran the second workshop in my media masterclass series today. This time we looked specifically at writing and pitching stories for online.

Here we are [pictured above], hard at work in the Glynne Arms, Hawarden.

I structured the session around four key themes:

  • Getting ideas
  • Writing for the screen
  • Taking it multimedia
  • Getting paid

Here’s what people had to say about the experience at the end of the class:

“A great section on how to get ideas and develop them.” – Philip Parry

“In terms of structure, this has helped to demonstrate how to format my future blog posts differently.” – Shaun Best

“Very informative about how to get your message across, engage readers and build community online.” – Anya Hughes

“I liked the stories from personal experience and the point that writing is work and worthy of a fee.” – Bill Webster

“I’m going t use what I learned today to get my first article published.” – Conor O’Gorman.

The next workshop is pencilled in for late April. Please sign up for the newsletter on my home page for the latest news and updates.

Do you have a questions about this post? Post your views below. 


Writing online workshop: some warm-up exercises for next week


So, next Friday then.

The second course I’m running in a series of workshops offering my insider secrets to writing for the media. This time we’re talking specifically about writing online.

To help us get our thinking caps on, I’d like you to read this recent blog-style article from the Guardian by @davidhepworthCharlioe Hebdo: A twisted vote of confidence, and post your thoughts.

Read it carefully, not just for content but for style, structure, tone of language etc. Then post a comment below telling us what you think of it and why.

Did you enjoy the way the story was written? What aspects did you like/dislike?

When you post, please also include a brief introduction to yourself, so we can get to know each other a bit before the class next Friday and start a bit of a dialogue between us a a group.

I’ll do the same. And, over the week to come, I’ll post a couple more links to get the discussion flowing.

Looking forward to meeting everyone next Friday – aim for 9.15am at The Glynne Arms, 3 Glynne Way, Hawarden CH5 3NS.

Please call or email with any questions.