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Compare the opening episode of Doctor Who in 1963 to a recent episode (post-2005) of your own choice. How has it changed? How has it remained the same? What does this tell us about the changing make-up of the audience?

Since it began in 1963, Doctor Who has delighted audiences with its fun and exciting storylines. The series follows a time travelling alien journeying through space and time with his human companions. Throughout its original run and again in its re-launch, the series has seen a number of changes to its format and casting, most notably with the Doctor himself. Doctor Who was a massive success when it originally aired and since its revival in 2005 it has brought in huge audience numbers. Whilst Doctor Who (post-2005) is a continuation of the original series and not a remake of what had already been done, it is important that we distinguish between the two series as separate entities as well as one series as a whole. I will be discussing Doctor Who from its 1963-1989 run as well as the series from 2005 to the present day. As I examine the similarities and differences between the two series, I will see how these changes have affected the audience of the programme.  I am going to compare the opening episode from 1963 with the opening episode of the re-launch in 2005 along with various other episodes, exploring their social and cultural context.

On November 23rd 1963 the first episode of Doctor Who, ‘An Unearthly Child’, aired on the BBC. The programme begins in a similar fashion to that of Dixon of Dock Green (1955), with a policeman walking towards the camera and searching around the outside of an old junk yard. Inside the junk yard we see an old police box outside of its familiar locations on the main streets. Despite its resemblance to a popular crime drama of the time, the programme soon shifts to a school setting, establishing a ‘normal’ environment with children and teachers walking around the familiar school setting. As an audience we can assume that this ‘normality’ is soon going to be disturbed. This is soon confirmed when two of the schools teachers are discussing one particular pupil, Susan Foreman, who appears to “know more science that I’ll ever know” according to one of the teachers, Ian Chesterton. With the teachers unable to explain Susan’s odd behaviour and their concern and interest over her personal life, they go to her registered home address only to come across the junk yard seen within the opening sequence of the episode. This leads to their discovery of Susan and her grandfather and soon become involved with the duo. During ‘An Unearthly Child’ it takes almost twelve minutes before the lead character of the Doctor is first introduced to the audience. By doing so, the audience is able to build up the excitement and suspense surrounding the Doctor and the mysteries involving the previously seen police box and Susan.

Doctor Who - An Unearthly Child (1963)

Before the 1960s, space travel seemed like a distant dream and something that belonged simply to science fiction. However, in the 1960s space travel soon became possible with the ‘Space Race’, occurring between America and the Soviet Union, with both parties attempting to explore space on a faster and bigger level than the other. Two years previous to the start of Doctor Who, the Soviet Union were the first to achieve sending a man in to space in 1961. The US President, John F. Kennedy stated that America would be the first to send a team in to space and land on the moon before the decade was over. Although America would later achieve this in 1969, President Kennedy was assassinated on 22nd November 1963, the day before Doctor Who first aired in the United Kingdom.  It was during this time the 1960s that science fiction became less than just fiction and became real life and possible. Science fiction novels, television programmes and films were increasing in popularity with films such as The Time Machine (1960) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) being released as well as the start of the hugely successful sci-fi television series Star Trek (1966).

The early episodes of Doctor Who heavily referenced the popular culture of the 1960s. The Doctor’s grand-daughter, Susan, “resembles one of the teenage ‘pop’ star products of that culture, Helen Shapiro” (Tulluch & Alvarado, 1983. P25) By heavily incorporating popular and youth culture, the writers have tried to include a larger audience. Doctor Who could be compared to the other popular British fictional hero of the time, James Bond. James Bond was first adapted to film, Dr No (1962), a year before Doctor Who first aired, therefore giving similarities between the two franchises and their nods to the 1960s culture.

Having been off screen for sixteen years, in 2005 the BBC felt that it was time to bring back Doctor Who. The revival would see British actor Christopher Eccleston take on the role of the infamous Doctor in his ninth incarnation. The ‘new’ series would not simply be a continuation from the ‘old’ series but almost a different programme altogether. Chapman believes that “the series was able to reinvent itself for the vastly different cultural conditions of the early twenty-first century” and was able to do so because it “was produced, and promoted, as a new series in its own right” (Chapman, 2006. P184) It is with this in mind that we can make comparisons between the old and new series, seeing how the revival may have been influenced and inspired by the original series.

Doctor Who revival (2005) - Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor and Billie Piper as Rose.

Similarly to ‘An Unearthly Child’, the opening episode to the 2005 revival of Doctor Who, ‘Rose’ opens with a sequence setting up the introduction of the Doctor’s soon to be assistant, Rose Tyler.  The sequence follows Rose as she leads her life; going to work, spending time with her boyfriend and living with her mother. Once again the sequence showing how ‘normal’, and ultimately boring, Rose’s life is emphasises and foreshadows that something out-of-the-ordinary is going to happen. This is soon established when Rose is targeted by the ‘living plastic’, or the mannequins from the department store where she works. As if out of nowhere, the Doctor comes to Rose’s rescue and orders her to leave the building, then outside Rose sees the department store blow up. The Doctor is introduced much earlier than he was in ‘An Unearthly Child’, appearing on screen after just five minutes. This could be due to the fact that audiences are aware of the Doctor – both in terms of his character, as known by old fans of the series, as well as who he was being portrayed by due to the media attention surrounding the new series. The following day Rose once again comes across the Doctor and orders him to tell her who he is and why the mannequins attacked her the night before. Unlike ‘An Unearthly Child’, the Doctor’s main assistant is unrelated to him and is more similar to the several other companions that Doctor had over the course of the original run of the series.

In the modern day, there is a much darker view of mankind than there has been previously. The world today is engrossed with fears of ‘Carbon Footprints’ and damaging the earth that we live on. There are concerns that mankind itself is damaging the earth by using cars, too much electricity and generally polluting the planet. This has led to people questioning whether this will damage the earth enough to destroy it. Several films and television programme episodes have been made to outline these worries such as WALL-E (2008), Children of Men (2006) and I Am Legend (2007). These films all show worlds in which there are not many human survivors and suggest that this has happened due to mankind. In Doctor Who these concerns are outlined by Donna (Catherine Tate) in ‘Planet of the Ood’. When she learns that she and the Doctor have travelled to the year 4126, Donna exclaims; “4126? It’s 4126? I’m in 4126? What’s the earth like now?” to which the Doctor (here in his tenth incarnation, portrayed by David Tennant) simply replies, “A bit full… but you see the empire stretches out across four galaxies.” Donna then says, “It’s weird, I mean it’s brilliant, but, back home, the papers and the tele, they keep saying that we haven’t got long to live. Global warming, flooding, all the bees disappearing, but look at us. We’re everywhere!” Here Doctor Who is suggesting that the planet and the universe will still exist in more than 2000 years time, it will just be ‘a bit full’. The writers and programme are almost suggesting that there is no need to be concerned with how we are living our lives on earth and perhaps attempting to calm the audience and the public from such fears.

The growing advances in genetic modification and cloning have also become real life fears for the world today. Similarly to dystopia themes, the theme of cloning has been explored in recent literature as well as in Doctor Who. Never Let Me Go (2005) by Kazuo Ishiguro tells the story of three students who have been cloned in order to provide their organs for transplants, however they are not aware of the reason behind their existence. In ‘Planet of the Ood’, the Doctor and Donna visit the Ood-Sphere and explore the company Ood Operations as they are selling the Ood for slavery. It comes to their attention that the Ood are turning against their creators to stop doing what they were created for, serving. This is also explored in My Sister’s Keeper (2009) in which the lead character, Anna is seeking medical emancipation from her parents for the rights to her own body. Anna’s parents discovered that their elder daughter, Kate had leukaemia so they conceived Anna through in vitro fertilisation in order to become a donor for her sister. The film (and original novel by Jodi Picoult) explores Anna’s determination to defy her parents to stop her being used as a donor for Kate. Likewise, in Doctor Who thousands of Oods are created to obey and serve humans. The Oods begin to defy the humans they are serving with their instinct to kill the humans. Throughout the episode we learn that the Ood have not simply been created in order to serve but they have been modified by removing their brains.

Whilst there are huge differences between Doctor Who’s original run and the new episodes of the last six years, it is clear that the recent episodes have paid homage to the previous series. There are several factors that have been kept very similar to the original. Most notably, the theme music of the series has remained relatively the same, although it has been slightly modified and updated. The theme is just as iconic as the title character, being instantly recognisable to both existing fans and to those who may not have even seen the programme. By keeping the theme music almost the same, it adds familiarity to a programme that has been off air for a number of years. Tulloch and Avarado suggest that theme music “pronounces that the programme remains stable and the same” (p. 18) By keeping a small, yet important, factor the same in the revival of the series, Doctor Who is not only paying homage to what has come before it by allowing a sense of connection to the previous work despite the numerous changes that have been made. It is factors like this that have helped maintained the show’s popularity throughout the years it has been on.

The 11 incarnations of The Doctor (from 1963-2011)

One consistent change throughout both the original series and the new series is the changing appearance of the Doctor. The Doctor allegedly has thirteen lives and in the present day, he is in his eleventh incarnation. With each new Doctor there have been several distinct differences between each personality. The original Doctor, portrayed by William Hartnell, was almost rude, arrogant and a bit of a know-it-all character in the opening episode. When we compare this to the Doctor in the opening episode of the revival series, portrayed by Christopher Eccleston, he is more sarcastic and funny and often needs assistance from Rose, his new companion, for example when she realises that the London Eye is the transmitter needed to stop the ‘living plastic’. Eccleston “brings a greater emotional intensity to the role than any of his predecessors” (Chapman, 2006. P190) making him a much more likable Doctor to the one seen in ‘An Unearthly Child’. In both episodes we are not told who the Doctor is right away, although in ‘Rose’ the audience has a more cultural understanding of the character through the media coverage surrounding the series. In both episodes, the question “Doctor Who/Doctor What?” is asked when trying to discover who the Doctor is. Although there is some explanation in both episodes as to who the Doctor is, his story is not told right away, it is something that is to be discovered throughout the remainder of the series.

On April 23rd 2011, Doctor Who’s sixth series since its return began on BBC One. Starring Matt Smith as the Doctor in his eleventh incarnation, the series opener, ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ was seen by a staggering 8.86 million viewers. The viewing figures achieved by Doctor Who emphasises the importance and relevance of the programme in modern day Britain but also the gives us opportunity to think about the varying ways in which technology has improved and altered audiences viewing habits. Speaking about the large number of viewers, Dan McGolpin who is Head of Planning and Scheduling for BBC One says, “Once you take in to account catch-up viewing, the total audience for episode one is around 9 million… BBC iPlayer figures will take this even higher- last year’s opening episode was the most watched show on its platform, being streamed over 2.2 million times.”  Doctor Who is much more accessible today than it was when it had its original run. Due to technology, the television record and online catch-up services available allow people to view television whenever they wish. This kind of viewing makes the series available to a wider audience and therefore can increase its popularity. When Doctor Who began in 1963 there were simply only two television channels to choose from, whereas today there are hundreds of channels, some dedicated to specific themes and topics meaning that gaining a large audience for one programme, albeit on one of the main television channels available, is a huge accomplishment.

The outstanding audience figures are likely to stem from its wide ranging audience members as both children and adults alike watch and enjoy the series. “The series boasts a wide following, with audience members aging from young children to adults. Doctor Who enjoys a fairly unique audience demographic, boasting as it does a core audience of 30–45-year-old fans who watched the original series when they were young, as well as a large number of children who have discovered the programme during the 2005 re-launch.” (Perryman, 2008. P36) Due to its nature, Doctor Who is able to target audiences of a variety of age ranges with each taking something different from the programme. However, recent reports suggest that the latest episodes of the sixth series have come under criticism for being too scary and too complex for the children in the audience. A recent blog post on The Guardian website has one contributor suggesting that “the writers seem too intent on proving how clever they are through too much complexity and too many cheap shocks”. Despite this, a second contributor argues that “if it’s too scary, a child can leave the room, or turn off the TV, or hide behind the sofa, like an older generation did when the Daleks rolled on to the screen.” This suggests that Doctor Who has always been about installing fear into its audience. It could be argued that perhaps the latest episodes are deemed more frightening as minor shocks are not enough to scare modern day children.

The Impossible Astronaut (2011) - Too scary for children?

It is through the recent advances in technology which, since its revival in 2005, allows fans of the show to now share their experiences of the programme together all across the world. We can argue that the show may not be simply watched today, it is instead lived. Today avid fans and audience members eat, sleep and breathe Doctor Who and will spend endless hours discussing recent plotlines and theories on dedicated website forums and message boards. It is this kind of interaction that allows the show to grow in popularity, giving fans to opportunity to marvel in the shows stories, giving their opinions and hopes on what will happen next.

The series, since it was brought back in 2005, has become more than just a television programme and has spawned two spin-off series, Torchwood (2006) and The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007) as well as the behind the scenes documentary, Doctor Who Confidential (2005). Once again, these spin-off series allow for fans to enjoy the programme on a deeper level, finding out how the episodes are made and seeing their favourite secondary characters on their own adventures. The Sarah Jane Adventures was “designed to appeal exclusively to children” (Perryman, 2008. P36) on the children’s BBC channel CBBC and allowed for children to become even more involved with the series, added to that the endless amount of merchandise available for children such as magazines, stationery and toys. Torchwood, however, was “aimed squarely at adults” and was aired on BBC3 at night. However, Torchwood came under fire as it followed one of the series favourite supporting characters, Captain Jack Harkness but was not appropriate for children to watch. The series is much scarier than Doctor Who and features sex and swearing. The programme has come under criticism due to the fact that the series is “publicised via a Radio Times cover, large-scale advertisements on public transport and, more importantly, pre-watershed trailers.” (Perryman, 2008. P36)

The development in technology has also allowed for an improvement in the special effects in more recent Doctor Who episodes. During its original run the Doctor Who sets, costumes and stunts were extraordinary but in comparison to its later episodes, these factors often look cheap and sometimes humorous. With these technological advances, it could be argued that the programme has been able to go much further in terms of storylines due to the advances in technology. It could also be suggested that the technological advances between the first series’ end in 1989 and the revival in 2005, such as internet and mobile phones,  has led to an advance in what could be used for modern day advances in technology as well as advances in the distant future. For example, in ‘Rose’ the use of mobile phones and the internet is the ‘norm’ much like it is to the audience members watching, but there are also huge advances in the technology used by the Doctor. In comparison we could look at Blade Runner (1982) which takes place in Los Angeles 2019. Not only has technology advanced enough to create human clones known as ‘replicants’ but the film also features flying cars. Today we are eight years away from the year in which Blade Runner is set however we have not seen such a huge wave in technological advances to allow us to create human clones or flying cars.

Spin offs - Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures

By comparing the first episode of Doctor Who, ‘An Unearthly Child’ with numerous post 2005 episodes of the series, it is clear that while several factors may remain the same, for example the regeneration of the Doctor, the theme music and the format of the programme, the revival series is very different from the original. Since 2005 the programme has established itself as a separate television series, gaining new fans and followers thanks to the changes in television viewing and to technological advances. In gaining such mass audience figures the new series of Doctor Who is arguably much more successful that the original series, given to the fact that audiences have a much larger range of choice given to them in the modern day. Having been such a major part of television from 1963 – 1989, the recent series Doctor Who has ensured that this is still the case in modern day Britain.

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Eighth Time Lucky

Here is a short story that I wrote as part of my Writing for the Media module.

“Why did I agree to do this? Why? Why was I so stupid? Why did I think that I could do this?”

There was icing sugar everywhere. The entire kitchen was covered in a light, white snow-like frosting. My worktops looked like they had been decorated in preparation for a Christmas grotto.  I had somehow managed to get icing sugar on the ceiling. I’m sure this never happens to the people who make those delicious Lola’s Cupcakes. Why didn’t I just think and go and buy thirty of those cakes and pass them off as my own? I’m sure no one would have realised, especially in a small town like this – I doubt Mr Young goes in to Selfridges to buy a fancy cupcake.

I plopped another spoonful of butter in to the mixing bowl, causing even more icing sugar to fly up in to my face. With a nose full of icing sugar, I heard some tiny footsteps appear by the kitchen door.

“Mummy? What’s that smell?”

“Oh no! No, no, no, no!” I cried as I opened the oven door. My poor little cupcakes were all blackened instead of “golden brown” like my Marks and Spencer ‘Baking Bible’ told me they should be.

I really shouldn’t have agreed to do it. But the determination to do one better than Phoebe Williams was too powerful to say no.

When Katie ran out in to the school playground to tell me about the school fayre, she was so excited.

“There’s going to be games and prizes and things to buy and a bring your pet part” She told me almost too fast for me to hear.

“So can we take Milo please? Please Mummy, Heather’s already told Miss Piper that she’s going to bring in her dog, her cat, her rabbit and her hamsters.” Katie’s face fell at the last part of her sentence. Heather was the ‘bossy boots’ of the year one class and caused a lot of upset to the rest of the pupils and anger to their parents.  It appeared that Heather liked to let everyone know that she could be better than everyone else in her class, telling them about a new pet or a new dress or a new toy whenever anyone else had something exciting to say. The day we had got out kitten, Milo, Heather had got a new dog and when we’d been to Ireland on holiday, Heather had been to Disneyland.

“Yes of course we can sweetheart, I’m sure Milo will love it.” I replied when I was actually thinking, “that was probably the most stupid thing you could have agreed to.”

I gave Katie a hug and we started to set off home when I heard someone calling my name behind me. It was Heather’s mother.

“Oh hi Phoebe.”

“So, has Katie been telling you all about the summer fayre? I’ve known for a while of course, being on the school committee.  We’ve been thinking of all the ways we can be involved, I think I might run a hair braiding stand, and of course I’ll bake some cakes again.”

It was comments like this that made me realise just where Heather got her behaviour from.

Phoebe continued her list of amazing duties for the summer fayre, but I wasn’t really paying attention, I could see that Katie looked upset with Heather and I was most certainly annoyed with her mother.

“I was just thinking actually how I would bake some cakes for the fayre.”

“Oh really? I wouldn’t have thought it was your thing? You don’t usually get involved in events like this.”

“No, it’ll be fun.”

“Oh right. Well, good luck with that.” Phoebe said and walked off dragging Heather along beside her.

I couldn’t let Phoebe Williams think that she could be the best parent at this school. I would show her that I could “get involved” and that I could bake cakes just as well as she could. How hard could it be?

Now measuring out my ingredients for the second time that day I soon realised that agreeing to take Milo to the fayre was not the most stupid thing I had agreed to do… baking over thirty cupcakes was.

I think I had managed the making process of the cupcakes now; it was just the actual baking part that seemed to be going wrong.

I’d had a trial run last week but it was definitely not a successful one. In the first batch, I managed to not put enough butter in. In the second batch, I managed to put too many eggs in. The third batch would have been okay if I’d only managed to put vanilla essence in and not vinegar. The fourth batch, once again, would have been okay if I’d used self-raising flour like I was supposed to and not plain flour. Then the fifth, sixth and, now, seventh batches were all cremated in my oven.

I made the new batch and popped them in the oven.

“Right sweetie, shall we sit here and watch the cakes baking? We need to watch the clock until it says 16.47 okay?”

Twenty minutes later we pulled the cupcakes out of the oven. They were perfect. They were golden brown and “firm to touch”. I put them on a cooling rack to cool down before we could start decorating. Luckily the icing I had made before the burning of batch number seven was still okay. With the most dedication I think I have ever put in to anything in my life, I spooned the frosting into a piping bag and put little swirls on to the top of each cupcake. It pained me, but I let Katie put on the little sprinkles as she was desperate to help. I wasn’t sure I wanted her to help after all the effort that had gone in to theses cupcakes but let her help all the same.

The next morning we parked outside of the school and walked in carrying Milo and our thirty-six cupcakes.

“Miss Piper! Look what my Mummy baked for us to sell on the cake stall!”

Katie started laying the cakes out on the table, putting them at the front so that everyone could see. Looking at them all lined up neatly, I had to admit to myself that I had done a good job.

“Wow Mrs Richards, they look amazing! They look professional!”

I heard heeled footsteps walking towards the cake stand. Looking over, I saw Phoebe and Heather Williams walking over with their cakes. Laying them out on the table, Phoebe’s cakes definitely did not look as good as my own. Instead of piped icing and decoration, Phoebe’s had icing and little hearts and stars drawn on with writing icing pens, which didn’t look as professional as mine.

After an hour, all thirty-six of my cupcakes had been sold and only two of Phoebe’s had. I felt so proud that I had baked cupcakes that people had enjoyed and that I had made Katie feel a little bit better about herself.

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Discuss the importance of paganism and death in the Harry Potter series.

The Harry Potter series of novels has become one of the biggest selling series of books of all time. The series follows the title character Harry Potter learning how to become a wizard, and on his adventures and quests to defeat Harry’s nemesis, Lord Voldemort. Throughout the series, several themes are explored such as love, good vs. evil and the importance of friendship. However, one theme that features predominantly is the theme of death. I will explore the importance of this theme; how the deaths of those closest to Harry affect him and how death will ultimately end the long battle between Harry and Voldemort.  The series obviously follows Harry and his friends learning the arts of witchcraft and wizardry at their school, Hogwarts. Whilst the series is clearly fictional, there have been several complaints about J.K. Rowling’s novels, arguing that the books glamorise pagan beliefs and the occult. These views come mainly from Christian groups who feel that the all magic is the work of the devil and that by having Harry and his friends use magic, the young readers of the novels will want to explore the use of magic themselves. I will look at the content that many feel is inappropriate for young audiences and examine the arguments of those who deem Harry Potter inappropriate for their children.

Harry Potter Series

At the beginning of the first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, we become aware that a wizard named Voldemort, whom several other wizards and witches were afraid of, has mysteriously vanished after killing a couple, Lily and James Potter, but leaving their son, Harry alive. Harry is then left to be brought up as a Muggle (a non-wizard) with his Aunt, Uncle and cousin, unaware that he is one of the most famous wizards in the world. The fact that Harry’s parents died before the start of the novel is a hugely important factor to the rest of the series. As Harry has been brought up in the Muggle world as an orphan, he has come to know very little about his past and the world in which he lives. By attending Hogwarts, Harry soon learns more about his past and what happened the night that his parents were killed. In their first battle against one another, Lord Voldemort tells Harry that his parents died “begging for mercy” (Rowling, The Philosopher’s Stone; page 213) and that his mother, especially, died trying to save Harry. The fact that Harry has to deal with the loss of his parents from an early age, and then to later learn that they died in order to protect him, is an important sense of characterisation from Rowling. The early death of his parents has meant that Harry has learned that death is an inevitable part of life and not necessarily something to be afraid of. “To the well organised mind, death is but the next great adventure.” (Rowling, The Philosopher’s Stone; page 215) Here, Dumbledore is emphasising to Harry that whilst people may be afraid of death, it is something that is unavoidable and that must be treated in a realistic manner. By addressing death in such a casual, yet adult manner, Rowling is almost preparing her readers for their future, where dealing with death and loss is such an inevitable part of life.

On the night that Lily and James Potter died, Voldemort was unable to kill Harry, for reasons unknown to the wizarding community and to Voldemort himself. Whilst Harry survived, he was left with a lightning bolt shaped scar on his forehead. This scar is a symbol of Voldemort’s attack on Harry and a constant reminder that, while he defeated one of the darkest wizards in history, it symbolises the night that Harry should have died. The fact that Harry’s scar is a bolt of lightning could perhaps be a literal picture symbolising the flash of green light associated with the ‘Avada Kedavra’ curse that was intended to kill Harry. “There was a flash of blinding green light and rushing sound,” (Rowling, Goblet of Fire: page 191) Similarly, Harry’s scar could be symbolic of the emotional scars that people face when dealing with death and loss. As Harry has to see his scar every day, he is constantly reminded of the night that he should have died, and the night that his parents died trying to protect him.

Harry's scar - a constant reminder of the night he should have died.

One of the main elements to the plot in Harry Potter is the prophecy involving Harry and Voldemort. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, we come to learn about said prophecy, which ultimately changes the course in which Harry is leading his life. The prophecy reads, “Either must die at the hands of the other for neither can live while the other survives” (Order of the Phoenix, Rowling; page 741).  The use of this prophecy as the main story behind the epic battle between Harry and Voldemort emphasises the importance of death in the Harry Potter novels. The prophecy tells us that either Harry or Voldemort must die in order for the other to live, in this sense it tells us that death is inevitable for one, or potentially both of the duo. From then on, Harry’s life changes yet again as he realises that it is he who needs to kill Voldemort in order to stop him from taking over both the Wizard and Muggle worlds.

Throughout the Harry Potter series, several of the important characters around Harry die. The father figure of Sirius Black, Harry’s Godfather and strong link to Harry’s parents, is killed by Bellatrix Lastrange in Order of the Phoenix. After his untimely death, Harry becomes extremely angry and volatile around his friends and mentors. Harry feels that Sirius’s death was his fault and that it could have been prevented had he not fallen for Voldemort’s trick. When talking to Dumbledore after the events at the Ministry for Magic, Harry becomes irrational and aggressive when Dumbledore offers his condolences and advice for Harry. “Harry felt the white-hot anger lick his insides, blazing in the terrible emptiness, filling him with the desire to hurt Dumbledore for his calmness and empty words.” (Rowling, Goblet of Fire; page 726) Here, Rowling uses Harry’s feelings towards Sirius’s death to allow the reader to acknowledge the varying emotions that people go through when they are dealing with the death of a loved one. Rowling is allowing Harry to let his emotions go so that the reader can fully empathise with him and to allow Harry to go through dealing with Sirius’s death in the same way. In terms of writing for her audience and for her fans, it could be suggested that Rowling portrayed Harry at being angry with those around him following Sirius’s death because the readers may have been angry at Rowling to killing off a character that played such a vital role in Harry’s life.

Another of Harry’s closest friends and mentors is killed later on in the series. When Dumbledore is murdered by Professor Snape in The Half-Blood Prince, Harry immediately seeks for revenge against Snape, wanting to punish him for murdering his mentor and friend. Harry even attempts to use the Unforgivable Curses, which deliver torture or even death, on Snape in order to seek revenge. “‘Cruc-’ yelled Harry for the second time, aiming for the figure ahead illuminated in the dancing firelight, but Snape blocked the spell again; Harry could see him sneering. ‘No Unforgivable Curses from you, Potter!’ he shouted over the rushing of flames… ‘You haven’t got the nerve or the ability-’” (Rowling, Half-Blood Prince; page 562) By having Harry react in this uncharacteristic manner, though notably fighting against his long-term rival, Snape, is also another way in which Rowling explores the emotions in Harry faces each time a person close to him dies. This once again echoes the real-life issues that people face when coping with a sudden death. Harry is acting largely out of character at this point, although Harry can often be hot-tempered and angry, he is not one to use the Dark Magic. By making Harry react in this way, Rowling is telling her readers that when events happen unexpectedly, a change in character is a likely occurrence.

Michael Gambon and Daniel Radcliffe as Professor Dumbledore and Harry Potter

One notable death is the death of Harry’s schoolmate Cedric Diggory during Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Whilst taking part in the schools Triwizard Tournament, Harry and Cedric are completing the final task when they reach the Triwizard Cup; signalling the end and the winner of the competition. Deciding that they shall both come out as winners, they reach for the Cup simultaneously, which transports them to a small graveyard.  Upon getting there, Harry’s scar burns with pain and with a flash of green light, Cedric is killed. “Before Harry’s mind had accepted what he was seeing, before he could feel anything but numb disbelief” (Rowling, Goblet of Fire; page 554). Although not one of Harry’s closest friends, the death of Cedric is extremely important and significant to Harry as it is in his hands that Cedric is killed. Not only does Harry feel responsible for Cedric’s death, as it is Voldemort who wanted only Harry to enter the graveyard, so dismissively ordered for Cedric to be killed, but he feels that it is his responsibility to take Cedric’s body back to his parents.  Harry has to then return to Hogwarts with Cedric’s body and tell everyone how and why he died. This death stays with Harry, and it is in Order of the Phoenix that Harry first sees the Thestrals; strange, horse-like creatures with wings and “dragonish” (Rowling, Order of the Phoenix; page 178) heads. Harry can only see the Thestrals in Order of the Phoenix following Cedric’s death as “the only people who can see Thestrals are people who have seen death.” (Rowling, Order of the Phoenix; page 394)

During the time at the graveyard, Voldemort is brought back to human life, using Harry’s blood as a way to regain a body. It is during this chapter that Harry sees “a thick grey ghost of Cedric Diggory” (Rowling, Goblet of Fire; page 577) appear from the end of Lord Voldemort’s wand.  This leads us to question whether Cedric has really died and whether the characters in the Harry Potter series ever truly die; Hogwarts itself is laden with Hogwarts ghosts that regularly interact with the students. This is not the only incident where Harry encounters those close to him who have previously died. When Cedric appears in the graveyard having just been murdered by Voldemort’s servant Wormtail, Harry’s parents, Lily and James, also appear. Whilst Harry and Voldemort are duelling and their wands connected; Lily, James and Cedric all offer Harry words of encouragement and advice on how to battle Voldemort, “we will give you time… you must get to the Portkey, it will return you to Hogwarts…” (Rowling, Goblet of Fire; page 579). The same happens once again in The Deathly Hallows, however this time Harry’s mother and father, Godfather Sirius Black and friend, Professor Lupin appear, yet again to offer Harry guidance through a battle with Voldemort. Whilst the images of the deceased are merely ghost-like, Harry to an extent believes that they are real and communicates with them as if they are truly there in human form, once again forcing us to question whether the characters in Harry Potter truly die. Despite this, Dumbledore tells us that, “No spell can reawaken the dead,” (Rowling, Goblet of Fire; page 605)

Perhaps the most notable, and most prominent, feature of death is in the final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The name itself almost warns us that the book will feature a profound tone of death and darkness throughout. The book features a heavy bloodbath; seeing yet more of Harry’s friends and loved ones die at the hands of Lord Voldemort. The deaths encountered at the end of the novel, once again, force Harry to feel guilty for the deaths of those close to him. Harry knows that it is he that needs to kill Voldemort and feels that the more people close to him who die, to the more responsibility he has to succeed in his mission. “Dumbledore knew, as Voldemort knew, that Harry would not let anyone else die for him now that he had discovered it was in his power to stop it. The images of Fred, Lupin and Tonks lying dead in the Great Hall forced their way back into his mind’s eye, and for a moment he could hardly breathe: Death was impatient…” (Rowling, Deathly Hallows; page 555)

During the novel; Harry, Ron and Hermione come across the Wizarding fairy tale, The Tale of the Three Brothers. The tale tells the story of three brothers who, by using their magic, attempt to cheat Death. The story mentions a Cloak of Invisibility, an item which Harry owns. There are several elements to the fairy tale that are important factors to the events of the final novel, but to an extent, the story resembles Harry’s life up until now. With his previous six years at Hogwarts, Harry has managed to escape death on numerous occasions. On five occasions, Harry has managed to defeat, or escape, from Voldemort who has always had the intention to kill him. The fairy tale outlines a simple viewpoint on death, “he greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, equals they departed this life.” (Rowling, Deathly Hallows; page 332) It is as though this is foreshadowing what Harry later faces in the chapter; The Forest Again where Harry goes to Voldemort in order to die. “I must die. It must end.” (Rowling, Deathly Hallows; page 556) Harry is acting like a martyr in order to protect those around him, to face the inevitable and to fulfil the prophecy.

The Tale of the Three Brothers - as seen in Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows pt 1

Once Voldemort has regained power, his band of followers, the Death Eaters help him on his quest to kill Harry Potter and take over both the Wizard and Muggle worlds. Once again, the term ‘Death Eater’ simply reinforces the theme of death found throughout the Harry Potter novels. The Death Eaters are perhaps so called as death is the one thing that Voldemort fears the most, the one thing that he will do anything to avoid. Voldemort is obsessed with becoming immortal that he has split his soul in to eight pieces, placing six of the pieces in to magical objects, known as Horcruxes. It is these six Horcruxes that Harry must destroy in order to be able to kill Voldemort, therefore fulfilling the prophecy. Voldemort is so intent with being immortal, even whilst he is a teenager that he will do anything. “‘But how do you do it?’ ‘By an act of evil – the supreme act of evil. By committing murder. Killing rips the soul apart. The wizard intent upon creating a Horcrux would use the damage to his advantage…’” (Rowling, Half-Blood Prince; page 465)

Although Harry Potter has become a hugely successful phenomenon all over the world, there have been several groups who feel that the content of Harry Potter is extremely unsuitable for the children it is aimed towards. These attitudes have come mainly from religious groups, particularly those of Christian faith. Michael O’Brien states in Harry Potter and the Paganization of Children’s Culture that the Harry Potter series has the potential to “lower the natural and spiritual guard in a child’s mind” (O’Brien; page 8) and that this will inevitably lead to the said child joining the occult. He questions that if this is to happen, then “what other kinds of disordered interests and activities will follow as he makes his choices in later life?” (O’Brien; page 8) O’Brien is not the only one to feel this way about the novels. In Why Heather Can Write, Henry Jenkins speaks of the evangelist, Berit Kjos who feels that the merchandise surrounding the series is just as damaging at the content in the novels. “In God’s eyes, such paraphernalia become little more than lures and doorways to deeper involvement with the occult.” (Jenkins; page 194) Many Christian groups feel that all forms of witchcraft are pagan and are associated with the devil, therefore they feel that by writing a novel about a group of children at a school for witches and wizards, J.K. Rowling is “glamorizing witchcraft” (Deavel and Deavel; page 1) and leading children in to wanting to explore the world of magic further.

The Harry Potter novels are not the first series of books to feature a heavy use of magic, but previous series have not been criticised in the same way. O’Brien discusses that many novels feature characters using witchcraft, but that these characters are usually the villains of the series, not the heroes as seen in Harry Potter. He suggests that “for many Christian parents, the problem is not the presence of magic in a book, but how magic is represented.” (O’Brien; page 9) and compares Harry Potter to the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. He argues that the characters found in Narnia, particularly the White Witch, who use magic are portrayed in “classic terms”, meaning that they are “manipulative” and “deceiving” (O’Brien; page 9). O’Brien continues to say that “Supernatural powers, Lewis repeatedly underlines, belong in God alone, and in human hands they are highly deceptive and can lead to destruction.” (O’Brien; page 9) During this article, O’Brien stresses that the use of magic portrayed in the world of Harry Potter is corrupt and that it “will darken the mind” (O’Brien; page 10) and criticises the fact that Rowling’s characters explore the world but do not suffer any consequences or side effects for their actions. It is interesting that O’Brien draws this comparison as it is clear that Rowling has been heavily influenced by the work of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as well. All three of the authors have created fantasy worlds in which their child (or child-like) characters explore their surroundings and have to battle evil. However, as previously suggested, the evil characters portrayed in these series are the only characters to use magic; whereas in Harry Potter there are forms of both good and bad magic, which is what leads many to feel that the series is inappropriate for the target audience.

Harry Potter series - Glamorizing witchcraft?

One Christian website (Christian Answers for the New Age) features an article outlining the themes and events which feature in the final novel of Harry Potter; The Deathly Hallows. The article discusses the events that occur in Harry Potter from a Christian perspective. They suggest that the series may not be suitable enough for Christian readers, leading on to suggest that although the hero of the books, Harry Potter is not a good role model. They suggest that Harry “has no remorse and few consequences from lying and cheating; he seeks revenge in many cases; he hates; and he can be cruel” (Page 3/3) The article argues that Harry is consistently lying and breaking rules, but suffers no consequences, the ends justify the means and therefore Harry does not show suitable behaviour to the children reading. However, we could argue that while Harry may not be perfect, he has suffered from a poor childhood and that, perhaps, Rowling wanted to portray a more realistic, modern day role model. By creating such a character, Rowling is reaching out to those readers who feel they are different from the others around them- something that Harry feels on numerous occasions, both before and after joining Hogwarts. She is also creating a more realistic character for the audience to get behind and follow on his journey.

Whilst the views portrayed by these religious groups are understandable, we must remember that the Harry Potter novels are a fictional series, simply exploring the world of magic. The books are purely there for children to explore their imagination and, perhaps, to get them more excited about reading in a world that has so quickly become obsessed with computer gaming. Jenkins relays the story of Heather Lawver in his article; a girl who claims that she “read a book that changed her life”. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone gave her the inspiration to set up a website where fans could join together to write “a school newspaper for a school that existed only in their imaginations.” (page 172) The children participating are using the things that they have learned from Rowling’s stories and have combined them with their own imaginations to create something new, something that many teachers and parents are constantly trying to teach children to do.

It is clear that the theme of death is heavily prominent throughout the series and plays a vital role in Harry’s life and journey through his seven years at Hogwarts. By experience death on so many occasions and in so many different ways, the loss he has suffered has shaped him in many ways. Without the theme of death running throughout Harry Potter, the reader may not have grasped the important notion that death will end the battle between Harry and Voldemort. The entire story is based upon the magic arts contained within the fantasy world and it is understandable that protective parents and group leaders may feel that the content is inappropriate for young audiences; but we must argue whether the Harry Potter series remained a children’s book throughout its run. The series is fictional and that must be understood when reading the novels. Whilst some may deem it unsuitable, it cannot be argued that the Harry Potter phenomenon hasn’t encouraged children to read and expand their imaginations when entering such an exciting fantasy world.

The final battle between Harry and Voldemort

Bibliography

Deavel, C.J. and Deavel, D.P., 2002. Character, Choice and Harry Potter. Logos 5:4. Available from:
https://www.stthomas.edu/cathstudies/logos/archives/volumes/5-4/5-4%20Article%20Sample.pdf [Accessed 5 March 2010]

Jenkins, H., 2006. Why Heather Can Write: Media Literacy and the Harry Potter Wars. Convergence Culture: Where Old Media and New Media Collide. P169- 205. London: New York University

Montenegro, M., 2007. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Is Death Still the Next Great Adventure? Christian Answers for the New Age. Available from: http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_HarryPotterDeathlyHallows1.html [Accessed 5 March 2010]

O’Brien, M., 2003. Harry Potter and the Paganization of Children’s Culture. Catholic World Report magazine. Available from: http://www.leannepayne.com/harrypotter/HarryPotter-PaganizationOfChildren.pdf [Accessed 5 March 2010]

Rowling, J.K., 1997. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury.

Rowling, J.K., 2000. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury.

Rowling. J.K., 2003. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. London: Bloomsbury

Rowling. J.K., 2005. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. London: Bloomsbury

Rowling. J.K., 2007. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. London: Bloomsbury

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You Can Run, Episode 1

Here is the opening to a script I wrote as one of my assignments for Writing for the Media.
It is about a family who have been put in to Witness Protection after witnessing and being involved in an incident.

1              INT. POLICE INTERVIEW ROOM- FLASHBACK

The HARPERS are sat in a police interview room. Five year old CHARLIE is sat on 18 year old
ELLIE’s lap. Parents SHARON and DAVID are sat either end of the large table. The 15 year old twins,
RYAN and DAISY are sat to the right of ELLIE and CHARLIE. The family look scared and nervous as they wait for a POLICE OFFICER to enter the room. A POLICE OFFICER finally enters, carrying documents and folders. ELLIE sniffs and tries to distract herself by playing with CHARLIE. SHARON wipes her eyes and RYAN reaches out to hold her hand.

POLICE OFFICER
I’ve got all of your new documents. It’s a long process I’m afraid,
but we’ll get through it and get you up to date so you know what
will be happening when you leave the station. Once we’re finished up
there’ll be a car to take you to your new location.

2              EXT. OUTSIDE POLICE STATION. STREET- DAY-FLASHBACK

It’s a bright sunny day; The HARPERS are being put in to two large black cars. We see the cars drive
down the road.

3              INT. CAR 1- FLASHBACK               

Inside the dark car, SHARON is clutching DAISY and they are both crying. ELLIE is staring out of the
window, tears filling her eyes.

4              INT. CAR 2- FLASHBACK

Inside another dark car; DAVID, RYAN and CHARLIE are sat in silence. RYAN is picking at a loose thread on his jumper.

CHARLIE
DADDY, I know we’re going on an adventure… but are NAN and
GRAMPS going to come and find us?

DAVID
I’m afraid they can’t CHARLIE. I’m sorry.

DAVID pulls CHARLIE in for a tight hug and gently pats RYAN’s knee to show his support.

CREDITS

5              INT. WRIGHT HOUSE. DINING ROOM- NIGHT

We see a family sat around at the family dinner table. There are bright coloured birthday banners all
over the walls, birthday cards lining the window sill. There are several balloons tied to the wall, with two large helium balloons- emblazoned with large 16s on them. We soon learn that the family sat at the table are the HARPERS who we saw sat in the police interview room, being given new documents…  The room is a perfect family setting. The table is neatly set, with large food dishes covering the surface of the table. The telephone rings, LIZ answers.

LIZ
Oh hi love! Everything okay with you? Yeah, good. Okay, yeah.
Yes. They’re here. I’ll put you on speaker for them.

KATY (on the telephone)
Hi Chris! Hi Ashley! Happy birthday guys!

CHRIS AND ASHLEY
Hi! Thanks!

KATY
I am so sorry that I’m not there to celebrate your big sixteenth birthday. I am honestly so bored sat here writing this essay. You know, Chaucer… not that interesting! [KATY laughs]

ASHLEY
That’s okay. I hope it’s going alright? When will you next be home?

We continue to hear KATY talking to ASHLEY, CHRIS and HARRY on the telephone. LIZ and MARK are walking from the kitchen and the dining room taking dishes and glasses in and out of the rooms. LIZ walks in to the kitchen and MARK follows.

MARK
Are you alright love? You seem a bit emotional? They’re only sixteen you know, they’ll be pestering us for years yet!

LIZ
Oh no, I’m fine. I just… I just can’t believe it’s been a year.

MARK
I know, but look how well we’ve managed. We rarely have slip ups now. We’ve settled in well. No one would even guess that we have a past. We’re doing fine.

Giving each other a hug, MARK kisses the top of LIZ’s head. Then LIZ and MARK bring in a large birthday cake from the kitchen. KATY’s conversation with the TWINS comes to an end and the rest of the WRIGHTS begin to sing a chorus of happy birthday to CHRIS and ASHLEY. ASHLEY begins cutting the cake and passes a slice to HARRY. The family scene is so idyllic and happy.  We hear something coming through the letterbox. LIZ exits the room and we follow her to the front door where she picks up two birthday cards. LIZ’s face is the picture of horror when she looks at the names addressed on the cards. The names RYAN HARPER and DAISY HARPER are scrawled across the front. Standing in shock for a minute, panic spreads across LIZ’s face. She gathers herself together and walks through to the dining room.

LIZ
MARK, in here

LIZ and MARK walk in to the kitchen and she hands him the cards. He turns them over in his hands and then opens each card. We see that each simply reads: HAPPY 16TH BIRTHDAY. MANY HAPPY RETURNS…

LIZ
What are we going to do? We just said we’d be fine. I really thought we’d moved away from all this. I thought this nightmare was finally over. I can’t. I just can’t bear the thought of it all being dragged back up again.

MARK
I know.

MARK puts the cards back in to their envelopes and stashes them into a cupboard drawer. He pulls LIZ in for a hug.

MARK
I know honey. But we’ll contact CAMPBELL and let him know. We may have to move again. It might be the only option if someone has found out about us.

LIZ
But why would they send this? It’s sick. It’s BRADY. I must be. There’s no other—

The phone rings. HARRY has answered and has walked in to the kitchen with the receiver.

HARRY
It’s KATY. She wants to speak to you DADDY.

MARK
Thanks boy. Go back and eat some more cake yeah?

HARRY passes MARK the phone and he looks at LIZ worryingly.

MARK
Everything alright love? I thought you had work to be finishing?

6              CUT TO: INT. KATY’S BEDROOM-NIGHT

KATY is pacing around a small bedroom- a university halls of residence room. We can see her desk, covered in books, notepads and stationary. There are photos all over the walls and a small bed with a teddy sat in the middle. Her laptop is open and we can see it is on Facebook.

KATY (on the phone)
DAD, I’ve just been on Facebook and I’ve been sent a private message. There’s no photo and they’re using a fake name- it says it’s from “JOE BLOGGS”. When I click their name it doesn’t say that we have any friends in common and all of their friends have fake sounding names too…

MARK
KATY- what does the message say…?

KATY
“I know you. You’re not KATY WRIGHT are you? You’re ELLIE HARPER. Why are you lying? You know you can’t run…”

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Web Comparison: Mail Online vs Digital Spy

A website comparative analysis that was completed as part of my Web Communication module.

In order to conduct a website comparative analysis, I will look at two competing websites in the field of journalism; specifically focusing on entertainment/”gossip” journalism.  I have chosen Mail Online, which is the online publication of the print newspaper the Daily Mail, in particular their “TV & Showbiz” pages, and Digital Spy, an independent website.  I will look at the similarities and differences between the two websites; with particular interest into their layout and design, content, usability, interactivity and user generated content.

Entertainment/”gossip” journalism is mainly associated with females and this stereotype is played on by the Mail Online website.  When entering the main Mail Online website, we are taken to a neutral page with calming blue tones used for the banners and headline colours. However, when we go to the “TV and Showbiz” section of the website, there is now a pink banner which features the pictures of popular female celebrities; Victoria Beckham, Cheryl Cole, Lily Allen and Coleen Rooney, thus targeting a female user. On the other hand, Digital Spy remains more impartial and uses, again, blue tones in order to appeal to both genders. This is also represented in the types of stories that each website posts. Digital Spy has several different categories that can suit both genders and many interests such as “showbiz,” “movies” and “music”; however the category “gay spy”, which features pictures and stories about attractive men, suggests that the website’s target market is women or homosexual men. Mail Online, however, posts articles on mainly on fashion, reality television and celebrity couples, so is supporting its theme and aiming mostly at a female audience.

Design/layout

The design and layout of a website is extremely important as it will help the website gain regular visitors.  “A website should be simple to navigate, easy to understand” (Eberlin, 2006) In order to be seen as a respected website and get several people using the site, it is good to have easily accessible news stories within a well structured theme.  The Mail Online website have tried to incorporate the newspaper layout to their website, which allows the page to be filled with several headlines, links and pictures to various articles. They have chosen a three column layout which echoes the columns found in a print newspaper. Despite this, the articles are not written in columns the way they would appear in a newspaper. The columns are used as a method of breaking up different stories in to different sections, and allowing one column to be used as a navigation column. The left and middle columns are used to host a large box with a picture for the top story, and three smaller pictures to its right side indicating other top stories. This large box draws visitors to the website’s main content but also attracts them to view the right hand navigation column where several article’s headlines are listed. Scrolling down the homepage, the layout of the website remains the same; mostly with two columns being used for similar items such as more stories or a gallery, whereas the third, right hand column is used for miscellaneous items such as polls, sponsored links and advertisements.  Following this, all three columns are used for the story links; each showing a small picture with a headline and short summary of the article. These columns are categorised in to different areas such as “All the latest showbusiness”, “All the hottest” and “Gossip-Direct from LA”. “Good content organisation creates the foundation for effective navigation and is crucial to the success of the site.” (McCracken et al, 2004) Whilst the layout reflects a print newspaper, having several headlines and pictures can make the pages look quite confusing, making it more difficult for the reader to concentrate on searching for a particular story. The overall layout is fairly easy to use; however the large quantity of stories makes it more complicated to navigate around as there are so many options. This decreases the Mail Online’s usability for its visitors as it may cause readers to visit other competing websites to view their “TV and Showbiz” news.

The Digital Spy website also features a three column layout, however having its main navigation in the centre column, which is uncommon for most websites. Similarly to the Mail Online website, Digital Spy hosts a large picture representing the main article with its headline and a small summary underneath. In the middle navigation section, there are 14 more headlines listed and a “click here for more articles” link, taking visitors to the main headlines from all categories. Following this, there are four small boxes of photos with their headline, indicating the next top stories. Scrolling further down, we can see that the three column layout remains intact, however leaves the third column with white space. This allows the reader to focus on the right and centre columns which show small boxes dedicated to each category; with each having a picture and six headlines inside it. This is good for the layout of the website as having the stories categorised means that the users can find what they are specifically searching for. “On the web, a good visual organisation lets users know what content items are related.” (McCracken, 2004) Much like Mail Online, Digital Spy follows an easy layout as the stories can be seen on the homepage as the most important, or under their respective categories. It is a simple format to follow, however, as the headlines are simply listed, it can make readers confused as to what the article is about. As the headline may not specify in great detail the nature of the article, readers would have to look at the article in order to know if they are interested. This may be purposely done by the website in order to gain more hits, and make their website statistics higher. Both websites follow a similar layout and theme when navigating around the website. “Consistency is one of the most powerful tools for making a website understandable and easy to navigate.” (McCracken, 2004) It is important to do so as it keeps users frequently visiting the site and making it accessible and suitable to people of all ages.

Search Engine Optimisation

In order to see how well the journalism websites have search engine optimisation, it is ideal to search for some of the celebrities featured in the recent Mail Online articles on popular search engine, Google. When searching for the celebrity featured in the top news story at the time, the Mail Online’s articles appear in the “News for” section of the main results page. This happens quite frequently for the Daily Mail articles, this is potentially due to the fact that the website is the online version of a popular print newspaper. On the other hand, the articles featured on Digital Spy do not appear on the Google results when searching for the main person or topic involved in the article.

Interactivity

In terms of interactivity, the Mail Online gives their readers the opportunity to comment on all stories posted. This option does not mean that you have to be a “member” of the website; you can simply leave a quick comment on the story without having to go through a long process of signing up. Readers can then “rate” the comments posted by other readers, as to whether they think they are good or bad comments. However, on the Digital Spy website, users cannot comment on all of the stories published. It is only on certain stories, usually featuring trailers or pictures of upcoming television episodes or films, that users are able to make comments. Instead, Digital Spy leaves their interactivity for the forum pages of their website. There are several categories to choose from each leading to different forum threads on a specific topic within that category. This gives the website a slight “members only” feeling as you have to sign up, which can cost the user. Unlike Mail Online, users must be a member in order to “discuss” their feelings towards certain stories, television shows, and celebrities. Neither of the websites feature any user generated content, an important factor in making a website more personal and more relatable to its audience. The Mail Online website does offer readers to submit their celebrity stories by calling the “showbusiness desk”; however this is the only mention of user generated content. Other than this, the only content from the readers is the comments made on the stories or on the forums.

Sharing Content

Due to the rise in popularity of social networks and sharing news and gossip, both websites offer their readers to share the content that they have read with their friends. Digital Spy has icons to the right, and bottom, of their stories which allow users to share the information through social networking websites and via email. Mail Online also allows users to spread information, having the icons appear solely at the bottom of the article. The icons do not appear as prominently as they do on Digital Spy, making their website and content easier to share.

In conclusion, both websites succeed in keeping their websites consistent and attracting a large following. However, Digital Spy would benefit in improving their search engine optimisation which would largely improve their visiting statistics. I would say that there are several aspects in which both websites could improve, perhaps making their layouts feel less claustrophobic and giving users more information to help navigate around the website.

References

Eberlin, A, 2006. What Makes a Good Website. Wiltshire: eberlin Web Design. Available from: http://www.eberlin.co.uk/whatmakesagoodwebsite.html [Accessed: 29 November 2010]

McCracken, D. D., and Wolfe, R.J., 2004. User-Centered Website Development: A Human-Computer Interaction Approach. New Jersey. Pearson Education, Inc.

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Kelly Clarkson Press Release

A press release I wrote in my first year as part of Writing for Different Purposes.

Press Release    18/12/09

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

All I Ever Wanted- Kelly Clarkson plays at Bournemouth International Centre

American singer-songwriter, Kelly Clarkson is bringing her All I Ever Wanted tour to the Bournemouth International Centre on Monday 15th February 2010. Following the massive success of the album of the same name, which certified both platinum and gold, and two previous tours for the record, Kelly is taking her show worldwide.

Kelly Clarkson first shot to fame by winning the first season of the American television series, American Idol. Following this, she has released four albums, selling over 23 million records worldwide and winning two Grammy awards. Her biggest hit to date is My Life Would Suck Without You, which entered the UK charts at number one on downloads alone.  Famous for her sing-along pop anthems such as Since U Been Gone, I Do Not Hook Up and Because Of You, Kelly is certain to wow her audience and give a highly enjoyable performance.

After pleasing the crowds in the United Kingdom, Kelly is also doing further dates in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Tickets are on sale for £29.12 and are available on the Bournemouth International Centre website (www.bic.co.uk), via the Ticket Office between the hours of 10am-5.30pm and by calling the Ticket Office on 0844 576 3000.

Doors on the day of the event open at 6pm and the show begins at 7.30.

For more information please contact:
Nicola Melhuish (Public Relations)

01202 785241

nmelhuish.bic@bournemouth.co.uk

http://www.bic.co.uk

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Volunteering Feature

Following my recent post about Sunshine Radio, I thought I would share a feature I wrote in my first year about volunteering at Hospital Radio.

HEY MISTER DJ… Put a Record On.

Why should you volunteer? Volunteering at University is a fantastic way to try different things and make new friends. Nicola Melhuish looks in to why you should volunteer for a hospital radio station, a great experience for both you and the community.

There are so many different reasons to start volunteering at your local hospital’s radio station. By taking part in volunteering you can; try something new, develop new skills, grow in confidence, make a difference, gain work experience, ‘give back’ to the community, make new friends and to have fun.

But why should you volunteer for hospital radio?
Hospital radio is a perfect way to meet a whole bunch of different people who you might not normally be friends with. As the age range is quite wide, you get to learn more about different people; their jobs, their families and you’ll learn so much more about music! It’s an incredible atmosphere as volunteers get to interact with patients and find out what they want to hear on their show and something you’ll feel good about doing.

Hospital radio began in England in 1925 in York County Hospital. Headphones and speakers were installed in the hospital so patients could listen to church services and sports commentaries. After their success, other hospital radio stations began, which started to play popular music. There are now around 230 organisations playing music to hospital patients.

So what do you volunteers do there?
Most volunteers at hospital radio begin by visiting the patients on the ward, have a chat and ask them if they would like to request a song to be played during the show. Bournemouth’s local hospital radio station, Hospital Radio Bedside, plays their shows to all five of Bournemouth’s hospitals; however the shows are produced at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital. At Hospital Radio Beside, The Request Show plays daily and has a different presenter each night. By taking part in a show like this means that you can meet lots of different people on the wards and play a huge variety of music. One moment you could be playing Frank Sinatra, the next, you could be dancing around the studio to Pixie Lott.

Visiting the patients on the ward is a deeply rewarding experience as many people rely on just the radio for company and to take their mind off being sick. It is nice for these patients to see a new, smiley face who is happy to have a chat with them for five minutes. Several patients have enjoyed the hospital visitors so much that they have become radio volunteers themselves after they have recovered. Laura Tremelling, a presenter of Wardround at Weston-super-Mare’s Sunshine Radio, believes that her show brings a sense of community to the hospital and makes the patients feel more included. “I try to make my show as much about the patients as possible. We obviously take their requests but we like to know why the patients picked that particular song and also learn a little about each person.” Not only does Laura ask about the patients but she hosts themed nights and runs competitions. “On themed nights we often get all the volunteers to dress up; it puts a smile on the patient’s faces and they like to know why there’s a cowboy walking around asking them if they have a favourite country song! We like to hold competitions such as ‘Guess the Year’ and ‘Name the Artist’ to get the patients really included. It’s much more exciting for them to play games whilst they listen.”

But what else can you do there?
Community radio stations are always finding new ways to fund their shows and projects. If you volunteer, you can help organise different charity events for the hospital. You could plan cake sales, car washes, fancy dress tea parties… let your imagination go wild!

It is extremely beneficial to your career.
Although you can gain such a great feeling from helping out the patients of the hospital, taking part in hospital radio is also extremely beneficial to you too. Employers love to see that you have taken part in volunteering as it shows that you have gained new skills and that you are willing to give back to the community. According to http://www.the-hub.org.uk, Bournemouth’s Student’s Union’s volunteering website, around 70% of employers would employ someone who has volunteered over someone who has not. Through volunteering you acquire several skills that will be useful when you apply for jobs such as communication skills and time management skills. You don’t need to go every night, just a couple of hours a week is a brilliant start to get into the world of volunteering.

If you’re interested in a job in radio, or simply the media, then this could be the perfect way to kick-start your career. Most hospital radio stations offer basic training on how to run a show, which could later lead to you hosting your own hospital radio programme. There are loads of celebrities who started out doing hospital radio including; Philip Schofield, Phillip Glenister, Scott Mills, Chris Moyles and Aled Jones and Rachel Jones from the Chris Moyles show. You never know, you could end up with your own show on BBC Radio One!

My own experience…
I’ve been a volunteer at Sunshine Hospital Radio in my hometown of Weston-super-Mare for the past eighteen months. I began to volunteer simply to get some work experience as I am interested in getting a job in the media industry, so I wanted something good to put on my CV. However, after just a couple of weeks, I was having the best time with the new group of people I had met and couldn’t wait to get back in the studio the following week, playing songs to cheer up the patients. Volunteering for hospital radio really is a truly rewarding experience.

So, get involved!
Hospital Radio Bedside is always in need of some new, friendly faces to join their team. The Request Show runs every weekday between 8 and 9.30 and volunteers are needed to visit patients to take requests. The atmosphere of the show is extremely welcoming and would love the students of Bournemouth University to get involved.

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