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Binge-Flix: Big Mouth, Jack Whitehall Travels and Toast of London

Quality television. It entices us, it confuses us, it unites us and it divides us. Despite this, there’s no denying that everyone is obsessed with it. Be it us little folk with our little opinions on Reddit, or the multitude of streaming services, such as Netflix and Now TV. The former block-buster service strives to achieve “quality television” status with many of its Netflix Originals shows. Shows in which I seek to test their Quality mettle with rigour and ruthlessness. And maybe some humour. You decide…

In Binge-Flix I will force myself to watch at least ONE Netflix Original show. Be it the next reality-bending series of Stranger Things, or a vomit-churning kid’s cartoon reboot, I will sit down and watch it.

Accompanying whatever exciting (or dreadful) programme the people at Netflix have pumped onto their service will be a selection of shows that have caught my eye. Happy reading!


October 12th, 2017

This week is jam-packed with awkward humour, goofy humour and just plain rude humour. All of which can be found in some shape or form in Netflix Original no-way-is-this-for-kids show Big Mouth, another Original, Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father or rough gem Toast of London. This is humour week. Enjoy…

Big Mouth (Netflix Original)

Big Mouth

Oh boy. Where do I even start? If someone asked me to describe Big Mouth I’d tell them to imagine sex education lessons in school – now make it a cartoon with hormone-raging kids. Oh, don’t forget the surprisingly explicit nudity, crude language, awkward boners and of course, the Puberty Fairy. Wait, I mean Hormone Monster…

This show has NSFW written all over it. And it’s actually pretty good. That’s coming from someone who doesn’t really take to South Park‘s particular flavour of jokes. I say that, because after watching the trailer for Big Mouth that’s likely to be the show you think of. I can confidently say that Big Mouth is very much it’s own.

From the get-go you’ll be thrown into extremely awkward coming-of-age situations and relatively explicit visuals, when all is considered. It’s simply bizarre seeing any ounce of nudity when watching a cartoon, but then again, The Simpsons Movie did it. Not that it makes any less weird. It’s a meandering journey of highs and lows, obsession and forgiveness, and don’t forget the dreaded Pornscape.

Moving on from the fact that I can’t remember the characters names (probably just me), I did find myself grow close to each of the teenagers. As they survive through their rather fruitful happenings, you can’t help but feel sorry for them all and with that you kinda begin to relate. Teenager angst and frustration is the worst, after all.

The Good: Without being of utterly bade taste, Big Mouth did a fine job of pushing boundaries in a cartoon. More please, Netflix.

The Bad: Some more ‘filler’ episodes took a lot of time to repeat points made in previous episodes. These lead to some scenarios where I felt I could leave the show to play in the background while I did something else.

The Ugly: The art style is not my favourite. Some of those faces are too strange for my liking…

Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father (Netflix Original)

Jack Whitehall travels

Jack Whitehall is venturing off on a special two-week “gap yah” with his dad in this blend of comedy, travel and family feuds. There’s stunning visual work with panning shots of Taiwan’s vibrant markets, Hanoi’s beautiful rivers and Cambodia’s enticing, erm, minefields… Of course, there’s some funny bits, too.

It’s just how you’d imagine it with your own father; you’re young, you know the latest crazes and you understand that people don’t need to be talked to in an inappropriate “We. Are. From. England. What. Is. Your. Name?” voice. The dad on the other hand, well, he does just about the opposite. Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father is 3 hours of this hilariously awkward sitcom of  father and son misunderstandings with the stunning backdrop of Asia.

With six 30 min episodes binge-watching through this series is relatively easy. It helps that they re-locate almost every episode to keep it fresh, and the activities, although feel slightly slotted in, show off some really interesting cultural differences between East and West. Of course, when Jack’s dad Michael orders Welsh lamb from one of the fancier hotels it really juxtaposes the whole “experience”. But that’s the joke, and it is funny.

I’m looking forward to where they go next, assuming there’s a series 2 and Michael Whitehall isn’t put off by the whole thing. I guess we’ll see.

The Good: I just can’t get enough of those gorgeous camera shots. Seriously, they are Planet Earth kinda good.

The Bad: Not enough. 6 episodes? I don’t want to stretch poor Michael too far, but come on, they are short and juicy and I want to binge more.

The Ugly: The activities, as well as some of the awkward moments, felt pretty darn staged. It’s a real shame that they couldn’t have blended better with the rest of it, because there are some genuinely funny truffles in here!

Toast of London

Toast-of-London

Bloody Ray Purchase. Bloody Clem Fandango. Why is that so fun to say? Putting on Matt Berry’s character’s voice for Toast and saying just about anything is great. Go on, try it now. Don’t know how? Watch this complete gem of a show and you won’t be able to stop.

I stumbled upon Toast of London while digging into the dark crevices of Netflix’s long list of shows, and I’m so glad that I did. Fans of The IT Crowd will feel at home with this extremely goofy and outrageous comedy. Matt Berry does a brilliant job of maintaining his IT Crowd blunt and silly humour in Toast of London, yet, he’s not the only one. Everyone in this show is crazy. Most of them are more crazy than he is. Funnier still, Toast often seems like the most sane person in the programme.

This show should definitely be on your watch list. Out of the three programmes I watched, Toast of London was the one I had myself laughing out loud, constantly. At the time, I was sharing a hostel room with two other people, who I had to apologise to for laughing so much. Then again on the train home I did the same thing. Couldn’t help but giggle like a little girl at some the really goofy situations. I just love it.

The Good: Probably everything. Yes, that’s right, everything.

The Bad: Probably nothing. Yes, that’s right, nothing.

The Ugly: Oh wait, there was one thing: CLEM ‘BLOODY’ FANDANGO!

Alexander Jones

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I was wrong about Star Wars Battlefront II

The reason is better than you think…

So, here’s a quick fact for you: I’ve played EA’s Star Wars Battlefront (2015) for over 280 hours. 280 HOURS. Nope, I can’t believe that either, and I refuse to let it cloud my judgement with whether the game was actually any good or not. It wasn’t. But, I did love it.

I’m allowed to say that because now that I’ve checked my Xbox profile and statistics, I have evidence. After my lifetime spent playing the bare-bones, lack-luster, but stunning-looking Star Wars Battlefront I can admit that it wasn’t a fine moment in gaming history. Quite the opposite. In fact, it goes to show how heartless a game can really be. As I write this, I have the haunting sounds of bad Han Solo and Luke Skywalker impressions circling my thoughts. Ugh.

star-wars-battlefront-2-classes-hero
Classes make a well-received return

No, it definitely wasn’t the action-packed callback to the original we had all been hoping for, but here we are in the summer of 17, already hyped up for the sequel. It looks good though, right? It’s not just me? All eras, space combat, Darth Maul, Rey, Classes, customisation, Darth Maul, point system, Rey, land vehicles for both armies, Darth Maul, Rey, REY. You can’t say that criticism has been received and not acted on.

This is the game the fans (that includes me!) had been dreaming of from the first teaser in 2013. I was wrong about the sequel in my last post because I didn’t think they’d include the latest era, or the original trilogy, actually. The announcements at E3 blew me away, and I just cannot wait any longer to play as Rey, Kylo Ren, Maul, Jango and Grievous (they better bloody be in it…). No excuses now EA, you’ve opened the Star Wars floodgates onto Battlefront, so now it’s time to deliver.

Abandoning the season pass has already tipped the public in favour of the sequel, and it’s a nice gesture. It feels like an apology for the first one’s embarrassment, and so it should be, but don’t let that distract you from what EA plans on doing next to make an extra buck off loyal Star Wars fans… loot crates. Dum, dum, dum.

star-wars-battlefront-loot-crates.jpg.optimal
Uh-oh

So far, in a galaxy far, far away, Battlefront II’s promotional material has been emphasising (like a sore thumb) the significance of Star Cards, cringe. I’d have to place a bet on EA going all-in on this money-making-model which has worked so well in previous games (Overwatch, Call of Duty, Battlefield, Injustice).

It’s not great, but I’m honestly ok with it. They’ve already said that the crates can be earned through in-game progress too, including the more advanced tiers of loot crates. Looks like I’ll be battling it out again for another couple hundred hours for those special legendary powers (yay).

Ignore what people have been saying about Battlefront II going pay-to-win, such as TotalBiscuit (I still respect the guy), because it’s nothing new. Battlefront and Battlefield already have pay-to-win packs, but I’d definitely agree that it’s not a great culture for games.

StarWarsBattlefrontII-3-2
We’re getting a single-player campaign! The force is strong with this one

It’s like cinemas. You buy a ticket to watch a film, the cinema has paid the rights to show that film, so now the two cancel each other out. In order to make a profit, the cinema sells you expensive extras, such as popcorn, slushies and exceptionally fair-priced pick-and-mix sweets. Now that all future downloadable content packs for Battlefront II are free, EA have to sell extras (loot crates) to fill the gap.

Ok, I’m not very good at analogies, but I tried to explain it. I worked in a cinema, alright…

I guess we’ll see when Star Wars Battlefront II releases on 17 November if it makes up for the hole in our hearts, and the 40GB of disappointment on my Xbox One.

 

Alexander Jones

P.S. I have recently written a piece about DLC and season pass culture, packed with sources and case studies, that I’m hoping to share with you real soon!

Will the new Tomb Raider film suck?

Alicia Vikander stars as the new Lara Croft

Alicia Vikander might consider Angelina Jolie the true Lara Croft, but with 20% on Rotten Tomatoes, I think she’s got a better chance at becoming the crypt ravager fans deserve.

There’s a hot-off-the-press official poster for the 2018 instalment circulating the web, pictured below, that has sprung a fairly divided discourse among fans of the series.

TRposter
Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft

It turns out, if you share something you’ve probably poured your heart and soul into for the last couple of years on the internet, someone’s going to mock it. You’d think people would be desensitised to it by now, but on and on the wheel spins…

Anyway, ignore that detour, people have been seriously vocal about the upcoming Tomb Raider film, based on the video game. WAIT, this film isn’t just based on the titillating game series, it’s actually following the story-arc of the 2013 reboot. Arguably, a much more respectful embodiment of the character, and by that I mean less sexualised and OTT body proportions. But, Tomb Raider, undoubtedly, has been under-siege ever since it was announced.

You can’t always blame people for being concerned; films based on video games are notoriously awful – I recently watched the Assassin’s Creed adaptation, and my god, I couldn’t help but laugh. AND I’M A FAN OF THE SERIES. I really thought we’d have gotten a decent video-game-film by now, but alas, we continue to wait.

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 18.40.35
Well that escalated…

But THIS is it. Well, it could be it. Come on, it has to be?

I do believe that Tomb Raider 2018 could be it. No, seriously, this could be it. Why would it go wrong? Alicia Vikander is a beautifully talented (and beautiful) actress who’s proven to be the one to watch in the future – just give Ex Machina (Mak-in-ah) a watch and you’ll see for yourself this lady’s talent. The photos leaked from the set also give the impression that costume design and locations are on-point for this film, so I’m fully optimistic about it all.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, but I’m going to say it now: Tomb Raider 2018 will be good.

Alexander Jones

 

On: PR and the Media

Are public relations effects of news sources having a detrimental impact on the quality and independence of the news we read?

Public relations is a relatively new industry that has been on the forefront of academic and trade professional debate in relation to the news media. According to Nick Davies (2008, pp. 85) Britain now has “more PR people than journalists”. The rise of public relations (PR) in the last decade has seen it discussed and argued in regards to its impact (be it good or bad) on the professional journalistic field.

The quality of news and the independence of journalists operating within this field is often brought into question in regard to public relations. Many academics (which will be addressed later) consider public relations to be highly influential in changing the formula in which journalists use to construct news. Trade professionals also consider this impact of PR, although some critics believe that the use of PR can be justified. These debates will be thoroughly studied in the following essay which will focus on political news coverage and also science news – which I will evaluate in terms of digital reporting, as I believe this area is where PR has developed furthest.

By studying these areas I plan on evaluating how detrimental an impact public relations has caused in regard to the quality of news produced as well as the independence of the journalists themselves when creating this news. In consideration of evaluating these aspects I must clarify that influence can be difficult to measure, that is why I will access PR from trade professionals, as well as academic readings.

To define public relations, The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (2014) provides a perspective from professional PR people stating that public relations:

“Looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour… maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”

This definition supports the notion that public relations does in fact “influence opinion” in favour of whomever the client may be, in order to “maintain goodwill” and reputation. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPHR) state in their code of conduct that two of the key standards that PR must follow are honesty and confidentiality. These key standards are positive in relation to maintaining the public sphere, however in practice they often contradict each other. How, for example, can public relations conceal information from the public in order to ‘maintain reputation’ of the client organisation whilst being completely honest with the public. This very ideology laid out by CIPHR may be the work of PR, Moloney (2006, pp. 41) claims that PR has “manipulated public opinion in favour of ideas, values and policies that economic and political elites…have favoured”. Public relations as an industry, works to “manage the public image and information, in the pursuit of organisational interests” according to Cottle (2003, pp. 3). It appears that public relations, according to these academic theorists, focuses on maintaining positive client image through the use of persuading or “manipulating” the public.

These counter arguments to the trade definition are supported by influential public relations spokesperson Edward Bernays (2005, pp. 37) who claims that PR is “intelligent manipulation” that remains “invisible” to the public. He argues that PR exemplifies the way in which the public are “moulded” and governed” by men who “pull the wires that control the public mind” (pp. 37). Public relations as defined by the industry attempts to sway negative perceptions of PR, stating that it operates to “achieve goals” by influencing and maintaining specific images and opinions of organisations (Department of Trade and Industry and Institute of Public Relations 2003, pp. 6). Whereas academics and critical perspectives from trade individuals claim that PR “influences” and “manipulates” the public (Bernays 2005; Moloney 2006). Clearly there is a split in how academics define the operation of public relations and how the industry defines itself.

One area in which public relations influence can be analysed is in political news coverage. In an industry that seeks to influence public opinion, political news coverage is a sphere often brought into debate. Franklin (1994, pp. 3) explains the ideology of the fourth estate that is regularly considered true among journalist professionals. According to this fourth estate journalists “subject all aspects of political life to close scrutiny” and is a “key mechanism for securing the accountability of politicians to the general public” (pp. 3). Franklin argues that this ideology mirrors the canine metaphor that journalists act as “watchdogs” to guard and protect public interest -consequently the public sphere (1994, pp. 3; 2009, pp. 84). Instead, Franklin explains, this fourth estate has been replaced by the fifth estate which in turn represents the expansion of public relations in the UK (2010, pp. 84).

This expansion of public relations derives from the increasing pressures of creating and delivering quality news quicker than ever before. Conboy (2012, pp. 113) argues that there is a widely accepted perception that public relations are “dominating” journalists due to this pressure to “produce results quickly”.  Steven Lewis (2015, pp. 10), a PR professional, backs this notion that journalists are under pressure as they have “dozens of blank pages” to fill each day. They are busy “because they’re doing more with less” (pp. 25) in this working environment he claims (pp. 10). This implies that public relations provides a form of lifeline to journalists by supplying them with the information subsidies required to fill these blank spaces. The use of PR in this way carries consequences on political news coverage.

The news media has been subject to the symptoms of a changing political economy in which public relations is almost always considered as a necessary tool to be used. This can be seen by businesses, the government and of course the media. This can be demonstrated in political news coverage. Wilcox et al (1986, pp. 27) stresses the importance of “image-building” for politicians and this constant need for positive representation can be accomplished using PR techniques. It is interesting to consider the impact that PR can bring on public opinion and the question regarding influence on democracy of news. Continuing from what Franklin (2009, pp. 84) argued considering the ‘fifth estate’ and expansion of PR, he goes on to support this shift in regard to ‘packaging politics’. He argues that PR has created a method of delivering political influence to the public in the form of ‘packaging politics’, this is the way in which politicians and political parties create information subsidies for journalists. These subsidies contain key ideas and issues of importance to that person or party. By doing my own research online I quickly found that major political parties such as the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats[1] all have their own in-house press office. Here press have access to archives of speeches and proposals by party leaders and other party members.

This method of distributing political information is part of what Franklin (1994, pp. 9) calls the ‘packaging of politics’ in which politics is turned into an over-simplified and “trivializing…armchair activity” (pp. 10-1). This reliance on pre-packaged news from PR sources evidently has an impact on the quality of news consumed by the public. It can be argued that Habermas’ (1991) concept of the public sphere, which prioritises the public’s freedom to knowledge from the news, is compromised by the reliance on information subsidies from PR. Washbourne (2014, pp. 38) discusses the negative side of subsidies donning them as ‘fake news’. He goes on to say that albeit the information received from these subsidies may be of great value, they “do so in furtherance of the material interests of PR practitioner’s clients” (pp. 38). Franklin (1994, pp. 9) supports this notion arguing that the ‘packaging of politics’ “manipulates, as well as informs, the public”, these subsidies hand-feed journalists (Murray 2001, pp. 26) information that politicians (or spin doctors more likely) want to distribute in order to promote their political ideologies or smear their opponent parties. Davies (2009, pp. 154) shares this concern stating that reporting is vulnerable to being “infiltrated by stories which are generated by PR acting for commercial and political interests”.

This is demonstrated with political lobbying. Lobbying is to politics what PR is to journalism – it is a specialist area of public relations that involves relationships between journalists and politicians. The practice of lobbying involves journalists taking MPs and other party staff members out in an attempt to earn their favour and exchange backhand information, which is considered highly unethical and undemocratic. The UK stands as one of the highest in lobbying exchanges, evidence was found by the Leveson Inquiry in 2012 revealing numerous examples of this activity that had taken place (2014).

One example of lobbying can be seen by British pressure group Taxpayer’s Alliance (TPA) who frequently make statements and provide ‘research’ to back their claims. This research is carried out by the TPA themselves which questions the objectivity of the findings. According to lobbying website Who’s Lobbying[2], the TPA have submitted ‘oral evidence’ on various cases to parliament committees and on one occasion even met with Exchequer Secretary of the Treasury in 2011 to discuss ‘tax issues’. It is a worrying revelation that pressure groups can obtain this access to members of influence and potentially inflict their own agenda upon them. These actions are considered as ‘dark arts’ encouraged and performed by political spin. Another level of deceit to the public by these ‘dark arts’ is the selection of specific journalists to meet up with. In relation to the independence of journalists these ‘dark arts’ are very detrimental to their freedom. A very good quote, from fictional character Malcolm Tucker from British political comedy series The Thick of It (BBC, 2005-12), explains that reporters will report what they are told by spin, albeit they may know that the information is false or somewhat bias, they will write it anyway in order to receive future subsidies. If they don’t report what they are told then they potentially lose access to a source of political information. This reality is addressed by Leon (1973, pp. 60) who claims that “journalists have some definitional power…but sources have the upper hand”. This is echoed by Gans (1979, pp. 116) who resembles the relationship between journalists and sources as a sequence of dance, in which more often than not, the sources lead. This resemblance to dance suggests that the independence of journalists within the political sector is slim. As part of Davies’ (2009) ‘rules of production’, he states that reporters have to select “safe facts” in regards to keeping “moral and political values safe” (pp. 125). The increasing use of information subsidies, following the expansion of public relations, has caused journalists to lose freedom of speech regarding politicians as they face the risk of losing out altogether.

Another area of journalism that has seen a large dependency on public relations is in science news. Science reporting appears to be impacted by the increasing use of public relations within the journalistic field, this inevitably has a domino effect on the independence and quality of the work produced by journalists. From my own research into science reporting it is clear that some media outlets such as the Mail Online, Wales Online and even media institutions such as The Telegraph – which carries high symbolic capital, feature evidence of PR in their articles. One example of this can be seen from the Mail Online, who recently posted a story about speed reading. From a quick Nexis search it was confirmed that most of the article had been copied from a newswire source, which was made available a day before the Daily Mail posted it online. The Daily Mail (online) stories, especially science related reporting, rely heavily on press releases and newswire material. This is demonstrated with simple checking through Nexis’ powerful search tool. These articles exemplify what Davies (2009, pp. 69) calls ‘churnalism’. The process in which journalists simply ‘copy and paste’ press releases without any considerable validity check. This symptom of modern journalism is the consequence of what Dr Martin Moore (2015) calls “aggression in the newsroom”, in which more journalists are fired but the demand for news goes up. Russell (2008) supports this argument, stating that these cutbacks and “increased pressure to churn out online news” has given PR even greater “prominence in science coverage”. Inevitably this does have a detrimental impact on the quality of news, as journalists have to face the ‘need for speed’ of providing content (Franklin 2008; Davies 2008, pp. 82; Cushion & Lewis 2009; Lewis 2015, pp. 25). As a consequence, the independence of journalists is also affected by the shift in how reporting operates, they become “passive processors of second-hand material” (Davies 2008, pp. 113). This insight into how the journalism practice has changed heightens the concern surrounding science and political reporting in terms of the validity and objectivity of the news. The reliance on information subsidies which often come from leading political parties such as the conservative party, or from ‘research’ that may also be sponsored by large corporations. Influence from the strongest voices remains present, however there is potentially less space (and time) for journalists to provide fair, objective coverage of subjects, which can be considered a downfall caused by public relations pressure.

In conclusion, it is fair to say public relations definitely has an impact on journalistic independence and quality of news. From the findings stated above in regard to political and science reporting, it is clear that PR has a negative impact to a certain extent. News stories are littered with information that has merely been lifted from press releases or subsidies, which can harm the objectivity of the story, more so Habermas’ (1991) idea of the public sphere is in danger here. It is hard to justify the ‘watchdog’ mentality that Franklin (1994, pp. 3) addresses because of these reasons. It is not possible for a journalist to scrutinize politicians and the companies in power if they rely on these same agents to provide them with the news in which they write. Journalistic independence is arguably non-existent in these circumstances. On the other hand however, public relations does offer relief in what Moore (2015) claims to be a more “aggressive” working environment. Journalists lack the time necessary to do their own research and also truth-check data and information passed on to them. Public relations in most cases provides ‘quality’ writing by industry professionals. The information that they provide may contain bias, but in most cases it is written to a good enough standard to be regarded as quality reporting. Reliance on PR material is in no way good for journalism, and it displays a negative shift in values of the profession; but the fact that PR professionals come from journalistic backgrounds, and therefore the writing is of good quality arguably suggests that PR isn’t as detrimental to journalists as first made out to be. The increase in PR is worrying for the independence of journalists, but in the ever-quickening demand for news, PR can be a lifeline.

*This essay was originally written in 2016 for my undergraduate degree.*


References

Bernays, E. 1928. Organising Chaos. In: Chomsky, N. 2005. Propaganda. Brooklyn: IG Publishing, pp. 37.

CCHQ press. 2015. Available at: http://press.conservatives.com/ (Accessed: 10 January 2016).

CIPR. 2014. What is PR?. Available at: http://www.cipr.co.uk/content/careers-advice/what-pr (Accessed: 9 January 2016).

Chakravarty, D. 2016. TaxPayers’ alliance calls on the government to drop plans for a sugar tax. Available at: http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/taxpayers_alliance_calls_on_the_government_to_drop_plans_for_a_sugar_tax (Accessed: 14 January 2016).

Chakravarty, D. 2016. TaxPayers’ alliance slams junior doctors’ strike as ‘dangerous’. Available at: http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/taxpayers_alliance_slams_junior_doctors_strike_as_dangerous (Accessed: 14 January 2016).

Conboy, M. 2012. Products. In: Journalism Studies: The Basics. Oxon: Routledge, pp. 109-134

Cottle, S. 2003. News, Public Relations, and Power. London: Sage, pp. 3.

Cushion, S & Lewis, J. 2009. The Thirst to be First. Journalism Practice 3(3), pp. 304-18.

Davies, N. 2009. Flat earth news: An award-winning reporter exposes falsehood, distortion and propaganda in the global media. London: Random House UK, pp. 69-154.

Exchequer secretary to the treasury. 2016. Available at: http://whoslobbying.com/uk/taxpayers_alliance# (Accessed: 14 January 2016).

Franklin, B. 1994. Packaging politics: Political communications in Britain’s media democracy. New York: Distributed in the USA by Routledge, Chapman, and Hall, pp. 3-9.

Franklin, B. 2008. Pulling Newspapers Apart: Analysing Print Journalism. Oxon: Routledge.

Franklin, B., Hogan, M. and Langley, Q. 2009. Key concepts in public relations. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, pp. 24.

Gans, H. J. 1979. Deciding what’s news: A study of CBS evening news, NBC nightly news, Newsweek and Time. Illinois: Northwestern University Press, pp. 116.

Habermas, J. 1991. The structural transformation of the public sphere: An inquiry Into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Labour press 2015. Available at: http://press.labour.org.uk/ (Accessed: 10 January 2016).

Leon, S. 1973. Reporters and Officials. Lexington: MN: DC Heath.

Press office 2013. Available at: http://www.libdems.org.uk/press (Accessed: 10 January 2016).

Moore, M. 2006-15. Martin Moore’s blog. Available at: http://martinjemoore.com/ (Accessed: 16 January 2016).

Murphy, M. 2012. News Corp lobbying revealed at Leveson. Available at: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b24f5bae-a57f-11e1-a77b-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3x8XdX9pz (Accessed: 13 January 2016).

Murray, A. 2001. Public Relations. London: Hodder Headline, pp. 26.

Newman, N. 2016. Journalism, media and technology predictions 2016. Available at: http://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/Journalism,%20media%20and%20technology%20predictions%202016.pdf (Accessed: 14 January 2016).

Nexis. 2016. Speed Reading Promises are Too Good to be True, Scientists Find. Available at: https://www.nexis.com/results/docview/docview.do?docLinkInd=true&risb=21_T23323799498&format=GNBFI&sort=BOOLEAN&startDocNo=1&resultsUrlKey=29_T23323804602&cisb=22_T23323804601&treeMax=true&treeWidth=0&csi=299219&docNo=3 (Accessed: 16 January 2016).

Russell, C. 2008. Science Reporting by Press Release. Columbia Journalism Review, November 14th. Available at: http://www.cjr.org/the_observatory/science_reporting_by_press_rel.php (Accessed: 16 January 2016).

Shanklin, W. 2015. As Oculus announces a second bundled game, some speculation on the rift’s price. Available at: http://www.gizmag.com/oculus-rift-price-speculation/41097/ (Accessed: 14 January 2016).

The Leveson inquiry. 2014. Available at: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20140122145147/http:/www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/ (Accessed: 13 January 2016).

Washbourne, N. 2014. Public relations and democracy. In: Tench, R. and Yeomans, L. eds. Exploring Public Relations. London: Pearson Education Limited, pp. 34-45.

Wilcox, D. L. et al. 2002. Public relations: Strategies and tactics. 6th edn. New York: Pearson Education, pp. 27.

Lens flares are the WORST

Can you see what’s going on? Because I can’t…

Some things really grind my gears.

People who talk with their mouth full of food, plug sockets left on without anything plugged in and people “borrowing” my stuff without my permission. Grr. But, nothing quite annoys me like lens flare. It’s the bane of TV and film. No, it’s not arty to obscure what’s happening on-screen with blinding light, it’s stupid.

What brought this ridiculous technique back into the limelight for me was BBC’s new Trust Me drama series, starring the newly announced 13th Doctor, Jodie Whittaker. I sat down with my parents out of interest to watch Jodie play a ‘doctor’, before becoming THE Doctor, and it all seemed tame and enjoyable, until we moved to the operation theatre. Oh my god, my eyes. My poor, relaxed eyes. Lens flare, lens flare and lens flare. Every light becomes a blinding beacon of burning rays directly penetrating your eye sockets and resulting in a migraine. I wish they warned me to wear my sunglasses before sitting down to a relaxing drama programme, jeez.

It’s not just BBC’s Trust Me series that is guilty of trying to permanently damage the audience’s eyes, either. Nope, the most well-known perpetrator is the new series of Star Trek films. Jesus, Abrams, what were you thinking? I’m still uncertain as to what 80% of the first film entailed because I couldn’t see who was talking and what was going on. Does anyone even know what the inside of the Enterprise even looks like? Is it just walls of light? How aren’t the crew burning up? These are the crucial questions on my mind.

This amazing video on YouTube really justifies my gripe with lens flare. It’s not a “small” thing that I can ignore or just move on from, it’s so fundamental to the film that all three Star Trek films feature the style. J.J. Abrams has attempted to explain his excessive use of lens flare in his films, saying that “I love the idea that the future that they were in was so bright that it couldn’t be contained and it just sort of broke through…”. I can kind of see where he’s coming from? Nah, not really, he’s crazy. No matter what you say J.J., lens flare will never prevail!

I would love to discuss with you the fine details of using lens flare in film, but the thought of doing so makes me angry. So, instead I’m going sit in a dark room, close my eyes, and wait until the next episode of Game of Thrones comes on.

 

Alexander Jones