Many years later the big, big day in Dublin, as I collect my Doctorate from University College Dublin.
It’s been *****ing tough, exhilarating, depressing, and then words that I can’t describe, but it all came together thanks to many people e.g. Deveril, Sugrue et al.
In an age of hyper-connectivity extemporised by new levels of ignorance
(social media delivers all knowledge and if it’s not on google it’s never happened); political leaders reposing ideologies often wrapped up in pre WWII thinking; and self-preservation and idolatry being the new cool, what’s the freaking point of a PhD — in journalism?
Celebrated Swedish statistician Professor Hans Rosling provides a stoic answer.
You can’t use media if you want to understand the world [here for video]
What that means for me is, what we generally label as media in which narratives are extolled by publishing outlets that can be based on hyperbole, situated positions driven by commerce and framed by conventions which disregard skepticism… well these are untenable.
At this moment in time, what’s to know that isn’t known already? Have not the cacophony of media techs saturated and numbed us into collective agreement and hereon submission? Are you not entertained, (even satisfied) — a defiant solder tells his onlookers in Gladiator (2000). This is us today. We know it all, or so we presume.
What’s the point of a PhD? I had my own hunch before I started, and then it was firmly stated, a PhD is about discovery, a contribution to knowledge. An impassioned presented argument framed by transitive logic that cuts through the pruned ontology of the soundbite and emotion.
It’s alright to have knowledge, but to challenge it is necessary, the president of UCD Andrew J Deeks said at conferment, quoting Karl Marks.
You don’t need a PhD to uncover a cure, present a new sociological vector or establish fresh optics for political machinations, but the detailed reflexive critical research drilled into you as a doctorate of your chosen area provides an appreciable perspective.
PhDs are like walking the gauntlet of shame in the games of thrones, as each person bays at you to ‘give up’ and when it’s over, the legacy of hubris should be enough to direct you to admit when you sometimes might get it wrong- as you will.
[ Filming in Adana, 4 hours from the Syrian border — one of the last films made towards the doctorate. This is a summary of the thesis. Part II and III of later posts explore the background towards pursuing a PhD.]
How Television reversioned video journalism
The 90s saw the introduction of videojournalism, however video journalism was first recorded in the 1950s, except it was a different form. What was a new style in 1994 by a UK newspaper group broke previous television rules because it brought together different sensibilities.
US videojournalism training imbricated with an English touch, promulgated by a newspaper, engineered on cable with 30 young recruits at the birth of the public web, working alongside strong senior British television makers. It was a rule book being made up.
To the television news industry, it was generally grossly misunderstood by networks. When they did adopt videojournalism they dumbed it down and recalibrated it to suit what they were used to. Yet the legacy of this form is now seeing new light in its previous artistic language, which now, more so, mimics cinema.
So called media technological innovations such as drone journalism, iPhone (mobile) journalism, Go Pros whilst they purport to be separate disciplines are integral to pioneering videojournalists’ armoury to create alternative and immersive news stories. They don’t distinguish, but use a wide range of cinematic equipment and skills to produce stories and its not just about the look.
But then what of broadcast news model itself? So original, clever and innovative when it was created, but how and which template did it adopt and how has it fallen out of favour?
In a 100, 000 page thesis (being published in a book), supported by scores of original and historical films across news, documentary and cinema ( over the last century), backed by interviews with leading figures in the field of broadcasting, documentary, news, videojournalism and photojournalism, my thesis shows a creative methodology towards creating journalism stories that are memorable and compelling.
Audience’s cognitive awareness; how we think and changes over the years in the psychology of film on the viewer were integral.
Among the interviewees are: Deborah Turness ( now President of NBC News); Mark Cousins, author and award winning filmmaker (The Story of film); the late Robert Drew (father of Cinema Verite); Michael Rosenblum (father of videojournalism) and Danfung Dennis (award winning filmmaker) To Hell and Back, and Raw TV’s Dimitri Doganis behind The Imposter, whom I worked with more than twenty years ago. Some I showed at Apple, when I was invited back to talk about the thesis.
In all I interviewed 150 people. But the thesis also looks critically at my background from working in South Africa, from being one of the UK’s 1st videojournalists, to making films in Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon and near the Syrian border see here) . In takes into account my television broadcast background working at Channel 4 News up to 2002 with among others Jon Snow, producing at the BBC and working at ABC News in South Africa.
That background, before I started the thesis included being the recipient of international awards in videojournalism and Knight Batten Awards in Innovation in Journalism.
8 Days (below), which sparked the academic enquiry was a film I made of the UK’s first regional newspaper videojournalists, who I trained working with the Press Association.
I look forward to sharing. firstname.lastname@example.org