Breaking the publishing barrier

As a PhD student my main focus was on getting the damn thing finished – as quickly as possible as far as I was concerned.

But whilst doing my fieldwork it became apparent that I had a lot of interesting and original data which may be of interest to others and perhaps I should think about getting it published.

However as a newspaper journalist, the world of academic publishing was initially a bizarre, unfathomable one to me. Nether-the-less with a good dose of trial and error I eventually began to master it.

Whether you are a PhD student, an early career researcher or a practitioner looking to develop a research profile, there are some simple steps you can take which should help you break down the academic publishing barrier.

Read my blog on to find out some top tips on publishing your academic work.

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Commuting my way to course leader

My office door at Sheffield Hallam University

Five years ago I had a full time job, pensionable salary and an integral role in the news room of a daily regional newspaper. Then I gave it all up. To become a student. Again.

Today, as I sit on my commuter train from Market Harborough to Sheffield, I am planning for revalidation, prepping a meeting with the external examiner and revamping an online journalism module. My role as course leader of the BA Journalism degree at Sheffield Hallam University is worlds apart from my job as features editor at the Northampton Chronicle & Echo. And perhaps surprisingly, it took less time to achieve a role of responsibility in academia than it did in the newsroom…

To read more click here.

Lily is a regular contributor to

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Expanding what you hear and c

The Rest being interviewed at the awards ceremony

The Rest being interviewed at the awards ceremony

There is no pussyfooting around it – Film Northants 2013 was the year of the C word. It was not something we ever anticipated but suddenly it was there and suddenly it was something we had to think about.

The film in question – which went on to win the Judges’ Choice award – was the stunning race relations short The Boy With The Thorn In His Side which tackled hatred and immigration head on. Filmmakers Alex Motlhabane and Lewis Levis (AKA The Rest) pulled no punches in their controversial short which was so naturalistic in style some viewers first mistook it for a documentary. The film included a torrid of abusive language, including the infamous c word (albeit in a blink and you’ll miss it moment) and a topical subject matter which responded to the brutal Woolwich killing of Drummer Lee Rigby.

As a committee we felt we had a responsibility to discuss the film, particularly since it attracted one complaint, but we were all in agreement that the film should be put forward to the judges as it did not breach any of the Film Northants entry rules. Indeed as my clean-mouthed 70-year-old mother commented “the film wouldn’t work without the strong language”.  At the judging panel there was debate over whether the film was provocative for the sake of it but on balance it was felt that the film was an exceptional showcase of acting, cinematography, narrative and originality. Furthermore the controversial content of the film was to its merit rather than its detriment.

Audience members viewing the Film Northants programme

Audience members viewing the Film Northants programme

The film was extremely well received at the awards night and attracted the attention of BAFTA nominated filmmaker David Morris who attended the event and spent time talking to The Rest. As a committee we feel proud of this film and stand by our decision to put it forward to the judging panel alongside 40 other impressive entries including Public Vote winner Paper Chase and runner-up The Break Up. Although there was no prize for third place in the public vote this position was taken up by the romantic short Fishing For…

What was particularly interesting this year was the cross-over between the Over 16s and Under 16s films which both contained zombies, gore and competent special effects. The Under 16s category continued to grow and in 2013 attracted 27 entries including the winner the Demon Dinner Lady and runner-up Night of the Living Ted. In total the 15 shortlisted films (nine Under 16s, six Over 16s) attracted more than 4,000 views between them and the Over 16s finalists received 1,636 individual votes from the public. The new website – launched in August – received thousands of unique users and more than 10,000 page views in its launch month.

Overall it was another successful year with a great range of entries and a vibrant awards night. The committee are currently taking stock of the year and looking at feedback. The festival will be in its seventh year in 2014 and there is a feeling that we need to develop the event to avoid becoming stagnant. We are currently floating around various ideas to turn the awards ceremony into a more traditional festival with multiple screenings, talks and activities with tickets on sale to the public. We will be consulting on this in the near future so please watch this space.

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The interactive spectrum: the use of social media in UK regional newspapers

The rise in use of social media platforms as tools of communication has presented journalists with an abundance of opportunities and challenges in equal measure.

These platforms have enabled journalists to engage directly with their readers and develop new forms of interactivity, both pertinent and banal in nature. My most recent research paper analyses the content of multiple social media profiles at two daily regional newspapers in the United Kingdom, and determines how interactivity between journalists and readers is being shaped.

The article identifies a spectrum of interactivity, which indicates that individual journalists are engaging with their readers in an informal, personal and reciprocal manner via social media platforms. This is in contrast to the formal approach being taken by their associated media companies that are transferring traditional top–down forms of communication from the offline world to the online world.

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The misconception of online comment threads

Web 2.0 has opened the gates to journalism for online audiences which increasingly participate in the production, dissemination and response processes of news.

Comment threads in particular have grown exponentially in recent years as readers have embraced the opportunity to bypass the Letters’ Editor and publish their opinions directly to a newspaper website. This rise in participatory journalism has led to new challenges for journalists as they have striven  to negotiate the often murky waters of user-generated content.

To date, research in this field has been mostly limited to national and  international news websites despite local news providers having a close connection and engagement with their communities. My latest paper in Journalism Practice entitled The misconception of online comment threads therefore seeks to fill this gap partially by analysing the content of comment threads on two British local newspaper websites via a content analysis, while also exploring the experiences of journalists via news room observation and interviews.

A contradictory picture emerges whereby journalists accept with some reluctance that comment threads possess a democratic function but one which is potentially damaging to the brand as well as resource intensive. This is juxtaposed by more positive findings that reveal buoyant levels of interactivity between readers in comment threads together with a thirst for
engagement in public affairs.

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Film festival news

Guest speakers from the world of television production, vintage bicycle exhibitionism, working with stars from The Bill and Emmerdale… it’s been a busy few months for the team and alumni of Film Northants.

Here is a round-up of the latest news and updates relating to Film Northants 2012 which is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year:

One month to competition deadline

The deadline for Film Northants 2012 is fast approaching, and entries must be received by noon, August 5th 2012. Entries have already started coming in to both the Under 16s and Over 16s categories and they can be viewed on the website now.

Last year the competition attracted almost 50 entries and 5 trophies were awarded.

The judges will draw up a shortlist of finalists in mid-August. The finalists will then be announced on the website and voting will open for two weeks at the end of August.

For full details on how to enter visit:

Hana Canter speaks at Northants Film Network

Twenty Twenty’s, head of production, Hana Canter  was extremely well received at the last film networking event held at Royal & Derngate in May. The event, run by Film Northants, Reelscape Films and local composer Andy Cox, features a guest speaker and networking opportunities on a bimonthly basis.

Hana (sister of Film Northants chair, Lily Canter) talked about her 20 years’ experience in television production working on documentaries, game shows, reality TV shows, light entertainment and factual programmes including The Choir, Deal or No Deal, The Hoarder Next Door, The Real LAPD and Cosmetic Surgery Live.

She talked about the finances, practicalities, logistics and legalities of putting together television shows and making money from TV. Despite the public perception, Hana said television production companies worked hard not to damage the subjects of their programmes, to carefully select participants and to provide aftercare and therapy where appropriate.

To make it in the world of television, Hana said employees needed a range of skills depending on the area they wanted to get into. To work in casting you need good people skills, to nurture relationships with (sometimes difficult or dysfunctional) subjects. Researchers need good journalism skills and specialist skills such as medicine enable you to get ahead more quickly. Crew members need to be able to multi-skill as they are expected to work with a much smaller budget and be able to do more than one role.

Revenue sources for television now include commercial tie-ins, selling formats and selling programmes overseas, with the biggest money spinner being thinking of a format that can be rolled out globally.

The next Northants Film Network event will be held in the autumn, at a date to be confirmed. To keep up to date with the latest networking events register at: 


Bomberdrome starts its county tour

The bicycle wall of death, featured in a previous Film Northants post, is now almost complete thanks to a successful fundraising campaign.  The vintage circus attraction has been painstakingly made by hand by artist and bicycle enthusiast, Bill Pollard, at the workshop of The Art of Wood in Northampton.

Film Northants has commissioned a documentary of the making of the Bomberdrome (AKA Wall of Death, AKA Bowl of Harm), which will be screened at the festival this September, as part of the organisation’s fifth anniversary celebrations.

The Bomberdrome will be on tour around Northamptonshire this summer at a series of events, enabling spectators to watch members of the Ministry of Bicycles, performs tricks on the wooden wheel. The cyclists will be dressed as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who will be ditching their horses in exchange for their custom Raleigh Bombers.

The main showcase event will be held at Wicksteed Park at the free Wonderful Wheeled Weekend  on August 4th and 5th. We will keep you posted on further Bomberdrome events.

Danny strikes gold with television stars

Former Film Northants 2011 finalist Danny Gold (Long Story Short) has just completed a short crime thriller starring two British soap stars. The 21-year-old University of Derby student sent scripts to Jeff Stewart, who played Sgt Reg Hollis in The Bill, and Matt Healy, who was Matthew King in Emmerdale, who both agreed to appear in his film The Situation.

The film was made as part of his final year project at university. Danny’s story was featured on BBC East Midlands Evening News and BBC Radio Derby.

Catch us at the Corby Highland Gathering

Film Northants will be attending the Corby Highland Gathering on Sunday July 8th. The team will be promoting the 2012 festival and inviting youngsters to take part in Ice Age 4: Continental Drift activities, a film by festival sponsors 20th Century Fox.

If you have any questions about the festival or how to enter then pop along and chat to our team.

Film Northants chair judges local film contest

Festival chair Lily Canter was recently invited to judge the entries of the UK Film School summer competition. Youngsters were invited to enter a short mystery film to be in with the chance of winning a free place at the UK Film School summer school at Grendon Hall.

Lily was impressed with all of the entries, particularly the use of framing, editing, sound and narrative. The winners will be announced by the UK Film School soon.

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High hopes for hyperlocal media

My former employer the Northampton Chronicle & Echo announced earlier this month that it would be switching from a daily to a weekly newspaper and developing its online and tablet outputs.

The move will see the loss of several editorial staff, many of them my friends and former colleagues.

The swift transformation, which will happen in under two months, is part of a Johnston Press strategy to cut costs whilst also meeting the needs of the modern consumer.

The past two weeks I have been receiving phone calls, texts and Facebook messages from reporters and department editors at the Chron asking for my advice. My former colleagues, many of whom are having to reapply for their jobs, have been after interview tips or seeking information on how to make money in the world of self-employment.

I left the newspaper, and my role as features editor, three years ago to undertake PhD research in local newspaper websites. In particular I have been studying audience participation and its civic and economic impact.

Leaving a full time salary to become a student once more meant I had to think of innovate ways to make enough money to continue to pay my mortgage. Over the past three years I have worked as a cycling instructor, meetings minute taker, NCTJ exam marker, freelance journalist, and lecturer, whilst also making money doing freelance PR work for a number of charities and businesses.

Hence my former colleagues wanted advice on the latest trends in local newspaper websites and also, conversely, advice on life after local newspapers.

The one word which keeps popping out of my mouth is ‘hyperlocal’. If local newspapers are cutting staff and yet expecting them to provide multimedia content for print, web and tablet formats then it is inevitable that they will only be scratching the surface of local news. There will be a vacuum of local news, investigations and information and instead even more of a focus on top lines, regurgitated press releases and superficial stories whose sole purpose will be to attract lots of website hits.

The picture being painted may seem like a very sorry state of affairs for local news, but in reality it is a fantastic opportunity. If local newspapers aren’t doing their job properly then there is a niche to be exploited.

The automatic response from journalists is that “you can’t make money online” but I have to agree with the author of Entrepreneurial Journalism Mark Briggs and say that this is absolute rubbish.

Conglomerate publishers like Johnston Press with millions of pounds worth of debts and ridiculously high profit margins,  might not be able to make enough money online but that doesn’t mean nobody can. In the online arena the ‘economies of scale’ mantra does not necessarily apply.

My own PhD research has revealed that the very thing holding back local journalists from truly engaging with their audiences is the restrictions placed upon them by their publishing companies who are too cautious, slow and inept, to adapt.

 In fact the biggest businesses online have grown out of the hard work of innovative individuals and this is continuing to be the case.

So what advice do I give to local journalists facing redundancy? Start a hyperlocal website. There is a market for it especially if local newspapers are failing to provide decent coverage for their area. There is a growing online audience and the overheads and start up costs are virtually nil. However you do need to be prepared to work for free in the beginning, you do have to have some business sense and you need to be able to think beyond display/classified adverting models.

My advice would be to spot an area of coverage that the local newspaper will no longer be providing in enough depth be it geographic or topical. Perhaps it is education, or entertainment or village news.

Hyperlocal websites to date have been a mixture of successes and failures, particularly when key people move on, but if you look at what is happening in America it is possible to believe that they have a profitable future.

Indeed there is now start-up funding in the UK from NESTA to help test and develop hyperlocal media services. Applicants can apply for up to £50,000 as part of the Destination Local scheme.

Journalists are the very people who should be driving these projects as they know their communities and have the skills to provide accurate, fair and authoritative news. But similarly journalists need to step outside their corporate comfort zones and collaborate with commercial and technical partners in order to create sustainable digital news platforms.


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