Final Journalism Project – Individual Project

For my individual project, I decided to do a series of Formula 1 articles previewing the 2017 season.

The collection of pieces were aimed at appearing in the March or April editions of F1 Racing magazine, looking ahead to the big new rules and driver changes.

If features a profile piece on Valtteri Bottas, a short feature on the F1 rookies, an interview with ex-F1 driver and race winner Johnny Herbert and an in-depth technical analysis feature.

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How to solve a problem like F1’s car launch season

Sports Journalism: Assessment 5

Imagine, for a moment, a vast space jam-packed with fans and members of the travelling Formula 1 circus. A new collection of cars hide mysteriously under covers, primed and ready to be launched. It’s that time of year again and the sport is doing things differently, putting on a show dedicated to unveiling every car of its new era.

Sounds like an exciting prospect, right? Sadly, we’re currently more used to underwhelming social media or pit lane unveilings – often at ridiculous times in the morning. Ferrari’s offering in 2017 was a short video of drivers and key team members standing next to the shiny new SF70H. McLaren’s MCL32 launch was as corporate as they get and Red Bull dropped a minute-long video online, which only revealed the striking RB13 in the final seconds. Hardly the best way to promote a season packed full of new rules.

We can complain about them all we want, but there’s a lot of sense in the launches we see today. Cost is clearly a crucial factor. 15 years ago, F1 budgets were shooting through the roof and reaching ridiculous rates. Lavish car unveilings in snazzy locations such as Venice’s St. Mark’s Square were the norm, with musical guests often showing up too – the Spice Girls livened up McLaren’s MP4/12 launch in 1997. But, in the modern F1 environment, this just isn’t possible. Budgets have decreased and car reveals just don’t make the cut. Lazy social media launches and pit lane reveals before winter testing are simple and inexpensive.

Social media presentations spark plenty of engagement and can accelerate the buzz around a new car. It’s dirt cheap, but also allows teams to get content out there and to the eager audiences quickly. Fans go crazy for pictures and videos on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. Like, really crazy. Retweets, comments and likes are flying everywhere when a new car is dropped online. They provide an enormous amount of exposure for everyone involved – surely it’s a win-win?

Well, not quite. Because while launching a car online or in the pit lane is cheap, convenient and speedy, it’s the fans that really suffer. Some teams opted for their own launch events this year, but they were ridiculously boring and inaccessible for fans. No F1 admirer wants to suffer through 15 minutes of live-streamed sponsor drivel before the covers come off. It’s the first-time people are seeing these mean-looking machines, so why not make it memorable? We want to see some personality and drama, like the golden age of F1 car launches. Much more can be done.

One potential idea could be to turn F1 car launches into a festival ahead of winter testing. It’d take place at the track or nearby, with each team having a specific time to do their launch. This would cut the dull sponsor chatter and allow teams to be creative, possibly including fan Q&A segments, and turn the hype up to maximum. Dieter Rencken said in a recent Autosport column people in Barcelona – where testing took place – didn’t even know F1 was back. They certainly would if a glitzy F1 show rolled into town.

But putting on an event doesn’t mean neglecting social media and sponsors. They could still be included and fit into the whole show, but there would also be an event for fans to flock to and see the latest F1 beasts be unleashed. Combining all these elements together would provide more exposure for sponsors, without the need for long-winded and tedious interviews about upgraded fuel or shared brand goals. Few people really care. They just want to see the car.

There are a couple of potential issues. It would no doubt increase costs for teams (although F1 could pay up and fund it) and isn’t quite as convenient as rolling out the car and taking the covers off in the pit lane. A pre-season F1 show would require a large venue to accommodate 10 car reveals and some extra activities to keep fans entertained. That might not be possible. Of course, technical problems could ruin schedules and doing something different is a risk – what if no one comes? Testing doesn’t draw in huge crowds, but could a launch event? It’s a gigantic unknown.

Spicing up the F1 car launch season is an interesting debate. There’s clearly huge potential. F1 has long been criticised for its lack of fan engagement and corporate, exclusive outlook. But, with new owners coming into force, change could be on the horizon. There’s already talk of turning race weekends into proper festivals. Introducing a pre-season event – just look at how big the Geneva Motor Show has become – could be just what F1 needs to bring the fans closer to the new cars and generate even more hype ahead of the new season.

Can new rules bring the buzz back to F1?

Sports Journalism: Assessment 4

For some, Formula 1 remains just as exciting and spectacular as it was 15 or 20 years ago, despite moving to hybrid engines and chunkier, more simplistic aerodynamic designs. But others feel the sport has lost some of its spark and intensity over the years and even F1 seems to agree.

Before the 2016 season had even started, F1 announced a raft of new technical regulations for the following season. The sport had only introduced the last set of rules two years earlier. Its reasoning for the 2017 revamp was to cut lap times significantly and make the cars more visually sexy and striking, in a bid to improve the overall spectacle – and claw back some of the lost television viewers.

But were new rules for the up-coming season really necessary? It’s fair to say the previous regulations were deeply flawed (as the sport’s bosses so openly admitted), but the gap to the dominant Mercedes had been decreasing steadily through 2016 and the actual racing was genuinely exciting. We also had a tantalising title fight between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton – not quite as iconic as rivalries such as Ayrton Senna vs Alain Prost, but we’ll still remember it in a few decades’ time.

F1 seemed to make the decision to adjust the regulations before the rules at the time had even had a chance to settle. Motorsport Week writer Phillip Horton tells us, “by the time 2016 came around the cars were typically getting close to the 2004 records”. Mightily impressive too when you consider there were limitless testing, huge budgets and fewer technical restrictions 13 years ago, but the worries over the cars looking slow had already been made redundant.

“The best thing you can do is leave the rules long-term, as this will naturally aid convergence and reduce spending costs,” Horton adds. “They were introduced as a reaction in early 2015 and by 2016, with the rate of development, lap times had already dropped.” The problem of ‘slow’ cars had already been resolved, but these new rules have made them even quicker through increased downforce and wider, fatter tyres – giving the cars a bit of a retro vibe, harking back to the late 1970s and early 80s.

Having now seen the full set of cars, it’s fair to say the 2017 field is one of the best looking in some time. The wider and angular front wings look aggressive, while there’s super-skinny sidepods, sharp bargeboards, the return of the ‘shark fin’ engine cover and wider rear wings. ‘Imposing’ and ‘mean’ are just two words to describe the new breed of F1 machines and various livery changes make it one of the most colourful F1 grids in some time. That’s one element F1 desperately needed. NBC Sports reporter Luke Smith explains: “F1 has always been a very sensory sport. It needs to look good, sound good and feel good.” The hybrid engines have taken the roaring, pulsating sound away and that won’t change, but the cars now have the beefy designs that make them “look like something kids would dream they could drive someday”.

RULES IN BRIEF:

  • Wider and angled front and rear wings
  • 25% wider front and rear tyres
  • Significantly larger diffuser

Early indications from winter testing suggest the cars have made a significant step forward in performance, with drivers reporting considerable performance gains (well over three seconds, in some cases). Technical analyst Craig Scarborough explains: “The rules give the cars a whole lot more grip to increase lap times but a lot more drag. So, the cars are quicker in the corners and slower on the straights, but overall still have that lap time improvement.”

The wider tyres offer up both positives and negatives, and remain a major unknown component for the season ahead. The increased grip make the cars faster and they give the 2017 beasts a bulkier look, but the tyre compounds themselves have become more durable. It’s likely tyre supplier Pirelli has been cautious with the new tyres, making them last longer will reduce pit stops and could lead to less on-track action. While the tyres make the cars quicker, there could be a trade-off in terms of strategy.

Another concern is the new aerodynamics, which offer up a similar dilemma. They may look like “real” F1 cars now, as Smith describes them, but there are worries overtaking could be trickier. Scarborough delves deeper into this: “When you look at what has happened with the rules, there is nothing there that should improve the racing. Braking zones are going to be shorter, following the car ahead will be the same, if not worse. The smaller rear wing means the DRS effect will be smaller and two cars together are going to be some 40cm wider than before so there is literally less track to use. It doesn’t bode well for overtaking.”

Overtaking isn’t everything – as Smith admits, “seeing the cars on the limit will be fantastic for spectators”. Races can still be exciting, tense and fun to watch without a constant stream of passes and battles. The new cars and faster speeds have hyped up many fans for the up-coming season and have got a lot of people talking – we haven’t seen cars look this good for some time. The quicker, potentially record-breaking speeds will add to that and these elements will certainly bring some buzz and fizz back to the spectacle. Naturally they won’t be for everyone though and there will always be critics, but a balance has to be found.

But while it’s important to raise these positives, it’s also worth noting the negatives – the issues surrounding the tyres, overtaking and the fact that the pecking order may not change all that much. These could dampen things and take away some of that hard-earned ‘buzz’. Perhaps we are expecting too much from F1. Maybe these predicted concerns will never materialise, and it’s impossible for the sport to get everything right anyway. However, F1 nevertheless heads into an intriguing unknown with a set of rules as deeply flawed as the last.

Ibrahimovic shatters Saints’ dream as United secure EFL Cup

Sports Journalism: Assessment 3

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s late header secured Manchester United a 3-2 victory over Southampton at Wembley Stadium to secure the club its fifth EFL Cup trophy.

The hard-fought triumph made Jose Mourinho the first United manager to win a trophy during his first season, as well as giving him his fourth League Cup win overall.

“We weren’t at our best,” admitted United midfielder Michael Carrick. “They had chances, we had chances, and it was a terrific final. Both teams went for it and we are delighted to come away for the win. Hopefully this will kick us on for the rest of the season.”

United entered the final stage of the intense Cup final level on goals with Saints, before Ibrahimovic successfully headed a cross from Ander Herrera into the back of the net in the 86th minute.

Ibrahimovic was humble in his accomplishment, claiming it was a real “team effort”, but his was clearly the stand-out performance and his header proved the deciding factor.

The fascinatingly open game got off to a feisty start with missed attempts from both Saints and United – including a failed cross to Gabbiadini and a blocked shot for a low-key Paul Pogba. But the ball quickly flew into the back of the net.

Southampton went 1-0 up, but only briefly, as Manolo Gabbiadini’s shot into the goal in the 10th minute after a pass from Cedric was deemed offside. Controversially he was, in fact, onside but the result stood and it ultimately cost Saints dearly.

A pacey United drew first blood with Ibrahimovic scoring his 25th goal of the season, putting the team ahead after 19 minutes. Southampton rallied back with efforts from James Ward-Prowse and Dusan Tadic without success.

Jesse Lingard’s low kick as half-time approached put United 2-0 up but, despite the score, Saints kept charging on and Gabbiadini’s tap into goal after a Ward-Prowse cross in extra time was deemed official this time round.

Gabbiadini got the second half off to a flying start for Southampton with lightning reactions to volley the ball into the top corner. Oriol Romeu tried to follow that up but halted chants of “let the Saints go marching in” when he hit the post.

Ibrahimovic’s star header then drew United clear of Southampton in EFL Cup decider, but it was a valiant effort from Saints despite not quite summoning the spirit of that famous 1976 FA Cup victory.

Curveballs, campervans and F1

Sports Journalism: Assessment 2

Motorsport has, quite literally, scarred Will Buxton for life. The 35-year-old Formula 1 pit reporter’s romance with racing didn’t get off to the best of starts, but did it put him off? Definitely not.

(c) Will Buxton

“The first time I remember seeing racing cars was when my dad took me to the Prescott Hill Climb,” he explained, with a wide smile. It quickly vanished. “I must have been four or five, and I fell over a massive metal tent peg. I got a huge gash in my shin and I still have the scar, so you can say motorsport physically affected me.”

Despite being permanently scarred by motorsport, Buxton’s famously enthusiastic passion for racing had roared into life. Stumbling across F1 on TV sparked his love for “the colours, noises and excitement” but did the energetic Brit ever think he would end up working as a F1 broadcaster for NBC, travelling the world reporting on F1 for millions of TV viewers in the USA?

“No, never,” he admitted, with an expression of disbelief. “We grew up with Murray Walker, so it was never ‘I want to do Murray’s job’ because no one was ever going to take it. For me, it never seemed like a realistic possibility and I always wanted to write. I loved writing and that was always the thing for me. So, no, never in a million years did I ever dream I would be broadcasting, let alone in America. It’s crazy, completely crazy.”

Realising he wanted to be an F1 journalist was “an absolute lightbulb moment” for Buxton, at the age of 13 when three-time champion Ayrton Senna died. No one at school understood why he was so distraught. They didn’t get his pain. Trawling through motorsport magazines helped Buxton come to terms with what happened to his hero. “That was the day I realised what I wanted to do with my life.”

Developing his signature writing style – opinionated, unapologetic and lively – while studying Political Science at the University of Leeds, he completed his thesis on the politics of F1. The people marking it “hated” the piece and he narrowly avoided a fail grade, but it did present him with connections and introduced him to respected F1 journalists David Tremayne and Joe Saward.

It led to him writing monthly unpaid features for Saward’s grandprix.com website and after graduating, he quickly moved into his “dream job” at the official F1 magazine. But it didn’t last long. F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone decided to pull the plug on the magazine just weeks before the start of the 2004 season, leaving Buxton unemployed at the age of 23. It was a cruel twist.

There were few job options on the table, so Buxton – with the help of his parents – bought a campervan (as you do) and joined the F1 circus for the European leg of its world tour. “The FIA [F1’s governing body] said, ‘get yourself any publication and we’ll get you a pass’,” he explained, unusually getting serious for a second, before breaking into a reflective grin. “I applied for Metro, they paid me very little but they paid me and more importantly I had a publication, so I drove from race to race. Each day I would open up my map and see what looked nice in between [race tracks]. The year bankrupted me and I lost so much weight, but it was great.”

His rock and roll campervan adventures caught the attention of GP2, the feeder series directly below F1, and he joined as a press officer before being promoted to director of communications at the end of the year. It took Buxton off his desired career path but brought him closer to F1 champions of the future.

“I hoped at one point I would get back into journalism and having spent time with these guys coming through the ranks, I would know the next generation,” he admitted, warmly recounting memories from his GP2 days. “2005 saw Nico Rosberg as champion, 2006, I was PR for Lewis [Hamilton] in his championship year and so on. It was one of the best decisions I ever made, because it was huge fun, but I also learned a massive amount about press officers, journalism and also got great relationships with drivers that has stood in pretty good stead.”

The word ‘curveball’ seems to sum up Buxton’s career quite well and having just returned to journalism in 2008 to head up an online magazine, he was thrust into the vacant commentator role for the GP2 series. “Fellow journalist Tony Dodgins had suggested me to FOM [Formula One Management], because I used to be GP2 press officer and talked too much,” he said, with a cheeky giggle. It was a baptism of fire, but his first foray into broadcasting “went great”. It saw Buxton become the voice of GP2 (and later, GP3) for over six years, being established as a fan-favourite for his excitable commentary – he once reacted to a driver passing three cars in just two corners with the iconic lines, “oh shut up, that’s ridiculous”.

Another unexpected turn saw Buxton ditch print journalism altogether for television, when he was offered the role of F1 pit reporter for the SPEED channel in America. “They had heard my commentary on GP2 and said ‘it’s out there, it’s irreverent, it’s honest, and we love it. Do you want to be our F1 pit lane reporter?’” It didn’t take long for him to make a decision and he’s now hooked on the drug of live TV. He has remained on American TV screens ever since, moving with F1’s broadcasting rights to NBC in 2013.

The animated F1 pit reporter never expected to move into broadcasting and TV, so he doesn’t actually know what he wants to do next and what the future holds. But, he does have a back-up plan. If it somehow “all goes belly-up”, he’s going to become a history teacher.

From the kid with no prospects, to an Olympic legend

Sports Journalism: Assessment 1

Hearing that your child will never amount to anything from their own teacher is tough for any parent, but even the smallest hint of smugness from Debbie Phelps is perfectly justified.

Because no other mother can say their son is a 14-time Olympic gold medallist, has just received a juicy $1 million bonus from Speedo and become the most prolific Olympic athlete of all time.

Michael Phelps made history in the Beijing National Aquatics Centre with a sensational run of success, helped by an unusual mix of incredible focus and surprising serene approach.
Eight golds at the 2008 Olympic Games, seven of them in record time – all from a boy who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at the age of nine and was described as having no prospects for the future in primary school.

“He was a very energetic guy, always all over the place,” Debbie says on her superstar swimmer son.

From his own description, he was a bit of a troublemaker: “I was a pool rat, running around, sneaking up behind people, stealing their snacks and goggles, tapping them on the shoulder and running away and just causing general havoc.”

Hardly the attitude required to become one of the world’s greatest ever athletes, but this element of his character evolved.

His ADHD medication undoubtedly helped (and he weaned himself off the pills in the end), but it was his passion for swimming that really enabled Phelps to focus.

“He is quite relaxed [now],” Debbie admits. “In fact, I get more worked up. If there is hyperactivity, he is able to handle it very calmly.”

Just how calm is his attitude? Well, it’s perhaps best summed up by his post-Olympics celebration – grabbing a cheeseburger and hanging out with his family.

Final Journalism Project – Voice of London

For the Final Journalism Project module of year three, we had to split into groups and run a website (The Voice of London) for several weeks.

jffw

I chose to be in the Lifestyle group and became a general reporter, as well as the social media editor. I created a number of different articles on a range of topics for the website.

Here is a list of the graded pieces of work:

Short

Twitter to scrap video-sharing platform Vine – http://thevoiceoflondon.co.uk/twitter-to-scrap-video-sharing-platform-vine/

The positives and negatives of a third Heathrow runway – http://thevoiceoflondon.co.uk/the-positives-and-negatives-of-a-third-heathrow-runway/

All you need to know about London’s Night Tube – http://thevoiceoflondon.co.uk/all-you-need-to-know-about-londons-night-tube/

Google commits to bringing VR to one million UK schoolchildren – http://thevoiceoflondon.co.uk/google-commits-to-bringing-vr-to-one-million-uk-schoolchildren/

Long

10 things I learned on my first time commuting in London – http://thevoiceoflondon.co.uk/10-things-i-learned-on-my-first-time-commuting-in-london/

Is a free fireworks display in London worth attending? – http://thevoiceoflondon.co.uk/the-pros-and-cons-of-a-free-fireworks-display-in-london/

Why is London such a hotspot for supercar spotting? – http://thevoiceoflondon.co.uk/why-is-london-such-a-hotspot-for-supercar-spotting/

City break: Milan on the cheap (pages 18-21) http://thevoiceoflondon.co.uk/millennial-issue-1/ (https://issuu.com/jackleslie6/docs/millennials_4_final/20)

The final link is to the online magazine we had to create as part of our project, where I was news editor, social media editor and a general reporter.

Final Journalism Project – Magazine

Here is a link to the online Magazine my group Millennial created as part of our Final Journalism Project year three module.

We had to create an online magazine for young Londoners. We decided to focus on Lifestyle topics, primarily food, travel, health and technology.

In just a handful of weeks we managed to put together a 58-page online magazine. I designed the cover, editor’s letter and completely created the news pages, a four-page feature on Milan and a Christmas gift guide article.