CASE Europe Annual Conference: Day 1

A leisurely walk from University of Brighton Pheonix Halls kicked off the first day of CEAC 2008. Check-in was painless and lunch was great before descending on the main hall for the opening plenary. Conference Chair Trisha King (Birkbeck College, University of London) welcomed before handing over to Juliette Pochin and James Morgan for a bit of a sing song.

The four tracks – fundraising, alumni, marketing and communications – then split with me following communications for the track plenary and the first session of the day. Tara Brabazon, Professor of Media Studies at the University of Brighton spoke about why universities need to engage with the media. She’s a bit of a character, and the fact she presented using an OHP and a large ring-bound stack of cue cards was a sign of what was to come. Tara’s ten tips for academics engaging with the media was useful:

  1. Be clear about why you’re talking to the media
  2. Select media platform
  3. Write down sound bites
  4. DO a background check on journalists
  5. Use emal to answer questions wherever possible
  6. Listen to producers before going on air
  7. Don’t allow yourself to be ghosted… ever
  8. Be conscious of how the web works – local is not local
  9. Focus on building strong and reliable relations with great journalists
  10. Never speak out of your brief

All this was, of course, backed up by amusing anecdotes from her time spent in higher education in the UK and Australia.

Continuing in the communication track, I went to “Where’s our news going? Media is transforming and so are its audiences – the vision for the future of news” by Fran Unsworth, Head of Newsgathering at the BBC.

I’m a big fan of a lot of what the beeb does and it was very interesting to get an inside view of some of the challenges that face them. Fran’s talk was jam-packed with statistics like the fact that ITV’s News at Ten has dropped from 10 million to 2.7 million viewers in the last 20 years. Their own services have been affected too – the 6 O’Clock news has dropped from 8 million to 4.3 million viewers since 1990. Online sources have grown though with the web being the second most popular source after TV for the under 30s.

Engagement with the wider community was particularly interesting with questions being raised about political bloggers tendancy to mix fact with opinion (I think we’re looking at Guido Fawkes here). On the other hand the BBC are more willing than ever to feature “citizen journalist’s” photographs, video and commentary. I do wonder though, whether in the rush to be first with the pictures on screen, there is sufficient scrutiny of the reliability of these sources.

Finally for this session there was an interesting comment about the increasing willingness to put BBC content out through alternative sources such as Google, iTunes and YouTube. This is something which comes up time and again inside HE teams, but if Auntie is doing it, then there must be some merit to it!

The evening reception at an art gallery was brought alive by beach balls being thrown from the balcony onto the crowds below… followed shortly by the sound of glasses smashing to the crowd. I felt sorry for the staff chasing dashing around trying to sweep up the mess. Evil stare of the night was when I (only half jokingly) asked someone “so, what exactly is the point of fundraising?” We web folk are somewhat outnumbered so maybe that wasn’t the best idea!

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