One advantage of all this is that I finally have evidence of my writing, I finally have something I can show potential (salaried) employers and since Square Eyed TV is a website, it means that my pieces could be read by more or less anyone. I am going to continually send these pieces to potential employers and see if my writing suits them, I recently sent some of my pieces to an ex student of John Moores who works for Lowdown Magazine, and she has said that she will send me out the listings for their next bunch of shows and see which I’d be interested in writing. The same was also said by Chris from Bido Lito, so I will hopefully have the opportunity to review some live shows and learn how to review that particular aspect of music. I am interested in writing in all forms, which is why I was very happy to focus on music television in particular. I want to feel just as comfortable doing this as I would reviewing a play, a gig, or even a political debate. It isn’t good to limit yourself, so I feel that I will enthusiastically accept any writing assignments I receive regardless of whether they are based around my fundamental interests of music and film. I will however continue writing for Square Eyed TV for as long as possible, as I feel I get a lot out of it and have also built a healthy, communicative relationship with the staff. The boss Terry has expressed to Matt how happy he is with my pieces, and apart from the minor bit of constructive criticism he has been very complimentary and has encouraged me greatly.
As well as improving my writing and ICT skills, I think my communication, sense of commitment, teamwork and focus has all been improved immensely. It has also made me learn to work to a deadline, and I haven’t missed one and intend to keep it this way in order to remain my healthy relationship with the team. Although it wasn’t the most conventional kind of placement, I was still very dedicated, had frequent communication with my employer and put a lot of hours into it (each programme was roughly an hour and I put approximately 3-4 hours work into writing each review). This whole ongoing experience has inspired me greatly and I hope it can lead to other things. It is important for me to keep a keen eye and try and seize opportunities as I see them, in order to get my name out there and try and make myself stand out amongst numerous other journalists competing for similar opportunities.
My most recent music piece was one on a Northern Soul documentary, which was published 30th March (http://www.squareeyed.tv/2015/03/30/northern-soul-uplifting-yet-alienating-account-of-a-hardcore-subculture/). Again I tried my best to be balanced, and was both critical and complimentary of the piece. One way in which i perhaps fell back was in the word count, it reached just over 700 words which was perhaps a bit unprofessional of me, but I felt there was a lot to discuss. One of my previous university assignments was on the Northern Soul/Mod movement, so I took a personal interest in it and this as a result perhaps made me more critical than I might have been with something I wasn’t so passionate about. There was also one grammatical error (when I said “in the northern England”), and there have been several minor grammatical and spelling errors throughout my pieces, but it has taught me a lesson to review my pieces more carefully before submitting them. Trial and error has been a great lesson throughout all this, and I have learnt as much through my errors as I have my successes.
My two most recent pieces have been on a documentary on the Strangeways prison riot, and one today on a Rik Mayall tribute show. I feel invigorated by the fascinating programmes I keep being assigned to write about, and am also pleased that I am so prioritised in writing the music pieces. Having frequent deadlines also inspires me to keep working, and makes me a much more prolific writer. There was a period of a few years when I wrote barely any reviews or columns, and this is because I didn’t have deadlines to work to or much reason to publish anything. Working with Square Eyed TV has given me a much better work ethic and made me realise how passionate I am about writing and how naturally driven I feel to do it. Writing previously felt like a chore, but I now feel really drawn to it and am always excited to hear what Matt will assign me next. It is also good that he gives me a bit of licence, the Mayall show and Northern Soul documentary were both my suggestions, and I chose them out of my own initiative feeling that I could go some distance with them. In this way a very good relationship has been made with this employer, and I hope to keep writing for them and maintain this healthy relationship for the foreseeable future.
My next piece was a political piece about the Mexican drug war, but the following three pieces were focused on music and really helped me hone my skills and learn to be a more concise, clear writer. With each piece I felt I learnt something, especially through the constructive criticism and edits I received back from Matt, and I learned specifically what it is that seperates journalistic and academic writing (as over the years I have got more used to an academic style of writing). On 16th March my piece on a documentary about Irish Rock was published (http://www.squareeyed.tv/2015/03/16/the-irish-rock-story-a-tale-of-two-cities-interesting-but-incomplete/) and by this point I was learning to be more critical in my reviews. I feel that up until this point I had dished out too much praise, and it was here that I started to really learn how to look at works objectively, and write fair assessments of them. It was my honest opinion that this documentary was an ‘Interesting but incomplete’ account of Irish rock, which is why I expressed this opinion and titled the piece that. Matt had been providing the titles for some of my pieces, but I now took it into my own hands to come up with titles of my own, which i feel was an important development.
My next piece brought me out of my comfort zone a little, as it was on a music compilation show rather than a documentary. My understanding and passion of music however meant that I got the hang of it quite quickly and discussed my own opinions on this collection of performances. I was also critical as in my previous article, and criticised some of the low-grade material included. Matt had previously told me to keep my pieces in the 300-700 word count range, and very often they have been closer to 300 than 700, so this time I tried to write something more concise, especially seeing as it was on a show that contained purely music and subsequently spoke for itself. This piece ended up being around 350 words, and an important lesson taught here was learning how to compromise and heed to an employers desires. It is clear that Square Eyed TV like their pieces to be informative and concise, so I tried here to make it so and will hopefully continue this pattern in subsequent articles, although it is something I struggle with. This piece was published on 23rd March:
Matt was soon impressed by my knowledge of music and natural knack and interest of writing about it. For this reason he said that he’d give me most of the notable music documentaries to write about, and I was very excited about this because it meant I could write about what I love and also have something to show potential employers in the future. I sent a copy of the Joy Division review through to Chris, who assured me he’d read everything I’d sent him and liked it, but just hadn’t had the time to respond to me. He said that Bido Lito weren’t looking for any writers yet, but that they may be in a few weeks and that he would surely send me the listings if he wanted me to review any live gigs. At this point I was very happy with the work I was doing with Square Eyed TV, and was just happy that he’d at least enjoyed my writing and had me down as a potential writer in the future.
My next piece I felt a very personal attachment in writing, as I had in fact been cast as an extra for it. It was a review on the music film Good Vibrations, which was published 9th March and can be seen here- http://www.squareeyed.tv/2015/03/09/review-good-vibrations/
Matt said to me that for this one occasion he didn’t mind me speaking in the 1st person, as I had actually been involved in it, but that he wanted to avoid me speaking in the 1st person generally in these reviews as it is unprofessional. I learned this and several other editing tricks from Matt who has become a very perceptive editor and gives me very constructive criticism almost every time I submit a piece that helps build my skills. It soon became apparent that they’d like me as a long-term contributor, because they asked me to submit a short bio and picture of myself to give the writers more profile. This made me feel much more official and part of the process, and I was keen to contribute as much as possible to this quickly developing company that has racked up more than 1,000 facebook likes in just a few months. I have become one of a small group of writers, and like being part of it as it develops and seeing how it takes off.
From the start I knew I was most interested in gaining experience in the journalism field. I have had a small amount of experience in writing for my local paper North Belfast News and Belfast arts paper the Vacuum, but this was a few years ago and I was very keen on writing something more music-based that would also suit my WBL module. I began looking through many of the local Liverpool music magazines, such as the Skinny and Bido Lito. Many of the magazines seemed a little too ‘indie’ for my tastes, but I was still happy to get experience of any kind in which I got to write. I had a contact who used to work for Bido Lito, and around Christmas he put me in touch with Sam, who said that he had a feeling they might be looking for new writers and put me in touch with their editor, Chris.
Chris was very cooperative and quite humorously asked me for my desert island discs and also some examples of writing I’d done. I sent him one of my old North Belfast News pieces (which was a political piece), and for a bit more relevance also included an essay I’d done on a Jackson Browne gig I’d attended. I began to worry that these pieces weren’t relevant enough, and he did not reply to me in as quick a fashion as he originally had (undoubtedly because he’s a very busy man being the editor of a prominent magazine!) I soon noticed a friend of mine posting lots of articles online with a media company called square eyed TV, and in order to give myself more experience writing in general and also to have some good examples of writing to give potential employers, I asked him could I perhaps write a piece. He was very happy to help and knew that I had a history writing, and soon got in touch with his boss who also gave it the OK.
My first piece was a review on the film Silver Linings Playbook, which was published in late February. I also have a great interest in film review, so was very happy to do something on this especially on a film I so enjoyed. I explained to Matt about my work placement, and how I’d like to be writing things relating to music as well as film and TV, so he essentially agreed to let me write the main pieces on music television. My first official music related piece was on a Joy Division documentary, which I published on 1st March and can be read here-