Justification essay – Ria Wolstenholme, Digital Dating Danger
The concept of this project stemmed from an interest in the world of online dating. Initially, I wanted to explore how dating and meeting people has changed and evolved over the years. Whilst researching the pros and cons, I discovered the subject of romance fraud. Further research led me to Monica Whitty and Tom Buchanan’s works (2013) looking at the causes and consequences of romance scams. The authors were not available for interview unfortunately, but their work sparked an interest for me and helped me decide what I wanted the project to focus on. I decided to focus on the dangers of online dating, investigating the lesser known issues that people who date online face, in a creative but informative style.
Presenting my idea did not go as smoothly as I had hoped. As noted in my feedback, I lacked a sound knowledge and understanding of my chosen target publication. I had failed to really pin point my angles, which left the project somewhat open ended and inconsistent. After receiving my feedback and discussing the issue with my tutor, I took the advice given and decided to change my target publication so it was better suited to the direction I wanted the article to go in. Fine tuning my angles made choosing Stylist magazine a very easy decision, as I felt the publication better suited my personal writing style, and I felt the topic at hand.
With Stylist having a loyal 84% ABC1 readership, as well as being a weekly hand distributed publication, it was the perfect unique but current publication to have this piece featured in.
Making the project into something accessible and in keeping with the publication’s style was a challenge, but I felt through trial and error I managed to get it right. I aimed to have each element branch off from the main focus of the article, and have something new be shown to make it intriguing to readers. I wanted the online piece to be a little lighter, and more informative. The video and audio pieces allowed me to focus on a specific part of the story, with the video being a visual description of sextortion and the audio allowing the reader to hear Joanne tell her story. I felt this allowed for the story to have better depth, and gave the reader an opportunity to experience it in a different way.
Interviewees in the form of romance fraud victims were extremely hard to come by. Many didn’t want to rehash a painful time they had moved on from, or simply didn’t feel comfortable being in the public eye. However, by utilizing contacts of contacts, I managed to find a victim who trusted me enough to tell her story. I found Joanne* via Officer Tony Murray, who I in turn found through my first interviewee Scott McGready. All of my interviewees came from using the hashtag #journorequest on twitter. This was a great way to have people who actually wanted to be involved in the project get in touch.
I wanted each interview to compliment each other. They needed to remain balanced and concise but convey a slightly alternate angle to allow for a well rounded story and I feel I achieved that.
My responsibilities lay with protecting the identity and feelings of my victim interviewee, as well as using the sensitive video content I obtained from Scott regarding the sextortion video. Section 11 of the IPSO code (2016) refers to protecting the identity of victims of sexual assault. Although Joanne* was not a victim of sexual assault, she was a victim nonetheless.
In addition, section 4.2.1 of Section 04 of the BBC impartiality remit that states ‘We must do all we can to ensure that ‘controversial subjects’ are treated with due impartiality in all our output’ was something I took into account throughout the process.
This piece was made creative by the way in which the story was told. I utilized the visual element to portray the severity of the issue at hand, in particular using music and a slow pace to reflect the serious tone of the subject. I feel the piece is original in the fact that it isn’t just a sad story concerning a victim. It discusses their experience, and offers advice and insider knowledge from experts.
The project improved over time by taking on the advice and constructive criticism through tutorials. With every meeting I felt the project was evolving, which helped me analyze what needed to change in order for it to continue to progress. Developing a Snapchat style mobile format for this work I think would be really effective, as it suits itself to graphics and creative imagery rather than photography.
As a journalist I feel I have brought my own style of writing into the piece in a way that allows it to flow as a story. In addition, the online version of the piece which focuses on advice was a way for me to reflect on everything I learnt myself throughout this process. Making the project has taught me a lot, so I took a lot of care to include all the most poignant pieces of information in the hopes that the reader, like me, will really learn and take away from the piece.
After reflecting back on the process and path this project has taken, I feel that I made the most of the advice at my disposal. Through trial and error, I adapted my original ideas and used the tutorials to my advantage to keep the discussion going of how to make things better and fine tune the piece. I committed myself to getting the material I needed, travelling to the victim in Durham to make sure our interview was as sensitive as possible to reduce any risk of them feeling uncomfortable. Using contacts to meet other interviewees was extremely beneficial, and allowed me to create a concise and thoughtful piece which I am proud to have come to the end of.
- Axel Bruns, 1970. Blogs, Wikipedia, Second life, and Beyond : from production to produsage.
- BBC Impartiality Guidelines, section 4.
- IPSO Code, 2016.
- Shortlist Media Limited, 2016. Stylist magazine media pack
- Tom Buchanana & Monica T. Whitty, 2013. The online dating romance scam: causes and consequences of victimhood.