Plain fag packs?

Posted: 04/12/2010 in Uncategorized

Government vs. Tobacco: Ministers suggest standardising cigarette packaging by keeping only basic information and warnings.

The Department of Health aims to protect children and potential smokers by making the packets less visual and attractive.

Plain packs should also encourage people who are trying to give up smoking, said the department.


As a first step towards this new public health plan, retailers are asked to cover up their displays of cigarettes.

Hopefully, it would change young people’s attitude to smoking, without any pecuniary loss for sellers – according to recent research published in Tobacco Control.

Health campaigners rejoice with the idea and expect quick action.


Director of policy and research at Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) Martin Dockrell claims that “By helping smokers who want to quit and protecting our children from the tobacco ad men this will be an enormous leap forward for public health, perhaps even bigger than the smoking ban”.

Jean King, Cancer Research UK’s director of tobacco control adds: “Plain or standardised packaging will help stop the pack from being the industry’s silent salesman and recruiting another generation into using a product that kills half of all long-term users.”

But smokers’ group Forrest does not see the point in striking at cigarette packs to stop people from smoking.

To Simon Clark, director of the lobbying group against smoking bans, “there is no evidence that plain packaging will have any influence whatsoever on smoking rates. Also, the policy is designed to discriminate against smoking and stigmatise the consumer, which is totally wrong.”

Since the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act (TAPA) prohibited tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in 2002, packaging has become the main marketing focus for cigarette companies.

Even though the number of smokers has fallen by a quarter in the past decade (according to the Department of Health), smoking still costs the NHS about £2.7 bn a year.


By Rebecca CHAOUCH


Three London councils plan to merge their services to generate savings of between £50m and £100m a year.


Desperate times, desperate measures.

The Conservative boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, and Westminster have decided to unite, just after the government announced significant cuts to the main local authority grant.


Every service would be shared –from chief executive and senior directors to street cleaners and social workers- but each authority should carry on having its own elected council leaders.


If the plan goes through, the new “super council” could be bigger than Glasgow or Leeds.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles encourages the move and hopes it will lead the way for other councils.


Colin Barrow (Westminster), Stephen Greenhalgh (Hammersmith and Fulham) and Sir Merrick Cockell (Kensington and Chelsea) aim to “reduce duplication and drive out needless cost“.

[…] we need to seriously examine new ways of working including sharing service provision with other local authorities to deliver more for less.”

But Labour fear a decline in the services provided, and the fact that decisions would be made by unaccountable town hall officials. Labour Group leader for Westminster council Paul Dimoldenberg accuses “[…] ideologically-driven Conservatives to cut services regardless of the personal cost to those who depend on public services”.

While Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham are already working to merge their children’s services department, working groups have been set up to report back by February about more detailed plans.

“Clearly if you have less money to spend you are not going to be able to safeguard every job and we are going to see significant reductions in staff but this is about squeezing every penny, every pound, to protect frontline services,” said Mr Greenhalgh on BBC Radio 4.

United we stand, divided we fall?


By Rebecca CHAOUCH

Reflective report

Posted: 18/12/2009 in Uncategorized

Whatever the form of communication used, men have always found a means to verbally or visually exchange information and to leave messages for others: prehistoric frescos, hieroglyphics, homing pigeons, storytellers, rumours, books – just to mention a few – until the gathering and transmission of news became a fully-fledged profession.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Even though many different definitions exist to define journalism, practically all of them agree on the fact that news is an open window to the outside world, a means of social coercion and of human exchange.                                                            The aim of news is to satisfy or to stir up people’s curiosity, to inform, to create controversy and debates, and to highlight all kinds of issues.                                                                                                                                                                                          It is a way of keeping passive receptors of information at least intellectually active.

But news is also most often the result of a conflict of interests, power coveted by various political, economical and social players, an opportunity to mould people’s thoughts and perceptions of the world and the prioritising of one set of information over another.

In a word, news is part of both a process and a product that try to adapt to society’s requests.

The type of news will differ according to the readership it targets.                                                                                                              The way for a journalist to identify suitable stories for a given audience would be to put himself in the readers’ shoes and to think as a potential reader to better comprehend his expectations.

But in the absolute, shouldn’t news be delivered as events occur, leaving aside what people want or do not want to read?

I only realized a few months ago how essential a contact book could be, when I plunged into the journalistic world in practical terms.                                                                                                                                                                                                I was aware of the importance of weaving a large network in order to facilitate the exchange of information and to widen one’s sources, but I guess I did not imagine how useful and ‘vital’ contact collecting could be in the face of the growing competition and instantaneity of the press.                                                                                                                                      So through the various ‘journalistic missions’ that have been assigned to us during this first term, I had to conquer my shyness and summon up my nerve, my patience and my perseverance to  pick up stories.

One thing leading to another, after sending emails and ringing people up in the course of the articles I had to write, I started gathering a few contact details for example from Uxbridge’s Police and Channel Five’s press offices, members of Brunel’s Placement and Career office, the Gadget Show’s assistant producer etc.

In addition, I started to list essential local email addresses and phone numbers such as Brunel’s different offices, the Students’ Union, the Town Hall, and the Hospital.

However, I still feel uncomfortable about asking people for their contact details after speaking to them face to face; it feels as if I am invading their privacy.

Paradoxically, I realized how difficult it could sometimes be to write out an easily readable and widely accessible article about current affairs, even though all we have to do is imagine we are telling the story to one of our relatives.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I have learnt that most articles were structured in a certain way to draw and keep the readers’ attention.

In a way, I was a spectator and I feel as if I have now become more of an actor, discovering the other side of the coin, the tips and tricks and the work behind it all that make the article’s relative success.                                                                     For example, I got familiar with the fact that an article should ideally start by a first precise, catchy and detailed paragraph, written with short and straightforward sentences, and illustrated by relevant quotes starting from the fifth paragraph.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I also had to learn to put the stylistic devices and the superfluity aside for a better impact on people, to search for different types of information, and to become familiar with the numerous sources and tools available – especially the useful and reliable websites on Internet.

I have a better understanding of what the expression “journalists are the eyes and the ears of the world” implies: I am now much more receptive to what surrounds me in terms of information or potential news.                                                         From now on, I am on the look-out for anything new or interesting which seemed to me quite trivial before, such as Facebook contacts or groups, peoples’ conversations, notes stuck up anywhere, and so on.                                                         I also tend to automatically ask myself what I could write about a particular subject or event, even imagining snappy headlines I could use.

Subconsciously though, I tend to ask myself more whether a piece of information could possibly interest readers rather than whether it should be distributed in the sake of citizens.

Other questions that come across my mind now are how this information can be verified or confirmed, and who I would contact.

What is more, I got to improve my interviewing skills by being more curious about what people have got to say, or what they have experiences.

In my learning of news writing, I met a few difficulties writing in English without translating straight from French, and I still have a bit of trouble avoiding complicated sentences or not trying to ‘embellish’ them.

But I guess that after all, the way of writing stories that will inform and interest people will come with time and practice; we were given some basic tools to do so and it is our turn to put them in good use.

With a bit of hindsight though, the nature of news may be questioned regarding the way it is written: do journalists work thinking about informing or entertaining the public?                                                                                                                              Is the form of the article progressively taking over the content?                                                                                                                                                                                                                          And in fact, does a piece of information have to necessarily be ‘academically’ written to become news?

These questions have different debatable answers, and have already been raised by others. But it shows how complex journalism is and how omnipresent it is in people’s life.

By Rebecca Chaouch

Brunel University has been shortlisted for the first Placement and Internship Awards, the first of its kind, and the result will be announced on the 21st January.

We were able to go to the Placement and Careers Centre itself and talk to them about the exciting possibility of Brunel winning this award.

Students nominated the university on the website national awards recognise universities, employers and students who contribute to successful work experience for undergraduates in the UK.

Brunel University works with a host of companies, including Bentley, Chanel, Disney, IBM, Microsoft, Nokia, Warner Bros, O2, Intel and Jaguar to name but a few.

Mohamed Rahman from the Placement and Careers Centre at Brunel, is part of the team which put together the University’s supporting information to be sent for judging. He said: “We are taken aback by being nominated. This is the first award of its kind planned and we got nominated by the students of the Rate My Placement website.”

Other nominees for the Best University Placement or Careers service award are Aston, Huddersfield, Lancaster, and Manchester Metropolitan universities.

Mohamed added “We had to provide supporting information including quotes from students and employers. I sent it off on Tuesday, and a panel of independent judges will get the information on the 15th.

We had quotes over the years from students already but finding them from employers was a little harder as we needed quotes about the office itself and not the students they took. The information is about 11 pages in total.”

About the contact with employers, he replied “We emailed employers and got a lot more than we expected!”

There is a possibility that they might not win, but unfortunately there is no silver or bronze award. Rahman said; “Whoever comes first gets the award. We don’t know the criteria for selection yet.”

This is not the only award on offer though, there is also an award up for grabs for students nominated by employers which there is a £500 reward.

For this award however, Mohamed’s collegues at Brunel’s Placement and Careers Centre  helped gathering info and sent it out. He said; “This is a really top class placement office with a good service. I guess the students received a good service and want other people to know about it.”

There are placements, part-time and graduate jobs available there. We were also able to speak to another Brunel contributor the information pack being sent to the judges, Mike Grey, who also works in the Placement and Careers Centre.

He said: “The Rate My Placement website itself is a company started by graduates to advertise and promote placements. The just started doing the award. The Rate My Placement people came to Brunel careers fair telling people about voting. We are making an effort to encourage students to do placements.”

The information pack being sent to the judges includes a quote from the company Mediatonic, created by Paul Croft, a Brunel Graduate himself is recruiting placements and graduates. His company is successful and has been going for 4 years. He said; “I would highly recommend the Placement’s service.”

Mike added “Students can also work in marketing in the Placement and Careers Centre and Job Shop for their placement if they want to.”

As for the students they are very happy about the availability of the staff and the centre, which is showed by many quotes in the information pack.

Rahul Verma, a Business and Management student, said; “My experience of the Placement and Careers Centre has been a very positive one and I trust that other students would experience the same.”

Zainab Shutti, another Business and Management student who was placed at Disney, said; “They not only advised me about writing CV’s covering letters and interview advice, they actually guided me through every step in getting my placement.”

Every year hundreds of students from Brunel go on work placements, 759 went on placement this year 2009/10 even during a recession.

Brunel is continually working hard to encourage students to do placements, by setting up Facebook, Twitter, a YouTube channel, and a Blogstars site for students to talk about their placements.                                                                             This enables students to not only contact the University but contact other students on placements.

For further information about Brunel’s career and placement services see the following websites:

By Rebecca Chaouch and Rosie Hayes

The very best of jazz music will come together on a London stage tomorrow to perform what promises to be a prestigious concert.

Frank Griffith – a leading American saxophonist and composer – amongst others, will be playing with the famous jazz octogenarian couple Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Laine at the Royal Festival Hall at 7.30 tomorrow evening.

Before this big gig, he offered us a little foretaste by performing today with his Trio for the lunchtime concert organized by Brunel University (where he also teaches as Head of Performance).

A small room full of people gathered together for a private performance.                                                                                          Popular and original music pieces accompanied by head-nodding and foot-tapping.                                                                Every pause punctuated by unanimous clapping, paying tribute to each musician for their talent.                                           Yes, we may consider this one-hour concert offered by Frank Griffith, pianist Pete Billington and bassist Oli  Hayhurst, as conclusive.

When we questioned Mr Griffith about the world of jazz, he praised London as a “really good music town” with “a lot of opportunities that probably were not available in USA”.                                                                                                                       Much more venues and a cosmopolitan culture were partly what brought him from America in 1996.                                      Also very involved in music education, he unfortunately has to “struggle to give credit to jazz studies”.                         Resuming what Chris Botti (an American jazz trumpetist) once said to his audience, Griffith advises aspiring musicians to “keep live music alive”, adding that “anyone can learn any instrument at any time. It’s never too late”.

Finally, the “tyranny of the clock” -as Griffith pointed out- put an end to our interview and left him to prepare for his important upcoming concert.

By Rebecca Chaouch

Hello world!

Posted: 19/11/2009 in Uncategorized

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