Content platforms used during my course

Here are some reflections on the websites we used as tools during our Multimedia Journalism degree course. Getting familiar with all of this has been necessary for content creation and publishing. The platform dictates the kind of content published. The final item is a site called JournoPortfolio which allows the student to bring together their published work from various platforms, presenting a substantial body of work.

Early in the course we learnt to collaborate using Google Drive. Each of us could write and edit the same document simultaneously. We could have done this from anywhere online, not just one classroom. Later during the Pandemic, this kind of tool would become invaluable. We learnt to create our own websites from scratch, using Notepad Plus Plus.

At one time, branded pens were freely available for writers. Photo: Clare O’Beara.

During second year, we started individual WordPress blogs.  This is a free to use, opensource platform, with many templates. Plugins can be purchased by those who want bells and whistles. WordPress was a way for the lecturer to view our assignment work (this site). We built on the web development skills we’d been taught in first year; inserting links, photos and formatting. At this point, nobody asked us to make websites phone-responsive. The lecturers were accessing them from desktops so that was all they needed.

During my final year I was also editing two official college WordPress blog sites, one for the Journalism Society (which won Blog / Vlog of the Year in the National Student Media Awards) and one for the Sustainability Society / Green Campus. People can follow blogs to be notified of new posts, which is useful. I could also view the stats and report to other students. I recommend locking down the comments so they have to be approved before appearing, as merchandisers are desperate to peddle their wares and dodgy links.

We used Squarespace in second year. This is a commercial platform which allowed us to work as a class editing one website, as a news site would need. We could upload podcast files. The educational version was free to use, but at the end of the year the site vanished. I did not find Squarespace intuitive. Some more complex aspects looked worth a try, but I just ended up reverting to the page I’d started with; I expect it’s best for people who use it a lot. However, the site gives a nice, shiny, clean look.  

My photography website in third year was a Wix site, as Wix can handle a larger content upload. This comes with several pages ready for use. I picked a theme and had to go all over the site changing bits of that theme to the colours I wanted. I kept finding more, like a text box at the bottom of a page and a side bar on another page. The site worked out well and I could embed a video. We had originally been supposed to get a photography book instead, but did not, due to the pandemic. A limited number of people could see a single book, whereas my work on a website is visible to everyone. Wix doesn’t vanish.

Daffodils – I always enjoyed nature photography. Photo: Clare O’Beara.

During third year we wrote article content and published on Medium, to give us a body of work on a major, widely accessed writing platform. At the time the profile tailoring options were few, but they have since been expanded. Medium lets us upload illustrative images, and some people use free options from Unsplash, which the college allowed in assignments, but I always tried to take my own photos if possible. I wanted to own more of the content and practise my photojournalism.

Our podcast and film work were submitted as files, and I uploaded them to my author webspace. Later the films could be uploaded to our YouTube channels if we wished. YouTube gives a customisable home page and options to help film makers, now including approved free music, though at the time we just had to hunt for music we could use.

My thesis choice in fourth year was to create a website of environmental multimedia journalism, and I opted for Wix to use the larger upload allowance.  I was able to embed YouTube video links and infographics on PDF downloadable files. I wrote HTML code to load podcast files onto each article page, as the site was defaulting to a separate podcast page for the purpose, which I didn’t want. By now I knew that sites had to be phone-first responsive.

I used Adobe Spark, which is yet another website, to create the actual thesis articles. Then I embedded a link to each Spark on the Wix site. Adobe had photos available but I did not use any, as I wanted to take all my own photos for my articles. Spark is strong for visuals and works impressively on phones. One of these articles won the National Student Media Awards, and the other three gained a nomination to the SMedias.

The work became more varied and complex. Fruit and veg photos: Clare O’Beara.

I taught myself to use Canva which is extremely helpful to create infographics. This site provides templates, and the more I did, the more complex my work became. I could upload my own photos or make use of their photo library.

To keep my supervisor informed I used Trello, a free educational tool for us two to drop notes and content and collect links. My files were uploaded to Google Drive, as I found Trello only takes a ten megabyte upload. Multimedia files are usually a great deal bigger.  This dual facility was extremely useful during the Pandemic.

Among the tools introduced to us student journalists by lecturers, was the site JournoPortfolio. One of our third year assignments required us to acquire a page, tailor it and upload links to content produced during the year. This page thus displays work from several platforms in one place. As JP mainly provides links and brief previews it doesn’t occupy a lot of space or time – the work has already been done. I found JournoPortfolio much easier and more intuitive than Squarespace, though they have some features in common, like moving blocks, and a shiny appearance.  

Home screen on JournoPortfolio. Screenshot.

One feature of particular use is that I can upload a photo and write the credit on the top of the image, for display as the headline image of each story. This gives me great incentive to take my own photos – getting a double credit.

The site offers a version free to students, which would normally be charged for annually. I signed up for that immediately, but my classmates all went for the basic one-page – a reflection perhaps of the time they had available to work on the content. I certainly didn’t regret having a board-like page which I could alter at will, moving blocks of stories up and down, with an extra page for my bio and CV, and another to display some of my Fresh Fiction book reviews. People who have more content already on the web will get the most out of this feature, but anyone who wants an incentive to get content published will enjoy filling in the spaces.

Any time I’ve had a query, which has only been a couple of times, the site owner has got back to me within a few hours to help resolve the issue. I can check the viewing stats, create categories, and set a featured article.  

Page on JournoPortfolio displaying my work from various content platforms in one place. Screenshot.

From JP I can place links to other platforms. The social media I use is the professional site LinkedIn. Content here is mostly unavailable after three months, except to those paying extra to view lengthy histories. A simple JournoPortfolio link from my LinkedIn profile provides my written articles from the various sites collected on one page. I’ve also placed reciprocal links between JP and my author’s website, which helps for search engine optimisation (SEO). Thus, I consider JournoPortfolio to be a good professional platform, as recommended to us by our multimedia journalist lecturer, and I am now recommending the site to others.

I have found the skills and tools I gained invaluable. The world is moving extremely fast nowadays, and if you don’t keep moving forward, you are not standing still; you are getting left behind. I was delighted to take a postgraduate Data Visualisation certificate, using Tableau, which was made much easier by being familiar with all the skillsets described. I’ve placed fresh content on Medium and linked it with JournoPortfolio. When I continue my studies, I will be placing college work on sites again and I’ll link that to JP again, so check in from time to time and see my progress.   

Sky over Coolock. Sky over Dundrum. All photos: Clare O’Beara, 2023.


Outcomes of my time as a Journalism student

I graduated from DBS during 2022, the ceremony having been postponed as a result of the Pandemic until students could attend in person. During my final year, all of my classes being online, I volunteered as a Peer Mentor and took the Leadership Course. I was astonished to be awarded Volunteer Of The Year.

I joined the Sustainability Society, part of the Green Campus movement. As Vice-President I established a blog called Sustainable College. Our Society won the title of Most Improved Society.

My thesis project had been a multimedia website on environmental journalism. Three topics were required, and I opted to add a fourth for balance. The three main topics, which contained written features, interviews, global conferences coverage, data visualisations,  infographics, podcasts, a short film and photography, were nominated for an award in the EPA Award on Environmental Journalism in the SMedias 2021.

I gained a BA with First Class Honours.

On Graduation Day with Hamza Razaq from the Students’ Union. Photo by DBS.

Prior to that I had taken on the role of President of the DBS Journalism Society, when the previous President graduated. I had begun publishing blog posts, and promoted the blog Inside DBS to the whole college as a place for any students to gain a first published article.

This blog was entered by me in the Student Media Awards 2021 and won. I gained a handsome Tipperary Crystal trophy. The awards evening was held online. Here’s the story on Inside DBS, which has a photo of me enjoying coffee with the Journalism Society’s Social Media Officer, Loreto Magaña, and a fun video from both of us. A further article was requested by the college for their internal news site.

At the time of my graduation, I had progressed to studying Data Visualisation at postgraduate level, at IADT. This was a one-year course, so during 2022 I graduated from a second college, with a splendid Certificate in this data science topic.

Sustainable coffee cup at the IADT Canteen. Photo: Clare O’Beara.
Queue of nominees for the 2022 Student Media Awards. Photo: Clare O’Beara.

During Spring 2022 I had a second, wonderful win. One of my thesis topics, the optional extra, had been a photojournalism article on how people were enjoying their local parks during Covid-19 lockdowns. I entered this for the SMedias category Journalism Relating to Health, but as it was mainly photojournalism, I had no expectation of winning. Being nominated, however, felt magical, and I attended the ceremony held at the Aviva Stadium, thinking that this would make up for being obliged to miss attendance the previous year.

And then my name was called, and I had won again for DBS.

Here’s the first and second Tipperary Crystal trophies, and both of them keeping company.

College has arrived at a great time in my life and proven a fantastic, enriching and empowering experience. I made friends with like-minded people and enjoyed getting to know many more pleasant folks. I have placed an article with more of my photos on Medium describing my journey, and this article was selected by Medium for further distribution. I’m lucky that I had a wide variety of lecturers, some doing their job and some doing more than their job. I also learnt quite often that if I did not find a way to teach myself something, nobody else was going to teach it to me. But by making more effort, volunteering, and taking further courses, I gained skills, knowledge and valuable experience.

Teasel in St. Anne’s Park, Raheny. Photo: Clare O’Beara.

Now I am ready to cover events, especially relating to the natural environment, as they happen. Because I was already a writer, the most important skills I learnt were photography, film making and web development.

O’Connell Street, Dublin, March 2022. Photo: Clare O’Beara.

Life changed swiftly with the Pandemic, and I’m so glad I had the real-life college experience first. My final year was in tough circumstances – but what else would I have done during lockdowns?

James Joyce was (fictionally*) asked, “What did you do in the Great War?”

He replied, “I wrote Ulysses. What did you do?”

*Tom Stoppard, Travesties (1990).

Self-portrait at the SMedias Awards, 2022, Aviva Stadium. Clare O’Beara.

Following the death of a former lecture, Henry McDonald, I have been asked to set up a blog tribute page. I have hosted the page on this site but on a separate page. March, 2023.

The Lost Moment – review

Civil Rights protesters

Photography Exhibition

This exhibition is located in Temple Bar, in Dublin’s Gallery Of Photography. A collection of black and white photos and news items has been collated by Tony McGrath. The function is to document Civil Rights movements of the 1960s. He seeks to show how global movements mirrored and inspired one another. The culmination of the exhibition is coverage of Northern Ireland. He calls the collection The Lost Moment.

Whereas in America we see the initial offerings covering black civil rights, and the rest of the gallery shows white faces, otherwise I found many similarities.  In all cases one group of people felt impelled to protest in public, and the authorities of the day  responded by sending police and sometimes soldiers to control their movements.

Civil Rights protesters
Civil Rights protesters

Initially we see Alabama in 1965, taken by Steve Schapiro. A striking image is a young white nun beside an older black workman. Other images show Martin Luther King, as the Reverend addresses crowds, including many women. We can see a camera recording the moment. The black people had no wealth or power and while we do not see any evidence of discrimination we are expected to know about black people sitting at the back of the bus, using separate restrooms, working in menial tasks for low pay, getting separate education. The police are all male. The impression I got was of stoicism and bitterness.

Celebrity protesters in London
Celebrity protesters in London

On the adjacent wall we see London in 1968 as people protest against US military involvement in Vietnam. A few well known faces are in one central photo by David Hurn; Vanessa Redgrave, actress, Tariq Ali, socialist (a model for Citizen Smith of the BBC comedy show) and walking behind them, Stephen Hawking, scientist.

Police horses charge protesters in London
Police horses charge protesters in London

I noticed that here the police are again all male and police horses are employed, with no protection for the horses’ eyes. Double bridles were used, so the riders are controlling two reins per hand. A photo scene seemed almost composed with a central shot of two sides clashing, a leafless tree (a London Plane, Platanus × acerifolia) in the middle and elegant buildings in the background. This looked like a Renaissance painting. Other photos chose to zoom in on faces. These scenes looked to be showing loud, dramatic protest, not peaceful marches.

Soldier chases youth in Prague
Soldier chases youth in Prague

Prague in 1968 had been invaded by Russian forces. All foreign media were expelled but Ian Berry was the only Western photographer to remain. He showed us popular protest against the invasion in Prague streets. One shot really captures a split second as a youth runs from an armed soldier. The young man’s feet are off the cobblestones and the scene is one of drama and motion. Here I noticed an atmosphere of quiet desperation.

From here we move to a gallery room featuring Northern Ireland. As someone who grew up with Troubles on the news every night I have a different reaction to these images than a modern teen or a tourist. The context is different for me. Tony McGrath has documented the Civil Rights movement in Derry. Again we see an all male police force, in dark uniforms but no modern riot protective gear. Crowds are mainly male but some women are present, often noticed by a short skirt or bright coat. A very strong image is a woman at home in a basic tenement house putting her children to bed; this reminded me of the iconic image Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange.

Moving on we see a march between towns in 1969 photographed by David Newell Smith, out in the countryside. Unkempt hedgerows and hillsides are the setting for a large march, the male police all wearing hats, protesters largely bareheaded, some with flat caps. A few women attend.

A copy of The Black Dwarf magazine on the wall, edited by Tariq Ali, shows a quote from Malcolm X about revolutions changing corrupt society, and a Guinness bottle made into a Molotov. This was from August 1969.


Montage of images; police, protesters and children

The views change to show escalation of drama, attack and counterattack, so we clearly follow the narrative as the Troubles proper begin. Media crew are photographed by Barney McGonagle; Clive Limpkin focuses on riots in Derry, 12 – 24 August 1969. Barbed wire and military presence of B-Specials have replaced earlier genial police. A poster says “Meme les enfants participant a la boutaile.” This shows French media covering a photo of women and children stuffing oily rags into the mouths of petrol-filled bottles in a determined group. This made me think of similarities to the French Revolution, also called The Terror. We then realise that authority figures are terrified of popular revolution, even if heads would not literally roll this time. But no politicians or famous figures appear, apart from Rev. Paisley; only those who would become famous, Bernadette Devlin for instance. Nowadays we call such people activists, but that word was not in circulation.

I thought the display worked well to show the progress of people’s movements against injustices of the day, building upon one another and sadly turning to violence by the end of the 1960s. The popular environmentalist movement in America (as distinct from the wealthy preserving their leisure space) similarly began with Greenpeace, then a group of mainly Quakers, bearing silent witness to nuclear testing, and escalated to dramatic protests and banners designed to catch the media’s attention, followed by eco-activists spiking trees ahead of logging operations. More information here.

A great many vivid images were displayed in a compact space, the black and white making the emotions more vivid, the juxtapositions more striking. Once the news of the day has moved on, people could easily forget these photos, which may be considered works of art in themselves. The curator has also imposed his own view of the topic by choosing not to include pontificating politicians. I noticed that no women photographers were included; maybe there were not many at the time, or maybe they were not sent to cover conflict.

Roland Barthes said: “The birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author.” (1967) While he was discussing books, I believe the same can be applied to photographs. The photographer cannot come around explaining what he/she wanted to capture in a shot, what time of day it was or why they picked one shot out of the many rolls of film. Each viewer must form their own individual view of a photo or the collection of photos, and the life experiences or political leanings of the viewer may flavour their appreciation of the collection The Lost Moment.


First Photoshop exercise

Millpond at Skerries Windmills

Photoshop outdoor photo

I took a photo at Skerries Windmills, Co. Dublin during the drought of the Irish summer 2018. The mill pond had maintained an oasis of green in a desert-like area of parched parkland.

For this exercise I turned that summertime photo into one of autumnal foliage.