Having your work showcased online by the BBC would be a dream for most journalism students, but for Plymouth Marjon University second year Shannon Brown it just became reality.
The 20-year-old’s film, telling the story of recent Marjon Journalism graduate Aaron James’s weight loss journey, has now been seen by more than 100,000 people online after being featured on the BBC’s England news site.
At one stage it was the fifth most viewed video on the homepage, alongside the footage of the Sainsbury’s boss singing, and Jamie Oliver’s call for a ban on junk food.
Brown made the short film during a week-long Erasmus + exchange hosted by Marjon last week, alongside students from VOSP College of Media and Journalism in Prague, and Thomas More University in Mechelen, Belgium.
Twelve international groups of students worked in threes, with one representative from each institution, and were following a brief set by BBC South West digital editor Tom Palmer. The task was simple: find a suitable story and turn it into a short TV piece to suit the BBC online audience.
Brown, along with fellow trainee journalists Gaël Van Meel, from Thomas More, and VOSP’s Katerina Bradkova, filmed and edited James’s story using Marjon’s Journalism and Media Centre facilities, and admitted its success was more than they could have hoped for.
She said: “I'm shocked at the amount of views it's had, that's a lot of people for a university project.
“We were desperate to try and make the video as good as we could, once we'd heard there was a chance it could go on the BBC website. This is the kind of thing you dream of, studying journalism, and it's pretty incredible to get this chance.
“We're all really proud of the video, and grateful for the help and advice we had when making it. It was fantastic working with people from different backgrounds, bringing our own skills to the table.
“We're proud to tell Aaron's story in an honest and emotional way, and hope that people will be inspired by what he's achieved.”
BBC digital editor Palmer admitted the quality of the output from all the groups was impressive and that a number of the students’ stories fulfilled the brief and could yet feature on BBC online as Brown’s did.
He said: “Shannon, Gaël and Katerina’s film really hit the mark – and it was really nice to see how well it performed on our platforms. We would normally look for our films to gain a six-figure audience, so for a student project to be viewed by that many people shows how well their story was produced.
“I was impressed with all the output made by the students, they demonstrated an understanding of what makes a story work online, but also covered a wide range of emotive and powerful subjects.”
The students’ film, in which 26-year-old James explains how losing six stone in a year has helped him deal with anxiety, can be viewed here.
The Erasmus + media week – attended by over 30 staff and students from the universities in Mechelen and Prague – was the final exchange between the three and was the final act of a four-year project.
Marjon Journalism lecturer Mike Baker, who has been involved in the project since the start, said the final exchange in Plymouth brought it to a satisfying end.
He said: “It was so good to see the students work together on some really interesting, powerful stories.
“It was a pretty challenging brief, and really got them thinking about the practice of storytelling, as well as testing a whole range of other journalistic skills. That even one of them made it on to the BBC website is a fitting reward for how hard they all worked.”
You can read Shannon Brown's blog post about her week here.
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