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MA in Journalism & Documentary Practice 2011/12

Journalism Project
Dissertation by Verena Rechmann

By Verena Rechmann

Occasionally sightings of big cats will make it onto the local news or a TV show on paranormal creatures like Nessie and Bigfoot. But in reality there doesnt seem to be anything paranormal about them, as I find out en route with Charlie Bones, Big Cat Detective.
With a mechanical hiss the bus door closes behind me and while I ponder how people know where to get the bus from, as there is no sign to mark this spot as an official stop, the wheels on the asphalt grow more distant until there is silence. I am at a crossroad half an hour from the seaside town of Brighton in South England and a sign reads: Poynings 3/4. The fields around me are still wet from yesterdays rain, while the sun is heating up the street. The British summer has begun. The road to the little village where I will be meeting Charlie is tightly lined by hedges, leaving not an inch of a footpath to walk on. As I make my way down the winding country lane, doing my best not to get hit by the occasional car, I cant help but peer towards the hills around me with their dense patches of forest, wondering whether something might be watching me. I arrive at what I assume is the villages only pub early, sit and wait. A car or two pass by and some hikers sit down in the pubs garden, but other than that nothing happens for a good thirty minutes. The tranquillity has me dipping in and out of a daydream where an out of place panther crosses over into the thicket on the other side of the road and nobody notices but me. And nobody would. Out here a heard of Elephants could be trampling straight through the pub and unless somebody told, the news would never make it to Brighton, yet alone the rest of the country. Then the big cat detectives van pulls up into the pubs parking lot. A man dressed in a cluster of browns and olives and a matching deep tan opens the drivers door to pour a cup of tea into the top of his thermos flask. There is a certain sense of calmness in his slightly weath-

Panthers are black because of melanism, an undue development of dark coloured pigment in the skin. It is most common in Leopards and Jaguars, but also very rarely seen in other big cats.

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DISCOVER

August 2012

Charlie Bones, 44, has spent most of his life trying to get to the bottom of big cat sightings in England and has come face to face with some of the animals in the process.

ered face and when he sees me he smiles and enthusiastically explains the plan for the day. We will drive further out into the countryside to look into a few sightings. They go back two decades. 20 to 30 years weve had sightings in this area, Charlie says shaking the last drops of tea out of the top of his thermos and screwing it back on. Charlie Bones is in his mid-40s and has been a labourer on boats and farms all his life. Its through his work that he first encountered exotic felines in Britain. I knew they were around. I mean, I first came across one when I was about 17 in Oxfordshire. I was working on a big a huge estate and the chap I was working under, he took me to see a friend of his in the village and he had a black leopard as a pet. And I was under strict instructions 'cause its a farm and you know its guns involved and all that if Im ever out shooting rabbits, if I see this cat, not to shoot it. He was supposed to have had a license by then. This is mid-80s and he used to let it out at night and he used to come back in the morning. It was like a house cat. After hearing this I am a little unsettled and the thought of big cats being out there truly doesnt sound too far fetched anymore. Dr Terry Moore, founder of the Cat Survival Trust in Welwyn, confirms Charlies story: Almost certainly, from the known escapes from private collections and zoos, there are a number of wild cats floating free in the English country side. He believes this is mostly due to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976 that prohibited the keeping of exotic animals without a license. In the early days a lot of people didnt want to involve themselves in the expense and appropriate enclosures for the animals they were already keeping and sadly in certainly in the 70s, 80s and early 90s, people who were keeping cats illegally are known to have just released them back into the wild. My estimation is that theres probably approximately 20 to 25 genuine cats loose in the English countryside. In his van Charlie tells me of his first encounter with an unidentifiable big cat. Since then, after that, I ended up coming back to Sussex, he says. I was hearing these reports that the people were saying this is early 90s by
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then someone had seen this big cat and I thought, well that doesnt surprise me, 'cause I know someone who had one. Literally by, a year or so later, I was finding the odd paw print. I was finding things that werent like, deer carcasses and I thought that didnt Well, what the hell would pull down a huge fallow deer? So something doesnt fit. Charlie is focusing on the road. I can feel the front tire rumble under the footwell. The inside of the van is a little rustic and chaotic, but theres something charming about it. Its comfortable. You know, when youre living in a place I mean in one place I was literally a hermit you become so absorbed in your area, you know all the little animals that are about, all the nooks and crannies and stuff. So anything that doesnt fit sort of Charlie pauses for a moment. You know, you think about what it is. So I was thinking oh well maybe a cats been here. But I didnt see one at all. So it was all pure well what if? 2000, thats when I saw my first one. So thats when you sort of get gripped. But what amazed me was it wasnt a black leopard. Or anything else like that. It was Id say its about 20 inches tall, about the same size as the dogs I keep, but very long legs with a really long tail and a small head. Just nothing like a leopard. Charlie was hidden out of sight, in a hedge he had been cutting. Since the cat didnt seem to notice him, he got a good look at it. When the cat carried on, he glanced down at his dogs to make sure they werent chasing after it, as

Approximately 20 to 25 genuine cats loose in the English countryside

they usually would. Theyre terrible for it, Charlie laughs. But Misty and Mossy just stood there frozen. He tied them up so he could investigate further without them and walked up to the spot where he had seen the cat disappear into another hedge. And there it was, crouching, staring right at us, Charlie says. And as soon as it got eye contact it paused for two or three seconds and then scantered off all the way along the hedge. And I knew where it was going because pigeons were flying out, rabbits were running out, but I never saw the cat again. All over the UK stories like that of Charlie surface. Some make it into their local newspaper, but many choose not to go public with their often confusing experiences. Christopher Gee recently contacted Charlie, but asked him not to make too much of a deal out of what he saw. I didnt want for him to make a big , Christopher thinks for a moment. Like put me on a website, 'cause it might make me look like a bit of a wacko. What would other people think? Hes seen a flying saucer. You know, that sort of thing and I dont want to be the man whos seen a flying saucer. Christophers experience in West Sussex has some similarities with what Charlie described. He was camping in a forest and at half past nine, as it was getting fairly dark, he left his tent. There was a lot of noise in the trees and an awful lot of birds chattering a lot of magpies, blackbirds giving the alarm and I didnt take a lot of notice at first, but then I was thinking

Could Englands countryside be home to dozens of escaped big cats?

DISCOVER

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Finding suspicious paw prints is often the closest a researcher can come to proving the existence of big cats in England.

Occasionally sheep and deer are found mauled with bite marks too big for it to have been a fox or a dog attack.

whats making all that noise, what is it? So I just stood there, looking through the trees, not thinking anything of it, and there it was, climbing back down a tree. I just stood there and I froze and looked at him and when he got to the bottom, he just sat there for a moment, turned and looked briefly at me and ran away and that was it. The whole thing lasted no more than 20, 30 seconds. I stood there and I thought, well thats it. Youve seen it now. So immediately, I phoned my wife and said: You will not believe what just happened! Unfortunately not every tip-off Charlie gets can bet taken seriously. Ive had people ring me up on a Friday night, laughing and that, Charlie says chuckling. And obviously drunk! You get the odd attention seeker. Does this frustrate him? He shrugs. Nah, not really. Its part of the course. Then Charlie adds: What can happen is that a witness will actually have a proper sighting of a cat. You go around and see someone, youll sit in their kitchen, theyll make you a cup of tea, youre giving them all your time and that and spending an hour or so. You can become like friends actually, pop by when theyre around. You know, some people make you dinner or something. And its quite a sociable hobby, but theyll then make up sightings so you go back around sort of thing one lady in particular. It was sad, 'cause her husband had died, so Ill put it down to that. But her first sighting was actually genuine. But yeah, she didnt have many visitors and stuff so lived in a little country cottage. Were still good friends. Charlie believes its all about sifting through peoples reports. He usually asks for more information to make sure a witnesss story fits in with what he knows about a specific cat or prior sightings in an area. I mean we never tell anyone this really, but you know, the ultimate thing is then: have they
32 DISCOVER

seen the big cat or have they not, he says. A miss-ID is sort of what we call them, so is it a misidentification. And to be honest, a lot of them are. There is a brooding calm to Charlie that is constantly broken up by bursts of excitement and nervous laughs. I dont even know why Im doing it to be honest, sometimes, he says, amused by the thought. But when you do find something, you know, you get it feels like you get hit on the back of your head. Its amazing. And even then, you know, you got to make sure its what you think it is and even then youre not sure. When you publish it, you wait for other peoples ideas. We are on our way to where witnesses have last seen the regional big cat. Charlie parks the van at the side of the road and slides open the backdoor. I go out all the time, I dont find a bloody thing to be honest. He puts his two greyhounds on the leash. Its nesting season and he doesnt want them scaring the birds. The curly-haired notorious cat-chasers are used to the procedure. They regularly accompany Charlie on his explorations. He tries to get out into the field as often as possible. About a day a week he invests into his hobby, but during the summer work often gets in the way. By now the big cat detective has two blogs, a website, a youtube channel, a facebook page and a twitter account. Ive only been on the web for a couple of years, before that I was just sort of 1994 William Rooker caught the Fen doing my own Tiger on tape. Despite its low quality, the thing, he says. two-minute clip is the best footage yet. With an average

of a dozen visitors a day, theres not much publicity for the cause, but it is enough to get in contact with potential eye-witnesses. At times he gets up to four reports of possible sightings a day. Theres been nine so far in this whole area, but two here. He points to the fields ahead of us. So, Ive only started to get excited since weve had the last couple around here. Basically, its a cluster of sightings all grouped in a small area of parishes. So what happens is it tends to start off with one and then it builds and you start ending up getting a picture of the movements. We make our way up from the main road and onto a farm lane. He points towards the side of the path. You got an animal run. It comes through here. He has a closer look before he continues. Thats more likely badger because of the width. Well, badgers will make the path. Does this link in with the big cat sightings? They use the runs as well. So weve seen well someones seen a big cat out in this field. It will have to have got there, so it could have come from here. But obviously, weve got to suss out the whole place. I know the area quite well, but I havent actually been on this spot for some time. I havent walked up this track for two or three months, so its sort of rediscovering it in a way. The greyhounds bustle around him as we continue towards a fenced field. Were on the downs north of Brighton, surrounded by hills, forests and meadows with an occasional farmhouse sprinkled in between. Were pretty sure its got to be the Steyning Big Cat because of the sheer size of it, Charlie explains. Thats what we were tracking last year and its truly huge. I mean my dog, shes 23 inches at the shoulder and theyre saying its around that size. Generally most of the cats that people say theyve seen are about Labrador size, which is three inches shorter. So the Steyning Cat is far

August 2012

bigger than all its neighbours. Thats why its such an interesting cat to follow. Charlie stops abruptly in front of the fence, a little out of breath, eyes attentive. Alright, this is the field. It was seen in here. Misty and Mossy are rather unconcerned. They stand still, taking in their surroundings with a little less enthusiasm. The cat was seen in this field, poking around and then left. We dont know if it went east or west, but it doesnt matter which way it went, Charlie says carefully taking in the area. I cant see it have gone into a busy garden. It may well have done, we dont know. But, a very likely root is at the bottom of the corner of that field, theres a gateway, then into that thick rape field. To be honest, that is just the most obvious entrance into this field and the most obvious exit. I mean, I could even see it from here, I dont even have to go into that field. Yet Charlie gets out his small binoculars and takes a closer look. Hes not expecting to actually catch a glimpse of the Steyning Cat just yet, but is hoping that understanding its movements might give him a chance to do so in the future. I go somewhere and I see where its been and to be honest, what Im more interested in is how a cat would move from A to B. How it would use that ground. So then I could possibly put a trail camera there. Trail cams he explains, have become a necessity in the field. Most people now, who are interested or seriously interested in this have got at least one. It just adds an extra facet. You can go around day in day out looking for evidence, sussing out movements and that, but it would be very nice most people agree to have your own pictures if you can get any. Charlie gets out a little camera and almost apologetically explains that he likes to take some pictures of the location and do a few seconds of filming in order to re-watch it at home in case he misses something. Its amazing what the camera can pick up. While he had hoped that bigger gaps in the vegetation might have confirmed his theory, what he can see from across the field isnt quite what he expected. Theres only tiny little rabbit runs down there, he says and then quickly recovers from the disappointment. I guess it could have jumped the fence quite easily. In order to get a better idea of the cats movement and hoping to maybe find some sort of proof that it has actually been in the area, we take another little trail up the hill. The cat we are looking for had been described to look like a panther and as we pass the occasional barbed wire fence, Charlie checks its sharp edges for
August 2012

We had a black leopard that used to visit us here during mating season

traces of black fur. About '07 or '08 I got some tested and it was a hell of a clump and they couldnt get any description, any species at all. They didnt know what it was, Charlie informs me. They said it had scales on it, a bit like a leopard, but it just didnt seem to fit. So that was a little bit off. While having spent the last years looking into patterns in movement and the cats food sources, he is now getting more interested in the cats genetic make up. Anomalies like these make him wonder whether some form of interbreeding might be taking place. It would explain his own sighting, too. Before I saw that particular cat I thought there were just the leopard things around, 'cause thats what everyone was saying. The cat that I saw had nothing to do with was nothing like a leopard. It looked really like an overgrown domestic cat that was far too big, he muses. Dr Moore has his own theory on the types of cats that have been seen in the past. The cats that are spotted, are quite often black leopards, he says. These were very popular in the old days for people to keep in their back gardens. His premises accommodate around 40 big cats that have been rescued from zoos and private collections, some of which will be lucky enough to be released by the charity into a conservation area in Argentina. Standing next to a cage in which two Pumas lazily doze up on their observation post, he casually adds: In fact until two years ago, we had a black leopard that used to visit us here in the mating season, when our cats were giving out the pheromones and making the usual mating calls. Besides black panthers there have also been sightings of Pumas, Lynx and other, smaller exotic cats. Fairly recently there was a European lynx caught just inside the north circular in London that was found in someones back garden, Dr Moore continues. It had escaped from a collection somewhere and that went on a temporary basis, initially, to London Zoo. The only black fur we find today belongs to the cow that suspiciously eyes us as we intrude on her land. Still, Charlie moves through the countryside in a way that clearly signals that he is seeing things that I dont. He walks off the path a few steps, strides up a little ridge, constantly in search of something, knowing exactly what hes looking for. Everythings starting to fit actually because this is the ribbon of cover that hugs the sides of the downs and this is where 99 times out of 100 the cats are seen going up and down it, he explains exci-

SIGHTED CATS SIZE CHART

Domestic Cat

Lynx

Cheetah

Puma

Black Panther

Often miss-IDs happen when big domestic cats are sighted at a distance in the open field. The size of the surroundings can cause an optical illusion in which the cat seems bigger that it actually is.

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tedly. They use these routs as transit routs and then dip out of it, go through a field and then carry on their way. The area has been notorious for big cat sightings for quite a while now. Previously, before even I was doing it, there was sightings going back here in the very early 70s, he says. So they go back a long, long way. I mean, there were reports from the downs during the war of big sort of three times the size of feral cats up in the downs. But then it was all shut off and everything up here. Dr Terry Moore confirms that there are more official sources. Through the freedom of information act weve obtained a lot of records from the police, where police have not only seen them themselves, but have been out hunting for cats that have been sighted, even using helicopters, he reveals. But it is unlikely that a cat that was sighted can be found that easily. They will sense a humans presence by smell, by the movements of a human, and they will either hide or just run away, and rather reassuringly he adds: Fortunately in the English countryside there is so much wildlife for cats to catch, plenty of rabbits, plenty of deer that theres no shortage of food, so they are just no threat to humans whatsoever. Charlie and I head back to the van to explore another area. He wants to show me where he found the unidentifiable fur, but on the way we stop to leave some flyers in another little pub near the main road. In order to find out more about sightings in an area, he will distribute them in public places, hoping more wit-

Were pretty certain this is Steyning Big Cats territory

nesses might come forward. As we walk to the pub, a woman who knows Charlie stops and they exchange some kind words and some information. There has been news on the ninth sighting. The barmaid can probably tell us more. As we enter the pub a few men are sitting at the bar. The rest of the little place is empty, but those who are present, know each other. Charlie orders us something to drink. He knows from experience its not a good idea to rush these things. When the big cat is mentioned, everybody has something to say. Theyve heard of it, or theyve seen it. Nobody seems to be surprised or excited. Out here it doesnt seem to be a big deal. As the men keep sipping their beers, the barmaid gets out the local newspaper with another report of the cat and gives us a short summary of the things shes heard in the village. As we leave the pub, the new information has Charlie puzzled. The sightings have got to kind of fit in with what you would expect, but you know, were pretty certain this is Steyning Big Cats territory and its not often or not at this time of year, youre going to get another cat that just walks into it. So its eight sightings of a massive big black cat and that one sighting then of a smaller one just doesnt seem to fit. According to the report a local woman had seen a cat that was definitely not a domestic, but far from being the size of the greyhounds. Sometimes, when a story gets out, people desperately want to believe they saw the cat as

well, leading to miss-IDs. Charlie dismisses the last sighting and instead points out the little road we are heading for. Thereve been four or five sightings now over like, 15 years. Of a cat crossing this lane. Yeah, so thats quite a lot for just one little lane, he says. We get out of the van again and so do the dogs. Its getting late and the sun is no longer warm. We just need to cross a few more fields, then he can show me the place he found the fur. Just near a river. Charlie knows his way around. He is not the only one to research big cats and blog about it, but he and the others dont often get into each others way. All those, theyre really on the ball, he says. Im sort of on the ball on my little areas. Were a bit like the cats, weve got our own little territories. Is there a bit of a competition? Possibly, he admits. I suppose deep down there is. Im not particularly competitive and a couple of others of us arent, but I know others are and of course because they are, it makes you a little bit as well. To be honest a lot of it, I think, is a personal competition. Its like, you know, a race against yourself. Its for myself, 'cause I want to find out certain bits of knowledge. I mean some people arent quite so into the science of it. Theyre not that into finding out the little bits of information on the activities. Theyre more interested in oh I dont know collecting sightings and other sort of things. Well, the social aspect. You know, they go to group meetings and stuff and travel up and down the country thats what they like. Its quite a community really. I mean, at the end of the day, most people are working for themselves. You have to be really, 'cause its a

Newspaper photos of escaped cats: 1. Cheetah Akea escaped from Hamerton Zoo in 2008 and was recaptured in a garden, where she had scared a nine-year-old boy. 2. The Lynx shot in Norfolk in 1991 was believed to be an Internet hoax until it was confirmed by police after a freedom of information request had been made 15 years later. 3. 2001 Lynx Lara was captured in North London and taken in by London Zoo. It is believed that she escaped from a private collection.

3
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DISCOVER

Whenever he has time Charlie travels around the county looking for signs of big cats, hoping to some day take the picture that will prove it all.

thankless task. You sort of devote a lot of time feet, Charlie says, and he believe his daughters and effort for frankly very little. Charlie re- talent proves one thing in particular: If you flects on his words for a moment. Even if keep your eyes open a child could do it! We reach a little cluster of trees and fallen youre just collecting sightings thats all youve over trunks that are cogot at the end of it really. vered in Moss. Charlie He lets Mossy off the Im just seeing this ties Mistys leash to a leash and she runs a few and climbs his branch feet ahead of us, towards huge black cat, literally a little niche to way a little bridge. The light Its where he tree. a under has changed to a shade of disappear into the clump of odd the found red and the sound of blackberry bushes out Mossy pushes He fur. bugs chirping in the grass now is who way, the of is becoming louder. I ask him how he feels about the doubt many have eager to see what the fuss is about. See how in his cause. If youre wasting time trying to flattened down all the moss is? Charlie asks, convince sceptics , he begins, then stops pointing to another trunk. Somethings been there. You know, all sorts of animals would be mid-sentence. You know, theres no point. Then Charlie chuckles again. Its comple- flattening that down. However, there are no traces of big cat and tely understandable, really. Yeah, I mean: To be honest, look at my website. Theres nothing on Charlie doesnt mind. The other animals Im there. Theres no conclusive evidence. The interested in are deer and hares and foxes and pictures are blurred. He laughs. You know, stuff, but theyre a little bit easier. Besides, a lot even the biggest cat weve got, the Steyning Cat of grounds been covered about them by other from around here and I mean its a monster people. Especially scientists. For him, its okay to go weeks without finof a thing. But even so, the pictures there I mean one of them looks like a flipping dog. ding anything. Its the going with it, not the Charlie clearly handles his critics well, but getting there really, he says. Its the journey, I has also got a few of his friends intrigued. I think. Its just one of those fascinating things. I think they go with it, dont they, he half-states, suppose you need the goal to get there, which half-asks me, when I want to know how they for me is the pictures. I want to get the pictures. feel about is unusual hobby. He has had three encounters with the BriHis daughter is more enthusiastic. Sometimes she comes with him to search for clues and tish big cats so far. The closest he got to taking is a natural at that. At the age of four she dis- a picture was at the Ardingly Reservoir. I walcovered both a partial paw print and an animal ked 300 yards out of the vehicle and Ive not carcass that was possibly left there by a big cat. even got my camera out of the bag and Im I tell you when you see actually find some just seeing this huge black cat, literally disapevidence, thats pretty exciting. Or the paw pear into the blackberry bushes. Theres an air prints, 'cause thats where it actually laid its of remorse as he mumbles of maybes and ifs.
August 2012

I realise now, as soon as you get out, you turn the camera on. Charlie learnt this lesson the hard way. Near the shrubbery of the riverbank Charlie stops one last time with Eager expectancy. Theres a huge, perfectly shaped paw print staring back at us from the slightly muddy ground, but Charlie shrugs with amusement. Its just a big dog track. The sun is almost gone as the four of us make our way back to the van. Charlie offers to drop me off in town, which I gratefully accept as I am pretty sure there are no more busses running between the middle of nowhere and Brighton at this time of day. The fields are now too dark to make out what may or may not be running across them and by the time we drive in and out of beams of light on the motorway, I have given up on keeping a look out for the Steyning Big Cat. So why does he invest all this time? Its just a hobby, you know, Charlie replies. Its something extra to do. If I wasnt doing this, Id be stuck in a hide somewhere filming some deer, or something like that. So this sort of gets you out a little bit more and youre trying to suss out a very hard to suss out animal. Thats probably the biggest attraction.

Find out more, or report a sighting: http://bigcatsinsussex.co.uk Tel: 07722274033 @: bigcatdetective@hotmail.co.uk @bigcatdetective

DISCOVER

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Verena Rechmann

53

BRAVE NEW Girl


There is a new princess on the block and she is certainly not what you would expect judging by the history of Disney heroines
If round-faced Merida were to stumble upon sobbing Snow White in the forest, the situation would make for an interesting movie in itself. It is hard to imagine the new heroine in Disney Pixars Brave would have much patience with the fair damsel in distress, who helplessly waits to be saved from the world. Instead, Merida would probably be tearing her pretty red curls out in frustration. Unlike her many predecessors Pixars first female lead granted, it was about time is not the nave and passive type of girl, but a determined and stubborn young woman who will more likely be found practicing archery in the woods, than singing to its furry inhabitants. From an early age the little wild child would rather spend her time chasing supernatural beings and exploring her surroundings than to conform to gender stereotypes - despite her mothers constant objection: A bow? Shes a lady! But so far most 21st century Disney Princesses were given that kind of liberty throughout their childhood until the day they came face to face with what a girls life is really all about: Prince Charming. The sole catalyst behind Pocahontas caring about peace with the English, for mermaid Ariel wanting to grow legs and for generations of princesses before them to defy their legal guardians has always been Him. The wild-haired Scottish lass, is the first to brake the cycle. Even before she is presented with the disillusioning three princes of the neighbouring kingdoms, who have come to compete for her hand in marriage, she decides that she is not ready for marriage, or brace yourselves might not ever be ready for this! One decade into the 21st century we can rejoice. A Disney princess that doesnt want to

Merida, Pixars first female lead, has made it into the realm of the Disney Princesses.

Queen Elinor is worried about her daughters unwillingness to bow to tradition. marry granted none of the three candidates truly conform to the presentable image of a Captain John Smith or a Prince Eric, but lets try and look past that superficial flaw. It just proves that the accusations towards Disney as being a sexist corporation turning little girls into housewives with an eating disorder more often than not ignore the little boys, who are expected to be muscular, charming heroes when they grow up. A member of the British Psychological Society and Harvard graduate Linda Blair, who has been working as a psychologist, journalist and author for 30 years, sees a major problem in this. If you think about it, until very recently you dress a girl up in boys clothes and jeans and a t-shirt: Thats fine. You dress a boy up in a dress and let me tell you all hell breaks loose. So in a way women have more chance to defy gender stereotyping than do boys. For Merida this holds true. She means what she says and against all odds does not run into Him at any point of the movie. Instead she acci-

When she accidentally turns her mother into a bear, it is up to Merida to protect her. dentally turns her mother into a bear when trying to get her to loosen up, making Brave more of a coming-of-age film, than a classic Disney romance. A little like the female equivalent to Finding Nemo, Brave explores the relationship between a child and parent, with the main difference being that critics and academics will still see flaws in Disneys new princess that they would have never thought to look for in a clownfish. In an interview with Time Magazine, Disney Princesses critic Peggy Orenstein voiced her concerns of there not being a drive in Merida to achieve more than not marry. But why do Disney women need to achieve greatness to prove themselves? Nobody questioned Nemo as to what he wanted out of life once his father found him. Dr Amy M. Davis, lecturer at the University of Hull and author of Good Girls and Wicked Witches: Women in Disneys Feature Animation believes many critics might be using Disney as a scapegoat. I think there is a lot of ignorance of cultural, popular, feminist history which leads to this. Also, Disney is a huge name and this makes them an easy target for those who can't be bothered to do their homework. Feminism, in my view, is being eroded by a society that wants to believe that there

In a way women have more chance to defy gender stereotyping than do boys

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Vanity Times - Culture


blushes and runs away at the sight of a man and Linda Blair says. If they dont, theyre going to whose only active moments in the film consist of turn to other sources for inspiration and the mecleaning, singing and running away, seems rather dias easy. cynical. Amelia Earhart had already flown solo I think the medias strength is repetition and across the Atlantic and Louise Boyd had searched inundation rather than depth of knowledge or acthe Arctic for the lost explorer Amundsen and yet curacy. Its the fact that they can repeat the same the female ideal Snow White represents is a very message so often and in so many ways and then different one. its reinforced in shops with pink toys for girls and Dr Davis, however, believes Disney means no blue toys for boys and all that sort of thing. harm in this. In terms of the films, by and large If Disney is just reflecting society and society they have merely reflected back the ideas and reinforces Disney ideals, would that then mean views of their time periods, she says. But even be- children are caught in a never-ending spiral of fore Snow Whites time gender stereotypes? Have period, American suffraDisney Princesses really gettes had achieved the In terms of the films, by and suffered decades of supratification of the Ninepression and are contiteenth Amendment, large they have merely reflected nuing to do so with no which in 1920 finally back the ideas and views of chance of any developgave women the right to ment? More than a detheir time periods vote. Still, 17 years later, cade after Snow Whites the general publics view release, it certainly looked reflected in Snow White that way. and the Seven Dwarfs is that a womans place in With the dawn of the Second World War fesociety should be that of a timid housewife. minist issues were put aside for a while and after During the era of First Wave Feminism, while the war Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty carried women were fighting for their suffrage and better on from where Snow White had left off. Literally. working conditions, Snow White stays at home, Despite the passing of 13 years, 1950s Cinderella, while the seven dwarfs are heigh-hoing off to too, is a rag-clad servant in her own house, utterly work. Her kindness and navety later have her poi- passive except for a bit of pubescent acting up soned by the evil witch and it isnt by emancipa- once the word prince is dropped and marriage is tion, but by a princes kiss that all her problems finally on the table. are solved. Without another word to her faithful Both her and Sleeping Beauty Aurora who, dwarfs she rides off into the sunset with a stranger released in 1959, is almost another decade older who may as well be a human trafficker for all she still see marriage as the only kind of fulfilment. knows. Oh why did nobody tell us the solution Both are singing of dreams and wishes that mewas that easy! taphorically just refer back to Snow Whites Well, technically Disney did tell us and has Some Day My Prince Will Come. Just sit and been continuing to do so ever since, which is why wait, really. A guy must come galloping past on a so many critics are concerned with the role models white stallion to sweep you off your feet some day Disney provided in its beginnings. and until then whats the point in making a life of Snow White and her fellow princesses of the your own. first wave of Disney royalty are still extremely poAt least these two are a little more demanding pular with children today. Could these outdated in so far as theyre not waiting for the next best views then influence the children born and raised thing or a prince - but for true love. Conveniently in our oh-so-liberal 21st century, or is it all just an both are unaware that their true love is actually academic discussion with no impact on the real Prince Charming, avoiding any serious decisions world? and more importantly creating the illusion of Some children will be influenced by the media - but that depends on how their parents as The Princess canon at the end of the role models show themselves influencable by the 90s (from left): Jasmine, Snow media and also whether or not the children have White, Mulan, Aurora, Cinderella, a chance to discuss the issues that worry them with their parents, PsyPocahontas, Belle, choloAriel. gist

Snow Whites original poster from 1937 is no longer a need for feminism, when we're - at best - only mid-way through the process of achieving true equality for women. Disney has nothing to do with that. So are we overanalysing our heroines to a point where they can never fulfil our expectations? Or why is it that Brave does not seem to fully convince some of its critics? The classic idea of men being turned into beasts pure male sexuality and all that is turned upside down when Meridas mother experiences her wild side and in order to protect her, the heroine raises a sword against her own father instead of just dramatically throwing herself in the way of disaster as so many of her ancestors have done before. Is this all just too little too late? When Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released in 1937 New York Times journalist Frank S. Nugent ended his exuberant review with the words Thank you very much, Mr. Disney, and come again soon. Even Eleanor Roosevelt who revolutionised the role of the First Lady and was a lifelong supporter of the rights of workingwomen seemed to see nothing wrong with the fainthearted princess. In 1938 she wrote in her column My Day: Mr. Walt Disney certainly has an enchanting imagination and I hope he does many more such films. In comparison to the original reviews, 75 years later the New York Times summary of Brave sounds just like a fitting description of Snow White then: The animation, as might be expected, is beautiful, but the story is filled with dreary gender clichs. Does that mean Disneys princesses truly havent evolved in all those years? Going back to the birth of the Disney Princesses genre, it cant be denied that visually Snow White was like nothing that had ever been seen before. The first feature length animated film accompanied by an elaborate soundtrack was definitely a milestone in film history. Yet, with the first female United States Secretary of Labour already in office for four years, a helpless young girl that

Verena Rechmann
free choice. Besides finally finding true love code for: a man to take care of them, the highlight of each film seems to be the dress. On the verge of the Second Wave Feminism of the 60s that is to focus on cultural inequality and discrimination, women are still seen as consumerists and homemakers. It surely isnt Cinderellas personal fault that women are expected to run around in dresses and heels in order to be recognised as feminine, but when she runs down those stairs stumbling on her dress, shoes coming off every little girl should realise that its sometimes necessary to be the one wearing the trousers. Merida has finally made that clear as she murmurs Curse this dress! and stretches and bends until the tight dress tears open at its seams so she can shoot her bow and arrow comfortably. Overall the 1950s were an era of Barbie and Ken-like couples, with princes that were just a means to female happiness talk about sexist. Emancipation and active women were still nowhere to be found and many characters were never given the chance to prove themselves. Honestly, had somebody actually told Aurora about the spindle anybody else see a reference to sex ed here? she probably wouldnt have run right up to it and pricked herself into a deep sleep. Despite all, Dr Davis still believes in the integrity of Walt Disney himself: Some of his views would be sexist in 2012, but for the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, they were ahead of many in his industry. Many don't realise that he actually told off his entire studio because there were rumblings from some men feeling resentful when women were put into leadership roles within the studio. Walt's response was that animation wouldn't be the same without women's contribution, and he would work with anyone who could do the job he wanted. Even before Walt Disneys death in 1966, the focus of Disney features shifted. From the 60s through to the end of the 80s, the classic Disney princess animations vanished from the screens. In the midst of the feminist movements, Disney focused more on boys adventures and especially the animation of animals. However, earlier on Disney had proven that using animals instead of human characters allowed for a far more liberal, sexual depiction of women. In 1955s Lady and the Tramp a stray female dog seductively sings of Tramp in the kennels. A jailed prostitute singing of Prince Charming would surely not have been an option back then or now, for that matter. For a long time things remained static. It seems like Disney laid low during the years of protests for equality, lawsuits against discrimination at the workplace and the introduction of the pill. By the late 80s far more women were employed at Disney, which ironically coincides with the decade of the Disney princess, the Disney Renaissance: the 90s. In 1984 Mississippi was the last state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment, 1987 the first Disney Store opened and in 1989 The Little Mermaid made it to the big screen. Ariel was the princess in the first animated fairytale since Sleeping Beauty and is still one of the most beloved characters of all time. Her story marked the beginning of a second, merchandise-ridden wave of Disney Princesses movies. She was the first princess who seemed to have some kind of desire of her own and chose to disobey her father to follow her dreams. During a time when female sexuality and independence had replaced the former feminist issues, Ariel at first seemed like a fitting character to represent the women of her time. Unfortunately, even though career women were becoming more and more common, they still faced issues of discrimination and inequality, while Ariel like the princesses before her was off chasing her prince, the true focus of her desire. In the end Ariel is still a helpless little girl and could this be more symbolic voiceless. Now this could be a lovely metaphor to show how important it is to give women a voice, but only if Ariel would make more of an effort to actually speak after her curse is broken. Instead she merely sighs her princes name. Surely, much of this has been dictated by Hans Christian Andersens original fairytale, but it was a conscious decision made by Disney to choose exactly this story to ring in the 90s. At least in their version, Ariels disobedience towards her father doesnt get her killed in the end. While many complain about this stray from the original, it does convey a less patriarchal message. Also, Dr Davis points out: There is no such thing as an original version of a fairytale. Every time these stories have been retold, they've been reshaped to suit their new audience. So those who criticize Disney for not being faithful to the original stories in fact are demonstrating to one and all that they know nothing about fairy tales and folklore history. However, the film did make some important points. King Triton realises he has to let his daughter make his own decisions granted, they turn out to be bad ones and he finally accepts that she knows what she wants out of life. Yet, somehow patriarchy cant quite let go, as in the end she is still dependent on men to get what she wants. What Ariel was teaching a generation of children was merely what society as a whole now considered acceptable. Rebel, choose your own path and make your own decisions, but please, oh please, get married in the end. It was really just a reminder that society was still far from achieving its goal of gender equality. Its only fair to admit that things got better after that. In 1991 Beauty and the Beast introduced bookworm Belle. She was the one to save the prince and she took on her fathers punishment as a prisoner in the Beasts castle, thus coping perfectly fine with a male burden. Unfortunately the outcome of the story was the same as ever marriage. But that is just the way fairytales end. Outside the realm of classic fairytales, the endings started to become less predictable. Four years later, Native American Pocahontas was torn between her tribal duties and her love for a man, who so happens not to be a prince. She rejected her fathers choices and instead fell for the English invader John Smith. While she could have run off with him to the Old World, sailing into the sunset, she remained with her father and her people. It was the first princess story in which things didnt just fall into place.

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Disney Princess films have always been about finding Prince Charming. From Top: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Tangled.

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flects the issues present in our society today. After a second heroic action, her deeds are recognised and rewarded. Unfortunately this is not where the film ends. To top it all off Disney style, she is also rewarded with the love of her Captain. Only solace is that she makes the first move, before he can ask her father for permission, thus gaining some form of independence. So close Disney. So close! For some feminist critics however, it is the otherness of the 90s characters that is crucial. Mulan and Pocahontas, just like The Hunchback of Notre Dames Esmeralda and Aladdins Jasmine are of an ethnic background and apparently this is what makes them more independent and sassy thus opposing the Western ideal. Also, the fact that they make use of their sexuality something formerly inconceivable is eyed as objectifying and problematic. Believing their attitude has negative connotations due to their background boarders on racism in itself and almost makes it seem like some critics just dont want these more forward princesses to count. Luckily no five-year-old thinks like a film critic! Surely the heroines of the 90s are still being discriminated against, because they are thought of as odd for wanting to be educated, have to deal with societys expectations and just dont get the same appreciation as men do for their work, but at least they honestly reflect the views of the 1990s society. They are trying their best to be strong independent women, but somehow there are still issues in the way. They may not be feminist icons, but at least they show us where our society is going wrong and that is something, isnt it? The 21st century then brought a third generation of princesses into the picture, all seemingly designed to appease Disneys critics and lead by Tiana, the first African-American princess in the 2009 Disney movie The Princess and the Frog. Only, she is not a princess, but a caterer who dreams of opening up her own restaurant yes, she wants a career! A very feminine one, but it is another little step forward. Prince Naveen is an impoverished man who merely wants to marry for money. Its hard to ignore the racial issues critics had with the film. Tiana had almost been a blonde princesss chambermaid - just like the little centauress Sunflower in the 1940s edition of Fantasia, that was cut out twenty years later because a little black donkey polishing a blonde mares hooves just didnt feel quite right anymore. After many complaints Tiana became somewhat emancipated, although she is still clearly from a lower class than her blonde princess friend. While critics remained sceptical, merchandise sales proved the audience loved her. And Tiana is a loveable character. Shes independent and sassy and from a feminist point of view, she is so very promising. In the end she does get her career and makes her own dream come true but of course it comes topped off with a free marriage certificate. Oh why cant Disney just let single women be happy, too? At least Naveen is forced to go through some kind of transformation in order to be a worthy husband: from selfish man, to frog, to classic Disney prince. Expectations fulfilled. One year later Tangled, Disneys take on Rapunzel, was the first princess film since Mulan to get it right. Rapunzel is not waiting to get rescued

The sensual, exotic Princesses of the 90s (Clockwise from left): Pocahontas with John Smith, Esmeralda and Jasmine.

Pocahontas made a sensible choice that left her not quite so happy ever after, but with a future in which she would make a difference as an independent leader of her tribe. Now nobody wants childrens films to be visions of gritty realism, but in 1995 aspiring little princesses learnt that there were worthwhile alternatives to marriage. Despite the individual outcome all Disney Princesses face the task of finding their path in life, which in itself should be considered an important message. It is only unfortunate that until 1998 no princess has ever acted out of a motivation other than romantic love. Cue Mulan. She is not an actual princess, but has long been accepted into the Disney Princesses canon - and she literally kicks butt. After realising

that she is not sought out to be a good, traditional, Chinese housewife, she runs away to the army in order to take her elderly fathers place there. Like Belle she takes on her parents burden and in doing so finds her path in life. She comes to find that marriage isnt her destiny and instead saves China from the invasion of the Huns. Dressed as a man, she is the first Disney princess to openly question gender roles. Yet she does not have to entirely give up her femininity in order to keep up with the boys. What she lacks in strength, she makes up for with intelligence. Now even most critics cant deny that Mulan really is a feminist role model. Of course her achievements are no longer appreciated once she is found out, but that only re-

Verena Rechmann
name isnt Flynn Rider, but Eugene Fitzherbert has no foundation in fact, Dr Amy M Davis says. and he just always wanted to be a hero. At least While I would never argue that film and TV and Disney now recognises the expectations it places books and so forth don't teach, I would argue that on little boys and girls. these lessons don't stick without reinforcement Throughout the film their relationship is more from parents, teachers, the larger society. balanced than that of any other royal couple be- And Linda Blair agrees. I think it is a powerful fore them and if anything Rapunzel, a quirky medium, but it doesnt outweigh parents. loudmouth with an attitude and thats an honest Wouldnt it be wiser then, to try and find the compliment is in control. reasons for gender ineShe is the one to save his quality in our society life and while they do and institutions, rather I am Merida, fi rst-born marry, it is an equal relatithan in childrens films? onship and that is the descendent of DunBroch and The fact that we queswhole point, isnt it? After our female leads so Ill be shooting for my own tion all, nobody said anything pedantically and ask so Hand! against marriage per se. It much more of an Ariel is the first time for a than we do of a Buzz man to marry up in Lightyear, really shows the history of Disney and there is no co-de- that the main problem is us. pendency or any old-fashioned allocations of genJust in time for the movies release, Disney der roles. Flynn even emphasises that she is the Stores now sell little bows and arrows and girls fione to rule her parents kingdom. nally get permission to be adventurous, too. But What all those semi-feminist characters be- did it really need Disney for that? The pre-Brave fore her failed to do, Merida now does or to be generations just built their own weaponry from precise does not. There is no marriage in the end, sticks and strings instead. no Prince Charming, not even a run-in with a Little girls and boys will choose what teahandsome stranger to help her out somewhere chings to take from the Disney films they watch along the way. Instead the film is about female so- and who to choose as a role model. Claiming Dislidarity and yet, critics complain. ney will turn all little girls into passive damsels Maybe Merida isnt feminist enough for some that need the approval of men is like believing critics and maybe in another 75 years well know that all little boys turn into adventurous, witty cabetter, too, but for now what difference does it valiers because of Disney. I assure you they dont. truly make? Does it matter whether a child is raiBut even though it might not make much of a sed on Snow White or Brave? After all, a genera- difference, it is somewhat satisfying to watch Metion raised on Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella still rida rip her dress during the archery competition burnt their bras and ran for senate. held to sift out an ideal husband for her and The implication that these films are harmful declare: I am Merida, first-born descendent of is just a lot of sensationalist fear-mongering and DunBroch and Ill be shooting for my own hand!

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Fa Mulan and her alter ego Fa Ping


by a prince, but wants to get out of her tower to explore the world and have an adventure. Her prince yes, theres a man in the picture is not actually a prince, but a wanted criminal that goes by the name Flynn Rider. While she uses his help to escape, she is not dependent on the mans protection. In fact their first encounter ends with him tied up and held hostage by her. We will have to look past the fact that her weapon of choice was a frying pan of all things. At least her male companion has to face some gender issues of his own, when admitting his real

IN CINEMAS 13 AUGUST 2012

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The Princess and the Frog and Tangled (right) marked the beginning of the 3rd wave of Disney Princesses.

YOUR OPINION
I watched a lot of Disney films as a kid and I never thought of them as sexist until my Feminist Film Theory course. But now when I do look back, I think they do teach girls very patriarchal morals, like you have to look good, behave modest and be pure so that a Prince falls for you. And this is particularly dangerous for underdeveloped and highly patriarchal cultures like Russia, where girls are brought up like this by their mums and grand mums, who use Disney cartoons to kind of prove their point: the man is always right, it is hard to get a man, girls have to do their best to attract and please the man, otherwise they will die alone. Sad but true. Kseniya Malykh, 22 Disney does have lots of passive female characters, but most of that goes down to when the films were made. Lloyd Clark, 22 that came along and saved the girl. Even the 'stronger' types such as Jasmine, would end up having to be saved from a trap. This was frustrating for me when I would act out scenes with my friends. I remember having to just splash about in a paddling pool and yell 'help' every now and again, while my male friends were having to defeat monsters and could do all of the cool, fun stuff. I definitely do think that Disney films are sexist. However, I think in a lot of ways it was art imitating life. Antonia Heslop, 23

I probably watched films like The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, Basil the Great Mouse Detective and The Lion King the most. BOY FILMS! The VHS's were constantly in use. But as they were just animals, I never thought that I needed to apply any lessons to my own life. I think you can find things wrong with film institutions if you look hard enough. Thomas the Tank Engine has been accused of being Communist, Scooby Doo of taking place in an economic disaster zone.

I was a huge Disney fan to a point that when I went to borrow my next movie from the local video rent store there wasn't anything that I didnt know the script of by heart. They certainly had immediate effects on me as a kid. I remember playing with my friends recreating scenes from what we watched or even further developing and inventing plots on our own. Also since Sleeping Beauty was my favourite one I used to want to have long blond wavy hair and blue eyes and even today Im still waiting for my Prince. Academically speaking yes Disney is sexist, but if you ask me personally, if I had to describe Disney in 3 words sexist wouldn't be one of them. Iliyana Kuzmova, 23

I used to watch loads of Disney films when I was younger and still do now. I have always loved them! Although, I remember when I was young feeling somewhat annoyed that it was always the boys

I grew up on Disney films to the extent where when I first started talking, I spoke with a slight Californian accent! Of course in a day and age where everyone is looking for something to be offended by, Disney can come across as sexist. The woman must always be saved by the man Grr patriarchy. As a child I never once thought: Hey, why is it always the boy who saves the girl? I would 'keep up' with the boys not that I felt like I needed to and play fight with them, not once acting as the 'damsel in distress'. This 'sexist' theme in Disney did not have any affect on my behaviour in that way. In all honesty, in pointing out such 'flaws' in Disney it sucks the fun out of the stories. They are to be enjoyed, not to be criticised! Kitty Underhill, 19

ALEXANDERS MIDDLE EAST


F
or a little under 13 years Alexander the Great expanded the kingdom of Macedonia, only for the most powerful empire of the ancient world to fall apart with his death in 323 B.C. At 33 he had conquered most of the known world and left behind Greek influences and occupants, destruction and budding cities. Many historic sites, like that of the battle of Issus where he famously defeated the army of Darius III, the last king of the Achaemenid empire of Persia, are today no more than question marks on desert maps. It is believed that the town may have been situated in what today is the Turkish province of Hatay. If the theory were true Issus would likely be buried under the modern city of Iskenderum. It lies near the Pinarus River, which consequently may once have been the river Issus.

Revisiting the past and present of the Macedonians conquests

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These famous battlefields and glorious ancient cities described in the texts of Alexanders historians have forever become classic images of decadence and exoticism. To many their descriptions are in stark contrast to the depiction of the Middle East today. The religious oppressors, violent leaders and impoverished victims bare no resemblance to the splendid palaces and stories of fame and glory that the Macedonian scholars shared with the world. But that might be because history is often a matter of perspective. The places on Alexander the Greats map are often remembered for their conquest, but had a history before the young Macedonian arrived and have developed rich histories of their own since. There is more to them than their capture two millennia ago and their portrayal in Western media today.

The Asia Campaign of Alexander the Great began in 334 B.C., with the crossing of the Hellespont, which is now known as the Dardanelles. The strait was the most convenient access point into the East and the young king ritualised his crossing with religious gestures as well as by paying tribute to historic figures and events. In Ilion, the spot where once the glorious city of Troy had stood, he made a sacrifice to Athena Ilias, the highest goddess of the little town. In another
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Troy

highly stylised gesture, he then laid a wreath on what was believed to be the grave of Achilles. Troy and the Trojan War were thought to be nothing more than legends until the discovery of the original site in Turkey in the 19th century. Since then archaeologists have discovered layer upon layer of Troys, the oldest being Troy I and dating back to 3000 B.C. The ruins are situated closest to the town and seaport of anakkale on the southern coast of the Dardanelles, at their narrowest point. Every year for over four decades now, the discovery of Troy is celebrated here for five days in mid-August at the International Troy Festival. There are street parades with girls in national costumes led by Helen of Troy, historical re-enactments, concerts and exhibitions. On its seafront anakkale also features the wooden horse from the 2004 Hollywood adaptation of the ancient tale of the Trojan War. The locals call it Brad Pitts Trojan Horse as it was a gift from the actor who had portrayed Achilles in the movie.

During the course of his conquest Alexander began to think of himself as godlike. He is often depicted with ram horns as a symbol of his divinity as the son of Amun.

The courtyard of the Umayyad Mosque at night. The first significant protests that lead to the current Syrian civil war began in front of the complex on 15 March 2011.

Shortly after the defeat of Dariuss troops at Issus in 333 B.C., Alexanders army pushed forward into Damascus, which had acted as the Persian sovereigns military base. Here they captured his wife and children, which Alexander is said to have treated with utmost respect, despite keeping them as a pawn in his negotiations with Darius. Today the City of Jasmine is the capital of Syria and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, likely to have been founded in the 2nd millennium BC. The Umayyad Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus, reflects its diverse history. It is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world, with its roots dating back to the Iron Age. The original temple was constructed by the Araemeans to worship Hadad-Ramman, their god of thunderstorms and rain. A stone of the original structure can be found in the National Museum of Damascus today.

Damascus

In 64 B.C., when the Romans conquered the city, they identified the Araemean god with their own god of thunder, Jupiter, and expanded the temple to a scale that impressed the population of Damascus. The temple was to become the centre of the Imperial cult of Jupiter. Towards the end of the 4th century the Christians converted the structure into a cathedral that held a shrine believed to contain the head of St John the Baptist. Since Islam also recognises him as a prophet, the relic remained there after the Arab conquest in the 7th century. Today both Christian and Muslim pilgrims visit the mosque and the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter that have been preserved next to it. The ruins mark the entrance to the Al-Hamidiyah Souq, an open market that is home to the famous Bakdash ice cream parlour. For over 100 years its pistachio-covered elastic ice cream has been sold there and is an almost equally popular tourist attraction.
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Alexandria

Egypt had been under strict Persian rule for only ten years when Alexander arrived in the Persian province in 331 B.C. It was handed to him without a struggle and by respecting the local religions and rites, he was accepted as Pharaoh. It was then that he founded the most famous of his many Alexandrias. He renamed an insignificant town called Rhacotis and made it the capital of Egypt, which it would remain to be for nearly 1000 years. Alexander himself left after only a few months and would not return until after his death, when his sarcophagus was laid to rest there. Little of the ancient architecture has survived and todays Alexandria, second-largest city of Egypt, has been built on top of the old one in a way that leaves little space for excavations. However, in 2004 a Polish archaeological team claimed to have discovered the ruins of the legendary Library of Alexandria. The largest and most significant library of the ancient world had been destroyed many times since Julius Caesar first burnt it down accidentally in 48 B.C. in a failed military move. In 2002 the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina was
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opened in memory of the lost one. Other significant parts of the Hellenistic city have sunken beneath Alexandrias harbour due to earthquakes and subsidence. Both the palace of Cleopatra, infamous last Pharaoh of Egypt, and the remains of the legendary Lighthouse of Alexandria have been found there. Due to this, UNESCO recently announced plans for an underwater museum that will allow for the public to view the remains of ancient Alexandria.

Ruins in the harbour of Alexandria that most likely once were part of Cleopatras palace. Left: A black granite sphinx, believed to represent the Egyptian Queens father Ptolemy XII.

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An Afghan Woman feeding the white pigeons in front of the Shrine of Hazarat Ali in Mazar-i-Sharif during Ramadan.

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Babylon

Babylon was one of the most famous cities in the world when Alexander entered it under the cheering of its inhabitants in 331 B.C. and it is still one of the most famous ancient cities known today. What is left of Babylon 5000 years after its founding, is nothing but parts of the foundation and some reconstructions ordered by Saddam Hussein. They were never completed and are seen by archaeologists as problematic, as they complicate getting to the original structures. The site is located next to present-day Al Hillah in the Babylon province of Iraq, which is believed to have once been the site of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Nothing is left of this wonder of the ancient world. Neither is the Ishtar Gate, the eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon. In the early 20th century German archaeologists excavated and reconstructed it in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Parts of the gate and the ornaments of lions, bulls and dragons can be found in museums all around the world. In its original place only a smaller, unfinished reconstruction of the gate remains. Near the ruins, the sole reminder of the glorious city is a basalt statue of a lion overwhelming a man. The Lion of Babylon is thought to have been erected in 1300 B.C. by the Assyrians and has witnessed several sieges and destructions of the land since.

The tombstone of poetess Rabia Balkhi in Afghanistan engraved with her story. Bottom left: Statue of the Lion of Babylon in Al Hillah, Iraq.

Alexander the Great took over the capital of the Persian Empire in the Fars Province in 330 B.C. The pompous complex of palaces had begun construction 200 years earlier under Darius I and grew more and more decadent under his successors. It was also the centre of ceremonial life in Persia. When leaving Persepolis, Alexander gave his troops permission to burn down the palace and plunder the city. The Macedonians are further believed to have looted the tombs of several Achaemenid kings in Naqsh-e Rustam close to the city. The impressive ruins of both sites can still be visited today. His decision surprises historians, as the Macedonian thought of himself as a Persian ruler at this point and usually respected local religions and traditions. Many historians now believe that Alexanders impulsive decision to destroy Persepolis was most likely the result of a drunken night of celebration. While the grand remains of Persepolis still allude to the once ravishing sight they must have been, life now takes place in the modern capital of the province, which lies in relative proximity to the area. Shiraz is known as the city of poets and flowers, gardens and wine. Although the last is prohibited in the Islamic Republic, the city is also in competition with Jerez de la Frontera in Spain for being the birthplace of Sherry.

Persepolis

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Bactra

The well-preserved ruins of Persepolis near the modern city of Shiraz give an idea of how humbling a sight the palace once must have been.

The capital of ancient Bactria is more commonly known in the West by its Greek name, but still exists today by its original name of Balkh. It is one of the oldest cities in the world and can be found in the province of the same name in Northern Afghanistan. When Bessus, the satrap of Bactria, surrendered Balkh to the Macedonians in 329 B.C., the ancient city had been under Persian rule for almost 2000 years and even a millennium prior to that, Balkh had already been a hub of commerce for Bactrian merchants. Until the beginning of the 8th century A.D., Balkh had a flourishing Buddhist culture with scholars and monks from China and India visiting the city. The Navbahara Monastery, which was renowned for its grand Buddha statue, later became a Zoroastrian fire-temple, but its original Arch is still

standing today. The city of Balkh also accommodates the tomb of the 9th century princess and poetess Rabia Balkhi. She is said to have written the last lines of her love poem on the walls of a ladies bathhouse with her own blood, after the pain of losing her lover drove her to suicide. Women and men visit the grave in her honour and young couples will pray there for their relationships to succeed. Less than 13 miles away in Mazar-i-Sharif, the current capital of the Balkh province, families come to feed the white pigeons in front of the Shrine of Hazrat Ali, cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad. Feeding the hundreds of birds is meant to bring good fortune and it is said that the holiness of the spot will turn any grey pigeons that join the flock white within 40 days.
110 INTERNATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC August 2012

Vision of a Buddhas paradise from the 4th century A.D. is an example of the GrecoBuddhist art known as Gandharan art.

The Indus River in Pakistan, which Alexander crossed in 326 B.C.

Taxila

The Macedonian troops crossed the Indus River in 326 B.C. Here, King mbhi, one of the most renowned rulers in the western Punjab, handed Alexander his capital in exchange for his support against his threatening neighbour, King Porus. At the banks of the river Hydaspes, today known as the Jhelum River, the Macedonian conqueror fought his last meaningful battle. Shortly after, his troops turned against him at the river Beas, exhausted by tropical diseases, the heavy monsoons and the unknown territory. The ruins below modern-day Taxila stem from three major cities, which have been destroyed and rebuilt over millennia. The city originated in the 6th century B.C. and according to legends was founded by the nephew of the mythical hero Rama. He is believed to have been not only an Indian King, but also the seventh human form of the Hindu god Vishnu.

Now the ancient town in the Punjab Province of Pakistan is an important archaeological site and houses the Taxila Museum, which has one of the most significant collections of Gandharan Buddhist sculptures. Gandharan art is a result of Greco-Buddhism, which developed after Alexander the Great conquered the East and lasted until the Islamic takeover in the 7th century A.D. It is responsible for the first stone statues of Buddha in human form, who until then had been depicted through the use of symbols. The Greeks custom to portray their gods as manlike has had a strong influence on Buddhist art until today.
OUR WEBSITE For more information, visit us under internationalgeographic.co.uk/middle-east

112 INTERNATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC August 2012

MA in Journalism & Documentary Practice 2011/12 Journalism Project V3063!


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Research Proposal

Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

Index

1. Introduction .......................................................... 2

2. Feature I
Wild Cat Chase: On a mission with the Big Cat Detective .............. 2

3. Feature II
Disneys Sexism: Or how I turned out normal anyways ................. 5

4. Feature III
Revisiting History: Alexander the Great ................................... 7

5. Schedule ................................................................ 9

Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

1. Introduction

While there is an ever-growing gap between respectable news journalism and the superficial issues covered by celebrity magazines and tabloids, I believe the middle ground can be found in magazines like The New Yorker, Times and National Geographic. Here current events, cultural issues and popular sciences are covered in a way that entertains without being vulgar and informs without being tiring. I believe this to be a style that allows for the most creativity as well as for the most professional form of journalistic writing.

It is the style of such magazines, as well as the more liberal middle and upper class papers, that I will try to adapt in all three of my 3000 to 5000-word features. The exact length of each piece is dependant on the outcome of interviews and research. The following pages will outline the content and style of the features I plan to write, as well as the research involved. The titles are working titles and may change depending on the course of my research.

2. Feature I
Wild Cat Chase: On a mission with the Big Cat Detective

The first feature will be based on the research I have been doing on big cat sightings in the UK for my documentary project. I will be transforming it into a print piece about Charlie Bones, Big Cat Detective. The feature will explore the issue of big cats in the English
Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

countryside, but instead of sensationalising it, will explore the actual reasons behind the urban myth and follow Charlie as he explores some of the latest sightings.

It will mainly be a profile piece on Charlie, including interviews and giving the necessary background information on the subject. However, since he is currently pursuing a case of a man who is said to have released several pet pumas into the wild, it may turn into more of a fly on the wall feature, as I follow Charlie on his mission to find out whether there is truth to the story.

Since it avoids the classic sensationalist take on the subject and might possibly even give the entire subject a new angle, this feature could be published in magazines like BBCs Wildlife. Both the subject and the regional connection would be relevant to the magazine, however the feature would also have the potential to be published in regional as well as national papers, as even though this specific case of the released pumas would be specifically relevant to Sussex, it would also lead to consequences for the rest of the country. However, the specific style of the article would demand for it to be published in a middle class paper, as it will be looking at the issue far too objectively to be published in a tabloid and is probably too fantastic to be published in a conservative upper class paper.

The subject is journalistically relevant, as the existence of big cats in England would be of public interest, since it might even affect the country to a certain degree. Furthermore the story would be likely to sell papers, as the nature of the subject is exciting and speaks to the curiosity that lies in human nature.

Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

The issue also deserves this kind of serious exploration, because it is often covered as a piece of sensationalist reporting, created to alarm the public or to pillory those interested in the subject as bordering on crazy. The background information the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976 leading to the release of many illegally kept big cats, the internet culture that has built itself around the research of big cats in Britain and in some cases even the involvement of the police is usually not given. All that can be read are stories of demon-like supernatural cats being sighted by drunken men coming out of pubs at night.

My research on the subject so far has been based on the book Big Cats: Facing Britains Wild Predators by big cat researcher Rick Minter, various websites, newspaper clippings and the time I have spent following Charlie Bones and his work. This alone is a sturdy basis for the article. In a little over a month, after he has done his initial research on the newest case, I will join Charlie to interview some witnesses who remember the days when the suspect was keeping pumas and also remember how they then suddenly vanished. This will provide an intriguing storyline as it is, but ideally we might even be able to get in contact with this man and interview him personally about the cats and therefore possibly prove that at least a few pumas do roam the English countryside and have not yet been caught. Reaching this suspect will be quite complicated though and convincing him to talk to us even more so. Therefore, should we not succeed in time, or not be able to talk to him, the piece will still be an interesting profile on Charlie and his not always successful detective work.

Assuming that all goes as planed, the feature will read a little bit like a detective story, with interviews worked into it and Charlie as the charming main character to guide us through it
Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

all. The look of the piece will mirror this, without being too tacky or overdramatic. Of course there will be images of both Charlie and pumas, but the layout will still be very much like that of a newspaper. Not too glossy, but with a fact box summing up the last few genuine sightings and maybe with a few cheeky paw prints running down one side of the text.

3. Feature II
Disneys Sexism: Or how I turned out normal anyways

The second journalistic piece will be less investigative and is probably the softest feature out of the three. It will incorporate a small review of Disney Pixars animation Brave, which will be released this summer. Based on the storyline of a princess turned warrior, I will be exploring the accusation that Disney movies are sexist towards women. It will be part journalistic analysis, part opinion piece as I refer to my own experiences as well as the experiences of others.

The feature could be published in a liberal middle or upper class newspaper, as the review aspect of it links it into current cultural events. Since the article is likely to oppose the accusations, but also create a strong alternative view of feminism, the piece is unlikely to work in a conservative paper. Also, the style of the analysis and research will probably be too sophisticated for the average womens magazine, but might work in magazines like The Atlantic or The Economist, who have both in the past printed critical debates about the film industry, Disney and even fairy tales.
Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

The subject is of timeless relevance, since many generations have grown up under the influence of Disney. To a certain degree their animations connect people emotionally and feminism of course, is an equally universal subject that in fact should be relevant to absolutely everybody. However, in recent years it has lost quite a bit of its 60s glamour. I believe that in an age where the fear of being politically incorrect bids us to overanalyse everything, the meaning of sexual equality should once again be clearly outlined. In order to make a subject that bores and annoys many readers nowadays more interesting, it will be sweetened by the world of Disney.

With Brave not being released until later this summer, I will first focus on analysing some of the older Disney films in order to give my informed opinions. I will also have to do some research on the history of feminism all of which can be done in the next few weeks. I will make use of social networks like facebook and twitter to find some interesting stories of girls and their relationship to certain Disney movies while growing up. I am hoping to fit three to five of these small interviews or little experience reports either into the text flow or into textboxes on the sides of the article.

Ideally I would also like to interview both a researcher in the field of feminism as well as an expert on Disney. The latter, however, will be hardest to get in contact with. I would want to find possible participants as quickly as possible in order to get some information from them on which I can base the structure of the feature. Their input should be relevant to my research, even if they are unwilling to let me interview them for the actual article.

Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

The finished piece should read rather witty and be entertaining, while still being informative and not just a flow of my own opinion. Overall it will pin the history of feminism to various Disney animations while exploring whether these truly were sexist, or merely in sync with their time or possibly even ahead of it. The layout will be more like that of a magazine, slightly glossier than the feature on big cats, while not overdoing it to the point where the article looses credibility.

4. Feature III
Revisiting History: Alexander the Great

In the style of a National Geographic feature, the third piece will be a historical profile of Alexander the Great, linking the stages of his life to current locations. While being an informative history lesson, the article will double as a piece of travel writing, exploring the towns and regions he travelled then and what they have to offer today.

The piece will resemble the kind of feature that is part of a series in a magazine and explores a different historical figure every month. It would be most suited for a higher middle class, interested in culture and history and with the financial option or at least a strong interest to travel. Possible magazines to publish a feature like this one are National Geographic or the German Spiegels special editions on history.

Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

While there is no specific link to current affairs, features about past events and personalities do regularly make an appearance in the news. Alexander the Great has always been an oxymoron, fascinating people with the way he conquered the world even in the 21st century when the general ideal is that of a peaceful world, without empires and territorial wars. The idea to link this historical figure with todays locations of his military career arose from the current situation in Greece. Repeatedly remarks about the irony of the cradle of democracys political situation have been made, which resulted in the creation of this concept: Showing how the world has changed and how even the grandest history can loose its relevance.

This will be the only feature that doesnt require interviews, but instead intense research on the subject. Main basis of the article will be Robin Lane Foxs biography of the great conqueror and online research of the historic sights today. This means I will not have to make any appointments and can take a bit more time with the preparation of this feature. However, the time saved by not interviewing people, will probably be needed in the editing process.

The main part of the feature will be the story of Alexander, but it will be accompanied by a map that marks the sights of his conquests and biggest moments. There will be fact boxes referring to these places, with information on how they currently look, what the political situation there is like and what makes them important today. This will ask for the most extravagant layout, partly made up out of white text on a coloured background, with big pictures and various boxes with relevant information to accompany the piece.

Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

5. Schedule

Week
Contact interviewees for Disney feature Mon 04/06 Sun 10/06 Research accusations of sexism towards Disney Review and analyse various animations Research history of feminism Mon 11/06 Sun 17/06 Interview researchers on the issue Draw up detailed concept Mon 18/06 Sun 24/06 Write draft of Disney feature Contact Charlie Interview Charlie and follow him on his mission Mon 25/06 Sun 01/07 Interview witnesses Possibly interview suspect who released pumas Mon 02/07 Sun 08/07 Mon 09/07 Sun 15/07 Mon 16/07 Sun 22/07 Draw up concept based on past research Write big cat feature Research Alexander the Great Research Alexander the Great Draw up detailed concept Write Alexander the Great Feature Add Brave review to Disney feature Edit Edit

Mon 23/07 Sun 29/07 Mon 30/07 Sun 05/08 Mon 06/08 Sun 12/08

2140 words!

Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!

MA in Journalism & Documentary Practice 2011/12 Journalism Project V3063!


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Project Report

Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

Index
1. Report.................................................................... 2

2. References ............................................................. 9

3. Appendix

Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

1. Report
While the practical part of my Masters degree in Journalism and Documentary Practice did cover the basics of journalistic writing and also included a lesson on features, I still felt like I needed to do a lot of independent research for my Journalism Project. I chose Friedlanders and Lees book Feature Writing, The Pursuit Of Excellence as my personal guidebook, which describes the feature as being like a nonfiction short story: quotation-filled, descriptive, entertaining, informative (2011: 1).

The Brighton Journalist Works focus, however, had mainly been on short news stories and the inverted pyramid structure with an emphasis on writing leads. While the use of this structure may still hold true for newspaper features to a certain degree, a magazine writer has the opportunity to take more time with the introduction and lure the reader in, without giving anything away. I had not learnt how to do this.

Yet, due to the length of my features, I chose to write all three of them for a magazine audience. It would be highly unlikely for any newspaper to print 5000 word articles, especially about subjects that arent related to major breaking news. As mentioned above, a magazine writer does not have to fight for his audience as much as a newspaper writer would and this allows for more liberty within the style and structure of an article.

As much as I prefer this more creative style, less bound to a predefined structure and with the possibility to use language creatively, writing a feature in a magazine style was a relatively new experience for me. While I had the general knowledge from the Brighton Journalist
Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

Works to refer to, the specific information I had on writing for magazines was extremely limited. I therefore quickly realised that due to the little experience I had, when writing in a journalistic style, I lacked the self-confidence I have when writing in an academic one. While the book on feature writing helped with this, I felt like I hadnt had enough time to internalise its advices and am sure this shows in my work

In my piece on Charlie Bones, who researches big cat sightings in the UK, I wanted to follow Friedlanders and Lees advice and paint a word portrait of the subject (2011: 11) that would give the reader a better understanding of who the interviewee is, not just in terms of looks but also in terms of personality. However, I had interviewed him on several occasions and this created a bit of a problem. I thought it important to portray him as fairly as possible and didnt want to go against the rules of professional journalism and risk not quoting him accurately (2011), but if I kept skipping locations by differentiating between the interviews, it would become very confusing for readers and there would be no flow whatsoever.

It was an issue I discussed with my supervisor and eventually I chose to cut the interviews together. However I decided on some rules for doing so: I focused on one main interview as a general guideline, the one that took place when I accompanied him to look into some big cat sightings near Brighton. I only described things that truly happened on that day and while I worked in other things he said, I made sure they would not change the meaning of what he intended to express. In this new context the quotes were merely meant to add some background information and logic to the flow of the story, not falsify it.

Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

I also wanted to make sure not to handle big cat sightings the way tabloid journalism does. As with most its subjects, it quite tastelessly simplifies the issue, counting on sensation and scandal (rnebring and Jnsson 2004) to sell a paper. An Interviewees obsessions with the subject of big cat sightings and his willingness to discuss it, is merely used to show him up publically in order to amuse an audience.

I wanted to distance myself from this technique and made sure not to simplify and sensationalise, while still writing a feature interesting enough to keep a readers attention. This had been my plan right from the start and I believe I succeeded mainly due to Charlie being a wonderfully engaging character. I agree with Seidman (2006), who points out the importance of reducing the threat of exploitation of interviewees and trying to prevent making them vulnerable, so I chose to let Charlie do most of the talking. With a theme like this I believe it is important to give the interviewee an actual voice and give him a chance to explain, instead of just using a few quirky quotes to create a sensationalist story.

Moving on to a different feature, I tried to also change my way of writing. The article on Disney Princesses was less about telling a story and more about creating a train of thought the reader could easily follow. While magazine features do differ from newspaper features in the sense that they allow for a more leisurely approach to an issue and also permit a journalist to voice even strong opinions (Friedlander and Lee 2011), I was worried that my style of writing was becoming too causal.

Other than for the magazines I originally had in mind, I therefore chose to write my article in the style of Vanity Fair, as although they are political and sophisticated, they still allow for a
Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

pop-culturey approach to the subject. For example, I spent a lot of time contemplating whether I could write that Disney princess Mulan kicks butt, thinking it might be too colloquial. I was then relieved to find the phrasing used by Vanity Fairs national editor Todd Purdum in a political feature and decided to leave the expression in, as it seemed quite fitting.

To balance out my own lively style, I had wanted to involve academic experts as interviewees, to give my article more credibility. Being so used to academic writing, a part of me also felt like I had to justify my opinions in this way. Finding experts on Disney, psychology and feminism was a lot easier than I had expected, but interviewing them was not. Before coming across Amy M Davis and Linda Blair, who are both accomplished experts in their field and who have been very helpful, I had contacted other academics who didnt seem willing to understand that I was trying to interview them for a journalistic article, not an academic dissertation despite me repeatedly explaining this.

While I was fully aware of issues like nature vs. nurture, I wanted them explained by professionals for a non-academic audience. I am not sure whether the problem was due to my lack of interviewing skills because of the very limited experience I had in this area, or the fact that academics are very set in their thinking. Either way, several dismissed my questions as not detailed enough and instead referred me to books on the subject. This was one of the most frustrating parts of my research.

However, the research for my feature on Alexander was even more time-consuming. Often information and pictures were not available in English, making it shockingly clear, that even if Westerners wanted to research everyday life in the Middle East, it is hard to find
Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

information on it. Especially with places like Iraq and Afghanistan, English texts were usually written by American soldiers and tainted by their views. The most shocking example being that of the Lion of Babylon: While it is described everywhere as being a depiction of a lion overwhelming a man as a symbol of power, the soldiers described it in their blog as being a depiction of a lion having intercourse with the whore of Babylon.

This reflects the distorted image many have of the Middle East and emphasises how important it is to check the sources you are using. Usually Middle Easterners are condensed to being violent, uncultured terrorists (Shaheen 1985), so I decided to avoid these stereotypes by all means and instead give a more neutral image of the areas introduced in my feature.

Yet, my supervisor pointed out the importance of at least mentioning the current uprisings in Syria, possibly by referring to a lack of tourists cueing at the famous ice cream place in Damascus. However, when researching this via Twitter, it turned out, that quite a few tweeters had currently mentioned having had some of the unique ice cream and so I instead worked a subtle hint at the uprisings into a picture box of the Ummayad Mosque. I didnt want to ignore the issues of the Middle East, but I did my best not to make them the main focus of the feature, as this is constantly done by other media.

The editing process, too, was somewhat adventurous. While we had been taught on QuarkXPress, the university only provided InDesign as editing software. I am therefore glad I managed to download a trial version of QuarkXPress as it was time-consuming enough to refamiliarize myself with its functions. I hadnt used the programme since my project at the beginning of the year when we were given ten weeks to work on the layout of a single page.
Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

Editing 23 pages therefore threw my schedule back by an entire week and made me realise there was a lot I didnt yet know about this software.

It wasnt until editing the second feature that I found out how to make use of the master page to avoid individually typing and placing page numbers and guides on every single page of my articles. Also, the fact that QuarkXPress counts words differently than a Word document does was a lesson I learnt the hard way and that forced me to rework most of my editing before adding the text to my layouts.

As I had no experience in the graphic design of a magazine page, I started out with my Alexander feature, which I had planned to closely model after the style of National Geographic Magazine. In order to understand the aesthetics of magazine editing I used actual articles as close references and also made use of the magazines online style guide to help me with insecurities about spelling and numbers.

Finding pictures that would suit my layout and not become too pixelated when printing, was also surprisingly time-consuming. For my Alexander feature, English searches would often come up with few, small images. I was forced to find the Arabic spellings of some of the sights and search these. To make sure what I found was what I had actually been looking for, I then had friends who spoke the language double-check my work.

I continued looking towards magazines, newspapers and their style guides and size standards for inspiration. The Disney article was modelled after sophisticated magazines with a focus on
Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

culture, like Vanity Fair and the feature on big cats was based on newspaper and country magazine layouts like BBCs Countryfile. I believe looking at these layouts has helped my editing process a lot but while I am probably more content with my layout than with my writing, I ran into the limits of my abilities here as well.

Just like with my feature on big cats, I attempted to give the article on Disney more credibility by choosing a rather conservative font and layout, which, I hoped would balance out the bright Disney imagery. Unfortunately, when having it professionally printed, the font developed some odd blotchy patterns that repeated themselves every few letters, making it more comic-like. This was not intended and visible neither in QuarkXPress, nor in the PDF file. Since I didnt have enough technical understanding of either programme or the printing process to find the fault and the employees at the print shop couldnt help me either, I finally had to accept this minor setback.

Overall this project did help me learn a lot more about the techniques and difficulties of research and journalistic writing, as well as the above mentioned editing process. I also made use of social networks like twitter and facebook and feel like all this has added to my basic understanding of most areas of magazine journalism. However, much of it was a learning curve rather than an opportunity to finally show what I had previously learnt, which leaves me a little insecure about the writing and layout I have produced, as there is little of my own work I can compare it to. Unfortunately this also means that if I were to start a new project now, I could be a lot more time-efficient and create a far better piece of work than the one attached in this portfolio. 2143 words
Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!

MA Journalism and Documentary Practice

2011/2012

2. References

Friedlander, E. J., J. Lee (2011) Feature Writing: The Pursuit Of Excellence. (7th edn.) Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

rnebring, H. and A. M. Jnsson (2004) Tabloid Journalism and the Public Sphere: a historical perspective on tabloid journalism. Journalism Studies [online]. 5(3). Available: <URL:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1461670042000246052> [Access date: 21st August 2012].

Seidman, I. (2006) Interviewing as Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education and the Social Sciences. (3rd edn.) New York: Teachers College Press.

Shaheen, J. G. (1985) Media Coverage of the Middle East: Perception and Foreign Policy. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science [online]. 482 (160). Available: <URL:http://ann.sagepub.com/content/482/1/160> [Access date: 21st August 2012].

Afra Verena Rechmann (95074)

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Journalism Project (V3063)!