Conor Maynard lights up news lab site

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Singer Conor Maynard found himself standing between two Journalism students at Coventry’s Christmas lights switch-on, and didn’t mind at all.

“You’re in a bit of a sandwich here, aren’t you?” asked Zain Luke Ali, interviewing him with Harpreet Dawett for the new Coventry Online multimedia website set up by third-years as part of their course.

“I’m loving every second of it,” replied the singer, who’s been called the British Bieber. “It’s the most beautiful sandwich I’ve ever seen. Maybe even more beautiful than the lights.”

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Click to watch the video

With fellow students Simona Angelova and Aisha Ditta, they also secured a backstage interview with local X Factor contestant Ben Clarke.

The resulting videos helped launch the website in late 2015, along with reports on Clothes Show Live and the Champion of Champions snooker event at the Ricoh Stadium.

Zain also interviewed a survivor of the Coventry Blitz in an extended piece marking the 75th anniversary of the worst night of bombing.

And students secured media passes for Clothes Show Live 2015 at the NEC. Click to watch

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Coventry University senior lecturer David Hayward – previously an editor at the BBC College of Journalism – says is much more than another media service for the city.

“It’s a platform where third year students on the the News Lab module can experiment with new forms of journalism,” he says.

“They have created the platform, designed the logo and livery, created the social media hub, created the editorial teams – the sports podcast team, the team that looks at entertainment, the team that delivers the social media.

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David Hayward

“The audience is anyone who is interested in Coventry. We connnect with them on different platforms, with different experiences. So some will use the website, some will follow us on Instagram. Some will get the information from Facebook.

“The stories of fashion bloggers and the Clothes Show worked better on YouTube than they would on the website. The story of the 80-year-old woman who remembers the blitz in Coventry will work better on the website.

“One of the most important things about the News Lab module is that they have the freedom to experiment with different platforms and forms of storytelling. They look at the latest techniques of journalism and adapt them to suit Coventry Online.

“So they’re encouraged to think in terms of text, audio and video, and also live. They did a live interview with two students who were in Paris, reacting to the terrorist attacks.

coventry online logo
Visit the website

“It prepares them to be adaptable in a media world that is constantly changing, and gives them the state of mind to stay across the latest trends of journalism.

“They also need to approach it from a business point of view. So they are encouraged to come up with business models, and new techniques of communication.

“A team of students is designing and creating an app from scratch, learning the technical aspects of creating an app for mobile phones.

“We have one student who is creating an augmented reality magazine. It’s a paper magazine, but through QR codes and the use of mobile technology it becomes a multi-media experience. So while you read the text, you can then use your phone to scan the codes so you can see video that’s coming from other parts of the team.

“They are doing some good stuff. But I think the most surprising thing is the creativity and the imagination in looking at different techniques, and their ambition is good as well. It makes them very ambitious to try new techniques because we give them the freedom to think creatively.

“But at the heart of it they have got to tell compelling and interesting stories.”

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Simon Pipe is a former print and BBC journalist, now a member of the Journalism teaching team at Coventry University. He also runs an experimental website, St Helena Online, about one of the world's most remote inhabited islands, at On Twitter, when he has something to say, he is @simonpipe

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