JMU Journalism news review of 2017

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Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram; PM Theresa May; Everton boss Sam Allardyce. Pic and screengrabs © Liverpool City Region; Sky News & BBC Sport

It was a year filled with groundbreaking news, and the JMU Journalism team was on hand again to cover events, through our website, magazine, podcast and YouTube channel.

Merseyside voters cast their the ballots in May to appoint a new ‘Metro Mayor’ for the region. A low turnout of just over 26% saw Labour’s Steve Rotheram win by more than 100,000 votes, far ahead of second-placed Conservative hopeful, Tony Caldeira, and the Liberal Democrat candidate, Carl Cashman, in third.

In June, it was back to the polling booths as Prime Minister Theresa May surprised many by calling a snap General Election in an attempt to strengthen her power-base in the House of Commons, and in Brexit negotiations. Her big gamble backfired, however, as the Conservatives fell eight seats short of a majority and ended up worse off than before, with the Liverpool electorate overwhelmingly supporting Labour again.

Meanwhile, Bootle-born leader of UKIP, Paul Nuttall, was forced to resign following a disastrous election for his party. Nuttall was previously in the spotlight in February, after claims on his website that he lost close friends in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989. This was found to be false, and the chairmen of the Liverpool and Merseyside UKIP branches both resigned in protest.

David Duckenfield and Norman Bettison. Screengrabs © BBC

This came after the Crown Prosecution Service began its final deliberations into the Hillsborough disaster in January, and charges were eventually laid in June against six former officials and police officers, including David Duckenfield and Norman Bettison.

On the sporting field, Everton announced plans for a new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock in March, with the full backing of Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson.

It was hoped that the new venue could form part of Liverpool’s bid to stage the 2022 Commonwealth Games, following the withdrawal of the original host city, Durban. However, it was announced in September that the UK Government would be supporting Birmingham’s bid, instead.

Everton, who welcomed Wayne Rooney back to the club, were in the spotlight again in October when they sacked manager Ronald Koeman after a poor start to the new season. The club then controversially took five weeks to appoint a full-time replacement, Sam Allardyce.

Our sports journalism class saw first-hand the challenges of reporting on non-league football when they visited Marine FC to watch the side’s 1-0 victory against Workington in March. Switching from the Northern Premier League to the Champions League, two students made a video diary of their night representing JMU Journalism in the press box at Anfield, covering Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Maribor in November.

YouTube: JMU Journalism

However, many students may have felt the highlight of the sporting calendar was the return of the Journalism World Cup, which saw the record-breaking Level Two side retain their title – smashing the trophy in the wild celebrations that followed.

The Class of 2017 rounded off their three-year journey by attending their graduation ceremony at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral in July, after creating the annual ‘Rocky’ video, shining a light on the group’s achievements.

YouTube: JMU Journalism

On the local news front, travel disruption was a common theme throughout the year. There was chaos as a wall collapsed on the tracks near Lime Street station in March, leaving the station closed for a week, before it was later shut again for improvements.

Strikes left Grand National visitors without rail connections in April as Merseyrail workers continued ongoing protests over plans to remove guards from trains. Arriva drivers were also taking industrial action as they campaigned for better pay, with bus and rail strikes continuing regularly until the end of the year.

The university welcomed a number of esteemed guests in 2017, with JMU Journalism students on hand to interview the man who is now the Liberal Democrat leader, and former cabinet minister, Vince Cable. The Director General of the BBC, Lord Tony Hall, also visited the Redmonds Building in November before delivering a Roscoe Lecture about the future of the corporation.

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The 2017/18 academic calendar began with TV producer Phil Redmond visiting the building which bears his name to give an induction talk. He went on to host a lively panel debate about the possible relocation of Channel 4 – for which he produced shows such as Brookside and Hollyoaks – away from the capital.

First-year journalism students wasted no time getting stuck into learning the skills of their new trade as they soon went out to ask members of the public if they think Brexit will still happen. With more than 100 reporters gathering feedback from nearly 500 people, it was the largest collaboration yet seen on the JMU Journalism website, with an emphatic 76% of respondents believing the UK will stay on course to eventually leave the European Union.

A more light-hearted street survey was to follow as we gauged people’s reaction to the announcement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement.

YouTube: JMU Journalism

There were plenty of public events to keep reporters busy as the year drew to a close.

The much-loved Bombed Out Church reopened at the end of October, before the River of Light Festival dazzled 50,000 spectators along the city’s docks on Bonfire Night. Liverpool’s moving Remembrance Day service was held at St George’s Plateau in November, with our team on hand again to cover the spectacle.

JMU Journalism got into the festive spirit as usual, fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support at the same time. The annual Christmas Ball raised a record-breaking amount, with fancy dress days and a bake sale helping to boost the final charity total to £1,197.

YouTube: JMU Journalism

The famous Liverpool Santa Dash, the biggest event of its kind worldwide, took place for the 14th consecutive year on the first Sunday in December, with more than 7,500 runners doing their bit for various charities.

This concluded our reporting for 2017, and after a short break over the New Year, JMU Journalism will be back in action to cover news, sports and entertainment from this vibrant city.

In the meantime, we would like to wish all our readers, viewers, listeners and followers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

About Evan Fyfe, JMU Journalism