Saturday, December 19, 2009
I realised that I had to put my experience as a reporter for a prestigious broadcaster behind me and concentrate on publishing stylised articles for small circulation academic journals. I learned to play a new game. I completed a PhD, spoke at academic conferences and established an online journal. I became a Chair Professor and started supervising PhD students of my own.
In the meantime, my colleagues established and developed the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism to critique the industry and provide training. The Australian Journalism Review was refined and expanded to become a first rate academic journal.
Subtle discrimination against journalism educators persisted. They found it difficult to win Australian Research Council (ARC) grants, discovering that previous success was a key criteria for winning.
But people were asking what's the value of spending all this government money (apart from pleasing the research bureaucracy) if outcomes didn't contribute to more informed teaching or better industry practices?
Politicians were asking similar questions. In 2008, the Australian government approved the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) Initiative to establish a new research quality and evaluation system.
ERA will recogise journalism as research. But journalism educators will still have to play the game, by ensuring their material is presented in ARC accepted forms and demanding that their universities include it in the portfolios presented to the ARC.
The future of journalism research in Australia;
Addressing the 2010 ERA round.
If you are an academic, a researcher or a staffer involved in
journalism (1903) research, you need to attend this one day
conference. It will provide a detailed briefing by the Australian
Research Council on how ERA will impact on you and your university.
There will be opportunities to ask questions, consider how other
researchers are faring and discuss an agreed research strategy.
Date: Friday 19.2.10
Conference manager: Australian Centre for Independent Journalism
0900/0930 Welcome. The journalism discipline in the academy
1000/1200 What ERA means for journalism research. A briefing and
information session presented by Australian Research Council ERA
1300/1400 Successful research models (panel)
1400/1500 Defining a research strategy (workshop)
This conference has been endorsed by:
Professor Emeritus Alan Knight
Professor Wendy Bacon, ACIJ Director
Associate Professor Anne Dunn, President, Journalism Education Association
Professor Ian Richards, Editor, Australian Journalism Review
Friday, November 27, 2009
Writing in the Australian, Hartwich argued that many text journals were written and produced at Australian taxpayer expense, delivered to publishers, who then sold them to a very limited audience indeed. He might of added that the audience usually included the academics own libraries, which then bought the high price journals so that the academics fee paying students could have access to their ideas. Academics should publish online, he said.
The refereed, online journal,eJournalist,which we produce, celebrates its tenth anniversary next year. It has an international board and if you check the sitemeter, a modest but widespread audience. Its connected to the Directory of Open Access Journals which references more than 4,000 journals.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Journalism educators need to think beyond the classroom to serve students facing internet driven cultural change. The first wave of change, online interactivity, is already breaking on once dominant newspaper groups. The second wave, Asia centred communications, has begun to challenge western dominance of international news and culture.
This year I took a group of QUT journalism students to China for a month, to work on its English language newspapers and publish online. Their project, which included research, internships, publication and reflection, aimed to create deeper and more nuanced learning than might be possible in conventional class groups.
You can access the report on this project by going to http://http://www.ejournalist.com.au/ejournalist_chinatrip.php. It includes examples of student work, photographs, opinions, links to published items and the Facebook page which held it all together.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Ferguson, who served 14 years for abusing children, has been repeatedly forced to change residences since his release. Mobs of angry neighbours have attracted wide media coverage which has in turn generated more angry pickets.
Today's report in the Couriermail.com.au goes one step further.
Ferguson sold toys to kids
Adam Walters, Amy Dale and Xanthe Kleinig
September 16, 2009 12:00am
AUSTRALIA's most notorious pedophile Dennis Ferguson has plunged to a new low, conning a charity into letting him sell children's toys on Sydney streets. Ferguson has reportedly been illegally selling merchandise ordered from Diabetes Australia in Kings Cross. Without a mandatory permit and police approval to collect donations in public spaces, the 61-year-old pariah used his middle name of "Ray" to secure box loads of flashing pens, fridge magnets, key rings and a small toy known as a "Buzzy Bee", the charity's mascot.
You have to ask the following questions about this story.
Did Ferguson actually sell toys to kids as the header suggests? Or did he sell kids' toys?
If so, how many toys did he sell and what were they? Was the "buzzy bee" a toy or a mascot? Did he actually sell any "buzzy bees" or were they part of a job lot of items to be sold to make money for charity?
The lead sentence is the story is emotionally charged, using the words, "plunged to a new low". Was Ferguson's behaviour in this instance really worse then than the crimes for which he was convicted, including the abduction and molestation of children?
And all of these questions hang on the word, "reportedly", which means we don't have any proof, but someone else has made the claim.
This may seem like nit picking but journalists have a responsibility to report the facts. There might even be those that thought Ferguson's attempt to raise money for charity might even be an attempt to do something positive, rather than proof of even more depraved behaviour.
Inaccurate or hysterical reporting can only exacerbate a vexed issue which has already generated threats of vigilantism.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
This book like the commercial radio news that shaped it, is sharp, short and perhaps a little circumscribed.
The author, Roger White, is a radio pro, with a quarter of a century behind the microphone. He's currently the State Political Editor for 2UE in Sydney.
It's a labour of love. White said that he hoped it would be a basic, easy-to-understand and practical introduction to the industry. He began his career, not at university, but at a country radio station, 2WG at Wagga in NSW.
"Part of my role as a 'journo' was to walk around town, sitting down for a chat with the local police sergeant, fire crews or ambulance teams at their respective stations, sometimes over a coffee and a biscuit. So much has changed, with networked or 'hubbed' news services and media comment often taken out of the hands of the small town emergency services, replaced by central media teams, police, ambulance or fire 'media units'."
Outside of Sydney, where White now works, deregulation has allowed commercial radio newsrooms to become little more than shadows, relying on news packaged elsewhere. Local reporting is increasingly left to the ABC, which is equipping a new generation of reporters armed with recorders, digital cameras and laptops. These "field reporters" file text, audio, images and vision to the ABC's growing online services.
However, the tips offered by White are still useful. Journalists still need to write clearly, accurately and quickly. They have to find angles and develop contacts. They must learn to ask questions.
This 122 page book is therefore useful to people starting out in journalism and might find a market with bloggers who realise that there's more to the craft of writing than casual abuse. It might deliver better media however, offered in CD format, or even better online, so that the author's expertise in audio could be more fully demonstrated.
But a book like this, even written by a pro, can't begin to compare to doing a university course in journalism.
The best of the journalism schools offer degrees with more than a dozen journalism courses, each thirteen weeks long. Radio journalism is taught through broadcasting on community radio, which is not as tightly constructed as commercial radio, but which allows novice journalists to conduct longer more penetrating interviews. They also learn about law, ethics, advanced reporting and most recently multi media journalism, which folds audio, text, images and animation together to create the future of the craft.
Monday, June 01, 2009
Learning at Australian universities can be pretty boring. Most of the extra curricular activities I enjoyed have been shorn away as contemporary students struggle to make a living and pay their way. "Full Time" students now complain about going to lectures which can conflict with their jobs.
When I was a visiting Professor at Hong Kong University, they reckoned that only about a third of what students learned at university came from classes. Hong Kong University, unlike its Australian competitors, has a student social life enriched by active clubs and colleges. That's how HKU students learn about team work, democracy, running budgets and social responsibility.
How can we make the learning experience not only more authentic, but more fun?
We can create special projects.
Six QUT journalism students (five pictured) are about to go to China for a month to explore Chinese journalism practices. They will be meeting Australian foreign correspondents, visiting China Daily, Global Times and CCTV. They will give seminars at Chinese Communications University.
The trip is being heavily subsidised by QUT as an Outward Mobility grant aimed at getting students to Asia.
The visit has been structured as part of their studies and will include research, work experience and reflective learning.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Writing about foreign correspondents has got me into a fair bit of trouble at times. A couple of years ago, I was foolish enough to suggest that in the age of the internet, many of them were just blow ins, decked out in safari suits, delivering rehashed locals' stories, as they were videoed in front of exotic locations.
Obviously, I was wrong.
Safari suits are rarely worn these days.
In fact the favoured attire more recently, was the combat photographer's vest, which had lots of little pockets where one could stash passports, hangover cures, condoms and other paraphernalia required to explore the Orient.
I saw a lot of such gear when Hong Kong went back to China in 1997. I was there to write a book, Reporting Hong Kong, which considered how the foreign press covered the handover. I spent a fair amount of time, as you would, in the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC), where combat jacket attired visitors could be seen recording breathless voice to camera pieces in the main bar.
One bleary Sunday morning, I went in to the club for breakfast to find it filled with correspondents who were younger, better dressed and a good deal better looking than the regulars. A film crew was working under lights in a corner. Things seemed normal but somewhere, some how reality had slipped a cog. I felt I had entered a slightly altered but recognisable universe. In fact, the people at my table were actors, playing correspondents, making a movie about correspondents reporting on correspondents. It was called the Chinese Box; a reference to realities hidden within realities.
I had done field work myself at the club some years before, recording interviews with resident correspondents and writing much of my PhD thesis in the downstairs bar. I learned that hardly any of the regulars wore combat vests.
Except Hugh van Es.
He was entitled to.
You could impress your friends from Australia by bringing them into the Club. "Do you remember the photo of people being evacuated from a roof at the fall of Saigon in 1975?" If they were old or historically literate enough, they would remember this, one of the iconic images of the Vietnam war.
Then with a flourish, I could say," See that bloke in the vest at the bar? That's Hugh van Es. He took the photograph!"
I heard that Hugh van Es died this year at the age of 67. His wake was held at the FCC last week.
In a media world of made up macho men, van Es was the real thing.
Wherever he may be now, I hope he gets to share a beer with departed friends and colleagues whose photos and portraits grace the walls of the FCC.
Good bye Hugh.
Keep your camera with you.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
State of Play, the movie, depicts journalism as journalists might like to see it. A fearless press (and here we mean a newspaper) exposed corporate corruption, defied the police and conducted investigations which resulted in a politician being charged with murder.
What's there not to like about that?
I saw State of Play at a preview staged by the Journalists' union, the Media Alliance. The theatre was stacked with journos who groaned and laughed knowingly as an initially vacuous gossip blogger was confronted with the inconvenient need to find the "facts" required by "real" journalism. They were delighted when a Corporate PR type was exposed as a cowardly, Cadillac loving shill, obsessed with money and concerned only with self preservation.
They could identifty with a suitably unkempt Russell Crowe, the street wise reporter, Cal McCaffrey, who a cultivated a world of low life sources, slugged "Irish wine" (whiskey) and kept an old photo of Woodward and Bernstein pinned to his wall. I think I might have seen him myself at the end of a bar somewhere, some time ago.
Appealing it was.
But original it wasn't.
The movie was based on a six part BBC series where McCaffery was played by John Simm whose Life on Mars was similarly homogenised for the American market. In the movie, the series' elegant and cynical editor, Bill Nighy was replaced by the blunt and bluff Helen Mirren who, as editors do, swore appropriately and with great dexterity. The distinctly wobbly and compromising British newspaper management became an off screen corporation with its eye on the bottom line. The new corporate villain, Pointcom, was naturally intent on destroying democracy as we know it while taking over the bits of the world that mattered (Washington). No understatement here.
The American version was quicker, tighter, shed more blood, had more guns and was a good deal more obvious than the original. I guess you had to expect that, British and American cultural sensitivities being what they are.
However, State of Play explored the moral dilemmas faced by reporters investigating complex stories. McCaffery relentlessly unravelled the stories' threads, invading privacy, bribing police, bullying witnesses and withholding evidence. He did so while confronted by the larger evils of corporate fraud, political corruption, betrayal and murder.
All in a day's work.
"This is not a story! It's a case!", said one of the befuddled and frustrated Washington coppers.
It was neither really.
It's a movie.
Monday, May 11, 2009
They are both completing Bachelor of Journalism/Bachelor of Business degrees, which Bloombergs reckon suit them for their international business news.
They flew to Sydney to complete the test at the office overlooking Circular Quay in Sydney. The newsroom which is stacked with computers, audio gear and which features a small TV studio, has panoramic views of the harbour. The last time I was there, there was also a huge fish tank with small marine animals that eerily resembled some leading Australian CEOs.
"We were in the newsroom," Phoebe aid later,"So we got the vibe of excitement. They were ringing people up in London and swearing at them for not giving them the right information."
"I'm very excited and nervous about it," she said.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
The Fiji military has put a censor in every local newsroom, according to Sean Dorney.
Dorney who was expelled from Fiji last week, was speaking to QUT journalism students and staff.
Brandishing a copy of the military order, Dorney said that Fiji media were being forced "to buckle under". The military had the power to close any Fiji news organisation which did not do what they were told.
He cited the Fiji Times which tried publishing blank spaces where stories had been censored. They were told,"Do that again and your are shut down forever". The Fiji Post tried humour. They reported on what they had for breakfast as a front page story. "It was breakfast as usual for staff of this newspaper.'I had left over roti last night a senior reporter... told his colleagues!" They were told any more of that funny business and they would also be shut down.
Journalists were instructed to refrain from publishing any news item which was negative in nature, Dorney said. This was called "the journalism of hope".
Sean Dorney won a Walkley Award in 1998 for his coverage of the Aitape Tsunami disaster and in the same year the Pacific Islands News Association honoured him with PINA's Pacific Media Freedom Award. In 1999, the Queensland Branch of the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance (MEAA) honoured Sean with its "Most Outstanding Contribution of Journalism Award". The PNG Government awarded Sean an MBE 1991 and he received an AM in 2000 in recognition for his service to Australia as a foreign correspondent.
Dorney's expulsion prompted more than forty journalists and educators to sign off on a public statement condemning " attempts to control our colleagues by threats, intimidation and censorship.
QUTNEWS Video report
Dorney Speech 1
Dorney Speech 2
Friday, April 17, 2009
QUT journalism staff met with industry experts to review the stream of online journalism subjects being rolled out for undergraduate students.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation Acting Online News Editor, Stuart Watt said, "the challenge is to get them [student journalists] to think how best to tell a story [using technology]" They needed to understand that a story wasn't just text, it was a combination of media. "As long as journalists can visualise the story", he said, they could get experts create the sites.
The Editor of brisbanetimes.com.au, Daniel Sankey said that the term "online journalists" should be abandoned. All contemporary journalists should be multi-skilled; to be able to take photos, as well as write and understand the basics of new technologies. But they still needed to get a good story first.
QUT students are introduced the issues and practices of journalism on the web in Digital Journalism. The subject sought to get students to look critically at existing web-sites and evaluate them as potential journalism sources.
Dr Lee Duffield said that Online Journalism 1 would get them producing material in a blog format. The students would use a purpose built site, Sub-Tropic which would cover events in south east Queensland.
Susan Hetherington said that Online Journalism 2 would develop multi-purposing, creating more sophisticated web based products. the empasis was on re-using, re-purposing, value adding, so that a story ca be told in many different ways.
Final year students would be able to enroll in projects, which might use the web for investigative journalism, niche issues such as fashion and site management.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Soldiers and police have no place in any newsroom.
We oppose the Fiji dictatorship's attempts to control our Fiji colleagues by threats, intimidation and censorship. We call on our governments to seek to protect all Fiji journalists striving to perform their duties in these difficult circumstances.
As journalists and educators we affirm Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
We strongly support our esteemed Australian colleague, Sean Dorney and other foreign journalists who have been expelled from Fiji because they sought the truth in the public interest.
Professor Alan Knight
Associate Professor David Robie
Professor John Henningham
Professor John Herbert
Associate Professor Michael Meadows
Joseph M Fernandez
Professor Wendy Bacon
Associate Professor Roger Patching
Professor Kerry Green
Associate Professor Anne Dunn
Professor Mark Pearson
Professor Chris Nash
Dr John Cokley
Dr Cathy Jenkins
Margaret Van Heekeren
Associate Professor Gail Phillips
Dr Trevor Cullen
Dr Janine Little
Dr An Nguyen
Professor Lynette Sheridan Burns
Professor Ian Richards
Dr Lee Duffield
Dr Angela Romano
Associate Professor Stephen Lamble
Associate Professor Leo Bowman
Dr Willa McDonald
Dr Molly Kasinger
Dr Richard Phillipps
Thursday, April 09, 2009
I started the week by putting my iPhone through the washing machine. I ended it by giving a lecture on "Journalists and new technology" to several hundred IT students. I said journalists had always been early adopters of new communications technologies, but they were tough and testing customers.
I told them about Ed Murrow who pioneered live , international radio broadcasts by taing his microphone lead up on to his London roof so he could give a running commentary of the blitz by German bombers. I referred to the first television war in Vietnam, where film shot by Walter Cronkite's team was shipped back to Hong Kong to be processed and cut before being air freighted to television stations in the States. I talked about my own experience in Hong Kong in 97, when Britain staged its handover of the embryonic democracy to Beijing, as a live, global television event.
The Internet was starting to have an impact on journalism in 97, distributing Government Information Service information and images. I even established a crude proto blog, Dateline Hong Kong, to experiment with the new medium and record and transmit stories about how journalists saw the changes.
Since then, new technologies have swept through the industry, shaking not only its assumptions about itself but also its very financial foundations. The changes started with small and what now seem simple things. A Scandinavian photographer on the China border found he could send his images home via his lap top and modem. Reporters began to not only access media releases but also archive material by Internet. They could contact their editors from almost everywhere (which meant editors could contact them almost anywhere, bringing an unexpected end to the tradition of the long, boozy lunch!)
It certainly wasn't all good for industry traditionalists. Advertising for cars, jobs and real estate shifted rapidly to the web, slashing the newspaper classified ad revenue which under pinned much quality journalism. Meanwhile anyone with a computer could call themselves a journalist and publish globally. Some Americans even started talking about the end of journalism, the announcement of whose death is still a little premature.
But this week, I had my chance to get these young IT people thinking about good gear we might use in the future. I asked for durable software which wouldn't crash at critical moments. I wanted useable programs and web sites which even rum crazed journos could easily navigate. I asked for learnable IT which could lead people to become sophisticated users. I pleaded for cross platform solutions, so that ideas could move freely across the web.
Then I asked them should I dry out my iPhone by putting it in the microwave. They said, "No".
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
The online academic journal I edit, eJournalist has been rated as a "b" grade journal by the Australian Research Council. Does that mean that it is second rate? Not at all.
eJournalist has always aimed to be a "b" grade journal.
We started the eJournal eight years ago when we were working at a regional university which had a limited library and worked out of more than a dozen different campuses. Academic staff needed to be able to read and publish research papers relevant to their teaching. Many of the stuffy, printed journals about communications or journalism, rated their excellence on the number of articles they rejected, not to mention their restricted and expensive publications. Some of these "elite" publications were being bought up by publishers who then deployed copyright to sell academics' work back to the universities which employed them.
However, I reckon academia should be informed by accessible information and the open exchange of ideas. I thought that the internet provided an easy and cheap opportunity to publish globally. eJournalist is an open access journal, and ownership of its articles resides with its authors. If you look at the site meter at the bottom of the eJournalist main page, you can see hits from the United States, India, the Netherlands, Germany and South Africa...and that was just in one week! Some people stay no time at all, while others linger.
As expected, the response from conventional academics was at best, sniffy. At one stage, one Australian sandstone University rated all online journals, irrespective of quality, at the bottom of the range. It seemed they thought that anything that appeared on paper was intellectually superior.
However, prejudices about the web are eroding, even in academia. The Australian Research Council's (ARC) rating of eJournalist places in the top half of all journals, everywhere. "b" grade really isn't all that shabby. According to the ARC "Tier B covers journals with a solid, though not outstanding, reputation. Generally, in a Tier B journal, one would expect only a few papers of very high quality. They are often important outlets for the work of PhD students and early career researchers. Typical examples would be regional journals with high acceptance rates, and editorial boards that have few leading researchers from top international institutions."
That is exactly what eJournalist is about; accessibility, not exclusivity.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
We’ve become a little too much in awe of the technology and not protective enough of fundamental journalistic values, according to Kerry OBrien.
OBrien, Australia's leading political interviewer, presents the 730 Report on Australian Broadcasting Corporation Television
He was speaking to Queensland University of Technology students, after being presented with an honorary Doctorate.
Trying to bring any kind of journalistic depth to an innately superficial medium such as television, had always been a struggle, he said. "...the advent of 24-hour television, the obsession with personality-driven journalism, the endless hunt for breathless melodrama by reporters dreaming of their first or next award, has meant that much of today’s television news is more superficial than ever."
During the invasion of Iraq, "...even the best in the business seemed like actors on a stage, rather than journalists". "It felt disturbingly like war as entertainment. For the networks, and probably at least some of the journalists, it was technology delivering ratings. For the military it was about controlling the media while prosecuting a controversial war."
Dr OBrien said the jury was still out, as to whether the depth and quality of content would be maintained, let alone enhanced, by the new technology. "Never ... forget that technology is supposed to exist to serve humanity; to enhance lives and community, not to help some at the expense of others." he said.
Transcript of Speech
Further Reading: The Hollywoodisation of war: The media handling of the Iraq war
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
It all began with a simple news release. I had surveyed about two hundred of my journalism students and found that while 95% said they enjoyed keeping up with the news, more than sixty percent said they read a newspaper once a week or less."If the journalists of the future don't want to read newspapers, who will?" I asked in the media release.
Australia's Radio National Breakfast show followed it up with an interview. That sparked a series of interviews and talk backs with local radio stations, as well as Radio Australia. The story moved onto the web with the Brisbane Times.com.au and ABC online. It rapidly spread across the globe, getting a particularly good run in India in outlets like the Deccan Post (India), the Hindu and the Sentinel. I was interviewed by a young blogger called Ben Grubb for his blog Techwired.com.au. Other bloggers picked up the story, including Woolly Days, who corrected a mistake made by other correspondents in interpreting the data, which had been repeated elsewhere.
Conventional newspapers seemed uninterested in the story. This was odd because the survey had been prompted by by a conversation I had with the editor of the local daily, who said he wanted to know what journalism students thought about the future of newspapers. I did get an email from the Washington Post. However, the reporter was interested in whether it had been me who made the mistake with the data. When I was able to show it wasn't me, he seemed to lose interest.
However, the international responses continue. Today, I am reviewing the survey questions to produce a "vanilla" version which can be completed by communications and journalism students across Asia.
It will work like this. Academics in Jakarta, Manila, Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur have agreed to be involved.
I will send them a pdf of the vanilla questions. They can amend these questions to suit local conditions. EG One of the Australian questions refers to "community radio"; a form of broadcasting which does not exist in some Asian countries. This reference can be edited out, while the core of the survey remains common.
The collaborating academics will send me an edited version of the survey, which I will then place online for their students.
The results will be compiled centrally and presented in an academic paper I will give at the international AMIC conference in New Delhi in July.
Monday, March 09, 2009
More than 200 first year journalism students this year took part in an online survey of their news reading habits conducted by QUT Journalism Professor, Alan Knight. More than 90% of the respondents were aged under twenty one.
Many of these want-to-be journalists don't read newspapers. More than sixty percent read a printed newspaper once a week or less. Yet 95 percent said they enjoyed keeping up with news.
Their preferred source of news was broadcast on television, particularly commercial television, with at least half watching television news at least once a day.
Online News was their next preferred source with students nominating Google,, Ninemsn and then other mainstream journalism sites. Facebook, specialist websites and Wikipedia followed.
The results confirmed educators' suspicions. Even journalism students are not reading newspapers.
This poses a greater threat to the printed press than the global economic cirisis or the loss of advertising revenue to the web.
If the journalists of the future don't want to read newspapers, who will?
The next stage of the study will involve focus groups of students discussing how news can be made more interesting and attractive to netizens. Parallel studies are being conducted in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore, Hong Kong. and otehr international centres.