Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fiji calls censorship "the journalism of hope"

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

Alan Knight

Friday, April 17, 2009

Multi Media Journalism at QUT

Nothing beats a well written, original news story. But these days a good story also needs to be multi-layered with images, audio, television and hypertext.
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.

Alan Knight

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Journalists and educators condemn Fiji censorship!

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
Lawrie Zion
Associate Professor Roger Patching
Alexandra Wake
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
Jenna Price
Marcus O'Donnell
Tony Maniaty
John Moseley
Erin O'Dwyer
Dr Trevor Cullen
Bonita Mason
Colleen Murrell
Eurydice Aroney
Dr Janine Little
Maree Curtis
David Lawrence
Susie Eisenhuth
Dr An Nguyen
Kim Lockwood
Professor Lynette Sheridan Burns
Professor Ian Richards
Mignon Shardlow
Nicola Goc
Amanda Watson
Julie Posetti
Kathryn Bowd
Dianne Jones
Dr Lee Duffield
Dr Angela Romano
Associate Professor Stephen Lamble
Jolyon Sykes
Jane Johnston
Desley Bartlett
Associate Professor Leo Bowman
Kay Nankervis
Dr Willa McDonald
Dr Molly Kasinger
Dr Richard Phillipps

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Testing the limits of technology

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".

Alan Knight

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

An online academic niche

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.

Alan Knight