Archive for November, 2010

I thought I would post an old film I pitched and researched for More4 News before they went under. I never got a copy of it before I returned to Australia, but one of the featured interviewees posted it on YouTube, so I ripped it.

It shows that private prisons were, on the whole, poorer performers than state-run jails when KPIs were compared.

Apologies for the quality.

I carried out the research on this film – ie, the important bit ;) This was done with FOIs, or freedom of information requests, patience, and plenty of cross referencing to look for trends etc. The film also won headlines some UK broadsheets at the time.

Other stuff from my records:


My FOIs and stat-crunching showed that;

For the last quarter for which there was meaningful data, private prisons performed better than the average for all prisons in only 3 out of 17 categories.

They performed worse in ten out of 17, and the same in four out of 17 categories.

Of 15 prisons given a 4 for ‘exceptional’ performance, not one was a private prison (also under-represented)

Of 17 prisons that were given a 2 for ‘requiring development’, private prisons were over-represented, with two of their number featuring.


The returned FOI also show that public prisons and private prisons’ performance is measured against a set of requirements/categories, but public sector prisons are then cross-checked against an extra 12 categories – so are in fact more rigorously examined – and still performed better. This seems ridiculous – I’ve been told they plan to change this.

Woulda been nice to get a bit more credit…but am getting there these days.

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I recently finished a project I had been working on for a couple of months. I’d been making a film on legislation surrounding the koala, as a way to discuss urban sprawl. You can’t just tell a TV news bulletin’s editor or SP that your film’s about Australia’s inability to plan properly, I thought: you need koalas, too. Well, maybe the senior journos can. But not me. So, the decision on whether to list the koala as vulnerable under the threatened species list was the hook.

The first cut is the longer one which I wanted to make. It goes into some detail. The second one, below, is the cut which actually went to air on SBS World News Australia, where I work as an online journalist. Note the subtle, and not so subtle, differences. I provided a cut  for TV which was at least a minute and a half shorter, and they trimmed another 10 seconds out of the middle. Crudely, I might add ;).   Colleagues in online news helped me get there by suggesting putting some koalas at the top, which I did. How to edit for TV news, I guess.

Other suggestions, easy to spot, include shortening the film and thereby tightening the message – and so the whole middle section concerning some of the issues with koala numbers, nationwide, as well as at a small proposed housing estate near Campbelltown on the edge of Sydney, had to go. As a film essentially about the legislation, in a way it could live without it. I would have liked it to stay though, of course, but it wouldn’t have gotten aired. There is clearly a big difference between current affairs film making and cutting films for TV news.

Some of the shots in the above worked less well, including the introductory shot to Sally Whitelaw, the councillor. As it was suggested that I improve the visual storytelling, as well, I put in some shots of a house being built, and hit two birds with one stone. In the end, I stuck this into the longer version as well. Coming from a print/online background I am still getting better at this element of film making – taking the viewer along using imagery, seeing as they’re not listening half the time anyway! I also learnt not to use ‘flappy’ footage of talking people; I thought the sequence of Geoff the koala rescuer pointing out a potential development besides a shopping centre’s car park was decent (well, considering a journalist edited it). But it was pointed out it contained a big no-no; flapping lips with no audio, and me talking over the top.

It was also suggested I do another voiceover before submitting. But after planning, copious research, shooting, driving hundreds of kms, writing and refining all on my lonesome, I wanted it done – and with the legislation potentially being dropped at any moment, I could not risk another few days. At the time of writing, though, it is still pending. Anyway, thought the post would be an interesting look at learning the ropes of TV journalism from a print, or student viewpoint.

An interesting piece there was in OpenDemocracy this week on Investigative Comment.

Oodles has been written about who the hell is going to fund investigative journalism in the coming years. From my own experience working for mainstream media organisations, it is not going to be easy. That’s why new set ups such as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, replete with philanthropic assistance, are going to be so important.  But there is plenty they can’t do.

Interestingly, the winner of this year’s Bevins Prize for Investigative Journalism went not to a classic ‘journalist’, but to Clare Sambrook, part of a team from End Child Detention Now. They worked on exposing the issue of child detention in the UK, and bringing it to a wider audience.

Increasingly, it is going to be up to die-hard campaigners to bring such information to the fore in a world where media organisations aren’t putting up the same amount of cash to expose information as vested interest groups are forking out to keep it hidden.

As an aside, Sambrook goes on to explain in the above-linked piece as to why the myth of ‘fair and balanced’ journalism needs to be debunked, or rather coupled with comment and opinion writing. No one wants comment from someone who hasn’t put in the hard yards and phone calls, she says, and wholly impartial journalism can only truly be expected in the true sense of reporting facts.

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