Posts Tagged ‘Journalism’

This week I met two Syrian Australians whose son had been shot. They feared it may have been due to his backing of Syria’s President Assad in an argument on Facebook. They’re Alawi, originally from the town of Tartous.  The truth is, they didn’t know for sure why he was shot, and the police were none to sure early on either; it was being investigated by the local command in Campsie as well as Operation Spartan, set up to deal with the spate of gun crime in Sydney. We went to Padstow to meet them. In the screenshot below you can see Jamal Daoud – a bit of a get-around-town activist who is keen on portraying the shooting as part of a wider campaign against Assad supporters. Time will tell.

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It’s been a very intriguing 24 hours for anyone with a passing interest in indigenous politics in this land we call Australia. The 40th anniversary of the tent embassy in Canberra (on Australia/Invasion/Survival Day) was attended by a number of people who vocally approached the PM and Opposition Leader after the latter made some insensitive remarks about ‘moving on’.  Abbott figured that because Aboriginal people obviously have it so good now –  only making up quarter of the prison population, dying only a few years younger than everyone else, suffering, well, much higher rates of trachoma, that sort of thing – that calling an end to this form of protest is warranted. Well, that’s obviously how they saw it.

The event highlighted the vast, vast majority of the national media ready to brand the altercation ‘violent’ (although there was limited evidence for this) and, of course, unacceptable – particularly on Australia Day, Channel Seven’s David Koch usefully pointed out. From the tabloids on the right to the ABC and Fairfax opinion pieces, everyone was having a go at the fact some people banged on the window of the restaurant the PM was in, forcing her security detail to drag her out of there.  Falluja it was not.

But all of that reaction is predictable. What was most interesting is what seemed like the disbelief amongst many media commentators that there could be more than one viewpoint amongst indigenous Australians. Establishment figures Warren Mundine and Mick Gooda were wheeled out to denounce in pretty strong terms what happened – thank goodness! – and maybe a lot of people felt a bit better. But what a shock that black politics might have a Left and a Right as well as anyone else’s. You can be outraged all you like, but please don’t act surprised. So perhaps it was a watershed moment – but only because something finally clicked in a few non-indigenous heads.

Anyway, I wrapped up some of the early reaction in a formulaic but hopefully balanced package today, above.

Since independence, Nigeria has been a fractured country. Multiple ethnicities and languages, and a sharp divide between Muslim and Christian majorities in the north and south. Not to mention plenty of corruption, oil to argue over, dealing with the IMF….yadda yadda. I don’t profess to have ever visited, but I find the whole situation pretty interesting. So with petrol price riots (seemingly?) combining with sectarian violence (Boko Haram in the north, and what appears to be knock-on attacks on mosques and other Muslim targets in the south), I banged out some features for SBS today. First an LVO (unfortunately requiring a little more file footage than was ideal; the agencies had filed very little when we wanted it up by the lunchtime rush), then an attempt at mapping the main events since the start of the year. 

Below, a good old Google Map with an attempt at rounding up what’s happened where since New Year’s Day. Let’s hope this ends well for Nigerians. 

Hacking – or indeed cracking – had been making a lot of headlines, namely due to the commendable PR efforts of LulzSec. But what does it mean for legislation in Australia – where does the law stand, and how will it change as regards hacks? Is the onus on companies to let the public know when data that has been kept has been breached?

I researched, shot and cut this piece for SBS News, speaking to the information commissioner as well as the Pirate Party. Lesson learned, however; it was seemingly too dull and duty editor on the weekend put all sorts of snappy (random?) shots of shuttles and pentagons in. Ah well, nice to get asked to do things nonetheless.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 21:  Andy Coulson, a fo...
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It’s been a fascinating few weeks of politics in the UK, and obviously a great few weeks for political journalism. Well, lots of people pretending to know what’s going on, but doing it with panache.

But there was so much going on, I only recently read about the David Cameron interview with ITV’s Trevor McDonald.

Cameron had been delaying fronting up to Jeremy Paxman and the BBC’s Newsnight, but had happily trotted on to soft Trev’s slot.

I have to admit I haven’t watched the interview. But the interesting thing is the remarkable precedent that was set:  ITV let Andy Coulson, Conservative communications director, watch the interview before it went to air.

ITV reportedly said that no ‘significant’ changes were made to the film. Well damn right. But there’s no good reason for Coulson, former editor of the News of the World, to be watching the film. Other broadcasters – rivals, of course – said as much.

There’s a brilliant scene from The Thick of it, where spin doctor Malcolm Tucker, unwelcome in the edit suite of a broadcast journalist, fails to convince the journo and editor to alter the shots used, and thus the tone of the story featuring his party employers.

But with moves like ITV’s, we should probably be careful that trust in broadcasters – especially mainstream broadcasters interviewing potential PMs – don’t get to a place where they abuse the trust put in them, no matter how big the ratings.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about using the wires lately, and the good and bad that come from them.

In my current role as an online news producer I use them a lot more than I did in my previous role with More4 News, where I worked on longer-form, longer lasting projects.

Since reading Flat Earth News, and having it change my whole outlook and all, I’ve been looking more critically at certain aspects of the modern news media that may have slipped my attention before.

The wires are a case in point. All news organisations rely too heavily on the ‘news’ as agencies such as Reuters and AP, and in Australia’s case, Australian Associated Press, deem fit to report it. This is obviously well documented, but in the online age it leads to cock ups, such as mine the other day.

This brings me to Twitter. I tend to use it as a kind of feed when I’m at work (@SBSNews) but I saw for myself the clear problem of relying on someone else’s reporting the other day, matched with the desire to be first (take that, ABC Online), only compounded by using Twitter.

The issue arose with the ‘abduction’ of children from Haiti last Sunday.

“Just in on the wires: Haitian police holding 10 US citizens on suspicion of trafficking children” I tweeted.  I absolved myself somewhat by crediting it to the agency at hand – but how foolish.

It was made quite clear to me a few minutes later I’d made a mistake.

“Update: The 10 US citizens held on suspicion of ‘trafficking’ children members of a charity called New Life Children’s Refuge”, I was forced to backtrack.

So clearly, no evil trafficking of children for the purpose of kidney harvesting.

More likely a bureaucratic cock-up.

More spurious news organisations (I’m thinking of Australia’s only 24 hour news channel) were quite happy to run with the misleading ‘trafficking’ tag for a few more hours, even once it was abundantly clear, but I’d learnt a lesson: Put your trust in the wires at your peril – Twitter won’t be your friend when you make a howler.

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Lincoln Courtroom 9274
Image by CatDancing via Flickr

Tried my hand at court-reporting today – for the first time.

It does seem strange that these days someone can have been a journalist for a number of years and yet never have set foot inside a courtroom with the intention of covering the goings on – but I guess that’s where we’re at.

I’d like to say I went out of some firmly-held belief at the importance of relaying the machinations of our democratic system to the general public – but I  had to cover a specific case – Betfair vs Racing NSW.

And it’s funny – you can learn all the social media strategies you like, get bogged down in high-quality compression techniques for video and sound, learn to light and frame an interviewee perfectly – but man, without shorthand, court reporting is something else.

The journo next to me was obviously an old (short) hand at the task, while I struggled to keep up. I could barely read my own writing when I got home.

No more technology. Too many strings on that bow. I need some shorthand, a cigar, some braces, a trilby and a big fuck-off cigar. Oh, and a camera with a flash that goes ‘poof’.

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