media of choices

Journalism as a game? We use skills to detect and follow clues, negotiate answers and assemble pieces. We organise but don’t direct, allowing people to tell their own stories.

Ask four people to define journalism and there’ll be more than four answers. That’s the communication channel. The formerly one-way, writer to reader model has widened to allow instant feedback and multiple contributors. This is the era described by Jay Rosen. The audience chooses from several media and their demands prevail.

2014’s journalism students might not vex over digital vs print media. Both exist, you choose, and if print is dying, long live e-print.

So do they vex over anything?

Keegan Taccori is the true believer. He allows no doubt. He loves writing and plans to use his photography and videography skills to share stories from around the world.

“I plan on using every stretch of networks and contacts I have built to allow myself to explore every inch of this world, and get paid for it!”

The foreign correspondence begins soon: Keegan’s other joy is in helping people, and he’s off to India next month as a social business mentor with 40RTYK Globe. His storytelling voice might educate and enlighten his audience. And encourage change.

Amelia Murphy loves the creativity of fashion and entertainment. It’s drawing her to New York, first for a one week visit in the Uni break, then hopefully as an exchange student, and ultimately as a fashion editor.

“I look outside of the box..I would bring a different edge to the fashion industry, something beyond the stereotypical magazine. Something that draws in all people regardless of age, size, profession or gender.”

Some students already have practical experience. Ceren Tabak did work experience with a TV production company in Turkey last year. She wondered if it was a message of fate when she was accepted for study at UOW.

“I loved traveling around the city of Istanbul and interviewing musicians, famous chefs, actors and actresses and discovering the multi-layered culture of the city whilst filming.”

But the glamour isn’t a complete seduction: Ceren’s other degree course is International Studies, and she’s considering whether Economics would be a good partner or alternative to journalism.

Dominique Gaitt was drawn to journalism gradually.

“I began to realise all the shit which is actually going on in the world and wanted to do something about it, so hey presto, Journalism…If I don’t get a job in journalism, I want to work in international relations and will most likely have a blog…to participate in the conversation.”

Breanna O’Neil is studying for a double degree in BCMS and Journalism. She likes the flexibility that her choices offer. Journalism might not be the one, but it’s one of them.

“… I’m hoping I can combine skills…and work in the media somehow. My dream is to one day work for Disney…I have been thinking something along the lines of advertising, or production, or something like that. I want to bring the magic to others just like it has been brought to me for so many years.”

Each of these classmates chooses communication, and their journalistic voices are sure to be heard.



Breanna O’Neill considers a career in ‘Minnie-malism’




Journalism 101 Lecture Notes, Autumn 2014

Rosen, J, 2006, The People Formerly Known as the Audience, article, The Huffington Post, viewed 31May14,



from screenplay to i-mitch



Mitchell Lawrence: Imagining the moving image.


Ahh. The power of the image, in a single word answer.

Why did you decide to come to UOW and how did you choose your course?

With pragmatism: The Illawarra region’s youth unemployment is 15%: the third highest in NSW.  Young people are weathering a perfect storm; with the retraction of industry, mining and manufacturing, and slower development of new businesses there are fewer prospects (The Guardian).

But also imagination: When times are tough, little treats like a book, magazine or movie are often still affordable. They provide refuge, inspiration and investment in yourself. As does education!

Mitchell Lawrence is twenty-four and a first year student at UOW. His double-degree course combines a BCMS (Advertising and Marketing) with a BA (Cultural Studies). But his main interest is writing screenplays and stories.

Where does this come from? What are they about and how do you start? The ideas…where do you find them?

Dissatisfaction. “Movies are a hobby. But I find a lack in most of them. They’re far from finished.” But cue again, imagination. “I read to escape the mundane [and] enjoy the fantasy of a world where anything is possible. This is the sort of story I like to write.”

Mitch’s favourite reads are historical fiction, perhaps set in Victorian England or the ancient world. He enjoys the fantasy and moral challenge of A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), also Tolkien, and Conne Igguldens’s Emperor series, even Dan Brown. “It’s a different thing, but I like his writing style.”

Inspiration or scheduled daily toil? The daily writing task becomes too formulaic, a chore. Inspiration, and to “write until I run out of steam” is preferable. Photographs are useful. A picture of a house will lead to him inventing the story of the person who lives there. There’s no waste either. If a story is left unfinished, he will try to salvage and recycle ideas. His favourite writing time is late at night, when the barriers relax. Then he can explore ideas that might have seemed ridiculous earlier in the day.

Can people be defined by the books or movies they like best?  Perhaps a glimpse. Historical fiction, like other genres, has various definitions. To use just one of these, set the story in a specific time and place, with a foundation of historical events and characters, and imagine the details that aren’t recorded, or the voice of a witness. Then think: What if?

It’s not all just the life of the mind, though. There is the fandom from afar of Liverpool FC – one side of the family is from Scunthorpe; just hearing  the name makes people snigger –  and supporting the Cronulla Sharks (the atmosphere and excitement of the match is always better than TV).

And in the future?  More reading, writing, getting through Uni. Travelling, not sure where, but will do it. Oh. And of course…



“All screenwriting books are bullshit.


Watch movies, read screenplays, let them be your guide.”

Brian Koppelman, Six-Second Screenwriting Lessons, #1 (


curation #2: ethics edicts

since when did the practice of journalism allow for uncritically making shit up?”

(Danah Boyd, Poynter)

Ethical practice for journalists is at the same time solid and shaky.

Fundamentally solid because we’re all believers, but even an undetectable tremor of ambition, bias, haste or exaggeration can lead to a rockslide.

Oxford has its layman definition. Australian journalism has the MEAA’s code. These synthesise into honesty and accuracy, fairness and integrity, and are similar worldwide: Pew Research

Poynter’s Truth and Trust in Media offers advice and information. Danah Boyd’s  message is Do No Harm, telling of her vain search for truth in a scare-mongering headline. The Ethics Blog sees the goals as truth, transparency and engagement.

UC Berkeley’s Edward Wasserman comments on unflagged takings between news organisations: a failure to acknowledge previous work – nourishment of a story  – is wrong, particularly if it robs the credit from a developing business.

Craig Silverman’s Sep’2012 blog about (American) Journalism’s Summer of Sin bemoaned a lack of accountability for plagiarism or fabrication accusations. He identified a dearth of agreed best practice, guidelines and checks. Acting on this, the American Copy Editors Society produced Telling the Truth and Nothing But as a preventative guide.

So how is aggregation/curation different to plagiarism?

The Buttry Diary quotes Andy Carvin, who says that journalism has always been about curation, even before it was called that. Buttry advocates link, attribute, add value as the prime ethical guidelines, and emphasises verification. Online Journalism Blog differentiates curation styles – relay, combine or distil – and informs on ways to add value with illustration and context, and organise with lists.

Mindy McAdams references Jeff Jarvis with ‘museum style’ curation for journalists: sort, choose and display. McAdams advises selection, culling, context and arrangement as vital elements

And, to bring us home: UOW Academic Integrity and Plagiarism Policy

curation #1: verify or be damned!

“Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth…

Its essence is a discipline of verification”

(Pew Research Journalism Project)


For a journalist, failing to verify facts and sources is potentially a name & shame embarrassment and a bad career move. Poynter’s Craig Silverman  – Regret the Error – tracks them.

On trusting Twitter, Steve Buttry advises using sources, checking connections, profiles, timings and images. On fact checking: find the source, ask ‘how do you know that?’, evaluate that source, challenge the information.

Silverman and Buttry are both contributors to the Verification Handbook.

Felix Salmon posted that the need to scoop is the most ‘masturbating‘ thing a journalist can do. Only the reporter actually cares. Matthew Ingram elaborates: The news audience doesn’t care where they heard it first,  but do care who told it accurately.

Jennifer Preston of the NYT spoke to Andrew Fitzgerald about the importance of twitter in breaking stories like the Hudson plane crash, the Arab Spring, and Boston marathon bombing, and maintains ” it’s more important to get it right than to get it first.”

Alex Murray at the The BBC’s User Generated Content Hub describes systems for verifying images and clips that are almost forensic: checking weather, shadows, weaponry, vehicles and license plates, getting expert advice on accents and dialects. It’s a necessity, whether it takes seconds or hours.

Biz Carson flags the potential of Izitru to host and verify images

When to trust social media? Jeff Sonderman applies the qualified compass of credibility, importance and urgency

What are other journalists doing?  Craig Silverman reports on Verification as a Strategic Ritual , a research paper sourced from journalists’ own practices: Informed compromises, roundabout methods and reliance on previous experience.

And should you trip here in Australia? Beware Media Watch and ABC Fact Check.





Verification as a Strategic Ritual Ivor Shapiro, Colette Brin, Isabelle Bédard-Brûlé, Kasia Mychajlowycz, Journalism Practice ,Vol. 7, Iss. 62013


do you hear the beat of a conundrum?

dear fellow students of storytelling,

thank you for visiting

I seek your opinions on a media/journalism issue:

Please make comments on this post.

Below are links to the source articles.

Time is tight:  and if you’d prefer to skip the reading and

  comment ‘in principle’ from the précis below that is OK.

(But if you have the time, it’s an intriguing cycle).

When I have received and clarified your comments, I will synthesise

them into the assignment on another blog.

Almost an aggregation in itself, ja?

The Journalism Issue


Recently the SMH Good Weekend magazine featured a story called ‘Cry, my father’s country.’

The author is freelance journalist Chris Ray. He told of a recent visit by Sydney Journalism student, Reme Sakr, to her father in his Druze homeland, in Syria. She was hoping to convince him to return to Australia. The story is well written, strengthened by vignettes of Syrian life and Sakr’s own childhood memories. The photos illustrate and challenge. It’s style and delivery are typical of Good Weekend and it’s audience offerings (my judgement: educated, broad world-view, not tabloid).

Media Watch took exception to the report: Ray should have disclosed that Sakr was a spokesperson and organiser with Hands Off Syria, and her visit to Syria was mostly concerned with a ‘solidarity’ delegation of Hands Off Syria, Wikileaks and Australian academics to the Syrian government. This mission itself – despite it’s stated aim of being motivated only by the need for communication – received  condemnation in Australia, with suggestions that they were dealing with the proven villains of the Syrian conflict.

Chris Ray felt that Media Watch overlooked valid points. His response letter is published on the MediaWatch site.

The Media Watch critique could be seen to be judging Sakr – the subject of the story – rather than the journalist or the publisher. Sakr tried to respond, but Media Watch relegated her (edited) email  to the general comments, instead of publishing the letter as they would those of a journalist or media organisation. They were also criticised for stating that President Assad is a war criminal, proved by UN reports. The critics of  MW cited UN and other independent reports that showed this to be untrue.

So my questions, for you, dear respondents, concern ethics,

courses of action, decisions, consequences

I invite you to make any comment.

My story grows from your forum like a seedling from dirt.

In the nicest way!


If you like, here are some key words, phrases, points of view:

* Ethical conduct, verification, fact-checking, right of reply, playing the ball, not the man, cultural dimensions, ethnic sensibility, brother’s keeper, apology, clarification, freedom of opinion, democracy

* A freelance journalist with an interest in the middle east pitches a story idea to major newspapers and receives some commissions. He pays for the trip himself and looks after his own application for access. From this he is able to generate at least five separate stories.

* He is later queried about the story by a ‘watch dog’ media show, and answers all questions. The watch-dog goes to air alleging ‘irregularities’ and bias.

* The subject of the story seems to cop the criticism just as badly as the journalist. This isn’t the brief of the show…

* Was is a bad idea not to include a description of why the readers might already have known the subject?

* Or is the story about people?


‘Cry, my father’s country’, Ray, C, 01Mar-14, article, Good Weekend, The Sydney Morning Herald

The spark for the Media Watch flame.

Media Watch: A  Syrian Homecoming, 24Mar-14

(Media Watch take exception to the story, or it’s telling)

Condemnation of Hands Off Syria & Wikileaks’ delegation

Journalist Chris Ray’s first response to Media Watch (before transmission)

Chris Ray’s follow up to Media Watch (after transmission)

Journalist Chris Ray’s report for Crikey

Reme Sakr (subject of article) responds to Media Watch

A 2012  report by Chris Ray on Syria for a USA political magazine




interview with a fellow student April’14

I interview fellow Media and Journalism student, Peter Wards.

Peter is starting his second degree, having decided that teaching wasn’t for him.

It’s  a difficult, even frightening decision to drop out of a course, having just finished a degree,

realisingthat you may never use the qualification or hard-won knowledge

Maybe the Gap Year and European holiday clarified his thinking?

Please take a glimpse into Peter’s world:


university life #2: dine with the ducks



photo 2

there’s no such thing as a free lunch

Young people are often warned when they start preparing for university: ‘It’s not like school, you know, you have to take care of yourself, no-one’s going to chase you for assignments and make sure you eat every day.’

Mostly, that’s true. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Except at UOW, which is such an inclusive and wholistic institution that there are now, actually,  free lunches…

‘UOW Wellbeing is a new initiative to help students like you maintain a balanced, positive life and enhance your experience at UOW. Live like it matters!’

So says the Facebook page, and sure enough, last week a small team of student volunteers camped on the McKinnon lawn, serving a tasty balanced lunch to anyone who wanted to ‘Dine with the Ducks’.

But, warned Cameron Faricy of the Centre for Student Engagement, there was a catch: lunch was prepared and served, but the diner was required to sit down at the tables and chairs provided and talk to someone they didn’t know.

That’s nutrition, balance, mental refreshment and social interaction all covered.

It was so popular that the food was gone with half an hour to go,



university life #1: cycle of desire


a green, green machine: the author’s Surly Long Haul Trucker

Now you’ve gotten into Uni,

how are you going to get in to Uni?

My bum hurts.

I get too sweaty.

I don’t feel safe.

I’ve got too much gear.

I’d fall off!

A f*@*ing nuisance on the road.

The UOW campus is nirvana for 600 enlightened cycle-commuters each day, and Illawarra cyclists have both dedicated cycle/foot  paths and quiet on-road routes. The UOW has a Bicycle User Group (BUG) to encourage and support all riders, and provides cycle maps to help students and staff navigate their journeys.

There are facilities for 800 bicycles, from sculpturally enticing curved stainless steel racks to locked, keycard only Bike-Bases, with showers and private lockers. The lucky serial commuter-cyclists are easy to spot as they exit the Bike-Base on their way to learn or teach: jaunty, smiling, ready for breakfast and unmistakeably clean-smelling.

After all, they haven’t been fuming in a traffic jam, agonising over parking or squashed into a shuttle bus.

Cycle commuting to UOW will appeal to those concerned about the environment, social and workplace health and road congestion.

Clean, green, efficient.



References: (UOW BUG) (Illawarra cycle map)  (Illawarra cycle map)

voxpop #2: if you could turn back time?


Hindsight is 20/20 vision

If I had my time again, I’d…


Songs, proverbs, sentiments.

Maudlin and regretful, invoking three minutes, three seconds or three score and twenty years of revived, regretful recrimination.

Scenes replayed, scripts reviewed and remarks recanted.

University of Wollongong students were asked to consider:

If you could go back five years, what advice would you give to your younger self?

The answers were serious, considered and practical.

Actually, useful for anybody.

And they showed optimism.

Not a flagellant to be seen or heard.

Please, enjoy the communicators:

voxpop #1: what would you be doing if…?

Students at UOW were asked:

What would you be doing if you weren’t a student at UOW?

Excessive soul-searching wasn’t a requirement.

The expected answers?

Oh, I’d need to get a job, I’d be doing my preferred/second choice degree,

I’d be living somewhere else.

Maybe the shadow of disappointment and missed opportunity?

The unexpected, and most pleasing element: all respondents were open and engaging.

No niggards.

Everyone had a good, old-fashioned think, and spoke in detail about what might have been.

 How might you have answered?