WALKLEY ISSUE 67 AUGUST – SEPTEMBER 2011 $9.95
INSIDE THE MEDIA IN AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
Off the map Tales from journalism’s far horizons Yaara Bou Melhem John Garnaut Shibil Siddiqi Nic Walker Mark Willacy
Rob Mills Seumas Phelan Heather Smith
PLUS Caitlin Cherry Andrew Clennell Leon Gettler Andrew Jaspan Clare Rawlinson Campbell Reid Stephen Romei Laura Tingle
56TH WALKLEY AWARDS CALL FOR ENTRIES – DON’T MISS THE DEADLINE: SEPTEMBER 2
CONTACTS AND SPONSORS
Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance Federal President (Media) Peter Lewis Federal Secretary Christopher Warren Alliance Membership Centre: 1300 656 513 Alliance Inquiry Desk (for all other inquiries): 1300 656 512
FEDERAL OFFICE and NSW 245 Chalmers Street REDFERN NSW 2016 PO Box 723 Strawberry Hills NSW 2012 Ph: (02) 9333 0999 Fax: (02) 9333 0933 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Walkley Foundation and the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance thank the following organisations for their generous support.
Australia Post is a proud sponsor of The Walkley Magazine
2011 WALKLEY AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM WALKLEY FESTIVAL OF JOURNALISM NOVEMBER 23-27, 2011• BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND The Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism will take place in Brisbane, as part of a week-long festival of journalism. In the lead-up to the Walkleys gala dinner and presentation, we will host a number of exciting events, including the Walkley Media Conference, featuring leading international and local speakers. Information about our conference panels, networking opportunities and unique training programs will be available at walkleys.com in the coming weeks. To take advantage of our special accommodation deals, visit walkleys.com/awards
FINALIST ANNOUNCEMENT SCHEDULE
WALKLEY FESTIVAL EVENT PROGRAM
PHOTOGRAPHIC FINALISTS SYDNEY Thursday, October 13, 6 – 9pm Australian Centre for Photography 257 Oxford Street, Paddington NSW 2021
GENERAL FINALISTS Simultaneous announcements in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane Thursday, October 13, 6 – 9pm SYDNEY Australian Centre for Photography
THE WALKLEY MEDIA CONFERENCE – WHAT’S THE STORY? November 25 – 27
MELBOURNE Venue to be announced BRISBANE The Alliance, 16 Peel Street, South Brisbane Other Walkley announcements by invitation only BUSINESS FINALISTS SYDNEY Tuesday October 11
2 Twalkleys.indd HE WALKLEY MAGAZINE 1
TRAINING AND MASTER CLASSES – BLOGGING, SOCIAL MEDIA AND MORE November 23 – 25, Brisbane
DOCUMENTARY FINALISTS SCREENINGS November 25 – 26 PHOTOGRAPHIC FINALISTS PROJECTIONS November 23 – 27 56th WALKLEY AWARDS GALA DINNER Sunday, November 27 Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
7/07/11 9:30 AM
Rules of the game 26 By Leon Gettler With news companies shrugging off full-time jobs, tomorrow belongs to freelancers
Where we were coming from By Jenny Tabakoff Rick McPhee and Ivan O’Mahoney tell the story behind their landmark documentary
Go forth and verify By Jess Hill Using social media to bust through the spin of official sources
Out with the old By Andrew Clennell A change of government can clear the air for political hacks too
Orders in the court By Campbell Reid Court suppression orders aren’t protecting anybody
Caretakers for the apocalypse 29 By Nic Walker Detroit is burning. These images were named “Best in Show” at the recent Walkleys Sydney Slide Night
Farewell the share economy By Pam Graham When NZPA closes in August, it will be due to media rivalries, not the balance sheet
CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF AUSTRALIAN JOURNALISM
Send in the gowns By Andrew Jaspan The Conversation is bringing academic expertise into the mainstream
Tweet and sour By Caitlin Cherry Is Twitter dangerous? For journalists, a tweet can cost you your job
Celebrating the C word By Clare Rawlinson In Mt Gambier, hard-hitting stories can run a distant second to Marg and Barry’s wedding anniversary
Once were headliners By Rob Mills Recalling the glory days of paper, razor blades, Clag paste and steel spikes
Grabbing eyeballs (and other skills) By Seumas Phelan The headline is the start of a damn good read
On the same page By Heather Smith A former Pagemasters sub is proud of the job she did, but wonders why Fairfax is putting so many jobs on the pyre
Want an apostrophe with that? By Jonathan Este Once a sub, always a pain in the arse
REVIEW Shot down in sideshow alley By Laura Tingle The media reacted badly when Lindsay Tanner blamed them for dumbing down political debate
A tough call By John Garnaut Can the Sichuan and Japan earthquakes be compared?
Gary Scully & Rose Kinson
After the wave 20 By Mark Willacy The ABC journalist had to battle his way into the tsunami zone
ON THE COVER
FOCUS ON FREELANCERS
The Australian’s Eric Lobbecke, 2010 Walkley Award winner, sums up the lot of the foreign correspondent
Freelance doesn’t mean ‘for free’ By Jonathan Este When the Alliance asked freelance journalists about their working conditions, this is what they told us
SPOTLIGHT ON SUBS
Jailed girl in Damascus 12 By Yaara Bou Melhem Forget the phantom lesbian. A straight girl in Syria is in jail and may already be dead
An imitation of freedom By Shibil Siddiqi The media in Pakistan are free only so long as they toe the government line
Press Past: faces of the AJA Graham Perkin, Marien Dreyer and Andrew Olle were all card-carrying AJA members
NARRATIVE Kid stakes By Catherine Keenan and Tim Dick Wanted: volunteers for the next generation of storytellers
FOREIGN CORRESPONDENCE FOCUS The end of the World By Jonathan Este The closure of Britain’s bestselling newspaper
In their own words The stories behind the 2011 Walkley Young Australian Journalists of the Year
10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW About literary journalism By Stephen Romei The ungenteel side of book reviews
THE 56th WALKLEY AWARDS
A note from the chair By Laurie Oakes
2011 Walkley categories
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That wonderful sub species
t’s hard to tell from the youthful photo on this page, but I am old enough to remember the days when newsrooms were run by subeditors. When it came to putting out newspapers, the folk with the scissors and glue pot (and it was largely men) made all the most important calls. I’ve seen enough of the changes wrought by technology over the years to understand that nothing is set in stone: I believe the digital revolution challenges everything we thought we knew about journalism – and that subs, who represented the ruling class in the “industrial” era of journalism, no longer necessarily sit at the very heart of the news production process. I suppose it’s possible to imagine a world without subs. It would be a badly spelled and inelegantly phrased world. But as we contemplate the outer limits of what the digital evangelists envisage as journalism (the death of the newspaper article, news conveyed as tweets, stories generated by algorithms, and so on), the centrality of downtable, check, layout and stone subs to the newsroom starts to feel like a different age. All of which begs the question: “Why did the Alliance so vehemently oppose Fairfax’s plans to outsource its subeditors, designers and artists to Pagemasters?” It comes down to this: concern for the longevity of the core product – which is, after all, quality news and information. Outsourcing subediting shatters the creative synergies that operate between subeditors on the one hand and reporters and writers on the other. Some of the most cogent research about the way the business of news is changing was done by Philip Meyer – a veteran and highly respected newspaperman, and former Knight professor of journalism at the University of North Carolina. Meyer established and quantified the link between a newspaper’s quality, its societal influence and its profitability. He pointed to the number of American newspapers that had challenged this equation – newspapers that have now mostly
Editor: Jacqueline Park email@example.com Commissioning editors: Jonathan Este, Jenny Tabakoff Assistant editor: Flynn Murphy Subeditor: Jo McKinnon Editorial staff: Lizzie Franks, Lucie Bell, Danielle Gorman Editorial interns: Ashlea Pearson, Sarah Hazlehurst, Caitlin Lynch Cover illustration: Eric Lobbecke Solicitors: Minter Ellison Lawyers Design: Louise Summerton Production management: Gadfly Media Address: Walkley Foundation Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance 245 Chalmers Street, Redfern, NSW 2016 Visit our website at walkleys.com Advertising inquiries: Lucie Bell 02 9333 0968 firstname.lastname@example.org To subscribe visit http://magazine.walkleys.com/ or phone 1300 65 65 13 Disclaimer: The views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of The Walkley Foundation or the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance.
CONTRIBUTIONS WELCOME The Walkley Magazine, the only forum for discussion of media and professional issues by and for journalists, welcomes contributions from journalists, artists and photographers. To maintain the tradition and be worthy of the Walkleys, The Walkley Magazine aims to be a pithy, intelligent and challenging read, and to stand as a record of interesting news in the craft and profession of journalism. It is published five times a year and guidelines for contributors are available on request.
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closed down. These tended to be newspapers owned by the share market – in American argot, by Wall Street as opposed to Main Street – and whose executives had decided that the best way to manage their operations in an era of declining revenue was to cut newsroom costs. These short-sighted managers took their newspapers into a vicious downward spiral – sure, they had reduced the supply-side costs a little, but the response tended to be falling circulations, less influence and less value to advertisers – all of which added up to an even greater decline in revenue. Since Fairfax announced its strategy for its major metropolitan mastheads, the share price has fallen from $1.32 and is now around or under $1, which would suggest that the market’s belief in the future of Australia’s oldest news organisation is not as robust as its managers’. Company reports usually include an adjustment for “intangibles”, by which they mean intellectual property, goodwill and brand recognition. It’s the quality that subeditors and other production staff bring that add these “intangibles” to the value of a great masthead, along with all the other value they bring to the news process. In addition to all the good things you would expect from The Walkley Magazine, in this issue we have several pieces about the great art of subbing: Rob Mills looks back at 40 years of subbing, Heather Smith recounts her experiences in the early days of Pagemasters, Seumas Phelan talks us through the joys of a good headline, and Jonathan Este laments that a stint as a subeditor has turned him into an irritating smart-arse. Which is the only good excuse, if you ask me. Christopher Warren Federal Secretary, Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance
WALKLEY CONTRIBUTORS Matt Bissett-Johnson Yaara Bou Melhem Peter Broelman Jason Chatfield Caitlin Cherry Andrew Clennell Robin Cowcher Tim Dick Rod Emmerson Rocco Fazzari
Lindsay Foyle Shiho Fukada John Garnaut Kate Geraghty Leon Gettler Pam Graham Bettina Guthridge Jess Hill Andrew Jaspan Fiona Katauskas
Catherine Keenan Eric Lobbecke Carla McRae Rob Mills Alan Moir Peter Nicholson Seumas Phelan Derek Pola Clare Rawlinson Campbell Reid
Stephen Romei Laura Tingle Bruce Tobin Nic Walker Mark Willacy
Thanks to Fairfax Photos & Newspix
The end of the World The demise of Rupert Murdoch’s notorious News of the World is a story of fear and loathing, writes Jonathan Este
s Nick Davies, The Guardian journalist who did most to break the News of the World phone-hacking stories, says: this is not so much a story about journalists as it is about power and how power corrupts. Fear is the enemy of good journalism. It is why, for five years, there was so little interest in Britain in following up Davies’s revelations hinting at institutionalised dirty trickery at Britain’s biggest selling paper. It helps explain the lame excuse for a police investigation, the supine way that succeeding governments sought to curry favour with Britain’s most powerful media mogul, and the lack of coverage of the story in other countries where News Corporation is entrenched in the media-political complex. It’s also a story about what happens in newsrooms when the moral compass is lost. And about what happens when a single organisation is allowed to develop such monolithic power that it can bully institutions that threaten its plans. Hours after James Murdoch announced the closure of the News of the World (and the loss of 200 journalists’ jobs), Davies recorded an analysis of the story he has been following since the initial phone-hacking arrests (of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and News of the World royal correspondent Clive Goodman) in 2006. He contrasted the lack of interest in both the British parliament and the country’s fourth estate before July 4 – when the story was still just about celebrities and political and social elites – and after July 4, when he broke the news that “Screws” hacks had listened to – and deleted – Milly Dowler’s phone messages. Once it was known that these people would stop at nothing – that the phone of a missing 13-year-old was considered fair game for tabloid snooping (as were the voicemails of bereaved families of terrorism victims and dead soldiers) – the floodgates of disgust opened. “The Milly Dowler story changed the politics of the whole story and made it impossible, really, to defend the News of the World,” said Davies. Britain’s Conservative leadership and prime minister David Cameron had, he noted, “switched sides – they’ve switched sides specifically on the question of whether there should be a public inquiry”. And, it would seem, on the question of whether the planned buy-out of 100 per cent of the UK broadcast giant, BSkyB – which had received a virtual rubber stamp from the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt a week earlier – would now proceed as planned. Hours before the announcement of News of the World’s closure, it was being reported that the final decision on the takeover bid would be delayed until at least September. There’s no doubt some of the relish with which The Guardian has chased this story in recent months has been prompted by the company’s fear – shared by pretty much every other media organisation in the UK – that handing News Corp 100 per cent ownership of BSkyB would create so powerful a media organisation that mere governments would quail. The Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, expressed this fear when he delivered the Andrew Olle Lecture in Sydney last August. The phone-tapping stories his paper had been breaking, he said, “raise questions which are not so much about the hacking, troubling as those are, but about how other forces in society - whether it is other media organisations, the police, the regulator or parliament itself - behave when faced with the muscle of a very large, very powerful and sometimes very aggressive media group, especially
one which is keenly interested in exerting political influence and expressing powerful views on how media regulation should operate.” By the time the closure of the News of the World was announced on July 6, the culture secretary had received more than 140,000 submissions, most of them objecting to the takeover bid. The scandal may well be journalism’s 9/11. It is likely to affect the Press Complaints Commission (the UK’s version of the Australian Press Council) and the jealously guarded principle of self-regulation for the press. Britain’s opposition leader, Ed Miliband, has said the PCC is a “toothless poodle” that should be scrapped. Rusbridger has called for the PCC’s chair, Lady Buscombe, to be sacked. The PCC took the unprecedented step of saying it “no longer stands by” its 2009 report, which looked into the allegations of phone-hacking and concluded there was “no new evidence to suggest the practice of phone message tapping” extended beyond Clive Goodman. Neither Miliband nor Rusbridger called for self-regulation to be abandoned, but there’s no doubt there will be increased public willingness to rein in Britain’s notorious red-tops. Early in July Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International and Rupert Murdoch’s right hand in Britain, announced she had hired a law firm to draw up a code of conduct for her journalists. According to a memoir by her former boss, Piers Morgan, Brooks (nee Wade) was talentspotted early on in her career as a Murdoch journalist when she posed as a cleaner in order to sneak out a copy of The Sunday Times so that its stablemate News of the World could pirate a story. Two decades later, Brooks became the story: there were her cosy dinners with David Cameron, the “Chipping Norton set” centred around her Cotswolds retreat, and her recent private-helicopter jaunt to the Glastonbury music festival. Her sudden enthusiasm for journalistic ethics was greeted in media circles with hollow laughter. The speed with which this story gathered pace caught many on the hop. The Walkley Magazine had to abandon a story on the phone-hacking scandal by ABC journalist Eric Campbell when it was overtaken by events just as we went to press. Campbell, pretty much alone in the Australian news media last year, foresaw the importance of the story last year, when he recorded a piece for Foreign Correspondent. Campbell, who started his career on the tabloid Sydney Sun, told The Walkley Magazine he was outraged at the lack of coverage the phone-hacking story had been receiving in The Australian’s Media section. “The only lengthy article I could find echoed the corporation line; competitor newspapers had devoted extraordinary resources to beat up the story despite several inquiries producing no evidence,” he wrote. “Oh dear… The public’s right to know surely extends to knowing that Murdoch’s London papers fostered a culture of criminality and spent years trying to cover it up. It’s a good yarn after all, and as my tabloid chief-of-staff used to tell me, that’s what sells papers.” Coverage or not, there’s no indication that the same moral vacuum exists in News Ltd’s Australian mastheads. Said John Hartigan: “I know, and I believe everyone here at News Limited knows, that the events in the UK in no way reflect who we are, what we do and what we believe in as a media organisation. We have obligations to do the right thing by ourselves, our colleagues, our readers and advertisers, and, more broadly, to the communities we serve in an ethical and moral way.” THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
How to Avoid Being Killed in a War Zone, by Al Jazeera’s Rosie Garthwaite (Bloomsbury, $24.99), is “the essential survival guide for dangerous places”. There’s advice from veteran danger-seekers on everything from tying torniquets to dealing with surveillance, from “feeding yourself under fire” to keeping safe in a riot (smear toothpaste under your eyes to combat tear gas). This book is ideal for the adventure-seeking war correspondent but, displayed correctly, would beef up the cred of any desk-bound hack. There’s more action in Brave: Ordinary Australians and their extraordinary acts of courage (Macmillan, $34.99). Walkley Award winner Mark Whittaker tracks down people who have taken a split-second decision to risk their lives for others – and finds out what happened to them afterwards. There’s the man who copped a 20,000-volt electric shock for a friend and his child, the woman who burst in on a knife-wielding neighbour to drag out his bleeding wife, the man who followed a teenager into the swirling darkness of a flooded stormwater drain… and many more. All have bravery medals, but all paid a big price, from broken sleep to broken marriages. Heroes who rise to the occasion are often feted less than criminals who plumb the depths. The late George Freeman – career crim, race fixer and standover man – has had his Underbelly moment. Veteran reporter Tony Reeves’s biography The Real George Freeman (Penguin, $29.95) strips away the pseudo-glamour to expose Freeman as a nasty piece of work who made the most of nasty times. The rollcall – Lennie McPherson, Darcy Dugan, Murray Farquhar, Abe Saffron, Christopher Dale Flannery, Neddy Smith and many more – will be familiar to those of a certain age, but the way the underworld’s tendrils snaked through the NSW police and government remains shocking. The Land began as the paper of the NSW Farmers and Settlers Association in 1911. According to The Story of The Land: The bible of the bush turns 100 (Rural Press, $39.95), by former editor Vernon Graham, its raison d’etre was to ensure “cockies” had a voice. Within a few years, The Land was a paper of influence and turning a tidy profit. The Depression was a knock, but The Land survived that, plus droughts, flooding rain and the increasing gap between city and country, to remain true to its original purpose. This handsome hardback, full of photos and timelines, is a trip down memory lane. It’s available from ruralbookshop.com.au or call 1800 025 308. Climate Change Denial: Heads in the sand, by Australian scientists Haydn Washington and John Cook (New South Books, $34.95), is a serious attempt to combat the “denial industry” that is hijacking the climate-change debate. In accessible language, it states that there is no longer any doubt about the reality and impact of climate change, breaks down and rebuts the main denial arguments – and, importantly, examines why people are so willing to resist the science. Essential reading for anyone trying to get on top of a hot topic. Jenny Tabakoff
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Photo: Harrison Saragossi
Books worth noting
Walkley Young Australian Journalists’ winning ways This dramatic image of a night out in Brisbane is one of a series that won freelancer Harrison Saragossi the 2011 Walkley Young Australian Photographer of the Year. At the awards ceremony in June, SBS reporter Yaara Bou Melhem was named the 2011 Walkley Young Journalist of the Year for “Freedom’s Call”, shown on Dateline, about the people’s democracy movement in Syria. (Read her account of the fate of a genuine female blogger in Damascus on page 12.) The Sunday Telegraph’s Rosie Squires was highly commended for her undercover investigation into Sydney nursing home practices: she also won the print category. Other category winners were the ABC’s John Connell (radio) and Fairfax’s Asher Moses (online). The Media Super Student Journalist of the Year was Lauren Day, of the University of Technology, Sydney. More than 110 journalists, aged 26 or younger, entered this year’s awards. Bou Melhem wins a trip to media organisations in London and New York, with $5000 spending money. See more of the Walkley Young Journalist of the Year finalists and their stories on page 35.
How the World ended – with a bang, not a whimper After 168 years of muckraking, the News of the World – Britain’s most successful and notorious tabloid – has drowned in its own muck. The end came in early July, when the phone-hacking story, which The Guardian had kept alive in Britain for five years, became no longer about just celebrities and royals. Censure turned to revulsion when news broke that journalists, helped by private investigators, had hacked into the voicemails of murdered children as well as the families of victims of the 7/7 London bombings and dead British soldiers. Cracks had been appearing since August 2006, when News of the World’s royal editor Clive Goodman and a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, were arrested for hacking the phones of Prince William’s aides. A raid of Mulcaire’s home turned up dozens of notebooks and two computers containing almost 3,000 mobile phone numbers and 91 PIN codes, the names of at least three other News of the World journalists, and 30 tape recordings. Goodman was jailed for four months, Mulcaire for six. News of the World’s then editor, Andy Coulson, resigned in January 2007. Six months later he became the Conservative Party’s director of communications and planning. Scotland Yard announced it would not be investigating the allegations further. On November 9, 2009, the UK’s Press Complaints Commission found Goodman and Mulcaire had worked alone. But a New York Times story on September 1, 2010 alleged hacking had been widespread at News of the World: “‘Everyone knew,’ one longtime reporter said. ‘The office cat knew.’” Momentum began to build. In January 2011, Coulson resigned as communications chief at Downing Street, still maintaining he had no knowledge of the hacking. Five days later, Scotland Yard launched Operation Weeting to investigate, after receiving “significant new information” from News International. Arrests followed: first assistant editor Ian Edmondson and chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck. Then, in July, Coulson and Goodman (again). News International had apologised to a number of public figures in April, but the July revelations sparked unprecedented public outrage. Advertisers pulled out in droves. Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take over BSkyB was delayed. What had begun as a trickle of rumours was an unstoppable deluge by July 7, when News International chairman James Murdoch told News of the World staff that the July 10 edition would be the paper’s last. See story page 5: The end of the World Flynn Murphy
SA winner triumphs on air and in print
It’s not just the Walkley Awards that are looming. There’s a run of regional awards coming up, so enter now, or book for the gala announcements. The finalists for Queensland’s major journalism awards, the Clarions, will be announced on Friday, August 12. The Clarion Awards presentation dinner will be held on Saturday, September 10 at the Brisbane Exhibition & Convention Centre. Details at clarions.org/awards/ The Northern Territory is getting its own journalist gongs: the NT Media Awards, awarded in conjunction with the Northern Territory Press Club. Entries open Monday, July 25 and close on Friday, August 26. The NT Media Awards presentation dinner will take place on Saturday, October 22. Visit http://ntmediaawards.alliance.org.au
Sarah Reed’s memorable image of the SA premier Mike Rann and his treasurer, Kevin Foley.
Entries for the 2011 West Australian Media Awards open on Monday, August 1 and close on Friday, September 16. The 2011 WAMA Media Ball will take place on Saturday, November 5 at the Pan Pacific Perth. Details at wamediaawards.com.au. For all bookings call 1300 656 513.
Powerful Narrative and Other Tales from the Future The Walkley Media Conference 2011 • Brisbane, November 25-27 Journalism is here to stay, because people will always want to read and hear great stories. It’s important for that message to be heard above the clamour of a crisis in media and publishing. Journalism and narrative will be at the heart of the second Walkley Media Conference. A stellar line-up of Australian and international media thinkers will discuss what comes next in our industry, and look at the tools and skills needed to tell great stories in the future. Whether you want to learn how convergence and the NBN will affect journalism, or you’re seeking tips from the experts on how to interview or use true stories to propel narrative, the Walkley Media Conference is for you. It’s part of the Walkley festival of journalism in Brisbane that will culminate with the Walkley Awards dinner on November 27. The conference runs over three days, with a packed program of hands-on training, panel discussions and international keynotes. For details of the program, and special accommodation packages, visit walkleys.com/2011conference Places are limited, so book early. Contact Melissa McAllister on 1300 65 65 13 or email email@example.com
Artwork by David Rowe
What’s the STORY?
Nine’s Tom Richardson was named South Australian Journalist of the Year at the eighth annual SA Media Ball, held in Adelaide on May 7. He also won for the best commentary, analysis, opinion and critique for his work for the Independent Weekly, and was highly commended in two categories, best TV news report and best TV broadcaster. Nine’s Tom Hicks was named best young journalist, and Ten’s Chris Camper took out best TV broadcaster. Last year’s Journalist of the Year, the Sunday Mail’s Nigel Hunt, was named best print journalist. The ABC’s Jason Om was best radio broadcaster. Sarah Reed, of The Advertiser, took out the title of best photographer. Her “Grin Reapers” image of the SA premier, Mike Rann, and his treasurer, Kevin Foley, (reproduced here) was included in Reed’s winning body of work. Former Advertiser editor John Scales was inducted into the SA Media Hall of Fame. A full list of winners can be found at www.samediaawards.com.au.
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T H E W A L K L E Y M6/07/11 A G A Z I2:21 N E PM7
Caught out on quotes The power of the blogosphere to police perceived breaches of journalistic ethics has once again been illustrated. Deterritorial Support Grouppppp (DSG), a self-described “ultra-leftist” British blog, recently accused Johann Hari, an opinion columnist on The Independent, of a peculiar form of plagiarism. After analysing several of Hari’s interview pieces, DSG revealed that Hari had a habit of using quotes that his interviewees had used elsewhere – either in their own written work or in interviews with other journalists – and passing them off as quotes obtained as part of his own interviews. Hari defended the practice on his blog and in The Independent. He was supported by his editor, Simon Kelner, who asserted that Hari – whom Kelner talent-spotted pretty much straight from university more than 10 years ago – had never attracted complaints of wrongdoing. “When I’ve interviewed a writer, it’s quite common that they will express an idea or sentiment to me that they have expressed before in their writing – and, almost always, they’ve said it more clearly in writing than in speech…” Hari wrote in his blog. “So occasionally, at the point in the interview where the subject has expressed an idea, I’ve quoted the idea as they expressed it in writing, rather than how they expressed it in speech.” However, many British journalists dismissed this argument as sophistry and accused Hari of a form of plagiarism. Writing in the Telegraph and on his blog, nosacredcows.co.uk, Toby Young stated that Hari had been “guilty of shoddy journalism”. The affair prompted a discussion of copyright – what is fair dealing, and should Hari have properly attributed the quotes? It also unleashed a satirical orgy on Twitter as the hashtag #interviewsbyhari flowed freely with humorous examples of “Hari-style” interview techniques: @MrSamWilson I walked into the room and there he was. Lionel. “Hello,” he said, shaking my hand. “Is it me you’re looking for?” @christianjmay “I remember backpacking with Martin Luther King, and one morning over breakfast he told me about a dream he’d had...”
Whistleblowers hanging in the wind The deadline for the Gillard government to fulfil its stated aim of producing effective legislation to protect whistleblowers came and went at the end of June with little progress, despite a reported deal with Independent MP Andrew Wilkie for public-interest disclosure legislation in return for his support. Just three days before the June 30 deadline, the special minister of state, Gary Gray, announced in a press release that the deadline had been moved and that the legislation was expected to be finalised by the end of 2011. Writing in The Australian, Professor AJ Brown – the acknowledged expert on whistleblower legislation – said this hesitation, and the prime minister’s initial comment that WikiLeaks was acting illegally over Cablegate, were indications that this government’s belief in protecting whistleblowers might be less than enthusiastic. “Faced with the challenges of the new media age, the responses reinforce the need to maintain a clear, long-term vision about the role of public whistleblowing,” he said. “Australian leaders need to hold their nerve and course in putting in place the type of public interest disclosure legislation to which they have committed.” Brown noted that the federal shield laws which passed in March were an indication that there was a commitment at the federal level to protection of confidential sources. However, shielding journalists from being forced to name their sources would not be enough without legislation to protect whistleblowers who chose to take their information to the media. Meanwhile, NSW premier Barry O’Farrell has introduced a bill to protect public-interest whistleblowers. The Public Interest Disclosures Amendment Bill 2011 will require each public authority to appoint a designated officer to receive information from whistleblowers, require public authorities to report back to whistleblowers within 45 days, and to report the number of disclosures made by whistleblowers each quarter. However, there is no indication if the bill will specifically protect those whistleblowers who are forced by circumstances to take their information directly to the news media. The NSW parliament also has two iterations of journalists’ privilege (shield) laws to enable journalists to protect their confidential sources – one version, from NSW attorney-general Greg Smith, virtually replicates Senator George Brandis’s bill; another, from Greens MP Neil Shoebridge, extends the privilege from just protecting journalists working in the mainstream media to a wider range of people, including bloggers. Victoria is thought likely to pass a shield law similar to the Brandis model, which establishes a much tighter range of people who will be afforded protection under the legislation.
Equipping tomorrow’s journalists today. FOXTEL is proud to be a major sponsor of the Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year Awards.
8 THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
12/11/10 2:19:48 PM
Documentary gets its own Walkley This year’s Walkley Awards include a major new category: the Walkley documentary award. The award, sponsored by Linc Energy, is part of the Walkley Foundation’s commitment to long-form narrative journalism (the minimum length for entries is 40 minutes) and will sit alongside the Walkley book award, now in its sixth year. In October, the Walkleys will be teaming up with the Antenna Festival in Sydney for the first international documentary film festival. As well as co-hosting special screenings, the Walkleys will be announcing the documentary award finalists, with film screenings at the festival. It will also showcase the best of the Nikon-Walkleys in a photography exhibition at the Chauvel Cinema. Documentary journalism has a distinguished history in Australia. It can be traced back to October 1896, when Frenchman Marius Sestier and Australian Walter Barnett filmed commuters on Sydney’s Manly ferry. A few weeks later they filmed the Melbourne Cup. Australian documentary making took off. Exactly a century ago, Frank Hurley set sail with a hand-cranked camera to accompany Douglas Mawson for the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. The resulting film, Home of the Blizzard, released in 1913, was a worldwide success. The 67-minute silent film documented the expedition, capturing dramatic footage of explorers battling gales and erecting tents. (You can see clips on the National Film and Sound Archive’s website.) The following year, Hurley and his cameras were off to the Antarctic again, this time with Ernest Shackleton. A new book, Australian Documentary: History, Practises and Genres by Trish FitzSimons, Pat Laughren and Dugald Frank Hurley Williamson (Cambridge University Press, $59.95), is an academic look at a cinematic form which, according to FitzSimons, “really grew up beside the notion of Australia”. Literally. Laughren points out that our first feature-length documentary was The Inauguration of the Australian Commonwealth, shot by the Salvation Army Limelight Department in 1901. In the early days, “scenics” or “topicals” (the word “documentary” was coined only in the mid-1920s) were “at least” as popular as fictional films, Laughren says.
The discipline fell into categories such as newsreels, government information and “industrials” to promote places and companies. The advent of television in 1956 ushered in a new era, especially with the advent of programs such as Four Corners, A Big Country and Chequerboard. FitzSimons says that documentary makers often have a “we’ll all be rooned” attitude, but she is heartened by the recent attention generated by Go Back to Where you Came From (see our story on page 11) and the success of such Australian documentaries as Peter Hegedus’s My America and Mitzi Goldman’s A Common Purpose at the latest Sydney Film Festival. “Documentary is the most continuous screen form in Australia and it keeps on reinventing itself,” she says. “There’s no reason to think that process is ending.” Jenny Tabakoff
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Fairfax metropolitan newspapers may cease to exist within the decade, according to a report by CCZ Statton Equities issued in June. It predicts widespread redundancies over the period. The report blames what it calls “own goal” advertising undercutting: ad rates on online news sites are sometimes less than half those of their print editions. The report, which says Fairfax mastheads would be unprofitable if forced to survive on online advertising alone, also states “a good 25 per cent of revenues would be eliminated if the artificially high print advertising rates were to crack.” It cites a prediction by Peter Cox Media that online advertising will eclipse print in market share in Australia by 2014. In the US, the number of cities with more than one newspaper fell from 47 in 1986 to 20 in 2000: it currently stands at a woeful 11, the report says. It believes that only cities with more than 4 million people in their greater metropolitan areas can sustain competing newspapers (the US has 13 such cities). Sydney’s population is just over 4.5 million; Melbourne’s is about 4 million.
Two steps forward, one back, in Philippines More than a year and a half after gunmen mowed down 58 people, including 32 journalists and media workers, in Ampatuan in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao, the case against the suspects drags on. Although there have been a few recent breakthroughs about the November 2009 killings, these have generally occurred because of pressure from the victims’ families and media organisations. To date only 59 people accused of the massacre have been arraigned, including Andal Ampatuan Sr, clan patriarch and former Maguindanao governor. His son and namesake, Andal Jr, is charged with leading the slaughter. Most of the victims were in a convoy on its way to file the candidacy of Esmael Mangudadatu to run against Andal Jr in the May 2010 elections. (Mangudadatu is now the province’s governor.) Meanwhile, the arraignment of other accused clan members (including another son of Andal Sr, Zaldy Ampatuan, the suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) continues to be delayed because of multiple motions seeking to remove Judge Jocelyn SolisReyes from the case. On May 27, the government was prompted to relieve the entire detachment guarding the prison where the accused killers are being detained. The decision followed complaints, backed by evidence, that members of the powerful clan were being granted special privileges. Perhaps the biggest breakthrough in the search for justice was the June 6 ruling by the Court of Appeals to freeze billions of pesos in Ampatuan properties and bank deposits, on the grounds that these were believed to have been illegally acquired or were used in illegal activities. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, which has been working with the victims’ relatives, has urged the government to move to forfeit these assets, noting that the freeze order is good only for 20 days. In the meantime, the relatives of the massacre victims, as well as some prosecution witnesses, continue to report threats and bribe offers.
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The pen is mightier... Fairfax artist David Rowe was awarded the World Press Cartoon Grand Prix in April for his cartoon “WikiLeaks and Uncle Sam”, published in The Sun-Herald last December. The same work took out the editorial cartoon category, ahead of Polish cartoonist Pawel Kuczynski and Mexican-born cartoonist Alecus. Australian cartoonists have long been among the world’s best. Their humour and power were the focus of a sold-out session presented by the Walkley Foundation and Griffin Press at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in May. The panel, chaired by the Insiders’ Talking Pictures host, Mike Bowers, featured cartoonists Lindsay Foyle, Alan Moir and Cathy Wilcox. They discussed whether any topic was off-limits for cartoons (Wilcox wasn’t sure any stand was “worth a fatwa”), their favourite subjects (Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Paul Keating, Bob Hawke, Alexander Downer, Philip Ruddock and John Howard all got mentions, as did Julia Gillard’s nose and Tony Abbott’s ears and budgie smugglers). The Walkley Foundation and Griffin Press co-presented two other well-attended Sydney Writers’ Festival panels: “WikiLeaks and the challenge for journalism” featuring Andrew Fowler, Kate McClymont and Cameron Stewart, and “Bringing politicians to book” with Paul Kelly, Fran Kelly, Rodney Cavalier and Malcolm Farr. Lucie Bell
Minty fresh A coin has been minted to mark the 90th anniversary of Australia’s longest-running comic strip, Ginger Meggs. The Perth Mint has produced 3000 one-ounce pure silver Australian coins depicting Meggs riding a kangaroo, with his dog Mike and pet monkey Tony in tow. The coin was designed by current Meggs cartoonist and Australian Cartoonists’ Association president Jason Chatfield – the fifth and youngest cartoonist to draw Meggs – with assistance from fellow artists Peter Broelman and Rolf Harris. Meggs was created by James C Bancks in 1921 and now runs in 34 countries worldwide. Events are planned to mark the anniversary on November 13.
Cartoon: David Rowe
Heralding the demise of print
Six Aussies in a leaky boat Ivan O’Mahoney and Rick McPhee put six Australians on the refugee trail and maybe changed some minds. They tell Jenny Tabakoff how they did it. Cartoon by Peter Nicholson
he recipe sounds simple. Take six Australians, with varying views about asylum seekers and boat people, and separate them from their comfortable world for 25 days. Confront their prejudices by mixing them with refugees here in Australia. Add water and stir. Marinate with more refugees, this time overseas. Watch what happens. That, boiled down, was the basis for the documentary series Go Back To Where You Came From, which screened on SBS over three nights in June. Producers Ivan O’Mahoney and Rick McPhee put it slightly differently: “Six people, with varying opinions about refugees, go on a 25-day immersive reverse refugee journey to see if walking a mile in refugees’ shoes changes their opinions about refugees.” The Australians spent a week living with refugees (three with a Congolese family in Wodonga in Victoria, three with some Iraqi men in western Sydney). They then took a boat north, dealing with inundation and fire on board, and went on to Malaysia to share a four-bedroom flat with 52 Burmese refugees awaiting placement. Then their journeys continued: some of the Australians went to live in a refugee camp in Kenya, to meet relatives of the family in Wodonga, before venturing (with UN peacekeepers) into the Democratic Republic of Congo. Three others went to Baghdad via Jordan, staying with relatives of the Iraqi men they had lived with in Sydney. O’Mahoney and McPhee did not know the debate their show would generate when they spoke to The Walkley Magazine during a break from editing it at the office of production company Cordell Jigsaw in Sydney. They said the idea was to make an “ob doc” (observational documentary), using elements of reality television, about an important issue. They wanted to give ordinary Australians “just a taste” of the refugee experience and challenge their opinions. Of course, they acknowledged, in 25 days it could only be a taste of the danger, discomfort, overcrowding and uncertainty that refugees go through – but the effect on the participants was profound. Finding the “talent” was hard. McPhee and O’Mahoney used a variety of routes – advertising, Facebook sites, Googling old newspaper articles, contacting political parties and groups with strong opinions on refugees. They even stood in a shopping mall to ask passers-by how they felt about boat people. From about 400 people, they picked six: a 63-year-old retired disability worker, a 21-year-old unemployed woman, a 26-year-old lifesaver, a 29-year-old aspiring politician, a 42-year-old former soldier, and a 39-year-old singer/music teacher. The producers’ job didn’t end there. McPhee and O’Mahoney then had to find refugees with stories that were dramatically satisfying, whose journey to Australia had involved countries that would allow filming – and who were willing to share their homes with six strangers. Then there was the logistical challenge of passports, travel, and safe passage into Iraq and Congo. (“Ivan was up ’til midnight most nights on the phone or emailing consulates and ministers,” says McPhee.) But they managed to
conclude casting, filming and editing in eight months. Obstacles were turned into advantages. Indonesia never got back to them on permission to film, but Malaysia said yes – a bit of luck given the Gillard government’s later negotiations. “And there’s only 3000 refugees in Indonesia, but there’s 100,000 registered refugees in Malaysia,” says O’Mahoney. The original plan was for the boat to take the travellers all the way from Australia to East Timor. Cyclone season forced a change of plan but that too turned out to be a good thing, says O’Mahoney, because it allowed them to “play mindgames”. For three hours the participants paddled for what they believed was their lives. “Then there was a fire on board and then they were rescued by the coastguard,” says McPhee. “And it wasn’t revealed until they were on the coastguard boat that actually it was a seaworthy boat that had been converted to look like a peoplesmuggling outfit.” What was the reaction when the six learnt their lives had never been at risk? “Disbelief, then relief, then anger,” says McPhee. “And then they began to talk about what the experience had meant for them,” O’Mahoney adds. McPhee, who has worked on everything from Bondi Rescue to Afghan TV talent shows, says his background is in “entertainment and ob doc”. O’Mahoney has more conventional documentary experience. “I had done a fair amount of work on refugees, mostly in Africa – but in refugee camps.” In Malaysia, the participants witnessed immigration officers conducting a raid for illegal workers. (Refugees in Malaysia are not allowed to work – at least officially. If caught, they face the cane and imprisonment.) The Australians watched as terrified workers on a building site were chased down by uniformed men – knowing that among them might be some of the Burmese refugees who had let them share their crowded flat. A few days later, some of the same group sat in a Kenyan refugee camp as their new friends watched a recorded message from relatives in Australia. It was, says McPhee, immensely moving. Meanwhile, O’Mahoney’s group were in Jordan, getting to know the mother of the Iraqi men with whom they had lived in Sydney. The effect on two of the participants was profound. The young lifeguard from Cronulla, for instance – a young man who O’Mahoney says started off believing that boat people should be sent straight back “without a shower” – ended up saying that, were he in their position, he too would “get on a boat”. So do the producers think Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott might learn something from undergoing the same sort of journey? “We can’t wait for them to sign on for series two,” says McPhee. The 2011 Walkley Awards feature a new category, the Walkley Documentary Award, to reflect the growing importance of long-form journalism. Entry details on page 33
Helping rising stars reach new heights. We are proud to support the Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year Awards and would like to congratulate this year’s winner,Yaara Bou Melhem. Qantas is the Airline Partner of the Walkley Foundation.
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Jailed girl in Damascus Let’s forget the fake lesbian; a straight girl blogger in Syria is in jail and may already be dead, writes Yaara Bou Melhem
t was an irresistible story. An openly lesbian blogger living in a conservative When it comes to Syria, we get most of our information from government Muslim police state who is abducted by security forces during an uprising. media or anonymous activists who post reports and videos online. I tried to It seemed to tick all the newsworthy boxes. Except perhaps the most crucial go beyond this for “Freedom’s Call”, my story for Dateline on SBS about the one. This “gay girl from Damascus” simply didn’t exist. crackdown on Syrian bloggers and activists. I sourced information from people Amina Abdallah Arraf al Omari’s blog was represented as a young and I had met or from people who had met people I had met. In other words, gay Syrian-American woman’s account of life in Syria. It contained details someone needed to vouch for their existence and the veracity of their position. about her sexuality and open criticism of the Assad regime. The first postings A process like this takes time and that’s a luxury a long-form current affairs were in February, just before the uprisings began. Then on June 7 came story has as opposed to the immediacy demanded by the online world. a dramatic turn. A post, purporting to be from her Maybe there is no harm in exploring Syrian social cousin, claimed that Amina had been kidnapped on issues through Tom MacMaster’s fictional gay activist. the streets of Damascus. Maybe raising the stakes with the fabrication was Within 24 hours the story had circulated around necessary to get more exposure to the blog. Or maybe the globe through respectable media outlets in it was a disservice to truly marginalised voices in the online, newspapers, television and radio. The online Middle East. Maybe it just diverted attention away from community was abuzz. A media campaign was people who really are in jail, are in real danger and are launched with a Facebook group calling to “Free in real need of campaigning for their freedom. Like Tal. Amina Arraf”. It had well over 15,000 members. Even Tal al-Mallouhi is a 20-year-old Syrian blogger who I was quick to tweet about the incident, twice. wrote mostly about the Palestinian cause, freedom and Suspicions were raised when the photograph of social justice. She was arbitrarily detained for almost Amina from Damascus, Syria turned out to be Jelena a year before finally being charged with being a spy for Lecic from London, Britain. That in itself does not the United States in February. make a blogger less real. I have dealt with many online Tal’s case was reported by many international media activists working within Syria who use aliases and fake outlets. Journalism groups have demanded her release photographs. It’s more acceptable to hide your identity and Syrian activists have lobbied her cause. But it’s safe when living in a police state. There’s no need to make to say that the fake lesbian blogger from Damascus the jobs of secret police that easy. And there was no became more well-known in a week than the straight reason to believe that Amina wasn’t real. The discussion conservative blogger who has been in detention for about whether she existed at all only became relevant almost 18 months. when people tried to find her. At the time of writing, fears have been raised that What really triggered alarm bells was the lack of Tal al-Mallouhi died in detention in May. Reports people who would come forward and say they had met questioning if she is still alive emerged after the head Amina – the lack of family members and friends, within of a Middle Eastern human rights group told an Syria and outside Syria. Even the US State Department Egyptian daily that a Syrian judge said the blogger Missing Syrian blogger Tal al-Mallouhi was looking to clarify her citizenship. Journalists began had died as a result of torture while in prison. questioning her existence more and more. Journalism and human rights groups are calling on A post in a chat forum was Tom MacMaster’s the Syrian government to produce evidence of undoing. As Amina, he posted his Georgia address on “The Crescentland” her health and wellbeing. From my desk in Sydney, I have not been able to Yahoo message group. Only, on checking, journalists found the address independently verify these claims. registered to a Tom MacMaster rather than an Amina Araf. It is fitting that It would be a devastating blow to real tweeters, bloggers and cyber activists a Middle Eastern news site called Electronic Intifada made the link between from countries like Syria if the international media shied away from sourcing MacMaster and the blog first. The Washington Post, too, was hot on his heels. material from them because of incidents like the Amina hoax. It would be Some 12 hours after Electronic Intifada revealed his name on its website, a blow both to those trying to get the information out and those trying to MacMaster posted a confession on the Amina blog. accurately report it. There will always be frauds but that doesn’t mean we In less than a week of the story breaking, the fraud was revealed. The Syrian should be wary to the point of punishing the genuine. And let’s not forget the lesbian blogger was really a 40-year-old American married man. It’s not less tantalising stories such as Tal’s; the ones truly in need of reporting. surprising that we were fooled. This saga demonstrates how difficult it is to establish what is actually going on in Syria at a time when foreign journalists Yaara Bou Melhem is a broadcast journalist with SBS working primarily across are not allowed to freely report there and when the government is engaged in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions. She won the Walkley Young Journalist a brutal crackdown on the uprising. of the Year award in June for “Freedom’s Call”.
ANZCA MEDIA AWARD 2011
$5000 PRIZE FOR THE BEST NEWS STORY OR FEATURE ON ANAESTHESIA OR PAIN MEDICINE
12 T H E W A L K L E Y M A G A Z I N E
The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) and the Faculty of Pain Medicine will award $5000 for the best news story or feature on anaesthesia or pain medicine in 2011. Open to print, television, radio or online journalists in Australia and New Zealand. See www.anzca. edu.au/news/media-centre for more details.
Go forth and verify When official sources say something, a journalist’s job isn’t only to report it, it’s to check that it’s true. Jess Hill explains how she uses social media to track what has really been happening with the Middle East uprisings. Cartoon by Jason Chatfield
he sun was just rising in Bahrain, but already many Bahrainis were day, these people alert us to breaking news, send information, help with finding on the streets. Saudi forces had crossed the causeway into the tiny eyewitnesses and contacts, and more. We can also find articulate, English-speaking Gulf state the day before, invited by the king of Bahrain to “protect experts from almost every country, who can give us a local perspective on issues. Bahraini citizens”. Collaborating with people on social media is basically the same as working I was glued to Twitter. I’d been communicating with pro-democracy protesters a beat. To begin with, you need to establish sources and get to know them. On on social media since protests had started in February. Those protesters had Twitter, I got started by introducing myself to people who appeared influential camped for weeks at Pearl Roundabout. That morning in March, Saudi and and reliable – human rights activists, journalists, bloggers and committed local Bahraini forces were planning to confront them. citizens. Then I began following them closely and communicating with them All of a sudden, tweets, with photos, appeared in a rush. “Help us!” tweeted one regularly, adding lesser-known sources they were talking to. activist. Then, “They are shooting everyone. It’s going to be a massacre.” As with any source relationship, you need to earn their trust. I do this by keeping One activist, a photographer, was rapidly posting photos of the confrontation. in touch with people, and feeding information back into the network. For example, I tweeted him and he sent me his phone number. When I called, he was running back in March, when The World Today discovered that two senior Bahraini along the highway, with the sound of gunshots in the background. opposition figures had been arrested during the night, I posted that information I shouted for Mark Colvin to come into the studio. immediately on Twitter and fielded questions on what “They have fired machine-gun rounds at us,” he told we knew about the arrests. Our account attracted Mark. “That’s another shot right now. Can you hear it?” about 100 Bahraini followers that morning, many The government-run Bahrain News Agency had a of whom have fed us information ever since. different take. That day, it announced that Bahraini forces I also help other journalists looking for information had evacuated the “outlaws” from Pearl Roundabout in and contacts on Twitter, and have developed an operation that ensured “the safety of all”. relationships with reporters all over the world. This time, however, the truth had already got halfway This collaboration occurs daily on a range of around the world before the lie could get its boots on. projects. When I heard that Media Watch was looking This is a changing of the guard for reporting. for the origin of a video that Reuters had sourced Journalists have long relied on “official” and “expert” through social media, I asked my network to look into sources for the bulk of their reporting. Too often, verified it. Within five minutes, I had a response from Lebanese sources have their information reported in the media as activist @TrellaLB, who posted a link to the original “verified” before anyone can check or challenge it. video on YouTube. Reuters (and by association, SBS When journalists complain that social media’s biggest and ABC News 24) had got it wrong – the footage of problem is verification, I think they miss the point. The security forces beating up protesters wasn’t from Syria, biggest problem for journalism itself is verification, and it was from Lebanon, and the video was three years old. it stems directly from what the mainstream media has Working with people on social media is certainly come to accept as verified information. not straightforward. There are serious verification This uncritical broadcasting of official lines has challenges to grapple with. Triangulation is key. If you contributed to the public’s mistrust of the news. see something newsworthy on Twitter, check to see if Armies of academics have analysed the media’s failure anyone else is reporting it. If not, proceed only with to question the reasons for going into Iraq. But have extreme caution, and request evidence to support the we learnt our lesson? Even after official sources are claim (photos, videos, etc). Social media, used proven to have wilfully misled the media, we continue Don’t ever conduct interviews via email if you systematically, is one of to publish their statements as “verified”. On several haven’t made phone contact first. The Guardian the best verification tools occasions, NATO spokespeople have knowingly published email interviews with the Syrian “Gay Girl announced civilian deaths as militant deaths. How in Damascus” without establishing contact over the journalists have ever had many times does this have to happen before we start phone. Later, that Syrian lesbian blogger turned out publishing their reports as “unverified”? Ditto for to be Tom MacMaster, a middle-aged American man government spokespeople the world round. Where do we draw the line? living in Scotland. If they can’t speak to you by phone or Skype, don’t report it. After all, verifying a source is just the first step. It’s the information that matters. Anonymous sources are another challenge. Many of our Arab contacts insist on It’s our job to interrogate the official line – not simply relay it. Social media, used being anonymous (in countries like Libya and Syria, international phone calls are systematically, is one of the best verification tools journalists have ever had. often monitored). In these cases, I focus on verifying their information. After all, On platforms like Twitter and Facebook, journalists can now double-check what difference does it make if you know their name is Mohammed? statements from official sources with the help of thousands of people all over the As journalists, our first obligation is to the truth. We should approach all world, from the mountains of Pakistan to the villages of the West Bank. These sources with scepticism. By verifying official lines using tools like Twitter, we put citizens are publishing videos, photos and eyewitness accounts from events as they spokespeople on notice: lie, and you’ll be found out. happen, before government spokespeople get a chance to put their spin on them. Social media is paving the way for a better kind of journalism – one that At ABC Radio Current Affairs, we started collaborating with people on Twitter doesn’t lecture its audience, but includes them in the process. By collaborating the day the revolution began in Libya. With the help of Libyan expats, we located with people online, we can make our work more transparent, more trustworthy and contacted an eyewitness in Benghazi who provided one of the first reports and, ultimately, more truthful. that Gaddafi was using African mercenaries against the Libyan people. Since then, we have developed extensive networks with people on Twitter, Jess Hill is an ABC Radio producer Facebook and YouTube in countries across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Every Jason Chatfield is president of the Australian Cartoonists’ Association
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Out with the old Andrew Clennell knows that a change of government can clear the cobwebs for political hacks, too – just don’t expect a honeymoon. Cartoon by Alan Moir
SW premier Barry O’Farrell and his team were in an ecstatic mood. They had won a thumping majority (69 seats to 20 in the lower house), and appeared set for the sort of honeymoon you rarely get in politics. But when O’Farrell decided to put his potential future leadership rival, Mike Baird, at number 11 on the Cabinet list, when you’d expect the state’s new treasurer to be listed second or third, it raised alarm bells for me. When I texted one of O’Farrell’s flaks for where I could find the administrative orders to see which ministers were in charge of which Acts, he replied sarcastically that it was not a story that he imagined my publication, The Daily Telegraph, would be interested in. I finally got hold of the orders on the relevant website without his help, and discovered that an extraordinary 40 or so Acts had been taken from the responsibility of the treasurer and given to the finance minister, Greg Pearce. As I made calls through the parliament and bureaucracy, more and more people expressed consternation at the changes. Party sources accused O’Farrell of “insecurity” in demoting Baird. One said: “I didn’t think there was anything [tension between the two] there, but Barry’s making something there.” The splash in the next day’s Daily Telegraph led to government silence, partially thanks to a brilliant headline of “Buried Treasurer”. Suddenly, the honeymoon for O’Farrell was over – nine days after he won the biggest swing in NSW electoral history. They say O’Farrell and Baird’s relationship has never been the same since. A couple of weeks later the same thing happened with the curious case of new Rockdale Liberal MP John Flowers – another story broken by the Telegraph. I was able to reveal that the government was going to have to change the law to allow Flowers to remain sitting in parliament, because he was in receipt of a disability pension from his time as a teacher. The state constitution prohibits someone on such a pension – an “office of profit under the crown” from sitting in parliament. It was another devastating hit on the government – they would have to pass a regulation, even before parliament sat, to avoid a by-election. Suddenly, having given the Coalition in opposition such joy in pursuing – and occasionally even scalping – Labor ministers, I had become the thorn in their side. The poacher becomes the gamekeeper or perhaps, the gamekeeper becomes the poacher. And the guys who in opposition often worked with media to hold the government to account were themselves deploying the mean and tricky tactics they used to accuse the other mob of.
In many ways a change-of-government election is the sort of change every political reporter hopes for. Some spend almost half their career waiting for it, given we have recently had federal and state governments who have lasted more than a decade. And it’s a strange feeling. Because in some ways you feel you know more about how government works than the new government does. Through the pure hectic nature of government, the relationships with opposition people are generally going to be stronger. So the hope is you will be able to translate all these into those great yarns in government. I recently had this experience in NSW – but it was not as smooth sailing as I thought. Unlike other changeof-government elections at the federal level, the starkest element of it all was the sheer number of MPs changing. Forty-five new faces in a lower house of 93 MPs. So while you would think things would be easier, in some ways, the job is harder. A lot of contacts just fly out the door. Getting out to establish connections with all the new MPs and bureaucrats is a challenge. The other thing is NSW Labor was so divided and scandal-ridden that leaks had never been so easy to get as in that last four years in office. While Bob Carr and his staff kept a tight control on his caucus until 2005, things had fallen apart in the past term of government like you wouldn’t believe. Ministers would call you to slag off a colleague or a government policy. But now, with a thumping majority, the opportunity is there for O’Farrell to shut things down. The sheer force of the majority and the promise of longevity in power allows political leaders and staffers to enforce a degree of fear within the administration, shutting off leaks. And the ministers aren’t used to criticism and scrutiny. Suddenly, where Labor caucus used to leak like a sieve, trying to find out what happened in the Coalition party room just takes that much longer. But although some might argue the pace of change could be even quicker under the O’Farrell government, there can be no denying Macquarie Street has more of a buzz about it: things are happening, as opposed to the three years of paralysis of the last state government. Despite the obstacles, a new government can be great – not only for the public, but also for the journo. Andrew Clennell is state political editor of The Daily Telegraph Alan Moir is a cartoonist for The Sydney Morning Herald
PUBLIC AFFAIRS IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL The landscape of communication is changing fast as new digital tools and techniques revolutionise the way we interact with each other and with information. Key Topics
• The leadership vacuum – whose fault is it anyway? We pit pollies against journos to argue the toss
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September 5 – 6 National Convention Centre ACT
Speakers include: • Senator Kate Lundy • Prof John McMillan, Aust Information Commissioner • Malcolm Farr, news.com.au • Sandi Logan, Department of Immigration and Citizenship • Tom Burton, ACMA
• How to get the best out of your new comms tools
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• Case study: crisis management. The experts involved dissect the response to the Queensland floods
Full program at walkleys.com/publicaffairs
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Orders in the court Court suppression orders aren’t protecting anybody, says Campbell Reid. Illustration by Bettina Guthridge
“I demand photographic representation”
sk any Australian if they live in a free society and they would answer yes. We know in our hearts they are not wrong… But is Australia as free as it could or should be? The answer is no. To find examples of how press freedoms are at risk in Australia I have only to look at my email inbox. There isn’t a day that I don’t see a court notice to take down a story from one of our websites or flag it with a legal alert in our archives. Some days, I watch a blizzard of these “take down” notices scroll across my screen. But according to the president of the NSW Law Society, this welter of suppression orders relates to only a minority of cases. I guess it depends on what you think the word “minority” means. Last year we faced more than 500 cases that were subject to suppression orders – 270 in Victoria alone. Our best guess is that at any one time there are about 1000 suppression orders that prevent some form of reporting or other. But no-one really knows. Some courts won’t reveal how many there are. In NSW, no official register is kept by any court. In May 2010, The Weekend Australian pulped 70,000 copies of its magazine because a judge believed a jury hearing a murder trial in Melbourne would be influenced by an article about an unrelated murder in South Australia. In February this year, my boss John Hartigan gave a speech on courts and the media in the digital age. In it, he argued that the integrity and independence of courts and the media can only be upheld when they are open to full scrutiny.
“The capacity of journalists to reduce to a very confined form the salient points of a case and the reasons for a judge’s decision is often astounding” The public, he said, has a right to understand – and witness for themselves – the laws that govern them. Not so, says the NSW Law Society. Responding a week later its president, Stuart Westgarth, argued that allowing TV crews and digital media into courtrooms wouldn’t necessarily help the public understand the legal system – but might actually make things worse. He also said: “Judges and lawyers are highly trained specialists in legal proceedings. The nuances of criminal and civil proceedings may generate confusion in the general public if unexplained.” An obvious response would be to suggest that if judges and lawyers can understand complex legal issues, perhaps they can also learn how to communicate in plain English. The Law Society president went on to say that suppression orders and takedown orders are used to protect society and people’s rights. Clearly he had Tony Mokbel in mind. I have a different view. The suppression orders in the case of the now-convicted gangster and drug trafficker Tony Mokbel should be seen as the high point in suppression lunacy. Justin Quill, lawyer for The Herald and Weekly Times, wrote on April 20 after Mokbel was convicted: “Well, the secret is finally out. Tony Mokbel is a crook. But you knew that, right?” When Mokbel pleaded guilty, 23 suppression orders that had shrouded his trial in secrecy were lifted. In total, more than 40 orders had been made in relation to the trial. Mokbel’s name had not appeared in print in Victoria for two years. Episodes of Underbelly were recut so that potential jurors in Victoria didn’t see a fictional account of what they already knew to be fact. At the core of this fixation with suppression orders in Australian courts is a fundamental belief that people selected for juries are unable to distinguish between evidence presented in court and information available from other sources.
But as Justin Quill pointed out – at the time when Mokbel’s notoriety was at its peak, just after his capture in Greece – he was acquitted of a murder. Proof, surely, that the jury acted on the evidence before it and not what it may have gleaned from the media. If the NSW Law Society president wants the public to understand the nuances of the law or the complexities of a case, then court proceedings should be truly open. • Transcripts should be available on the same day. • There should be a live or near-live feed of proceedings on the internet. It worked in the C7 case and didn’t seem to corrupt the process or the judgment. • Reporters should have same-day access to court files, exhibits and affidavits, especially when they are referred to in open court during cross-examination. Some judges allow this, but most don’t. Some court registrars require written requests from reporters – and then say no. In other instances, court documents will only be provided in person. No faxing, no emailing, no Australia Post. Illustrators with a box of paints no longer belong in courtrooms. TV and still cameras do – but obviously with some rules, so that vulnerable witnesses are properly protected. I much prefer the attitude of Victoria’s chief justice, Marilyn Warren. In April last year she said: “The capacity of journalists to reduce to a very confined form the salient points of a case and the reasons for a judge’s decision is often astounding.” Now that’s what I call a verdict. In 2008, the federal attorney-general proposed a new national register of suppression orders. The concept was approved last year – two years later – and a working group has now been established but nothing has emerged yet – three years later. The real issue isn’t that it has taken three years to set up a register and we still don’t have one. The issue is we need far fewer suppression orders. So it’s time to step up the pressure. Again. In the converged media space, digital platforms, television broadcasters, newspapers, radio networks and the ubiquitous Harvard dropouts in a garage compete for the same eyeballs. But they aren’t governed by the same rules. Why should traditional media or big media be held to a different standard than new media? Professionally researched reporting is being censored off websites because it might prejudice a jury, but bloggers are free to post hate pages online. I am not proposing we find new ways to torture ourselves into compliance as we expand onto new platforms. The information dam has burst and no amount of rearguard regulation is going to stop the torrent already engulfing public life. The warning is this: if legislators and the judiciary only restrict professional media, then amateur media will fill the vacuum. Campbell Reid is group editorial director of News Limited. This is an edited extract of his address to the Australian Press Freedom dinner in Sydney on April 29 Thanks to Bettina Guthridge for allowing us to mess with her court illustration of Tony Mokbel
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Farewell the share economy When NZPA closes in August, it will be due to media rivalries, not the balance sheet. Pam Graham offers her view on the demise of a journalistic institution. Cartoon by Fiona Katauskas
hen NZPA closes on August 31, 2011, after more than 130 years as the national news agency for New Zealand, many people will say it’s due to the irrelevance of a fuddy-duddy news organisation in the digital world. Others will talk of the inappropriateness of a cooperative business model in a competitive world. But for NZPA staff, our best guess is that it’s the result of industry politics. The New Zealand newspaper business has high barriers to entry because printing presses are expensive and distribution is difficult. With NZPA, papers agreed to copy-share stories of national interest from their own region to NZPA, in return for getting similar stories from other mastheads. It allowed stories from one end of the country to run in a newspaper at the other end. NZPA also fed international stories to newspapers from wire services such as Reuters, AAP, AP and AFP. NZPA started life as a cooperative owned by independent New Zealand newspapers, but by the end all except a few – the Otago Daily Times, Gisborne Herald, Ashburton Guardian, Greymouth Star and Westport News – were owned by Australia-based companies, either Fairfax Media or APN News & Media. Each time a newspaper was acquired by these two groups, or by Fairfax’s predecessor Independent Newspapers Ltd, New Zealand’s Commerce Commission took the view that the media market was wider than just newspapers and allowed the acquisitions. For a time there was an uneasy truce, as one-by-one newspapers were added to the Fairfax and APN stables. And even though newspapers are said to be dying, Fairfax and APN have posted about 7 per cent profit growth in their New Zealand publishing businesses in a difficult economic environment. In good times they often did double-digit profit growth. Financially, they have been doing fine. But the gloves came off in late 2004 when APN started the Herald on Sunday, in competition with Fairfax’s Sunday Star-Times and Sunday News. In retribution, Fairfax papers stopped sending their stories to NZPA for recirculation and so-called copy-sharing ended. Instead of using outside content, NZPA wrote all its own stories – it had been doing this a lot already in some areas because the newspapers were tardy in sending copy – and it also sold the “wire”, or output, to third parties. I am not privy to the NZPA budget but back in 2007, before a round of cutbacks, the organisation had annual expenses of about NZ$6 million, which included NZ$1 million for international wire services. It does not seem a lot of money compared to the cost of state-funded public broadcasting. NZPA was once a part-owner of the global news agency Reuters. After Reuters transformed from a co-operative into a listed company, NZPA’s shares were sold and the gain was booked by NZPA’s newspaper owners. If the Reuters shares had been kept they could have been a source of funding for NZPA. NZPA’s properties in London and Sydney were also sold and the London, Washington DC and Hong Kong offices closed. At NZPA we just write news. Lobbyists leave us alone because we don’t take sides. We don’t have the frustration of filling a big paper when there is little news or squashing a lot of news into a small paper. Everything gets a run. We chuckle in the office when an Auckland-based newspaper writes about the consequences of the Christchurch earthquake for road funding in Auckland, and marvel that Fairfax can put eight bylines on a story. And we wait for someone on a live cross on television to say something interesting. We pop into courts and select committees, and hang around for every sitting minute of parliament. We swoop on every sport, and carpet bomb papers with our broad-based coverage. But we also do too many “pick ups” of other media’s work and turn around press statements. We are a mix of old hacks and bright young things. It is a shift-based, 24-hour shop, and a flexible employer with many women sharing jobs. More than 60 people turned up at an NZPA “old fogeys” lunch recently where they told stories about the days of teleprinters, shifts spent at the pub
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At NZPA we just write news. Lobbyists leave us alone because we don’t take sides and victories and losses in the media game. A lot of former NZPA staff members have had successful careers elsewhere, but many people also spent the majority of their working lives with NZPA because it was a good employer which offered interesting work. NZPA is a value-for-money news operation with good values. It is a bit of a news backwater with no front page. Strategically, however, it is in no man’s land. Digital platforms are the future. They have low barriers to entry, which is a game changer, even though the players are still trying to figure out how to make money. NZPA’s owners are now competing online against each other and all comers, including TVNZ and Radio New Zealand and media entrepreneurs. Fairfax seems to no longer want to be a member of a cooperative producing content for competitors’ websites. They said publicly that NZPA is no longer giving them what they want, but we hear on the grapevine that they think we do good work and they are working hard to replace us. Their journalists must now write for their news “wire” as well as for the newspapers, and the challenge is to do this as efficiently as possible. At NZPA some of us feel our owners took their time killing us and stuck the knife in at the end, but no doubt wounds will heal. The New Zealand media scene is a village. Some feel the NZPA closure is yet another cost-cutting exercise, shifting work elsewhere onto poorer terms and conditions. Yet, ironically, it will cost the media companies more by not having NZPA. It also seems odd that Australian Associated Press, the Australian news co-operative owned by the same companies, is looking to fill some of the space left by NZPA. Some enterprising new news organisations, or content providers, are also in the space. Pam Graham will be business editor of NZPA until August 31 Fiona Katauskas is a freelance cartoonist; fionakatauskas.com
Send in the gowns From the groves of academe straight to your browser, The Conversation is bringing expert knowledge to the mainstream, writes its editor Andrew Jaspan. Cartoon by Peter Broelman
he media is in a state of crisis. Declining revenues and staff cuts are dragging down the quality and integrity of content in our TV, radio and newspapers. As jobs in newsrooms are cut, coverage is increasingly superficial and reliant on wire copy, press releases and celebrity gossip. The vacuum in the public debate is stark; people are hungry for information they can trust. But where will they find that in the future? After leaving The Age at the end of 2008 these questions were buzzing around my head. A period of resting between jobs delivers the sort of thinking time you simply don’t get as an editor-in-chief responding to a near 24/7 schedule and looking after daily and Sunday papers (but not online, a domain from which Fairfax print editors were excluded). During this time I was invited to do some work for the University of Melbourne. Its vice-chancellor, Glyn Davis, is committed to demonstrating the public contribution of the university. Davis wanted me to evaluate how well the university was communicating its knowledge and expertise to the wider public. I concluded that the university, with its deep repository of research and academic expertise, was uniquely placed to address the deficit of quality information in the mainstream media. If we could just find a way to get that information out into the public domain in a way that could be easily used, then this could be a game changer. So how could we mine all this information, all this intellectual gold? I suggested we hire professional editors to help turn the university into a giant newsroom full of specialist writers. The editors would work with academics to harness their expertise and research findings, translate it into plain English, and make it available in a timely way so they could engage with, and inform, the big issues and news cycle of the day. And if we got this right, we could make a contribution towards the public demand for information that readers can trust. To help build trust, we introduced a bunch of protocols. First, we only use subject-matter specialists: verified academic authors who really know their stuff. Each one has spent many years in their area of expertise, and they know what’s going on both here and abroad through their international networks. Second, we insist that every article written carries a profile that tells the reader about the author’s expertise. Every article also carries a disclosure statement so that we know if there is any conflict – commercial, political or through some affiliation or membership. Finally, we demand that every author uphold our Charter, Code of Conduct and Community Standards. All this takes time, but if it’s a choice between being first out there with unreliable information or holding off and trying to get the story right, we side with the latter. And the academics love it. No longer do they have to deal with reporters who are often badly briefed, or who misunderstand or misrepresent their views. They can now work in collaboration with our editors who can help them present their ideas to a wide audience. And why should academics do this? As public servants, they have a duty to transfer knowledge, but in addition to this they want to be involved in the big public policy debates of our times. For example, as I write this, we have just launched a two-week series featuring stories from Australia’s best-credentialled scientists which aims to bring some semblance of reality to the debate on climate change. Climate change is an issue that exposes the shortcomings of traditional journalistic “balance” in that many news outlets appear to believe that the peer-reviewed work of internationally renowned scientists can and should be balanced by the noise of commentators who are too often partisan, compromised or simply ill-informed. The shallowness of this debate in Australia is already drawing international comment and criticism. I hope that by drawing on the knowledge and
As for the myth that academics couldn’t turn a story around without six months’ notice… we have found the opposite expertise of our “virtual newsroom” of 800 scientists – people whose livelihoods and reputations depend on the integrity of their work – we can bring some value to this debate. And there is another compelling reason. The government is currently contributing around $9 billion a year towards the cost of higher education. In turn it requires evidence of value for money. Currently it measures quality of research, quality of teaching, but increasingly it will ask for evidence on how universities are sharing their knowledge and making a positive contribution to society at large. That’s where The Conversation comes in. Our newsroom operates much like every newsroom I have ever worked in. We meet for a morning news conference at 9am every day, discuss the stories we have, and suggest ones to be commissioned that day. Our stories are posted largely in two bundles, at 7.30am and again at 2.30pm. The latter batch tend to be “quick turnarounds” responding to the u
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u day’s news; the morning stories are The Conversation have had 1.3 million unique often pieces we’ve commissioned out of sheer page views since launch. It’s still early days, but curiosity, or because we’ve got wind of some as a new voice The Conversation is certainly having interesting research. an impact. We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive We have 14 professional journalist-editors feedback from the public who tell us they who work across our five sections. They each need increasingly feel abandoned by the traditional to be across their round, brief and commission media outlets. stories, edit, write headlines, choose pictures and And we are also seen as a valuable new then post the stories direct to our site. information and idea resource for the media. We produce analysis and opinion, as well as Our content is being picked up on ABC’s The news and reports on research findings. We recently Drum and ABC Radio, SBS, Business Spectator appointed a former Sydney Morning Herald staffer and Climate Spectator, Crikey, Australian Policy to be our news editor in Sydney to sharpen our Online, a number of newspapers, and distributed focus on breaking news. And while the bulk of by AAP and used by many others. We are our staff is based in Melbourne, we also have a introducing new voices and new ideas. We are Sydney editor, and have just appointed a Canberra enriching the public debate. editor. More are to follow. Articles from The Conversation We often get asked about our funding. We are As for the myth that academics couldn’t a not-for-profit educational trust with the bulk turn a story around without six months’ notice… have had 1.3 million unique of our funds coming from the university sector we have found the opposite. As soon as we heard page views since launch and CSIRO, with some generous support from about the assassination of Osama bin Laden the Commonwealth Bank, the law firm Corrs we contacted Mat Hardy at Deakin University, Chambers Westgarth and accountancy firm Ernst & Young. We also receive and from commission to delivery and posting the story to our website help from the federal Department of Education, and Victoria’s Department of took two hours. Business and Innovation (which supports the transfer of research findings to Most reporters asked to turn around a piece to explain what the killing the business sector and our contribution to developing the digital economy). meant would need maybe an hour to read and research, a couple of hours In terms of “What next?” we adhere to the agile development philosophy: to ring around experts to get quotes (and wait for people, often academics, see what our readers and contributors like and want and then respond. We have to call back), and then maybe a couple of hours to write it all up. So that’s just sent out our first reader survey and expect those results to guide our next two hours for the academic versus five hours for the reporter. It’s an unfair stage. But as far as we are concerned, The Conversation has barely started. We advantage to the academic-author, because s/he knows their stuff. They have just cleared our throat. We are excited by the possibilities and by having are the experts. And that’s all we use at The Conversation. about as much fun as you can have (as a journalist) with your clothes on. We now have the largest virtual newsroom in Australia with over 800 registered academics ready and willing to write for us. Andrew Jaspan is the editor of The Conversation, theconversation.edu.au. So how’s it going? Launched on March 24, in our first 10 weeks we He was editor-in-chief of The Age from 2004 to 2008 doubled our weekly traffic figures from 20,000 to around 40,000 visits and our Peter Broelman is a syndicated editorial cartoonist published across Australia monthly average is running at just over 150,000. And best of all, articles from
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A tough call
Rescue workers remove bodies from a washed out motorway in Rikuzentakata in Japan on March 20 Photo: Shiho Fukada/International Herald Tribune)
How can you compare one disaster with another? John Garnaut shares his experiences of Sichuan and Japan
eople can be incredibly tough. That’s what I learnt from covering two of the 21st century’s biggest disasters – the 2008 earthquake in China’s Sichuan province and the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I would never have believed that people whose lives had been smashed could be so resilient. Though 70,000 people died in the areas around Beichuan, and about 20,000 perished in Japan, I heard no-one ask, “Why me and not them?” That’s what both disasters had in common. But the geography of the two tragedies meant there was a stark contrast in their effect. In Japan, I saw no fallen buildings – little more than cracked windows. There were no injured. The people in Sendai and other towns to the north had either been swept to their deaths by the tsunami, or they hadn’t. There was no in between. In the quake at Beichuan, everywhere buildings were smashed and destroyed. For five, six, seven days, people were trapped, badly injured, thirsty, slowly dying. It was surround-sound carnage and chaos – agony for those involved and no fun for those who witnessed it. I remember one man who was smashed between two car-sized boulders, hanging upside-down like a bat. He was alive, conscious, talking to us. Behind one of the rocks that was pinning him I could see a red bracelet on a hand – his wife’s, I guessed. Nearby was the squashed, protruding body of a two-year-old, presumably his child. What do you say to someone like that who you know is going to die? Another journalist said: “You have to live for your children.” I don’t know if he was deliberately lying, or if he didn’t know what was on the other side of the rock. I don’t think I did the right thing either – but then, I don’t think there was a right thing to do. Only a crane could have lifted the rocks, and there was none around. I suspect the sudden release would have killed him anyway. All we could do was fetch him a cloth and a drink, give him a chance to talk. Then I went off to do my reporting job. I went back to him a few times. There were other people trapped in buildings, some we could see through windows on higher floors, some we could hear but couldn’t speak to. Everybody needed help,
and nobody necessarily deserved it before anybody else. And I couldn’t really help any of them. When dusk came I hitchhiked back to Mianyang city where I was staying. I heard later that the man trapped between the rocks had died. But I can’t verify that, because I never asked his name. Everyone does their own moral dance around these things. For me, it was important that I went back to Beichuan. And I did – six months on, and again a year later, to tell different stories and not just leave these people in yesterday’s fish-and-chip wrapping. I feared being a parasite hanging around a disaster zone, but by the end of my five days in and around Beichuan, I felt strongly that it was a good thing for the world to see what was going on, for people to know these stories. I knew I’d done the best job I could, but I didn’t want to make a career out of covering earthquakes. I happened to be at Hong Kong airport when I saw images of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami on CNN. When I got the call from my world editor in Melbourne, Carolyn Jones, to go to Japan, I asked: “Is there anybody else who can go?” It turned out I was in the best position, although I didn’t speak Japanese. Getting to the disaster zone was a largely random odyssey – a midnight plane to Seoul, a plane to Tokyo, a plane to Shonai in western Honshu, taxis and buses to the eastern side of Honshu island. On the bus into Sendai I met a wonderful woman – actually I met wonderful people everywhere – who introduced me to someone who lent me a bicycle. I got around on that for the first couple of days and it turned out to be as good as anything else. There was no petrol and roads were blocked everywhere. I remember riding through icy water halfway up the wheels, holding my shoes, jeans and laptop in one hand over my head. Again, the balance between being a parasite and doing your job was not always clear, but at least I wasn’t part of people’s agony the way I had been in Beichuan. In China, there had been an added layer of bureaucratic/political callousness which made everything that much harder to digest and accept. Nobody there decided that they weren’t going to be helpful, but the nature of the system is u
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u that it’s not designed to be helpful. I was lucky to have got into Beichuan early, because the next day there were roadblocks everywhere. I saw volunteers and firefighters doing everything they could while huge numbers of soldiers did little more than loaf about and clog the roads. In Japan, there are lots of arguments about whether or not the government was effective, but the civil society there – the grassroots fabric of society – is so strong it’s mind blowing. Even in the face of Japan’s worst disaster since 1945, people waited for red lights to change before they crossed the roads. They lined up all night hoping that the 7/11 store would open, and no-one jumped the queue. Society mobilised to look after itself in a way I’d be surprised to see in Australia – and definitely did not witness in China. There was no-one in Japan whose job it was to stop you getting where you were going, unlike at the roadblocks in Beichuan. There’s no doubt the political system in China contributed to the Sichuan quake’s death toll. Many buildings in Beichuan would not have collapsed had they been built to China’s own building standards. But contracts are always handed out to mates of officials, and those mates cut corners. That’s why so many schools collapsed in the quake. In China all accountability is upwards – and the political system goes to great lengths to keep it that way. That makes the injustice ubiquitous in a disaster. From buildings falling down to the nature of the rescue, to the huge amount of face, of show, of complete fabrication that goes on when a big official comes in. When I went back to Beichuan a year later, there was a rumour that President Hu Jintao was coming. We suddenly saw 10-metre trees being transplanted on roads, grass being laid down and model villages being erected.
Everybody needed help, and nobody necessarily deserved it before anybody else. And I couldn’t really help any of them None of that is evident in Japan. Japan has its own bureaucratic and government dysfunction, but it’s on a different scale. Still, when I went back to Japan a couple of months ago, I was disappointed that more hadn’t been done. I was still impressed by the degree of stability, the way everybody was looking after each other. But questions were being asked about whether things should be happening faster than they are. Why is mobile phone reception still patchy? Why is electricity still down? China does big infrastructure projects very well: it’s world’s best at hardware. Japan, despite a high-level and powerful government response, has trouble pushing that response down to its grassroots organisations. As for the willingness of locals to speak to journalists, all I can say is that China is more porous than people give it credit for, especially in the wake of a disaster. The person I sat next to on the plane to Beichuan turned out to be pretty senior in the disaster relief organisation and he was happy to talk. But my reporting was overwhelmingly at a very grassroots level. You might expect ordinary people would be more willing to talk in Japan than China, but it’s more complicated than that. Japan has an extraordinary level of courtesy and civility, but people were more reserved about telling their stories. It didn’t help that I don’t speak Japanese. Once you get people speaking in China, sometimes they don’t stop. It all comes out – and they are happy to describe things warts and all. China has more open instincts, overlaid by a tight political system. Journalists are privileged to talk to people on the ground in extraordinary circumstances. We are also privileged to be able to leave and continue our lives after days or weeks, when they cannot. I am convinced that just as it wasn’t wrong for me to be there, it wasn’t wrong to leave. Everybody has their own job to do. But I did think it would have been wrong not to go back. I wanted to keep up a connection with the place, as I wanted to do with Beichuan. So when Julia Gillard visited Minami Sanriku I was happy to put up my hand. I left her in Tokyo and got there a day before she did. I’d like to go back. I owe it to the people who had shared so much with me. John Garnaut is China correspondent for Fairfax Media. He was interviewed for this story by Jenny Tabakoff
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After the wave Getting to Japan’s earthquake and tsunami disaster zone was a struggle for Mark Willacy, but that was just the start. Illustration by Carla McRae
s a journalist there’s nothing worse than being off-base when a massive story breaks. And this was the big one. The big quake they had been warning about for decades. And as it hit Japan’s east coast, I was 1000 kilometres south on the island of Kyushu, playing with razor-sharp blades for a story on samurai swords. Meanwhile my terrified wife was back in Tokyo huddling under our dining room table with our seven-month-old daughter. I’d decided to make a routine check of the newswires on my smartphone while my cameraman Jun Matsuzono lined up the next sequence of filming and almost gagged when I saw the bright red headline reserved for big news flashes. MASSIVE EARTHQUAKE OFF JAPAN’S EAST COAST. 9 METRE TSUNAMI WARNING. This couldn’t be right. We hadn’t felt even a shudder, a jitter, a wobble. Speechless, I passed my phone to Jun. “We’d better turn the TV on,” he said. We switched on the television just in time to see a black, burbling, debrisfilled mass tear through the city of Sendai. It swept all before it – boats, houses and people in cars trying to outrun it. In the samurai master’s house no-one uttered a word. Then I realised. Shouldn’t I be calling my wife? And why had no-one from our Tokyo or Sydney offices called to tell me what was happening? Then, after I’d dialled Suzie’s mobile number, I understood. The network was overloaded or crippled. What about my other two daughters at school? I turned to Jun and the ABC’s long-serving Tokyo producer, Yayoi Eguchi. “We’ve got to go.” We sped towards Fukuoka airport. But when we got there we were told all flights had been cancelled. Our only hope was the bullet train. We were in luck – sort of. We could get the bullet train to Osaka, but it wouldn’t go any further. There were still tsunami warnings along the coast between Osaka and Tokyo. And the line may also have been twisted by the quake. As the train zoomed towards Osaka, Yayoi worked the phone trying to find us a hire car. Every company had been cleaned out by travellers left stranded by cancelled flights and train services. But then our luck changed. One mob rang back saying that they’d had a car returned and we could have it. After picking up the car in Osaka at 8pm, we had to confront another post-disaster reality. Much of the highway between Osaka and Tokyo was closed because it ran too close to the coast and the tsunami warning hadn’t been lifted. For hours in the darkness we twisted and turned through mountain roads, some barely wider than the car. Jun and I drove in shifts, with Yayoi constantly trying to get through to our other producer Yumi Asada, who’d sheltered under her desk in the office in Tokyo as the quake shook TV tapes and files off shelves. By 6.30am we’d reached Tokyo and I was desperate to find out how Suzie and our three girls had coped. Suzie told me how after the earth had stopped shaking, she’d gathered up seven-month-old Eva, some food and a few bottles of water and then set off in the car for the school. The magnitude nine tremor had struck just 15 minutes before the final bell, so our two eldest daughters had been in class. “On the way to the school there was another huge earthquake. It was so big I could even feel it as I was driving. Thousands of people were out on the streets. Everyone was freaking out. When I got to the school, kids were crying, parents were crying, teachers were bawling. I grabbed Nina and Kate, but then I didn’t know what to do. I thought, ‘Should I go home? Should I stay out in the street?’” I managed a quick shower and a slice of toast, but then it was time to say goodbye to the family. This was the biggest story the ABC’s Tokyo bureau had confronted since it opened nearly half a century ago. I knew I wouldn’t see my girls for weeks.
Chieko Chiba looks for the remains of her house in Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture Photo: Shiho Fukada/The New York Times
Rikuzentakata was Hiroshima in Technicolor. Only the shells of a few concrete buildings remained Since then, the ABC Tokyo team has travelled the length of the “tsunami zone”, filing stories from more than a dozen devastated villages, towns and cities. I’ve interviewed Go Ishiyama, who had his parents ripped from his grasp by the torrent. I’ve heard the heartbreaking story of Kaitaro Fukuda, whose son and daughter were among dozens of children swept away when the tsunami tore through their school. I’ve recorded the story of 85-year-old Aisa Towa from Fudai village, who, as a seven-year old girl, watched as her parents were drowned by the 1933 tsunami. I’ve spent time with fisherman Yoshiharu Yoshida who heard the tsunami siren and immediately set to sea in his boat, teetering over a 10-metre wave rolling towards the shore. I’ve returned to Rikuzentakata, for me the “Ground Zero” of the tsunami. When I was there last year filming for Foreign Correspondent, it was an idyll of quaint wooden houses, Buddhist temples and curious locals. We’d had dinner with a raucous bunch of townsfolk, two of them getting so riproaringly drunk on sake they’d passed out on the tatami mats. When I returned, Rikuzentakata was Hiroshima in Technicolor. Only the shells of a few concrete buildings remained. The rest of the town was gone. Among the debris left behind – a crushed bus, hundreds of houses reduced to matchsticks, and bodies. The restaurant we’d got drunk in was gone. The wife of one of our dinner companions was dead. Other friends had lost homes and livelihoods. When we returned the recovery teams were just moving in. Their harvest was as abundant as it was gruesome. The dead were found in cars, in houses, in trees and on open ground. Bodies were found more than six kilometres inland. Photo albums lay scattered everywhere. Baby snaps, graduations, weddings, birthdays – celebrations of life where no life remained. Terrible to say, but after a while every day in the tsunami zone started to look a little the same. Up before dawn, check the wires, file for radio, scoff down breakfast and hit the road in the freezing dark. Another obliterated community, more heart-wrenching stories. In the new era of 24-hour news, everyone has to be a “commando journalist”. There’s one rule: file, file and file some more.
File again for radio news from the field, do crosses for radio current affairs and maybe News 24, conduct on-camera interviews with survivors for TV news, bash out a two- to three-minute piece to camera in the rubble for News 24 (tackily called a “rant”), and shoot as much of the misery as you can. Then it’s back to base. There’s not a moment for contemplation. Every second in the car on the drive back is needed to tap out a script for TV news. Back at base, the cameraman’s first task is to send the rant. Then it’s time to voice and edit the main 7pm news piece. After that, a couple of voicers for the 5 and 6pm radio bulletins. By the way, you should have filed your PM piece by now. Bugger, we need to turn around something for Lateline. Then, maybe, it’s time to crack a beer. As the malty nectar slides down your parched throat you begin scanning the evening wires. Never look back, only forwards. Got to think about the morning. There’s radio news and AM to feed. This hydra-headed beast is never satiated. Few will ever get to stand in the midst of a natural disaster of such elemental violence as the March earthquake and tsunami, to inhale with every breath that musty aroma of rotting debris and flesh, to be swathed in the dust and ash of its legacy, to savour its visceral power. It’s a privilege to be able to witness and report on an event of such historic and terrible consequences, especially for such a respected and committed broadcaster as the ABC. As any foreign correspondent will tell you, the pay-off is you have to work bloody hard. Mark Willacy is the ABC’s North Asia correspondent, based in Tokyo. He was the ABC’s Middle East correspondent and won a Walkley Award in 2003 for his coverage of the Iraq war. He’s also the 2010 Queensland Journalist of the Year Carla McRae is studying at the University of the Sunshine Coast, majoring in graphic design; email email@example.com
THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
Tweet and sour Is Twitter dangerous? A tweet can cost journalists their job. Caitlin Cherry reports. Cartoon by Lindsay Foyle
he political editor at Radio New Zealand, Brent Edwards, believes that anything written on a social media site is publishing, and journalists need to be for many young journalists who have been brought up with social media, particularly careful: “The more of a public profile you have, the more important Facebook is “like going to the pub”. you are, the less private you can be.” Edwards, who is the convenor for the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Bernadette Courtney, editor of Fairfax’s The Dominion Post, says staff are well Union’s print and media council, has had to deal with several cases where aware of the company’s social media code and they often hold workshops around journalists have got into trouble for criticising their employers on social its uses and pitfalls. So far no-one has got into trouble over their postings. networking sites. Courtney says it’s unacceptable for journalists to criticise coverage by other He believes employers need to do a better job in training staff about the media organisations or express opinions on news events such politics and potential dangers of social networking sites and knowing the difference between court decisions: “In my view reporters are reporters 24/7. You can’t switch public and private behaviour when it comes to the likes of Facebook and Twitter. the tap on and off.” That there is an appetite for social media “pub talk” among journalists is Many employers are only too happy for their staff to use social media tools evident. Since it was set up a few weeks ago, the Kiwi to promote their organisation, but are on guard at the Journalists Association page on Facebook has attracted possibility that comments made on a social networking site nearly 600 members and has hundreds of posts from may make them look bad. “Comments made in the past when blowing off journalists discussing everything from why journalists steam to a few mates at the pub are now routinely these days seem to struggle with basic maths to concerns shared with 800 or so of your closest ‘friends’ and can about the future of the industry and why the KFC “Double readily find their way into the public arena,” says Down” burger got so much media coverage. the CEO of Radio New Zealand, Peter Cavanagh, Already some contributors have come unstuck. One adding that there have been some cases where Auckland journalist, who doesn’t wish to be named, staff have faced disciplinary action over their recently resigned from the group after one comment she postings on Facebook. had made was picked up by another member, who copied If other media aren’t monitoring your Facebook it to her employer. “I made a tongue-in-cheek comment and Twitter activity, chances are your own and I never thought it would be misconstrued – then employer is, says Caron Eastgate Dann, a lecturer in lo and behold I got to work a couple of days later to media studies at Melbourne’s Monash University. an email from my editor.” “Particularly today with high company sensitivity Happily the editor in question was savvy to branding, media companies are starting to enough to understand the meaning of the monitor employees’ social networking activity,” she comment and the forum in which it had been says. “Some companies are asking journalists to made, but the journalist remains angry about sign forms agreeing not to comment on their own what happened. company; in some cases, they are being asked to “It really seemed anti the point of the group. supply details of their social networking sites.” I thought it was so that journalists could have a All too often, journalists commenting on forum where they could talk. It just feels really the performance of their own organisations find McCarthyist to me – and how can an industry “In my view reporters are reporters 24/7. that it can come back to bite them. TV3 newsreader that is meant to expose truths and encourage You can’t switch the tap on and off” Mike McRoberts’ tweet after the September debate and discussion be so self-censoring?” earthquake in Christchurch that it had been: “A Several journalists have already discovered poor decision by 3 not to go with continuous coverage throughout the day” was that Facebook and Twitter can be dangerous places. Last year a subeditor picked up by the New Zealand Herald, causing a fair bit of angst in his office. working at Brisbane’s Courier-Mail lost his casual shifts at the paper after “Understandably, TV3 head of news and current affairs, Mark Jennings, was less writing in his blog that the work of the columnist he was subbing amounted than impressed by the tweet and the ensuing story and coverage, but he respected to “incoherent screeching”. Catherine Deveny, who wrote a regular column in The Age, also lost her position my right to have an opinion,” says McRoberts, adding that he was more concerned that someone had trawled through his tweets, which he thought “a rather dubious after tweeting during Logies night in 2010 that she hoped Bindi Irwin (then form of newsgathering”. age 11) would get laid and that she hoped Rove McManus’s new wife wouldn’t die (his first wife, Belinda Emmett, had died of cancer at the end of 2006). Caitlin Cherry is a senior producer with Radio New Zealand’s daily current affairs Wellington employment lawyer Andrew Scott-Howman says the law is program Nine to Noon quite simple: employees owe a duty of loyalty or fidelity to their employer, Lindsay Foyle is a former deputy editor of The Bulletin and a past president of the meaning they cannot bring it into disrepute. Employees are also bound by Australian Cartoonists’ Association confidentiality, in that they cannot expose company secrets. Scott-Howman says
eys Join the Walkle at the Brisbanl Writers Festiva 22 T H E W A L K L E Y M A G A Z I N E brisbane_strip.indd 1
WHAT’S ON? Digital Training: presented by Melbourne-based RMIT lecturer and social media specialist Renee Barnes Sept 6: Online Audio and Podcasting Sept 7/8: The Wired Scribe
Walkley Brisbane Slideshow: Join us for a celebration of Australian press photography Date: Saturday, September 10, 2011 Time: 10am – noon Venue: Theatre B, Gallery of Modern Art, Stanley Place, South Bank, Queensland, Australia
For full details, including training locations and how to enter work in the Walkleys Slideshow, head to our website, walkleys.com
7/07/11 9:33 AM
Celebrating the C word Clare Rawlinson found scoops were less popular in Mt Gambier than Marg and Barry. Cartoon by Matt Bissett-Johnson
’d never lived in a country town before I began working as a print journalist in Mount Gambier. But within a few weeks I was ready to slap the next person who said the “c” word to me… Community. Any regional reporter whose roots are in the city will know what I’m talking about. The word “community” kept popping out at me during interviews – as bizarre as the first cow I saw frolicking in a field outside Mt Gambier. Initially I suspected it was just an easy way for people to respond to questions for which they had no strong answer. “How do you think you could retain more health professionals in the region?” I’d ask. “It’s about welcoming them into the community.” “What inspired you to start up the Mayoress Family Fun Day?” “To give back to the community.” “What do you like most about Mt Gambier?” “The community.” “What’s your favourite colour?” “Community.” I began to feel excluded. I wondered if community was a secret club for the most notable people and their families, or whether it was looser than that – a feeling acquired only by those born and bred in country towns. A few months into my time at The Border Watch, I’d done my share of community stories. Stamp-collector clubs spicing things up by meeting in a pub instead of the school hall. Old Italian men growing oversized tomatoes they’d use for a community pasta night. Good old Marg and Barry’s 50th wedding anniversary. I’d also written my share of strong news – but more often than not, it was the “community” stories that attracted the most attention. I got twice as many letters to the editor and grateful phone calls for a profile of a 92-year-old Rats of Tobruk veteran than for my exclusive on a developer’s dodgy dealings. Speaking to Kathryn Bowd, my former program director at the University of South Australia (who coincidentally started her career at The Border Watch), I came to realise why this was – and to understand a regional paper’s relationship with its audience. Or should I say, community. Dr Bowd this year completed a PhD exploring the role of regional newspapers in their communities. And as she examined issues such as technology and online media, it became apparent that regional newspapers are not suffering in the same way as metropolitan newspapers. While metro news publications are struggling to adapt to the changing media landscape, regional newspapers are doing very little different from what they have always done. Why? The answer lies largely in the nature of community. “The revolution of journalism is not so relevant to regional communities – there’s all this talk about the future of newspapers and doom and gloom, and that may well be true for city newspapers but not for country papers,” Dr Bowd told me. “I don’t think the rise of technology has affected the relationship between regional audiences and their newspapers.” That may be partly because decent internet service has not made its way to many regional areas, so people there have been slow to catch on to online news sites, social media and blog-driven news. But Dr Bowd also discovered that a strong sense of community identity is attached to regional publications. “People often say really negative things about their local paper, but then they rely on it and they defend it to outsiders,” she says. “They see it as theirs. It’s something they rely on for a sense of local news and identity.” I found evidence of this the day after Osama bin Laden was killed – which, importantly, coincided with an announcement that the next national BMX championships would take place in Mt Gambier. OK, it was a slow news day locally, so that didn’t help when a Channel [V] presenter in Melbourne tweeted a picture of the headlines on newspaper
banners lined up outside a Mt Gambier newsagency. The headlines read: “How We Got Him”, “How a Tyrant Came to Grief”, “Justice at Last”, and finally, “BMX Event Will Attract Thousands to City”. The tweeted pic was accompanied by the comment: “Mount Gambier tackling the big issues.” I had to laugh, but (consistent with Dr Bowd’s findings) I reminded myself that most readers don’t look to their local paper primarily for hard-hitting news of the kind expected in a metro newspaper. In fact, my pride in my news stories would often evaporate when I would watch people in cafes pick up The Border Watch. Many would barely glance at the front page before turning to the births, deaths, marriages and sport. The interest in the paper’s coverage of community events never ceased to surprise me. But according to Dr Bowd, most regional readers think their
I got twice as many letters to the editor and grateful phone calls for a profile of a 92-year-old Rats of Tobruk veteran than for my exclusive on a developer’s dodgy dealings local newspaper’s core role is to support the community and local industry. This helped me understand why The Border Watch’s coverage of the community’s support for young victims of cancer was so valued. Why our stories voicing Mt Gambier’s cry for a resident psychiatrist meant so much to readers. Why the coverage of one hunger-striking local’s protest against fluoridation – which involved chaining himself to the gates of the city’s water supply – saw countless letters and texts to the editor. And I could see why, when the state government proposed, and later decided, to privatise the backbone of the region’s economy – harvesting rights to forest plantations held for 100 years – the newspaper truly became the voice of the community. As Dr Bowd suggests, in order for country newspapers to survive into the future, the challenge is quite simple compared to metropolitan papers. Regional papers need to keep doing more of the same – making sure they cover as much local news, sport and events as possible. That’s what makes them stand out. I think I get it now. It really does have a lot to do with community. Clare Rawlinson was named Best Regional Journalist at the 2011 SA Media Awards for her work at The Border Watch. She now lives and works in Darwin as a cross-media reporter for the ABC Matt Bissett-Johnson is a freelance cartoonist. His political cartoons appear regularly in the Melbourne Observer and the websites Arena and Dissent THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
Freelance doesn’t mean ‘for free’ When the Media Alliance asked freelance journalists about their working conditions, this is what they told us. Jonathan Este reports
n April 2010, against strong opposition from news organisations, the Media Alliance won the right to collectively bargain on behalf of our freelance journalist members. The ruling allows the Alliance to negotiate minimum rates of pay, freedom to contract with other media organisations, and other contractual terms such as copyright and moral rights. At the time there was – and remains – a great deal of concern on the part of freelance journalists at the power imbalance between freelancers and the major media organisations, which were attempting to impose contracts which were inequitable; some sought to impose unfair exclusivity conditions, others removed copyright and moral rights. After Graeme Samuel announced the ACCC’s determination, the Alliance set out to design a standard contract for freelance journalists to use when being commissioned. As part of this process, the Alliance surveyed freelance journalists – both members and non-members – to determine the key issues facing sole operators in a challenging environment. The report provided a timely and informative snapshot of the wages and conditions of freelance journalists in Australia in 2010. Some broad comments can be made at the outset: • There is considerable variation in the remuneration received by freelance journalists for their work – both within and between various media organisations. • There is considerable downward pressure on word and hourly rates, which partly reflects increased competition between freelancers and more broadly reflects a downturn in revenues to the news industry. • The “HuffPo principle” – that freelance journalists will work for free in order to get exposure – has undermined the business model of many freelancers in Australia as sites such as News Limited’s The Punch, Crikey and the ABC’s The Drum either pay well below the market rate for freelance writing or not at all. • An increasing number of freelancers report having to resort to other types of work in order to make ends meet – out of nearly 300 respondents, the average number of hours spent on freelance journalism was between 28 and 29 hours a week. • Similarly, the survey found that the average freelancer derives only 21.7 per cent of their income from journalism. So how much can you earn as a freelance journalist? One of those surveyed earned $1000; another said he earned $600,000. In analysing this data we made a decision to omit responses of under $10,000 and the $600,000 number. We reasoned that those reporting under $10,000 in earnings from freelance journalism were not spending sufficient time on journalism to qualify as bona fide freelance journalists. Similarly, our high-earning respondent told us the
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majority of this was earned through “consultancy” work rather than journalism. A significant sub-group of respondents identified themselves as photographers, so we isolated their annual earnings and have produced a graphic that displays the range of earnings and an annual average of about $45,000 per annum. One response from a journalist who has given up freelancing for an in-house job is a sobering commentary on the state of the industry for freelancers in 2010: “I have become so despondent about the state of freelance journalism that I have not bothered to try to pitch any work in the past year. With these increasingly heavy contracts, bad payment, no payment and more and more established publishers trying to get away with people providing content for free, I feel there is little place for professional freelancers any more. “After 15 years as a journalist, I feel it is a role that is now completely undervalued, not only in terms of how we are paid, but also in terms of respect
An increasing number of freelancers report having to resort to other types of work in order to make ends meet when it comes to copyright. While I love working as a journalist, I now believe it is no longer a sustainable career choice.” Said another respondent: “It’s getting much, much harder to make a decent living as a freelancer. I still love writing, love journalism and love the variety that freelancing gives me, but shrinking magazines and newspapers, editors with smaller and smaller freelance budgets, and the continual grind of finding enough work to maintain a reasonable lifestyle does get depressing after a while.” The main theme that has emerged from this survey of freelancers is the enormous range in the rates of pay offered to freelancers working in the same industry around Australia. Word rates ranged from 10 cents per word to $1.15 per word. Averaging that out gave us a figure of 59 cents per word. If this is representative of the industry as a whole, it stands as a bleak counterpoint to the Alliance standard freelance word rate of 89 cents. To determine the average hourly rate received by journalists, we translated day rates by dividing them by 7.5 to give us a broader range of responses. The range here is from a low of $10 per hour to a high of $300 per hour. Numbers being pretty stark things, it is difficult to tell how either of these highs and lows was achieved.
People who told us most of their work was online also reported the highest rates of pay, at $107 per hour. Subediting is having a rather rough time of it at present and this survey is not going to do the subs any favours. The average freelance sub reported a per hour remuneration of $53. When it comes to determining the sort of subjects you should be writing about to achieve the best rate of return, the exercise becomes almost counterintuitive: travel writing – at an average of 97 cents a word, emerges as the strongest sector by a margin – followed by business, which one would have thought might be the strongest contender for a healthy rate of return. As you might expect, one of the key problems reported by freelance journalists was getting their clients to pay on time. One respondent suggested that some kind of penalty should be written into contracts if the client doesn’t pay on time: “This is a real problem. It can take up to two months for clients to pay and when all of them take this long, it really affects the cash flow and having to dip into the buffer or savings. I just keep persisting… but it’d be great if there was a ‘friendly’ or ‘accepted’ penalty fee for late payment!” A number of respondents said they had written off small fees when the client had failed to respond to requests for payment. Others said they had sought help from the Media Alliance in chasing up their invoice. One respondent said that the Alliance had mediated over an invoice for $3000 – arranging for the client to pay in $500 monthly instalments. However, the final instalment required further intervention by the union – the whole invoice was not settled until more than two years after the work had been completed. One of the main purposes of surveying our freelance members was as part of the Alliance plan to introduce a standard industry contract. This was in response to the introduction by some publishers of their own contracts, which sought to lock freelance journalists into unfair work relationships – demanding, for example, exclusivity (“if you work for us, you can’t work for anyone else”, which rather contradicts the notion of “freelancing”).
Media Super Student Journalist of the Year Award 2011 student_strip.indd 1
Freelancers were complaining that they were being asked to give up all moral rights and copyright. They would have no say about how their work was edited, repurposed or cut, on which platforms it might be used and how it could be on-sold. The Alliance Standard Contract, which was launched at the annual freelance conference in Melbourne in May, seeks to clear up areas of uncertainty and provide balance to the contractual relationship. Interestingly, when we asked people what sort of contract they used, the largest – some 39 per cent of respondents – said they didn’t agree to a contract – they just did the work and billed for it against an agreed word rate. The next biggest group, 29 per cent of respondents, said they accepted a contract that their publisher had imposed on them. Some 19 per cent said they negotiated a contract with their clients and 13 per cent said they were able to get the publishers to accept a contract they had drawn up. Only 23 per cent of people said they were happy with the contractual arrangements they had struck and virtually half of all respondents, 49 per cent, said they were not happy with their contracts. Breaking that information down further, the biggest proportion of people who were unhappy with their contracts were those people who had been forced into using their publishers’ contracts – reflecting perhaps the punitive terms in those contracts – followed closely by people who had no contract at all. The survey ended by asking respondents: “What do you wish you had known when you started freelancing?” By far the biggest proportion of comments highlighted that while they thought they had what it took to do the journalism component of freelancing, people wished they had known more about running a small business, which is – of course – what freelancing entails. Mindful of this, The Walkley Magazine has asked one of the most successful freelance journalists in Australia, Leon Gettler, for his top tips on how to survive as a freelancer. Now read on… Jonathan Este is contributing editor of The Walkley Magazine
Media Super congratulates Lauren Day, winner of the 2011 Media Super Student Journalist Award. Media Super also congratulates Greg Foyster and Patrick Wright, finalists for 2011. The Media Super Student Journalist of the Year Award recognises and rewards the rising stars of Australian journalism.
THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE 25 5/07/11 2:07 PM
Freelance: just another word for being the boss Once you’re out of a newsroom, you get to make the rules, says Leon Gettler. Illustration by Robin Cowcher
he freelancer life is liberating. Not having to put up with idiots and office politics is the best working environment there is. Do it for a few years and it’s easy to make yourself unemployable. Still, it’s not for everyone. Freelancing is a step into the unknown and uncertainty. Some may head back to paid employment, but you can make freelancing work well by following these rules. 1. Set yourself up as a business: This is the biggest transition. Suddenly you are on your own and the only money coming in will be from the jobs you pitch for and receive. It is scary and the only way to deal with it is to create a business. It puts you in control. What are your outgoings? Add them up for the year, divide it by 12. That’s how much you’ll need every month, the rest is profit. Secondly, get an ABN and register for the GST. Then identify a niche. It can be anything from technology to cars. Set yourself up as the expert and develop contacts in those areas. Make sure you have many outlets. Don’t make the mistake of having all your eggs in one basket. Get a website. Think of it as the office people will drop in on – it’s your business brand. And look at your mindset. If you know how to run your own show and chase your own stories, it will be an easy transition. If you are used to relying on orders, freelancing is not for you.
2. Invoicing: The invoice is part of your brand. Put your photo on it. The invoice should have your name, ABN, address, banking details identifying your bank, BSB and account number and your terms of trade. The standard is to ask for payment within 14 days. The invoice stays on your computer files. Invoice as soon as the job is done. 3. Make life easy for your editors: Pitch great ideas that take the conversation in new directions. Give enough of the story outline to show how it will work. Make sure the story hasn’t been run anywhere else. Read the publication first so you know the market. Don’t pitch a story that’s just a media release. Watch your spelling and grammar. Write to the commissioned number of words and no prima donna antics. Once the story is in the editors’ hands, it’s theirs to do with as they see fit. That will ensure they will keep sending you work. 4. Multimedia: Podcasts, videos and blogs are the way of the future. Don’t just focus on writing text, expand into multimedia. It will show you’re versatile. More importantly, it can pay better. 5. Chasing money: From time to time, there will be slow payers. Always wait for one month. If they haven’t paid it by then, put in a polite phone call or email asking them when you can expect to be paid. The money always comes. The key here is to do it nicely. There is nothing more infuriating than people who commission pieces and don’t pay – but don’t display your anger. Keep cool and polite, even use some humour. It defuses the situation. You do this so they keep sending you work. If they still don’t pay, call the union. Alternatively, you can send in a debt collector. They take a cut but at least you get most of your money. Still, that should be the last resort when everything else has failed. Where possible, don’t burn bridges. 6. Hold your nerve: This is probably the hardest part of freelancing. People will promise you work and not deliver. They will approach you with an idea and then disappear. They will renege on deals and they will stop giving you work for “budgetary reasons”. There is no easy way to hold your nerve but it’s important to focus on the long term. The best way to do it is to plan, focus on the job, mono-task and have some Plan Bs. Learn to live
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with the uncertainty – it comes with the territory. If you can’t handle the uncertainty, you shouldn’t be in the business. I have always compared it to soldiers on the front. Some will crack up, others stay focused. To hold your nerve, think strategically. As a freelancer, you’re a soldier. 7. Communicate regularly: Don’t keep your editor in the dark for too long when there’s a big job. With lengthy and complicated projects, communicate milestones as often as possible. If you need to delay a project by a few days, just tell them. They would much rather know that it’s going to be delayed than not. They will appreciate your sense of responsibility and the fact that you were up front. 8. Signatures: It’s good to include a signature on your emails with necessary contact information. It should have all your phone numbers and, if possible, a URL to your website. If you have a LinkedIn and Twitter feed, add that too. Have that on every email you send out to your clients. It’s all part of brand building. 9. No freebies: From time to time, you might be asked to write stuff, participate in forums, give talks, facilitate sessions, etc, for free. Don’t do it. The people running these events get a wage and you should, too.
Remember the words of Jean-Paul Sartre: if you’re lonely when you’re by yourself, you’re in bad company 10. Use a schedule: Yes, you now have the freedom to work when you feel like it, but you will need some sort of schedule in place to stay productive. It’s easy to shirk your duties when you’re working for yourself. That means you have to be very ordered in your processes. If you have regular gigs, set aside certain days for certain stories. You should be disciplined. Forget about sleeping in. Accept the fact that you will be working a lot harder and putting in more hours as a freelancer than as a paid employee. 11. Set up a home office: You can improve both your productivity and your state of mind if you have a set space for your work. Having your own space keeps you organised. This is also important for tax reasons. If you don’t have an actual office, create one. Get a corner with necessary power points and put in a few partitions. 12. Communication: If you don’t have a separate phone line for your home office, get one installed. That provides you with your own space. And you will sound more professional if your kids aren’t taking the calls. 13. Keep your office space clear: Yes, it’s tough when you’re working from home. Kids’ toys and adolescents can take up space in your room. Keep it sacred, work-related and free from clutter. That will help you focus. 14. Manage your family: Family time is important but they need to understand that your work time is sacrosanct. Set boundaries to ensure you have the space to function. 15. Set up a break time: It’s like lunch hour at work. You need time to recharge during the day. Yes, it’s tempting to eat lunch at your desk when you’re flat out, but separating the two is good for your state of mind.
16. Dress the part: Sure, working at home means that you can stay in your dressing gown and trackies all day. Don’t. There are all sorts of studies showing you are more productive when you make an effort with your appearance and look professional. That doesn’t mean working in a suit when you’re at home all day, but it does mean not sitting around in your underwear. 17. Set boundaries on work time: When you work at home you quickly find that it starts encroaching on all areas of your home life. Keep family and private time sacrosanct. Set up specific work times and don’t let the two overlap on a regular basis. 18. Stay flexible: There might be times when home life interferes with work life and vice versa. You have to be flexible to avoid stressing out. A schedule is important but you might not always be able to keep to it. Life happens and the benefit of being a freelancer is that you can work around it. 19. Use to-do lists extensively: They can be on paper, on your desktop or online. In any form, a to-do list is an effective tool for managing time. It tracks what you need to accomplish that day and keeps you focused.
22. Deadlines: Don’t miss them. But if you’re going to miss a deadline for whatever reason, let the editor know as soon as possible. Don’t make excuses and don’t ask for forgiveness, it sounds pathetic. Just ask for the shortest possible extension you can manage and promise that the project will be in their in-box first thing on the morning of the new deadline date. And deliver on that date. 23. Rates: For writers, the best rate in Australia is around $1 a word. Most gigs are at around 70 to 80 cents. Only settle for anything less if that work is regular. 24. Tax: Normal deductions include telephone, mobile, gas, electricity, newspapers and magazines, stationery, postage, public transport and parking. Get a log book from a newsagency and work out how much of your driving time is work-specific. You can claim that percentage as a tax deduction for your petrol, car maintenance and car insurance. And also as part of your car depreciation.
20. Have an emergency fund: Freelance work is often feast or famine. You’re either too busy, or scrounging for work which does not pay well. Set aside funds in an emergency account to use when work dries up. Don’t make the mistake of getting into debt during lean times as that will always keep you on the back foot. Remember, January is a slow month.
25. Loneliness: This is one of the hardest parts of being a freelancer. Suddenly, you are on your own, there are no conversations or people around you. Keep in touch with contacts and friends. Meet them for coffee and lunch. Stay busy. And remember the words of Jean-Paul Sartre: if you’re lonely when you’re by yourself, you’re in bad company.
21. Use a tax professional: As a self-employed freelancer you’re going to fill out your quarterly BAS, plus personal income tax. Mind-numbing stuff. You will need a professional.
Leon Gettler is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist writing on management issues Robin Cowcher is a Melbourne-based illustrator
THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
An imitation of freedom The media in Pakistan is free only so long as it toes the government line, says Shibil Siddiqi
n May 22, 2011, the Mehran naval station in Karachi was attacked. The armed assailants held portions of the base for nearly 17 hours before being repelled by naval commandos. Four attackers were killed. The navy lost 10 people, along with a helicopter and two sophisticated P-3C Orion aircraft. It was the latest in a string of embarrassments for Pakistan’s politically powerful military. Four days later the South Asia bureau chief for Asia Times Online, Syed Saleem Shahzad, wrote that the attack on Mehran was in retaliation for an internal crackdown on al-Qaeda cells within the Pakistan Navy. Shahzad claimed that the Mehran attack had been orchestrated by Ilyas Kashmiri, the Pakistani commander of al-Qaeda’s elite Brigade 313, after secret negotiations between al-Qaeda and the Navy broke down. On May 29, Shahzad went missing in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. On May 31, his body was recovered, bearing signs of torture. Shahzad’s killing underscores the need to better understand the context of media freedom in Pakistan. Huma Yusuf, an award-winning Pakistani journalist and the Pakistan Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington DC, says Pakistan’s rulers have only ever allowed increased media freedom for strategic reasons. On the cusp of the 21st century, Pakistani leaders realised the futility of restricting the flow of information over satellite signals and the internet. A tide of Indian news and programming was shaping popular regional perceptions in a way deemed detrimental to Pakistani interests – especially, says Yusuf, after the Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan in 1999. With only two tightly controlled state-run television channels and one private channel at the time, the Pakistani government could not mount an effective resistance to Indian satellite programming. So it set about expanding Pakistan’s media industry as a way of providing an alternative narrative. Today, Pakistan has about 90 television channels (including nearly 30 news channels), more than 135 FM radio stations and almost 1500 newspapers. As far as the military establishment is concerned, “media propaganda” is a tool to manage Pakistani opinion rather than inform it. The Pakistani media is free only if it largely adheres to this strategic vision as a mouthpiece for the establishment, or at least is innocuous and subservient. The military keeps a close eye on the national and regional media. An expanded wing within Inter Services Public Relations (the official military PR agency) closely monitors news reports. Pakistan’s premier military intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), operates a clandestine “Media Management Wing”. According to Yusuf, the tools of media control have become subtle and savvy. Providing journalists with access to sources and breaking stories has partially displaced more brutal methods. Kamran Bokhari, an intelligence and Middle East/South Asia expert with STRATFOR (Strategic Forecasting, Inc.) says: “The most common and effective media management tool is simply controlling sources of information, and restricting access to conflict areas.” There are vast zones in Pakistan’s insurgency stricken Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the province of Baluchistan where the press and free movement are restricted. “More investigative minded journalists can be recruited,” Bokhari continues. “Exclusive access to the highest level sources is provided in return for good relations, ensuring these journalists do not cross any red lines that could jeopardise their access.” When the media loses the script, other tactics are used. The first is financial incentives. There have been revelations that, in 2007, the Ministry of Information operated a huge slush fund to bribe journalists and place fake news stories. The recent “Indian WikiLeaks” story shows this approach remains pervasive. Recalcitrant journalists can be subject to violence. In 2007, a 14-year-old boy was beaten and put into hospital when his journalist father fingered intelligence agencies in detaining and manhandling the chief justice of Pakistan. For some journalists, the consequences are fatal. In 2005, Hayatullah Khan broke the story about American drone strikes in Pakistan. He went missing shortly after; a few months later his body was found, handcuffed and bullet-riddled.
28 T H E W A L K L E Y M A G A Z I N E
Syed Saleem Shahzad (right) was a senior journalist with Asia Times Online Photo: Online International News Network
In 2007 the Ministry of Information operated a huge slush fund for the purpose of bribing journalists and placing fake news stories The ISI has stared down accusations that it is connected to Shahzad’s murder, issuing an unprecedented – and vaguely threatening – denial, and stating that the media “should refrain from [making] baseless allegations against the ISI that seek to deliberately malign the organisation in the eyes of the people of Pakistan”. Bokhari points out that had the ISI wished to extract information on Shahzad’s sources, it could have done so without killing him. He doesn’t discount the possibility that “certain officials or even rogue agents deep within the ISI’s dispersed network may have acted on their own initiative and for their own reasons”. The ISI has no shortage of enemies among Pakistan’s insurgent groups. And Shahzad certainly had contacts not just in Pakistani intelligence but in al-Qaeda as well. But there is another, more symbolic interpretation of Shahzad’s death. Antiestablishment sentiment in Pakistan has been rising since the American raid on May 1 that killed Osama bin Laden. The brutality of Shahzad’s killing could be, according to Yusuf, “a warning to the journalistic community that it is on a leash, even if it doesn’t always know how long the leash is.” There are oddities in the case that could point to some state involvement. The network log for the final 18 days of Shahzad’s cellular phone has been mysteriously erased. Something similar happened to the network log of journalist Umar Cheema’s phone when he was kidnapped and tortured in September 2010. Cheema subsequently claimed that he had been threatened by the ISI, and publicly blamed the agency for his abduction. Another coincidence is that Ilyas Kashmiri, whom Shahzad claimed was behind the Mehran naval station attack, was reported killed in an air strike on June 3. In Pakistan, speaking truth to power is a dangerous exercise. According to Reporters Without Borders, Pakistan is the most dangerous place in the world to be a journalist – even more than all-out war-zones. Shahzad’s life was not inherently more precious than the dozens of other journalists in Pakistan who are killed or tortured each year. But his courage and death can become a symbol of resistance to an establishment that purports to hold a monopoly over truth and the “national interest”. Shibil Siddiqi is a journalist and a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Global Power and Politics at Trent University in Canada; www.shibil.com
CARETAKERS FOR THE APOCALYPSE
In Detroit, broke and desperate residents are torching their own homes to collect the insurance money and move on. It’s the arson capital of America. By Nic Walker
“These houses around here were built in the late 1800s [and] early 1900s by our ancestors. People that came over for that American Dream that built for their people, their families, their kids. Now it’s like it’s fuckin nothing… who cares it’s all gone.” – Herbie Moltfort, Detroit firefighter
or the city of Detroit, numbers tell the story. Over the past 60 years the population has more than halved, the average house is worth just US$10,000, unemployment is at 50 per cent, and a third of all residents live below the poverty line. Against this grim background, Detroit has become the arson capital of America, as its residents turn to
insurance fraud in an effort to salvage something from their battered lives. Last year the Detroit Fire Department responded to a staggering 30,000 calls – that’s one for every 20 households in the city. I began this project when visiting Detroit in November 2009 to shoot a story for The Australian Financial Review Magazine about the decline of the once great industrial cities of America. This is where I met the firefighters from Highland Park and straight away I knew I wanted to tell their story. It was like they were going into battle dressed in armour – and not necessarily to save lives or protect possessions, but mostly to stop the burning down of a city that has pretty much abandoned itself. THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
The average house is worth just US$10,000, unemployment is at 50 per cent, and a third of all residents live below the poverty line
The series was shot as a personal project during Christmas 2010. It is a photo essay about Detroit’s firefighters and why they risk their lives to save houses that are going to be knocked down anyway. Former soldier Paul Baetz, now a Highland Park firefighter, says it’s about absolution: “In the military I’ve been deployed a couple of times, I’ve done some bad stuff. When at a certain point in a career you can make up for it, this is the kind of place where that happens. This is the kind of place when eventually you come walking out with two babies and you’re back at even.” 30 T H E W A L K L E Y M A G A Z I N E
Another Detroit firefighter, Sergeant Sprenger, put it like this. “Where else does this happen? Nowhere else! There is no explanation for it. I have been watching this for 30 years. It hasn’t stopped, and it hasn’t gone out. The city has evacuated itself. We used to fight to try to save people’s lives; now it’s just vacant properties. I think we are just caretakers for the apocalypse. It’s burning and burning and burning. It doesn’t stop.” Nic Walker is staff photographer for The Australian Financial Review Magazine. This essay won “Best in Show” at the Walkley Sydney Slide Night in June
Previous page, top: A Detroit firefighter changes a fire truck’s air tank at a house fire just off Highway 96 in Detroit. Left to right: A resident watches a fire at a local bookstore; Detroit’s Firefighting Squad 5 and other Detroit firefighters attend a blaze at an abandoned house off Highway 96; fighting a fire from the roof of a building This page, top: With temperatures dropping below -10 degrees Celsius, this Detroit fireman wears a face mask to protect himself from the cold Left to right: A pit bull terrier sits inside a Cadillac outside a blaze on the west side of Detroit; firefighters from Squad 5 fight a fire from the roof of a building on West Robinwood Street near John R Street, a mostly abandoned area notorious for arson; a firefighter leaves a successfully extinguished apartment block fire on the outskirts of Highland Park
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2011 WALKLEY AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM
Your 2011 Walkley entry
2011 Walkley categories LONG-FORM JOURNALISM • Walkley Book Award • Walkley Documentary Award PRINT & WIRE SERVICE JOURNALISM • Best news report • Best newspaper feature writing • Best magazine feature writing • Best three headings ARTWORK • Best cartoon • Best artwork – including digital photo illustration and information graphics
he annual Walkley Awards are a celebration of quality Australian journalism. It is time for practitioners of the craft to start selecting their best work for entry in the 2011 Walkleys. Don’t leave it until the last minute. This year the Walkleys are travelling north, heading back to Queensland for the first time since since 1999. Brisbane will host the 56th Walkley Awards presentation on Sunday, November 27. The gala dinner will be the culmination of an exciting Walkley Week that will include the Walkley Media Conference. This event brings together leading Australian and international journalists and thinkers to discuss narrative and the nature and future of our craft. Walkley Week will also include a showcase of shortlisted Walkley documentaries, and a spectacular public display of Walkley-nominated photographs. So make a week of it and combine intellectual stimulation with an early dose of summer. This year the Walkley Foundation is proud to announce a major new category: the Walkley Documentary Award, which will become the ultimate accolade for this important class of long-form journalism. It will sit alongside the Walkley Book Award. Journalism is changing and, to reflect that, we have tweaked some of the awards categories. This year, in the photographic section, general and spot news are being merged into a single category: “News photography”. And whereas “News and current affairs camera” used to be confined to television, now it is in the All Media section, so that it can include online camerawork. And the old “Outstanding continuous coverage of an issue or event” category has had a name change: it is now “Sustained coverage of an issue or event”. There are also some changes to the entry method. The online entry system, introduced in 2009, is being modified. This year, if you are entering cartoon, artwork or photography awards you can still upload online. Just upload your work as a PDF. However, all other entries (including photography for the All Media categories) will once again have to be posted or couriered in, after you have registered and gained an entry number online. Please note that we require four copies of each piece of work. Every year, the Walkley Awards receive about 1300 entries. In 2010, almost half arrived on the day that entries closed. We ask you to remember that the Walkley Foundation has a small, dedicated but not superhuman staff: please don’t leave it until the last day to send in your entries. So get cracking. Register your entries as soon as possible. And the very best of luck. Laurie Oakes Chair, Walkley Advisory Board
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PHOTOGRAPHY • Best news photography • Best daily life/feature photography • Best sport photography • Photographic essay • Nikon-Walkley press photographer of the year NIKON-WALKLEY PHOTOGRAPHIC PRIZES • Best community and regional photography • Best portrait photography RADIO JOURNALISM • Best news and current affairs journalism • Best feature, documentary or broadcast special TELEVISION JOURNALISM • Best news reporting • Best news and current affairs reporting (less than 20 minutes) • Best current affairs, feature or special (more than 20 minutes) ONLINE • Best online journalism ALL MEDIA • Outstanding sustained coverage of an issue or event • Best scoop of the year • Best coverage of community or regional affairs • Best international journalism • Best business journalism • Best investigative journalism • Best coverage of Indigenous affairs • Best sport journalism • Best social equity journalism • Best commentary, analysis, opinion and critique • Best broadcast and online interviewing • Best broadcast camerawork The following Walkley Awards are not nominated categories, but are presented at the Walkley Awards Gala Ceremony: • Most outstanding contribution to journalism • Journalistic leadership • Gold Walkley
Walkley categories explained In all cases, “report” refers to either a single report or a collection of reports/coverage of an event, subject or issue, although entrants are limited to submitting no more than three pieces of work per category. Publication/broadcast must have been in the 12 months between September 1, 2010 and August 31, 2011. Only one entry per category is allowed. To register online or for more information on specific categories, entry requirements, group entry guidelines and frequently asked questions visit walkleys.com LONG-FORM JOURNALISM Walkley Book Award: This award recognises journalism in book form, and is open to all examples of journalistic non-fiction works by Australian writers. Entries may cover a diversity of issues. Authors must be Australian citizens or permanent residents of Australia. Titles can be an edited collection by no more than five authors, can be on an Australian or international subject matter and/or historical in context. Entrants must submit six copies of their book, plus the book award entry form downloadable at walkleys.com Walkley Documentary Award: For excellence in documentary production that is grounded in the principles of journalism, together with rigorous film-making. The award is open to a variety of documentary storytelling styles and the judges are looking for courage and creativity in concept, approach and execution. Documentaries may encompass in-depth examination of issues of local, national or international importance or of contemporary or historic events, and may include investigative, biographical and first-person stories. Eligibility: any non-fiction film made for cinema, broadcast or web release with a running time of at least 40 minutes, not including entirely scripted or improvised fictionalisations of actual events. The named entrant(s) should be the individual(s) most involved in the key journalistic and creative aspects of the filmmaking process. A maximum of three persons may be designated as entrants, one of whom must be the credited director. Entrants must submit six copies of their entry on DVD. PRINT & WIRE SERVICE JOURNALISM News report: Up to three related news items may be entered. Judges are looking for courageous journalism, writing excellence, accuracy, storytelling, newsworthiness, ethics, research, impact and public benefit. Newspaper feature writing: Creativity, originality and writing flair will be highly regarded in this category, in addition to the general criteria. Magazine feature writing: Keeping in mind the parameters of the medium, creativity, originality and writing flair will be highly regarded in this category, in addition to the general criteria. Three headings: Subeditors can enter their three best headlines. Judges look for originality, flair and relevance to the story. Cartoon: Judges look for creativity, innovation, wit and style combined with newsworthiness and artistic technique. ARTWORK The artwork category has expanded. Judges are looking for artwork, illustrations, digital photo illustrations or information graphics displaying creativity, innovation and style, combined with artistic technique. PHOTOGRAPHY There is a new entry system for Photography category entries. Go to walkleys.com and click on the separate “photography entry” button where you will be sent to upload your images and give a brief description of the images, publication and dates. After you have completed the entire uploading process you may hit the “submit” button and the rest of your contact details will be gathered. There is no longer a need to send in a separate disc or entry statement. All photographers may also enter the relevant all-media category (eg. “International journalism”) but entry into any all-media category must be done on the Walkley entry website. You will need to post images in on a disc, together with your confirmation email with entry number for that particular category. The disc should be clearly marked with your name and entry number.
Entries to all photography categories may be either a single photograph or a series (up to five images) on the same subject – except in the case of photographic essay (up to 12 images), portrait (one image only) and press photographer of the year (six to eight images). News photography: Judges look for newsworthiness, impact, technical superiority, creativity and originality. This category incorporates the previous categories of spot and general news, but still includes the criteria of capturing an exclusive or spontaneous news moment and depicting news-value images on the day. Up to five images on one subject, story or event (not theme) may be entered. Daily life/feature photography: Images submitted for feature or magazine purposes. Ideally, they should be humaninterest photos displaying creativity, originality and technical photographic excellence. Sport: This category will reward those who capture the emotion and drama of sport. Entries may show action and/or feature imagery in the sporting arena. Will be judged on an entry of up to five images on one subject, story or event (not theme). Photographic essay: Up to 12 images of a news or feature story, of which one photograph must have been published. Nikon-Walkley press photographer of the year: Entrants must submit a body of work of six to eight images showing the photographer’s range and self-editing skill. Body of work can encompass any genre. RADIO JOURNALISM Judges will take into account the resources available for the preparation of the work entered and the collaborative nature of this medium. News and current affairs reporting: The criteria are newsworthiness, courage, impact, immediacy and making use of the qualities of the medium in reporting news and pursuing excellence in journalism. High regard will be paid to research, writing, production, incisiveness, impact, the public benefit and journalistic ethics. Feature, documentary or broadcast special: Explorations of news issues and current affairs in a longer format. TELEVISION JOURNALISM Judges will take into account the resources available to prepare the work, and the collaborative nature of this medium. News reporting: Judges look for reports demonstrating newsworthiness, courage, impact, incisiveness, public benefit and ethics. Entries may be a single short news report or no more than three related reports on the same subject. Current affairs reporting (less than 20 minutes): Recognises daily current affairs and analysis of news events. Reports should highlight research, public benefit, ethics, courage and impact. Current affairs report, feature, documentary or special (more than 20 minutes): Recognises excellence in long-form current affairs, highlighting research, impact, storytelling and public impact. ONLINE Best online journalism: Rewards original, courageous and ethical journalism in the evolving online field. The judges will also take into consideration innovative techniques in news gathering and presentation including interactives, multimedia, audio, video, animation and live interaction, crowd-sourcing and modes of distribution. ALL MEDIA These awards recognise all forms of media, including photography, print news and features, radio and television news and documentaries and/or a collaborative effort by a group or team of journalists or a media organisation. Sustained coverage of an issue or event: This category rewards tenacity and creativity in sustained coverage of an issue or event over time, but the entry must consist of work during the current Walkley period of entry (September 1, 2010 – August 31, 2011). Each entry should include the initial story and up to four subsequent stories over the course of days, weeks, or months. The progression of the initial developing story should be apparent from the follow-up coverage. Each entry must be accompanied by a supporting statement of up to
For complete category descriptions, and to register your entries, go to walkleys.com 400 words. Details should include the story’s chronology and circumstances affecting its gathering and presentation as well as resources available. Judges look for innovation, creativity, the use of new technology and either single or multi platforms in the presentation of news and information. Entrants can include an entire media organisation or individuals working across a range of platforms. Access to any online entries must be available during August to November 2011. Scoop of the year: A “scoop” is defined as a report that contains revelatory facts which inform and change public understanding or knowledge of an issue or event. Judges look for a significant revelation, with public impact, that displays the skill of the journalist in getting the information and having it published or broadcast, and the degree of difficulty in so doing. Supporting documentation should include a chronology and must include and document the exact moment of broadcast or publication. Business journalism: Recognises excellence in business, economics and finance journalism. Broadcast camerawork: This category has been expanded to include photographers working on online video and soundslides. This category still recognises camerawork in Australian news, current affairs and documentary. Coverage of community and regional affairs: This category is open only to journalists working in the suburban or regional media and recognises their role in reporting on and informing their local communities. International journalism: This award recognises excellence in international journalism in the Australian media. Investigative journalism: This category rewards wellresearched and presented investigations. Coverage of Indigenous affairs: For excellence in coverage of Indigenous issues. Journalists and photographers working in both the Indigenous and mainstream media are encouraged to enter. Sport reporting: A story or series of stories on a sporting issue. Judges look for impact, newsworthiness and will reward ethics, creativity and application of the story to the sporting media. Analysis, investigations and comment may also be considered. Social equity journalism: Rewards public service journalism and media reporting which addresses issues relating to social and economic equality, human rights and participatory democracy. The award will be given to journalism that measures business, governmental and social affairs against clear ideals of the common good. Commentary, analysis, opinion and critique: This category is open to journalists involved in comment and analysis and includes leader writers, reviewers and opinion columnists covering arts, sports, business or politics. Entrants should submit three samples, not necessarily related, to be judged as indicative of their work. Broadcast and online interviewing: Awarded to consistently good journalism in either radio, television or online, based on three samples indicative of an entrant’s work. Judges look for excellence in interviewing, both live and pre-recorded, and/or hosting live broadcasts. SENIOR CATEGORIES The Walkleys recognise excellence for senior journalists in the following categories: Outstanding contribution to journalism: Each year, the Trustees recognise the achievements of someone who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the highest standards of journalism – truth, rigour, integrity, fairness – over a lifetime. Nominations can be made through state branches of the Alliance or directly in writing to the Walkley Foundation Trustees, 245 Chalmers Street, Redfern NSW 2016. Journalism leadership: In recognition of outstanding acts of courage and integrity in the practice of journalism. Persons wishing to nominate cases should write to the Chairman of the Board, c/– The Walkley Foundation. Nominations could include examples of previous work, citations from senior media and other personal references. Gold Walkley: The Walkley Advisory Board chooses the winner of the Gold Walkley from among the winners of all other categories, except the “Journalism leadership” and “Outstanding contribution to journalism” awards.
THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
2011 WALKLEY AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM
Sponsor listings AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION 700 Harris Street Ultimo, NSW 2007 Jane Wilson Marketing & Promotions Manager, ABC News Ph: (02) 8333 3662 firstname.lastname@example.org www.abc.net.au
AUGUST 21 David Street Richmond, VIC 3121 Zoe Warne Director, Creative Services Ph: (03) 9445 0325 email@example.com www.august.com.au @zobi1kenobi
AUSTRALIA POST 111 Bourke Street Melbourne, VIC 3000 National Media Line Ph: (03) 9106 6666
AUSTRALIAN SUPER Level 33, 50 Lonsdale Street Melbourne, VIC 3000 National Service Centre 1300 300 273 Paul Schroder General Manager Business Development Ph: (03) 9648 3989 firstname.lastname@example.org www.australiansuper.com
BAYER Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals 875 Pacific Highway Pymble, NSW 2073 Adrian Dolahenty Public Affairs Manager Ph: (02) 9391 6277 email@example.com www.bayer.com.au
BHP BILLITON 180 Lonsdale Street Melbourne, VIC 3000 Samantha Stevens Vice President, Media Relations Ph: (03) 96092898 firstname.lastname@example.org www.bhpbilliton.com
FAIRFAX MEDIA 1 Darling Island Sydney, NSW 2009 Philip McLean Group Executive Editor email@example.com www.fxj.com.au
FOXTEL 5 Thomas Holt Drive North Ryde, NSW 2113 Adam Suckling Corporate Affairs firstname.lastname@example.org www.foxtel.com.au COPYRIGHT AGENCY LIMITED Level 15, 233 Castlereagh Street Sydney, NSW 2000 Zoe Rodriguez Cultural Fund Manager Ph: (02) 9394 7668 email@example.com www.copyright.com.au
EPSON AUSTRALIA PTY LTD 3 Talavera Road North Ryde, NSW 2113 Veronika Curcija Marketing & Communications Ph: (02) 8899 3666 firstname.lastname@example.org www.epson.com.au
ERNST & YOUNG 8 Exhibition Street Melbourne, VIC 3000 Katherine Rellos Communications Senior Manager Ph: (03) 9288 8322 email@example.com www.ey.com.au
ESRI AUSTRALIA Level 3, 111 Elizabeth Street Brisbane, QLD 4000 Alicia Stumm Media Liaison Ph: (07) 3218 4157 firstname.lastname@example.org www.esriaustralia.com.au
EVENTS QUEENSLAND PO Box 7990 Waterfront Place Brisbane, QLD 4000 Megan Saunders General Manager, Corporate Affairs Ph: (07) 3222 1000 email@example.com www.eventsqld.com.au
BBC Worldwide Australia+ Level 5, 6 Eden Park Drive Macquarie Park, NSW 2113
34 T H E W A L K L E Y M A G A Z I N E
HART SECURITY AUSTRALIA 9 Napier Street North Sydney, NSW 2060 Sallie Stone Managing Director Ph: (02) 8021 2056 Mob: 0412 552 888 www.hartsecurity.com
J.P. MORGAN Level 32, Grosvenor Place 225 George Street Sydney, NSW 2000 Andrew Donohoe Executive Director Marketing & Communications Ph: (02) 9220 3138 firstname.lastname@example.org www.jpmorgan.com.au
KIWI COLLECTION Brad Cocks email@example.com www.kiwicollection.com
MEDIA MONITORS PTY LTD Level 3, 219-241 Cleveland Street Strawberry Hills, NSW 2012 PO BOX 2110 Gregg Amies Chief Executive Australia & New Zealand Ph: (02) 9318 4000 firstname.lastname@example.org www.mediamonitors.com.au
MEDIA SUPER Level 10, 45 Clarence Street Sydney, NSW 2000 Ross Martin Chief Executive Officer Ph: (02) 9114 8688 email@example.com www.mediasuper.com.au
MINTER ELLISON LAWYERS Rialto Towers, 525 Collins Street Melbourne, VIC 3000 Aurora Place, 88 Phillip Street Sydney, NSW 2000 Peter Bartlett, Partner firstname.lastname@example.org David Poulton, Partner email@example.com
NEXUS ENERGY LIMITED Level 23, 530 Collins Street Melbourne, VIC 3000 Belinda Mounsey Executive Assistant to Managing Director Ph: (03) 9660 2500 firstname.lastname@example.org www.nexusenergy.com.au
LION Level 7, 68 York Street Sydney, NSW 2000 James Tait Corporate Affairs Director Ph: (02) 9320 2236
NIKON AUSTRALIA Unit F1, 3-29 Birnie Avenue Lidcombe, NSW 1825 Kylie Dredge Sales & Marketing Department (02) 8748 5255 email@example.com www.nikon.com.au
LINC ENERGY LIMITED PO BOX 1315 Brisbane, Qld 4001 Greg Meyer General Manager, Corporate Communications Ph: (07) 3229 0800 firstname.lastname@example.org www.lincenergy.com
NINE NETWORK AUSTRALIA 24 Artarmon Road Wiloughby, NSW 2068 PO BOX 27 Mark Calvert Network Director of News (02) 9965 2779 email@example.com
PURPLE PALATE 29 Junction Drive Coolum Beach, QLD 4573 John Lehmann Managing Director Ph: (07) 5440 2000 firstname.lastname@example.org www.purplepalate.com
QANTAS 203 Coward Street Mascot, NSW 2020 Corinne Lagis Marketing Advisor Ph: (02) 9691-0015 Mob: 0407 112 199 email@example.com
QUT CREATIVE INDUSTRIES â€“ JOURNALISM Creative Industries Precinct Musk Avenue Kelvin Grove, QLD 4059 Ph: (07) 3138 8114 firstname.lastname@example.org
SBS TELEVISION 14 Herbert Street Artarmon, NSW 2064 Paul Cutler Director, News and Current Affairs, SBS Television and Radio Ph: (02) 9430 3971 email@example.com www.sbs.com.au
SEVEN WEST MEDIA 38-42 Pirrama Road Pyrmont, NSW 2009 Simon Francis Director, Corporate Development Ph: (02) 8777 7162 firstname.lastname@example.org www.seven.com.au
SKY NEWS 5 Thomas Holt Drive Macquarie Park, NSW 2113 Angelos Frangopoulos Chief Executive Officer (02) 9886 8009 email@example.com www.skynews.com.au
WALKLEY YOUNG JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR 2011
In their own words… Flynn Murphy asks our Walkley Young Journalist of the Year finalists about their work Why did you decide to be a journalist? I don’t even remember why I started doing this, but I can tell you why I still do it now: I love telling a good story, sinking my teeth into an investigative piece and meeting interesting people in interesting places. What are the challenges of television journalism? Television forces me to be creative in the way I draw a story together to make it compelling and watchable. You don’t write to pictures in radio and you don’t take sound into account in print, [but] you have to think on many different levels when filming a story – and think quick. Music, pauses in the right places, a good line, an emotive grab – any one of these or a combination of all can really set the tone of a story.
OVERALL WINNER + TELEVISION Yaara Bou Melhem, SBS TV For her Dateline report “Freedom’s Call”, the Arabicspeaking journalist went underground in Syria, one of the Middle East’s most controlled countries, and at great personal risk recorded interviews with Syrian dissidents and political figures.
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How do you act as an ethical journalist? When I was in Syria filming with dissidents, I was particularly sensitive to the safety of the people I was interviewing – many people pulled out of interviews before filming and retracted interviews after filming. I respect that. All the people that did eventually feature in my story were aware of the potential repercussions – that they could go to jail or worse. In the same way that I respect people’s choices not to speak with me on a sensitive issue, I respect a person’s choice to speak with me. It means they are entrusting me to tell their story at great risk to themselves. Who is your favourite journalist? I have met so many young, brave, intelligent and innovative people who leave comfortable lifestyles
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and a steady job to plonk themselves in a location where the stories are vibrant, often important but untold. Usually they’re there without the backing of a major network and work creatively and hard to get great stories that the mainstream outfits sometimes miss or aren’t in a position to cover. People you may or may not have heard of like Drew Ambrose, Rebecca Collard, William Lloyd-George, Mati Milstein, Aubrey Belford – just to name a few. They’re pioneers, they take risks and they’ve inspired me the most. How do you get your news? Although I’m a television journalist, I have to admit I don’t watch TV! I get all of my news online, on my iPhone, my iPad, my I-you-get-the-picture. If a newspaper or broadcast program isn’t online or doesn’t have an app, I miss out – or they do, whichever way you want to look at it. What do you think young journalists can offer their more experienced colleagues? I don’t think you can generalise about a young journalist’s strengths. I know many young journos who are Luddites, and older journos who are teaching me about the newest technologies and apps out there and how we can better apply these to our craft. But generally, younger journos haven’t been in this craft long enough to be set in our ways, and sometimes come up with ways of delivering a story that our more experienced counterparts hadn’t thought of. u
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WALKLEY YOUNG JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR 2011
PRINT Rosie Squires, The Sunday Telegraph As part of Rosie Squires’ investigation of practices in aged-care homes, she spent three weeks working undercover in two different facilities. Her story led to three federal inquiries and was highly commended by the judges. When did you decide you wanted to be a journalist? I have always loved to write. My father is a journalist and growing up I was inspired by him. What makes print unique? There is something very special about newspapers. I have a great attachment to Sunday newspapers. Readers take the time to sit down and read them cover to cover. My grandfather used to say it was like holding the world in your hand. There is a certain nostalgia attached to Sunday papers, you can relax, learn and enjoy the written word. And we can set the agenda for the week. Where do you think print will be in five years? Will the medium survive? I am confident papers will still be around in five years. I think we need to work hard to ensure our online product is as good as our print edition. There will be some changes. I need to start thinking about video for online in everything I do. When I started at the paper I only thought about words. I quickly learnt how important photos and visual aids were for a story. Now I need to actively think of video we can upload online to complete the package.
What is the most memorable, or the most embarrassing moment of your career? The most memorable would probably be winning the News Limited Young Journalist of the Year award for my nursing home investigation. In fact the three weeks working in aged care changed my life. I will never forget the faces I worked with during the month. Most embarrassing moments have been limited, thankfully. Maybe falling over in my heels at the Christmas party in front of the entire Sunday Telegraph team. What do you think is the biggest concern facing print journalists? Readers turning to misleading and inaccurate bloggers for news instead of buying the paper.
PHOTOGRAPHY Harrison Saragossi Freelancer Harrison Saragossi submitted three shots of drunkenness and excess in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. They were from a series taken over six months as part of a university honours project and published on brisbanetimes.com.au. You describe yourself as a “documentary photographer”. What is that exactly? Documentary photography is all about capturing moments. I’ve always wanted to document parts of life, challenge ideas and bring to the forefront issues that are not always shown or considered. Still images are a powerful medium because they are
so immediate – but you have to convey everything in that one shot. It can be a challenge to narrate an environment, issue and idea all in one image, but you can reach a wide audience in an instant, and in that instant make someone aware of an issue or event. What sort of ethical concerns do you face? As photography can be seen as truth and photojournalism is about capturing candid moments, it is important for it to be as truthful and honest as possible. Re-creating images or altering scenes for photographic purposes becomes an ethical concern as people may consider it as truth. The web has prompted a kind of revolution in photography. Do you use the new tools available to photographers, such as audio slideshows? So far, I haven’t started to explore new tools and mediums. I think this is because I strongly believe in the power of the single image and love the challenge of this medium. I am still exploring the possibilities of the single image. What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far? The most memorable experiences in photography are when you know you have just captured a shot that’s perfect, in the sense that it conveys everything you wanted to within a scene. I experienced this in the Fortitude Valley one night when a young girl was being pushed against a railing and crying while being arrested. I only had time to get three shots before being moved along by the crowd, but as soon as I took them I knew I had captured what I wanted to in that image. Who is your favourite photographer? I think James Nachtwey is amazing. I saw footage of how he is in the intense environments that he works
HARRISON SARAGOSSI Harrison Saragossi has been named the 2011 Walkley Young Australian Photographer of the Year for his work in The Brisbane Times.
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in. He comes across as relaxed and calm in these terrifying war zones. He seems to be able to make people understand why he is there without saying anything, or saying very little. People just seem to accept him into the environment.
RADIO John Connell, ABC Radio National Connell’s entry, “Whatever Happened to OV78”, was broadcast on 360 Documentaries. It focused on 78 Tamil asylum seekers who, after being rescued by an Australian Customs vessel, refused to disembark in Indonesia. His eight-month investigation uncovered claims of starvation and broken government promises. What made you choose to be a radio journalist? Radio chose me, in that there was always a radio on in the house when I was growing up – it was a medium of debate and intelligence. My very first radio project in university was to interview a war veteran. The man – since dead – opened up in a way that I knew could not be achieved in front of a camera. Radio, I realised, had an inherent intimacy. What has been most memorable? Being in Wave Hill on the night of Anzac Day 2007 to document the effects of the Northern Territory intervention. Seeing the contrast between black and white in this nation has never left me. Wave Hill was a sad sight: the intervention was an ill-formed
beast that has never achieved what it was set up to do… It was an eye-opening event, one that I will never forget. What do you think it takes to be a great radio journalist? Patience, editing ability, and a good turn of phrase. A healthy scepticism, good research, a good team, good interview skills and the ability to understand the human voice and the power it can have. What do you think is the most important ethical concern for radio journalists? Editing audio, one must be careful to not change the meaning of what people are saying. By cutting a word, a whole sentence structure can change: one can literally put words into people’s mouths. As such, you have to be careful with editing interview audio and its appropriation into the program.
ONLINE Asher Moses, Fairfax Asher Moses’ entry was his scoop that led to the closure of Vodafone dealer Communications Direct in January. Moses uncovered evidence that the dealer’s staff had impersonated their customers in order to cancel their accounts and sign them up to new contracts with higher commissions. What made you want to be a journalist? I started freelancing in my early teens and at that point the allure was being able to work at home
in my PJs and get paid for playing with the latest gadgets and video games… I dropped out of an accounting/finance degree and took journalism up as a full-time career when I realised I would never really be satisfied looking at spreadsheets and numbers all day. Being able to immerse myself in an area I love, inform Joe Public and keep the bastards honest is immensely rewarding. What’s the appeal of online journalism? Newspaper editors used to think they knew what people wanted to read, but with the shift to online, we can now see in the most minute detail exactly what people are interested in. Coupled with instant feedback via comments and social media, the web allows us to know our audience better than ever… Thankfully, with unlimited space, there is space for both the serious and the silly and both types of stories can be told in a much richer way on the web, making use of the full gamut of text, audio, photos, graphics and video. Who is your favourite journalist, and why? David Marr is a tireless campaigner around issues that are close to my heart and his superb work has helped form my views on a number of issues, from immigration to censorship. For political commentary, you can’t go past Peter Hartcher. What do you think it takes to be a great online journalist? The ability to write compelling, clean copy at breakneck speed, coupled with a strong nose for news. You need to be capable of sniffing out the hard, strong angles that best draw readers in and have to be as competent in writing text as you are in shooting/editing pictures and recording audio and video.
THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
Tribute to the journalists’ journalist Gary Scully will be remembered as an award-winning reporter, ardent unionist, mentor and friend, writes Derek Pola Gary Scully September 7, 1933 – May 7, 2011
ary Scully was self-effacing to the end. He wrote his own obituary, which was published after his death in May, aged 78. While giving brief details of his 38 years at the ABC as industrial roundsman, foreign correspondent and founder member of Bob Hawke’s “animals”, and his years of service to the Australian Journalists’ Association, it fell short when it came to informing readers of what a towering presence he had been as a mentor and example to his colleagues, both at the national broadcaster and across the craft of journalism in Australia. I have to declare an interest here. Before marrying my mother, my father, John Pola, dated Gary Scully’s cousin. Scully and Dad grew up in journalism like brothers, both working in Sydney journalism in the mid 1950s. Their friendship was a decade old when I, aged 14, having expressed an interest in becoming a journalist, seriously engaged with the professional side of one Gary Vincent Scully. His advice was honest. To become a journalist is a privilege like no other, he told me. You get to experience all sides of life and opportunities. It can be the most frustrating yet the most satisfying of professions. Get it right and you can be in for one hell of a ride. Four years later, in 1970, I was to start my career as an ABC cadet and the first steps on that ride were as Gary’s sidekick. He was then one of the ABC’s two industrial roundsmen. Gary was a stickler for accuracy and impartiality. He spent his formative years in the bush at Coolah and Bathurst in central NSW, then later at Casino in the state’s north. Having graduated dux in English from his father’s old alma mater, St Joseph’s College
Passionate pioneer Rose Kinson November 4, 1916 – April 6, 2011
ose Kinson, who was one of the first female news reporters to cover Victorian politics and to work in Canberra. She was one of the pioneering women in Australian journalism. Born in Britain, Rose migrated to Australia with her parents Charles and Rose in 1928. One of six children, she went to Hawthorn Girls’ High School and excelled in English. During the Depression, she left school to take a job at Kodak, developing and
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at Hunters Hill, Gary started work as a copy boy, then in 1950 as a cadet, on Sydney’s Daily Mirror. Two years on the Richmond River Express in Casino followed before, in 1953, he started an ABC cadetship. In 1958 Gary was appointed the ABC’s national industrial reporter. For most of the next 25 years, industrial and political reporting was his beat, punctuated by stints as a foreign correspondent in Asia. As the ABC’s correspondent in Indonesia in 1973, Gary won fame amongst his fellow correspondents by managing to translate “don’t come the raw prawn with me mate” into Bahasa, and then using the term at bewildered officials at government press conferences. He was sent to Timor three times, the first when Portugal’s Caetano regime fell in 1974, printing film in Melbourne and later in Sydney and Brisbane. Rose returned to Melbourne to study at the University of Melbourne. She gained a cadetship with Australian United Press (AUP) and split her time, studying during the day and working in the late afternoons and evenings. She worked with AUP for five years. In 1949, she joined The Sun News Pictorial in Melbourne as a general reporter. At one stage she was offered a job on the social pages by Sir Keith Murdoch, but refused, telling him she wanted to cover parliament. He gave her the chance and she never looked back, becoming the first woman to cover state politics for The Sun. In 1956, Rose went to Canberra to cover federal politics for a couple of years before returning to Melbourne. In 1960, she took six months off and made her way to London, where she worked as a freelance journalist, filing for The Times and also for The
giving the Timorese their first rights of political affiliation. Later visits traced the lead-up to the eventual Indonesian invasion. Luckily, he was on leave in London at the time of the Balibo killings. Returning to Australia in 1976, Scully worked as a senior television reporter for the ABC in Sydney and went on special assignment to Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, New Hebrides and Fiji. He won a Walkley Award for his coverage of a siege in Rose Bay in Sydney in 1979, during which he narrowly avoided being shot. (I was his producer that night and can say that he thoroughly deserved the Walkley – and the Thorn Award he won the following year, also for his exceptional reporting of that story.) In his obit, Gary noted he was an “ardent trade unionist” – he was national vice-president of the Australian Journalists’ Association for 10 years, NSW vice-president for seven and served a term as the staff-elected director of the ABC. He was also instrumental in setting up – and running for a time – the Hawke government’s National Media Liaison Service (affectionately known as the “animals”) before heading back to the ABC, where he worked until retiring in 1991. In retirement he remained active as a freelance journalist – up to and, thanks to The Sydney Morning Herald obits page, after his death! Gary Scully died peacefully on May 7, 2011 at his home at Elanora on the Gold Coast. He is survived by his wife, Lorraine, and his four children, Michael, Catherine, Susan and Anne. Vale a valued colleague and dear friend. Derek Pola is a journalist of 40 years’ standing. He spent 15 years at the ABC. He is now associate director of the Northern Sydney Institute of TAFE Sun, Melbourne’s Herald and Vogue magazine. She intended to be away for only six months, but was eventually away for eight years. Rose returned to Melbourne in 1968 and continued as a freelance journalist, working for The Weekly Times, TV Scene and Austrade. Her sister Olive and her former colleagues recalled that Rose had a real passion for quality journalism and accurate copy. She was a great admirer of the work of Keith Dunstan at The Sun and Michelle Grattan at The Age. She was one of the early members of the Melbourne Press Club and a proud member of the Australian Journalists’ Association. Rose Kinson, who was 94, is survived by Olive, brother Aubrey and nieces and nephews. This obituary was written by Rose Kinson’s nephew, Bruce Tobin, who followed in her footsteps and was a reporter for The Sun and The Age
Greatest stories (n)ever told Tim Dick and Catherine Keenan need volunteers to help the next generation of storytellers. Photo by Kate Geraghty
Catherine Keenan gets a yarn spinning at a Sydney Story Factory workshop
ave Eggers can spin a yarn. The title of his best-selling memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, is an accurate description of itself, and his TED talk “Once upon a school” is an inspirational presentation that approaches genius, too. Listen to that once and you will understand why he set up 826 Valencia, a writing centre for children in San Francisco. Listen twice and you will wonder why there isn’t one in your own town. After listening three times to his yarn on the TED website (www.ted.com), examining the seven additional centres in other US cities, and reading about Nick Hornby’s Ministry of Stories in East London, we could find nothing similar anywhere in Australia. Despite not being best-selling novelists, we decided to start one in Sydney. With the help of many friends, supporters and sponsors, and assuming we raise enough money in the next few critical months, by the end of this year the Sydney Story Factory will open in Redfern. It will be a place which kindles the spark of creativity in every child, and do so through storytelling, in any written form the children want to create. It will help any child or young person who wants to come, but it will particularly target Aboriginal and migrant kids, given their stories are among those not often heard. The storytelling work began in May, with programs in three local schools serving suburbs around Redfern. After just two sessions, one mother told us her child’s writing had improved already. That is no surprise. The Sydney Story Factory is intensive without being intense. It shows children and young people how writing can be fun and how using their imagination is a good way to pass the time. It also improves their communication skills and creativity – crucial in this time of accelerating change – and helps them become more engaged with what would otherwise be seen as work. A child who finishes a program we run leaves with a tangible result: a bound book from a two-hour workshop, a published newspaper article, a zine, graphic novel or contribution to an anthology. The possibilities for publication are limited only by the imagination of the children and our volunteers (and a little limited by money). When schools have their task lists full, creativity can be squeezed. At Sydney Story Factory, it’s front and centre; when the centre opens, it will be cunningly disguised as the Earth’s first Martian Embassy and Gift Shop. The shop serves three purposes: it is a fantastical entry that tells kids they are
in no boring old after-school tutoring place, it becomes part of the community as an oddball feature on the main street, and it generates revenue from selling lowcost, high-joke-value stock to meet some of the centre’s running costs. All kids are welcome. A good mix of backgrounds – missing from much of the education system – is critical. There will be two staff to run the place, but the success of the operation depends on the goodwill of volunteers – writers, editors, reporters, subs, artists, designers, teachers, students and interns – anyone who loves writing can help. We had 200 people turn up to our first meeting, and 600 have flagged an interest. The thirst for volunteers will be insatiable once we open, hopefully by November. We already have significant support, from The Sydney Morning Herald (which employs us) to a creative agency – The Glue Society – helping with the shop, to the Copyright Agency and lawyers, accountants and auditors acting pro bono. Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore gave $25,000 from her salary trust charity to get us on our feet. But opening a physical centre to meet the demand depends on raising enough money so our board is as sure as it can be that the Sydney Story Factory will be part of the community for good. Alongside the money we make ourselves from shop sales and memberships, we need at least $200,000 to open and about double that each year to run. That’s not a lot once converted to Martian dollars, but even in the strong Australian dollar, it is an absolutely justifiable amount to spend on developing creativity, which has been undervalued for far too long – particularly in writing and telling stories. It is the basis of our collective conversation, yet we often think those skills will just miraculously come – and to some people they do. The rest of us have to work at it, and if our society prizes innovation, then collectively we have to work at creative thought, too. There is no better time to start than in childhood. The NSW governor, Professor Marie Bashir, said when launching the Sydney Story Factory at the Sydney Writers’ Festival: “We owe it to every child in Australia that not one is disadvantaged by feeling frightened of expressing themselves, or being unable to express themselves.” We think so, too. Tim Dick and Catherine Keenan work at The Sydney Morning Herald and are co-founders of the Sydney Story Factory; www.sydneystoryfactory.org.au Kate Geraghty is a Sydney Morning Herald photographer
THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF AUSTRALIAN JOURNALISM
More faces from the AJA hall of fame Most of the great names of Australian journalism joined the AJA. Here we remember three of the best Graham Perkin (1929-1975) The man who has been called “the greatest Australian editor of his generation, if not of the 20th century” was born and raised in country Victoria. Edwin Graham Perkin moved to Melbourne to study law, but abandoned his studies to take up a cadetship at The Age in 1949, when he also joined the AJA. The “boy from Beulah” had a restless, inquiring mind. In 1955 Perkin won a Kemsley scholarship which took him to London for a year. This exposed him to the wider world of journalism at publications such as the Daily Express, and he returned to Australia enriched by the experience. Perkin won a Walkley Award in 1959 for an article about innovative heart surgery. In 1965, aged 36, he became editor of The Age. In 1973 he was made editor-in-chief. Perkin hired a talented young editorial staff. Under his stewardship, The Age became a campaigning, agenda-setting newspaper, with strong investigative reporting and new rounds in health, environment, social welfare, higher education and science. Perkin emphasised the importance of good writing, accuracy and ethics, and initiated a “We Were Wrong” column to correct editorial errors. The Age’s circulation soared, and Perkin’s time at the helm is often called its golden era. Some thought that the paper was too left-leaning, especially when it supported Gough Whitlam’s ALP in the 1972 federal election. In 1974, this stance brought Perkin into conflict with the board of David Syme & Co, The Age’s publishers. He came close to resigning before a compromise was reached that maintained editorial independence. (The Age put the Whitlam government under close scrutiny and, in 1975, Perkin wrote an editorial urging it to “go now, go decently”.) Perkin campaigned for a press council – an idea longed backed by the AJA but opposed by the big newspaper proprietors, including Murdoch and Fairfax. Perkin was on the verge of being appointed Fairfax’s chief executive when he died of a heart attack in 1975. He was 45. The Australian Press Council came into being in July 1976. That same year, the award for the Australian Journalist of the Year was named in Graham Perkin’s honour. His children, Corrie and Stephen, both became journalists. Perkin was the subject of a biography by Ben Hills, Breaking News, which was longlisted for the 2010 Walkley Book Award. Photo: Thanks Louis Cooper and the estate of Marien Dreyer
Marien Dreyer (1911-1980) Marien Dreyer left school in Melbourne at the age of 14 to become a stenographer, Under the nom de plume “Gallery Girl”, she began to write theatre reviews for women’s magazines, while still working as a stenographer and telephonist. In the early 1940s, Dreyer and her husband, Rodney Beaumont Lovell Cooper, moved to Sydney, where she wrote many stories, serials and plays for magazines and radio. From 1955 until 1962 she wrote a popular column for New Idea, “This Week with Marien Dreyer”.
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Dreyer had lost a leg in childhood. In 1951, she wrote a script for the ABC called Story of a Lame Duck, which was largely autobiographical. (She had christened her wooden leg “Annabella” and used to hold an annual party for it.) In 1953, Dreyer wrote The Hard Way Back, about the struggle of a tuberculosis patient to rehabilitate himself. The Commonwealth Department of Health refused permission for the broadcast, saying Dreyer had overemphasised the difficulties. Dreyer’s appeal was dismissed, something she regarded as “a slur” on her reputation and “contrary to free speech”. In 1959 Dreyer shared the Walkley Award for a non-fiction magazine article with “The Day I Wiggled My Big Toe”, which had been published in New Idea. She also won the Journalists’ Club £1000 award in 1963 for one of her stage plays, Bandicoot on a Burnt Ridge. As publicity officer for the King’s Cross Protection Association, Dreyer opposed the construction of the tunnel at the top of William Street and became a regular in The Sydney Morning Herald’s letters page.
Andrew Olle (1947-1995) Andrew Olle began his career in journalism in 1967 as a news cadet in Queensland, immediately signing on as a member of the AJA. He joined This Day Tonight during a ground-breaking period in Australian journalism, and went on to work alongside people such as Kerry O’Brien, Peter Luck, Mike Carlton and Chris Masters. Olle’s too-short but illustrious career included stints on Nationwide, A Big Country, Nine’s Sunday, Four Corners (which he joined in 1985) and The 7.30 Report. In 1987, he began working at Sydney’s ABC local radio station 2BL (now 702 Sydney), becoming so popular that his initial half-hour morning shift developed into a 90-minute program in which he continued to build his reputation as a fine journalist. His daily on-air chat with the late Paul Lyneham became essential listening for those wanting to hear the latest political news from Canberra. Olle, who had a passion for politics, had an innate ability to present the subject in an informative but humorous way. Apart from displaying great attention to detail and accuracy, Olle was also scrupulously objective – so much so that not even his closest friends knew which way he voted. Olle seemed destined for even greater success when, aged 47, he collapsed and was rushed to hospital. He died a few days later, on December 12, 1995, from an inoperable brain tumour. The ABC was overwhelmed by the expressions of public sympathy, receiving thousands of letters of condolence from listeners and viewers. Many attended a commemorative service held at the Sydney Town Hall in his honour. The day after his death the then NSW premier, Bob Carr, told the Legislative Assembly: “Olle was noted for his courtesy, his dignity and his intelligence. He was a superb broadcaster. The explanation of state politics and public policy issues to the people of NSW was made more possible because of his professionalism... The quality of our public life is the poorer for his passing.” The Andrew Olle Memorial Trust was established to raise money for brain cancer and neurosurgery research. The Andrew Olle Media Lecture is held annually by the ABC in his honour.
SPOTLIGHT ON SUBS
Once were headliners Sydney Morning Herald sub Rob Mills remembers the days when cut and paste meant what it said
Photo: Fairfax Photos
emember the halcyon days of newspapers: the dramatic stories, the larger-than-life characters of a newsroom running on adrenaline? The memories are wonderful, but hard evidence of the great days of journalism can be hard to find. Yellowing newspapers are often best forgotten. A story that once excited seems trivial 30 years later. Badly printed old papers look awful, too – crude design, small pictures, crummy graphics, ugly typography, dull headlines. The sad truth is, the perfect newspaper is yet to be produced. One thing we can say with certainty, however, is that the previous generation of journalists had a hell of a lot of fun when papers reigned supreme. In the days before tight budgets, cost cutting and outsourcing subediting (to a call centre in Bangalore, if possible), hundreds upon hundreds of people worked together in giant newspaper factories – printers in inky overalls, reporters in crumpled clothing, hordes of telephonists dealing with the constant demand for classified ads. In Sydney, the Herald Sun building, as it was then called, was a purpose-built miniature city just off Broadway. It was 14 storeys tall and occupied a full city block. As well as a huge battery of presses, a loading dock and giant composing room, it housed two canteens, a doctor’s surgery, a barber’s and a small branch of the Bank of NSW. And at the very centre of things was The Sydney Morning Herald subs’ desk – the heart of the daily news operation. It’s hard to believe that in the days before Wikipedia and smartphones, newspapers were the main source of breaking news. Thirty years ago, when most TV stations had gone to bed, subs would be working into the early hours of the morning squeezing in late breaking news. When a Turkish nutter named Mehmet Ali Agca shot and almost killed Pope John Paul II in May 1981, a team of Herald subs managed to get the story on page one for the final edition. It was enormously satisfying to know we were breaking big news to most readers. Back then there were no computers on our desks providing 24-hour internet access. Instead there were mountains of telex paper, steel spikes, razor blades for cutting up cable stories and big pots of Clag glue for reassembling each story sentence by sentence. Newspapers were such a team effort. We talked to one another, swapping jokes and information. To be a sub you needed a head full of general knowledge. These were the days before Google could bail you out on how to spell a difficult name.
This was where we learnt to read stories in metal, upside down and back to front. This talent was vital for cutting a line here and cutting a line there From 10 o’clock each evening, Fridays especially, the phones would run hot as the drunks of Sydney tried to settle pub bets on who won a fight 20 years ago or which team won the 1954 grand final. Most subs would be polite to late-night callers, but when all else failed you could always transfer a stroppy caller to the phone in the lift (a crude forerunner of being placed on hold). Our role model was the late Tom Smith, the night chief-of-staff, who when raised to rare anger one memorable night told a caller loudly: “This isn’t talkback radio.” Finally, and more heatedly, Tom asked: “Do you know who you’re talking to?” When the caller evidently replied “No”, Tom fired back: “Well, then piss off.” There were loads of laughs. You smoked, whether you liked it or not. The diehards could buy cigarettes from the barber on the seventh floor or from one of the many vending machines scattered throughout the building. The rest of us made do on clouds of sidestream smoke. A nice old bloke named Ernie Hawkins attended to our every need. At regular intervals he would dispense hot tea and each evening at five would take dinner orders for the canteen: hot greasy chips, steak and onion toasted sandwiches, chocolate milkshakes, etc. Had sushi even been invented? And later in the evening he would pop down to the TAB in case anyone wanted to back a dog. As we tore into stories, fixing up spelling mistakes, patching up confusing grammar and
chopping out guff, the check sub would pore over our work before each story was rolled up tight, placed in a Lanson tube and whisked off to the linotype operators below. Subs would retain the first paragraph of each story. Later that evening, when the page layout had been done, you would be given a headline style. Often you would have to write several headings minutes before deadline with only one paragraph to refer to – an ordeal for those with short memories. Just after 10 – and a two-schooner supper break at the pub opposite – we would traipse downstairs to help the compositors assemble the giant metal jigsaw puzzle. This was where we learnt to read stories in metal, upside down and back to front. This talent was vital for cutting a line here and cutting a line there. The comp room could be tough for young subs – especially the women who joined our team in the early 1980s. Most comps were good company but several could be pretty boisterous in their domain, especially in the presence of an attractive female. In the early hours of the morning when you could feel the presses rumble, the bosses would drift off home leaving the rest of us to update stories, read and correct proofs, and look out for things to put in the fudge box – the stop press on page one, the only piece of red ink in the entire black-andwhite newspaper. Bosses hated an empty fudge box so we were always on the lookout for a late-breaking snippet along the line of “TOKYO, Friday: Mr Lee Bum Suk arrived here this evening for vital talks with Mr Fukuda”. The stranger the names, the better the fudge. Yes, the subs had fun before computers. Rob Mills began on The Sydney Morning Herald subs desk in 1981 and still helps produce the paper each day. In 2008 he won a Walkley Award for headline writing
THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
SPOTLIGHT ON SUBS
Grabbing eyeballs (and other skills) Seumas Phelan explains how a subeditor’s headline is the start of a darned good read
efore you saw these words you read the headline, and that shows you two or publication that prompted them. Perhaps the most famous is HEADLESS BODY things – the headline is the most important message on the page, because IN TOPLESS BAR, which is how the New York Post in 1983 summed up a local murder story that would now be long forgotten – except for that heading. it’s what the reader sees first, and the writer usually doesn’t know what the Then there’s GOTCHA! as the British Sun headlined the sinking of the Argentine headline will say. ship General Belgrano, with the loss of more than 320 lives in 1982 – one of the Most headlines are written by subeditors, whose aim at the first-contact stage most controversial headlines ever written, with outrage around the world and is to grab the reader’s eyeballs and drag them on to the story below, while the strong questions about media ethics. But as Kelvin MacKenzie, The Sun editor, said writer is usually more preoccupied with the subject matter – which may not be as at the time: “Isn’t ethics some place in south-east England?” fascinating as they think. For example, “An analysis of the budget rationale”, as recently suggested by My own favourite comes from an obscure soccer game in Scotland, in which an economics correspondent, is what subs call a “Don’t read me” headline, while lowly Caledonian Thistle from Inverness took on Glasgow’s mighty Celtic in the WHAT THE BUDGET MEANS TO YOU is an old faithful precisely because it works. Scottish Cup. There was an absolute upset. Caledonian thumped Celtic, who played Subs have been in the news because they’re where the a shocker. The Caley fans were ecstatic, the Celtic supporters bean counters look first when trying to cut costs. In fact, downcast, and the sports subs reached for the magnificent. as a McKinsey consultant at The Sydney Morning Herald The headline: SUPER CALEY GO BALLISTIC CELTIC ARE ATROCIOUS. They still tell that one in journo bars once notoriously asked before that paper’s first round of from Aberdeen to Zanzibar. redundancies, why have subs at all? – the reporters are quite Writing headlines for websites needs a whole different capable of putting the stories on the page themselves, and approach – in print the idea is to attract readers to the the subs are just “double handling”. story, but on the web people are already looking for the The truth is subs are the people who actually produce the story and just need a keyword to help them find it. This is publication – from layout to headlines and captions, from where you confront the dreaded SEO – no, not SubEditor editing to checking. There’s a joke doing the rounds at Fairfax Outsourcing but Search Engine Optimisation, which is now: “What do you call a newspaper without subs? A blog.” computer nerdspeak meaning that for any given story you The subeditor’s role is well known in the industry, have to come up with the headline with words people are although little recognised outside it. But the job is so most likely to use in a text search. important The Walkley Magazine has decided to run a series So for this article, a print headline could be HEADS on the different aspects of subbing – what we do and how we UP, TALES DOWN because the heading goes on top do it. Then maybe even management consultants will realise and the story underneath. But that won’t do for investment in production staff is money well spent. the straight and plodding SEO on the web – it just The obvious place to start in subbing is with the needs the obvious keywords, like SUBEDITORS AND headlines. They do much more than sum up stories – they . No imagination, but it does the job for HEADLINES set the whole tone of a publication and let readers know As Kelvin MacKenzie, those who Google. what to expect, from funny to serious, from prosaic to The Sun editor, said at So which is best, print or online? Most newspapers and sensational. Some publications, such as the US showbiz the time: “Isn’t ethics magazines now appear in both formats, although some journal Variety, make a feature of quirky headings, like STICKS NIX HICKS PIX over a story about rural filmgoers websites are online only and some publications print only. some place in preferring urban movies. And right here, it’s important to nail a media myth, which is south-east England?” Headlines should “sell and tell” – that is, tell the reader that newspapers are losing readers. We are not, we’re gaining what the story is about, and sell them on the idea of reading readers in millions – the only problem is no-one has found it. They can do this directly, by summing up the content in a few strong words for a successful way of making them pay for it. hard news stories. The New York Times front-page headline for July 21, 1969, was For example, The Australian, where I earn my living, sells about 350,000 copies of MEN WALK ON MOON – four words to sum up the story of the era. the big weekend print edition – but we get a million hits a day on our website, every Or heads can work indirectly, by piquing the reader’s interest or curiosity day. And there’s another myth – that readers get the online content “free”. They do or funny bone – “What a friend we have in cheeses”, for instance, as written by not, they pay a lot for it – it’s just that the money goes to the internet providers, not legendary subeditor Barry Porter, one-time federal president of the Australian the people who actually produce the publication. Journalists Association, now the Media Alliance. Solve that riddle – as the world’s major media companies are desperately Heads are meant to be in the active voice – that is what’s doing, not what’s trying to do at present – and you’re on your way to making millions. Just find an being done. And they’re usually written in the present tense, although the events investment banker to back your idea, and tell them we sent you. There could even they describe are already in the past – MEN WALKED ON MOON would sound be a headline in it. ridiculous, although accurate. The power of headlines is shown by the fact some take on a life of their own and Seumas Phelan is a senior subeditor with The Australian and a double become known around the world, although most people couldn’t tell you the story Walkley Award winner
42 T H E W A L K L E Y M A G A Z I N E
On the same page The subeditors at Pagemasters were proud of the job they did, but why did Fairfax put so many jobs on the pyre, asks Heather Smith. Cartoon by Lindsay Foyle
s a young reporter on The Courier-Mail in Brisbane, I soon realised the subs desk in the middle of the newsroom was to be approached with caution. Checking that it was OK to leave for the night, that someone had seen your story and there were no questions, was an exercise in timing. Too early and your head would be bitten off. Too many gaps in the story and your head would be bitten off. Too many spelling or grammatical errors and you’d be scared to come to work the next day. The subs were feared and revered – they seemed to have an incredible depth of knowledge and their word was law. Fast forward 25 years and the subeditor’s role has been outsourced but not diminished; expanded but not downgraded. The specialist knowledge possessed by finance subs, arts subs and sports subs is still there as the bedrock, but they now have to know more about everything. Because in the queue at Pagemasters – the AAP subsidiary which has recently taken on outsourced subediting duties for Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – could be a travel story, followed by a motoring story, followed by a fashion piece. And while subs are the ultimate backstop – the catchers who pick up mistakes, inconsistencies and keep the defamation lawyers at bay – the onus on reporters is now greater. If you have a round, it is presumed you have specialist knowledge and sufficient perspective to act as your own fact checker. When we first took on the work of the Fairfax metro features sections, two years ago, there was a sense of excitement, guilt and regret. Having moved from Sydney to be with my sick dad in Brisbane, I never dreamed I would have the opportunity of editing such esteemed publications. It was the ultimate fullstop in a journalist’s CV. Yet so many people had lost their jobs to enable this to happen. Still more continue to be shed as Pagemasters takes on the daily editing of the news as well as the lift-outs. Regret was tinged with nostalgia: that falling advertising revenues had forced management to take such extreme measures. Shell-shocked, the dozen or so subeditors who comprised the Brisbane operation in the early days tried to rationalise the shift in the landscape. It was a business decision, we were hired in good faith, the dead wood needed to be thrown on the pyre. But did the pyre need to be so big? Shouldn’t streamlining have been happening earlier so efficiencies and cost-cutting could have been achieved? The various editors and managers who visited the Pagemasters offices in Fortitude Valley claimed intransigence had been to blame; subeditors assigned to certain sections would not take on others in their down time. Specialist had come to equal elitist. Down time was soon a distant memory for the Pagemasters crew as the lift-outs started arriving over the wire. But while there was plenty to do, it wasn’t stressful or frenetic and the 9am–5pm day was strictly adhered to by most employees. Missing lunch was highly unusual and the bladder problems associated with not having time to leave your desk disappeared. I went for a swim
or to the gym at lunch, refreshed for the afternoon shift without falling behind. The variety was appealing. From TV reviews to finance advice; from gorgeous word-pictures of foreign lands to descriptions of the workings of a turbo engine. Without reporters doing interviews and phones ringing all over the office, it was quiet, but it would be impossible to have a room full of subs and not have a few laughs. When you called out for help with a headline or curly clause, a dozen suggestions came back and for what was then a relatively young bunch of subeditors with limited experience, the headlines were impressive. Of course, to start with the section editors in Sydney and Melbourne didn’t necessarily think so. It was early days – trust and respect had to be established, work patterns seriously adjusted, and all while they were coping with the loss of friends and mentors. Often they changed headlines for the sake of it, but this lessened over time. Where extensive rewrites were required, a discussion with the section editor happened first and they either went back to the reporter or did it themselves and sent it again. It was this sense of being a new business and having something to prove that contributed to the team spirit at Pagemasters. Layout subs worked closely with section editors in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as with the chief sub and production editor on the spot to ensure a smooth flow of copy. Upholding style was the defining role of the Pagemasters subs. Fiefdoms had been established in various SMH and Age sections, with each adopting their own look and feel. There was no consistency across the papers and management wanted their brands strengthened, not devalued by conflicting styles. They wanted every piece to be obviously Fairfax. I have two lasting impressions of my time at Pagemasters: one was how nice a place it was to work. The fit-out of the old Whiskey-Au-Go-Go nightclub was first rate, with large-screen televisions, $800 designer chairs, a fancy coffee machine in the sunny lunch room and natural light. Better than the furnishings was the sense of being valued. New staff received “Welcome to Pagemasters” iPods and a book voucher at a morning tea where introductions were made. Inspired headlines were celebrated with a Headline of the Week bottle of wine; praise was generous. The second impression was a sense of never quite reaching the finishing line. Once you had put a section to bed, there was another waiting. Once you had subbed a story, there was always another in the queue. Cherrypicking was discouraged – you took what was the next in line. And with the section editors having the final say, your extremely funny and clever headline might get changed anyway, leaving you deflated. Maybe that’s just payback. Heather Smith was acting production editor and check sub at Pagemasters in 2008-9. Lindsay Foyle is a former deputy editor of The Bulletin and a past president of the Australian Cartoonists’ Association
BOOK FROM 29 JULY mwf.com.au
THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
SPOTLIGHT ON SUBS
Want an apostrophe with that? Once a sub, always a pain in the arse, writes Jonathan Este
ou shouldn’t have capped the ‘M’ in field mushroom, ‘line-caught’ bundled me unceremoniously on to the plane, leaving me with no option but to takes a hyphen – so does ‘twice-baked’ and ‘free-range’ and there’s offer a strangled: “You’re wrong…” over my shoulder. no apostrophe in ‘sautéed spring onions’,” I told my friend Lyndon, How about “just desserts”? Who but old subs know that it should be “just handing him back the new spring menu for his wine bar. deserts” – after all, someone is getting what they deserve. And subs laugh like He looked crestfallen. More than that, actually. He was downright offended. drains when they see “Mount Fujiyama”. A tautology, of course… Oh, all right, My friend is the proprietor of a brasserie in the village where I grew up I know – but someone has to care about such things. and, when I returned there to live while working as a subeditor on the UK’s The subeditor’s curse afflicts anyone who has ever worn the green eyeshade Independent newspaper, we struck up a friendship which ran to regular long with a species of Tourette syndrome (note to subs: no possessive apostrophe, lunches, wine tastings and the like. lower-case “syndrome”): a compulsion to correct When I fronted for a quiet glass one evening, menus or to tell your spouse or children that it was only natural Lyndon would show me the “it’s fewer, not less than”, when you know in your Even if you are, like me, new menu, which he had spent the day designing. heart that your kindly intentioned advice will offended at being offered He had just laminated some copies ready to go only engender ill will. “banana’s”, be warned… the on tables the following day. Even if you are, like me, offended at being offered I don’t think he’d meant for it to be check subbed, “banana’s”, be warned… the greengrocer won’t care. greengrocer won’t care though – in fact he greeted the news that his precious He won’t whip the offending sign down and correct menu was studded with bloopers with a stony face and it. He’ll just thinks you’re a smart-arse. a subsequent failure to top up my glass with Rioja, as was usually his wont. And he may be right. Which is why it might, just might, be a misguided act of I call it the curse of subbing. It’s the inability of someone who has spent benevolence on the part of news organisations to either outsource their subbing any length of time on the subs’ desk to avoid pointing out other people’s or remove the subeditors to a room of their own where, no doubt, the air will errors to them. These are errors that are crying out to be corrected, such as be thick with grammar-related barracking, and where the pedants in the green an airline offering “complementary” headphones to passengers. In vain eyeshades can harp on about hyphens, literals and commas hunting in pairs to does one step in with a helpful correction: “Er… shouldn’t that be their hearts’ content without disturbing the peace in the newsroom. ‘complimentary’ headphones?” “No,” said the hostie, “they’re complementary.” Jonathan Este subbed on the UK’s Independent newspaper for three years and “But complementary means…” was as far as I could get before my wife has never recovered
44 T H E W A L K L E Y M A G A Z I N E
Shot down in sideshow alley The media reacted badly when Lindsay Tanner blamed them for dumbing down political debate. But Laura Tingle thinks he might have a point. Illustration by Rocco Fazzari
ears ago, the US columnist Art Buchwald wrote a spoof of how the modern White House press corps would cover the Gettysburg Address. The article hung above my desk for years, then got lost in an office move. Buchwald was poking fun at the house reporting styles of various news organisations, but what stood out to me was that virtually none of the “reports” quoted Lincoln’s great exhortation that his listeners ensure that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”. Even as a young gallery journalist I enjoyed the joke that most of the mock “news reports” were so full of phrases like “in what White House aides described as a stump speech” that they didn’t actually tell readers what Lincoln had said. At the time I was working for The Australian, which had a strong commitment to be a paper of record: when major political figures spoke, you reported the text of their speeches at length. A couple of decades on, there are so many speeches (often saying so little) that no-one feels it incumbent upon themselves to report direct speech at any length. The priorities of newspapers have also changed. Responding to commercial pressures and the immediacy of the electronic media and the web, newspapers have moved into “value adding” through commentary and other stories – so much so that often the basic story isn’t told. It’s a sad reflection of the Buchwald joke universe. This is what is at the heart of Lindsay Tanner’s book Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy (Penguin, $32.95). Tanner documents, from a politician’s perspective, what it is like to deal with the modern media. He argues that the media itself has a lot to answer for in its complaints about the shallowness of what politicians are prepared to say these days. Plenty has been written about political spin, but not so much about the media end of the transaction. Tanner documents both his own experiences and international trends in the way the media works. The reaction to Tanner’s book from the Australian media – and particularly the Canberra gallery – has been strikingly defensive and sour. Tanner has been accused of all sorts of crimes, including that he is shifting the blame for politicians not having much to say on to the media. That he is shooting the messenger. And that he shouldn’t be complaining because he always got a good run. I don’t think that Tanner is particularly guilty of any of these crimes (even if many of us seriously doubt whether a lot of politicians have anything significant to say). If anything, the reaction to his book has been much more a case of shooting the messenger by the media, in a rather spectacular example of thin skin and glass jaw. It does not reflect well on journalists that they seem unable to consider that such a critique of the way they operate might have a point. Tanner quotes me in his book, along with a number of other journalists. One of these was approached by a gallery member after Sideshow came out. “You and Laura are setting yourself up as being superior to the rest of us,” he was told.
Tanner’s book is not particularly belligerent in its message, but it makes observations about the way the media works, which for outsiders can be a revelation. For example, there’s his take on “media templates” – Tanner’s term to describe everything from tabloid articles about MPs’ pay and entitlements (which I’d class as staple stories rather than templates) to stories framed in simple terms of good guys/bad guys or winners and losers. I think this second group of templates is much more insidious, because such ideas reduce stories to their simplest (which isn’t always a bad thing) and create a mindset that allows no opportunity to explore the interesting parts of any story – the bits in between. Take the live cattle export story. At one end, there are those who want the live-cattle trade banned; at the other, cattle producers who have thousands of stock they can’t move and can’t feed. In between, there are the complexities of trying to resolve the immediate crisis and set out a long-term framework for the trade. In the political realm, the current template of this story is whether the Gillard government is stuffing up its handling of the issue and how successful the opposition is being in attacking it. Cut out of the unyielding template are complex questions. Why does Australia think it can regulate another country’s cattle industry? How does it realistically do this? Is it possible to reopen trade with a few abattoirs in Indonesia (which just happen to be Australian-owned) without facing accusations of being racist? What should be done with thousands of head of cattle that weren’t bred for the domestic market and which are thousands of kilometres away from that market? These are the sort of complex issues that the political process is set up to solve. Yet so often these days, we don’t cover them, because there aren’t pictures, because we think they are too complicated for our consumers, or because they don’t fit with the simple narrative of Julia versus Tony. This is why Sideshow is an important contribution to the political debate. The truth is that politics is – and isn’t – driven by the media. As Tanner says, politicians spend too much time trying to “feed the beast” of the 24-hour news cycle, and the result too often is politics first, policy second. It feeds into the process via focus groups which try to anticipate how “lines” (arguments) will play out, inevitably leading to politicians following opinion rather than leading it. This doesn’t excuse politicians for having shallow policy responses. And you don’t have to agree with all that Tanner has said in his book about the dumbing down of politics. You don’t even have to take it personally. But it should provoke all of us to think twice about how we cover the news, and even how we define it. Laura Tingle is political editor of The Australian Financial Review Rocco Fazzari is an illustrator with Fairfax
THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW...
... about literary journalism Stephen Romei reveals the ungenteel side of book reviews. Cartoon by Rod Emmerson 1. Going postal You will get more mail than Justin Bieber. Every working day the R [for Romei] pigeonhole at my office overflows, with parcels spilling sideways to block the Q and S, while also towering upwards to intimidate the K. All those bubble-wrap lined envelopes and Styrofoam-filled boxes contain books, even the big ones that look serious enough to hold a case of scotch (they never do). Why do books need such swaddling? They’re hardly going to break. Memo to all publishing publicists: just whack ’em in an envelope and post ’em, for goodness sake.
2. Spoiled for choice There are many, many more books published than there is newspaper space to review them. In The Weekend Australian we review about 20 books each week, while receiving at least 20 a day. You will have to tell a lot of publicists, and sometimes the authors themselves, that their book is not going to be reviewed. Some literary editors deal with this by ignoring their phone and email for days, months, years. I prefer the Band-Aid approach: rip it off, tell them straight and wish them better luck next time.
3. The great unread If there are more books being published than there is space to review them, multiply this by a factor of infinity when it comes to your ability to read them. Not only is it impossible to keep up with new books, but your to-read pile will grow exponentially as you add old books that you read about or that others recommend to you. When I look at the alleged to-read pile beside my bed (I normally include an adjective in that phrase, but let’s keep things clean), I silently pray for a smallish house fire.
4. It’s not about I You must edit books pages for every reader, not just yourself. So you need a cross-section of book reviews, covering fiction and nonfiction. I did once put out a books section devoted entirely to my own tastes and it didn’t go down well. Who knew that rugby league, horse racing and beer tasting were such niche interests?
5. Their pride and joy While you have to think about a lot of different books every day, authors only think about one: their own. It’s worth bearing this in mind and being sympathetic. Authors devote years to their books and, like all new parents, think that their offspring is special.
6. Almost famous You will get to know, even just a little, writers you have long admired. Having lunch with 46 T H E W A L K L E Y M A G A Z I N E
When I look at the alleged to-read pile beside my bed… I silently pray for a smallish house fire Peter Carey may not be quite the same as hanging out with Mickey Rourke, but if you are a bookish type it has its own cool.
7. Putting the pub in publishing This is a bit like hanging out with Mickey Rourke: writers are members of an endangered minority – people who still like to drink a lot and stay out late. At the recent Sydney Writers’ Festival there was a near riot one night when a certain hotel tried to close its bar at 11pm. Pens were cast aside and swords were taken up, and management quickly reopened the spigots. I was there mainly to pay because most writers wouldn’t shout if a shark bit them.
8. Adverse reaction Never get into an argument about poetry. Take my word on this.
9. Master class When it comes to writing book reviews, the five rules of American novelist and critic John Updike are hard to go past: 1. Try to understand
what the author wished to do, and do not blame him for not achieving what he did not attempt. 2. Give enough direct quotation – at least one extended passage – of the book’s prose so the review’s reader can form his own impression, can get his own taste. 3. Confirm your description of the book with a quotation from the book, if only phrase-long, rather than proceeding by fuzzy precis. 4. Go easy on plot summary, and do not give away the ending. 5. If the book is judged deficient, cite a successful example along the same lines, from the author’s oeuvre or elsewhere. Try to understand the failure. Sure it’s his and not yours?
10. The end I wanted to give the final word to The Australian’s chief literary critic, Geordie Williamson, winner of this year’s Pascall Prize for critical writing, so I asked him to name his guiding principle of book reviewing, and this was his reply: Always remember Edmond de Goncourt’s words: “The newspaper is the natural enemy of the book, as the whore is of the decent woman.” Geordie went on to elaborate on this, but we’re out of space which, I suspect, demonstrates his point. Stephen Romei is The Australian’s literary editor Rod Emmerson is editorial cartoonist at the New Zealand Herald
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