WALKLEY ISSUE 75 APRIL – JUNE 2013 $9.95
INSIDE THE MEDIA IN AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
Press Freedom Issue
Cameron Stewart • Melissa Fyfe • Jeff Waters • Chris Warren Michael McKinnon • Joseph Fernandez • Bernard Keane
Laurie Oakes God save the press gallery (because politicians won't)
Shooting from the Hip(stamatic)
An end to the deadly silence
The little app that took the cover of Time – Benjamin Lowy
How the Border Mail put suicide on page 1
The interactive newsfront – Erin Polgreen
R E A D T H E P R E S S F R E E D O M R E P O R T AT: W W W. A L L I A N C E . O R G . A U
n CONTACTS AND SPONSORS
Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance www.alliance.org.au Federal Secretary Christopher Warren Federal President (Media) Stuart Washington 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 P: (02) 9333 0999 F: (02) 9333 0933 E: email@example.com VICTORIA Level 3, 365 Queen St MELBOURNE VIC 3000 P: (03) 9691 7100 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Walkley Foundation and the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance thank the following organisations for their generous support. PLATINUM PARTNERS
QUEENSLAND Level 4, 16 Peel Street SOUTH BRISBANE QLD 4101 P:1300 656 513 E: email@example.com SOUTH AUSTRALIA 241 Pirie Street ADELAIDE SA 5000 P (08) 8223 6055 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
SILVER MEDIA PARTNERS
WESTERN AUSTRALIA Suite 1 12-14 Thelma Street WEST PERTH WA 6005 E: email@example.com TASMANIA 379 Elizabeth Street NORTH HOBART TAS 7002 P: (03) 6234 1622 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
CANBERRA 40 Brisbane Avenue BARTON ACT 2600 P: (02) 6273 2528 E: email@example.com
PRESS-JOIN US AND FREEDOM MAKE A DIFFERENCE ---2013
ntimidation, harassment, danger – they’re all in a day’s work for journalists in our own neighbourhood. Defending the right to report and protecting those who do is a duty that falls to all of us, everywhere, who cherish our profession. Join the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, Walkley Foundation for Excellence in Journalism and International Federation of Journalists for this important event. Date: Friday May 3, 2013 Time: 7:00pm Venue: Dockside, Cockle Bay Wharf Sydney Keynote speaker: Kate McClymont MC: Hugh Riminton Dress: Cocktail Tickets: Media and not-for-profits $140
2 THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE PF_invite2013_ad.indd 1
The dinner brings together journalists and press freedom advocates and raises money for the Media Safety & Solidarity Fund, which offers emergency assistance to journalists in the Asia Pacific region facing daily dangers and death threats in the line of duty. You’re invited to quaff fine wines and enjoy a three-course meal while bidding on a swag of goodies up for grabs at a live and silent auction, including original artworks and photos by some of Australia’s top cartoonists and photographers.
Tickets and table bookings contact Melissa McAllister on 1300 65 65 13 or via firstname.lastname@example.org RSVP BY FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2013
19/03/13 1:25 PM
Cheering a new generation of muckrakers
Peter Harvey Athol Thomas Barry Wain Nick Wrench
OUR MEDIA Through a Hipstamatic lens
By Lyndal Irons Benjamin Lowy brings his smartphone camera to big stories Trailing the stories of dead men
By Steve Pennells Getting the stories of asylum seekers from the source, not the destination Eds note: Paying nothing is not an option
By Robert Burton-Bradley The quiet desperation of a freelancer The new illustrated news
By Erin Polgreen Combining great reporting and comics Journalists, the great betrayers
By Michael Gawenda A journalist’s loyalty should ultimately be to the story, not the person From geek to chic
By Fiona MacDonald Swapping science for fashion still means using skills honed in the lab The butterfly effect: when media breaks the silence on suicide
By Heath Harrison How The Border Mail put suicide and a lack of mental health services on the front page Portal to The Block
How we liberated the Journalists’ Club
Political journalists on the endangered list
BOOKS AND REVIEWS 16
By Laurie Oakes The Walkley Board chairman predicts a fearful future for political journalism The Media Alliance’s annual report card on press freedom issues
Introduction: Chris Warren Star chambers’ chilling effect: Melissa Fyfe Muzzled by a subpoena: Cameron Stewart Shield laws: Joseph Fernandez Access to detention centres: Jeff Waters Attacks on the Pakistani media: Mike Dobbie Anti-terror, internet and secrecy: Bernard Keane Freedom of Information: Michael McKinnon Remembering Paul Moran: Eric Campbell Official Information Act and The Hobbit: Brent Edwards
Silence or the grave on Mexico’s front line
By Kia Mistilis Journalists have found themselves targeted during the civil unrest
By Lindsay Foyle Phil May’s Mongolian octopus lives on
By Marc Moncrief Nate Silver makes data journalism even sexier This Phantom is paradise
By Oslo Daivis Reg Lynch’s new book is a modern riff on old comic books and 1930s adventure flicks
TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT…
… appearing professional in pyjamas 54
By Lesley Parker
ON THE COVER
Rod Clement illustrates Press Freedom. He has been a full-time pocket cartoonist for The Australian Financial Review for over 20 years
Why is the news so white?
In the grip of a bad octopus
Ready to join the data set?
By Allison Jackson Facing grenades, guns, kidnap and torture
By Wayne Coolwell Why aren’t there more Aboriginal faces on commercial networks?
By Kate Gudsell Martin Doyle pushes the issues rather than punchlines in his cartoons
By Tony Krawitz The Walkley-winning documentary struck a chord, but the big money is in zombies…
By Daniela Torsh Women had equal pay as journalists in 1971, but not equal rights at the Journalists’ Club 45
By Alistair Smith Breaking the rules to get published
21 22 23
FOREIGN CORRESPONDENCE Taking The Tall Man to LA
DIY bestseller, anyone?
The sharp edge of a blunt comment 50
By John MacFarlane “The Block” was interactive storytelling a year in the making
By John Keane Online stirrers are challenging the status quo
46 47 47 48
Police target media in Greek riot act 34
Shame on those who call her shrew 36
By Rachel Larris When the media runs stories on female politicians’ hairstyles, sexism is alive and well THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
Lessons from the afternoon dailies
T Now, we again seem to be at the end of an era. And we can start to see the emergence of the new ecosystem of journalism for the 21st century
wenty-five years ago this March, the cash-strapped Fairfax group closed the Sydney Sun and the Times on Sunday. It followed the closure of the Brisbane Telegraph in February of that year. Fairfax, which had been recently privatised by Warwick Fairfax, was starting its two-year losing battle to avoid bankruptcy; News Limited was consolidating its operations after taking over the Herald & Weekly Times group 12 months earlier. But the actions also reflected a longer-term trend: the day before the Sydney Sun closed, there were six afternoon dailies around Australia – The Sun in Brisbane (which had just moved to the afternoon to fill the Telegraph vacancy), The Sun and The Mirror in Sydney, The Herald in Melbourne and the commonly named (but separately owned) News in Adelaide and Perth. Four years and one week later there were none. In many ways, these afternoon papers did more to shape our journalism – and society – than their morning counterparts. The seriousness of the Melbourne Herald was, after all, the vehicle used by the elder Murdoch, Sir Keith, to attempt to shape political debate. And in many ways it shaped the seriousness of Melbourne society. The timing of the Melbourne Cup itself was shifted around to suit its publication times. The tabloid wars of the ’50s and ’60s perhaps also shaped Sydney’s own raffish self-image. And just like his father, Rupert built his business off the back of the afternoons – starting with the Daily News in Adelaide and then breaking into Sydney when arrogant Fairfax managers sold him
Editor: Jacqueline Park email@example.com Managing editor: Jane Worthington Assistant editors: Lauren Dixon & Flip Prior Editorial staff: Kate Bice, Mike Dobbie & Karol Foyle Subeditor: Jo McKinnon Cover illustration: Rod Clement Design: Louise Summerton Production management: Magnesium Media Solicitors: Minter Ellison Lawyers Address: Walkley Foundation Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance 245 Chalmers Street, Redfern, NSW 2016 Visit our website: walkleys.com Advertising inquiries: Barbara Blackman Barbara.Blackman@alliance.org.au To subscribe: visit http://www.walkleys.com/subscribe 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.
4 THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
the loss-making Mirror, intending it to be a chain around his neck that would drown the upstart. And there’s a lesson in these closures for us in this century. In Sydney, the two afternoon publications were the two largest circulating papers in the city. But it wasn’t circulation that killed them. It was advertising – or lack of it. Similarly, The National Times and the Times on Sunday had a far greater influence on our craft than their 18-odd years might suggest. Much of our tradition of medium- and long-form journalism and investigative reporting can be traced to The National Times. And there’s a business lesson in the Times as well. It was one of the few attempts to build a platform for journalism that would be funded by people paying for the journalism itself. That model struggled in the ’80s. It’s no clearer that it doesn’t struggle now. Although the immediate cause of the shakeouts of the late ’80s was the financial debt engineering of the times, it was both the end of one era in journalism and the start of another. And while about 1000 journalists lost their jobs, most quickly picked up work again as other papers and broadcast outlets became bigger and filled the gaps of what we’d lost. Now, we again seem to be at the end of an era. And we can start to see the emergence of the new ecosystem of journalism for the 21st century. Last year we saw over a thousand jobs lost in six months as the massive transformation being wrought by digital technology bit hard into newspapers and television networks. The loss of so many people – their experience, knowledge
and skills – is a heavy blow to journalism in Australia and leaves those that remain with massive responsibilities to try to fill the gap. But that same digital transformation is opening up new opportunities. We’ve seen the launch of The Global Mail and the announcement that Britain’s Guardian newspaper is opening an Australian website – both media ventures underwritten by Wotif founder Graeme Wood. Other online news, analysis and commentary sites have sprung up, adding to a welcome diversity of voices. But how many of these new ventures will survive when no-one is certain if there is a business model that can fund the depth of quality journalism we have enjoyed? And there’s a final lesson we can learn from the upheavals of a quarter of a century ago. A second immediate cause was a package of media ownership reforms that triggered a mania of buying and selling. However good they may have been as policy, the instability this generated hurried the transformation of the industry. And that’s where the media reforms recently proposed by the government were particularly disappointing: they failed to grasp the magnitude of the changes wrought by the digital transformation and failed to provide a foundation that would encourage more investment in quality journalism. After two years of inquiries in an atmosphere of deep cost-cutting and job losses, this was an opportunity lost. Christopher Warren Federal secretary Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance
WALKLEY CONTRIBUTORS Paul Bongiorno Peter Broelman Robert Burton-Bradley Eric Campbell Jason Chatfield Rod Clement Wayne Coolwell Jenny Coopes Matt Davidson Oslo Davis Brent Edwards Rod Emmerson Joseph Fernandez Mike Fishpool Clare Fletcher
Lindsay Foyle Melissa Fyfe Justin Garnsworthy Michael Gawenda Simon Greiner Lee Griffith Kate Gudsell Heath Harrison Lyndal Irons Allison Jackson Fiona Katauskas Bernard Keane John Keane Peter Kitchin Tony Krawitz
Rachel Larris Simon Letch Benjamin Lowy Reg Lynch Fiona MacDonald Torrance Mendez Peter Nicholson John MacFarlane Michael McKinnon Marc Moncrief Kia Mistilis Laurie Oakes Lesley Parker Steve Pennells Erin Polgreen
Joyce Rice Amos Roberts Peter Sheehan Chris Slane Alistair Smith Phil Somerville Cameron Stewart Daniela Torsh Jeff Waters Andrew Weldon Cathy Wilcox Thanks to NITV, ABC, Nine Network and Fairfax
Stumped: media shut out of Indian cricket Australian cricket fans were left wanting during Australia’s recent threematch tour of India, after ABC Radio’s Jim Maxwell and Getty Images were both denied official accreditation by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The ABC had previously decided against paying an increased fee set by the BCCI for live broadcast rights, an increase said to be in the tens of thousands of dollars. That saw the BCCI deny Maxwell official accreditation, prohibiting him from broadcasting from inside any of the Indian grounds. “It’s a black mark for the game and it’s a concern that an organisation that purports to protect the game behaves in this way,” Maxwell told The Australian in February after deciding he would boycott the tour rather than file any reports independently. “The game is owned by the fans and it’s a slap in the face to the fans that access has been denied.” ABC Radio had broadcast five of the six previous tours, dating back to 1994, with the 2010 tour the only exception due to it clashing with the Commonwealth Games. The ABC’s absence this year meant there was no free-to-air broadcaster on television or radio. Foxtel’s Fox Sports was the only official broadcaster. Maxwell’s boycott followed the barring of international photography agencies, including Getty Images, from covering England’s most recent Indian tour in November as well as Australia’s February tour. The BCCI insisted that its own pictures – available on the BCCI website – should be used instead. It was reported that the BCCI was concerned that press photography would be used for non-editorial, commercial purposes by some news media. But the absence of these agency photos saw Australian news publishers, including Fairfax, News Limited and AAP, boycott BCCI’s official photographs. Devoid of action shots, news publications instead published stock photographs or crudely arranged toy cricket players similar to the popular Lego re-creation montages that had been used during the Olympics and World Cup Football in response to official broadcast restrictions. AAP editor-in-chief Tony Gillies told Mumbrella: “The issue is the lock-out of photo agencies and photo-only agencies that, from our view, just isn’t cricket.” “We will be joining all media to voice our disapproval and disappointment with that… We are going to cover text but in a limited sort of way.”
Some bereft cricket fans also united in support of the boycott by streaming their own live commentary on unofficial websites, based on live television footage. Free to anyone who cared to listen, by all reports and tweets, many were keen to do so. But the serious side of the issue is one of press freedom. When the ban was announced, Getty Images released a statement saying: “The BCCI’s accreditation restriction effectively discriminates between editorial photo coverage and photo and text coverage, with the outcome that there will be no independent photographic coverage of the forthcoming tour. We are committed to working towards a solution with all concerned and remain available to explore all avenues open to achieving that solution.” Mitchell Murphy, executive director at Newspaper Works, the peak industry body for print media in the Asia-Pacific region, also raised concerns that the lockouts were equal to press discrimination. “To lock Getty Images out… as an industry body is basically limiting freedom of the press,” says Murphy. “They say the reason why they opted to ban Getty was that in their view Getty’s primary business is to involve commercials, say, on licensing of the images rather than the supply of images to news publications for bona fide editorial purposes. Now that’s actually quite absurd.” BCCI’s recent defiance is due to the popularity and income derived from the Indian Premier League, which has seen its profits double in 2011–12, making it the richest cricket board in the world. Karol Foyle
Hipstering up The New Yorker It’s a distant dream for so many, but an Aussie illustrator saw his artwork adorn the cover of The New Yorker in February. Simon Greiner, originally from Sydney and now living in Brooklyn, scored the coveted cover after he was voted a reader favourite in the magazine’s Eustace Tilley contest. There were plenty of trends on show in the competition to reinterpret the dandy that Rea Irvin drew from The New Yorker’s first issue. Other entrants referenced Instagram, Gangnam style and Superstorm Sandy. Inspired by his neighbourhood, Greiner decided today’s equivalent to the dandy is the hipster. He updated Tilley’s top hat and monocle to a beanie and thick-framed glasses. Greiner’s bearded and tattooed Tilley peers at a foodtruck on the Williamsburg waterfront, the Manhattan skyline in the background. After getting word from New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly that he was a winner, Greiner still didn’t fully expect to make the cover. “Françoise Mouly had just released a book called Blown Covers, which is all the covers that never made it to the front of the magazine. There are all these great pieces in there that until now have never seen the light of day... So I was trying not to let myself get too excited in case that happened,” Greiner explains. Greiner’s hipster dandy wasn’t based on anyone in particular, but definitely hit is mark around some sections of New York. “I’ve received a few random emails,” says Greiner. “Mostly it’s guys with beards in Brooklyn who look like the drawing, who’ve found my email on my website and say ‘Hey, it’s me, how did you draw me?’ I’ve had six or seven of those. Some send pictures, others I’ve had to Google or Facebook stalk to see if they’re telling the truth.” The drawing came together in a single night after a few “sneaky sketches” at work. Greiner, who once worked in the graphics department at the ABC, says he’d love for this win to lead to more illustrating work. “The New Yorker stands for the esteem in which illustration should continue to be held. And also because so many great artists have come through the pages of The New Yorker... to even be slightly associated with that is pretty special.” Clare Fletcher
THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
Up to $20 million public liability cover for freelancers The Media Alliance has launched a new membership category for freelance journalists so that, for the first time, freelance members of the Alliance will be able to receive public liability insurance cover worth up to $20 million with their membership. Those who opt for this category of membership will also be issued with a “trustmark” for use on their blogs, websites and business cards that shows they have made a practical commitment to the Alliance’s code of ethics, understand media law and have been accredited with this by the Alliance. Members who don’t require such insurance can remain on their existing membership. In her take-all-comers press conference in August last year, Prime Minister Julia Gillard referred to the “nut jobs on the internet”. Broadcaster Alan Jones also sought to dismiss much of the commentary around Gillard’s misogyny speech as unrepresentative social media commentators. So how do you distinguish yourself from the “nut jobs” as Gillard would have it? The Alliance believes that those who practise our craft at the highest ethical and professional standards should have a banner under which they work. So it is asking freelance members who opt for this category to accredit their knowledge of the code of ethics and media law with the Alliance. These members will be required to do an online, self-guided course in the code of ethics. They will also need to display they have done a refresher course in Australian media law within the past five years. For those who have not, there will be an at-cost course available through the Walkley Foundation. These courses will be available later this year. Over the next few weeks, members will be contacted asking them to sign up to the new category. It will cost an extra $200 a year to cover costs for the insurance. For more information email Marcus Strom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lighting up Redfern
BEST WAYS to ensure you NEVER get overtime payments
LUCKY TO WORK HERE!
– AND OTHER MEANSPIRITED DODGES YOUR BOSS USES TO SAY NO TO AN
WE TALK TO THE PEOPLE WHO’VE DONE IT FOR YEARS!
RE ARE YOU WORTH MO THAN 4.5% FOR THE RS? NEXT THREE YEA
HOW TO REJECT A FAIR PAY RISE WITH A SMILE ON YOUR FACE
k so! PacMags doesn’t thin
PACMAGS LAWYERS TELL YOU HOW
“I’VE BEEN WORKING SINCE I WAS 11-YEARS-OLD, AND THE SCREEN ACTORS GUILD HAS TAKEN CARE OF ME. I’M SO
GRATEFUL TO HAVE THIS
PROTECTING ME EVERY DAY.” WHY IT PAYS TO BE A UNION MEMBER
EXTRA MATERNITY LEAVE CLAIM
– KANYE ON
CURRENT TRENDS WE LOVE TO HATE
● WORK OVERTIME FOR NOTHING ● RECEIVE NO TRAINING ● LISTEN TO PAC MAGS TELL YOU WHY THEY CAN’T AFFORD YOUR WORK PLACE ENTITLEMENTS
ALLIANCE UNION MEMBERS SHOW HOW YOU CAN TURN THE TIDE
“NO COMMENT BUT A 1% PAYMENT WON’T FLY”
WAYS PAC MAGS COULD IMPROVE TRAINING
we talk to PACMAG EMPLOYEES who have NEVER been TRAINED about what THEY WANT & WHY
Alliance members at Pacific Magazines have put their creative talents in page layout and clever wordplay to good effect in their latest campaign for a new collective agreement. Rather than the usual fare of gossip and must-have fashion trends that you’d expect from a mag cover, their campaign tackles more pressing issues including long hours and pay rates.
Walkley Awards are evolving along with the media
On Thursday, June 6, the Media Alliance will open its courtyard to the public as part of Sydney’s annual Vivid Festival of lights and ideas. Highlighting the local creative community, Vivid in the Heart of Redfern will be a display of cutting edge visual art, dance and light displays that reflect the diversity of Redfern’s colourful life. This is a free event that will also involve delicious food and pop up bar, so make sure you save the date, Thursday, June 6 at 6pm. More details at www.vividsydney.com
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It is no secret that the world’s media is undergoing a revolution that is rapidly transforming journalism. Since November 2012, a major review of the Walkley Awards has been underway to assess the awards’ place in this changing environment. It’s the third such review since the mid-’90s and is aimed at ensuring the best Australian journalism continues to be recognised by the Walkley Awards. Hundreds of senior industry professionals, former entrants and judges have been asked about the relevance of traditional platform categories in the awards, the effects of convergence and the growing multi-media nature of news organisations. The review has examined award categories, judging and entry criteria and is continuing the discussion about new publishing, broadcasting and digital platforms, and definitions of journalism. Changes have already been announced to the Young Australian Journalist of the Year Award to make categories as inclusive as possible and recognise and encourage young journalists working in a range of environments and across platforms. The chair of the Walkley Advisory Board, the Nine Network’s Laurie Oakes says: “While the pace of change in our industry is rapid, it is important that the Walkley Awards do not lose sight of their reason for existence – to encourage and benchmark excellent journalism and good storytelling.” Watch this space for changes to the Walkley Awards, to be announced in June.
Join the #pressfreedom discussion Some of Australia’s biggest names have pooled their creative talents for the Media Alliance’s “30 Days of Press Freedom” social media campaign, which kicks off on April 3. High-profile journalists, foreign correspondents, photographers, cartoonists, actors, musicians and media commentators have been asked to outline what press freedom means to them in this clever and powerful campaign, which is also supported by the Walkley Foundation. Their stories, videos, photographs and cartoons will be showcased on the new Press Freedom website – www.pressfreedom.org.au – in the run-up to the annual Australian Press Freedom Media Dinner in Sydney on May 3. The works will feature alongside heart-wrenching personal stories from journalists working in countries where media oppression, danger and the threat of death or disappearance are a feature of working life. All contributions will be shared on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #pressfreedom to encourage discussion in the community as we count down to the release of the Media Alliance’s 2013 report on press freedom in Australia. Works will also be screened during the Press Freedom Media Dinner at Sydney Dockside, Cockle Bay Wharf, on May 3. Please join in the debate when the website goes live on April 3 and visit the site to pledge a donation. All funds raised go to the Media Safety and Solidarity Fund which provides emergency assistance to journalists in danger in the Asia-Pacific region and supports their families in the event of their death.
Walkley Foundation program and communications manager Flip Prior will accept contributions from creative types for the duration of the campaign. Please call her on (02) 9333 0956 or 0409 912 955 or email email@example.com for more information. For more details on tickets to the Australian Press Freedom Media Dinner to be held in Sydney on May 3, see page 2.
THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
Unearthing tomorrow’s Gold Walkley winners Entries have opened for the Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year Awards with revamped categories that recognise the work of talented young journalists working across multiple mediums. A new innovation in journalism category recognises original journalism that presents stories in an imaginative, effective way using a variety of social media, technology, multi-media presentation, visuals and/or storytelling. Entry criteria for other categories have also been broadened. Entrants will be judged on their excellence in the fundamental tenets of the craft as well as their ability to present distinctive and original journalism that pushes the boundaries of the profession. The Media Super Student Journalist of the Year Award has been integrated into this year’s competition, putting final-year students in the running to be crowned the Young Australian Journalist of the Year and win return flights to the BBC headquarters in London or a CNN newsroom in New York or Atlanta. Former winners include ABC national science and technology reporter Jake Sturmer, globe-trotting SBS Dateline video-journalist Yaara Bou Melhem, ABC political and social media reporter Latika Bourke, The Age health editor Julia Medew and triple j Hack host Sophie McNeill. These awards are open to Australian journalists aged 26 and under at April 26, 2013. To enter, go to youngjournalistawards.alliance.org.au.
This year’s categories include: Innovation in journalism (sponsored by News Limited): An all-media category celebrating the innovation young journalists are bringing to their craft. This is pioneering and original journalism using a variety of social media, technology, multimedia presentation, visuals and/or storytelling to present the story in an imaginative and effective way with maximum impact. Text-based journalism (sponsored by Fairfax Media): Recognising journalism primarily in written or text formats, published in print or digital media. Radio/audio journalism (sponsored by ABC): Recognising journalism produced primarily in an audio format, for radio or digital platforms. Television/video journalism (sponsored by Sky News): Recognising journalism primarily produced in audio-visual formats. Camerawork (sponsored by UNSW): An all-media category recognising visual journalists producing still photography, videography and photo-films for any platform including television, print and digital, representing the highest standards of the craft.
Press freedom in Australia is under assault. Australian courts are increasingly demanding that journalists reveal their confidential sources – and if they refuse, they face a fine, jail time or both. Wide-ranging anti-terror laws muzzle the public’s right to know. Each year, judges issue hundreds of suppression orders to keep secret from the public the details of active court cases. With more than 1200 journalists having lost their jobs last year, it’s becoming harder to hold the powerful to account. So what happens when the media is prevented from doing its job and the public are kept in the dark? Find out when the Walkley Foundation and State Library of NSW present the “Press Freedom Edition” on April 11, 2013, the latest in the series of Walkley Media Talks. ABC journalist Philippa McDonald will chair the conversation with special guests The Sydney Morning Herald journalist Linton Besser; Australian lawyer, freedom of information expert and Open and Shut blogger Peter Timmins; and former foreign correspondent and current triple j Hack host Sophie McNeill. It’s on at the Metcalfe Auditorium at the State Library of NSW on April 11, 6.30pm. The event is free, but bookings are essential: call (02) 9273 1414 or go to sl.nsw.gov.au/ events/events_talks/index.html.
Honey, I shrunk the paper!
First Dog in show
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age made their long awaited switch from broadsheet to a compact format on Monday, March 4, but delayed the implementation of a paywall on their corresponding websites. It was a significant change for two of Australia’s oldest newspapers, with the editorial director of Fairfax Metro Media, Garry Linnell, stating, “The size might be changing physically but the journalism that we pursue and practise is not going to change one bit.” Fairfax used the occasion to redesign the two papers’ websites, smh.com.au and theage.com.au, with a new look comparable to their soon-to-be rival The Guardian, which is set to launch an Australian version of its website later this year. Fairfax also announced an afternoon edition for iPad subscribers in an attempt to keep the newspaper format relevant to a digital 24/7 news cycle. Traditional rival News Limited was quick to point out the move leaves The Australian as the nation’s major weekday broadsheet – with Fairfax’s Canberra Times still in the bigger format. In a sign of the times, Fairfax Media used neuro testing – which measures brain activity in readers – when developing the compact versions, apparently the first time Neuro Insight technology has been used by a newspaper. Eye tracking testing reportedly saw a 22 per cent increase in reader engagement compared to the broadsheet and a 50 per cent increase in visual attention to advertising. The high media interest in the redesign led Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood to have a dig at his competitors on the day of the compact papers’ launch. In an email to all Fairfax Media staff, Hywood wrote, “We should probably thank News Ltd, and in particular The Australian, for all the free publicity. Protesting a little too much I think. “Everyone in the media knows that The Australian is resolutely resisting much-needed change, and we all know what happens to dinosaurs…”
Walkley-winning cartoonist and self-proclaimed National Living Treasure, First Dog on the Moon (aka Andrew Marlton) will perform his one-person show Cartoobs and Other Typos at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival after a successful outing at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in February. Described as a “hilarious and whimsical journey through the mind of one Australia’s leading political cartoonists”, the show got rave reviews at the 2012 Melbourne Fringe Festival, winning the Tour Ready Award and an invitation to perform at the Adelaide Fringe. An editorial cartoonist at Crikey for the past five years, the author and illustrator won a 2012 Walkley Award for his cartoon “Drowning”, encapsulating public attitudes and the political debate over asylum-seeker tragedies. Cartoobs inducts audiences into the mysteries of cartooning, battling a daily deadline and having the voices of hundreds of marsupials inside your head. Audiences may or may not even meet the ABC Interpretive Dance Bandicoot. Song, dance, colouring-in and pretending to know what you are doing while being adorable all feature in this crisp satirical descent into despair and back out again (whew that was close). Cartoobs will be on at the Victoria Hotel in Little Collins Street nightly at 6pm from March 28 to April 21 as part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival. Tickets are $23. Visit Ticketmaster to book. Find out more at www.firstdogonthemoon.com.au
8 THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
n OUR MEDIA
Through a Hipstamatic lens Benjamin Lowy brings a small camera to big stories, and an image he snapped with his iPhone made the cover of Time magazine. Interview by Lyndal Irons
Credit: Benjamin Lowy/Reportage by Getty
was experimenting with the medium of phone photography for a long time but I hadn’t turned it to journalism until 2010. A lot of it was about escaping. Photography was no longer a hobby; it was a client-driven job illustrating a story or documenting within the constraints of the American or Europeans schools of photojournalism. An editor asked me to shoot film with a Hasselblad XPan. While the film was getting processed, I made prints at home of iPhone pictures and gave them to the editor. They didn’t run the pictures – the film turned out okay – but they were impressed. Phone photography was controversial at first because it was different. There were issues at the time concerning image makers dealing with new technologies and what the internet meant to all of us. It became incredibly divisive and the diatribes were quite bitter. One argument said that it distorted reality but I think that is stale. If a flower was put in the middle of a room with 20 photographers, we would all take the picture in a different way, either because we are using a different tool or because we are a product of all our life experiences that inspire us to take a picture a different way. Is that flower in that room any less real because we all took different looking images? I don’t use obvious Instagram filters on my iPhone when I shoot with Hipstamatic (it processes the images automatically, so I’m not actively choosing what look is applied). Along with several other photographers I approached Hipstamatic after working in Libya to develop a filter for photojournalists because I wanted to quieten down all the buzz. At the end of the day, toning and contrast and saturation is… the line is very fuzzy. If you look at World Press Photo awards, I don’t think they are in any position to say this does not work and this does. No-one has set a definitive line. In writing they have, but certainly not in practice. When photography came out, painters were complaining that photography required no skill. When colour film came out, black-and-white photographers said it is for the masses, it’s not artistic, it’s not what real artists use. But at the end of the day it is the thing you record that you share with the world around you which is of value. In the Ben Lowy filter for hispstamatic we took out the crazy vignetting and splotchiness. There is a bit of extra contrast and grain and
Rebel soldiers try to rally their comrades with a cry of “Allah Akbar” following a massive retreat in the face of relentless mortar attacks on March 29, 2011 in Bin Jawad, Libya.
it is cooler toned and that is about it – it is straightforward. The idea behind my work for the last 10 years is creating an aesthetic bridge that connects with an audience, brings them into the story I am working on and delivers the content. When I started using Hipstamatic no-one knew what it was. Now everyone does their cats and brunch with it, it’s lost a little of its flavour. Is it still worth using a phone versus using a higher resolution, faster, DSLR camera? That is a question I will be answering for myself soon enough. Still, the iPhone isn’t intrusive. It doesn’t make a clunking noise when I take a picture. I can meet my subject’s eyes, I can talk to them as I am taking the picture, before I take the picture, and after. Sometimes the camera acts as a barrier – and sometimes you need that if something very horrible is happening in front of you – but it also takes you out of the situation. It is hard to make people in New York or Sydney care about what is happening in any place that is thousands of miles away. We have
different realities and you can’t make everyone care about everyone, everywhere else. We’d be sitting around in a circle crying all day. But I think there has to be a way to slightly connect with people and bring them into the lives of their fellow man. You can mix in religion and culture and the nuances begin, but for the most part everyone is really the same and we don’t get to see that. Sometimes if I take a picture with my phone and people back home and people over here all have the same kind of tools, there is some sort of similarity there. People are able to latch onto it, even unconsciously. And that is important. Benjamin Lowy is a photojournalist whose work has featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Time and Newsweek. He is represented by Reportage by Getty and will visit Australia in May as a guest of the Head On Photo Festival in Sydney Lyndal Irons is editor of the official blog of the Head On Photo Festival
THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
n OUR MEDIA
Trailing the stories of dead men Steve Pennells wanted to find out the story behind drowned asylum seekers who had become mere numbers in the Australian political debate. Photos by Lee Griffith
hen people die, we tell their stories. We orate. We eulogise. We honour a life and mourn a loss. In words and memories we let the dead live on because even though they’re gone, their life mattered. Not so for the old man who lay dead in front of me 15 months ago. His frail, bony frame had been dumped on the mortuary slab at Bali’s Sanglah hospital, dark skin bloated and grey, wearing only his underwear and a label attached to a toe: TVI G6 B008. This number, and the fact that he had been fished out of the water off Bali’s south-east coast and delivered to the hospital at 5.20pm the previous night, represents the sum total of all we’ll probably ever know about him. He was almost certainly from a refugee boat that had sunk off Java five days earlier. Sanglah’s mortician confirmed the time frame. This meant he was also probably from Iraq or Afghanistan and had been crammed in with more than 200 other asylum seekers on a boat designed to carry only half that number, destined for Australia. The body had taken five days to drift the 300 kilometres from the accident site to the Bali coast, ultimately joined on the beaches by 16 others. The man looked bald and weak and older than the corpses around him. His arms were folded across his abdomen and tied together at the wrists with string, so they didn’t fall to the side. And his tragic journey had ended here – stripped of clothes and dignity and lying on a mortuary table in Bali with pale-faced nurses covering their faces and fleeing the room to escape the stench. The Walkley Magazine has asked me to tell the story behind my trip to Pakistan last year and I guess it began there, 6500km from Islamabad, as I watched with morbid fascination as a Balinese nurse took DNA samples from an old man’s nails and teeth. What was his story? Was there anyone who would mourn him? Two days before Christmas, the fate of this stranger – eyes eaten out by fish, lying rotting in the heat and the humidity in only his underwear – seemed all the more tragic. When Christmas Day came, his corpse was stuffed into a body bag and stacked on a shelf in a shipping container at the back of the hospital with the rest of the dead. He stayed there for three months, rotting in the heat and humidity before he was finally cremated without ceremony. It would be another six months before the next tragedy happened, this one bigger than the first. An overloaded boat sank in Indonesian waters and more than 100 people died.
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I was sent to Christmas Island to cover the story but the Department of Immigration and Citizenship refused to let anyone near the survivors and details were scarce. Like before, reporting ended up focusing on numbers and the political fallout. The victims were all men from Pakistan, and like the old man on the slab, each of them had to have a story. I convinced my editor, Brett McCarthy, to let me and photographer Lee Griffith travel to Pakistan to try to find out where these men had come from and what had driven them to get on a boat to head to Australia. We wanted to tell this untold story from the source, not the destination. Flying into Islamabad and with little to go on, we managed to follow the dead men’s trail to the Afghan border. The key was a man called Dr Syed Riaz Hussain Shah, a local doctor in the country’s violent north-west who we had been introduced to by an intelligence contact we met in Islamabad. Short, with dyed-black hair and a pushy personality, Dr Riaz met us in a secure compound
Above: An Afghan family member in Peshawar, Pakistan, holds a photo of his brother Syed Jafar, who went missing when an asylum-seeker boat sank on its way to Christmas Island. – Lee Griffith / The West Australian
Opposite: Afghan families from Parichinar sit and talk in Islamabad about their missing loved ones. Syed Mahmood (centre) breaks down in tears when he tells of the loss of three relatives on the boat. – Lee Griffith / The West Australian
one night in Peshawar armed with a folder of news clippings he used as credentials. He was an active Shiite leader who had survived two suicide bomb attacks aimed at him. One, during the region’s 2008 elections, killed 65 people but missed its target, who was now sitting before us proudly telling the story. “We don’t surrender. We win or we die,” he smiled. The next day Griffith and I had planned to go to Parachinar where we knew the missing men had come from, but Dr Riaz warned against it. “You will not be safe,” he said. Foreigners are banned from entering Parachinar and the two of us – who had visas restricting us to Islamabad – were already at significant risk just by being in Peshawar. So our new friend suggested an alternative. Using him as a go-between, we made contact with the families of 25 of the victims. They agreed to travel 250km to meet us in secret at an empty house on a small road that runs off the trafficchoked artery which cuts through the KyberPakhtunkhwa capital. It wasn’t safe but it would be safer than Parachinar – for us and for them. “Do not drive in that car you are driving in and watch if you are followed,” one man had told us. When asked if their fears were warranted, an aid worker told us, “Yes, they should be worried, and you should, too.” Contact was difficult, dangerous and in secret. Roads in and out were controlled by the Taliban and the route was subject to regular attacks. But the risk paid off. Griffith and I discovered an entire community that – almost overnight – had decided to sell everything in a dangerous attempt to send a generation of their young men to Australia. It was an extraordinary story about a desperate decision which ended in tragedy and was feeding political debate in a country on the other side of the world. Parachinar sits on the main road between Kabul and Pakistan and its strategic importance has made it the stage for decades of battles and occupation, from the Mujahideen to the Taliban. Insurgents have controlled the road connecting the city to the rest of the country for five years, restricting movement and causing local merchants to gouge the prices of staples such as flour, sugar and rice by up to 10 times. Local schools have been the target of terrorist attacks and Shias – who make up the majority of its population – are persecuted, kidnapped and killed. So when a rise in insurgent violence over the previous 12 months coincided with a network of local agents who spoke of opportunities in Australia and a way to get there, a generation of the region’s men slowly became convinced that Australia equalled hope. Eventually 153 of them – some as young as 13 and with identifiably Shia names such as Syed, Ali and Hussain – had gathered in West Java and
stepped on a boat they believed would take them to Christmas Island. Because they were Pakistanis, they were not officially recognised as refugees in that country so the option of applying for resettlement through the UNHCR was out of reach. Weeping, pleading and bearing horrific wounds from the region’s terrorist attacks, their families sat before us in the empty house, holding photographs of the missing men and telling their stories. Griffith and I listened for hours but we had to leave the meeting before time. Our ride back to Islamabad was late and the people taking us had warned that for safety reasons, they had to leave before nightfall, with or without us. The car had pulled up outside, engine running. It was the last time we saw Dr Riaz. Our movements had caught the attention of Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) who had sent a group of agents to our hotel back in Islamabad. They were stationed by the lifts and at each end of the floor which housed both of our rooms. Three followed me to the lobby as more agents gathered outside Griffith’s door. Griffith asked one of the hotel staff if they were there for us and if we should be concerned. “Yes, they are and yes, you should be very worried,” he replied. A quick call to the intelligence contact we’d met there a week earlier convinced us we should get out as quickly as we could. So Griffith and I legged it, grabbing our gear and rushing to
Dr Riaz, who had kept Griffith and me safe in one of the most dangerous parts of the world, had been executed outside his clinic in Peshawar
Benazir Bhutto International Airport to take – literally – the first flight out. We ended up in Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, where we scrambled to file for the next day’s paper. We drank that night in the hotel bar, nerves calmed by whiskey and war stories. Griffith and I had worked together for years. We had covered bombings and disasters and been chased by machete-wielding thugs through a market in Kupang in West Timor. If you’re going to be pursued by Pakistan’s secret police, he’s the kind of bloke you’d want at your side. We resolved to carry on. We flew from Sharjah to Jakarta following a lead that 300 more men from Parachinar were still in West Java, waiting to board boats. We tracked them down and our coverage continued through the rest of the week. It was half a year later when I heard Dr Riaz’s name again. Late at night in early January this year, I got an email from Dhis’s son, the boy who had driven us to that empty house on the Kyber-Pakhtunkhwa bypass. A few hours earlier, he said, there had been a third attack on Dr Riaz. This one was successful. Dr Riaz, who had kept Griffith and me safe in one of the most dangerous parts of the world, had been executed outside his clinic in Peshawar in what is believed to have been a targeted attack by militants. Two armed men opened fire on his car near the hospital and escaped on a motorbike. Attached to the email was a picture taken on a mobile phone – Dr Riaz’s body in a coffin, arms crossed over his chest and a lock of
his dyed-black hair across his face. I remembered his line from the compound: “We don’t surrender. We win or we die.” Over the next 24 hours more emails came, from families we had spoken to in Peshawar and from the men we had met in Bogor who were now living in Australia on bridging visas. We couldn’t tell Dr Riaz’s story when we filed our original pieces for The West Australian. He had taken a significant risk helping us and had stressed that his identity remain secret. But his brother has now given us permission to tell it. When his body was transferred from Peshawar for burial, shops and markets in Parachinar closed out of respect. Hundreds gathered in the streets and staged a sit-in as his brother denounced the terrorism that had taken his life. In the weeks after we met Dr Riaz, he helped collect DNA samples from the families we had interviewed to help identify more than a dozen recovered bodies which had been transferred from Christmas Island to the police morgue in Perth. It is the grim, often unwritten postscript that follows a tragedy like this. Nine of those bodies have subsequently been returned to Pakistan for burial by their families. TVI G6 B008’s story would never be known but Dr Riaz helped us to tell theirs. Steve Pennells is the chief writer for The West Australian and the 2012 Gold Walkley winner Lee Griffith has worked for The West Australian for 13 years
THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
n OUR MEDIA
Eds note: Paying nothing is not an option Writing for nothing gets your name out there, but it won’t put dinner on the table. Robert Burton-Bradley shares the quiet desperation of a freelancer. Cartoon by Reg Lynch
s the digitalisation of the media continues apace, the question of who will pay for quality journalism is becoming an increasingly desperate one for freelance writers. The recent news that prestigious 156-yearold The Atlantic magazine is unable, and perhaps unwilling, to pay experienced first-rate freelancers for high-quality work should come as no surprise to anyone who’s worked freelance in recent times. The story of an editor chasing an experienced journalist for a piece then offering only “exposure” in return is all too common. While it’s debatable if the journalist in question was behaving ethically when he published the email exchange between himself and The Atlantic, the more pertinent question is where does the media draw the line as an industry on unpaid work? How sustainable is it to simply offer publication as reward for the work involved in producing first-rate journalism? With the cold wind of redundancy blowing through most major newsrooms there seems to be more journalists than ever pondering how to turn our words into dollars, or more realistically into cents. For many of us in this predicament there’s a stark choice to be made: cling on in the hope you’ll make enough to support yourself, or that a decent job will eventually appear, or move to the dark arts of PR. For some it’s too much and they simply leave the media field altogether. Personally I’d never really considered freelancing as an option until I was on the chopping block myself. Initially, redundancy can seem like a fabulous ticket to ride. This is before it dawns on you that this blood money is for the countless hours of overtime, stressful work conditions and bad pay. More than that though, you realise redundancy is the “good luck in the media wilderness” food stamp you are issued when shown the door. Since going freelance a month ago I’ve pitched 20 stories and had eight rejections, four maybes that have yet to eventuate, four stolen and given to staff writers, and four commissioned for publication. Of these last four one is a freebie for a friend’s start-up, two are paying the princely sum of $100 for a thousand words – “or more words if you like” as one editor put it – and the last is writing an advertorial feature on “etiquette in a gay sauna” in return for free gym membership. I read the recent stoush between The Monthly editor John van Tiggelen and Good Weekend
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Redundancy is the “good luck in the media wilderness” food stamp you are issued when shown the door
editor Ben Naparstek about poaching writers and who gets paid $1 a word and who gets paid $2.50 with drool almost falling into my brackish cup of instant coffee. Working for peanuts is one thing but worse is when your ideas are stolen. I recently applied for a job writing light features about city life where I was asked to submit several 100-word outlines for cracking features about things to do in London. I submitted a selection of strong story ideas and heard nothing. I’m now starting to see my ideas appear in the same publication. I guess I was doing something right. Then there was the job interview for a wellknown national UK newspaper that asked me to write a few news stories as part of a “test”. I knew it went well when those stories appeared verbatim – down to my suggested headlines – on that paper’s website the next day. I’ve not heard back so far but at least I can rest easy knowing my ability as a journalist was not the problem. The sense of being right back where I started as a novice journalist 10 years ago is palpable and more than a little disheartening. Freelancing is about dealing with the freemarket reality that there is too little space for too many journalists competing for the same stories.
Which raises the question, why should editors pay you good money for something a staff writer could just rip off or just ignore altogether while waiting for the next tsunami, political sex scandal or barking cat video to roll along? Why pay freelancers at all? This is where the bottom feeders and fringe dwellers of the media come into play. The outlets who prey on the vulnerable, be they students, recent graduates or, in my case, the freelancer. In 2004, while still a very naive journalism graduate, I thought I’d scored the gig of a lifetime writing features for a men’s lifestyle magazine. I’d be paid $100 for 1200 words and I went to events like the Melbourne Cup, the Australian Film Institute awards and the Bathurst 1000. The brief was very open and I was given carte blanche to indulge my passion for gonzo narrative journalism. To a young journalist this sounded too good to be true, and in the end it was. I was paying for flights and accommodation across Australia and then expected to file high-quality feature articles within hours of an event wrapping up. This usually resulted in me staying up all night high on coffee and adrenaline, then turning up to one of my two part-time jobs or uni lectures in a state of sleep-deprived delirium. Back then I was 22 and had no idea how things worked. I’m now in my thirties and facing the prospect of starting all over again. I may know a lot more than I did, but the question of working for free remains. There are a number of factors to weigh up: what is the reach of the publication, its audience, and whether a piece is going to lead to future commissions down the line. Would I write for free again? The short answer is yes, but it would have to be a more strategic decision than simply getting a byline anywhere. This brings me back to The Atlantic offering writers “exposure” in lieu of actual pay. A senior editor there made the interesting argument that getting your work out there and seen can be far more valuable in the long term than just thinking about the next pay cheque. That’s great, but it still won’t pay the bills due now. Unpaid work is a grey area and what works for one writer won’t necessarily work for another. In the end we should be paid, and paid well when we produce good work, but as any freelancer will tell you that’s often a fanciful delusion. Robert Burton-Bradley is an Australian freelance journalist working in the United Kingdom Reg Lynch was born 1960… drawn lots… not dead yet
The new illustrated news
’ve founded a digital news publication that reaches a global audience, is on track to finish our first year in the black, and is drawing partnerships from grade A legacy and new media institutions… I’m publishing interactive comics. Symbolia (www.symboliamag.com) merges illustration, high-quality reporting and thoughtprovoking interactive content. Our average user spends around 90 minutes an issue on three visits. This kind of engagement signals a tight relationship between content and consumer. From investigations of California’s Salton Sea to an exploration of the lives of Dalit Christians in India, Symbolia provides our readers with stories that are global, gorgeous and accessible. Why comics? Comics transcend boundaries of place and culture. They are an experimental medium that encourages users to step beyond their own experiences and have an emotional relationship with the subject of the work. I often cite the brilliant work of Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics, to explain how this works. McCloud believes that interacting with a simplified image makes it possible to place ourselves within that image. Comics are a mirror in which we subconsciously connect with the image on the page, no matter how foreign the place or person is to our own lives and experiences. They leave a mark. As you’ve probably gleaned, I’ve been a comic book fan for many years. There are few things I won’t read. (Current favourites include Batwoman, the work of David Collier and Krazy Kat). I’ve always loved escaping in a good story and that love led me to journalism early on. I got my first job in a comic book store because I wrote about its opening for my high school paper. I didn’t start out my career thinking I could work with great reporting and phenomenal illustrators, but I saw an opportunity and pounced. Four years ago, I first read Palestine by Joe Sacco. I was transfixed and devoured non-fiction
Erin Polgreen has hit on an exciting new venture that brings serious stories to life in a comic-book style. Illustrations by Joyce Rice
graphic novels, which were (and still are) mostly autobiographical. Then about two years ago I discovered a whole new crop of non-fiction comic creators who were using social media to bond with their audiences and disseminate their work. People like Susie Cagle, Sarah Glidden, Matt Bors, Darryl Holliday and Josh Kramer were presenting fresh reported work that pushed the boundaries of what comics can do. Then I got my first iPad off Craigslist. It was a total game changer. I had a literal light-bulb moment when I went from reading a digital comic to reading an iPad-only magazine. Symbolia was born in that instant. Of course, Symbolia would not exist without my talented and thoughtful co-founder, Joyce Rice. We worked together to build a sharp template for quickly constructing content. We also built a tight editorial process that circumvents surprises or last-minute changes to art or copy. Drafting comics and illustration are labor-intensive processes. If you add reporting and fact checking to the mix, chances are high that changes will need to be made – but how to incorporate changes in a way that doesn’t make the artist start from scratch, time and again? For Symbolia, once a story is booked, we then ask the creator to read our extensive artist content specs. We also negotiate the pitch to make sure that the story will be as user-friendly as possible. For our purposes, content must be grounded with a person, place or community, and it needs to have a lot of atmospheric detail. Comics journalism, when produced too quickly and without room for thoughtful storyboarding, can quickly devolve into panel after panel of talking heads. By working with creators to set standards for visual quality at the very beginning, we can avoid the issue almost completely.
Our holistic content strategy ensures that we’re producing work that readers can enjoy many times over and constantly find new detail
Once the pitch is finalised and the creator is ready to go and report, we set multiple deadlines to give feedback and change direction on the work if need be. The schedule usually looks like this: 1. Thumbnail sketch + outline script due. 2. Rough draft w/refined pencils and script. We also start to fact check at this point. 3. Near final copy for one last review + copy edit. 4. Final art + interactive due. We then take the story to users and observe how they read it on the iPad. Usually we make a few tweaks with interactive and very rarely overhaul content if the user is confused or misses key points. Our holistic content strategy ensures that we’re producing work that readers can enjoy many times over and constantly find new detail. Now that we are finalising our second official issue, we’re looking at what other opportunities are out there for Symbolia. We’re very interested in publishing content on the Android platform and upping the ante to include fiction and other creative work. We also want Symbolia to become a premier digital agency that surfaces the best in illustrated narrative for many organisations, so starting later this year, we’ll begin providing consulting services for organisations that want to produce their own evocative digital content. It’s a very exciting place to be and we can’t wait to take it to the next level. Erin Polgreen is an internationally recognised media strategist who works at the intersection of audience engagement and news innovation. She is the co-founder of Symbolia Joyce Rice is a freelance illustrator, creative consultant, and co-founder/creative director of Symbolia
THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
n OUR DEMOCRACY
Cheering a new generation of muckrakers Online muckrakers are continuing a tradition begun in The 19th century where activism, not objectivity, is the point, says John Keane. Illustration by Simon Letch
he spirit and institutions of Greek democracy are dying, but who really cares? Kostas Vaxevanis does. His name merits global attention because during the past year Hot Doc, the weekly magazine he owns and edits, has published a string of gutsy stories detailing the financial rip-offs that have brought his country to the point of economic, political and psychological breakdown. Vaxevanis began by exposing the huge kickbacks on weapons contracts allegedly pocketed by a former defence minister, who is now behind bars awaiting trial. Hot Doc then implicated the central bank of Greece in shorting the country’s debt by local speculators. It tracked the issuing of large unsecured loans (known locally as thalassodaneia) by private banks. Last month brought its biggest and most controversial scoop: the publication of a list of 2000 rich and powerful Greeks with funds stashed in Swiss bank accounts. Hot Doc sales and online hits rocketed. Vaxevanis was arrested. Cold-shouldered by mainstream media, he was pelted with abuse, targeted by assassins and accused by state authorities of violating privacy laws and “turning the country into a coliseum.” Vaxevanis remained defiant. “We’ll continue doing our job,” he said, “and that is to uncover everything that others wish to hide.” In November last year, he was vindicated by an Athens court. A judge ruled that he’d acted for the public good. Events then took a strange turn: the Athens public prosecutor’s office announced his retrial in a higher level misdemeanour court. If convicted, he could serve a two-year prison sentence. Kostas Vaxevanis belongs to the age of monitory democracy. He’s a new muckraker, an exemplar of a distinctively 21st-century style of political writing. To describe him this way is to give new meaning to a charming old Americanism, an earthy neologism from the late 19th century, when muckraking referred to journalism committed to the cause of publicly exposing arbitrary power. Most people have today forgotten writers like Lincoln Steffens, Ida Tarbell and Jacob Riis. Their condescension by posterity is shameful. For the muckrakers, true to their name, took advantage of the widening circulation of newspapers, magazines and books made possible by advertising, and by cheaper, mass production and distribution methods, to offer sensational public exposés of grimy governmental corruption and waste, business fraud and social deprivation.
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Among my favourites from this period was the Pennsylvania-born journalist Nellie Bly. She did something daring and dangerous: for Joseph Pulitzer’s newspaper the New York World, Bly faked insanity to publish an undercover exposé of a woman’s lunatic asylum. Other muckrakers openly challenged political bosses and corporate fat cats. They questioned industrial progress at any price. The muckrakers took on profiteering, deception, low standards of public health and safety. They complained about child labour, prostitution and alcohol. They called for an end to city slums. They poured scorn on legislators, portraying them as pawns of industrialists and financiers, as corrupters of the principle that representatives should serve all of their constituents, not just the rich and powerful. Our media-saturated age of monitory democracy is reviving and transforming muck raking in this old sense. New muckrakers like Kostas Vaxevanis put their finger on a
Muckrakers took on profiteering, deception, low standards of public health and safety. They complained about child labour, prostitution and alcohol. They called for an end to city slums perennial problem for which democracy is a solution: the power of elites always thrives on secrecy, silence and invisibility. Gathering behind closed doors and deciding things in peace and private quiet is their speciality. Little wonder then that in media-saturated societies, to put things paradoxically, muckrakers ensure that unexpected “leaks” and revelations become predictably commonplace. Despite his neglect of the shaping effects of communications media, the French philosopher Alain Badiou is right: everyday life is constantly ruptured by mediated “events”. They pose challenges to both the licit and the illicit. It is not just that stuff happens; muckrakers ensure that shit happens. Muckraking becomes rife. There are moments when it even feels as if the whole world is run by rogues. Muckraking is a controversial practice, certainly, but there’s no doubt it has definite political effects on the old institutions of representative democracy. Public disaffection with official “politics” has much to do with the practice of muckraking under conditions of communicative abundance. Much survey evidence suggests that citizens in many established democracies, although
they strongly identify with democratic ideals, have grown more distrustful of politicians, doubtful about governing institutions, and disillusioned with leaders in the public sector. Politicians are sitting ducks. The limited media presence and media vulnerability of parliaments is striking. Despite efforts at harnessing new digital media, parties have been left flat-footed. They neither own nor control their media outlets and they’ve lost much of the astonishing energy displayed at the end of the 19th century by political parties, such as Germany’s SPD, which at the time was the greatest political party machine on the face of the earth, in no small measure because it powerfully championed literacy and was a leading publisher of books, pamphlets and newspapers in its own right. The net effect is that under conditions of communicative abundance the core institutions of representative democracy have become easy targets of rough riding. Messages become memes quickly relayed by many power -scrutinising organisations, large, medium and small. They often hit their target, sometimes from long distances, often by means of boomerang effects. In the media-saturated world of communicative abundance, that kind of networked pattern of circulating controversial messages is typical, not exceptional. Who or what drives the new muckraking? The temptations and abuses of power by oligarchs, certainly. The criminal obscenities, hypocrisies and political stupidities of those responsible for the deep crisis of parliamentary democracy in Greece and the wider Atlantic region, no doubt. But just as the old muckrakers took advantage of advertising-driven mass production and circulation of newspapers, so the new muckrakers are learning fast how to use digital networks for political ends. The new muckraking isn’t the effect of new media alone, as believers in the magical powers of technology suppose. Individuals, groups, networks and whole organisations make muckraking happen. Yet buried within the infrastructures of communicative abundance are technical features that allow muckrakers to do their work of publicly scrutinising power much more effectively than at any moment in the history of democracy. In contrast, say, to centralised state-run broadcasting systems of the past, the spider’s web linkages within a distributed network make them intrinsically more resistant to centralised control. Some observers (including Giovanni Navarria) claim that a new understanding
of power as “mutually shared weakness” is needed for making sense of the impact of networks on the distribution of power within any given political order. Their point is that those who exercise power over others are subject constantly to muckraking and its unforeseen setbacks, reversals and revolts. Navarria and others have a point. Innovations such as the South Korean website OhmyNews, California Watch and Mediapart (a Paris-based watchdog staffed by a number of veteran French newspaper and news agency journalists) help radically alter the ecology of public affairs reporting and commentary. The new dot.org muckrakers don’t simply give voice to the voiceless. Their aggressive muckraking triggers echo effects which spell deep trouble for conventional understandings of journalism. The days of journalism proud of its commitment to the sober principle that “comment is free, but facts are sacred” (that was the phrase coined in 1921 by the Manchester Guardian’s long-time editor C.P. Scott) are over. References to fact-based “objectivity”, an ideal that was born of the age of representative democracy, are equally implausible. Talk of “fairness” (a criterion of good journalism famously championed by Hubert Beuve-Méry, the founder and first editor of Le Monde) is also becoming questionable. In place of the rituals of “objectivity” and “fairness” we see the rise of adversarial and “gotcha” styles of journalism, forms of writing that are driven not just by ratings, sales and hits, but by the will to expose wrongdoing. Muckraking sometimes comes in highly professional form, as at The Guardian, which played a decisive role in the phone-hacking scandal that hit News Corporation in mid 2011. In other contexts, muckraking equals biting political satire, of the deadly kind popularised in India by STAR (now APB) News’ weekly show Pol Khol, which uses a comedian anchorman, an animated monkey, news clips and Bollywood soundtracks (the program title is translated as “open election” but is actually drawn from a popular Hindi metaphor which means “revealing the hidden story”). Thanks to the new muckraking, rough riding of the powerful happens – on a scale never before witnessed. Contrary to the pessimists and purists, democratic politics is not withering away. In matters of who gets what, when and how, thanks to the new muckrakers nothing is ever settled, or straightforward. Sceptics say that muckraking has gone too far, that it breeds distrust and disaffection, that it’s poisoning the spirit of democracy. The case of Kostas Vaxevanis, his refusal to let Greek democracy die, shows that kind of objection is both premature and out of touch.
Just as the old muckrakers took advantage of advertising-driven mass production and circulation of newspapers, so the new muckrakers are learning fast how to use digital networks for political ends On balance, all things considered, muckraking has always been a good and necessary thing for democracy. It’s now becoming a life-and-death imperative. We’re living in confused times when the political dirty business of dragging arbitrary power from behind curtains of secrecy is fundamentally important. “Greece is ruled by a small group of politicians, businesspeople and journalists with the same interests,” Vaxevanis said recently. In a Twitter post, he noted that as a consequence: “While society demands disclosure, they cover up.”
He’s right, and his point is surely relevant not just for countries like Greece. The disease of dysfunctional democracy is spreading. The gaps between rich and poor, the powerful and the powerless, are widening. Public disaffection with politicians and parties flourishes. Cynicism grows. Dropping out is becoming common. Worst of all, where all this leads is becoming ever less clear. Political drift is the new norm. Watch out, citizens. John Keane is director of the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, which launched in mid 2012, and professor of politics at the University of Sydney. His most recent book was The Life and Death of Democracy (Simon & Schuster, RRP $29.99). This article was originally published on The Conversation (theconversation.edu.au) Simon Letch has been illustrating for The Sydney Morning Herald since 1990
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Political journalists on the endangered list Laurie Oakes gives a glimpse of a fearful future for political journalism, where pollies peddle slick video clips direct to the public, without any pesky questions from reporters. Cartoon by Matt Davidson
he national capital celebrates its centenary in 2013 – a hundred years since the foundation stone was laid and the city named. Of course the parliament didn’t start meeting here, and the press gallery didn’t move here, until 1927. So we’ve had 86 years of political drama in Canberra, and 26 years of equally dramatic events in the federal parliament’s temporary home in Melbourne before that. And dramatic events, together with the larger-than-life characters that made our political history, have provided material for great journalism. I want to be optimistic about the future of political journalism if for no other reason than its past shows that it really matters. But I’m not as optimistic as I’d like to be. Australia’s federal politicians and members of the press gallery have been matching wits for 111 years. The politicians have used every trick they know to try to control what the journalists report and how they report it. Gallery members have used every trick they know to get behind the spin and try to dig out things the politicians want to keep hidden. But the bottom line is that the two groups have needed each other. Journalists have needed politicians because of the news they create and the information they can provide. The politicians have needed the media to get their message to voters, and to provide feedback from the electorate. It’s a symbiotic relationship: “like the great apes that sit around and pick the fleas off one another,” as someone once said. But that relationship is now changing. In an internet era that is fragmenting the media as we’ve known it and making new communications technology easily and cheaply available to anyone – including politicians, parties and political interest groups – the press gallery’s role seems set to decline, and that has implications for the health of our political system. When a press gallery journalist reported the name of the Canberra hotel where Kevin Rudd stays when parliament is in session, a Labor MP commented to me that journalists might need to be a bit more careful about this sort of thing in the future. Rudd, he pointed out, can be sensitive about his privacy – and had the means to retaliate, if he wanted to, by publishing information that would breach the privacy of the journalist. There’s no suggestion the former prime minister would do that. But the point is he could, which signifies a subtle shift in the power
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balance between politicians and journalists. With 1.1million Twitter followers, 75,000 Facebook friends and his own YouTube channel, Rudd can get information to a substantial audience without having to rely on journalists or media organisations. That includes material that might be considered news. The underlying message from my discussion with this MP was that modern politicians are assuming journalistic functions. Or at least they have the ability to do so, and increasingly will take advantage of it. In the process they will reduce their reliance on those of us in the media who report on politics. A former political staffer puts it this way: “Every politician is now a media entrepreneur.” And he adds,“A political party is a media company.”
As strapped-for-cash media organisations try desperately to do more with less, politicians and political parties will push out their own content with the invitation: “Here is our footage. It’s on YouTube and it’s high definition. Use it if you want to” This is something we haven’t thought much about. While a diminishing number of journalists tries to cover the activities of politicians, the politicians and political operatives are going to be engaged in do-ityourself political coverage. DIY journalism. They’ll be our competitors, as well as our subject matter. They’ll be providers of news content in various ways, including via mainstream media outlets. It’s not going to happen immediately. The process will be gradual. But it is happening. As strapped-for-cash media organisations try desperately to do more with less, politicians and political parties will push out their own content with the invitation: “Here is our footage. It’s on YouTube and it’s high definition. Use it if you want to.” With their resources dwindling, media organisations will find themselves less and less able to be proud or principled about this. They’ll get to the stage where, if there’s content and it’s cheap – or better still, free – they’ll grab it. Like it or not, that’s where we’re headed. It’s already started. Among MPs, Rudd is leading the way. Look at his YouTube channel and you find that some of what he puts there undoubtedly amounts to news content – even
if, as you’d expect from any politician really, it’s mostly news about himself. With Labor leadership talk in the air, Rudd goes for a streetwalk and is mobbed. The media wants vision and, what do you know? One of his staff has filmed the event and vision is available on YouTube. Rudd gives a speech. If it contains something newsworthy, vision is available of that, too. He meets someone interesting, or gets involved in something amusing, ditto. That the mainstream media has access is one benefit, but also – and perhaps more importantly – Rudd gets to the constituency he wants direct. He goes to a local school then tweets about it. Everyone interested can see the event on YouTube. He talks about China, or health, or any other subject. People with an interest can access it on his channel. For years politicians have searched for ways to go around the media – to avoid the so-called gatekeepers in the press gallery and elsewhere and present their message directly to voters. The digital revolution has not only knocked down the gates, it has also provided a host of new ways for politicians to reach out to voters. They can present material, including news material, in the way they want it presented, without pesky journalists getting in the way. And here’s the most important thing: without having to answer questions. The further this goes the less accountability we have in the system. In the US, halfway through President Barack Obama’s first term, his communications director was taunting members of the Washington press corps that eventually they could be rendered obsolete through the use of presidential messages posted directly onto YouTube and other internet sites. It was no idle threat. And members of the Canberra press gallery have as much cause to be worried about it as correspondents covering the White House. Technology had already reduced the dependence of news consumers on political journalists. As Annabel Crabb said in a speech to the Sydney Institute: “Anyone can watch parliament. Anyone can read press releases. Anyone can read budgets, legislation, Senate reports, inquiry submissions, party platforms. Anyone can listen in online to an interview that a politician gives in Brisbane or Launceston.” In other words, courtesy of the internet, anyone anywhere can now go directly to many of the same sources that political journalists use. Assuming they want to. Apart from genuine politics junkies, most people don’t bother, of course. But bloggers, tweeters and others
in what is sometimes called “the fifth estate” now readily access, interpret and report on a massive amount of political information that was once the press gallery’s domain, or the domain of professional journalists. And if something unusual happens, a whole lot of news consumers will go online and check it out personally. Julia Gillard’s “sexism and misogyny” speech showed that. The press gallery no longer has a monopoly over much of its source material. And now technology is reducing the dependence of politicians on what we do as well. More funda mentally, groups from outside journalism and the media will see in this situation both a need and an opportunity to move in and become content providers themselves. Corporations are already doing it. Qantas, for example, is setting up its own newsroom including a full-time videographer. News content about the airline will be produced – obviously in a way most favourable to Qantas – and offered to media outlets. The assumption is that the battling mainstream news media, short of staff, will be eager to use content that Qantas provides. And if they don’t, people will be able to access it in other ways via the internet anyway. The same kind of argument for getting into the news business can be applied to those engaged in politics, or to organisations that are set up by interest groups to influence politics.
And it’s not hard. All you need is a laptop, 50 bucks for a video camera and you’re away. Lachlan Harris, prime ministerial press secretary under Rudd who now runs the consumer advocacy organisation One Big Switch, said in a speech at Macquarie University that he had no doubt political parties as well as groups such as the Business Council of Australia and GetUp! would become retailers of news in the new media world. Blogs, tweets, email newsletters, podcasts and YouTube channels
If the market for fact really is holding up against the march of opinion it can only be good for journalism – particularly for political journalism were early stages of the process, Harris said. But there would be full-blown news services eventually. This was his prediction about timing. “I believe it is likely that by the end of the decade, both major political parties in the US and Australia will, partially or fully, fund comprehensive news services.” I don’t know if things will move that quickly, but they could. A Lachlan Harris equivalent on the other side of politics says that by the time the 2024 election rolls around, parties will get more value out of money spent setting up a newsroom than
from spending the same amount on political advertising. For the moment, TV advertising – specifically negative advertising – is still king. But that will change as financial pressures on conventional media increase. Also, he says, there is an increasing number of young people who never watch television. “In 10 years’ time they’ll be voting, and I don’t think their behaviour is going to change.” It would cost the ALP or the Liberals very little to turn the material they already gather, the research they already do and the media appearances their spokespeople already make into news bulletins that they can put on a website or whack up on YouTube or disseminate in other ways. Running your own TV channel on the net is only going to get easier. In recent years there has been occasional discussion among government staffers about the idea of Labor producing its own chat show after Question Time every day. A couple of backbenchers would sit down in front of a camera with, say, leader of the House Anthony Albanese, and they’d discuss – in a light, chatty way – what happened in the chamber, what messages the government got across, where and how it scored over the opposition, and so on. There is no reason it won’t happen. Watch out, David Speers! So this is the kind of thing we can look forward to. There will be no pretence of ➤
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➤ objectivity or balance. It will be unashamedly partisan. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be an audience. A lot of journalism these days is heavily opinionated. In fact, it’s often claimed we’ve got more of an opinion cycle than a news cycle. And it’s clear many people like a forceful, opinionated approach – preferably one that reflects, even reinforces, their own views. In the US these days it’s the right-wing Fox News and the liberal-left MSNBC that are the successful cable news networks, not middle-of-the-road CNN. Is there any other evidence of an appetite for facts rather than opinion? Well, some people point to the continued high ratings of television news programs. They argue that despite all the criticism of TV news, it is still fundamentally about telling stories and getting facts across to viewers. It’s not about opinion. There’s also an unorthodox argument that I find persuasive. A practitioner of the dark art of spin, whose views I respect, said when we discussed this: “Look at the 2010 election campaign. That was a spin campaign and people didn’t buy it on either side. They were screaming: ‘We want someone to tell us what’s happening. We want facts.’ Neither of the parties was giving that to them.” It can be argued – and it was argued fiercely in the blogosphere at the time – that the media wasn’t doing the job either. If the market for fact really is holding up against the march of opinion it can only be good for journalism – particularly for political journalism. This should be our raison d’être anyway. It requires, though, that members of the press gallery resist the lure of the opinion cycle and the temptation to make ‘gut’ judgments. To go back to what happened in the last election campaign – if people don’t want spin, then they won’t want it from journalists any more than from politicians. And certainly a concentration on providing facts – simple unfiltered information – would be a real point of difference in the coming contest with the new kind of political journalists – the ones who will be players in the political game reporting on themselves and using the media access that technology has given them to push
2013 Walkley Freelancer of the Year Award Call for entries! 18 T H E W A L K L E Y M A G A Z I N E
their own political interests As I said, I want to be optimistic about the future of my craft and particularly the field I’ve specialised in. And every now and again I read something that kicks my optimism along. Digital technology has done a heck of a lot to enrich and enliven journalism, even as it undermines the economics of the system that has sustained it until now. I was cheered by the journalism I saw during the judging process for the Walkley Awards. The industry might have been in turmoil, but the number of entries did not fall away and the standard was high. Despite all the difficulties, Australian journalists are still producing very high-quality work.
When it comes to research, bloggers can often do a better job than journalists because they have more time. That’s especially the case as the mainstream media steps up its attempts to do more with less I’m also reassured by the added richness that I think social media and the blogosphere are bringing to political journalism. Some bloggers bring special expertise to the table. As Greg Jericho points out in his excellent book The Rise of the Fifth Estate (Scribe Publications, $29.95), when it comes to research, bloggers can often do a better job than journalists because they have more time. That’s especially the case as the mainstream media steps up its attempts to do more with less. And bloggers and tweeters provide a red-hot fact-checking service. If you get something wrong as a journalist you find out about it very quickly these days. The professionals and the amateurs (the American academic Jay Rosen talks about pro-am journalism) complement each other. Jericho is right when he says at the end of his book that the combination has created a better coverage of politics for those who seek it. But a worrying issue is what happens to investigative journalism and accountability journalism in the situation we’re facing? With
media organisations getting smaller and poorer, how will it be funded? News Limited and Fairfax are still doing quite a bit, but it’s obviously getting harder to sustain. And without this kind of journalism the health of our political system would certainly be under threat. The search for answers is on... and there don’t seem to be any easy ones. Here’s something to think about, though. The last time the Walkley Awards were held in Canberra was in 1990, at a lunchtime function at the National Press Club. The then prime minister, Bob Hawke, came along and gave a speech. Here’s how he started: “At face value, it’s not exactly the best time to be a journalist. ‘Financial difficulties’ is hardly an adequate phrase for an industry where two out of three TV networks are in receivership; where the Fairfax chain is in receivership; where News Corporation has its own share of debt problems; where commercial radio and some regional media are struggling… Unfortunately many employees, including journalists, have paid the price, with their jobs, for their employers’ mistakes and those still in the industry are having to do more with less, as financial resources available for news gathering dry up...” Sound familiar? Hawkie continued: “I am not trying to put any false gloss on what have been traumatic events for the news industry over the past couple of years. Jobs have been lost, outlets have been closed, programs have been axed and editorial budgets have been trimmed.” I Googled that speech, and I read it, and I thought: well, at least it shows that we’ve survived hard times before. And that is about as hopeful as I can be. Except to say that if things continue to deteriorate and we find ourselves with nowhere else to use our journalism skills down the track, at least we can go into politics. Laurie Oakes is the chair of the Walkley Advisory Board. This is adapted from the Alliance Centenary Lecture he gave last November visit www.walkeys.com to read the full lecture Matt Davidson’s illustrations are published regularly in The Sunday Age and other fairfax publications.
APRIL 26 elancer ENTRIES OPEN: MONDAY, The winner of Walkley Fre the g be l isin wil ogn ard Rec The Award: of the year Aw played by ust 9 increasingly important role announced on Friday Aug ntly sta con nce our ela in s Fre 3 list rna 201 jou the of nce freela as part changing industry. Conference in Sydney. e money, $500 The Prize: $3,000 in priz For full details visit elopment dev nal sio fes pro worth of www.walkleys.com/ s the prestigiou training and 2x tickets to freelance-conference ner. Din a Gal s ard Aw y lkle Wa
n PRESS FREEDOM
Press freedom’s rough ride through the states While journalists have had a few victories lately, variations in laws from state to state take the gloss from the celebrations, says Christopher Warren
here are some in our society who wonder if the states in our system of government are past their use-by date. When it comes to press freedom, it’s easy to see why. Principles of press freedom can appear to be universally accepted only to have the legislation implementing it distorted, weakened and blocked at state level. It hasn’t always been like this. On January 1, 2006, new uniform defamation legislation came into force throughout Australia. Each state enacted the preferred uniform defamation model to ensure there was one piece of legislation governing Australia’s defamation laws. It was a smart move that swept away laws which traced their origins to the colonial era – a mishmash of legislation, defences, interpretations and courtroom processes. A uniform approach did away with litigants going jurisdiction shopping – whether to be heard by a jury or a judge alone or where the damages sought could be measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars rather than a lesser amount. But this spirit of cooperation hasn’t extended to other areas of press freedom. When it comes to shield laws for journalists, widely differing interpretations mean that a journalist could face years in jail or a fine of $30,000 or both for maintaining their ethical obligation not to reveal a confidential source, all depending on what state you’re in. When the federal parliament passed the Evidence Amendment (Journalists’ Privilege Act 2011) it substantially strengthened the position of journalists in maintaining confidentiality by providing for a rebuttable presumption against disclosure of the identity of a journalist’s source. If the model of uniform defamation legislation could be accepted and introduced by the states, surely the concept of journalists’ privilege should not be so hard. Indeed, in the run-up to the federal legislation, there was a broad agreement about the need for shield laws. The only real challenge during the federal parliamentary debate was over the broad definition of journalist. The law as passed applied to “a person engaged and active in the publication of news” – a definition that was seen to include protection for bloggers and citizen journalists. A narrower definition, “a person who in the normal course of that person’s work may be given information by an informant in the expectation that the information may be published in a news medium” was defeated. Given that comparatively minor point of difference, which focuses unnecessarily on the individual rather than their journalism, it’s disturbing to see how the states have decided to
Wall graffiti in the Marais district, Paris, taken by SBS videojournalist Amos Roberts.
implement shield laws. In Victoria, shield laws became operational on January 1. The laws, as Melissa Fyfe explains on page 20, do not protect journalists called before the state’s new integrity star chamber, the Independent Broad-based Anticorruption Commission (IBAC). Other states have also reined in their shield laws in favour of granting anti-corruption bodies extraordinary powers to compel the production of documents and “other things”, and deny the right to silence. This effectively forces journalists to face contempt of court charges if they refuse to reveal a confidential source. The Media Alliance’s journalistic code of ethics is clear on what is required of members: Clause 3. Aim to attribute information to its source. Where a source seeks anonymity, do not agree without first considering the source’s motives and any alternative attributable source. Where confidences are accepted, respect them in all circumstances. What’s important to remember is that anticorruption bodies use their star chamber powers against innocent journalists. The powers are used to extract the identity of the source not because a journalist has broken any law or has engaged in any wrongdoing. It is simply because the journalist has done their job and the star chamber wants to piggyback off their work, without doing it for themselves. A similar less-than-committed approach to other press freedom issues is apparent when you consider freedom of information (FoI) laws. The reform of Australia’s FoI regimes has been piecemeal since the then special minister of state John Faulkner announced an overhaul of the law in
March 2009. Fine words have been stated by governments about the need for open and transparent government, ease of access and processing, and reducing costs. But sadly, when it comes to reforming FoI regimes, impediments have been put in place that mock the best intentions. In the case of reform to the federal FoI regime, public servants are claiming that they don’t have sufficient resources to process FoI applications. In February, Fairfax Media reported the foreign affairs department as saying that there were “questions of value” about applications made by journalists, lawyers and not-for-profit organisations. The Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, in arguing for a longer statutory period in which to respond to FoI requests, said the upsurge in complex FoI applications from journalists and politicians and others had been “less welcome” and that journalists were making numerous requests in a single day. Press freedom should not be a variable but an absolute. It should not alter when crossing state borders from one jurisdiction to another. Governments worked together to ensure a uniform approach to defamation. It is high time that common sense was applied to developing workable shield laws that operate without exceptions. And for the sake of all citizens, FoI laws should be reformed to ensure a universal approach to providing access to the information that governments collect in our name. Christopher Warren is federal secretary of the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance Amos Roberts is a video-journalist with Dateline SBS TV
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Star chambers’ chilling effect The powers of Victoria’s new anti-corruption body mean journalists could be fined thousands and jailed, writes Melissa Fyfe. Cartoon by Jenny Coopes
t seemed everyone was angling for a behindthe-scenes deal. As Ted Baillieu’s government shaped its long-awaited corruption-busting body in Victoria last year, there was a mile-long queue of all sorts of Victorians keen to get some protection from this powerful new body. Judges wanted a special deal. Lawyers advocated for their client confidentiality. The police felt particularly persecuted and public servants were nervous. Politicians, it later turned out, were busy piecing together their own safety net. But in hindsight, we as journalists – busy reporting these deals and exposing policy flaws – should have been more proactive about what this new organisation would mean to our professional freedoms. Baillieu’s Independent Broad-based Anticorruption Commission (IBAC) finally limped into existence in January this year, 18 months after it was due and just two months before Baillieu himself resigned as premier. The commission covers 250,000 public sector employees, MPs, judges, police, local govern ment staff and contractors. While politicians, lawyers and judges locked in many of their protections and professional confidentialities, journalists were left naked before the IBAC. The shield laws – which protect reporters from being forced to disclose sources in court proceedings – admirably introduced by Victoria’s attorney-general Robert Clark last year, will not be stretched to the star chamber and the special powers granted to it as the state’s new anti-corruption body. This is an unnerving situation, given the experience in recent years of journalists such as The Australian’s Cameron Stewart (see the story opposite of his encounter with the Office of Police Integrity). As noted in last year’s annual Press Freedom report (Kicking at the Cornerstone of Democracy), a dozen journalists have been served with subpoenas by Australia’s corruptionbusting agencies. Shield laws should protect journalists facing questions about their sources in anticorruption bodies, not just because of the special relationship between journalist and source – and what that means for a healthier democracy – but as corruption expert Colleen Lewis points out, much of the work of these corruption bodies are based on issues brought to light by journalists. Howard Whitton, an expert on anticorruption bodies and fellow at the Institute for Governance at the University of Canberra, says the IBAC is an investigative body, not a court, and should not have powers greater than a court to compel a journalist to reveal the sources.
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“Public servants will feel less confident in exposing corruption if they know a journalist is going to have to expose them in the IBAC”
It doesn’t have to be like this. Last October, the Western Australian parliament passed shield laws that applied in hearings before its Corruption and Crime Commission. So why has Clark baulked at doing the same in Victoria? His reasoning, at least publicly, is based on precedents set in New South Wales and the Commonwealth. He says his shield laws deliver on the Coalition’s election commitment to bring south-of-the-border scribblers in line with NSW and the Commonwealth (although this was too late for the current Securency case involving Age investigative reporters Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker). And consistent with NSW and the Commonwealth, Clark says shield laws don’t extend the privilege to “settings” such as IBAC. It’s a strange line of argument from a government that before its election promised Victoria an anti-corruption body like the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), then set off on an entirely unique path, producing a much narrower definition of corruption, excising misconduct in public office from the Victorian IBAC’s purview, and establishing a strange and complex whistleblower system which gave politicians a special deal. A journalist called before IBAC who refuses to name a source can be fined 240 penalty units ($33,801.60), be sentenced to two years in jail or both. You have a right to a lawyer, but no right to remain silent. If called before IBAC you can tell your lawyer, but no-one else. In a statement, IBAC said that claims of journalistic privilege could be heard before the Supreme Court, and that the “supervisory role of the court means that (IBAC’s) powers are not unconstrained”. But IBAC made it clear that journalistic privilege does not apply to its investigations or examinations.
A Victorian government spokesman said that if you do end up in the Supreme Court on a charge of contempt of IBAC, you can try to invoke the shield laws to protect your source, but the laws do not erase the contempt charge. Labor MP Jill Hennessy warned journalists last year that we should fight harder to have shield laws at IBAC (we should have listened) and the Victorian ALP moved an amendment to the legislation seeking to have journalists’ privilege apply as a recognised privilege. “We would do so (again) if we had government,” she says. Her wider point about shield laws and IBAC is an important one. She believes that it will have a chilling effect on public servants. “Public servants will feel less confident in exposing corruption if they know a journalist is going to have to expose them in the IBAC,” she says. Beyond shield laws, how open will IBAC be about its operations? How easy will it be to report on? It’s unlikely IBAC will provide the sort of public airing of dirty laundry currently on display in the ICAC in NSW. This is partly due, perhaps, to the different nature of Victorian politicians and the murky world of NSW Labor politics. But it is also to do with the narrow definition of corruption IBAC has chosen, and the high bar the commission must jump to even start an investigation. These restrictions on IBAC, revealed by The Age in a series of investigative articles last year, have been criticised heavily by some of Australia’s top anti-corruption and accountability experts, including Douglas Meagher, QC, one of two key advisers to the government on the commission. Meagher said the government “would be well advised to save its money and abandon the project” (the commission will cost $170 million over four years). Although both the ICAC and IBAC have a series of guidelines about when hearings should be public or private, the bias in the IBAC legislation is clearly to avoid public hearings. The legislation says the commission’s examinations will “generally’’ be held in private, while public hearings will occur only in exceptional circumstances. We asked the new commissioner Stephen O’Bryan, SC, what sort of approach he would take with journalists. He refused to be interviewed. And then did not answer the question. A new day for anti-corruption fighting may have dawned in Victoria, but hopes for transparency in government agencies are as dark as ever. Melissa Fyfe is an investigative reporter with The Age Jenny Coopes heads Justinian’s art department. She has illustrated and cartooned for the organ almost since its inception
Muzzled by the watchdogs Cameron Stewart was handed a subpoena that compelled him to appear before Victoria’s police integrity watchdog, but also stopped him from telling anyone about it. Cartoon by Phil Somerville
t was a regular working day in October 2009 when I answered a phone call from Victoria’s then police watchdog, the Office of Police Integrity (OPI). The OPI officer on the phone asked for my immediate location. I told him I was sitting at my desk in the Melbourne bureau of The Australian, why? He told me that OPI officers were “walking over as we speak” to serve me with a summons that would force me to appear before the OPI’s star chamber and be questioned about confidential sources. What’s more, he told me that under the terms of the summons I could tell nobody except my lawyers that this was taking place. Not my editors, my colleagues nor even my wife or children. Nobody. The punishment under the Police Integrity Act 2008 for breaking that confidentiality clause was up to a year in prison, or a large fine, or both. The confidential summons, issued under section 58 of the Police Integrity Act 2008, was in relation to my sources for a story I’d written the previous August, about a counter-terror operation in Melbourne called Operation Neath. Within minutes, two OPI officers were standing outside the offices of The Australian. I came out and they handed me the summons to appear the following week. From that moment I was legally gagged. Sadly, getting a confidential summons to be coercively questioned is something at least a dozen journalists around Australia have experienced in recent years. There may be many more, but it’s difficult to tell because these journalists risk significant fines or jail if they dare tell anyone other than their lawyer of their experience. It’s a practice that’s become more prevalent in recent years, as ever more powerful anticorruption watchdogs entangle journalists in their hunt for whistleblowers and others who leak information into the public domain. But confidential summons are a blunt and draconian tool. They should only ever be used against journalists in rare and extreme cases – where grave issues of public corruption are being investigated. Even then, they will rarely achieve any meaningful result because if they relate to questions about confidential sources, the journalist is ethically obliged under clause 3 of the Media Alliance’s code of ethics not to answer questions. These watchdogs know they are placing journalists in a position where they will have to
Journalists are not above the law, but neither should they become playthings for all-powerful police watchdogs
refuse to answer questions, potentially leading to contempt charges and possible jail terms. Yet increasingly, state and federal police watchdogs are using confidential summons against journalists as part of fishing expeditions to uncover minor leaks and politically embarrassing disclosures that fall far short of serious corruption. Although, courtesy of a last-minute deal between lawyers, I was ultimately subjected to a non-sworn interview outside the OPI star chamber, the confidentiality aspect of my summons remained in force. In my first meeting with the OPI, I told investigators I could not disclose confidential sources because of my ethical obligations as a journalist. In my second meeting, my formal interview, I was handed a signed Deed of Release which had been voluntarily signed by one of the suspected whistleblowers, giving me permission to give evidence to the OPI about my dealings with him. But the OPI’s confidential summons placed me at a distinct disadvantage. I was still not legally permitted to discuss this highly unusual situation with my editors or to seek advice from the Media Alliance regarding interpretations of their code of ethics. This muzzle meant that for the next three years I was legally barred from revealing the full story about the Deed of Release and the unusual circumstances of the case. This wielding of confidential summons against journalists goes against the spirit of the journalist shield laws that have sprung up at state and federal levels in recent years.
Disappointingly, these shield laws do not apply to most police watchdogs, but such bodies should still feel a moral obligation to accept the basic philosophy underpinning these shield laws: that confidential sources deserve protection. For police watchdogs, issuing a confidential summons against a journalist has a double benefit. Not only does it compel a journalist to appear for questioning, it also means that the journalist is muzzled when it comes to disclosing his or her treatment by the watchdog. In my case, I was still muzzled when the OPI issued a second summons in September 2011 for me to give sworn evidence in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court. OPI officers served this second summons on me by following me as I drove from my home to my son’s childcare and then confronting me in the centre as I was dropping him off. The continuing confidentiality clause on my initial summons meant I was still unable to write in detail about this sort of provocative behaviour until long after the event. The OPI is a case study of why this press freedom issue matters. The OPI, which ceased operations last year, was an example of a police watchdog that had lost its way. It bungled large investigations, played politics, leaked information and was so incompetent it has been replaced by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC). The OPI abused its powers by slapping confidential summons on a range of journalists for relatively minor investigations. A Sunday Age investigation in late 2011 found that eight former and serving OPI officials believed the OPI had an inconsistent approach to leaks to the media; leaking itself on one occasion and then aggressively pursuing leakers in another. Journalists are not above the law, but neither should they become playthings for all-powerful police watchdogs. After all, these watchdogs owe their exis tence and powers to the courage of both whistleblowers and journalists who exposed the corruption which justified their creation. The media must, wherever possible, do more to challenge those police watchdogs that seek to use their growing powers to drag journalists into star chambers and then silence them under threat of jail. Cameron Stewart is an investigative journalist and associate editor of The Australian Phil Somerville is a freelance cartoonist based in Sydney who has contributed to magazines and newspapers for several decades, including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald
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Some shields offer scant protection As the states slowly roll out their shield laws for journalists, Joseph Fernandez thinks some judges and some governments have clearly missed the point
he road to shield laws for journalists to protect their sources has been long and pot-holed in Australia. A fresh impetus for statutory shield protection came in 2007 after the contempt of court conviction of Herald Sun journalists Michael Harvey and Gerard McManus for not disclosing the confidential source of their article on cutbacks to war veterans’ entitlements. Six of the country’s nine jurisdictions now have shield laws of varying shapes and sizes. But while the Age’s invitation to “tip us off, anonymity is guaranteed” may illustrate shield law’s emboldening effect, it’s unclear if the statutes provide the panacea journalists hoped for. Two members of the Age investigative unit, Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker, are facing court action to make them disclose sources for a story on the trial arising from the Securency bribery scandal. The question of effective source protection is alive, and uncertain to boot. As Fairfax’s general counsel Gail Hambly says, “it is certainly a worrying trend”. Is there really a ‘privilege’? The shield is referred to as ‘journalists’ privilege’ but some judges have openly questioned the privilege’s very existence. In the Securency case, Victorian Magistrate Phillip Goldberg held: “There is no law which protects, that is coded or statute law, that protects or creates a rule that recognises journalist privilege.” He was partly right. He was speaking in December 2012, and the Victorian shield law only took effect in January this year – after the proceedings had begun. In Western Australia where The Sunday Times was facing a demand to hand over documents, Supreme Court judge Justice John McKechnie said bluntly: “No question of journalist’s privilege (if such a thing exists) or protection of sources arises.” More recently the Age and its journalists Baker, McKenzie and Philip Dorling lost a NSW Supreme Court appeal against property developer Helen Liu’s bid for them to disclose sources. The article, quoting from documents said to be Liu’s personal and business records, was about former defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon. Liu argues the documents were forgeries or were falsely attributed and wants to identify the people to sue. In the Securency case, McKenzie and Baker are facing court action to reveal their confidential
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Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie leave the Melbourne County Court during a hearing into the Securency case. – The Age/News
There is insufficient indication as to how the enacted shield laws will operate; what’s worrying, however, is judicial indisposition to the spirit of the shield law sources by lawyers acting for eight former RBA bank-note executives charged with bribery. In the article concerned McKenzie and Baker said an alleged bagman from Indonesia would testify against the accused as a prosecution star witness. The article said under a secret deal between the witness and the Australian government the witness would “provide the first explicit, firstperson witness testimony about the way the RBA bank-note firms Securency and Note Printing Australia allegedly used middlemen to funnel multi-million dollar bribes to overseas officials in return for securing their agreement to purchase Australian polymer bank note technology.” Victorian Supreme Court judge Justice Michael Sifris dismissed the journalists’ application for judicial review of Magistrate Goldberg’s decision ordering disclosure. Justice Sifris held that the case was “not about the protection of sources by journalists [but about] whether correct procedures were followed and the law was complied with”. In The Sunday Times case referred to before, the court ordered the newspaper to hand over documents relating to an article it published containing allegations by Greens MP Adele Carles against the state’s treasurer, Troy Buswell. Buswell wanted documents including handwritten notes, emails, letters and audio recordings that contained comments Carles made to any Sunday Times journalist leading to an article claiming he had “dry-humped” a Perth businessman at a social event “allegedly moaning in
mock sexual pleasure”. Justice McKechnie did not agree that disclosure “would cause sufficient oppression” to the newspaper. There is insufficient indication as to how the enacted shield laws will operate; what’s worrying, however, is judicial indisposition to the spirit of the shield law. That spirit, in essence, is to facilitate the flow of information and enhance transparency and accountability. The media has not so far argued for absolute protection and is not seeking a system of open slather. When parliament creates a protection and calls it a ‘journalist privilege’, however, there is in fact a journalist privilege, even if it comes with qualifications – as most such privileges do. In some states the privilege has been created by statute and therefore it exists in fact and by the name ‘journalists’ privilege’. The courts would be wrong to say no such privilege exists in Australia. The exercise of judicial discretion will continue to haunt the application of the shield protection. Where the protection covers a vast spectrum of potential protection claimants, including bloggers and citizen journalists, the greater the likelihood of judicial reservation to apply the shield. Hopefully, we will not need another HarveyMcManus ‘moment’ to fix the law in this area. Associate Professor Joseph Fernandez is the head of the journalism department at Curtin University
What goes on behind the detention fence? The government continues to frustrate access to media wanting to report on conditions in off-shore detention centres, writes Jeff Waters. Cartoon by Reg Lynch
’d never really considered trying to get into one of Australia’s immigration holding centres until I went to Nauru in November last year. It wasn’t because I wouldn’t like to capture the human impact of the country’s domestic detention centres. No, the reason I hadn’t considered applying to enter a detention facility on Australian soil is because I considered it a quite futile effort. The regulations imposed on journalists wishing to enter these places preclude the recording of reality. I wouldn’t get those stories. What would be the point? But then there was Nauru. When I was told about an impending visit there by an Amnesty International team – the first such inspection of the facility by an outside organisation – I contacted my editors and ended up on an overnight flight from Brisbane to the island. I would report on the Amnesty visit, but also try to get as close to, if not inside, the desolate detention centre. Shortly before leaving I had called the communications team at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). I asked what my chances were of getting inside the Nauru camp, and was left with the rather abrupt impression that such permission was unlikely to be forthcoming. But I knew there would be the small possibility of a loophole, and it would come in the form of the Nauruan government. You see, this would be a place of detention that was administered by the host nation. Nauru would ultimately be responsible, under contract, for the actual processing of the asylum seekers, even though it only has a few practising lawyers on the island, let alone enough qualified immigration officials. Surely if the Nauruan government gave permission for an ABC visit, nothing could stop them from exercising their sovereign right to enforce free media access. At least that was the optimistic theory. The plane landed at 8am local time. At 10, I was sitting in a session of the Nauru Supreme Court, which was very small but notable for its air-conditioning. The case, relating to the conviction of a collection of asylum seekers for rioting, was delayed for hours. The asylum seekers were refusing to leave their bus and enter the court because they weren’t happy with their legal representation. There are so few lawyers in this population of 10,000 that paralegal officers of the court, who are not qualified lawyers, are the only public legal court advocate available. The asylum seekers wanted a proper lawyer. The stand-off ended after some time when a Nauruan lawyer volunteered to represent the men for their plea hearing. Most of the discussion with the judge centred on the apparently
I asked what my chances were of getting inside the Nauru camp, and was left with the rather abrupt impression that such permission was unlikely to be forthcoming
insurmountable difficulty of finding adequate representation for each individual. “Would they have to fly lawyers in from Australia?” I thought. It was a matter certainly not resolved. The hearing didn’t end, however, until the judge had passed strict non-publication orders. None of the interviews I had recorded through the bus windows, or interactions I’d had with asylum seekers around the court, would be allowed to be broadcast for fear of “identifying individuals” who had clearly given their consent to be interviewed. It’s the same reason DIAC gives to prevent reporting of human stories, but this time it was being imposed by a court. By this time I was also speaking to various detainees in the centre by telephone. I’d arranged to meet a few of them when they were allowed to leave the centre under escort to play football – the centre itself is far too small to allow such exercise – but they told me all excursions had been cancelled because of the number of visiting journalists on the island. But a tiny chink in the armour soon emerged. Answering a question in a media briefing, Nauru’s foreign minister said media access to the camp would be allowed “within a week”. I had no reason to doubt the minister’s sincerity, but I knew the promise was highly unlikely to eventuate given my previous dealings with the Australian department. The statement did, however, give me a hook to start asking for permission formally, which I did with verve. My question to the Australians could now be: “What’s the hold-up with negotiations, given the Nauruan government’s apparent openness?” Meanwhile the wet season skies had opened above the island and great quantities of water were gushing over the crushed coral ground of the detention centre. Water was flowing through tents, from above and below. I began to suspect the hold-up in permission may very well have had a seasonal cause, as much as anything else.
I went as close as I could, climbing a precarious hill to film the facility from a distance. I did so under climatic conditions as challenging as anything I’d worked in before, and that includes the Arctic, the Sahara and the Roaring Forties. How extraordinary it must be to endure such weather under canvas. After my return to Australia, I decided to try a new tactic. In addition to writing to the Nauruan government and the Australian department directly, I would start asking in a more public manner, turning to one of DIAC’s favourite platforms – social media. At least our audience could see the ABC was attempting to show them how the prisoners were being treated, and how their tax dollars were being spent. Initially DIAC’s responses over Twitter were polite, vague and non-specific. They centred on the lack of an agreement by the two governments over permission to film inside the facility. “These things take time,” was the general theme. So I continued questioning. How could Australia negotiate to set up the camp itself in an extremely short time – convincing a sovereign government to set up a foreign detention facility on communally owned land – yet not sort out something so simple as ABC access? Was there a diplomatic impasse? Who was to blame? After a few weeks of enjoyable Christmas holiday tweeting with a growing number of supporters, it appears I had grown too tiresome for the DIAC media team. “Give it a rest,” one of them publicly tweeted. This comment backfired badly, with many respondents complaining about the tone DIAC had adopted. But I didn’t “give it a rest”. My efforts continued into the new year. I may not be allowed to show the world what Australia was doing – whether exemplary or deplorable – but I wouldn’t let my attempts go unnoticed. DIAC still appears not to like my tweets. In one recent response, I was told negotiations were held up because these things are done in “Melanesian time”. I pointed out that not only was this racial stereotyping, but that Nauru was actually in Micronesia and that was an important distinction for people of that region. Months down the track, the ABC appears no closer to securing permission to film inside the Nauru or Manus Island camps. Our written and verbal requests for entry to the detention centres have been met with openended responses. “Media access protocols are currently being developed between the two governments,” said national communications manager Sandi Logan in a recent email. We continue to ask. Jeff Waters is a senior journalist in Victoria with ABC News
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Is Pakistan’s media on a death list? WIth three journalists killed in one week, Pakistan’s media workers want the government to act. Mike Dobbie reports.
here has been an appalling escalation of attacks on the Pakistani media this year, with three journalists killed in a single week. On February 25, Khushnood Ali Shaikh, chief reporter of the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) wire agency, was struck and killed by a car in a hit-and-run incident in Karachi. For some time, Shaikh had received phone threats that his child would be abducted and murdered if he did not pay Rs. 50,000 in extortion. It’s believed his death was no accident. On February 27 in Miranshah, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), journalist Malik Mumtaz Khan was gunned down on his way home by armed men waiting in a vehicle with tinted windows – a kind widely used by militants. On March 1, Intikhab newspaper correspondent Mehmood Ahmed Afridi, 56, was killed by two gunmen on a motorcycle in Kalat in the south-western province of Balochistan. Afridi had been waiting outside a public telephone booth when the men stopped and shot him four times. At the time of writing, at least six journalists have been slain in Pakistan in 2013.
New South Wales Journalists’ Benevolent Fund
Pakistani media representatives shout slogans against the killing of Malik Mumtaz during a protest in Karachi on February 28, 2013.
Responding to the continuing violence, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) sent a five-member delegation to Pakistan in March. The delegation, which included Media Alliance federal secretary and former IFJ president Christopher Warren, met with union leaders, media professionals and civil society representatives to assess security for journalists. A national meeting was held to discuss their findings and ways to support a safe, independent media in Pakistan. “Increasingly, governments around the world are allowing killers to get away with murder because the targeted killings of journalists are not properly investigated – authorities cannot allow
Under the rules adopted for the NSW Journalists’ Benevolent Fund, the Trustees have requested the Fund’s auditor, Wayne Gilholme of Pinn, Deavin & Co., to act as Returning Officer as a result of the unwillingness of the Electoral Commissioner to act in this capacity. Therefore nominations are now called for 3 Class “A” trustees of the Fund to be elected for a two year term expiring on 30th June, 2015. NOMINATIONS Nominations, which must be in writing, may be made at any time from Thursday, 18th April, 2013. They must reach the Returning Officer, Wayne Gilholme of Pinn, Deavin & Co., P.O Box 2603, TAREN POINT NSW 2229, no later than 10.00 am on Wednesday 15th May, 2013.
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a culture of impunity to flourish,” the IFJ reports. Warren adds that unless action is taken, the crisis in Pakistan could get exponentially worse. “As journalists, we cannot change everything – we need to recognise what we can do and what we cannot do,” he says. “We cannot act as a substitute for the state in enforcing justice. What we can do is place the journalists’ response at the centre of the crisis.” He outlines eight actions as core to addressing the crisis: care for the families of the slain; advocating for justice through journalism and publicising individual cases; strengthening and supporting organisations like the PFUJ in Pakistan; engendering respect for minorities and women in the newsroom; advocacy and training; increased dialogue with politicians and non-state bodies and encouraging employers to respect their journalists. “None of these on their own will solve the crisis; together they can help bend the direction of the crisis,” he says. “But the crisis will only really be resolved when governments and security authorities recognise and accept their fundamental responsibility to provide a secure environment for every citizen.”
ELIGIBILITY Only financial members as at 31st March, 2013, of the AJA Section of the NSW Branch of the Union are eligible for election under the rules of the Fund. BALLOT If a ballot is necessary, voting material will be posted to all financial members of the AJA Section of the NSW Branch of the Union on Monday 27th May, 2013, at the address shown in the Union’s records. Members should notify the Union of any change of address. If a ballot is required, the ballot will close at 10.00 am on Thursday, 13th June, 2013. WAYNE GILHOLME RETURNING OFFICER
19/03/13 12:49 PM
Creeping power of the Keystroke Cops Bernard Keane explains why tracking an individual’s online activities is in a whole different league to a phone tap, no matter what the government says. Cartoon by Peter Nicholson
he internet and the need to control what the Australian government claims is a clear and present online danger to national security received sustained attention throughout 2012, with significant implications for both online privacy and press freedom. The chief reason for this was the unusual – and commendable – decision by Nicola Roxon, the then federal attorney-general, to ask the parliament’s Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to conduct a public inquiry into proposals to streamline and increase national security powers for agencies including ASIO and the Australian Federal Police (AFP). The high-powered committee agreed to report by the end of 2012 – a deadline that would be missed. Typically, national security “reforms” are pushed through as legislation with no public consultation and brief Senate committee inquiries. In this case, the committee was handed 44 separate national security proposals to consider, and the federal Attorney-General’s Department prepared a discussion paper to assist the inquiry. But the department’s discussion paper turned out to be an embarrassing mess, with some key reforms only referred to in the vaguest terms. The committee required multiple clarifications from both the attorney-general and her department to uncover what they were actually talking about. Most problematic was the proposal to force telecommunications companies to retain Australians’ “telecommunications data” – data about our use of the internet and telephony services, which law enforcement and intelligence agencies complain is being lost because companies no longer hold such information for billing purposes. The government says it doesn’t support the data retention proposal at this point, but is merely seeking views on it. But data retention, worth an inquiry in itself, ended up occupying the bulk of the committee’s time. Some irony attended its obscure references in the discussion paper, as we subsequently found out that the AttorneyGeneral’s Department had already prepared draft legislation on data retention after a secret three-year industry consultation process. And even as a clearer definition was provided by the Attorney-General’s Department, based on the European Union’s data retention directive
Australians do not use online communications in the same way as they used analog phones. They did not commit huge amounts of personal information, including crucial financial details, to permanent storage on the phone (retention up to two years, but not of contentrelated data, and not of the sites visited by an IP address), we learnt that some of the agencies wanted permanent retention of citizens’ entire internet usage. But that was just the most high-profile of the 44 proposals – others were similarly concerning. It was proposed that surveillance warrants be extended to social media; that ASIO be given the power to plant material on computers subject to its warrants; that current thresholds for surveillance and information gathering be lowered and record-keeping requirements for agencies reduced; and that refusal to provide a password for encrypted IT systems be criminalised. The department argued that these proposals weren’t extensions of security powers per se, but were needed to maintain the current telephonybased interception and surveillance framework in the face of evolving technology. Yet the analogy at the heart of this claim, between analog-era telecommunications and the internet, was profoundly flawed. Australians do not use online communica tions in the same way as they used analog phones. They did not commit huge amounts of personal information, including crucial financial details, to permanent storage on the phone. These days, personal relationships, recreation, media consumption, political activity, civic participation (including, potentially, voting),
economic activity and employment all occur online. Australians live significant portions of their lives online in a way impossible with the analog phone. Attempts to impose a version of tele communications interception laws on the internet are not a logical extension of laws to “keep up with technology” but a dramatic extension of surveillance into citizens’ lives that goes far beyond a phone tap. The Attorney-General’s Department also argued that the retention only of “tele communications data” rather than “content data” was less threatening to privacy. But traffic data, particularly when it includes data from mobile phones enabling geographical tracking, can be enough to extensively profile an individual citizen, their habits, relationships, interests and movements. There are already at least two recorded instances under the EU data directive where telecommunications data was used to expose journalists’ confidential sources. A recurring aspect of the department’s paper was its inability to explain exactly what features of the current laws are problematic – what agencies cannot currently do, how the proposals would remedy this, what risks are associated with the proposals and the trade-off between the benefits of greater surveillance versus the costs to Australia’s civil rights. Instead, advocates invoked the concept of “balance”. Roxon declared in September 2012 that she wanted to “strike a balance between ensuring we have the investigative tools needed to protect the community and individual privacy”; the discussion paper on the reform proposals referred several times to the balance “between protecting privacy and enabling agencies to access the information necessary to protect the community”. ➤
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But this is a “balance” that in Australia ➤ only tips one way – in favour of security. Since the September 11 attacks, Australian governments have regularly scaled back citizens’ rights via counter-terrorism legislation. In fact, so frequently have governments updated the powers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies that they’re now crowding in on one another – the proposals before the Senate committee came several months prior to the passage of new data retention powers under the government’s Cybercrime Act. Not once have governments curtailed or reduced their security powers in the name of balance. But what exactly are we balancing? The discussion paper stated that “[s]ince 2001, four mass casualty attacks within Australia have been disrupted because of the joint work of intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Since 2001, 38 people have been prosecuted in Australia as a result of counter-terrorism operations and 22 people have been convicted of terrorism offences under the Criminal Code Act 1995…” So even the bureaucrats urging an extension of surveillance powers admit that the current surveillance and intelligence-gathering laws have allowed significant operational successes. We already have a highly effective regime within which police and intelligence agencies operate. The “balance” proposed by the government is between a minuscule additional reduction
So frequently have governments updated the powers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies that they’re now crowding in on one another
in national security threats, perhaps calculable in the hundredths of one per cent, and a major extension of state surveillance into the life of every Australian. The nuances of this important debate, sadly, received minimal mainstream media coverage. Outside the IT trade press, Crikey and the nowdeparted Dylan Welch at Fairfax, data retention – forget about the other proposals – received virtually no attention from journalists. News Limited, normally quick to assail Labor and spot the vaguest threat to free speech, almost entirely ignored the issue. There was a similarly incurious response from the media around the issue of cybersecurity, which formed a key plank of the government’s national security statement in January 2013 and which prompted the establishment of a new “Australian Cyber Security Centre”. That body ostensibly would combine a range of intelligence gathering, law enforcement and protective functions currently housed in different agencies, despite the obvious difficulties in combining such highly disparate functions into a single entity. To justify the new focus on cybersecurity, the government repeatedly cited a cybersecurity industry report about the cost to Australia of cybercrime – a report that had been debunked as wildly overstating the costs of cybercrime. This is not to say that cybercrime – much of which is good old-fashioned crime like fraud
and theft dressed as a new threat by the addition of the prefix cyber – is not a significant issue for Australian business and governments. But cybersecurity has become relentlessly hyped as a justification for ever-increasing government expenditure and extensions of powers. In the United States, where threats of a “digital Pearl Harbor” from senior politicians are routine, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act bill – intended to force communications companies to share citizens’ internet usage data with government agencies in the name of cybersecurity – was defeated in Congress in 2012, only for the Obama White House to use an executive order to seek to establish the same requirement. These are not arcane issues debated in the sterile world of online media – they have direct implications for privacy, freedom of speech and the ability of the media to operate free of government restriction or threat. Australian journalists, editors and producers need to realise their own interests are at risk whenever intelligence and law enforcements agencies demand an extension of their powers to counter nebulous threats from the internet. Bernard Keane is the Canberra press gallery correspondent for Crikey Peter Nicholson draws cartoons for the page one and other sections of The Australian
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Promised reforms fall short on FoI battleground For Michael McKinnon, the promise of John Faulkner’s 2010 Freedom of Information reforms has not been met. Cartoon by Chris Slane
iven its terms of reference, there was little hope the Gillard government’s review of freedom of information (FoI) rules was ever going to lead to greater openness. Cutting government costs, increased Cabinet secrecy, whether some government agencies should be exempt from the FoI Act and a poor raft of proposed changes to fees and charges were all on the table. All were changes for greater secrecy. Even worse, the terms of reference included the issue that FoI somehow stopped public servants giving “frank and fearless” advice to their bosses, as it might eventually be made public in a later FoI request. This gave renewed life to a flawed argument that has haunted FoI laws in Australia since the Act came into force in 1982. This argument on “frank and fearless” is supported, at least to some extent, by the new federal attorney-general, Mark Dreyfus. The FoI review, carried out by eminent former public servant Dr Allan Hawke AC and due on April 30, will address the frank and fearless argument and, hopefully, not embrace moves that effectively gut the laws providing every Australian with a legal right of access to government documents. In 1985, in a case involving the former prime minister John Howard and the then treasurer, Peter Costello, the argument was first raised that documents should be kept secret because release was against the public interest as public servants would be afraid to provide “frank and fearless” advice if such views were made public. But a submission by Australia’s media companies to the Hawke review argues instead that “frank and fearless advice” from public servants is exactly the information that should be available to the Australian public. Logically, if frank and fearless advice supports the quality of government programs and policies, then a government would use its army of spin doctors to sell its achievements. But if the advice says this policy is a dog and an absolute waste then the public will be better informed – despite any negative political consequences for the government. Even better, the government might change the policy. Stranger things have happened. A government has the right to make any decision. But if the decision is against the advice of the bureaucracy then the public has a right to know. The flaws in arguing against disclosure in those circumstances were identified in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal judgment in McKinnon v Dept PM & Cabinet V2005/103313. In that case, Deputy President Forgie rejected claims that public servants have a reasonable expectation
A government has the right to make any decision. But if the decision is against the advice of the bureaucracy then the public has a right to know the documents they prepared would remain confidential. The case also showed that failing to provide frank and fearless advice directly contradicted obligations under the Public Service Act. Hopefully, the Hawke review will also address a major failing with the reformed FoI Act – the poor performance of some government agencies on FoI and the failings of the new watchdog – the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. The shadow attorney-general, George Brandis, says the opposition is “very critical” about the way the Gillard government promised sunlight but had “entirely dropped the ball”. “The length of time taken to process some FoI applications shows some agencies are inexplicably very slow and unhelpful,’’ he says. “No government should be scared of FoI – a culture of disclosure is a discipline for good policy. “There needs to be exemptions for issues like commercial in confidence and national
security, but you have to have a presumption for disclosure.” Senator Brandis cites the case of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) where the government has squandered political capital for a tax that has raised no money. “We have been pressing for years for the assumptions, costings and modelling behind the MRRT minerals resource rent tax,’’ he says. “If those had been produced, as they should have been, then the flaws would have been admitted a lot earlier and perhaps fixed. “It is a good example of the huge cost governments can pay for hiding things.’’ The Gillard government’s promised Budget surplus, refugee solution and home insulation program are all examples where release of internal advice about the policies may have caused some short-term pain but saved it from greater eventual damage. An example of how information revealed in an FoI request can help a government improve policy occurred in February 2003 when The Australian obtained health department documents where public servants had given “frank and fearless” advice that bulk-billing rates were in freefall, and bureaucrats were unable to predict how far the decline would go. Within days of publication, the then federal health minister, Kay Patterson, ➤
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“No government should be scared of FoI – a culture of disclosure is a discipline for good policy”
PUBLIC AFFAIRS IN THE
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a review” and broadening “the grounds on which the information commissioner can decide not to investigate a complaint”. So the OAIC wants to do less work. And to stop applicants taking the OAIC to the inde pendent tribunal (the AAT), the OAIC also wants appeals to the AAT to be made only on points of law, dramatically lowering the chances of appeals. The solution is not making the goal posts so easy that even the OAIC can achieve its aims but to improve the OAIC performance – a common thread in submissions to the Hawke review. The OAIC’s own annual report shows how badly it works. Its target was to finalise 80 per cent of reviews within six months. Only 32.8 per cent of reviews were completed in six months in the last reporting year. Similarly, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s 2011-12 annual report shows that in each of the last four reporting years there has been a decrease in the proportion of FoI requests granted in full or in part. It also shows significant delays with nonpersonal related FoI requests. Indeed some public servants openly admit that the OAIC’s backlog allows sensitive FoI requests to be put on the backburner. Another related problem is that the OAIC has a high rate of review applications being withdrawn or dismissed. In total, between November 1, 2010 and May 31, 2012, some 604 applications for review had been received. Of those, 209 have been dealt with through withdrawal or summary dismissal.
That’s why the media companies’ submission to the Hawke review has argued that applicants who have been refused an FoI request should have a right of appeal to the AAT as well as the option of the OAIC, as the OAIC is failing in its core purpose of providing a timely and independent merits review mechanism. Finally, one other problem with the OAIC and foreshadowed by the Australian Law Reform Commission is the inconsistency of the role of review on the one hand, and the other FoI functions conferred on an information commissioner on the other. For example, the commissioner has established a series of workshops with information contact officers of departments and agencies under the acronym ICON. It is impossible for the commissioner to hold these regular meetings with agencies and their representatives and to then be accepted as an independent umpire by applicants who seek to question decisions made by those same agencies. The Hawke review recommendations are unlikely to become law in the life of this parliament, given the time left before the election and the difficulty of securing support in the Senate. Yet the promise of the reforms of 2010 have not been met and FoI is still a battleground. The OAIC has proven to be more of a problem than a solution to exercising a legal right of access of information. Hawke would do some very useful work mapping out improvements for an Act that can only improve the low trust Australians have in their government. On March 24, 2009, the then special minister of state, Senator John Faulkner, said in a speech to the Australia’s Right to Know (ARTK) Freedom of Speech conference: “There is a growing acceptance that the right of the people to know whether a government’s deeds match its words, to know what information the government holds about them, and to know the information that underlies debate and informs decisionmaking, is fundamental to democracy.” Allan Hawke can be well guided by this sentiment in considering how to improve the right of Australians to government information. Michael McKinnon is the Walkley-winning Freedom of Information editor for the Seven Network. He wrote the submission to the Hawke review for media companies Chris Slane is a New Zealand cartoonist; www.slane.co.nz
Public v Private: Where to draw the line June 27-28, National Press Club, CANBERRA Find out more at www.walkleys.com SUPPORTED BY
Cartoon: Matt Golding
➤ announced reform plans and there were sustained improvements in bulk-billing rates. It was a good result for the public and also for a Coalition government that fixed an issue of considerable political danger. Senator Brandis says there are arguments against releasing policy in development but he supports the release of information and data underpinning a policy so the public can judge a policy effectively. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus told the Press Freedom Report that he was limited in talking about the review until he saw the Hawke findings and recommendations. “We introduced significant reforms in 2010 and I don’t want to comment until I see the Hawke review itself. It is true however that release of draft government documents can lead public debate in the wrong direction. What you are interested in is the final policy and the debate needs to be centred there,” he says. This will provide some comfort for politicians intent on ignoring good advice for political reasons. The public would simply never know about the good advice. Maybe a mining minister, for example, is the best person to choose where leases should be developed, but if he was simply looking after a mate then the release of the department’s full and frank advice against the sweetheart deal would help the public make an informed decision (not that any such travesty of good government would happen in Australia). There is a real cost for poor public policy and FoI is cheap by comparison, because – if effective – it allows the early exposure of policies that do not work. Another major issue for the Hawke review, raised in a submission by AAP, ASTRA, Commercial Radio Australia, Fairfax Media, Free TV Australia, the Media Alliance, News Limited, Sky News and WAN, is the poor performance of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). Set up as a watchdog as part of the 2010 reform, one way the OAIC wants to improve its performance is to strip applicants of their rights. The OAIC’s own submission to the Hawke review argues that agencies should have a maximum 40–hour processing ceiling for access requests – too bad if the issue involves complicated public policy and takes longer than that. The OAIC also wants Hawke to consider broadening “the grounds on which the information commissioner can decide not to undertake
Still no justice for Paul Moran The people who murder journalists like must be held to account, writes the slain ABC cameraman’s friend and colleague Eric Campbell
the feelings they induce. I don’t believe I’ve been traumatised by any assignment since Iraq. I wish I could be as confident about my colleagues. One issue that’s emerged in trauma research is that even tape editors back at base have been damaged by what they see, monitoring hours of footage of bombings and tsunamis and wars and earthquakes. The only way to protect staff absolutely is for media groups to cease covering
Paul Moran at work.
hate March 22. It’s the day that my cameraman Paul Moran was killed in Iraq and every year as the date nears the flashbacks return. I see the car appearing out of nowhere, the explosion of flames and flying debris and the body of a man I was responsible for lying shattered on the road. I pick over the decisions I made that put us at that spot at the exact moment of a suicide bombing and I feel the sickening shame of surviving. This year is the 10th anniversary of Paul’s murder. I say murder because the target wasn’t soldiers, but civilians. We were standing near a group of ordinary villagers when a suicide bomber crashed his car into them and blew it up. Paul was standing in front of me so he took the full force of the blast. That’s how I survived. Ten years on, the man I blame for what happened, because he trained and directed the suicide bombers, is in prison in Norway for separate crimes. His name is Mullah Krekar, a fanatical Salafist who set up a terrorist training camp in northern Iraq while enjoying political asylum in the West. The Media Alliance is seeking to have him extradited to Australia to be tried for Paul’s murder, to show that journalists, like other civilians, can’t be killed with impunity. I doubt it will ever happen. Australian authorities have shown little interest in pursuing the case and it’s rarely mentioned unless there’s a peg like an anniversary. It’s a long time since being a journalist gave you any special protection. The obscenity of needing armour to report on conflicts began in Croatia in 1991, when a rumoured bounty on Western journalists forced news crews to don flak jackets and travel in bulletproof vans. It continues to this day. On my first day in a war zone, in Chechnya in 1996, Russian soldiers opened fire on us because they were annoyed we were filming them. I’ve known journalists in Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Serbia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine who have been beaten, imprisoned, even killed for exposing corruption. One woman, a Russian newspaper editor named Larisa Yudina, was murdered after she gave me an interview about a local politician embezzling state funds. The politician, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, was never charged even though his aides were found guilty of her murder. He
Australian authorities have shown little interest in pursuing the case and it’s rarely mentioned unless there’s a peg like an anniversary remains on the international stage as president of the world chess federation, FIDE. The admirable CPJ, the Committee to Protect Journalists, has documented the cases of 150 journalists killed in Iraq since the US invasion. My cameraman Paul Moran was the first. It’s impossible to quantify how many journalists have been traumatised. When I returned from Iraq I was forced to recognise how damaged I was from the conflicts and natural disasters I had covered and the near injuries and threats of violence I’d experienced. Just 10 years ago, many journalists still saw it as unmanly to admit to trauma. Nightmares weren’t mentioned, outbursts of anger were self-justified and anxiety was self-medicated with alcohol. But for months after Iraq, I was unable to function. Paul’s death had brought to the fore an accumulation of mental hurt. The ABC made me go to trauma counselling. I hated every moment of it. But eventually I learned techniques to stop the waking nightmares, the terrifying flashbacks and the guilt I felt for not being dead. I’ve continued to work in dangerous places and often see disturbing things. These days I prepare for them mentally and monitor
such events. I wonder if in 10 years there will still be a discussion about the dangers to journalists in conflict or disaster zones. In an era of declining budgets and expanding outlets it is tempting for media groups to rely exclusively on agency pictures voiced by reporters in their bureau offices or headquarters. Even in the Iraq War, started by the West, the casualties were mainly local Arabs hired to take the risks foreign networks were happy to outsource. Their deaths barely rated a mention in the news programs that hired them. But as someone who regrets every day ever going to Iraq, and who dreads the approach of that wretched anniversary, I believe withdrawing from the business of bearing first-hand witness would be the greatest tragedy of all. Eric Campbell is senior reporter for Foreign Correspondent on ABC TV. A former ABC bureau correspondent in Moscow and Beijing, he has reported from more than 70 countries. The Media Alliance continues to call for Mullah Krekar’s extradition
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What Bilbo bagged and other secrets Wellington and Hollywood are getting precious over revealing the deals done to keep the Hobbit in New Zealand, but that’s not the only secret the government’s keeping, writes Brent Edwards. Illustration by Rod Emmerson
ew Zealand’s Official Information Act is coming under increasing scrutiny as John Key’s government continues to block the release of documents it does not want made public. One high-profile case involves the making of the Hobbit movies in New Zealand. In October 2010 the government did a deal with Hollywood studio Warner Bros to ensure the Hobbit movies were made in New Zealand. Both Warner Bros and the Hobbit director, Sir Peter Jackson, had threatened to shoot the movies elsewhere if the government didn’t respond to an attempt by the actors’ union, NZ Equity (part of the Media Alliance), to negotiate collective conditions of work on the movie set. The government agreed to pay another NZ$30 million to keep the films, and changed its industrial law in one day to meet the demands of Jackson and Warner Bros. Subsequently, a number of news media organisations and the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) requested copies of all documents, including emails, related to the government’s handling of the matter. But only a limited amount of information was released, prompting both Radio New Zealand and the CTU to appeal to the Ombudsman’s Office. Ombudsman David McGee released his final decision on the case at the end of January, giving the government until March 1 to release 18 documents it had withheld. But his report also disclosed the lengths to which the government went to delay his investigation. On two occasions the responsible ministers agreed to meet McGee, only to cancel their meetings the morning they were due to meet. The final meeting was due to take place on December 5, nearly six months after ministers had received a draft of the ombudsman’s opinion. As well, McGee’s report discloses the views of both New Line Productions and Wingnut Films, which opposed releasing the information. New Line said: “Disclosing our negotiations and innermost thinking, including certain strategic decisions, legal and personal opinions, offers from third-party governments and other private information, could damage business relationships we have with others (including
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Will politicians use this opportunity to open up government to even more public scrutiny or take a step back from the progress made in the last 30 years
those third-party governments that offered us special incentives), as well as impair our ability to effectively negotiate with certain third parties in the future, including the relevant unions.” It also warned that if the information was released it might not consider New Zealand as a destination for future films. But McGee said while he accepted some of the information might not be helpful to business relationships, he rejected suggestions it was commercially sensitive. Ironically, given his government had obstructed access to the information for more than two years, Prime Minister Key said he was very relaxed about releasing the information and did not fear any backlash from the Hollywood studios or Sir Peter Jackson. There was, however, no immediate move by the government to release the information. At the same time as the ombudsman’s opinion was released, the justice minister, Judith Collins, made public the government’s response to the Law Commission’s review of the Official Information Act. The commission had recommended wide-ranging changes to the law, including bringing parliament under its reach. But the government is only intending to deal with a limited number of issues from the review – ones that, strangely enough, include those concerns raised during the struggle to access the Hobbit information. And the changes the government intends to adopt provide stronger grounds for withholding information because of commercial confidentiality. As well, third parties – such as film studios – will be offered stronger protections under the law. Key says this has nothing to do with the Hobbit episode. But if tougher protections are put in place, much of the Hobbit information the ombudsman has ruled should now be made public would be more easily kept from prying eyes. It would weaken the public’s right to know
what sort of lobbying commercial enterprises use to get concessions or incentives from governments. In a separate report released in December, McGee also criticised the Ministry of Education for the way it handled Official Information Act requests related to the proposed merger of schools in Christchurch following the devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. In one case the ministry advised the Christchurch City Council to refuse a request for information on the basis that the information was not held by the council, when in fact the ministry knew it was. The ministry also advised the applicant to withdraw his official information request, suggesting that if he did so he would get the information quicker. Ombudsman McGee says the ministry was wrong to give such advice. Because of this particular case the chief ombudsman, Beverley Wakem, is now conducting an investigation into Official Information Act policy and practice in selected government agencies. That investigation might uncover whether these are isolated instances of obstruction or reflect a wider, more worrying trend within the government of preventing the release of information. There is also likely to be wider debate about the government’s plans to change the Official Information Act. The question now is: will politicians use this opportunity to open up government to even more public scrutiny or take a step back from the progress made in the last 30 years since the Official Information Act became law? Brent Edwards is political editor at Radio New Zealand and convenor of the EPMU’s print and media council Rod Emmerson is the editorial cartoonist for The New Zealand Herald
n FOREIGN CORRESPONDENCE
Taking The Tall Man to LA Film-maker Tony Krawitz’s Walkley-winning documentary struck a chord in Hollywood, but the big money is in zombies…
n late October 2012 I landed in LA still trying to compute the fact that, according to the calendar, I’d landed before I’d taken off. I was there to screen The Tall Man, the featurelength documentary I’d directed based on Chloe Hooper’s book about Cameron Doomadgee’s death in custody on Palm Island. The film had won the Finders Award at the 2012 Australian Directors Guild Awards and, as its prize, was to screen at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) in Los Angeles and New York to key industry people, including distributors. I negotiated the LA traffic in my rental car, trying to stay awake, stay to the right and follow the GPS’s insistent instructions to my West Hollywood hotel where I was meeting Kingston Anderson, the head of the Australian Directors Guild. It was five years since I’d been in LA. Last time I had been on my way to the Sundance Film Festival to screen my film Jewboy. This trip I decided to meet with local producers. Every producer I met with was really positive. As the saying goes, you never have a bad meeting. Still, I was dreading having to try sell myself to a bunch of strangers. My first meeting was with a company that makes low budget horror films. They are based in the Gloria Swanson bungalow on the Paramount lot, next door to the Billy Wilder bungalow. I wondered what Swanson and Wilder would make of it all. At every meeting I had I was given a bottle of water.
A producer told me that he can make me millions of dollars. All I’d need to do is write a great horror script and put a couple of “generics” in the lead. Once the audience have identified with the generic leads you can take them anywhere – to zombies, flesh-eating pets whatever. He told me he studied at Harvard and knew what he was talking about. I recalled Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman’s sage Hollywood advice: “Remember, nobody knows anything.” The screening of The Tall Man was held at the offices of the DGA. The woman in charge had worked for President Carter as a press secretary. We were there just before the last presidential election and she was nervous. She thought maybe Obama was going to lose. She was planning to spend election day on the phone trying to get voters from Ohio and Florida to the polls. The moderator of the Q&A was Eva Orner who produced the film Taxi to the Dark Side, a powerful investigation into America’s use of torture in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. She wore dark sunglasses and an off-theshoulder dress. She looked glamorous. I wore my usual second-hand shirt. In the cinema there was a mix of Americans and Aussie ex-pats and others in town for the AFM (American Film Market). Afterwards in the foyer, over canapés and beer, the discussion moved to the similarities and differences between our two countries in terms of justice for Indigenous people and/or people of colour.
Palm Island at sunset. – Hamish Cairns
Every producer I met with was really positive. As the saying goes, you never have a bad meeting. Still, I was dreading having to try sell myself to a bunch of strangers
I had a great discussion with an elderly couple about the sometimes wide difference between the idea of justice and the law. In The Tall Man, we wanted to tell as objective a tale as possible – to treat the audience like a jury. We weren’t setting out to make an investigative film. This case had been the subject of two coronial inquests and one manslaughter trial. A number of lawyers and journalists had all examined the evidence of the day of Cameron Doomadgee’s death and the subsequent events in forensic detail. The coroner had outlined his findings of collusion amongst the investigating officers, detailing how their investigation was highly flawed. Our focus was on a retelling of the story through the characters, people who hadn’t had a chance to speak for themselves. We wanted to aim at the emotional heart of these events, looking at the fallout Cameron’s death had on the family, the Palm Island community and the state of Queensland. We also interviewed people close to Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley (whom the Palm Islanders blamed for Doomadgee’s death), from the head of the Queensland Police Union to the Aboriginal activist Murrandoo Yanner, who had been so friendly with the policeman he let him take his children camping. One of the reasons the Doomadgee family said they were happy to collaborate with us on the film was because Cameron had only been talked about in the media as a drunken man who ➤
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➤ died in a police station. This film gave them the opportunity to talk about him as a man, a father and a hunter. Someone with a sense of humour and a weakness for ’70s American folk music. The power of this story is its complexity. We didn’t want to make an angry film. We wanted to make as clear-sighted a film as possible. It was difficult as we had much better access to the Palm Islanders than we had to the police. What really helped us was getting access to the visual and aural material from the courts. So even though Chris Hurley and his lawyers never responded to our requests for an interview, the audience was able to get to know him through the sound of his voice in court and through the video re-enactments he did with the investigating officers after the event. Queensland’s police service, after negotiating with us for a number of months, finally decided not to be involved in the film, and since the film’s release have remained quiet. Their non-involvement has done nothing to ease people’s concerns about their behaviour in the fallout of this case. I am still surprised that the Police Union head thinks that both the police and Indigenous people are “minorities” in our society. It speaks of a blind spot in police culture that he cannot recognise the power of the gun and the state – and the frustration and powerlessness that Cameron Doomadgee’s family felt when the full force of the Queensland Police Union came out in support of Senior Sergeant Hurley.
Tony Krawitz at the LA screening of The Tall Man.
A producer told me that he can make me millions of dollars. All I’d need to do is write a great horror script and put a couple of “generics” in the lead
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After the screening Anderson and I ended up in an Irish pub with an Antipodean actress. As we drank lager and ate fish and chips, she told us how LA had been both good and bad for her. She wished she’d done the money jobs and hoped that now it wasn’t too late. It was a distinctly LA conversation that had probably been repeated in bars and restaurants around town since the time of D.W. Griffith. Our visit to the US coincided with one of the worst storms the East Coast of America has ever experienced. The cinema was in a part of Manhattan that was closed to human traffic. A Lend Lease crane was swinging precariously over a building site and the authorities had created an exclusion zone around it. The cinema was flooded. Many people were homeless. The New York part of our trip was cancelled. I am grateful to the Australian Directors Guild, especially Anderson, and to the Walkley Foundation for their support and recognition of the film. In the end, we made this film for Cameron Doomadgee, his family, the people on Palm Island and all those who battle for justice in this country. Tony Krawitz is a writer/director and winner of the 2011 Walkley Documentary Award for The Tall Man. The Walkley Foundation helped fund his trip to Los Angeles to present the film to the American Directors Guild as part of its Finders Series, spotlighting undistributed independent feature films
Silence or the grave on Mexico’s front line Mexican journalists face grenades, guns, kidnap and torture from the narco traffickers, and things are getting worse, reports Allison Jackson. Cartoon by Jason Chatfield
aura has spent 20 years reporting on the front line of Mexico’s drug war. The veteran journalist has been based in the country’s north where powerful drugtrafficking gangs have been waging a bloody battle for control of key smuggling routes into the United States. The job is dangerous and many of her colleagues – mostly unprepared for the risks they face – have been threatened, attacked, kidnapped or murdered because of their coverage of organised crime and corruption. “The reporters most exposed are those who dedicate themselves to covering crime,” says Laura, whose real name has not been used for security reasons. “But for those who cover all types of news, including crime and politics, there is a threat I consider even more dangerous than the narcotraffickers – it is the connection between the so-called narcos and politicians.” Reporters Without Borders ranked Mexico the fourth most dangerous country in the world for the media in 2012 – behind Syria, Somalia and Pakistan. Since 2005, 82 reporters and photographers have been murdered and 18 others reported missing, according to a Mexican National Human Rights Commission. It has received 658 complaints from journalists since 2005 and investigated 28 attacks on media outlets in the past five years. Few cases, if any, have been solved. “The work done by journalists and other members of the media carries a high risk, with complaints of violations rising and the seriousness of the attacks staged against them growing,” the commission warns. This dark period overlapped with former President Felipe Calderón’s bloody war against the drug cartels. After taking office in December 2006, Calderón deployed thousands of troops and federal police to take back vast swathes of the country controlled by drug traffickers. It triggered a wave of mass killings and violence that has resulted in the deaths of an estimated 70,000 people. The escalation in abuses against the media was the focus of a visiting delegation from the International Press Institute and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) in February. “The problems here are horrendous,” said Roger Parkinson, the delegation leader and CEO of Canada’s Globe and Mail. “Significant parts of the country are not controlled by the state but by narcotic traffickers and organised crime, who torture and kill journalists and
It was better to put up a fight against would-be kidnappers even if it meant being killed on the spot. At least that way the journalist would avoid being tortured to death
intimidate newspapers into self-censorship.” Shortly after the comments were made, gunmen attacked a newspaper in the northern city of Torreón in Coahuila state three times in as many days. In the last attack, a bystander was killed and a federal police officer guarding the building was injured. The newspaper, El Siglo de Torreón, has been periodically attacked since 2009. After the first incident four years ago it stopped all investigative reporting, but the abuses persist. “Impunity is the oxygen for attacks against the press and the engine of those who seek to silence the media,” Javier Garza, deputy editor of El Siglo, told the Committee to Protect Journalists last year. “These attacks made it clear to us that we can’t trust the authorities for protection.” Journalists interviewed by the IPI and WANIFRA delegation said security conditions for their colleagues reporting from states where the drug cartels are most powerful have “continued to deteriorate” and “news outlets have been slow in adopting measures to keep journalists alive.” With local authorities unable – or unwilling – to offer protection, some media outlets, especially in the country’s north, have turned to self-censorship as a form of defence. Last July, El Mañana, a newspaper in the border city of Nuevo Laredo in Tamaulipas state, announced it was ceasing coverage of “crime and violent disputes” after a second grenade attack on its offices. Guillermo Arias is a former Associated Press photographer based in the border city of Tijuana, a key route for drug and human trafficking into the United States. He took part in several training courses conducted by the Centurion and Article 19, all paid for by the US news
agency, but many local media outlets in Mexico are not so generous. “To be a journalist covering crime in Mexico is dangerous,” says Arias, who now works for Chinese news agency Xinhua. “Being a journalist is generally dangerous, but if it has to do with violence it is much more dangerous.” Freelance photographer Bernardo De Niz is based in Guadalajara in the western state of Jalisco and returned to Mexico in 2010 after living abroad for seven years. Alarmed by the escalation in drug-related violence and the dearth of training for his colleagues, De Niz helped to organise a security course for about 50 journalists in 2011. The course was conducted by experts from the United States and Latin America, and supported by the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Rory Peck Trust. One of the key topics was kidnapping, a major threat to journalists in parts of Mexico. The advice from the security experts was grim. In some areas of the country, they said, it was better to put up a fight against would-be kidnappers even if it meant being killed on the spot. At least that way the journalist would avoid being tortured to death. “It’s not that you want to be killed, but you want to create chaos, draw attention to what is happening, to make them visible,” says De Niz. “The problem is when they are not visible.” Not surprisingly, working under such con ditions affects the personal lives of journalists like Emigdio Garcia, who has been covering crime in Guadalajara for 13 years. “Sometimes my wife says I’m paranoid, but I think you have to adapt your life to the situation; when you go outside you look to see if there is anyone suspicious or if a person is watching for you to leave or enter [the building], or if there is a vehicle with more than two people parked nearby,” he says. “I’m always watching for such people. In the past I went out on the street and didn’t take much care about who was there or was not there, but now I take notice.” Despite the risks, the journalists interviewed for this story were adamant that they would continue reporting. Arias says he loves telling stories with his camera. “I think it is important to inform and communicate and show things that are happening, from the most terrible things to the most beautiful things in life,” he says. Laura’s reasons are less idealistic. “Sometimes it is safer to continue than to quit,” she says. Allison Jackson is a freelance journalist based in Mexico. She currently writes for GlobalPost and The Financialist Jason Chatfield is the cartoonist for Ginger Meggs and a stand-up comedian
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Police target media in Greek riot act Police see cameras as a weapon in Greece, and Kia Mistilis and other journalists have found themselves targeted during the civil unrest
ress freedom in Greece came to international attention in October 2012, when investigative journalist and Hot Doc magazine editor Kostas Vaxevanis was arrested on breach of privacy laws after he published the so-called “Lagarde list”. This list revealed 2059 wealthy Greeks holding Swiss bank accounts with HSBC, raising questions about large-scale tax evasion. Vaxevanis did not make allegations or publish any personal data, but called for an investigation – given that the Greek government had been given the list by Christine Lagarde, the then French finance minister, in April 2010 and had failed to act on it for two years. The Greek government scrambled to arrest Vaxevanis with an illegal, verbally issued warrant and a police raid of 20 officers, worthy of a suspected terrorist. The Lagarde list, which includes business people, publishers, former government ministers and relatives of the current finance minister George Papaconstantinou (whose names he is now accused of deleting), reveals a cosy circle of politically connected and unaccountable elite
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and is symptomatic of the endemic corruption which plagues Greece’s internal affairs. The Vaxevanis case sparked outrage from the Greek people who are being told by the same government to accept a seemingly never-ending austerity program of savage wage and pension cuts coupled with tax hikes, which have plunged 50 per cent of the population into poverty. While Greece’s mainstream media was noticeably absent, every major international news agency was outside the court at his trial and Vaxevanis was catapulted to newfound prominence as op-ed contributor for The New York Times. Although acquitted, he faces a retrial after the Athens prosecutor appealed the verdict. But while Vaxevanis’s highly publicised case shone an international spotlight on the Greek government and media censorship, there are graver press freedom issues being faced by media covering the demonstrations that have convulsed the country since 2010. It’s important to clarify what happens on the ground in Athens during mass demonstra- tions on general strike days. The crowd varies
Riot police fire CS gas into a crowd peacefully gathered outside the Athens parliament, minutes after the second memorandum is passed on June 29, 2011.
in size from 100 to 250,000 people and the vast majority are peaceful, with rioters making up no more than one per cent of the crowd. Despite that, violent protesters gain disproportionate coverage, which creates an impression that police violence is necessary to subdue citizen violence. Actually, most of the violence is coming from the police, who use excessive and arbitrary force against innocent civilians and journalists to break up the demonstrations, but often inexplicably fail to arrest rioters, despite having ample opportunity to do so. The summer of 2011 is a case in point. Greeks rallied in huge numbers to protest the passing of the second memorandum and austerity measures by the parliament. During the demonstrations of June 15, 28 and 29 that year, riot police fired more than 8000 CS gas canisters (some of which had expired) and thousands of military stun grenades into crowds of people, directly at individual protesters and medical volunteers. Stun grenades are “designed for use in confined spaces by Special Forces during hostage release”.
At every demonstration I have attended, police have thrown CS gas canisters and stun grenades directly at me while I was taking photos, sometimes missing by centimetres. On June 29, standing atop a bus stop, I watched riot police launch a full-scale attack on a peaceful crowd gathered outside the parliament, minutes after the memorandum was passed. Concentrated CS gas, an asphyxiant, is part of their arsenal, and two were hurled at me that afternoon, landing at my feet. It was a terrifying experience being unable to breathe for a minute or so, despite my gas mask. I ran into the metro station to recover before putting my camera away and going back into the crowd, determined to stay and bear witness. After forcibly clearing thousands of people from Syntagma Square, the riot police spread throughout central Athens in what I can only describe as a state-sponsored terror campaign. I did my first live-to-air interview with the BBC that night, holed up in the storeroom of a restaurant in Monastiraki, while grenades and gas were exploding outside. Just around the corner, eyewitnesses, including a waitress and patrons at a local taverna, described seeing riot police on the rampage, indiscriminately throwing grenades amongst the people eating, smashing chairs and tables, and beating customers and proprietors with their batons. The demonstration was long over but the police terror continued. It was as if they had lost their minds. I’ve been very lucky to escape injury. Others have not. Manolis Kypreos, a journalist with 20 years’ experience, has covered conflicts in Kosovo, Nigeria and Georgia for the BBC World Service, Greek print media and Russia’s ITV. He was taking pictures at the June 15 demonstration when a riot squad commander demanded to know why. Kypreos showed his ID and the commander shouted: “Journalists are assholes!” Kypreos lost his hearing in both ears when riot police exploded a stun grenade 50cm from his face. After two painful operations, a Cochlear implant has finally restored partial hearing in one ear. “I have a piece of Australian technology
Above: Men with masks – independent journalists wait nervously outside the parliament in Athens for the demonstration to start on another general strike day, February 23, 2011. Below: Protesters often use Maalox, an over-thecounter antacid formula which is applied to the face, to alleviate the symptoms of CS gas exposure.
Kypreos lost his hearing in both ears when riot police exploded a stun grenade 50cm from his face in my head,” he tells me.“I can hear a mechanical human voice, but I cannot hear music.” The grenade destroyed his inner ear’s labyrinth, which controls balance, so he uses a walking stick and wears special shoes, but his brain cannot synchronise with a computer’s screen rate. In short, he cannot work – his career is over. Kypreos is bringing a case against the Greek government and unidentified police, because despite providing photos of the riot squad, and the eyewitness account of George Savidis, the president of the Greek Journalists’ Union, police insist they cannot identify those responsible. When the court asked the police for the riot squad positions at 3pm on that day, the police replied that they no longer have the data. The first court hearing is set for October 2016. Marios Lolos, president of the Photo journalists’ Union of Greece, was in a group of photojournalists being herded away from
parliament by riot police during a small, peaceful demonstration on the evening of April 6, 2012. A riot policeman struck him from behind with a metal baton handle, leaving a 1.5cm hole in the journalist’s cranium that required brain surgery and two titanium plate inserts, followed by a course of anti-epilepsy drugs. At a meeting with Christos Papoutsis, minister for public order and citizen protection, Lolos asked why the police are attacking journalists. “Police see cameras as a weapon,” Papoutsis reportedly said, adding that it was not official policy and that he supports the upholding of press freedoms. Lolos says Greek journalists have joined Amnesty International in calling for indepen dent, rather than internal investigations into incidents of police violence, and for riot police to display ID numbers on their sleeves, rather than on the back of their helmets, where they are sometimes obscured with liquid paper. In its July 2012 press release, Amnesty International “urged Greek authorities to address routine acts of police violence, including chemical sprays against largely peaceful demonstrators”. Its report Police Violence in Greece: Not just “isolated incidents” documents numerous accounts of people brutalised during arrest or detention. “Greek authorities refuse to acknowledge the extent of the problem. For far too long, they have brushed off such violations as ‘isolated incidents’, creating a climate of impunity,” it states. On top of the excesses of police violence, the economic crisis has seen the rise of Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi party that was in the political wilderness before winning 18 parliamentary seats in Greece’s 2012 national elections. Their leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, wrote an article in 1982 praising Hitler and in 2012 went on national TV as a holocaust denier. In his first press conference after entering the parliament, Michaloliakos singled out the media as enemies of his party. Journalists, whom he describes as “anarcho-communists”, were ordered to “stand and show respect to the leader!” as he entered the room. Those that did not were ejected. Reporters Without Borders sums it up well, describing the professional and social atmosphere for Greek journalists as “disastrous” in its World Press Freedom Index 2013 report. “Exposed to popular anger and continually facing violence on the part of both extremists and the police, reporters and photojournalists must now cope with the ultra-violent neo-Nazi activists of the Golden Dawn party,” it reports. Greece fell 14 places in the Press Freedom Index for 2013, to 84 out of 179 countries. Kia Mistilis is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Athens, Greece
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Shame on those who call her shrew Sexist coverage has an impact on election results and Rachel Larris is heading a project to call it out in the US media. Cartoon by Cathy Wilcox
his shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the media treats women politicians differently. When Michele Bachmann joined the race to be the US Republican Party’s presidential candidate there was lavish news coverage of her clothing, her make-up, her jewellery and even her nails. When she appeared on the cover of Newsweek, as countless other male presidential hopefuls have, the image chosen of her was particularly unflattering, giving her a look many dubbed “crazy eyes.” And after she was invited to appear on the late-night talk show hosted by Jimmy Fallon, the house back-up band played her on with a song titled “Lyin’ Ass Bitch.” A tweet from a band member made it clear the song was a deliberate choice to send a message to Bachmann. But it also sends another message to all women who run for higher office: we can hurl these insults at you simply because you are a woman. It would be tempting to see Bachmann’s experience as unique to her candidacy, but unfortunately what she experienced is on par with what other women have found – that the US media treats women in politics differently and to their detriment. Nor is such treatment reserved only for women of a particular party or political identity – 2008’s media coverage of Hillary Clinton’s run for the Democrats’ candidacy and Sarah Palin’s vice presidential bid was littered with examples every bit as bad and worse than Bachmann’s. Name It. Change It. is a non-partisan joint project of the US-based Women’s Media Center and She Should Run foundation devoted to identifying, preventing and ending sexist media coverage of women candidates, elected politicians and high-profile public officials in the US. The idea is to “name it” so we can “change it”, because the first step is recognising there is a problem. We monitor coverage by all members of the press – from bloggers to radio hosts to television pundits – and call them out for any sexist coverage. Widespread sexism in the media is one of the top problems facing women because sexist coverage does have an impact on elections. In 2013 women make up only 18 per cent of Congress and 24 per cent of state legislatures. The United States currently ranks 77th in the world for the percentage of women in a national lower chamber. We believe media coverage contributes to the gender disparity in political office. In 2010 Name It. Change It. conducted a survey of 800 likely voters nationwide to see if sexist language affected voters’ preferences. Our research showed
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that sexism, even mild sexist language, has an impact on a voter’s likelihood to vote for a female candidate and on how favourably they feel toward a woman seeking office. Sometimes sexist commentary is patently obvious. For example a radio host complimented one female candidate for state office on her “banging little body” and “tight little butt”. But another way to look at sexist media coverage is when it is “gendered”. By that we mean any media coverage that would be said about a female politician that would never be said, or asked, of a man in the same position. For example, a story might note that a female politician is said to have given a “feisty” speech or is called “spirited” – these are not words often applied to men. Other terms usually reserved for women: “catty”, “strident”, “emotional”, “nag” and “sassy”. Want a longer list of gendered terms? Name It. Change It. has produced a downloadable Media Guide to Gender Neutral Coverage of Women Candidates + Politicians. Women candidates for office are also sometimes held responsible for their roles as mothers in ways that men would never be as fathers. Lisa Madigan, the attorney-general for Illinois, was rumoured to be considering running for governor. Reporters from the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper repeatedly asked her whether she could serve as governor and still raise her kids – even to the point of “reminding” her that being governor is a more demanding job than attorney-general. When was the last time a man was told he shouldn’t seek office because of his children? But one of the most common ways women are covered differently by the media is the extra emphasis on their appearance and clothing. It’s
We’re still waiting for the first fashion analysis of John Kerry’s hair as he takes over from Clinton as secretary of state
well known there is some kind of US media obsession with Hillary Clinton’s hair. From her early days whether she kept it short, grew it long or put it in a ponytail, it’s been a constant source of articles. Meanwhile we’re still waiting for the first fashion analysis of John Kerry’s hair as he takes over from Clinton as secretary of state. But hair and clothing coverage isn’t just reserved for women who run for president – it’s a common journalistic habit to describe a female politician’s clothing, her hair and eye colour, even her body type. When was the last time a profile of a male American politician mentioned he showed up for the interview in a “grey suit and tie” and peered at the reporter with brown eyes and a stylish haircut? Or that he looked “fit and attractive” in snug, tailored pants? Read similar sentences written about women politicians’ appearance – and we have catalogued many examples at Name It. Change It. – and try to imagine the same descriptors being applied to men. The double standard becomes very apparent. Much of this describes media coverage, which, if we are being charitable, assumes the reporters in question don’t mean to treat women in an unfair manner. Awareness is the best tool members of the media have in creating a level playing field for women to run for office. As Gloria Steinem, co-founder of the Women’s Media Center says, “the most workable definition of equality for journalists is reversibility. Don’t mention her young children unless you would also mention his, or describe her clothes unless you would describe his, or say she’s shrill or attractive unless the same adjectives would be applied to a man. Don’t say she’s had facial surgery unless you say he dyes his hair or has hair plugs. Don’t say she’s just out of graduate school but he’s a rising star. Don’t say she has no professional training but he worked his way up. Don’t ask her if she’s running as a women’s candidate unless you ask him if he’s running as a men’s candidate.” Women who run for office deserve fair scrutiny from the press, but what they don’t deserve is media coverage that punishes them for the act of being female. Rachel Larris is the communications manager of the Women’s Media Center (www. womensmediacenter.com), an organisation devoted to making women visible and powerful in the media, and project manager of Name It. Change It. Cathy Wilcox is a Walkley Award-winning cartoonist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald
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Journalists, the great betrayers Michael Gawenda argues that a journalist’s loyalty should ultimately be to the story, not the subject. Illustration by Justin Garnsworthy
et me start with quotes from two of the best non-fiction writers and journalists in English of the past few decades. First, Janet Malcolm from her 1990 book The Journalist and the Murderer: “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is indefensible… He is a kind of confidence man preying on people’s vanity, ignorance or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.” In the book, Malcolm examines the relationship between the writer Joe McGinniss and the convicted murderer Jeffrey MacDonald who had consistently proclaimed his innocence of the murder of his pregnant wife and two children. McGinniss, convinced that MacDonald was innocent, contacted MacDonald’s lawyers and told them he wanted to write a book about the case that would tell MacDonald’s story. But in the course of his research, McGinniss changed his mind about MacDonald’s innocence. He did not tell MacDonald and continued on with the relationship as if nothing had changed. In 1987, after McGinniss’s book Fatal Vision was published, MacDonald sued him for breach of contract and fraud. At the trial, several journalists testified for McGinniss, arguing that McGinniss had misled MacDonald but had done so in the public interest and that this was ethically sound. The trial resulted in a hung jury. McGinniss later paid MacDonald more than $300,000 without conceding fault. Malcolm argued that McGinniss had committed a fraud and betrayed MacDonald. She went further – she argued that all journalism involved betrayal of this kind. The interests of the journalist and the interests of the subject of the journalism are different and inevitably in conflict. The more experienced and skilful the journalist, the more likely it is that this reality will be hidden from the subject – the victim. Here’s what Joan Didion said in her introduction to Slouching Towards Bethlehem: “My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. That is the last thing to remember; writers are always selling somebody out.” This is different from the betrayal Janet Malcolm examined but it nevertheless does involve implicit – if not explicit – deception. It involves behaving in such a way that people you are going to write about actually forget what you, the writer, are doing.
The interests of the journalist and the interests of the subject of the journalism are different and inevitably in conflict One of the questions they raise is: who owns the story, the subject of the story or the writer? In some ways, the betrayal in The Journalist and the Murderer is straightforward: the writer fooled his subject, in essence, lied to him. I believe lying, except in the most extraordinary circumstances, is unethical. Malcolm and Didion are also arguing that being a journalist inevitably involves deception. The writer is searching for her story. Her story. Not the subject’s story. The journalist has told a story that didn’t exist before she wrote it. The ability to get people to cooperate and, without knowing it, give up their story to the journalist, is fundamental to the journalism craft. From my own journalism there are stories I remember vividly because even now, decades later, I sometimes wonder whether I made the right decisions. In 1983, I approached Victoria’s then chief commissioner of police and asked if I could
spend a few weeks with the police in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy. I told the commissioner, Mick Miller, that I would, as accurately as possible, convey to Age readers the challenges and pressure facing police in the inner city. I told him that I wanted unrestricted access and that I would not submit my stories for approval to him before they were published. He agreed. Not only that, he took me to the station, lined up all the police, and told them I had his complete support. When I spoke to Miller about my plans and about what sort of story I wanted to write, I was more or less telling the truth, but not the whole truth. Fitzroy back then had the biggest Aboriginal community in Melbourne. There had been tension between the community and police and claims of systematic racism. This was a major reason for me choosing Fitzroy. Was it okay that I did not tell Miller this? I assumed, I think, that he was astute enough to know that. During the three weeks I was there, day and night, I never once asked a direct question about their feelings about the local Aboriginal community. I did not take notes during those three weeks. I took notes later, at home. I sat silently in the station, in the back of police cars, at the pub. At first, they were wary, even pissed off that Miller had foisted me on them. Gradually they forgot about me. I was just there. At that point, I started to ask trivial questions that amounted to chitchat, all designed to show how interested I was in them and their lives. Eventually, the police started to talk and act in ways that they would amongst themselves. And yes, they said some awful, racist things about the Aboriginal community and this spilled over into how they approached Aboriginal people. I did not call them out for any of this, though I was shocked and frankly thrilled, too, for I had my story. When the series was published, the police at Fitzroy – many of whom had shared with me their frustrations, their hopes, their prejudices – were outraged. I had betrayed them. They were furious too, with the chief commissioner, though Miller never complained. Indeed, as a result of my stories, the Victoria Police appointed an Aboriginal liaison officer whose job it was to build bridges and repair the relationship between the police and the Aboriginal community. So I could argue that my stories were in the public interest and good had come from this betrayal. But the fact is I wanted only to ➤
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➤ reveal something, to give readers of The Age a compelling story. And I believe this is the main concern of every journalist. In 1982, Bob Hawke launched his first leadership challenge against Bill Hayden. I asked Hawke if I could spend two weeks with him in the lead-up to that first challenge and, damn me, Hawke agreed. I was there in time for breakfast at his home in Sandringham and I went home late at night when he went to bed. I was there for meetings with staff. I went with him to Canberra and Sydney. I was there when he called Labor Caucus members asking for their support. It was a frantic time. A few days in, we were at the airport having returned from Sydney. Hawke barked at me to go get his bags. I was delighted. He was treating me as part of his team. Hawke had forgotten, apparently, that I was a journalist. In the days to come, we counted numbers together. I took phone calls from Labor MPs, pledging their support, and I watched Bob and Hazel some mornings have blazing rows at the breakfast table while I sat silently eating my cornflakes. We never discussed what was on the record and what was off the record. Hawke never said I was not to write about these arguments with Hazel, nor did he say that the counting and the phone calls were off the record. Well, I did not write about the fights – I thought Hazel did not deserve to be so exposed. But I did write a story that I believe revealed much about Bob Hawke that I could not have written just by interviewing him. That’s what was important. Did he like the story? Did he feel betrayed? I don’t know. I do know that no political leader since has allowed a journalist to get that close to him or her. So if there are issues of betrayal, honesty and truth in the relationship between the journalist and subject, what about the relationship between journalists and their readers, their audience? This is a particularly important question when it comes to journalists and public figures. In the months leading up to the Iraq War in March 2003, New York Times journalist Judith Miller wrote a series of front-page reports revealing details of Saddam Hussein’s arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and the regime’s determination to develop nuclear weapons. Miller’s reports were based on anonymous sources that she said were in the intelligence community and in Congress. It turned out that Miller’s source was one Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a senior official in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. Bill Keller, the then executive editor of The New York Times, apologised for the paper’s coverage of the lead-up to the war and said that the use of anonymous sources needed to be urgently addressed. Keller said his paper had misled its readers. He said – and I agree with him – that there
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can be no greater sin in journalism. The use of anonymous sources is central to the rules of engagement between journalists and the political class. But these rules encourage dishonesty from politicians and forced timidity from journalists. And the community is often left in the dark about what the rules are and even why they exist. Some journalists covering the Rudd-Gillard leadership battle in 2012, in essence, told us untruths – or at least they allowed politicians and their staff to tell untruths. It is undeniable that there were journalists whom Rudd regularly briefed going to back to when he was PM. Yet when Rudd and his supporters said publicly – as opposed to what they were saying privately – that there was no plan or strategy to challenge Gillard, this was reported “straight”, though most knew it was not true. There is now a great divide between insiders, those who are members of the political elite
When politicians make on-the-record statements which contradict what they have told journalists on the basis of anonymity, I believe journalists are no longer bound to protect sources – including journalists – and the rest of us know-nothings, who sense that we are being fed bullshit but have no way of proving it. At the heart of the problem is the issue of anonymous sources and the ethics of guaran teeing sources protection no matter what. If the consequence of guaranteeing anonymity is that journalists are forced to retail lies, how can this be ethical? When politicians make on-the-record statements which contradict what they have told journalists on the basis of anonymity, I believe journalists are no longer bound to protect sources. This needs to be made clear publicly by journalists. Otherwise, journalists will continue to have their work treated with suspicion, if not contempt, by the community they are meant to serve. Let me go back for a moment to the Fitzroy police and Hawke. Both these stories were about people with power and if there was betrayal involved, then it can be justified on the basis of public interest – though I believe this is a cop-out. What about when stories, books even, are about people with no power and no public profile, but who had something terrible happen
to them? How can any betrayal of the powerless be justified? In the aftermath of the 2010 Black Saturday fires, when I was the director of the Centre for Advanced Journalism at the University of Melbourne, I decided that the Centre would do a major research project in two parts. The first would look at the way the media covered the fires and the second would examine the consequences for the survivors of being in the media spotlight. The project took two years to complete and in late 2010 we published a book, Black Saturday: In the Media Spotlight. The research clearly raised the question of consent. We talked to 30 survivors who had been interviewed by journalists. Some had been photographed as well. Some had been filmed. Many of the people we talked to could not recall the interviews. They could not recall the journalist or film crews; they could not recall the questions they were asked; they could not recall the answers they gave. They had been in grief and shock. While only a few actually thought they had been “misquoted”, many felt their stories had been taken from them. Some felt they had been misled – they agreed to be interviewed because they were promised a particular story and that didn’t eventuate. Recently, Helen Garner and I ran a writing workshop and one feeling that was common to all the participants was fear. I believe all writers have this experience. It’s the fear of betraying family, friends, subjects in general. It’s a real fear and it needs to be recognised and overcome. That’s because there’s no point in writing if you can’t overcome it. There’s no point in writing if you are going to avoid offending, even hurting people. You have to believe in the story. Great non-fiction writers, great journalists – even not so great ones – believe in the importance of the story. The story is its own justification. And the story is their story. The writer owns it. Journalists have to accept that the sort of betrayal I’m talking about is part of the journalist’s, the writer’s craft. I have gone back and read some of the stories that I wrote in my long time as a journalist, those that I was troubled by in terms of this issue of betrayal. In the end the question for me was how good were these stories, how true, how nuanced, how interesting. In my not so humble view, they passed that test. So would I take them back now? No, I wouldn’t. Michael Gawenda is a former editor in chief of The Age and the inaugural director of the Centre for Advanced Journalism at the University of Melbourne Justin Garnsworthy is currently undertaking a doctorate in visual arts and lectures in Design Futures and Digital Illustration at Griffith University and The Sunshine Coast University
From geek to chic Fiona MacDonald swapped science mag Cosmos for Cosmopolitan, but she’s still using some of the skills she honed in the lab. Cartoon by Fiona Katauskas
t’s hard to shock journalists. We’ve heard it all, seen it all – lord knows, we’ve read it all. But whenever I explain how I used to be a scientist turned science journalist and now write for a women’s magazine, I often glimpse a momentary raised eyebrow. For most people it seems a strange turn on a career path. It’s often assumed I’ve either sold my soul to write about “what men want” or am a reformed nerd. When people ask what caused this shift, I wish I could share some long-winded, life-affirming story, but the reality was much less dramatic. During the honours year of my science degree it was quickly apparent that lab work would never be for me and so I returned to my first passion – writing. I started writing about animals and the environment for the university magazine at night, while I knocked over test tubes and was confused by cell counts during the day. And I loved it, so I went back and studied jour nalism at a postgraduate level. I started my magazine career at Cosmos, an Australian popular science magazine. I’d spend hours trying to decipher interviews with Russian astrophysicists, sift through countless academic papers and learnt the rigours of fact checking. After providing evidence for every sentence in an article about astrophysics, pretty much anything else you write seems simple. But it was all worth it. I wanted to share the wonder I felt about science with the world, and I thrived on trying to break down complex ideas and using creative storytelling to make them seem relevant to a general audience (sometimes I think I even succeeded). After a few years with the magazine I travelled to Syria – a few months before the revolution started – for a story about scientists trying to breed crops that might be able to feed our increasingly overpopulated, warm world. I began to realise the article was bigger than science – it was about the survival of our species. I realised I wanted to try out new ways of writing and longed to share stories with new audiences. I gradually started reaching out to other publications, and when my first story for madison was commissioned, thanks to a call-out on Twitter, I was thrilled. But I was only given the opportunity because I said I’d write about my first love and our awful
Even when a story has nothing to do with science, the principles you learn in science – to think critically, analyse evidence and notice trends – are still crucial
break-up – specifically what a horrible person I’d been. It was perhaps the worst possible assignment for me. No research, no statistics, no academic papers – just my feelings, thoughts and still-fresh pain. I’d spent years being taught to never express my opinion in my stories and to leave the reader with only a vague aftertaste of what I really thought on the subject (even then, only if I was an authority on the subject to begin with). Now I had to pretend to offer something insightful out of the mess of a relationship. When I told my dad the news, he scoffed, “You’re 25, what do you know about love?” He was right, what did I know about anything? But somehow, with a lot of editorial help, I managed to unbottle some emotion… and at 3am hunched over my laptop, it all came pouring out. The story was a success – unlike the relationship. I began pitching and writing more for mainstream media and I quickly realised that my science background, which I assumed would be a nerdy hindrance, gave me an edge. I had a niche to write about and knew how to interview people from all fields and really research a story. After a year of freelancing I’m now acting senior features writer at madison and have written for publications such as Cosmopolitan and smh.com.au. Since then, with the help of amazing editors, I’ve stretched myself and grown in areas I hadn’t imagined. I’ve found I really enjoy sharing other people’s stories and often find myself interviewing subjects on the most
obscure but fascinating subjects. My first big celebrity interview (Kylie Minogue, no less) was extremely nerve-racking, but not nearly as bad as having to listen to my shaky voice while I transcribed it. And although I still struggle with it, I don’t even mind sharing my opinions or emotion in a story so much any more. But despite the obvious changes in content, I still don’t think writing for a science magazine is that different to writing for a women’s magazine. I’ve written more challenging and socially relevant pieces in the past year than ever before, covering euthanasia, racism, feminism, health and, yes, even a little fashion. Even when a story has nothing to do with science, the principles you learn in science – to think critically, analyse evidence and notice trends – are still crucial. Isn’t it the aim of both scientists and journalists to uncover truths? To hypothesise, observe and draw conclusions? In these difficult times for the industry I think it’s more important than ever to have journalists who can analyse evidence, find unique angles on stories and not just rehash someone else’s opinion. No matter what medium we all end up working in, these skills will translate. Or at least I hope they will, because I’m finally telling the stories I’ve always wanted. Fiona MacDonald is the acting senior features writer of madison magazine and has written for publications from Cosmos to Cosmopolitan. Fiona Katauskas is a freelance cartoonist; fionakatauskas.com
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The butterfly effect: when media breaks the When Heath Harrison and his Border Mail team put suicide and the gaps in mental health services on the front page, the local community responded
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here was nothing I could do, but my mind was racing. It was the early hours of another cold winter morning in Albury-Wodonga and by now the August 4, 2012 edition of The Border Mail was printed, the trucks were loaded. In a few hours, our readers would be waking to what I thought was the most important edition in my 15 years at the paper. But those few hours felt a lifetime away, and the space between now and then was fertile ground for panic and doubt. As a newsroom, we had been talking about doing something “real” about suicide for almost two years. After a whirlwind few weeks, the talk became reality. In a few hours, I’d hear that thump on the driveway. And pretty soon after that I’d know whether we’d got it right, or very wrong. About 16 months earlier, Albury schoolgirl Mary Baker had taken her life after a three-year battle with anorexia. Mary was 15. She came from one of Albury’s best-known families. Her father was a former mayor of Albury. Her death devastated the family and shocked the community. More than 1000 people attended her funeral service which the family held in the city’s civic square in a remarkable act of courage and generosity. They were qualities I got to see first-hand when I sat at Annette and Stuart Baker’s dining table, some 14 months later. With features editor and close family friend Jodie O’Sullivan, I was there to ask them if they would not just feature in, but lead a campaign we were going to launch on suicide in our community. Even allowing for Jodie’s careful broaching of the subject in the months before, it was a horrible thing to ask. We talked for two hours. Annette spoke of Mary, her battle, her love of poetry. She spoke of her anger at a mental health system that failed her daughter and continued to fail the family in their grief. Like us, they were concerned about their son Jack, who had joined The Border Mail as a cadet reporter the previous year. They had their reservations but they agreed to be involved because, like us, they believed something needed to be done. “We’re trusting you with this,” said Annette, tears in her eyes, smiling but serious. “Don’t stuff this up.” It wasn’t just about Mary. Before, and after, the teenager’s death, we had been increasingly disturbed about reports and rumours of suicide in Albury-Wodonga. We didn’t report them, having been warned by health authorities that doing so had the potential to trigger copy-cat responses. We’d been conditioned to think suicide was too hard an issue to deal with, but by averting our
eyes it felt like the too-hard basket had become the easy option. On Facebook and Tumblr, kids were talking about suicide, mental illness and self-harm in terrifying detail. What were we achieving by ignoring it? We felt powerless and the families felt alone. Buoyed by changes to the Australian Press Council’s guidelines on reporting suicide, The Border Mail started to research the ways it could begin a community conversation about suicide and mental illness. We approached families who had been touched by suicide and worked with some of them for months to ensure their stories would be told in a respectful manner. We consulted authorities including 2010 Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry and beyondblue chairman Jeff Kennett, who both endorsed the project and became part of it. And on August 4, we launched our Ending the Suicide Silence campaign with a four-page wraparound, and the promise of a week-long examination of suicide and mental illness. There was no sport on the back page, just Dr McGorry and a panel featuring information on where to go for help. “There are real solutions available to us to significantly reduce the numbers of Australians who needlessly die by suicide. But to solve this problem, we must first talk about it,” he wrote. Inside was the Bakers’ heartbreaking story. On the front page was a picture of Mary, her brothers Jack and Henri, and our statement of intent, headlined “It’s time to talk”. It read, in part... “It is our hope, and the hope of the families sharing their stories, that this campaign will encourage you to talk to your family and friends about a subject too often shied away from. We want your involvement and your feedback.” The feedback started early From mates and colleagues. Then a message from Jodie to say the Bakers had said “well done”. Sweet relief. That response flowed on to the website via reader comments and exploded two days later, in our next edition, when we launched our campaign for a headspace centre for AlburyWodonga. Headspace is Australia’s national youth mental health foundation. It has 57 centres across the country, but our region had been overlooked. As part of the headspace push, we published butterflies in the paper, and encouraged readers to sign them and send them to us so we could stick them up in the window of the office in the main street of Albury. We’d eventually collect almost 5000, and our windows never looked so good. The butterflies were taken to Canberra and
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silence on suicide presented to the federal mental health minister, Mark Butler. Under the direction of online editor Matt Cram, the facebook.com/alburywodonganeedsheadspace page attracted more than 5000 “Likes” and became a living extension of the campaign, where the community offered each other support and shared stories, artwork and ideas. Crucially, that Facebook page took the campaign to young people. Analysis of the page showed 33 per cent of its audience were aged between 18 and 24. The same demographic accounted for about 22 per cent of the audience on The Border Mail’s Facebook page. So overwhelming was the response, the weeklong campaign was extended another week as more people came forward and yet more issues emerged. We carried 54 news leads, including 12 front pages. As well as the personal stories, we examined and exposed cracks in AlburyWodonga’s mental health system. Every edition featured a panel of information outlining where to find help. Through phone calls, website comments, letters to the editor, Facebook posts and tweets, our readers thanked us for opening up the discussion, and offered support for those who shared their stories. We owed the success of the campaign to the courage of the amazing families who agreed to speak with us. Publicly baring your soul in a community the size of Albury-Wodonga requires extraordinary bravery. It was clear they wanted to help others avoid the pain they were going through, and they spoke with unflinching and heartbreaking honesty. Take Annette Baker’s despair. “The hardest thing is living life without her. I think of what Mary would be doing now – getting her licence, riding her horse, all the stages she would be going through. But you know people have moved on with their lives when the casseroles stop coming.”
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Stuart Baker joined the delegation which drove to Canberra to present the headspace butterflies to Mark Butler. Earning that trust didn’t happen by accident. It was down to our commitment to bring about change and to the sensitivity and professionalism of the reporters involved. Brad Worrall, Ashley Argoon, Di Thomas, Jack Baker and Jodie O’Sullivan told the stories beautifully, a point not lost on the Walkley judges who made special mention of the quality of their writing. As a newspaper, from the cadets to the editor, it was a team effort. The photographers, subs and designers all played their roles, as did the general manager and other staff who encouraged us. As did the classifieds ladies, who collected and stuck up the thousands of butterflies in our windows. Sharing the load was crucial. It was too much for one or two. This was emotional terrain for our reporters and their wellbeing was closely monitored. It was made clear that counselling was available to all of them. The fight goes on. We know people are still taking their lives. Albury-Wodonga does not yet have a headspace centre – an intolerable situation that must be rectified. Our community demands it. There are still gaping holes in the system that is supposed to care for those needing help and those left behind, grappling with their grief. I am no longer at The Border Mail but my successor, Di Thomas, is carrying the baton with great determination. And I watch on with pride as Ashley Argoon, the cadet whose passion and energy became the heartbeat of our campaign, keeps the butterfly flag waving. The last word goes to another cadet, Jack Baker, perhaps the bravest of all. Telling him our plans, that our campaign would feature his sister and his family, was one of the toughest conversations I’ve ever had. I offered him the chance to get away until it was all over. He didn’t want that. He wanted to be part of it, and he inspired us all. “We will never get to see our sister and daughter and friend again,” he wrote. “We have no choice but to live with that. But out of this tragedy and the countless other tragedies there has to come a positive. By talking about suicide and seeing it for what it really is – needless death – we can help shed light on the darkness.”
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ENDING THE SUICIDE SILENCE A BORDER MAIL CAMPAIGN
ENdING THE sUICIdE sILENCE
ayne and Leanne Koehler offered the poem they had written and read out at the funeral of their 20-year-old daughter Aimee Lea. “There’s no-one to blame – that won’t help at all. But the system needs to change for the kids who stumble and fall. Because no matter how much we asked, no matter how much we pleaded, Aimee never received the help she so desperately needed.” Take Teena Conway, who lost her 15-yearold son Zac. “There is no such thing as normal for us anymore, not our normal.”
A MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM IN CRISIS: AT-RISK TEENAGER TURNED AWAY BECAUSE HE WAS ‘AFTER HOURS’ A TEENAGE boy threatening suicide was forced to sit in the Albury emergency waiting room for more than three hours only to be told it was too late that night for emergency health workers to admit him. Murrumbidgee Local Health, which operates the acute psychiatric centre Nolan House at the hospital and which is responsible for the assessment, has apologised. It said the 8am to 10pm operating hours of its mental health emergency care service were now under review.
BRAD WORRALL An Albury psychologist this week told of the drama in March and his frustration at the system’s failings. “The adolescent had experienced a traumatic event and was presenting as a high risk of self-harm,” he said.
Families demand headspace action
“As I’m required to do, that was backed up by another person who advised to take him to Albury Base and be assessed by the emergency mental health workers. “I guess we got to the hospital about 5.45pm, he was my patient, my responsibility so I stayed there. “He was triaged — seen by a nurse and doctor and then told to wait. “We spent 3½ hours in a very public waiting room — he was extremely distressed and there was no place to hide.
The small town hit by six tragedies
“I asked what was going on and was told that it was unlikely he would be seen by the assessment team before 10pm and therefore couldn’t be admitted. “I guess I was shocked and at the same time I was concerned about how we could deal with the issue.” The teenager was offered a bed in the emergency ward but finally spent the night at a youth crisis centre. Continued page 6
‘Don’t forget those left behind’
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The Border Mail team spread the butterfly effect at the 2012 Walkley Awards. A series of gripping front pages was part of the Border Mail’s campaign to tackle suicide.
We’d been conditioned to think suicide was too hard an issue to deal with, but by averting our eyes it felt like the too-hard basket had become the easy option
The stories weren’t just about young people. There was Helen Woolley, who lost Ray, her husband of 23 years and father of her four children. “I felt like I knew him more than anyone. But as much as you can tell someone 100 times they are worthy, they have got to believe it themselves. He was in a horrible place where he truly believed he was a burden to us.” And there was Ingrid O’Neill, now recovered from postnatal depression, who took us inside the living hell from which she had emerged: 24-hour surveillance, the removal of all cords, drugs and sharps from the house for the protection of her and her son. “At my darkest time, I was battered day and night by pervasive thoughts of harming myself and Lachlan.” Treating their stories with respect was paramount. We did all we could to ensure they were comfortable with how their stories were told and presented. When the Bakers didn’t like our plan for the front page, we changed it... and we got a better front page. These families were more than subjects, they became partners. Teena Conway started up her own headspace petition to complement ours and collected more than 1000 signatures. Laura Koehler, Aimee Lea’s sister, produced and promoted content on the Facebook page.
Heath Harrison was the editor of The Border Mail from 2008-2012. He is now the deputy editor of the Newcastle Herald Peter Sheehan is a writer, illustrator, designer and storyboard illustrator; www.petersheehan.com
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Portal to The Block For John MacFarlane, the story of a community doesn’t come with a neat beginning, middle and end, and that’s why it’s better told on the web
he catalyst of The Block: Stories from a meeting place was a news story in late 2010 about final evictions at the Indigenous housing precinct in Sydney’s Redfern (known colloquially and semiofficially as The Block). There was talk of the proposed Pemulwuy redevelopment project breaking ground sometime in the near future, and talk also of demolitions of The Block’s terraces and other buildings to make way for it. Marshall Heald, SBS’s head of online, had been thinking about Google’s street view technology when David Braithwaite – now executive producer for news online – mentioned The Block’s demolition during a job interview. That lucky coincidence set things in motion and the project began to take shape not long after. The most urgent task was the panoramic “street view” photos of The Block which, because of the imminent demolition, had to happen even before we knew exactly how they would be used. The challenge was to turn the panoramic images into a more tangible plan. If we were to build an “interactive time capsule”, what did that mean exactly? How would we take advantage of the online medium? How would we ensure that the community – the people for whom The Block was home – was part of the process? I was part of an SBS team that included Alicia Hamilton, who did most of the handson producing of the project’s editorial, Caroline Bartle, the senior online producer tasked with the interactive production, and Matt Smith, who is both a very gifted designer and a very gifted web developer. Early in the game the four of us found ourselves trying to answer all of those questions, because the team working on the project would soon get much bigger. For clarity I’ll note very briefly that interactive documentary is, simply, a factual project that takes specific advantage of the interactive medium, whether that medium happens to be a web browser, a tablet, a smartphone or something else. A good interactive project is one that has an obvious answer to the question: Why is this story best told online? I’ll also offer an opinion here: telling stories through digital media is important, especially in terms of the public interest. There’s no shortage of research highlighting the ever-increasing time people spend on the web – and more recently on smart devices. And if TV numbers are declining for younger audiences, there’s a strong case to be made for finding new ways
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SBS’s interactive documentary The Block: Stories from a Meeting Place took audiences on a journey through Redfern.
The people who lived in those buildings and called those four streets home were the heart and soul of The Block, and their stories are the heart and soul of this project
of telling those audiences stories that matter, and for connecting to those audiences where they spend their time. But back to developing the project’s plan. We adopted some aspects of collaborative design methodology in order to make sure we had a shared vision for the project. This meant defining the project’s main objectives together, and they’re worth stating in full: 1. Expose the visual aspects of The Block and explore its geographical, urban and social context. 2. Provide a fair, unique and revealing view of The Block, touching on key newsworthy events from its 40-year history. 3. F acilitate the sharing of personal stories that explain why The Block is a special place for current and past residents, as well as the Indigenous community at large. These goals became a central part of a simple brief we shared with our researcher, Sandra Fonseca, and our director, Poppy Stockell, when they joined the project. Their contributions to the project are probably when it most resembled an exercise in biographical journalism or a classical documentary, and they were also crucial to the sense of partnership with the community. They spent many weeks on The Block and around South Sydney, first earning the trust of The Block’s former residents – no small task given the uneasy relationship the area has had with the media – and later shooting the interviews at various outdoor locations. They hung out there a lot. With Fonseca and Stockell we identified 15 people to interview – not just well-known personalities (like the Aboriginal Housing Company CEO, Mick Mundine) but also people whose stories about The Block hadn’t been heard (like Lizzie Ward, a teenager who lived on The Block until she was four years old). As Stockell and editor Annie Le Cavalier began the unenviable task of cutting the
interviews down to around five minutes each (most were an hour or more in length to start), we were working with SBS News to dig through archives and Matt Smith was using rough cuts, research notes and the panoramic photos to create a visual and interactive design for the project. Smith thought it was important to use The Block’s symbols and tone for the design, rather than more generic “Indigenous” references, and his work focused on the iconic Aboriginal flag mural that faces Redfern train station. Our collaborative approach meant the rough cuts from the interviews helped inform Smith’s work on the design, and his design drafts helped give everyone else a better sense of the virtual space we were working in (a prime example is Xavier Fijac, the composer). Piece by piece, with everyone connected as much as possible, the project came together, from research, production, design, editing, sound design, web production, testing and refining through to launch – a process that took over a year from start to finish. Even before research began we understood that the residents’ stories weren’t the kind that could be distilled down into a single narrative. The Block seemed perfectly suited to the web medium precisely because of the diversity of stories being told. The web’s advantage was that it let us deliberately avoid a linear approach. There is perhaps a fairly linear story about The Block itself, with a beginning, middle and end. But that story isn’t what resonates, and The Block’s four streets and collection of buildings are, ultimately, bit parts. The people who lived in those buildings and called those four streets home were the heart and soul of The Block, and their stories are the heart and soul of this project. John MacFarlane is a producer at SBS. He was part of the SBS team that won the 2012 Walkley Award for Coverage of Indigenous affairs
How Women’s Lib came to the Journalists’ Club Women may have gained equal pay as journalists, but in 1971 they didn’t have equal rights at the Journalists’ Club. Daniela Torsh helped change things
t was a grotty old narrow building, once a chemical factory, in Chalmers Street opposite Central Station. And in 1971, when I was a young journalist at The Australian newspaper, the Journalists’ Club was a men’s club that only allowed women to enter in a strictly limited way. The Australian was my first grown-up job. I’d come to it from two years in national student politics in Melbourne. I was used to not only saying what I thought but having people listen to me. Life at News Limited was a bit different. Previously I’d been living in communal houses in Carlton, travelling around to 16 university and college campuses, first to promote student travel in South-East Asia in 1969, and then to lobby vice chancellors on behalf of students and governments to bring in free university education and equal opportunity for kids at schools in 1970. I would never have been able to write that long a sentence at The Australian. That was the first thing I was told by my news editor Hal Lenzner: cut out the fancy long words and keep your sentences short. One idea to a paragraph. It was a shock to discover how little the paper thought of its readers. But an even bigger shock was to find that as a woman I could not be a journalist member of the Journalists’ Club, even though I was a fully-fledged paid-up member of the union (the AJA as it was then). I had equal pay with male journalists but apparently not equal rights. The Journalists’ Club had been established in 1939 and was intrinsically linked with the union. But it was run by “old fogeys” according to the president, Don Angel, who happily admitted he was one. Another old fogey opposed to women being members was Syd Crosland, the AJA federal secretary, who wanted to keep the club as a sanctuary for men. After work a gang of us from The Australian would go down the road to have a drink and a gossip at the club. At different times the group of drinkers would include Rob Drewe and Betty Riddell from the features department, Rob’s wife Sandy Symons, the women’s editor of the Sunday Australian, cartoonist Bruce Petty, artist Phillip Burgoyne (aka Bongo), chief sub Barry Porter and his wife Pip, Ian Moffit, features writer and later a well regarded novelist, Jim Hall, features editor, and his wife Sandra Dawson(today Sandra Hall, the film critic). Simon Townsend, who was a reporter for the
As a woman I could not be a journalist member of the Journalists’ Club, even though I was a fully-fledged paid-up member of the union Demonstrating outside the Journalists’ Club in 1972, with the author pictured on the far left. Image from The History of the Journalists’ Club, by Don Angel, 1985.
Sunday Australian and my partner at the time, and Tony Stephens, a writer from the Sunday paper, were often there too. We’d all talk and joke late into the night and so the club became an important part of my early journalistic life. After our shifts we could relax and reveal the real stories we couldn’t print. It was where you’d find out what was really going on at work. The camaraderie we had then has stayed with me. Mostly we drank and ate in the bar with the pokies in the background. None of us played the machines. But at the weekends on a Sunday when I was rostered on as the national education correspondent (Dany Humphreys was my name then), we couldn’t get any bar food on the second floor as women were not permitted. We had to eat in the restaurant on the fourth floor with its white tablecloths and much higher prices. This was patently very unfair. The men could cash cheques at the bar but I was not allowed to. Nor could I use the billiard room. And we certainly were not allowed to wear trousers in the club, though of course men were. I approached Sandy Symons one day at work and phoned up Elisabeth Wynhausen, the
Bulletin’s education writer whom I knew from my education round. A young Sydney Morning Herald reporter called Frances Maclean also came to our first meeting in the newsroom at Holt Street. The Fairfax, Packer and Murdoch families ruled the media world then and I wanted journos from each of the major newsrooms to be part of the campaign. My desk at The Australian was at the back of the large newsroom set out a bit like a school, with the desks in lines and the editors at the front like the teacher in a classroom. The sports people were in another area altogether but I had nothing to do with them at all. The artists whom I’d befriended because they were so much fun had a hidey-hole round the back of the newsroom where I used to hang out occasionally. I remember the first meeting with Sandy, Elisabeth and Frances around my desk in 1971 and we talked about how to get the journos’ club to let us in. We started with a strategy I’d used in my previous life as a student politician. We wrote a letter to the Journalists’ Club board asking for the rules to be changed. I don’t think we ever got an answer to our letter so we asked for a meeting. Sandy ➤
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➤ and I went into the club’s Chalmers Street office in October and met Don Angel, a lanky older bloke. He was full of stupid reasons why they didn’t let women journalists join. Yes, there was the old excuse of not enough toilets, but the really outrageous one was that women had behaved badly and been found in compromising situations late at night in the club. In a separate phone conversation a month later with the AJA’s NSW branch secretary, Gordon Coleman, he told me that the Vice Squad would pay more attention to the club if the membership included women. He made it clear we were not wanted. He also revealed that the AJA got $12,000 worth of free premises in the club building so it was highly unlikely the AJA would upset that tidy little arrangement by supporting us. I was furious when I discovered that the wives of journalists could get a so-called “ladies card” to let them into the club, though not into the library or the second floor bar area where there were pokies and gambling and cheap bar food available on a Sunday when nothing else around Cooper Street was open for lunch or even dinner. That’s what we were offered. I didn’t want a second-class membership. We were members of the union. Why if we were members of the AJA, the Australian Journalists’ Association, couldn’t we join the Journalists’ Club as equal members with our male colleagues? It didn’t make sense at all. We four women met again to discuss our tactics. By this stage some younger members of the AJA had begun a push to dislodge the established and conservative union officials. We joined forces with Michael Symons, Peter Manning, Keith Windschuttle, David Dale and others who had started a radical newspaper called the New Journalist. David says that an ancient subeditor told him – “If we let women into the second floor, we’ll end up with pubic hairs on the bar!” We got our journalist boyfriends and colleagues to join us in pressuring the club to let us in. We wrote more angry letters and arranged a protest outside the club, with banners drawn especially for the media we got to come along. The demo lasted half an hour. I remember there were TV cameras as well as stills photographers there, a lot of whom were friends of ours who supported our campaign. Apart from writing letters we began to organise, calling ourselves the Media Women’s Action Group and attracting a lot more angry women. Some of the media workers and journalists I remember who came to our meetings included Yvonne Preston, Lyndall Crisp, Gillian Appleton, Julia Orange, Margaret Smith, Gilly Coote, Robin Hughes, Liz Fell, Glennys Bell, Anne Deveson, film producer Pat Lovell, screenwriter Joan Long, women’s editor from the SMH Suzanne Baker, Susie Eisenhuth, film critic at the
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This letter forms part of Daniela’s papers which are housed in the National Library’s manuscript collection.
“If we let women into the second floor, we’ll end up with pubic hairs on the bar!”
Daily Telegraph, and Julie Rigg from ABC Radio. We began to meet regularly in Darlinghurst in Forbes Street in rooms owned by the NSW Arts Council. Sandy was elected president and I became the treasurer. I got my old university friend, lawyer Jim Spigelman, to ask Neville Wran (then a leading Sydney barrister) for a legal opinion on whether the club’s constitution allowed them to bar women. Wran’s considered opinion was that it did not. Thank you Neville! On March 11, 1972, the Media Women’s Action Group joined in the annual International Women’s Day march through the city with Germaine Greer behind our banner. She was in Sydney to promote her new book The Female Eunuch and she drew a lot of sympathetic media coverage to our cause. At a noisy and combative annual general meeting of the club on April 14, 1972, we got close to winning our case but couldn’t get the numbers to change the rules. The AJA’s federal secretary, Syd Crosland, spoke against women’s membership of the club, claiming the issue would split the club as it had done 14 years previously when women’s membership was raised but not approved. But Wran’s opinion was the straw that broke the camel’s back. After the meeting the club backed down and women were allowed to become members. By the end of the year I had got my club membership card and continued to go there for drinks after work and meals, too, but this time I could eat cheaply on the second floor and also go into the small quiet library on occasion. The Media Women’s Action Group continued and, thanks very much to the efforts of Julie Rigg, Robin Hughes, Pip Porter, Sandra Hall and Susie Eisenhuth, was instrumental in setting
up the first childcare centre at the ABC. The group became an important feminist network for women working in all branches of the media. Parental leave and child care began to figure in the union’s demands for better working conditions for journalists. We looked at television content and especially children’s TV and asked where were the women in film, radio and television? And wasn’t it time for the sex roles on screen to be updated? We wrote guidelines for non-sexist journalism and published them in the New Journalist. The new guard overthrew the old guard of the AJA, but later that year Rupert Murdoch sacked my wonderful editor Adrian Deamer and I was forced out of the paper by the new editor from London, Bruce Rothwell. He’d sniffed me out as a Labor supporter and wasn’t keen on my feminist ideas either. I managed to find a place at the University of NSW sociology department with Professor Sol Encel to study sex roles in school education. I didn’t finish that doctorate and, instead, in 1974 went to work for the new Australian Schools Commission under Dr Ken McKinnon in Canberra. My PhD research was put to good use in the report I wrote, Girls, School and Society, which argued for equal opportunities for girls and women in education. The new Whitlam government had been elected and girls’ education was one of the areas for national review. It was a very good time for me. We had busted into the Journalists’ Club and girls’ education was about to change radically. Daniela Torsh is a journalist, writer and feminist who lives in Sydney. Born in Prague she is tracing her Holocaust history for her grandchildren and has written some of it for Jewish genealogy publications in America and Australia
Why is the news so white? Wayne Coolwell saw an explosion of talented Indigenous journalists in the mid ’90s, but where are those Aboriginal faces today?
It’s wonderful to see these young Indigenous journalists delivering their stories to the Australian public, albeit a small audience at this stage NITV launched as a free-to-air national channel in December 2012.
hope that this Indigenous network is given the chance to show what it can do. There’s been some criticism about the last few years and some of its practices, but NITV is attracting a new group of mature qualified people with a stronger broadcasting and journalism background. That’s important, because you need to portray those qualities to both black and white Australia.
To me, the period where we lost ground on this issue was in the mid ’90s. There had been an explosion of highly talented and ambitious Aboriginal journalists in public broadcasting and one or two on the commercial scene. Malarndirri McCarthy, Stan Grant and Rhoda Roberts were very accomplished presenters and part of a group of around 50 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who were really making an impact. The International Year of the World’s Indigenous People in 1993, the Louis Johnson Media Awards, the reports of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and from ATSIC all pointed to a more positive interaction with the commercial networks. But something happened along the way and I’m not exactly sure what that was. By the late ’90s I expected to see a few of these people move across to the commercials or certainly influence other Aboriginal people to have a go. But it didn’t happen. Some of that talent went elsewhere and some stayed in the same place. The groundswell disappeared. It was terribly frustrating to see that happen. This country was screaming out for those faces and voices to offer up a long awaited alternative. The Indigenous community has continually been let down and it must be said that they have tried in vain over the years to convince the rele vant people to change attitudes. But it shouldn’t be left just to the First Nations community to keep plugging away. We desperately need the Media Alliance, the governments, higher education institutions and, of course, the networks to help provide an answer. I won’t be satisfied until an Aboriginal person is included as a social commentator on programs such as the Insiders, Offsiders and Meet the Press, or working as an investigative reporter for these highly influential current affairs shows such as Sunday Night or 60 Minutes. In my mind it will remain a diminished media landscape in this country until that happens. Wayne Coolwell, a Munanjali man, is the CEO of the Centre for Aboriginal Independence and Enterprise and a former journalist and broadcaster with the ABC
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here’s no denying that over the decades the media has improved its understanding of the issues affecting the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in this country. Today they are generally fair when they tell these stories. But the issue for me over many years has been the obvious under-representation of Indigenous people covering these stories on the commercial networks and in the papers. Why has it been such a demanding exercise in trying to persuade these organisations to employ an Indigenous reporter? Over the last six years in particular I have dedicated a lot of time and energy to this area and my suspicions have been confirmed. Why would you be interested in a job at a broadcaster or other media organisation when you’re not comfortable with the way they misrepresented Aboriginal people and the issues in the past? Especially when the parents or grandparents of that young man or woman applying for a job with a media organisation have objected to certain images, stereotyping or simply the lack of an Aboriginal face or voice at that network! Aboriginal people aren’t naive. When they don’t see a true reflection of their stories and issues on the networks or, in particular, don’t see any Indigenous person employed, the community obviously forms an opinion. And that attitude to the media is generated from the elders, to the organisations to the grassroots of men and women sitting in their lounge rooms right across this nation. Even though most of the organisations I spoke to during my research were a little confused about my motives, I must congratulate a television and radio network for engaging with me in proactively seeking out Indigenous people for traineeship positions. I’m proud to say that a handful have been employed over the last few years and gone on to further their broadcasting careers. The effort by NITV (National Indigenous Television) and its relationship with SBS is a truly positive sign and worth celebrating. It’s wonderful to see these young Indigenous journalists delivering their stories to the Australian public, albeit a small audience at this stage, but this momentum will grow. I just
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A rare giant of our craft Peter Harvey was an icon for the entire country, not only the media, writes Paul Bongiorno. His stentorian voice came with a generous spirit and skill in reporting that few could match
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Courtesy: Nine Network
ou know someone has reached icon status when you only have to mention that you work in the Canberra press gallery and people spontaneously shoot back, “Oh. ‘Peter Harvey, Canberra.’” And that’s 16 years after he left the place. Maybe the legend owes something to the brilliant Mike Carlton lampoon, “Peter Gravy, Canberra”, but I think it is just that Harvey was a rare giant of the small screen. The trademark voice and gravitas gave authority to everything he did. It also allowed his integrity as a journo to shine through. Our paths first crossed in June 1975. I was working in the newsroom of WIN4 in Wollongong and was assigned to cover a coal miners’ protest in Canberra. Several busloads of angry miners took their grievances against the Whitlam government to the national capital. Being clients of the Nine Network my camera crew and I parked in the Nine bureau for the day. Harvey made us feel as though we were the most important visitors he had. And that despite the fact a procession of ministers came in to whisper something or other into the ear of the bureau’s other occupant, the legendary Alan Reid. Here I was, a blow-in of no particular importance, but that didn’t matter to Peter. He treated everyone with the same respect. In later years, when the legend caught up with the stature of the man, it was the same. He was for many years the secretary of the press gallery committee. One of his tasks was to sign in new members for their pass. News Limited’s Malcolm Farr says it was a gobsmacking experience; like having the field marshal stooping to sign in a new recruit. This field marshal wore his fame lightly. He was essentially a self-effacing man who while he enjoyed the fame was not fooled by it. “Harves”, as he was almost universally known, described himself as a glass half-full man, and this positive outlook coloured all his dealings with people. It drove a generosity of spirit so many have remarked on. In 1988 he was on a trip to Tibet with the then foreign minister, Bill Hayden. The Channel Ten reporter, part of the TV pool, came down with severe altitude sickness, so Peter wrote his script for him.
Whether it was the Whitlam dismissal or a flower show it didn’t matter. No story was too big for him or beneath him
What he enjoyed most was telling the story. He loved words and was masterful in their use and economy. Whether it was the Whitlam dismissal or a flower show it didn’t matter. No story was too big for him or beneath him. When he couldn’t interest Channel Nine one year in a picture story on the changing colours of autumn in Canberra, he offered it to the local WIN outlet. Its then producer Anthony Flannery, now Ten’s news boss, says he couldn’t believe his luck to have a Harvey story in his bulletin. Harvey learned the craft of journalism as a copy boy at The Daily Telegraph almost 50 years ago. He was an innately ethical journo, scrupulous with facts. In his political reporting he believed in fairness and accuracy. But he said to me once, “that won’t stop the pissants attacking you.” To this day I don’t know how he voted. You wouldn’t get a clue from his reports. The real Harves was bigger than the legend. My wife and I spent an hour with him and his family when things were really getting grim, the week he died at age 68 as a result of pancreatic cancer. He frankly spelled out his dire prognosis but was hanging on to the faint hope he may defy the odds and survive. Not because he was
deluding himself but because, to the end, he held on to life with both hands. He said he was looking forward to getting back to doing the 60 Minutes Mail Bag. When his son, Adam, said someone else was doing it, he wryly said, “Oh well, there goes my career. Maybe next week.” In the many hours spent at the back of the prime ministerial plane on long-haul flights across the globe, Peter and I would shoot the breeze on everything. I learned that his Christian faith was integral to the man. He did not parade it but it sustained him through the last five months of his life. In January I shared author Morris West’s dying testimony with him, about arriving at the top of the ridge and looking into a dark valley. But, wrote West, “I believe and hope there is a city of light beyond the darkness.” West’s doubts were tempered by this hope. Peter told me, “I like that.” Harves has entered that valley. Those who share his belief hope he finds that city. Vale old mate. Paul Bongiorno is the chief political correspondent for Network Ten Peter Broelman is an editorial cartoonist for regional newspapers from Geraldton to Gladstone; www.broelman.com.au
By Peter Broelman
Peter Harvey September 16, 1944 – March 2, 2013
A prince of prose Athol Thomas May 12, 1924 – November 17, 2012
thol Thomas confirmed his gift for words by winning, in 1956, one of the very first Walkley awards. He reaffirmed his brilliance in a series of books, articles, travel writing and as a columnist who introduced readers of The West Australian to a figment of his imaginings, Vladimir Smith. Thomas emerged from the University of Western Australia without a degree, though he claimed to be its ping-pong captain. He grew into a bon vivant – dapper in tweed jacket with slickedback hair and sporting a pipe – whose portrait was painted by a cash-strapped Rolf Harris. He loved to fish and cook the catch, and as a travel editor he was one of the first to look in-depth at the Kimberley. As well, he had an eventful but brief career in TV. When assigned by the now-defunct Western Mail to write about past Victoria Cross recipients, his article on Subiaco-born Tom Starcevich of the 2/43rd Battalion – who destroyed three Japanese machine-gun nests in British North Borneo in 1945 – was a winner in the first Walkley competition. Just five Walkleys were awarded in 1956, with Thomas winning his for newspaper feature writing. Forty-three years later, journalism students at RMIT in Melbourne acknowledged Thomas’s Walkley-winning prose as among the 20th century’s top 100 articles and an example of “new journalism”, several years before the American Tom Wolfe. Thomas, however, was not in Australia to collect his Walkley. Billeted in the Fleet Street bureau of Fairfax, he caught up with his university mate Harris, who was struggling to break into TV. Thomas got him magazine publicity and Harris repaid the debt by painting a portrait of him. When Thomas returned to Perth he worked at The West Australian which, in 1959, helped launch Perth’s first TV station, Channel 7. Thomas was sent to Channel 7 to perform and organise publicity, news, on-air discussion and documentary production. Once, when rain called off a golf game on which he was commentating, he began clowning provocatively, while colleagues signalled
frantically that he was still on air. His TV career ended abruptly in 1961 after he confessed to practising golf at lunchtime (he played off a six handicap). Warned that lunchtime golf had no place in TV, he rejoindered: “Well, I’ll go back to the paper.” In 1962 he launched the Here and Now column, coinciding with the Commonwealth Games in Perth. Thomas was the column’s only author in all its 25 years. It was a digest of newsy curios, enhanced by the invention of Vladimir Smith, whom many readers took to be real. From his perch on the No. 72 bus between Perth and Cottesloe, Smith ranted and raved about day-today affairs. Its success led in 1986 to a popular book Snapping Carrots, a collection of Here and Now columns from the previous decade.
him completing his schooling there. In 1942 he joined the RAAF hoping to fly a Catalina. Instead, he trained as a radio operator and was sent to New Guinea. He returned to Perth towards the end of hostilities and guided Catalinas from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) into Matilda Bay. After the war, he used his campaign medals as fishing sinkers. At the University of Western Australia, he and Harris worked on the student paper Pelican. Thomas was preoccupied in his final year and a failed history unit cost him a degree. Years later, when subediting at The West, he exacted revenge when his history professor submitted an article for publication. Thomas returned it, graded C-minus. Thomas claimed never to have let a day go past without penning several hundred words and continued writing when afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. Since
Thomas claimed never to have let a day go past without penning several hundred words and continued writing when afflicted with Parkinson’s disease
Fair payment: Athol Thomas with his portrait by Rolf Harris. – Mal Fairclough
Athol Thomas was born in Beverley in the Western Australian wheatbelt in 1924, the elder of two to postmaster Irwin Thomas and his wife Eileen (Smith). A great-great grandfather, Alexander Thomas (with a manslaughter conviction for a pack assault on a man in Wales), had arrived in 1850 as convict No. 61 on the first shipment of British prisoners to WA. Young Athol grew up in country towns and Cottesloe and wherever his father’s job went. By age 10 he had finished his first book, written on toilet paper in the Depression years. After attending Cottesloe and Claremont primary schools, he won a scholarship to Perth Modern but family hardship prevented
the mid-1960s he wrote a fortnightly column on WA politics for The Canberra Times but worked mainly for The West. His first book, Forgotten Eden, examined the Seychelles. His second, Bulls and Boabs, described a journey in the Kimberley. Other titles included Ninety Golden Years, about the Perth Mint, and the Western Angler Simple Seafood Cookbook. He was the ghost writer on several titles and left several unpublished novels. For years Thomas was president of the Perth Press Club and wrote a column for Western Angler magazine. He fished as often as possible, sometimes from a dinghy. But it was his passion for the written word that was all consuming. Torrance Mendez is the obituaries editor at The West Australian newspaper
Telling the Asia story Barry Wain July 17, 1944 – February 5, 2013
hen young journalist Barry Wain left Brisbane for Canberra in 1968 he could not have begun to imagine the career ahead of him as one of the pre-eminent writers on contemporary South-East Asian affairs. Wain began his journalistic career as a cadet at Channel 9 in Brisbane. After a stint at the Redcliffe Herald then the ABC, he joined The Australian’s Brisbane bureau before being promoted to Queensland bureau chief. Wain’s accurate, analytical writing saw him again promoted to take up the position of defence correspondent with The Australian in Canberra. In 1971 he decided he wanted to try his hand on Fleet Street. He and his wife, Yvonne, set off for London via Hong Kong where they planned to stay for six months. But Wain fell in love with Hong Kong and never made it to London. He initially took up a position with The Star before joining the Far Eastern Economic Review. Then in 1976 he joined the new Asian Wall Street Journal – his posting to Kuala Lumpur was the launching pad for a career immersed in the politics and personalities of SouthEast Asia. In 1979 he moved to Bangkok and, in the words of The Wall Street Journal, “became one of the first Western journalists to understand the importance of the boatloads of refugees from Vietnam that were turning up on its neighbours’ shores.” Wain opened a major piece in the US-based Foreign Affairs magazine ➤
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➤ with the words “Indochina is bleeding…” and in 1981 published a book on the refugee exodus called The Refused: The Agony of the Indochinese Refugees. He was one of the first Western jour nalists to get back into hotspots like Vietnam. Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar once they began to open. His exceptional reporting saw him appointed managing editor, then editor of The Asian Wall Street Journal. As his obituary in The Wall Street Journal noted: “As long as the facts were established and could be backed up, Barry wasn’t afraid to publish. He was booted out of Thailand in 1982 when his reporting on conditions in a camp for Vietnamese refugees angered a deputy prime minister. He was allowed back a few months later. “Barry was thoroughly steeped in a form of journalism that conveyed critical detail and context. He was the antithesis of today’s punishing 24/7 news cycles, crash-it-out writing, tweeting, and editors complaining that 600word articles are too long for readers’ attention spans. Barry regularly spun out absorbing 2500-word stories that readers couldn’t put down… “Barry devoted his energy to ensuring that the newspaper pursued hard-to-get, original and deeply researched stories. On his watch, the paper published ground-breaking reporting from all over South-East Asia, including hard-hitting stories on Suharto’s Indonesia. Mahathir Mohamad’s Malaysia and Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore that sometimes got reporters banned and the Journal in trouble.” Wain joined Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies as writerin-residence in 2005. It was there that he researched and wrote his crowning achievement, a widely acclaimed biography of the former Malaysian prime minister, Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times. He valued friendships and invested in cultivating and maintaining them. As The Wall Street Journal wrote: “He was generous in helping colleagues and was always ready to spend time with young reporters – and in recent years, young academics – to mentor them. The importance of deep knowledge combined with deep relationships is critical to understanding why Barry was such an outstanding journalist and influential observer of South-East Asia.” Mike Fishpool started with The Australian in Canberra in 1964 before joining Barry Wain in the Brisbane bureau in 1966
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The linchpin behind the scenes Nicholas Wrench August 11, 1957 – December 9, 2012
ick Wrench was proud to be a New Zealand newsman. He was at the editorial fulcrum of The Evening Post’s successful final years, before its owners opted for a single paper operation in Wellington in 2002. The record speaks for itself. Wrench was a pivotal figure when The Post had a string of best paper and best front page awards in the 1990s, a string of reporting and specialist writing awards and two Commonwealth Prizes as well. He spent 18 years with the paper before moving to The Dominion Post for its launch in 2002. He never held high-falutin’ illusions about the extent of his influence. For starters, most readers did not have the foggiest idea he existed. In the journalism fraternity, however, his reputation was second to none. He was a chief subeditor, assistant editor and then deputy editor in The Evening Post’s last months. Until last year he was the deputy editor of The Dominion Post. In essence, he was an editorial strategist and logistics expert with a nose for news. He not only knew his editorial beat intimately, but also the myriad operators crucial to daily production – printers, press crews, couriers, messengers, systems developers and analysts, and sales and advertising staff. Many of his colleagues were only dimly aware of their existence. Much of what he did was sheeted to The Evening Post’s unusual collegial framework. Contestable and at times heated, its daily content and design debates frequently ran close to deadline. Drawing on his connections, Wrench was invaluable when deadlines needed to be elasticised. He was always well prepared, having learned from the 1990 Aramoana massacre near Dunedin that graphics made more sense than, say, a dozen paragraphs spelling out the lie of the land. And graphics, he learned, could be made in a hurry. When Operation Desert Storm was launched in January 17, 1991, it was a Saturday in New Zealand. Conventional six-day newspapers left the running to the Sunday papers. The Post, which had spent a week assembling Gulf
Most readers did not have the foggiest idea he existed. In the journalism fraternity, however, his reputation was second to none War material, learned of the invasion at 12.39pm. In 30 minutes a second edition emerged with an “It’s War!” screamer in red type and five continuous pages in its updated second edition. The paper was a sellout; the Sundays were left with scraps. Wrench was one of the first editorial executives in Wellington to comprehend the nature and potential of computerised editorial systems and the impact of the internet on the practice of journalism. Fifteen years ago he was described by one of his bosses as “getting ahead of himself” for suggesting that millions of people would soon be conversing daily by email and that one day cellphones would shrink from their shoebox size to palm-sized phones thinner than a cigarette packet, His understanding of the rapid advances in today’s newspaper business was best demonstrated on Wednesday, February 23, 2011. To the astonishment of survivors of the devastating Christchurch quake the previous day, the Christchurch Press was on sale next morning with all the latest news and pictures. How could it, with the venerable Press building a wreck? With no page layout system in the Press’s emergency newsroom at Harewood, Wrench had immediately offered in Wellington to lead the production of first his own paper, and then a 20-page special edition of The Press.
The Press won awards for its quake coverage and for its next-day paper. But without the invisible Wrench, who understood the power of the new Fairfax hub operation, The Press of February 23 would not have existed. It was, Wrench said shortly before he died, the most rewarding moment of his career. Unwelcome companions dogged his last four years. He had complained to a doctor that a rogue roller blind was being hoisted randomly in his right eye and it was interfering with his work. Brain tumours were diagnosed. He declared war on them, and his doctors threw as much of their arsenal at them as was safe to bear. Respite lasted two years. In 2012 his doctors, who had nixed the tumours, spotted another. The outlook was grim. Their patient opted for a creative route to death. Sporting an “I’m Not Dead Yet” button, he became a loquacious host and guest, counselling his family about how to get on with their lives once he was dead, and then repeating it all for dozens of colleagues and myriad friends. His partner of 10 years, Susan Arthur, survives him, and his two sons from his only marriage. Peter Kitchin is the former chief subeditor of The Evening Post and worked closely with Nick Wrench who was then news editor. They then worked together on The Dominion Post
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DIY bestseller, anyone? Book publishers are still using processes from the age of Dickens, so after six frustrating months Alistair Smith published his thriller himself. Cartoon by Andrew Weldon
he publishing industry needs to embrace, not fear, new platforms.” These were the words of Gail Rebuck, the UK boss of the massive Random House publishing conglomerate. That sounded good to me, a hack journo turned author who had recently gone through the frustrating process of trying to get a book published. It had left me thinking that some of the practices of the publishing industry were entrenched in the past. So here was hope. But mostly what I got from Rebuck’s Guardian piece was some psycho-babble which basically said our brains get fired up when we read a book – something I thought publishers through the ages would have known anyway. But then she said, “As publishers, we need to use every new piece of technology to embed longform reading within our culture.” But how frequently is this dictum applied by publishers at the front end of the process, with authors who are attempting to get published, particularly for the first time? In my experience over a frustrating six months, the answer is very rarely, if at all. Now my book, an international thriller called The Eighth Day, might be a load of crap, but it might also turn out to be the latest multimillion bestseller that makes a fortune for a publisher, that could even go “viral” using already available technology. So, in this high-tech world Ms Rebuck is so keen to embrace, how do publishers find out if Alistair Smith’s name is going to stand alongside Frederick Forsyth or Gerald Seymour? Apparently by using the same processes that might have been applied to the young Charles Dickens. As I scoured through lists of literary agents trying to find someone to take me on, relying on information from websites to get my submission in the right form, I was astonished at the number of agents who didn’t even have a web presence. Even then, approximately half the agents I attempted to contact, both in the UK and Australia, did not accept submissions by email, insisting on hard copy by post, usually in the form of a one-page full plot synopsis, and the first three chapters. But the major problems from an author’s point of view are the time frames and attitudes encountered. Two or three weeks for a reply I thought was acceptable, but many agents expected authors to wait up to three months or more, after which many don’t even reply with the traditional pink slip of rejection.
Half the agents I attempted to contact, both in the UK and Australia, did not accept submissions by email, insisting on hard copy by post
“If you have not heard in three months, assume your submission was unsuccessful,” was a common instruction. And they expected the submission to be made to them exclusively, which meant not sending it to anyone else in the meantime. With six attempts following that system (which I ignored), 18 months would have gone by. I presumed Ms Rebuck would have an answer to that, but after more than half an hour perusing her company’s website, I still hadn’t found out how to make a submission. So I turned to its Australian arm, only to discover “electronic manuscript submission (eg email, disk or a request to view a website) will NOT be considered”. Their capitals. An “unpublished fiction author” needn’t bother at all, unless the submission is made via a literary agent, or accompanied by a positive assessment from an accredited manuscript agency. I’ve got one of the latter, but “allow three to nine months, or longer at certain times of the year” for a reply. No thanks! That’s the sort of response that made me decide to embrace the new technology directly, and use it to self-publish The Eighth Day, and by doing so joining such luminaries and successful authors as Matthew Reilly, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, Zane Grey, Stephen King, Beatrix Potter and Leo Tolstoy. And in this day and age, self-publication is surprisingly simple and inexpensive. I did a lot of research on the internet, including blogs from authors offering valuable advice, before settling with Amazon, which has
apparently endless resources to assist people like me, who are not exactly of the techno generation. First, I went for an ebook version of my novel, which you can do through Amazon’s Kindle arm. It was simply a question of tweaking my existing manuscript slightly, particularly indents and pagination, and adding to it “front matter” (copyright info, dedication, titles etc) and “back matter” (a plug for the paperback version and website details). This is uploaded to Kindle, which generates a preview for you in its format so you can decide if further changes are required. Using Microsoft Publisher I created my own cover image with a dragon image from Clipart. This I converted into a PDF file using free downloaded software. Add keywords for searching, a blurb, a personal bio, establish a royalty plan and set a price (it’s $3.99). Maybe a day’s work. Another division of Amazon, CreateSpace, lets authors publish in paperback on a printon-demand basis, which means no contracts to purchase a minimum number of copies. If my cousin in the UK buys the book, then they print one; if I want 100 to sell to my friends in Australia, they print 100. Again, it’s a DIY process, although more complicated, because you have to make it look like a “regular” book in style and format, such as typefaces, appropriate use of single/double quotation marks, how chapter headings are laid out, leaving blank pages in the front and back matter and so on. Aware from my research that many people had problems with the cover layout, I was working my way particularly cautiously through that process until I discovered by accident that a landscape oriented A4 page was almost an exact fit for a 5-inch by 8-inch paperback of 345 pages. Then it was simple. I was able to do it in Word using text boxes, before converting it to a PDF for uploading. Bingo! I am a published author. The Eighth Day is out there for sale on the internet, and I have a stack of paperbacks in my shed. (Twenty bucks will get you one, including postage and handling within Australia, thank you.) I am acutely aware that what an independent lacks is the marketing and distribution power of the publishing houses, but I do have technologybased plans in that regard. I’ve already built a website (www.alistairsmith.info), using BigPond Webhosting and templates they offer, and I’ve done the Facebook thing. So you can all become my “friend”. Even you, Ms Rebuck – if you are prepared to embrace new technology, that is. Alistair Smith is an award-winning travel writer and freelance journalist; www.alistairsmith.com Andrew Weldon is a Melbourne-based freelance cartoonist; www.andrewweldon.com
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The sharp edge of a blunt comment Martin Doyle takes a serious approach to his cartoons, pushing the issues rather than punchlines writes Kate Gudsell
artin Doyle’s first political statement was in 1972 when, at the age of 16, he decided to give up school and chance his luck hitchhiking from Wellington to the community of Jerusalem (Hiruharama) on the banks of the Whanganui River. According to New Zealand’s online encyclopedia Te Ara, poet James K. Baxter had attempted to set up a commune at Jerusalem which was based on voluntary poverty, Catholicism and Maori spiritual values. Doyle had been excited and interested in what Baxter was doing, although this got him into a lot of arguments at home. “It forced me for the first time to hold and voice an opinion that was at odds with the teachers at school. In some ways that was the first steps of my adult life – to make a stand – it made me realise I could hold an opinion,” he says. And he’s been expressing those opinions ever since. His habit is to draw people. He has an eye for the odd and unusual, and often does it for fun, or these days as a way of communicating his frustration with certain issues. “Hand on heart, I’d never do a cartoon I didn’t strongly believe in,” he says. Although he has done cartoons off and on for a number of Wellington-based publications for the past few decades, it’s Doyle’s political cartoons of the last five years that have been collected in his book Barging In: 100 Political Cartoons 2008-2012. These cartoons start in the final year of Helen Clark’s third administration, when Doyle says he got frustrated by the savage attacks by the then opposition. “[My] motivation wasn’t because I love drawing pictures; it was fury at what was happening and wanting to say something about it.” Doyle finds material in the theatre of the Beehive on an almost daily basis, “I don’t think political cartoons should be there to be funny. They have quite a serious role in defying, challenging and exposing political spin. I’d say in New Zealand currently the biggest malaise in our political life is the prevalence of manufactured interpretation of what’s happening. If you think of political spin
“I don’t think political cartoons should be there to be funny. They have quite a serious role in defying, challenging and exposing political spin” being like a balloon, I think political cartoonists ought to pop that balloon.” His work is crude in style and at times he uses quite gruesome imagery to convey meaning. Doyle plays with the depth of his black ink lines, and his figures and form have a touch of the Ralph Steadman and Quentin Blake about them. But that’s not to suggest Doyle’s work is a copy; it’s not. He catches political scenarios with an individual eye, the images of politicians and public figures leaping and screaming from the page, always intermixed with lines of text. “I look at things and make very blunt comments,” says Doyle. “Physically it’s a coarse, naive style, offset by careful language use,” he explains. “It varies between using thick black ink marker lines and fine ink pen and pencil work.” Education is a recurring topic in his cartoons (Doyle is a former teacher), in particular the changes proposed since the National Party started its second term in government, like
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an increase in class sizes and charter schools. Doyle says of the class-size debacle, “It was so counter-intuitive, and the government tried to push something down the throats of New Zealanders that even New Zealanders rejected and the government backed down. I can’t remember that happening in the last 20 years, when the masses have stood up and challenged the government about something happening, just rejected it. “The angle that attracted me as a cartoonist was the fact that all of the ministers were advancing arguments using educational ideas, and yet none of the relevant ministers had ever been teachers. And more than that, the secretary of education [at the time it was Lesley Longstone], she wasn’t a teacher. And as a cartoonist I found it shocking that big changes were being brought about in education by people who themselves were not educators. As an idea it’s like having someone restructure your teeth who is not a dentist.” Doyle could be accused of wearing his heart on his sleeve, but he refutes this, saying he’s never belonged to a particular political party and his work over the last few years has criticised more than just the National Party. “I think my cartoons have touched on the way the Labour Party and the union movement have not successfully communicated their ideas to the public. Some people might think that’s a mean thing to say, but I think it’s valuable if a cartoon can see it and say it.” He believes people should make statements and that’s what he’s trying to achieve. “I see value in trying to capture what’s going on in a concrete form, I think that’s a good contribution. It’s good to express an opinion and it’s good to listen, I love that image that they used to say, ‘God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we’d listen twice as much as we spoke’.” Barging In: 100 Political Cartoons 2008– 2012 by Martin Doyle, published by Hyena Publications, RRP NZ$20. Kate Gudsell is a business journalist with Radio New Zealand and Martin Doyle is her uncle
Ready to join the data set? When Nate Silver wiped the floor with America’s election pundits, data journalism got even sexier says Marc Moncrief. Illustration by Lindsay Foyle
ate Silver’s book The Signal and the Noise is a litany of other people’s errors. They have to do with predicting the future, and the future can be deadly. Take, for example, his analysis of data predicting Hurricane Katrina. The weathermen, he suggests, had the story pretty straight. We knew 72 hours ahead of time that New Orleans was in for it. Politicians and the general public just didn’t act in a way that was aligned to the reality of their situation. Hundreds died. If you don’t know Nate Silver or his work, read the book and check out the New York Time’s FiveThirtyEight blog (fivethirtyeight.blogs. nytimes.com). He makes sport out of exploiting our tendency to follow our gut instead of the facts. His most famous success came from correctly predicting Obama’s re-election results, showing that other media pundits were basing their pronouncements on pure instinct rather than any analysis. On the way, he has become the latest poster boy of the “data journalism” phenomenon that has spread through the US and Europe, and which is beginning to be adopted here. Silver’s work has bred a generation of sudden statisticians, and the media includes its share of instant experts. But there’s a difference for Australia and its journalists. First, Silver is drowning in data about the US electorate. Every electorate, every race, every permutation is measured. Many of Australia’s electorates won’t support polling so aggressively; there just aren’t enough people. Second, our media is not so rabidly partisan as that in the US. We can criticise the apparent political slant from a given news outlet, but there is nothing in Australia like the grotesque and blatant war in the US between partisans on networks that are occupied by the political extremes. Members of the public can choose a media outlet that encourages them to go day after day without ever having their core political assumptions challenged. In this context, the overriding career imperative for many pundits is to feed the bias, rather than provide credible or reliable information. So for Silver, putting the media to shame wasn’t really that complicated: as he said himself, the standard for objectivity he had to beat was pretty low.
The temptation is to say, then, that Australia doesn’t have the problem that Silver’s work exposed. Unfortunately, that position would be naive. We are trained as reporters to set aside our own opinions in our work, and to seek sources that are qualified to provide factual assertions, which we attribute to their names. There is often little time to conduct thorough analyses of the data that would support or refute the information we receive. Lack of time is a common complaint. But what is less remarked on is the way our news rooms lack the skills needed to collect data independently or to conduct thorough analysis. This is a shame indeed, since these same skills could help us interrogate the information we have more quickly, more thoroughly and with better accuracy. I’m referring here to statistical skills, computing skills, skills of data collection and data visualisation. These are the tools Silver and others like him use, but they hardly exist – if they exist at all – in newsrooms. The outcome is that we tend to surf on the consensus of versions we are able to gather from our contacts, eventually arriving at something we trust is close to what is actually true. Silver’s work can serve as a warning to colleagues that there is no guarantee of accuracy in simply taking the mean of perspectives gathered. If there is a short definition for the discipline of “data journalism” it is an attempt to correct this skills gap. For Silver, as I’ve said, getting the data he wanted to focus on was easy. But data is often available, or it can be generated, on almost any subject. The skills Silver used on the data, once he had it, can be applied to almost any data. Sometimes the data is mixed into unco operative environments, such as web pages or .pdf documents. Sometimes the data is locked within government agencies that are loath to
Knowing how to get at the material behind a story can go some way towards liberating journalists from being primarily receptive
share. Sometimes the data is hidden in companies or locked in secure databases. We cannot overcome all of these barriers, but we can take much greater advantage of the pool of information that is available. Knowing how to get at the material behind a story can go some way towards liberating journalists from being primarily receptive. Where necessary, we can fight for access to data stores that are kept from us unreasonably. Tools including Google Fusion Tables, Google Refine and the Tableau Public data analysis framework can help you get your feet wet, but it doesn’t stop there. At www.theage.com.au/ data-point, we have a list of selected tools that serve as a good starting point, but the web is full of tools and skills to acquire. Mastering any one can help a journalist solve a particular problem. Mastering a suite of them will completely change the way they do their jobs. In a recent post in his Monday Note blog (www.mondaynote.com), Paris-based digital media analyst Frédéric Filloux called for a “digital new journalism”. “Digital media needs to invent its own journalistic genres,” he wrote. “The web and its mobile offspring are calling for their own New Journalism comparable to the one that blossomed in the Seventies… Failure to do so will only accelerate its decline.” Data journalism has the opportunity to be one of these new paradigms. The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, published by Penguin, RRP $29.99. Marc Moncrief is data editor for The Age newspaper in Melbourne. He was formerly deputy editor of the paper’s business section and deputy editor of The Age’s iPad app when it launched last year Lindsay Foyle is the former deputy editor of The Bulletin and a past president of the Australian Cartoonists’ Association
THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
n BOOKS & REVIEWS
This Phantom is paradise Oslo Davis found Reg Lynch’s novel as warm-hearted and appealing as his cartoons
artoonist Reg Lynch’s new novel, Jim of a Particular Part of the Jungle, is a modern riff on old comic books and 1930s Saturday arvo adventure flicks, replete with curly characters, wacky goings on and a smattering of surly bum-faced ginger monkeys. Published only as an ebook, the story concerns Jim, a likable chap in a pith helmet, who ditches his Dakota DC-2 into the jungles of Motu Lava, a South Pacific island nation, and stumbles away with a bump on the head and the impression that he is the Phantom, “the ghost who walks”. Jim of a Particular Part of the Jungle is an obvious homage to Lee Falk’s monumentally popular comic strip The Phantom, which at its peak was read by 100 million people each day. You can tell that Reg was a fan. For the past 30 years Lynch has published thousands of drawings in magazines, newspapers and books worldwide. He used to draw for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Independent Monthly and The Bulletin; these days it’s The Sun-Herald. His unique graphic approach to cartoon ing has earned him respect within and beyond the cartooning world. Like the late American artist Saul Steinberg, Lynch has the enviable talent of being able to render big ideas in a few black lines. He is the master of the funny little dinkus, a difficult skill he makes look a cinch. His drawings are witty, cheeky and wry and, much to my relief, these qualities have transferred over to his Jim novel. I say relief because there’s nothing more worrying than when an artist jumps genres. What’s to be gained from departing from what you’re good at? But Jim of a Particular Part of the Jungle is warm-hearted, full of clever asides and plays on words. Lynch didn’t totally ignore his skills as an artist when he created Jim. Included through the novel are a number of key scene paintings, like the occasional drawings in the old “stories for boys” chapter books. They’re funny and add to the novel’s charm.
I liked how Jim has meaty backstories and side steps: the dramatic histories of weird motel owners, security thugs and a manservant called Fez are hilarious As the story rolls on, unverified myths about this new Phantom [Jim] spread across Motu Lava and islanders relocate to be near him. And the stranger had never acted in any way other than how the Phantom should act. Gruff but fair. Stern but hearty. Practical with a touch of the occult. Brave but slightly hare-brained.
Everyone is seemingly happier. There’s a buzz in the air and it’s not just the sound of the choppers carrying mercenaries sent by local crackpot President Bigi Mosely. Mosely is beginning to see that his control over the island, as well as his capacity to exploit its mining potential, is slipping away. This Phantom must be stopped. I liked how Jim has meaty backstories and side steps: the dramatic histories of weird motel owners, security thugs and a manservant called Fez are hilarious. Animals, like spoon-billed woodwhackers and bum-faced ginger monkeys, colour the island and taunt the locals. An ugly yet lovable highland wolf-pig becomes Jim’s trusty companion. The novel’s accidental Messiah gives regular lectures to his followers who assemble in the village square, who in turn reply with fervent “Oogy boogy” chants. Bigi Mosely’s dreams torment him and affect his judgment in everyday life. The mercenaries, a crackerjack team sourced from around the globe, get drunk and trash the motel. Someone gets a bloodied nose. Jim is partially a nonsense story, like Woody Allen’s Bananas or something by Terry Gilliam. If it were made into a film Shaun Micallef would be the handsome, bumbling, do-gooder Jim. But if Lynch had let this story slide into complete absurdity it wouldn’t have worked. Instead the novel is a well told tale anchored in some sort of logic. Like the original Phantom stories, Jim walks a fine line between self-parody and genuine drama, and like the old Tarzan and Jungle Jim melodramas, you delight in the wacky reality of it all. It’s all a big bag of fun, a great read and fine extension of Lynch’s skills as an artist. Jim of a Particular Part of the Jungle by Reg Lynch, published by XOUM (www.xoum. com.au), RRP A$9.99. Published as an ebook for Kindle, Kobo, iBookstore. Oslo Davis is an illustrator and cartoonist
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n OUR MEDIA
In the grip of a bad octopus Does Lindsay Foyle have a soft spot for a cephalopod? He’s not the first cartoonist to do so
ver since 1886, when anyone wants an illustration for a story on the White Australia Policy, Phil May’s Mongolian octopus cartoon has been dragged out. Newspapers, magazines and books all have taken full advantage of its symbolism. It captured the attitude of many Australians back then. The cartoon first ran in The Bulletin when there was considerable ill will directed at Chinese immigrants. It was displayed in the many anti-Chinese cartoons and stories of those times and in the legislation enacted by individual Australian colonies during the gold rushes of the 1850s. Federation did not change attitudes. The first legislation passed by the Commonwealth parliament meeting in Melbourne in 1901 was the Immigration Restriction Act. Edmund Barton said in support of the bill, “The doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the Englishman and the Chinaman.” But he could have said almost anything he liked as long as he was for the bill, as there was almost nobody opposed to it. Nearly all of our early prime ministers wanted to take credit for that act of discrimination. Remnants of it remained in force until 1973, and it was not until 1975 that it became illegal to discriminate in Australia against people because of their race. There is no corresponding legislation relating to octopuses. May’s octopus was drawn as a threatening animal strangling Australia, but throughout history octopuses have had a mixed image. Giant octopus and squids have been illustrated crushing sailing ships and eating sailors. But they may not have been quite that big. The north Pacific giant octopus is said to be the largest and adults usually weigh around 15 kg with arms extending just over 4 metres. But there have been other specimens discovered weighing 272 kg with arm spans of 9 metres, which is getting to people-eating size. The ancient peoples of the Mediterranean did not have to cope with any that big and saw octopuses as food. Archaeologists have recovered stone carvings from Crete
A Hawaiian creation myth portrays an octopus as the lone survivor of the previous, alien universe. They make good aliens, but Ringo Starr used their friendly image in his song “Octopus’s Garden”
of Bronze Age Minoan fishermen carrying octopus. In ancient Peru, the Moche people worshipped the sea and its animals and octopuses were often depicted in their art. A Hawaiian creation myth portrays an octopus as the lone survivor of the previous, alien universe. They make good aliens, but Ringo Starr used their friendly image in his song “Octopus’s Garden” which featured on the Beatles’ 1969 Abbey Road album. May did not see them in the friendly light Starr did, and drew his octopus big and bad. But it is hard to know if he shared the antiChinese attitudes that prevailed in Australia while he was here. It is more than likely that he drew the cartoon to request rather than by inspiration. Using an octopus to represent bad things has a long history. An octopus drawn by John Tenniel was used on the cover of Punch in 1871 to represent humbug. May was aged about seven then, so its symbolism might have been lost on him, even if he had seen it. Tom Carrington would not have missed it. He started drawing for Melbourne Punch in 1866 and he was happy to use an octopus image to represent greed in 1879. William Macleod also drew a “bad octopus” cartoon in 1881 when he was freelancing for
The Bulletin. Carrington’s drawings, along with Macleod’s, were woodblocks and the time and money it took to produce them would not have been undertaken without discussion. So it is probable both were drawn to order. Later in his career Macleod joined the staff at The Bulletin and by the end of the 19th century had become the magazine’s major shareholder. May would have drawn his octopus on paper, having arrived at The Bulletin about two years after the magazine had acquired photoengraving equipment. Geoff Pryor used May’s work for inspiration in 2001 when he was drawing cartoons for The Canberra Times. It took out the National Museum’s best cartoon award for that year. By then Pryor was probably feeling very friendly about May’s bad octopus. And last year, Lindsay Foyle used the May cartoon as inspiration to demonstrate how attitudes to the Chinese have changed in the past 160 years, when the Yellow Peril morphed into Australia’s golden future. Lindsay Foyle is a former deputy editor of The Bulletin and a past president of the Australian Cartoonists’ Association. Since 2008 he has been working freelance
THE WALKLEY MAGAZINE
n 10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT…
… appearing professional in pyjamas Freelancer Lesley Parker has been fooling people for years that she’s not in a suit or at her desk, let alone in a fully equipped newsroom. Using this technology, you can do it, too. Cartoon by Andrew Weldon
Invest in a decent phone. This is the starting point if you want to spare yourself a lot of unproductive time sitting at home waiting for a particular email to arrive. A smartphone that lets you check your email on the go means you can head out without worrying. Make sure you can also sync your calendar and contacts between your computer and phone so you have on-road access, either through your phone tools or services such as Google (www.google.com). Use the cloud. It’s also useful to be able to access your documents on the go so you can answer those tricky questions from editors and subs even when you’re in the frozen goods aisle. (“Is that figure in the 28th para meant to be million or billion?”… in a story you wrote two months ago.) I’ve installed the free Dropbox (www.dropbox. com) application on my computer. It regularly makes a copy of my documents to keep in the “cloud” (in reality, a server somewhere more solid). I can access those files on any smartphone or computer with an internet connection. And if your computer dies your documents don’t expire, too – they’re safe in the cloud and you can sync them onto your new computer. You can also invite people to “share” documents or folders. Do your filing. I keep all sorts of information on the off-chance that one day it will mesh with other information to become the makings of a story. That’s why I love Evernote (www.evernote.com). This app lets me collect, store and organise information ranging from web pages to photos and (ugh!) my own recorded voice, all of which I can access on my computer or in the cloud. I can sort the information into Notebooks and tag it with common words pulling similar ideas together. So I’ll see something interesting on the web about superannuation (yes, really), use Evernote Web Clipper to add a searchable tag such as “SMSF” and send it to my “Story Ideas” notebook. The process is repeated as other information crosses my path. When the editor calls saying she needs something on super, I have a list of ideas and half the research done. Stay up to date. Time is money when you’re a free lancer. This is where tools such as RSS Feeds and Google Alerts come in. Subscribe to websites via RSS and you’ll be alerted to any changes. You need a “reader” to gather and sort updates as they come in; I use Google Reader (www.google.com/reader). You can create more specific searches with Google Alerts (www.google.com.au/alerts), getting regular reports on search terms such as “Kevin Rudd” or “travel insurance”.
54 T H E W A L K L E Y M A G A Z I N E
Stay connected. The professional network LinkedIn extends my network of contacts and even generates story ideas. You can use its “people search” function to connect with people you already know, then stalk them… sorry, I mean see who they’re connected to. In turn, ask those connections if they’d like to connect, creating even more links. Join relevant LinkedIn Groups so you can monitor which subjects are creating a buzz and work out who has something intelligent to say (and you could interview!). Remember your passwords. Never, ever write your passwords down… yeah, sure. How many times a day do you have to make one up or fill one in? I used to lug an alphabetised notebook from job to job but now I use the password manager Lastpass (https://lastpass.com). Install it on your home computer and it will “remember” any passwords you enter. You only need to remember your master password to access your password “vault” anywhere there’s an internet connection. Take your bookmarks with you. I use the Xmarks bookmark synchronisation service (www.xmarks. com) to maintain access to my favourite sites, not only on my desktop but also on my laptop and any other computer where I can log in to my account. Share efficiently. I have two Twitter accounts and a blog, I’m on Facebook and Pinterest, and – working from home – I email people rather than wandering over to their desk to show them the latest cat video. The Add This (www.addthis.com) app adds a “right-click” menu that lets you select a service to collect/tweet/share/post/email the information you’re looking at. Be time efficient. Speaking of Facebook, YouTube and other distractions, if you find you’re spending way too much time looking at cat videos there are tools to keep you disciplined. StayFocusd (www.stayfocusd. com) allows you to set a daily time limit, and when you reach the limit you’re locked out of those sites. RescueTime (www.rescuetime.com) monitors how you spend your time, dividing your activities into categories from “very productive” to “very distracting”. Its reports are very productive reading. Keep the kids off the phone. One last tool I use to maintain a veneer of professionalism is the “multiple number” service offered by Telstra. This sets up an additional phone number on your existing phone line. This number has a different ring so you – and the kids – know who’s being dialled: journalist Lesley Parker or… Mum. The service is $6 a month. A bonus phone tip: Don’t make video calls on Skype while still in your pyjamas.
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Lesley Parker is a Sydney-based freelancer who developed and presents the Walkley Foundation course “Productivity Tools for Journalists: The 5 apps you really need”
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Published on Apr 16, 2013