Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What is wrong with wanting to be a journalism student?

I was walking around town today after doing an interview with YACWA (Youth Affairs Council of WA) and I decided to go into work to get one of my shifts changed (it's the end of semester and EVERYTHING is due).

(brackets are fun)

The girls at work commented on my dapper looks, I was wearing a shirt and tie at the time, and then one of the younger girls asked me a question I hadn't considered.

"I'm thinking of doing journalism next year, what sort of things do you need to be good at?".

Far be it from me to give my 'expertise' on the subject, for I'm not in the industry (I write some freelance but that's about it), but I started to consider the aptitudes needed for journalism.

First and foremost, you have to be a good writer.

You need to learn the difference between a colon and a semi-colon. You need an extensive vocabulary and the ability to write punchy copy without mistakes is invaluable. Getting the spelling and grammar right will get you a pass no matter what, but what will really put you up there in the echelons of journalistic potential is to learn the power of words.

You see, words are very emotive things. They can express multiple meanings, and using the right ones in any given situation gives you the ability to stand out from the pack who will be writing straight from press releases for the rest of their careers.

We all like to read the news, but news presented in a form that is a pleasure read is an absolute joy.

Then, you need to be across the news.

It's vital that you know what's going on not just in a vague sense, but in particular. For example, journalism students tend today to talk about the cut and parry between Malcom Turnbull and Dr. Nelson after the budget, but not to many people can give you details about what was actually in it.

I'm the first to admit that particulars are not my forte. For example, each week we have something called a 'news quiz' comprising of ten questions from the weeks news. Now, I like to think that I'm across the news and I'm widely read, but as soon as the lecturer wants me to recall a particular figure, I'm stumped. On average, I do about 5/10 a week (and this guy wants to be a journo!?).

It's good if you know what's going on. It's better if you know what's going on and you can give particulars.

People skills are important too.

It's about knowing when to press a source, and when to back off. For a while when I started journalism, I thought the notion of calling somebody up for a quote was daunting. I, as a piddly little student wanted to call a professional to I could get a quote for an assignment.

As I developed though, I realised that most people want to help student journalists out. This is for two reasons; one, because people in this country are generally nice, and two, because they know we'll be the journalists of tomorrow.

Also, they have an opinion they want to get across, they have an agenda they want to drive, so anybody who can put forward that agenda is helpful to them.

That being said, you still need to be polite when calling for an interview. You also need to turn on the charm to get a source on your good side, don't take it as a given that they want to talk to you.

Also, the ability to go deep is paramount.

It's pretty easy to write from a couple of press releases regarding a certain piece of legislation, but few student go and read the legislation.

I appreciate that it can be a bit daunting delving into the world of legislation (It's like they don't want us to read it! *gasp!*), but the good journos will, and this will add extra depth to every story you do.

As I said, I'm a student journalist, and this shouldn't be taken as the be-all and end-all, these are just my thoughts.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

What is wrong with passing the buck?

Let me start this off by saying that I live in the Liberal stronghold of Curtin. I am also damned glad that John Howard didn't get in at the last general election, but during the course of about three months I've become skeptical of the Rudd government.

Some of you may know that I've been writing for the Third Degree, the ECU journalism student run publication. During the course of my experience, I've written on a wide range of subjects that I know nothing about.

I've written on security cameras, obscure pub bands, AFMA regulations and Net Neutrality.

During the research period, I've been offered a glimpse into how government departments are operating under the new government. During my story on Net Neutrality, I searched high and low for regulation concerning the matter from the Communications ministry.

Of course, we're about to get a spanking-new network, so this was an important issue. I found no regulation, but what I did find irked me a bit. I found that the ministry was putting out an invitation for all concerned parties to submit their ideas about regulation of the new network, to be judged by a panel of experts.

Now, I'm not so naive that I don't expect government to consult with outside groups, but you can bet your bottom dollar that if the shit hits the fan, the government will be telling us that it's not their fault, it was the fault of the panel. Then of course, they'll launch an inquiry into it to be headed up by a panel of experts.

I'm currently researching for a piece on the regulation surrounding carbon trading. Since we've signed Kyoto, this is a brand new industry. The ACCC, at the moment, has no regulation surrounding the practice, apart from the loose guidelines set out in the Trade Practices Act concerning false advertising.

Guess what the ACCC has done then?

You guessed it, they've put out a request for all people to give their two cents about how the practice should be monitored and regulated.

Now I realise the ACCC isn't technically under the government's jurisdiction, but does this sort of practice reflect a changing practice in Australia?

I know bodies like to consult with outside bodies on pieces of legislation, but before KRudd, this was an internal process. I commend the government for making this process transparent to the public, but what sort of message does this send out to the community?

Take the 2020 summit for example. The government lauded it as a bold, new move in the direction of policy, but the skeptical took it as a statement 'Well, we're out of ideas already. We've apologised, signed Kyoto, what else can we do?'

In other words, the buck stops with the committee.

The Rudd Government does seem to take ideas from outside it's own party (Howard's Battlers= Rudd's Working Families), but has the time for generating ideas come to an end. Is there a desire to see the government take action instead of consult with special interest groups?

At the moment, there seems to be a focus on symbolism rather than legislation, and sooner or later, the buck will stop with KRudd.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What is wrong with 500 words?

When you're given the task of reviewing a monolith of a game like GTA IV in under 500 words, you cringe.

I'm all for brevity and look to cut unnecessary words out of any review I do, but the Escapist's challenge had me in a spin. The challenge was to review GTA IV in under 500 words, but it proved to be a bitch of a piece to write.

First of all, GTA IV is one of those games with so many aspects to them, that spending 50 words on each does not do the game or its many facets justice. There was the Euphora engine, the story (the most impressive aspect of the game for mine), the graphics, the police, the networking, the multiplayer to name just a few.

So what did I do when faced with this task?

One of the guidelines said that they were looking for originality and creativity, so I decided on something I've been toying around with for a while now.

I decided to write it in first person.

For this particular piece, I decided to write the review in the guise of a letter from the protagonist, Niko Bellic, back to the homeland, chronicling his experiences in Liberty City. The first person review I think, is a huge area for exploration in games reviewing, and it's a style I'll be doing more of depending on the reception it gets.

Anyhow, let me know what you think of it.



It's been a long time, I'm sorry.

Roman is well, although not as well as I hoped. Liberty City is...a contradiction. I hope I spelt that right. Some of the most beautiful things I have seen in my life I owe to this city.

Sometimes I look up at all the lights, the way they reflect off the pavement and I am in awe. I have learned to appreciate the little things, the way the rain falls and even the beaten buildings of the city make me stand in wonder. I guess these small things are important in an ugly place. This place has a beauty that is all its own, sometimes I feel as if I am in a movie it is that beautiful, but Liberty City is a dangerous place.

I am unsure whether I was safer back home or not.

Ever since I got here, people have wanted me to do things. They seemed to be fun at first, but as I worked my way up the food chain, choices had to be made. I have never had to make choices like these before, except maybe during the war. I guess Liberty City is a war zone all of its own, but you do not want to hear such things.

The police here are a lot more....zealous here than back home. The other day I got a speeding ticket, I do not have my papers yet, so I had to flee. Luckily, I was able to get far away enough from them in the end, but it was a wild ride while I did so.

You'll be pleased to know that I have made some new friends while I am here. Liberty City is a big place, so it is nice that I can call them on the cellular phone anytime I want some company (I love Roman dearly but he can be grating). It makes my stay here bearable knowing that I can go bowling with one of my buddies.

The city is full of places to take my mind off ugly things. I can go shoot pool, darts, or even just get drunk to name a few. The other day I even took a ride in a helicopter!

Your letter asked me if I had met that special someone, but I have not. I will try until the end of my days to find someone, but what I do when I meet them, I still don't know.

There is this one girl though, Kate. She's not like all the other girls in the city, you would like her. She's nice. It's early, but someday I hope to hold her in my arms at a church.

I'll finish now, as I'm sure I'm boring you. Liberty City is a place that is full of interesting people, beautiful sites and full of things to do, but it is also dark. It is a beautiful world, but under the surface, you find that life is complicated.

Friday, May 9, 2008

What is wrong with some journalism students?

I'm not about to go naming and shaming, nor will I condemn the many over the attitudes of the few, but a worrying trend has emerged.

This all came about when I was explaining a story idea to a fellow student. The idea in question was covering the Republic debate that has been going on for quite a while now. I explained the idea of getting interviews from a monarchist and republican, but the student didn't like the idea.

It wasn't that they didn't think we could get enough shots for it (It was a TV story) or that it was hard to find compelling interviews, but that they just didn't give a damn about it. They didn't know enough about the debate, they didn't care about it, and then they said something that really alarmed me.

"I don't care about all that politics stuff, I just trust whoever is in charge to make decisions on stuff like that"

Then I informed them there would probably be a referendum about the issue.

"I don't care, I mean, in the last election I just left my paper blank"

This was a future member of the fourth estate telling me that they didn't all. I was flabbergasted, all I could manage was "Well...I worked for the electoral commission during the election".

They did come up with a great alternate story, but the political apathy really worried me. There does seem to be a great ennui with the political machine from a youth perspective, but this person was considering being a journalist.

You'd think that with a room full of future journalists, the air would be rich with debate regarding points of legislation but no, the air was dampened with talk of how pissed they were going to get on the weekend.

These are the people who are going to be setting the agenda in newsrooms in the future, and some of them don't vote, and don't plan to. Not out of any disestablishment sentiment (My big words indulgence for the day), but out of sheer apathy.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

Friday, May 2, 2008

What is wrong with The West Australian?

Well, for starters, they won't give me a job (and if the higher-ups read this, I probably won't be getting one).

Recently though, Kerry Stokes (think of him as a mini-Rupert) blasted the publication as 'living off their reputation'. He then followed this up by asking for more power on the board of directors, this was roundly rejected at a board meeting (Stokes already holds a chair), and really, who could blame The West?

The guy has slammed the paper, and then asked for more power. Good luck buddy! It's like telling your girlfriend you've been rooting her sister and then suggesting you two should get engaged. It can only end badly.

However tactless Stokes' grab for power has been, does he have a point?

Both The West Australian and The Sunday Times have been criticized for moving to a more sensationalist and populist approach to its journalism.

In the past, it has been labeled as "the nation's most inaccurate and dishonest newspaper" from Jim McGinty, and as I glimpsed at todays front page, I couldn't help but smile.

The headline? One in Two believes Buswell should go. That's not the funny part though, as I got to the first paragraph, I couldn't help but notice the massive claims that "a snap Westpoll has found that half of all West-Australians believe he should resign". Of course, the third paragraph cleared things up.

"The Westpoll, which interviewed 413 people on Wednesday".

Now, I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't called to be part of this poll, and correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Western Australia is made up of about oh...I don't know, about a million people? Maybe more?

Half of 413 people, doesn't quite sound like earth shattering news on the front page does it? But HALF OF ALL WEST AUSTRALIANS sounds a heap better!

This, ladies and Gentlemen, was on the front page. Right next to the big ol' picture of Troy Buswell looking like he wants to escape into a dark pit and die.

This sort of misleading is pure sensationalism, designed to get people reading the story. Sure, the copy does say exactly how many people were polled, but only after the reader is hooked.

Anyhow, the old argument of The West Australian being little more than populist sensationalism is perhaps overstating things, but little things like this aren't exactly providing contradictory evidence against Kerry Stokes' assertions.