Category Archives: Uni

Openness & Honesty – Asylum Seekers & Refugee Project Experiences

This semester, the third year journalism students at the University of Canberra have been part of a project called “Reporting Refugees“. This project has seen the UC students collaborate with local organisations like Canberra Refugee Support and Companion House to report asylum seekers/refugee stories in the Canberra region.

As a third year journalism student I took part in this project. Going in to the project I knew little about asylum seekers/refugees. But as the project progressed I learned a lot about what it means to be an asylum seeker/refugee and what challenges they face. I have grown to respect these people. Most of them have experienced some terrifying things back in their home country. When you hear their stories it’s like a movie to us in the Western world. Their stories seem so unreal. Too dreadful to be real.

The project has made me think more about the needs of refugees and asylum seekers, and how we treat them when they come to our country. We should treat them with respect and not let them rot in detention centres. We need to process their applications faster and take responsibility. Sending these people to East Timor is not taking responsibility in my eyes.

When reporting on asylum seekers/refugees you, as a journalist, need to think about what consequences your story might have for your sources and their families. Being portrayed in the media might be highly dangerous for these people and their families. So it’s really important that you tell them about these risks because they might not think about it themselves.

PRIOR PERSPECTIVES
Prior to commencing work on this project I had never thought about if I have had any contact with asylum seekers or refugees. I may have had contact with such a person without knowing about it. However, when we started this project I didn’t even know the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee.

My attitude towards asylum seekers/refugees was that every human being is worth the same. If someone is forced to leave their country, or they are in danger, they should be able to get help. In my eyes Australia has an obligation to help these people. Asylum seekers and refugees have rights like every other human being.

Australia has obligations to protect the human rights of all asylum seekers and refugees who arrive in Australia, regardless of how or where they arrive and whether they arrive with or without a visa (Australian Human Rights Commission 2011).

I understand that Australia cannot help all the refugees and asylum seekers in the world. But it is important to me that the once arriving in Australia, they have the right to be treated as human beings. Lately, there have been quite a few riots among asylum seekers at different detention centres in Australia. These happenings make me wonder if these people are treated right. We cannot just treat them as another problem, which we can push onto an island (Christmas Island) and it’s gone. It doesn’t work that way.

ON ASSIGNMENT FOR #REPORTINGREFUGEES

During this project I have learned what the difference is between an asylum seeker and a refugee.

The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (and its 1967 Protocol), to which Australia is a signatory, defines a refugee as:

Any person who owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country.

An asylum seeker is a person who is seeking protection as a refugee and is still waiting to have his/her claim assessed (Refugee council of Australia 2011).

In my opinion some refugees are very open and happy to talk about their past, while others just “shut the door” and don’t want to talk about their past. Humans deal with things differently. Some like to talk about their experiences although they might have been terrible, while others want to keep their story to themselves.

In Canberra there are a few very friendly and open Sudanese refugees. I feel blessed that we found the Dinka congregation at the St. George’s Anglican Church in Pearce. These people were happy to talk to us about their congregation and community. Some of them even told us about their life back in Sudan and how they came to Australia. They were a lovely community and I’m sure I’ll go back and visit them in the future.

The project has strengthened my views about how asylum seekers and refugees should be treated. Knowing a few refugees, this is not just a word to me anymore. When I hear the word REFUGEE mentioned, I think about the people I talked to during this project and I can see their faces.

If all Australians had the chance to sit down and talk to an asylum seeker or a refugee, I think that would change a lot of Aussies’ opinions on asylum seeker/refugee issues. They would see that most of these people want to learn English and contribute to the Australian society. They are not in Australia to go on unemployment benefits. They are here because they are not safe in their own country.

This project has made me think about what the Australian Government does in relation to asylum seekers/refugees, and the policies in place. I don’t believe that the Australian Government’s plan to establish a processing centre for asylum seekers in East Timor is a good idea. To be honest, I feel like the government is trying to disclaim responsibility for the situation, instead of seeking real regional solutions to the problem.

“If the Government is serious about stopping the movements of asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat, it must put significant thought, effort and investment into developing a refugee protection framework across the Asia Pacific region, rather than seeking to outsource its commitments and warehouse asylum seekers in East Timor,” said Dr Graham Thom, Refugee Coordinator for Amnesty International Australia (Amnesty International 2011).

LESSONS FROM THE FIELD

The project has taught me, when reporting asylum seeker/refugee issues you have to think about what the consequences might be for the people you talk to. These people do not always think about how dangerous it can be for them to talk to the media. Sometimes it is your job as a journalist, to remind them of the risk involved. Although, the people you speak to are in a safe country at the time of the interview, their family back in their home country may be in danger.

People fleeing persecution leave families behind who may face retribution from repressive regimes if relatives in the UK [ or other countries] are identified (Media Wise 2008).

This might be scary to think about as a journalist. But it is important that you do think about it because of the severe consequences your actions might have for other people. When I was out in the field during this project, I always asked my talents if it was safe for them to talk to me. I didn’t push anyone to talk to me. The people I spoke to were happy to talk to me about their life here in Australia and some also talked about their life back in Sudan.

However, one of my talents was happy to talk to me at the time of the interview, and he signed a consent form. But a few weeks later he contacted me and said that he didn’t want to be in a video that was going to be published on the ABC website. Apparently, he had talked to his mother who found it scary, and didn’t like the idea of him being in a video. So it was a challenge for me and my partner how to handle this. We had already finalized the video at that stage and sent it off to the ABC.

Next time I’m assigned an asylum seeker/refugee story I will have better knowledge how to report on asylum seeker/refugee issues. For an Australian journalist it’s good to try to follow the MEAA Code of Ethics, which says that a journalist should commit himself/herself to:

  • honesty
  • fairness
  • independence
  • respect for the rights of others

In addition to the Code of Ethics, you ought to follow the advice in Media Wise’s Reporting Asylum and Refugee Issues.  Here you can find guidelines and tips for how to report on these kinds of issues.

There is a lot to think about when reporting on asylum seekers/refugees, but as long as you are open and honest with them you can get some very interesting stories.

In my experience you have to think about what you write and who you are speaking with. It is always nice to have a good story, but some stories are too good to be true.

Sources:

Amnesty International, Amnesty International: Australia’s refugee policy going backwards fast, viewed 04 November 2011, http://www.amnesty.org.au/news/comments/24815/

Australian Human Rights Commission, viewed 02 November 2011, http://www.hreoc.gov.au/human_rights/immigration/asylum_seekers.html

Media, Entertainment & Art Alliance, Code of Ethics, viewed 04 November 2011, http://www.alliance.org.au/code-of-ethics.html

Media Wise, Reporting Asylum and Refugee Issues, viewed 04 November 2011, http://www.mediawise.org.uk/www.mediawise.org.uk/files/uploaded/ReportingAsylumleaflet2008.pdf

Refugee council of Australia, Background Information on Refugees & Asylum Seekers, viewed 02 November 2011, http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/docs/news&events/RW_Background_Information.pdf

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Academic Blog – My experiences in the Twittersphere

I started tweeting around a year ago with the handle @linn_87. When I started out, I had no idea how I should use Twitter. So my first tweets didn’t contain any links what so ever.

In recent months I have learnt how important it is to link to you sources in your tweets. Links make your tweets more credible because you’re telling your followers were you found the information. You’re not just putting information out there without any attribution.

As a journalism student I know how important it is to attribute information to a source. But when I first started using Twitter a year ago I didn’t know how to shorten links. This meant that a lot of the links I wanted to use where too long to fit into 140 characters, which is the character limit on Twitter.

When you know where to find and how to use a URL shortener it becomes a lot easier to use links in your tweets. My favourite URL shortener is bit.ly. Manly because you can see how many of your followers have clicked on your links. But you need to sign up to be able to see these statistics.

It can be an advantage to have access to these statistics because it tells you what your followers are interested in. Your followers will most likely only click on links that interest them. So these statistics can help you cater for your followers/audience.

You can cater for your audience by linking to information you know they will find useful or you can engage them in conversation. It’s up to you how you want to attract followers and keep them interested. But one thing you should keep in mind is that “conversational messages have more potential to engage audiences” (2011).

I think I still have a way to go when it comes to engaging my audience. In my eyes Annabel Crabb and Mark Colvin are very good at engaging their audience and they are an inspiration for me. I want to become just as good as they are at engaging my audience.

It is important for a aspiring journalist to follow well-established journalists on Twitter and see how they use the medium. Julie Posetti found in her research that “professional journalists are using Twitter to enhance and augment traditional reporting practices. Many journalists…are now logged onto Twitter throughout their working day” (2009).

ABC radio producer Andrew Davies told Julie Posettie that he tries to start his day by looking at what people are saying and talking about on Twitter. He said, “I love to read all the fantastic links to interesting websites, ideas (and) news that people have sent out” (2009). This stresses the importance of linking.

As ABC’s Managing Director Mark Scott wrote, “one of the things Twitter is most useful for is linking. In fact, 25 per cent of all Tweets contain links” (2010).

Reporters Julie Posetti interviewed are using Twitter “to ‘broadcast’ links to content they or their news outlet have produced in an effort to build a new audience” (2009). I have also published links to my own work on Twitter to try and build my readership. But with only 90 followers this is not easy.

By building up followers on Twitter you are building your readership. You can get people to follow you by commenting on their tweets, message them directly or live report events that other people find interesting.

On the 23th of April I went to an ice hockey game between Canberra Knights and Newcastle North Stars. I decided to live tweet the game and after the game I had three more followers. This was an eye opening experience for me and showed me how easy it can be to build your audience.

Twitter has given us the opportunity to report on an event as it unfolds. Good examples of real time reporting are the Christchurch earthquake, the disaster in Japan and the death of Osama bin Laden. I read about all of these events on Twitter before I heard about them in the mainstream media.

So Twitter allows the public to break news, but how do you know that what you read on Twitter is true? Rory O’Conner has written about the dangers of social media and unfiltered information.

“This unparalleled information access, although empowering, is also disruptive and presents its own unique set of issues and challenges, both to journalists and to society as a whole.”

He says that the audience can’t know for sure what is true and what is false when they are dealing with “unfiltered” information. And in an environment as Twitter faulty information can spread very quickly (2009, p.4).

Journalist Harley Dennett told Julie Posetti that the public is less likely to trust news broken on Twitter than news delivered by traditional media outlets.

“Sometimes people don’t believe me when I reveal something on Twitter before the full story, with supporting quotes and documentation, comes out in print or online. It’s hard to prove something in 140 characters when there’s nothing to link.”

As Julie Posetti says journalists should “exercise caution” and do proper research before publishing something they have seen on Twitter. It is very easy to set up a fake Twitter account and start publishing tweets (2009).

Journalists are constantly under pressure to produce stories and publish information. Sometimes it can be hard to verify tweets. Here is a link to a guide with 6 easy ways to verify tweets.

As a journalist you have to find a balance between accuracy, speed and depth. In the Twittersphere speed seems to be the most important, which concerns me. I don’t want social media to lower the quality of journalism.

But in some instances speed is the most important criteria. If an event is unfolding speed is essential and Twitter is a great tool to get information out to the public. As Roy Peter Clark writes, tweets can give the public snapshots from an “unravelling narrative”.

He says that while newspapers have moved away from mini-narratives, Tweeters can be very creative with the way they deliver news.

“A live blog is a kind of serial narrative constructed in real time, and Facebook and Twitter often resemble the grammar and style of direct, observed reporting (2011).”

Although, Twitter is a great tool for real time reporting there are obvious pitfalls. One of which are addiction. Watch this  YouTube video as an example.

Another pitfall is the amount of information you get on Twitter. Although it’s a lot of good information out there, how can you find THE GOOD information among all the other useless information? My answer to this question is, start using lists. By dividing the accounts you follow into lists, you organize the information, and it’s much easier to navigate your Twitter account.

Although, Twitter has some downsides it’s a revolutionary journalism tool. It is an important tool in broadcast journalism. If you watch Q and A on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Mondays you know that they are broadcasting tweets from the public. This is one of the ways you can use Twitter as a broadcaster, to get instant viewer feedback.

In most cases instant viewer feedback is a good thing. But when a staff member at the TV channel who is airing the tweets has to make them up because of too few responses, it is not a good thing. Priscilla Jebaraj reported that this happened at the Indian channel IBN in December 2010.

So as a broadcaster it’s important to be honest with your audience and only use tweets generated by the viewers. If not, I don’t see the point in using instant viewer feedback. It’s supposed to be a way for the viewers to interact in real-time and get their say.

Nevertheless, I think for the most part broadcasters are honest and are using Twitter in a legitimate way. When used in the right way Twitter is a great journalism tool. It has already changed and are changing journalism practises. So get on board and try it out because Twitter is here to stay.

References:

Clark, RP 2011, How journalists are using Facebook, Twitter to write mini serial narratives, Poynter, viewed 13 May 2011.

Jebaraj, P 2010, Fake tweets aired on TV news show, The Hindu, viewed 14 May 2011.

O’Conner, R 2009, Word of Mouse: Credibility, Journalism and Emerging Social Media, Joan Shorenstein Centre on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, viewed 13 May 2011.

Posetti, J 2009, How Journalists Are Using Twitter in Australia, PBS Mediashift, viewed 12 May 2011.

Scott, M 2010, The Golden Age for Australian journalism, ABC The Drum, viewed 12 May 2011.

Studies find journalists use Twitter for broadcast 2011, Reportr, viewed 12 May 2011.


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Online News – Gender Bender Slideshow

As we started to edit audio and pictures for our slideshow it became obvious to us that our angle wasn’t very newsworthy. So we decided to make the slideshow about the event Gender Bender instead of Johnno Davis alias Pixie Darling.

After hours of editing we were all happy with the result and here it is.

Description: The University of Canberra hosted ‘Gender Bender’ with a red carpet entry and drag shows increasing student acceptance and diversity of different sexual orientations.

Slideshow Interview

Yesterday, 29 April 2011, Michael, Ella and I drove to a suburb in Canberra called Kambah to interview our slideshow talent.

Our talent is Johnno Davis alias Pixie Darling. Johnno explained to us that he is gay, not transsexual, and when he gets dressed up as Pixie Darling he is playing a role.

He told us that he first started performing as Pixie Darling a year ago. Jacqueline Hyde is Pixie Darling’s ‘drag mother’. A ‘drag mother’ is a person “who indoctrinates a young…drag queen in the ways of femininity”.

Johnno doesn’t do drag shows that often. He is a perfectionist so when he does drag show he wants them to be really good. The same goes for his stand-up comedy shows. Yeah, he does stand-up as well.

Johnno is also the karaoke host at the Irish Club in Weston on Friday nights. He is working in retail as well as being a real estate agent.

So Johnno is a busy young man but he seems to like it that way. He is a very outgoing and open person. He said he should have a TV show where he would convert people into liking gays, because he seems to be really good at that.

After our interview with Johnno we should have a lot of good audio and we good some good pictures as well. We also have the pictures of Pixie Darling at Gender Bender. So I expect that we should be able to put together an interesting slideshow.

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Online News – Twitter

Creator Rosaura Ochoa

I believe it’s important for aspiring journalists to have a Twitter account. But you can’t just have an account you need to know how to use Twitter. You need to engage with your followers and you have to decide what kind of profile you want to build.

Yeah, Twitter is a good place for building your brand as a journalist. However, you need to decide how much of your private life you want to share with your followers. Some journalists share more of their private life than others.

Journalists who share private things with their followers think this makes them more human, and it’s easier for their followers to connect with them. I believe this is true but I still think it’s a question of how much you should share.

Here is a funny YouTube video about Twitter.

Now I will look at a few journalist profiles on Twitter.

Starting with Mark Colvin’s profile, who calls himself Colvinius. Mark tweets a lot, and as well as tweeting himself he retweets quite a lot. He regularly engages in conversations with his followers. I feel his Twitter account is really professional and he doesn’t tweet much about his private life.

Next up is Annabel Crabb, who is annabelcrabb on Twitter. She engage with her followers in conversation and she use humour when tweeting. She also arranges meetings with sources of stories on Twitter as well as promoting her own work. She does this by telling her followers what she is working on and when the story is finished she tweet a link to it. I think this is a good way of doing it.

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Online News – Analysing slideshows

I don’t like this slideshow. The pictures aren’t good enough. There are a few good pictures in there but overall the pitures are bad.

He mixes colour and black & white pictures. That looks corny and it don’t work for me at all. Most of the time, it works best if you stick to either colour or black & white. As a rule, don’t mix the two.

The audio quality is also pretty bad. I can’t believe I actually watched the whole thing. I think that was only because I was looking for examples of bad slideshows.

To be honest, I don’t really have much positive feedback for this guy. Better luck next time, dude.

I like this slideshow. Most of the pictures match the audio. So although some of the pictures are pretty average, it don’t matter that much. She is telling a story about her family and the average picture quality just made it more real.

If I was her I would have replaced some of the pictures, especially, the once were you only see the back of people. Although this doesn’t face me too much I think it would be better if we saw their faces. Faces can tell you a lot.

Now, over to the audio. I think the audio was pretty average but then again this made it more real.

The length of the slideshow was good. Not too long. I think a slideshow should be around 3 minutes. If they are much longer than 3 minutes they have a tendency of getting a bit boring. So this is definitely something to think about when we are making our own slideshows.

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Sports Journalism – Reflection on making a TV story

I decided to make a profile piece on the Ice Dragons, a Canberra based dragon boating club. It was pretty easy to get in touch with the club and they were happy to talk to me.

The Australian Dragon Boat Championships were held in Canberra from March 30 to 3 April. I went along to talk to a few members of the club on April 1. They were all happy to talk to me so the interviews went well. I also got some great shots of them racing.

But when I got back to the University of Canberra I found that the shots from my interviews were not very good. It was too much head room on all of the shots, and they were all a bit dark. This was hard to see out in the field because of the sun on the screen. So this was the first downer.

Then I discovered that the format of my footage looked wrong when I imported it in to Final Cut Pro 6.0.5. This was the next downer. But shortly after I discovered that the format of my footage was right. Yay! What a relief!

I went along to the Championships again the next day (April 2) to talk to Ice Dragons’ Kel Watt. He was too busy to talk to me the day before, but I got him for 10 minutes this time.

Watt was a great talent. He knew a lot about the Ice Dragons and the sport. He is the president for the Canberra Dragon Boat Association and the Australian Dragon Boat Federation.

My biggest challenge on the second day was the piece to camera I had to do. I didn’t know what to say and it didn’t turn out as I wanted it to. My face was too dark in the shot. So this was the downer of the second day.

I went back to Lake Burley Griffin on Saturday, April 16, to do a few shots of an Ice Dragons training session. When I got there Ice Dragons President Andrew Churches told me it was a regatta on and he had forgot to tell me about it. Nevertheless, it worked out pretty good because I got some good shots of them warming up.

The scary thing this day was doing the piece to camera. I had to time it perfectly so the boats came into the shot in the background while I was talking. I think I did alright. Definitely not easy but it was good practice.

When I started editing my story I realised that I had filmed in different formats on the two separate occasions. This is not good. However, I think it worked out alright in the end, or I’m hoping so. I guess I will find this out at the peer review in our tutorial tomorrow.

It’s been a great experience to do this type of assignment but it takes a lot of work to make it great. I’m hoping for a good review tomorrow. Fingers crossed!!!

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Online News – Moderating Comments

Quite a few journalists coming straight out of University will find themselves in a job where they have to moderate comments for a media outlet. This is a very important job, although, it may not be what you have dreamt of during your years at University. Remember, you have to start somewhere.

Creator Gustavo Pimenta

Online media outlets have different rules and regulationg for what comments they allow on their websites. Some websites have a very spesified comment policy, like the Huffington Post.

The good thing with the Huffington Post comment policy is that it’s easy to find at the bottom of the page. This makes it easy for readers, who want to comment on a particular story, to find out what the website allows in terms of comments.

You can find the ABC comment policy under the link down the bottom of their website under ‘Conditions of use‘. Their comment policy is pretty strict.

But are they able to enforce their policy? If you look at comments under ‘The Drum‘ you can sometimes find comments that I think never should have been posted. This probably has to do with the restricted time The Drum crew can spend on comment moderation.

The Guardian has something called community standards where you find the guidelines for commenting. To be able to comment on the Guardian website you have to register.

In short the Guardian guidelines are:

– If you act with maturity and consideration for other users, you should have no problems.
Don’t be unpleasant. Demonstrate and share the intelligence, wisdom and humour we know you possess.
Take some responsibility for the quality of the conversations in which you’re participating. Help make this an intelligent place for discussion and it will be.

I like the Guardian’s guidelines because they are easy to follow and they are building a good comment community. You want your website to have a pleasant comment environment that can lead to good conversations.

How to moderate your own WordPress blog:

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