ABJ Reflections…

Introduction:

Over the past four months the journey of this ‘reporting refugees’ themed assessment has unfolded and had opened up a multitude of thinking points along the way. Points broken into two main areas – the ways in which stories are approached, particularly the sensitivity surrounding them, which is what this blog is about and the learning involved with creating a long from feature piece of journalism. In Grace’s and my case, TV long form journalism.

With our choice of storyline and telling the story of MLA Steve Doszpot, who came to Australia  as a refugee from Hungary half a lifetime ago, we managed to escape many of the issues other pairs would have confronted in their dealings with refugees, who’s scars from the atrocities they faced are still clear memories. In a way its the true test of sensitivity: reporting a minority, multicultural parties and dealing with physical and emotional instability.

The lack of sensitivity is shown in various ways through the article by McKay, Thomas and Blood: ‘Anyone of these boat people could be a terrorist for all we know’ Media representations and public perceptions of ‘boat people’ arrivals in Australia http://tinyurl.com/7tat3ld.  The article explores the incident of SIEV 36 a boat which exploded off Australia’s northwest coast – and where a substantial part of the subsequent media coverage blamed the asylum seekers themselves for the plight. It explores whether the media supports the policies of the previous Howard Government, whether or not the press promulgates opinions, contributing to the national opinion about refugees and whether journalists doing a service by abiding by ethical standards and self regulation.

Prior perspectives:

Prior to commencement of this project my relationships and dealings with refugees had been minimal. There have been very few occasions of note where I have actually met contemporary refugees and refugees coming from the Middle East, Asia or Africa. I believe there is a certain stigma or attached with the notion of being a contemporary refugee, particularly fueled by the current political debate surrounding the issue.

Often a lot of the media doesn’t help either, as explained by Hanson-Easey and Augoustinos in their article: Complaining about Humanitarian Refugees: The role of sympathy in the design of complaints on Talk-back Radio http://tinyurl.com/7zez4ro. They explain that as a duo the caller and the host orientate the opinion only from pre-concieved opinions about refugees. They argue that as social actors the protagonists have pre-formulated meditated meanings and construe their opinions for the rest of the listeners.

So certainly there is solid evidence that the media can manipulate points of view regarding refugees, which would affect the opinions of those who have had little or no contact with refugees prior.

The meaning of the word refugee has changed over time, not hindering the fact that refugees have been coming to Australia, probably since our first settlement and in varying frequencies since then. I’ve always held the view that refugees become so, only because they wish to build a better life for themselves. They escape unfavorable conditions, often persecution to build better lives and there isn’t anything wrong with that. Detention centres are only a smokescreen to the issue, only there to satisfy the conservative vote that something is being done. I believe as a nation we can increase our numbers, if they they want to work and live, let them in by all means. But build a life and work like everyone else. Integrate, learn English, have the right to earn a living. However, people coming to Australia as refugees from other places shouldn’t immediately be entitled to government assistance.

On Assignment for #reportingrefugees:

During the course of the project I have learnt that asylum seekers and refugees have essentially faced the same problems over time. Studying the story of Steve Doszpot who came to Australia in the 50s had a similar story to many of the ‘contemporary’ refugees who tell their stories today. I would guess that the stark difference would be that the Doszpot family were held in a camp overseas, while many of the recent refugees tell stories of being held in dention in Australia. It seemed that  the young Steve Doszpot was oblivious to the issues of what was going on around him at the time, however, he did understand the stress his parents were going through in trying to get themselves and and young children to a safer place.

I suppose something you do learn doing a project like this is that asylum seekers and refugees are simply people like you and I. They have stories, wants, needs and desires. Often you get detached from this notion, again, going back to the influence of the media in determining public opinion.

Malloch and Stanley in their article: The detention of Asylum seekers in he UK: Representing Risk, managing the dangerous http://tinyurl.com/6u34v6x explains that confusingly the policies that are directed at asylum seekers are created with the aim of satisfying a separate group of the population altogether. they explain theat the media continues to play a pivotal role; using terms like ‘illegals’, ‘undeserving’ and ‘risk’. Back to an Australian context, its strange to consider that a number of people coming here as refugees each year, barely enough to fill the MCG could be considered a ‘risk’ to society.

Honestly, this assignment hasn’t changed my opinions on refugees/asylum seekers at all. I believe we should take in more genuine refugees and they should be release in to the community immediately. Australia was built by immigrants. When you look at the population concentrations in other parts of the world, its obvious that any argument suggesting that population increases aren’t sustainable here is rubbish.

Lessons from the field:

When asking how the project helped in the teaching about how asylum seekers issues should be reported, again, in reporting the story of Steve Doszpot we were able to escape much of the rawness and direct sensitivity that needs to be shown when discussing these things and reporting them for what they are. Two points however. Firstly that a keen and empathetic ear is required. When hearing terrible stories about persecution and the rebuilding of lives, you have to remain completely human and neutral. It goes for all journalism, but particularly in these cases you can’t go in with any preconceived opinions. Secondly, to be aware that some people have terrible stories but aren’t willing to talk about them. Remaining sensitive is the key.

The article: Complicated Grief and Its Relationship to Mental Health and Well-Being Among Bosnian Refugees After Resettlement in the United States: Implications for Practice, Policy, and Research http://tinyurl.com/7673mt6 by Craig, Sossou, Schnak an Essex says sheds light on the issues refugees face and what journalists need to look out for before delving into the area. Issues including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression amongst a host of other conditions.

When I’m next assigned a story focusing on refugees, the important thing is to remember to be empathetic. To understand exactly what people have gone through and to respect their stories, before succumbing to view of the populist and negative media. Hodes’s piece on psychiatric disorders in refugees Three Key issues for Young Refugees Mental Health http://tinyurl.com/7673mt6 is an essential piece of reading for understanding the deeper issues surrounding a refugees mindset.

This assignment has been a journey of learning and how journalism is starting to change to report these issues properly, rather than subscribing to what much of the conservative population wants to hear. Its great that young journalist are able to study these issues in depth whilst still at university.

 

 

 

 

 

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OJ2 – Eighth Post – Will it work?

A niche has been identified. Throughout this process the theme has continued that the Goulburn area lacks quality local content in a number of areas: In political and governmental reporting, in community discussion and providing local content that doesn’t have to be further consolidated and reduced.

The answer is to give the community what they want, by helping the local community produce the content themselves. The website would require a moderator/editor and possibly some contributors who would be committed to producing content on a regular basis (to keep the wheels greased), but essentially this model could work on a shoestring budget.

The hyper-local model would attract new users to interact and offer content while attracting people to view what is posted. There is certainly room for a website to exist in the Goulburn market and advertising revenue could be readily found in the area.

The website would probably work best with a combination of hard news/topical debate and section dedicated to community events with more of a noticeboard type format. The key, however would be, to keep the users as involved in content creation, debate and management of the website as possible.

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OJ2 – Seventh Post – Timeline of a newsworthy topic

The topic for this post is locally produced media content. As explained and argued in previous posts, Goulburn is a place which would greatly benefit from more local and possibly user produced online content relating to the local community.

http://tinyurl.com/5u7w9gk  Kleiner Perkins Goes After Twitter-Like Startups in Content Push: This article talks about the successes of applications like twitter which manage to crowd source content.

http://tinyurl.com/3bnupwr ABC warned over in-house, regional content: This article discusses the need for the ABC to keep the resources it needs to produce good local content in regional areas.

http://tinyurl.com/3g5e845 For The Towns With No Newspaper, Online Upstarts Try Filling A Gap: This piece talks about an area in England, where online blogs are aiming to fill the space usually occupied by a local newspaper.

http://tinyurl.com/3tnahjz Jobs at risk with plans to cut local BBC broadcasts: Another article explaining the reality of consolidation of local news services.

http://tinyurl.com/3hpffsg Community Media Room opens its doors: This article explains how a local newspaper is involving the community in producing content.

http://tinyurl.com/44e57j2 THV My Town Post the Most Contest: An American “hyper-local” website offering prizes to people who post the most content.

http://tinyurl.com/3huuq58 AM calls for legal fight for Welsh content in local radio: A discussion on the debate to keep the welsh language on commercial welsh radio.

http://tinyurl.com/3r98pc3 Change content to reflect wants, needs of community: This article discusses the indicators which should signal a change in what the community expects in local content.

All of these articles discuss the use of local content, how it’s used and how it should and shouldn’t be, what forms it takes and who produces it. There is a lively debate taking place on the topic and in the Goulburn context, the production of local content is paramount. Each of these resources highlight the challenges confronting local content and the avenues being explored to bring it to prominence.


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OJ2 – Sixth Post – Research into community reporting

One piece of research relevant to the evolution of local community content could be the case study of the city of Seattle, in the State of the News Media report for the Pew Research Center’s project for Excellence in Journalism http://tinyurl.com/4f7p6tm

The report outlines how Seattle lost two of it’s major media contributors in two of it’s major newspapers and shows how opportunities have arisen through new journalistic enterprises and collaboration between traditional and emerging media. There is discussion about how the Seattle Times started forming alliances with several local blogging services, many of them are community news websites and the sharing of content has worked. Maybe there’s a message that the few media outlets in the Goulburn context should begin collaboration to strengthen their content output. A new community website could inject resources to aid the existing media. The case study goes on to suggest that media outlets share major stories and that the sharing of content is facilitated through social media.

Another piece of research which suggests that niche websites are the way of the future is contained in an article in the New York Time by David Carr, News Tends Tilts Towards niche sites. http://tinyurl.com/3w5xpj3

It explains how once upon a time people relied on the bigger websites and search engines to find their ‘news’. However, now days more and more media consumers are out there probing the smaller websites for the niche product they want to find out about. It suggests that many of the smaller websites have links to larger ones, if an effort not to neglect them totally.

It’s another piece of evidence which shows that at the Goulburn level a community based website could work, possibly including links to more national news. I think I’m getting the idea that a balance in content might be the key. Again there is evidence that keeping content totally in your area would work as well.

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OJ2 – Fifth Post – The most common forms of content

There are several reasons as to why there is a proliferation of local content in certain forms in the Goulburn region.

When it comes to the reporting of local government/political/council machinations – by a long shot the most common form of content appears in the newspaper form in the Goulburn Post. Most often there are reports about what happens at council meetings, what certain Councillors are advocating, council elated projects and community events involved with the council. There is a distinct lack of reporting into the deeper issues by all media contributors.

As to why the GP is the most common form of content – it’s because they are the only organisation with scare resources, consisting of a few staff/journalists dedicated to providing the content of local politics and government as well as community issues. Politics is probably their most valued and accessible round to report on.

However, in saying they are the most common content form, isn’t to say that the content is of a high quality or that the reporting scope is broad. This is probably brought about by the fact that even though there are staff dedicated to the cause – there aren’t enough to provide the quality or level, that could be produced by and for example, a local ABC outlet. It is a bitter reality that local and commercially run media outlets are forever being forced to consolidate and as a a result, content declines.

There is therefore an incredible opportunity for community journalism and online discussion to flourish. The truth is that there really isn’t much content out there at all and if it isn’t produced by the GP or 2GN it is produced by the government authorities themselves. There needs to be another player in the game. One which analyses and critiques the content being currently produced.

 

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OJ2 – Fourth Post – Who to follow?

When looking at local news and community discussion, back into the Goulburn context, there are really only a handful of people to follow online for content (which surely identifies an area to be filled).

With the traditional media the Goulburn Post and radio 2GN should be followed – not because they produce outstanding content, but because they produce some content. As a start, they are simple places to begin to find talking points for the community. They cover is varying degrees of detail what is happening in Goulburn. The GP has a twitter account which posts links to stories as well as an RSS feed from their website, which can be tailored to posting local governmental, political and community stories. It has to be remembered that access to full stories aren’t always available on the GP website, so to force consumers to purchase the hard copy.

Radio 2GN has a twitter account, but really only posts short snippets of local news. There are no links to detailed stories and the 2GN feed really only serves as an ‘alert’ for things that could be happening in the community.

It is worth following the ABC and their Local Radio RSS and twitter feeds. Canberra’s 666 and ABC Central West sometimes have links to stories pertaining to stories of interest for the Goulburn area. However, the content is usually reported first by the GP. Unless the content has a particular interest for the broader area, it usually isn’t covered by the ABC.

There are various other websites which rip content related to the area of interest, however, none which produce or source it’s own exclusive content.

Otherwise, for more community based content, the Goulburn information centre, community groups, associations, sporting teams and prominent members of the local community have an online presence on Twitter and Facebook.

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OJ2 – Third Post – Media Professionals and what they are saying about local news

When talking about the publication of local news – the sentiment that coverage is lacking is a common theme and there are media professionals out there who are, firstly, willing to write about the problem and secondly, do something about it by setting up their own services to fill the void.

American broadcast journalist – Judy Muller recently wrote a book on the topic of local news services in America and what they are doing right and wrong and what needs to be done to keep it viable.

Muller sheds light on the the concept of “hyper-local”news and how it can grow to take precedence over major local publications for example: weekly/bi weekly/tri weekly newspapers.

She suggests there are major problems with local media outlets. Many struggle to make ends meet and are often narrow in the spectrum of news they report. However, on the subject of news moving between mediums at the local level, Muller suggests that local publications receive smaller competition from online sources than metropolitan counterparts. However, she sees it as the role of “hyper-local”sources to enter this area and compete with local publications which dominate local media landscapes.

An example of a successful hyper-local service, could be neighborhood.com

It was set up in the United States by Anthony De Rosa and Richard Blakeley. De-Rosa was frustrated with the lack of local news content being reported in New York, so, in partnership with Blakeley, the two set up the website.

The website, which runs user based content now runs in many cities throughout the United States and has obviously become a successful business model. Although it reports more than local politics and government, the concept of community reporting is evident in the philosophy of this website. And it shows that it can work. Widening the scope of what could be reported, would probably be a wise decision in setting up a community website for Goulburn.

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