Doors closing, please stand clear

Here we are at the end of an amazing semester.

To be honest, I was nervous before starting KJB222 Online Journalism 1, but as the class progressed, I found myself enjoying every learning opportunity I faced.

Here’s our surprise last lecture adventure.

Pirates invaded our lecture hall!

Pirates invaded our lecture hall!

capture

And captured our lecturer!

And were also nice enough to pose for photos with me and some other students.

And were also nice enough to pose for photos with me and some other students.

Big thanks to the teaching team for their efforts this semester.

Crime Reporting and Social Media

small solving crime

Social media is a new investigative tool. Source.

Social media is rampant, no questions or doubts.

As journalists, we can either embrace this new tool and add it to our information gathering tools and reporting techniques, or give it the cold shoulder and miss out on all the opportunities and pathways available.

Don’t get me wrong, social media has its downfalls – everything does – but in this age of online news, social media is a rapidly growing giant.

Rachel Olding (@rachelolding), crime reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald, recently engaged online with students and answered questions about the role of social media in her profession.

The Good

Social media is definitely my friend rather than foe when it comes to crime reporting.

Rachel Olding

Rachel explains that social media has developed into an “amazing source” of finding stories and people who are relevant to your stories.

She says that social media, in a lot of ways, is just like hitting the phones or door knocking to gather information and conduct interviews.

Crowdsourcing1

Social media is a gateway to information. Source.

Sure, social media can be a gold mine for particular stories and information on crimes, but Rachel says they can also be a minefield.

The Bad

It can be a minefield because you don’t know what to trust and what not to trust.

Rachel Olding

Rachel explains that her rule of thumb is to actively fact check anything she finds on social media via another means, like contacting the person who posted the information, or verifying the information with police.

But tight story deadlines pose a major problem on this verification process. Rachel says that within the time constraints, the decision to use information sourced from social media comes down to your own personal judgement.

Further investigation can reveal the truth about certain information published on social media. Source.

Investigation can reveal the truth about information on social media. Source.

The Verdict

So, should you use social media for sourcing stories?

Short answer, yes.

Longer answer, yes but.

Yes, but make sure you try as much as possible within a deadline to verify the information before publishing it. This does not simply mean going online to a different source.

The best way to verify something is by talking to people, particularly the person or people who posted the information you are wanting to use.

Embedding videos in my Original Online Story

EDITED: So apparently my videos are working now… again, the magic of technology has left a trail of mystery.


Write and publish an original online story – this was an assessment piece for a journalism class I took this semester at uni. (Read my published story here.)

Of course, as it is an “online” story, we were required to use online story telling elements, like embedding video, tweets, and other graphics.

Fortunately, I found some good videos I wanted to use in my story.

Unfortunately, they were available through news sites and not YouTube, so I had to figure out a way of embedding non-YouTube videos in my blog post.

Some stressful hours later, I finally found a program that would extract videos from a website that was open in your browser.

Although I was able to download the videos, I am using a free Wordpress plan, which does not allow you to upload video files.

So… another problem arises: how do I make the downloaded videos accessible via a link so I can embed them into a blog post via a URL?

Facebook, of course. I uploaded the videos privately on my Facebook page and used those URLs to embed the videos into my blog post. I also captioned the videos, crediting and hyperlinking them to their original sources.

After I returned a few days later to proofread and fact check my story – also checking for any new developments before I published what could be old news – I noticed that the videos were gone from my story. The boxes were still there, along with the captions, but the videos were unavailable to view in the blog post.

I re-embedded them using the same URLs, and they were magically (okay, it has something to do with technology, but magic is close enough) there again.

Unfortunately this has something to do with them being embedded from a private Facebook upload, but I have no idea how to correct the issue. The links to the originals are still accessible, which is a relief, but it is disappointing that the videos don’t remain static, especially since I haven’t removed them from my Facebook page.

Uni deregulation takes a gap year: Turnball Government to shelve policy until 2017

In another back flip only weeks after the leadership coup, new Education Minister Simon Birmingham has confirmed that a Turnball Government will shelve its university deregulation policy for at least a year.

Senator Birmingham announced this delay at the World Academic Summit at the beginning of this month, saying he wants to eliminate uncertainty surrounding education funding.

“With only three months left in 2015, it is necessary to give both universities and students certainty about what the higher education funding arrangement for 2016 will be,” he said.

“Therefore, today I am announcing that higher education funding arrangements for 2016 will not be changed from currently legislated arrangements, while the Government consults further on reforms for the future.”

Delaying the policy certainly does not mean the end of the Liberal’s push for university autonomy, as Senator Birmingham has previously declared his support of former Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s work.

“I look forward to building on Christopher Pyne’s unstinting efforts to ensure Australia has the highest standards of education at all levels,” he said.

Senator Birmingham told Sky News he would back the policy even if he has to compromise.

“We will want to make sure that we can get real reform progress. If that means we have to compromise, that’s what we will do,” he said.

VIDEO: Govt open to compromise on education reform, Sky News

Opposition’s plans

Labor has opposed this policy from its conception, and this delay has changed nothing, with the Opposition now pushing for the reform to be “dumped for good”.

Labor has made their opposition to “$100,000 degrees” a corner stone of their election strategy, which Bill Shorten highlighted when he spoke at a recent press conference.

“On average over the next decade, a Shorten Labor Government will invest an additional $9,000 in each Australian students’ education, for a typical three-year degree,” he said.

VIDEO: Labor unveils higher education policy, ABC News 24

Labor also wants to maintain that students should not be able to buy their way into university.

What Liberal’s reform will mean for students

Untitled-1

Info from The Good Universities Guide. Created via infogr.am.

Deregulated university fees means public universities will be able to charge students an amount they deem appropriate, which means a potential for increased tuition, or Labor’s coined phrase, “$100,000 degrees”.

HELP loans will also be affected, with the threshold at which students begin repaying their debt to be lowered. This means students will have their debt repayments taken from their income earlier.

Interest on these loans will be tied to the government bond rate rather than to inflation, which means graduates could be paying up to six per cent interest annually.

The Prize Fighter is an amazing production

Talented young boxer, Isa, prepares for the biggest fight of his career. On the line is the national title and the promise of fame and riches beyond his wildest dreams.

What unfolds is a modern-day fable of a Congolese boy orphaned by war and forced to become a child soldier by the people who killed his family.

His powerful left hook offers a new life in Australia, but his greatest obstacle is not his opponent – it’s his past.

Wow. What a hook for a story. Sounds like a blockbuster movie, right?

Wrong.

The Prize Fighter is a gripping, immersive theatre production by Future D. Fidel brought to you by the La Boite Theatre Company and the Brisbane Festival.

From the moment you walk into the theatre, you walk into a gym. For 15 minutes before the show begins, you watch the cast in the middle of their training session, complete with a swinging boxing bag.

But this isn’t your ordinary underdog sporting story. The Prize Fighter is a winding tale of a man haunted by his past and the path the war forced him to walk along.

Travelling through memory and jumping from present to past and back again is not an easy feat in live theatre, but lighting designer David Walters nails the transitions.

Sarah Maunsell who works in the La Boite Theatre Company’s administration says that the time changes are easy to understand because of the lighting.

Bright, yellow lighting when they’re doing the boxing scenes, and then all of a sudden it switches to really light blue lighting, the sound drops, everything goes quiet, and that switches them back.

Sarah Maunsell

Heart-warming and heart-wrenching with lighter sections of comedic relief, this production will transport you to the turbulent water that is Isa (Steve The Killer) Alaki’s mind and leave you speechless, clinging to the edge of your seat.

P.S. Don’t forget the tissues.

 

“Prize Fighter Trailer”, La Boite Theatre Company

 

The Prize Fighter is showing until Saturday 26 September at QUT Kelvin Grove’s Roundhouse theatre. Book tickets here.

Note: The production contains haze effects, strobe lighting, violence, sexual references, and adult themes.

Statistical Misrepresentation in Journalism

Yesterday George Wright, the Solutions Lead for the Intelligent Systems team at Fairfax Media, took time out of his busy schedule to discuss data journalism with university students in an online forum.


Data journalism reflects the increased role that statistics are playing in online news, but presents a real problem of misrepresentation.

George Wright yesterday warned university journalism students about the dangers of using data in their stories.

The biggest danger in data journalism is misrepresenting the statistics in order to make a story angle more sensational.

Data should not be picked and chosen from to suit a certain story; rather, the story should rise from the data.

Tedious as it may be, journalists need to comb through data to find a story. Photo source.

Tedious as it may be, journalists need to comb through data to find a story. Photo source.

Mr Wright said that journalists should treat data as they would a witness by applying the same scrutiny.

Data should be treated as evidence and not fact – you will still have to verify the source [and] confirm the validity.

He pointed out, in his opinion, that a lack of statistical literacy is a glaring skill gap in modern journalism.

Even if you have the best access to the biggest, juiciest data sources it can still be misrepresented and interpreted as fact.

A journalist’s responsibility is to report news as it happens, and to inform people of breaking events and update them on developing stories.

However, journalists are often ridiculed as blood-sucking story leeches who care more about their careers than for people. Although this may be true of some – and it is these few who are ruining the media’s name – most journalists are honest people who care about their sources and about getting the facts right, and who operate under a code of ethics.

The Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) gives journalists some ethical guidelines, the first of which is as follows.

1.  Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts.  Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis.  Do your utmost  to give a fair opportunity for reply.

This relates directly to the accidental (or otherwise) misrepresentation of statistical data. Selecting data sets that support a predetermined story angle is not responsible journalism; combing through data sets and finding a story is responsible journalism.

The Australian is responsible of committing the former offense, as reported on the Refugee Council of Australia’s (RCOA) website.

On 8 August 2015, The Australian newspaper published an article which selectively misrepresented statistics analysed by the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) under the misleading headline, “Asylum seekers: Australia pulling its weight on refugees”.

The RCOA point out in their article that the author, Stefanie Balogh, did not contact the Council, but selectively misrepresented statistics presented in one of the RCOA’s papers, found here.

A graphical representation of the data used in The Australian's article, as shown on RCOA's website.

A graphical representation of the data used in The Australian’s article, as shown on RCOA’s website.

Understandably, the Council sought to rectify the situation and inform The Australian’s readers of the newspaper’s “blatant misrepresentation”, with the RCOA’s CEO drafting the following letter to the editor.

Dear Editor,

It’s disappointing that The Australian misrepresents the Refugee Council of Australia’s analysis of global refugee statistics. Few people outside of Australia would accept the assertion that our nation’s response to refugees was the most generous per capita in 2014 (The Australian 8 August, 2015 Australia pulling its weight on refugees).

To compare Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program, we need to look at both components of the program – the issuing of permanent protection visas to refugees recognised through the asylum process and the resettlement of refugees from other countries.

In the 2014 calendar year, UNHCR statistics show that Australia recognised 2,780 refugees through its asylum process and resettled 11,570 refugees from other countries, assisting 14,350 refugees in all.

Around the world, 3,262,960 people were recognised as refugees through asylum processes and 105,197 were resettled, a total of 3,368,157.

By this measure, Australia assisted 0.43% of the refugees recognised or resettled in 2014. It was ranked 22nd overall, 28th per capita and 46th relative to total GDP.

Lebanon’s recognition of 364,129 refugees was 120 times greater on a per capita basis than Australia’s total response.

Of the countries which typically grant permanent residency to recognised and resettled refugees, Sweden’s per capita response was 5.8 times greater than Australia’s, with 32,347 refugees recognised and 1,971 resettled.

No amount of selective use of statistics will hide the fact that the Australian Government cut its refugee program by one third in 2013 while the world’s displacement crisis was growing to its highest level in 70 years.

Paul Power
Chief Executive Officer
Refugee Council of Australia

Letter sourced from RCOA’s website.

A snapshot of some of the data Stefanie Balogh chose from. Screenshot from the RCOA's website.

A snapshot of some of the data Stefanie Balogh chose from. Screenshot from the RCOA’s website.

Publishing this letter would not only clear up the misrepresentation, but would also give fair opportunity for reply, as stated in the MEAA’s Code of Ethics (see above).

However, The Australian decided to published an edited version of the above letter, without first consluting the RCOA. The version that the newspaper published is as follows.

Around the world, 3,262,960 people were recognised as refugees through asylum processes and 105,197 were resettled, a total of 3,368,157.

By this measure, Australia assisted 0.43 per cent of the refugees recognised or resettled in 2014. It was ranked 22nd overall, 28th per capita and 46th relative to total GDP.

Paul Power, CEO, Refugee Council of Australia, Surry Hills, NSW

Letter sourced from RCOA’s website.

On comparing the two, the newspaper’s censorship and refusal to offer fair opportunity for reply is obvious. Not only does the published letter suggest that RCOA’s CEO agreed with the article, but it does not, as the Council states, “make clear in the public mind the misrepresentation that has been made”.

As a journalism student, I am learning that journalists have many responsibilities. One responsibility is to tell the news how it is, not warping it to fit agendas. Data should dictate the story, the story should not dictate what data is used.

Another lesson is to always report fairly and honestly, because someone will always call bullshit.

Not-so-live blog of today’s Online Journalism lecture

Today in my Online Journalism tutorial we did a practice exercise to get our heads around the concept of live blogging for our in-class assessment next week.

Live blogging is pretty much monitoring something as it happens, picking out the good bits, and publishing them online.

Here’s my not-so-live blog about this morning’s lecture from one of the subject’s tutors, Graham.

So… how to make money when “journalism is a dying industry”?

Apparently it isn’t, according to Graham. While journalism may be facing some restructuring, the industry is definitely not dying.

Online media is changing the industry, not killing it. And even though it is true that jobs are disappearing in “legacy media”, more jobs are being created in new media.

Journalism will never die as long as there is an interest in news.

Online platforms are forcing journalists to innovate or die to keep up with news readers’ demands. Graham says that social media is now the most common way readers receive breaking news.

While social media is driving traffic to news sites, it is also creating a revenue problem. Readers come to a story from Facebook, read the story, then go straight back to Facebook.

One-page views don’t generate income. Graham says there are old-school money-making methods including ad-supported websites and subscriptions.

But how do you get people to pay for something when they can get it for free elsewhere?

One of the number one news values we learn at university is interest: is the story interesting? Apparently people will pay to read what you write if you’re interesting enough. Who knew?

Which brings me to the next point: new-school money-making methods.

Blogging.

We had a lecture earlier in the semester by Nikki Parkinson of Styling You who told us that you must blog persistently and consistently to build a loyal following.

The same rings true for making money from your online journalism blog. However, there is something else you must consider.

Another news value. Credibility. These keep cropping up in journalism… maybe we learn about them because they really are important.

Interest and credibility are two key things to making money from online journalism. People won’t read you if you’re boring, and they won’t believe you if you’re untrustworthy.

Boring + untrustworthy = $0

But is blogging a viable way of earning a living?

Yes. Over half of bloggers earn less than $100. A MONTH. LESS THAN $100 A MONTH.

Graham suggests that using a blog as a platform for showcasing work may be a better option than relying on it to make you money.

So… this all sounds kind of daunting. Journalism has never been an easy job, and journalism will never be an easy job. Journalists do what they do because they love what they do, and there is money out there… somewhere. We just have to look hard. Way hard.