My Experience with Wikinews

Wikinews Reflection

My interactions with Wikinews have been largely positive. The stringent policies enforced there, as to what is ‘newsworthy’ and therefore publishable, is what makes the collaborative news site so successful. Going to this website guarantees the viewer the most unbiased and accurate take on the news as possible, as the articles are pushed through a harsh peer-review process.

The articles are kept fresh and relevant by requiring the author to include credible news sources that are usually no older than 2-3 days old. Wikinews also provides a style guide so that writers are informed as to the guidelines to have an article published successfully. This style guide incorporates all the principles of an ethical and fair newsroom in terms of honest and unbiased reporting. Indeed, the style guide also demands the writer’s tone to be “clear, concise and unambiguous” when they put together their article. Using active voice is also very important to push the notion that the news being conveyed is of an urgent nature and that the reader feels more inclined to read it immediately. Using an inverted pyramid style assists the writer to construct their articles in this way.

Using this peer-review system allows work to be of a publishable standard and fact-checked. By collaborating between students we were able to pair up a writer and editor to work on one story in the hope of pushing one through the peer-review process.

The typical process of guiding a story through Wikinews is different for both the editor and writer. Usually the writer finds a story of interest to Wikinews and then convenes with the editor to assure its newsworthiness, and to begin writing the article. In JOUR311, we have found that stories to do with sport or political injustice as well as stories that don’t see a lot of coverage in the mainstream media are stories that are more likely to get published on the Wikinews site. Story ideas that were less likely to get included stories that were not necessarily newsworthy or in some cases were seen to be advertising. For example – articles on gaming tend to usually focus on promoting hardware and new games or systems and this can be newsworthy to gamers but can come across as advertising to others. Indeed a lot of gaming journalism does tend to be mixed in with advertising, but that is an entirely different debate…

Researching the article is key. Wikinews stories are usually about 300 words in length, so only contain the most important facts. This is especially relevant in today’s connected world as people are linked online through social media applications and deal with everyday processes online. Being in such a connected age, people are able to whip up a news story on their smartphone and have a plethora of news information available at their fingertips. Being able to convey important information quickly is essential to get your message across to the reader and keep them coming back for your reliable information. By thoroughly researching the article you can pick out the most relevant two sources (or even more) to include with the article which is a requirement.

Writing the story is only the first part.

Once the writer has gone over and reviewed their own article, the article is pushed through to publish and entered onto the Newsroom for other editors to go through and edit. While our class usually had a dedicated editor for each story posted to the site, any editor can come along to change and edit the story through for the goal of pushing it through to the front page, or at least published to Wikinews. This replicates the collaborative effort of a real-life cooperative per-reviewed newsroom.  The idea behind working together on the editing of a story is so that we can publish the best story as possible.

The next step is waiting for peer-reviewers to pick up your pieces and go through them. This can be frustrating as (mentioned before) to wait for, but cannot be helped, as the qualified editors have a massive load of work cut out for them with our inundation of articles throughout the semester. The editors go through and pick out any inaccuracies involving grammar and all things related to their style guide to make sure it has the unbiased tone that Wikinews aims to project. This process is stringently adhered to and ensures that every reporter is met with the same reviewing standards]and article is assessed as fairly as possible.

Once the articles have gone through the peer-review system it can go either of two ways. They do some minor or major edits to bring the article up to their standards and then go ahead publishing it (sometimes even featured on the front page!). Otherwise your article can be knocked back and a multitude of errors or guideline violations are listed in order for both the writer and the editor to change, edit and try to publish the article again.

A problem that I have faced with editing articles is that I do not want to be too harsh. An important part of an article is maintaining the writer’s voice and perspective, so when the article needs deletions and major edits it feels as if you are diminishing the reader’s voice.

The whole point of the subject is to demonstrate the need for collegiality and communication through all aspects of news-reporting. Being on a writing and editing team all the way through gives articles a larger depth of knowledge and perspective, rather than if it was just constructed by one journalist.  Different people have different life experiences that affect how they view the world, and it is important to remember that this informs each person of the type of news they choose to view and construct. It is very important that we do not let important stories fall out of perspective.

 

Editing Report

Editing the articles was a very important aspect of being able to get stories published. Having two sets of eyes is better than one, and this was certainly the case for this subject. While I never managed to get an edited article over the line, I have realised just how much time and effort goes in to making sure an article is ready to be published.

Fact-checking, newsworthiness, grammar & punctuation, coherence and plagiarism are just a few of the factors that must be considered when editing an article. Using Google I found was the easiest way to make sure that any facts the article was claiming (outside of the linked articles) were true. If a statement is made that seems a little out of context, a simple Google search will often save a lot of time rather than trying to scour through related articles to verify the accuracy of what is being said.

Reading the related articles first before reading the Wikinews article was a method I used in order to make sure I understood the content sufficiently. Understanding the content allowed me to edit from a more informed perspective and easily spot out any discrepancies with what the Wiki article was saying vs. the source articles. This also made it easier to spot out any evidence of plagiarism, though fortunately there was none that I encountered.

My first instance of editing was when I helped Brendon to create his article “Australian Government proposes amendments to Racial Discrimination Act”. Obviously this topic was very controversial at the time and while it had received ample coverage through Australian media outlets, it was an issue that was fantastic to broadcast on Wikinews. I proofread the article for Brendon before he published it on Wikinews and read through for cohesiveness and general grammar and plagiarism edits. His writing was of very high quality though, so the was barely anything that needed to be changed. I assisted by suggesting another article to synthesise two sources, however he was already on top of everything. By the time he had submitted the article for review it was of such a standard that it did not need to be knocked back for the peer-review stage and only required minor edits to be published.

This exposed me to what calibre of work was considered to be of a publishable standard. Communication between reporters and editors also plays an important part in keeping on top of the article, being ready to quickly push out revised editions within the newsworthy time frame. This is reflective of real world practices in a modern newsroom.

The second article that I edited involved an article by Lochlan entitled “New study links video game aggression to feelings of violence”

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Initially I went through the article and did the standard checks to make sure everything was in order. As this is a subject I am interested in, I could see that Lochlan had eliminated bias from the article and was just reporting on the facts – something that parties on both sides of the debate have trouble with while reporting in the mainstream media. I believed this was a very important factor  to consider when posting a Wikiarticle involving this long-standing debate. I thought Lochlan’s message in the article was clear and required no further editing, so I submitted it for review.

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Unfortunately the article did not get published. I thought it was a valuable contribution to the violence in videogames debate.

The next article that I contributed editing services to was another of Lochlan’s articles named “FBI agent arrested in Pakistan.

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I thought this article was interesting and it wasn’t something that I had heard of in the mainstream news. I did not even pick it up from /r/worldnews on reddit! So Lachlan had sent over some of his draft work which I went through, changing sentences here and there for structural purposes, though I did not want to diminish the voice of his article. Once I felt that the article had been sufficiently edited, I hit publish to submit the article for review.

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I watched this article over the rest of the week and right up until the beginning again, anxiously waiting for the article to either get published or pushed back. I wanted to check it regularly so that I could jump on the article if it did get rejected initially so that we would still be within the newsworthy timeframe for the article to be published. Unfortunately, I feel the reviewers may have had a backlog in articles or other commitments that meant Lochlan’s article fell just outside the guidelines for timeliness. We ended up reworking the article the next week in class, with Lochlan adding and changing a lot of the article to give it a fresh angle. However, the article had been rejected again causing the article to eventually be abandonded due to no new developments to add to the story.

I conducted a brief edit of the story that covered the Turkish Mine disaster. I had thought this article was pretty solid for publication, so only did basic checks of the article, including fact-checks.

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The main contribution I provided was rearranging and editing the article for style purposes to appear more neutral, however it did not get published through the Wiki-review process.

The next edit came much later with my attempt to revive a dead article that I thought was interesting – “A new dimension in 3D printing materials”

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I found the  topic matter to be interesting, though not necessarily newsworthy. I did try to find news sources to add that may revive the page, however there was nothing around at the time. Instead, I edited the article for basic grammar and structure as well as trying to tidy up some of the links in the article.

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The final edit was conducted on one of Justin’s articles – China court jails three anti-corruption activists.

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Justin is obviously an experienced reviewer and story publisher. Having working on articles with him before and discussing potential ideas for my own stories to be published, he knows what the Wikinews reviewers expect. There was not much in-depth editing to conduct, though I proofread and fact-checked the article as well as searching the internet to see if there were any other articles to contribute to his point of view.

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The article is currently sitting on the site awaiting peer review.

UPDATE: As of 21/06/2014 Justin’s article has been published

http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/China_court_jails_three_anti-corruption_activists

 

Attempted stories

The stories that I attempted to get published all got pushed through the review stage and then published onto the front page. My user name was originally HyruleUOW, though I forgot the password and created a secondary account HyruleUOW1

–          Guantanamo Inmate challenges force-feeding practices by suing U.S. President

–          Student Protestors take over Q&A

–          Abbott open to possible Australian assistance in Iraq

–          Annual Japanese whaling campaign kills 30 minke whales

–          Michael Schumacher wakes up from coma

–          Japan bans possession of child pornography

I believe all of these articles were covering a void in popular media that was not present at the time of publication or provide an alternative view. Using Wikinews has taught me to think on a different line to whatever is happening in mainstream publication. It has validated the belief I hold that reporting should be conducted fairly and honestly. In particular with gaming journalism (a field I am trying to break in to), it is important to make sure that any feature or product that you do cover cannot come off as blatant advertising. Having an impartial view is incredibly important and a journalist cannot let outside influences (whether it be monetary or a new Xbox One) sway your responsibility to readers that you must report with the utmost integrity. By having journalism students take classes like Wikinews and having these values embedded into their education programs protects them from ethical and legal considerations that they may encounter further in their working life.

The ability to use social media and news aggregators to view what is trending is an important aspect of writing newsworthy stories. If publishing online, which seems to be the norm in today’s news media, you have to be able to write stories that people will want to click on to and then read the whole way through. Having colleagues with a divergent set of experiences benefit the overall diversity of the newsroom – being able to cover a wider range of stories, which is what you want.

All in all, I feel that I gained invaluable knowledge from this subject that I haven’t found replicated in another at university as of yet. Being able to go outside the bounds of what feels like an entirely sheltered existence at university, is what really made the experience worthwhile. Using colleagues as your editors and then having the various Wiki-reviewers as you Editors-In-Chief, simulating a real-world example of a newsroom was effective. It replicates the way in which we cross physical divides by digital means.

Game Reviewers hushed.

In a recent controversy between popular Game Reviewer TotalBiscuit and game developer Wild Games Studio, many have become aware of how game critics can be silenced under the guise of copyright protection.

In this incident, TotalBiscuit gave a review of the game “Day One Garry’s Incident” from Wild Games Studio, in which he gave a less than favourable analysis. The developer reacted (apparently weeks after the video was released and had the highest rank & views) to go through YouTube‘s copyright claims system. The studio had the video taken down immediately for using footage of the game in the review.

TotalBiscuit responded with this video, which explains the whole situation.

The reason this is so scandalous involves issues of free speech and internet censorship laws. If if is that easy to take down a critical review of a game, how are we as consumers meant to trust the available reviews? How are we to know how a game actually plays well if there is an easy way to take down reviews at a moments notice?

The internet is large enough for all type of opinion and regardless of whether you do or do not have a fantastic game, there will always be room for a negative review. Even The Last of Us has a undesirable review.

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Having a legitimate review of a game aids the consumer in making an informed decision when deciding whether or not to purchase a game. YouTube has allowed the nature of game review to transform phenomenally within the past couple of years. Instead of just relying on scripted review with minimal amounts of game-play or written review of the game, users can see how the game actually performs.

The amount of game reviewers on YouTube allows for a wider variety of views to be broadcast. The interactivity in the comments section can allow for user participation and commentary (after you scroll through trolls and bots) both of the review and of the game itself.

TotalBiscuit’s video explains the process he uses to obtain permission, allowing game footage to feature in his reviews. Judge for yourself, but I think it is pretty solid. From the video, you can see he is largely concerned with making sure reviewers (both big and small) have a voice in a system that he feels is threatening free speech and consumer rights.

YOUTUBE GAME

photo by L.Hockenson, Mashable.

With game review channels on YouTube becoming a growing source for recommendation and entertainment, we need to make sure they aren’t afraid to post videos that may be critical of a game. If a channel on YouTube receives three claims of copyright infringement, their channel and videos get taken down which can destroy a reviewers means of living.

Three strikes and you’re out.

This issue is one that should be explored and brought to light, We need to let these reviewers have a voice.

The impact of Twitter on Journalism

The ‘Twitterization’ of journalism has occurred on a rapid scale, to become more than just a platform for social exchange  The use of Twitter for journalism has proved to be advantageous as well as essential to many aspects of news reporting, and has branched out on a professional level to be utilised by major news corporations. For example, The Guardian Australia regularly tweets news and current events as they happen, linking back to their own content in order to promote it.

The importance of unifying the distinctions between citizens and journalists is shown, highlighting the ease at which the two can communicate using Twitter as a medium. This opposes the division between journalists and citizens in the past where top-down forms of traditional journalism were the main source of news media. Now, the transformation of modern journalism shows the development and use of the audience through their engagement with journalists. The main focus of the case study and essay is on the relationship between the Journalist and the audience. How and what they communicate with each other is relevant in the study of how Twitter is changing the way professional journalism is conducted.

Methodology

Using a case study to analyse this relationship in detail, various details such as; the breaking news cycle, Journalists’ audience engagement, the convergence of journalists’ private and professional lives and the standards, processes and practices of verification, were considered while assessing the tweets.

The journalists’ Twitter feed that I decided to analyse was that of Julia Holman. Holman is a political reporter for the radio station: Triple J’s news information program: Hack. Being exposed to her tweeting before commencing this assignment provided an understanding of how she controlled her Twitter feed. Her tweeting habits in general are informative and newsworthy as well as being social and participatory. In general the frequency of tweeting seemed to be fairly regular while keeping up with current social, popular and political affairs.

For her case analysis, I followed and compiled her tweets over a full week from the 19th September to the 25th September. At this point in time, the Australian general public was coming off the tail end of a controversial and highly publicised federal election campaign, in which Tony Abbott was named the Prime Minister. The public headspace was focused on the Liberal Party and their policies, so being a political reporter, Holman’s tweets involved related topics. The total amount of tweets came to 47, demonstrating that she is fairly consistent when maintaining her Twitter feed. Maintaining a constant Twitter feed is essential to keep followers engaged with what a journalist is reporting and to build a reliable and positive reputation.

For the case analysis, I organised the information into a table with different headings for the purposes of grouping information about Holman’s tweeting habits. The tweets were organised by date in chronological order, starting with the earlier tweets while progressing to more recent tweets. The hyperlinks were put down in rows for each individual tweet as they occurred allowing for a separation and analysis of tweets on an individual scale.

Tweets were assessed on a variety of factors in order to build up a profile of what these tweeting habits say about Holman as a professional journalist as well as the practices of professional journalists on a broader scale. The instance of original posts, replies and re-tweets were also differentiated from one another in order to gauge different values and engagement. The amount of interaction between Holman and followers was assessed to determine how effective her practices of audience engagement were.

The use of tweets for personal or professional information sharing was identified by indicating whether the tweets involved instances of newsworthy current affairs, promoted material related to the hack program, and the change in tone and writing style between the personal and private tweets. Assessing the tweets in this way is important as it demonstrates how journalists can effectively and appropriately utilise their Twitter feeds on a larger scale as the merging of public and private lifestyle is increasing.

Literature Review

Ahmad, A 2010, ‘Is Twitter a useful tool for Journalists?’, Journal of Media Practice, vol. 11, no. 2, pp.145 – 155

The assessment of Twitter as a tool for journalists is approached in a critical and detailed investigation through Ahmad’s data analysis. Personal experiences while reporting for the Manchester Evening News and the Guardian offices provide a decent source of reporting practices at these particular organisations, which is appropriate as the Guardian newspaper is the focus of the data analysis. As this essay focuses on the impacts of Twitter on Journalism, using Ahmed’s analysis of how it is used is important. It reveals the level of Twitter integration in a professional workplace setting and how it’s transcending the definition of ‘social-media’ to include patterns of communicating news stories professionally to an audience. The article is valuable, though analysis of some alternative organisations may have been useful to determine how the use of Twitter differs from lesser-known publications.

Cochrane, T, Sissons, H & Mulrennan D 2012, ‘Journalism 2.0: Exploring the Impact of Mobile and Social Media on Journalism Education’, in IADIS International Conference Mobile Learning 2012, AUT University, New Zealand,  11 March 2012, viewed 2nd October 2013, <http://www.researchgate.net/publication/235633425_Journalism_2.0_Exploring_the_impact_of_Mobile_and_Social_Media_on_Journalism_Education/file/72e7e5156538580cb0.pdf&gt;

This conference paper discusses how social media and web 2.0 have impacted upon Journalism education in particular. The methods used to investigate this involve surveying, discussion and analysis of Journalism education practices and content.  This paper was also compiled in response to the opinion that Web 2.0 and social media is having a negative impact on journalistic practices and undermining journalistic integrity. The investigation into how Twitter is used professionally is identified as a subject of study within younger students’ approaches to studying journalism. Embracing Twitter as a tool is important to progress in the field of Journalism, so educating students is also imperative to advance professionally. Using this conference paper as background information lends insight into how future Journalists will be trained to embrace Twitter – teaching how to engage the audience, report news frequently and balance between personal and professional information sharing.

Hermida, A 2010, ‘Twittering the News: The emergence of ambient journalism’, Journalism Practice, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 297 – 308

In this article, Hermida introduces the idea of Ambient Journalism which can be interpreted as the constant connection and communication that occurs in journalism practices today. The access to social media on Twitter has spread, so that there is a large audience that is constantly online, requiring news organisations to become a constant source of news information. This article is useful in determining the future of Twitter as a tool for as well as the future of journalism. Recognising how fast information is consumed through Twitter exposes the need for caution when receiving news. The importance of fact-checking and verification is an issue that is rooted in many online social media platforms. Using Twitter as a journalistic tool requires appropriate fact checking to convey accurate information as there is potential for wrong information to spread.

Lasorsa, D, Lewis, S & Holton, A 2011, ‘Normalizing Twitter’, Journalism Studies, vol. 13, no.1, pp. 19 – 36

In this article, Lasorsa, Lewis and Holton explore the challenges mainstream media journalists face through the transfer to Twitter as a professional tool for journalists. Content analysis of popular journalist’s Twitter feeds are used to determine how journalists use their feed and what this says about how journalism practices are changing. The findings reveal a difference between journalists who work for major as well as minor news organisations in how they interact with other users and how personal and private lives are shared. Journalists from major news organisations were seen to adopt a traditional division strategy towards user interaction, whereas others embraced it. This article is useful to demonstrate the trends of journalists on a macro level and how the whole industry is changing in terms of user content, participation and transparency while providing an insight into the direction it will be heading. This will make up a useful source of information regarding Twitter trends relating to journalists.

Murthy, D 2011, ‘Twitter: Microphone for the masses?’, Media, Culture & Society, vol. 33, no. 5, pp. 779 – 789

Examining the role of citizen journalists using Twitter is also important as it can help to understand the relationship between their reporting and professional journalist’s reports. In this article, Murthy highlights the value of citizen journalists’ utilisation of Twitter as a form of breaking news using relevant examples. For breaking news in particular, citizen journalists are deemed to be incredibly useful as news organisations are restricted by spatial and logistical strategies as to where to place their correspondents in time to report on breaking news. Citizen journalists using Twitter has impacted on the practice of journalism, causing news organisations to obtain breaking news and images from the point of interest. This is crucial to understanding the benefits Twitter has regarding the breaking news cycle and how this involves people.

Discussion

Holman engages her audience effectively by posting regular updates. The tone of the tweets is a mix of professional and casual and by mixing the two together, allowing her to come off as approachable with a consistent source of information. This seems to work with her target audience as she participates frequently in discussion on Twitter.

One example of this occurred during the week of observing her Twitter feed. Holman initially tweeted: “The boats haven’t stopped yet, although the press releases have. It means my inbox doesn’t fill up so quickly – small victory?” (Holman, 2013) A user, seeing this, replied to the tweet and started a conversation with the potential for story leads, with Holman again replying to that tweet to share what sources they had approached.

holman - interaction

This demonstrates how the breaking down of barriers between journalists and their audience is having a positive effect on news reporting and information gathering. Workplaces are now encouraging journalists to fully utilise the social aspect of Twitter. Ahmad reveals this through his personal experience at the Guardian office with the opinion being that, “individual journalists are encouraged to disseminate, interact with users and generally enhance their online presence through their individual Twitter accounts which, unlike blogs, are not subject to any form of editorial control.”(Ahmad, 2010 p.151)

Twitter in particular is a unique platform for the reporting of breaking-news, taking the form of ‘live-tweeting’. The 140-character limit allows for the essential information to be communicated almost instantly with the option for follow up information to be included in the form of hyperlinks and attached photos. This proves to be an engaging way to deliver news and fits in with the fast-paced nature of Twitter.

Analysis of Holman’s tweets surrounding links in posts showed only 10 of her posts for the week had links to other content. This was balanced out by the information she presented that was promoting the Hack program in terms of newsworthiness. It still engaged audience via participation.

Participatory journalism is useful in breaking-news scenarios and is fostered on Twitter through re-tweeting, though Murthy states, “it does not displace the usefulness of traditional news media and length-unrestricted blogs in the realm of new media to cover in-depth or longer-running issues and matters.” (Murthy, 2011 p.784)

Lasorsa, Lewis & Holton recognise the ease through which information can be disseminated via Twitter. They argue that Twitter “presents, to an even greater degree, the possibility for changes to journalistic norms*i.e., for journalists to be more open with opinions, more liberal in sharing their gatekeeping role, and more thorough in being transparent about the news process.” (Lasora, Lewis & Holton, 2011 pg. 24) This shows that Twitter attempts to create a vast amount of transparent news stories and is useful to maintain accuracy within news reporting.

In one instance over the course of following Holman’s tweets, an situation occurred in which a source on the Triple J Hack program that day, was billed with the wrong title for his position in the National Union of Students (NUS). An individual called the program out on the mistake and Holman was able to discuss the error to them directly. Soon after, Holman tweeted “@NUS_President @jimmysearle @EvanMulholland my apologies to all, I thought General Secretary = head of branch. My mistake.” (Holman, 2013) This was able to be done quickly and efficiently because of the responsiveness of the users.

holman - correction

The potential for fraudulent tweets to go viral is also an important factor when using Twitter for journalism. Fact-checking and verification is important which is why teaching new students of journalism the importance of verification and how to operate these social media platforms is necessary.

Hermida analyses the BBC’s reporting of the 2008 Mumbai bombings that included a variety of verified and unverified tweets in the breaking news coverage. BBC justified this due to time constraints and volumes of information. This results in journalists adopting “an interpretive standpoint concerning the utility of a tweet around a news event or topic, making a choice as to what to exclude or include.” (Hermida, 2010 p.300)

Conclusion

The use of Twitter as a tool for Journalism is ultimately beneficial. If used correctly, Twitter has the potential to promote news stories to a large online audience. Utilising Twitter for journalism has transformed the way we receive and broadcast news allowing users to stay up to date with breaking news information. Breaking news stories have the potential to bring together professional and citizen journalists in order to communicate information to the audience, causing major news organisations to recognise its importance.

Conducting a content analysis and focusing on a particular journalist has enabled the identification of trends that may be discussed in a wider context to comment on how journalism is changing. Generally, Holman was keeping up with current trends and news stories while at the same time cultivating a productive space that merged both public and private aspects of her life.
With the shift to online reporting, the process of fact-checking has become more important than ever as the ability to produce false information is easy. The capacity to make any information go viral on Twitter is excessive, so purporting the correct information is important.
Professional Journalists and Journalism have been transformed by Twitter. The rapid dissemination of information is creating an involved, switched-on audience which is beneficial to the journalism industry as well as throughout society.

 

References

Ahmad, A 2010, ‘Is Twitter a useful tool for Journalists?’, Journal of Media Practice, vol. 11, no. 2, pp.145 – 155

Hermida, A 2010, ‘Twittering the News: The emergence of ambient journalism’, Journalism Practice, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 297 – 308

Holman, J 2013, ‘The boats haven’t stopped…’, @JulesHolman, Twitter, 23 September, viewed: 23 September 2013, < https://Twitter.com/JulesHolman/status/382048335726530560&gt;

Holman, J 2013, ‘@NUS_President…’, @JulesHolman, Twitter, 25 September, viewed: 25 September 2013, < https://Twitter.com/JulesHolman/status/382787826070216704&gt;

Lasorsa, D, Lewis, S & Holton, A 2011, ‘Normalizing Twitter’, Journalism Studies, vol. 13, no.1, pp. 19 – 36

Murthy, D 2011, ‘Twitter: Microphone for the masses?’, Media, Culture & Society, vol. 33, no. 5, pp. 779 – 789

Bullying on the Bus

Planning out this assessment for my Convergent Digital Journalism class proved to be a very interesting experience. Rather than just a ‘sit-down-and-write-everything-you-know’ assessment, this task gave you the chance to go out and ask questions using audio equipment. I felt I was able to bring a story to life with more than just words. This allowed me to follow a genuine curiosity about the subject I decided to focus in on.

Initially I approached a co-worker, Kanchanie, who I only knew as a friendly acquaintance. I thought back to a couple of months ago where she had randomly blurted out a stream of information concerning her parents expectations. She explained how she felt her parents were pushing her into a career-path that they deemed successful. I thought this was sure to provoke an emotional response… of anger.

I went to conduct the interview with her after school and we walked down to a park that was nearby. I whipped out my audio kit, pre-checked and ready to record, and I began to test the levels. This seemed alright at the time so I confirmed the distance I would need to get a clear and audible recording.

We began the conversation, first with a couple of casual questions like ‘what you had for breakfast’ to loosen us both up before starting the real interview.

Then I pressed the record button.

It was as if everybody was waiting in the wings for their cues to perform on stage. The acts featured: van doors slamming, Tradies’ swearing, long coal trains slugging past, planes flying overhead and a steady procession of 4WD’s racing each other to pick up their kids from school.

We thought we could power through it, but the quality suffered. If I could do it again, I would definitely go indoors.

I listened back to the audio when I arrived home and listened to the parts that weren’t being led by our unwelcome ‘guests’. Our voices turned out to be more ‘matter-of-fact’ than emotive and I skipped over my nasally voice to listen to hers.

How did it turn out to sound so dull? At the time, I felt as if I had shared in her life experience. She revealed many personal stories about her life and family.

I realised that I had relied on visual cues in her body language while I was doing the interview. When she would look away, cross her arms or smile my brain was subconsciously satisfied by the response I was getting. Her mannerisms were telling my brain to move on through the questions without getting the vocal response I needed.

Realising my mistake, I sat down and thought harder about how I wanted the interview to sound. I chucked-out my previous idea and followed an idea that I felt would be able to meet my requirements for the purposes of this assignment.

Focusing on a story that would guarantee an emotional vocal response, I remembered a time that my family had experienced hardship. The story revolved around my youngest sister Vanessa’s experience with bullying. I pulled her aside and asked if she wanted to talk about it, while explaining why I would be interviewing her. She reluctantly agreed as this is still a “bit of a sore spot” for her.

nessa998

I asked about what bullying is to her, and what it means, to get her thinking about it. Then I asked her to recount a particular event that she was comfortable enough to tell me in detail. Previously, she did not like to, or perhaps did not feel like she could discuss this as she didn’t want people to worry, and didn’t like thinking about it.

After the interview, I was happy with the playback. I jumped straight into editing the audio and sourcing public-domain songs/sound effects online. After many hours searching and triple-checking the sound clips were able to be used, I sliced it all together and came up with this piece of audio, which you can click on to listen.. *hint hint*.

If I could do this assignment again, I would go and record sound effects myself. It was great using the recorder while I was capturing audio and creating sound to use myself. Securing a story that involved emotions of happiness and surprise would have been a direction I would like to take if I were to do another project like this one.

This assignment opened my eyes to how powerful voice and sound can be when telling a story. Instead of submitting an essay and forgetting about it, I feel I can show people this audio project and feel proud to have made it instead of filing it away in my Uni assignments folder.

***

In case you missed it: https://soundcloud.com/leeanne998/bullying-on-the-bus

ConTROLLing online spaces

With the greater amount of participation in web forums and social chat services, issues of regulation and appropriate discourse for online behavior has partnered the rise of most social networking websites. While these websites encourage active and appropriate participation, there are always people who set out to go directly against this.

 

identity-theft

It is difficult to create an open and secure social networking site, the balance between regulation and participation is often tricky to even out. With too much regulation, people are reluctant to contribute to the site or there are too many hoops to jump through in order to view or comment on posts. Whereas without these procedures in place, people may not feel secure or be subject to trolling, which begs the question what is the right amount of identification online?

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Photo: mylife.com

This is explored by Fiona Martin in an article that analyses how ABC online created and managed their online forums. In a case study of the Four Corners program, often viewers went to the forums to post their thoughts on the program and the regulatory and community challenges were explored. Often it would be left to one moderator to go through and screen comments for legal risks and trolling. This can lead to one-sided or biased arguments that can be argued to affect the real subject of the debate.

Often in online forums robust debate is combined with a chilling effect. While an online debate may be in full force, the conversation is often between a couple of key contributors as opposed to a wider community. People who may want to comment on this can experience a chilling effect wherein they fear repercussions or do not feel knowledgeable enough to voice their opinion.

You are probably already aware that this happens in the YouTube comments section all the time. Often the comments have nothing to do with the content of the video being watched, and is used as a platform to troll people. Unfortunately, this is a somewhat inevitable byproduct of social websites and is hard to completely control.

troll science
Photo: trollscience.com

Communicating Disability

The development of new technologies aim to make life easier, and converge many different processes or objects into simplified devices. This shift from what we now consider ‘old’ technology to ‘newer’ and ‘smarter’ devices, have somewhat overlooked the needs of the disabled community. This has been seen to be exclusive from many technological advances that many take for granted when interacting with technology.

Business on a laptop
Photo: OK EITA

The issues surrounding disabled rights being considered when thinking about inclusive technology is explored by Goggin and Newell (2007) by looking at telecommunication networks and mobile devices. The consideration of disability was not included in the Telecommunications Act of 1991, and including features in IT services to ease communication were not accomplished.

Goggin and Newell (2007) also reveal that generally speaking “Australians with disabilities are underrepresented in the takeup and use of mobile and wireless technologies.” Society is only going to keep evolving to become more connected and with new and wireless services, so to look over the rights of disabled people is discriminatory. Often these projects fall through as they are too time consuming or too costly, with the needs of disabled people not being fully understood on a corporate or economic level.

Attempts to accommodate for mobile phone use for blind people were explored in the creation of a mobile phone by the Owasys company.

owasys phone

Obviously the Owasys 22C is not a conventional design for a mobile phone, it lacks a screen. However, the design and usability of the phone have been evaluated as easy to use and among the most accessible layout for blind individuals. Unfortunately, the phones have been discontinued, and represents a step-back in the consideration of access for disabled people.

Australia’s White Media Policy.

Australia is ideally a nation of multiple cultures that come together to create a rich and diverse culture overall. Issues of racial stereotyping have long been echoed in contemporary debates surrounding multiculturalism in modern Australia.

But if Australia is made up of a variety of diverse cultures, then why is this not represented on commercial television?

The othering of non-white individuals in the mainstream media is blatantly obvious. Many of the major networks show programs that involve a largely ‘white’ cast and if/when people of non-white ethnicity are introduced, they are often to fill some sort of distorted racial stereotype – often in roles with negative story lines, or in a manner of tokenism.

Paul Kalina explores this idea further in a Sydney Morning Herald article. This provides substantial information that there is a lack of cultural diversity in the major Australian networks which creates a whitewashing effect.

So why is this so? There are many different factors that can be considered.

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Photo Courtesy of: The Age

Australian media outlets are highly concentrated in ownership. According to an SBS factbox by Ricardo Goncalves, Moguls such as Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart, Kerry Stokes and James Packer have large shares in the small array of commerical networks.

Gary Paramanathan suggests a link between these positions and a lack of representation for ‘non-white’ cultures within senior positions in these networks. There is not enough cultural representation when it comes to casting and decision-making within these networks.

This drips down onto the television screen and rich cultural stories are passed over in favour of filling racial stereotypes. This ethnocentric approach to casting enforces ‘othering’ of the ‘non-white’ characters when compared to a main cast of ‘white’ characters.

This is slowly being realised among mainstream media producers such as The Block producer – Julian Cress. Referring back to Kalina’s article, it shows Cress considers to approach the issue in a different way may be considered more deliberate in role casting and in turn equally as racist.

Can we break free from our leash?

When browsing the internet, typically you imagine that you are choosing what you decide to view or download, but what if that’s not the case?

The recent dominance of closed internet and technological services demonstrates how we operate inside a ‘Walled Garden’. This means that the user is only allowed to partake in activities that are allowed within the service. The feudalisation of technology represents a highly centralised and hierarchical system that focuses on a system of hereditary power by corporations. The trade-off is freedom of access.

One very prominent example of a Walled Garden system is the way Apple conducts business with consumers.

When individuals purchase one of the many ‘i-products’ there is a silent understanding between the user and the producer that these are tethered devices. These are so called as the device and the user will be constantly tied to the service – like a leash from the producer to the consumer.

IPHONE TETHERING

Photo: Free Software foundation

This is achieved through the syncing and strict control of content and file types available, and according to Jonathan Zittrain, ‘They are tethered because it is easy for their vendors to change them from afar’. He further explains that these types of devices are coded in a way so that they can’t be changed by external parties.

Think of the way an iPhone works – when purchased, you have to create an iTunes user account after downloading iTunes to get the thing to work. Subsequently any content you want to put on the phone supremely has to be run through the iTunes service. Downloading of music, videos or apps is all done in an exclusive location that is only accessibly if you have apple technology.

So why do we buy them? Why does almost every person have an iPhone?

Because they’re ‘safe’, easy to use and everyone else has one. Apple has been successful in cultivating a privileged, specialised service, but should we let these types of companies consolidate our technological environment or fight for open source rights?

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For a more comprehensive look into walled gardens and what they mean for us, view this article by Charles Arthur.

The tyranny of Journal Publication

Before the introduction of the internet, Journal publishers were on top. This provided a way for academics to circulate their work in publications that were regarded highly.

However, with the internet infiltrating almost all aspects of everyday life, (you can now have the internet on your fridge) the role of journal publishers has been brought into question by the very academics that keep them running.

Motivations for undertaking scholarly research should be duty-bound to get the academics’ findings out there and to enlighten as many people as possible with the benefits discovered from it. At least this is what they first intend. The publication process for these journals works a bit differently, in that the vigorous peer-review process goes through different stages of editing before it is ready to be distributed.

This method of revision guarantees a high level of understanding and consensus among the academic community, and will usually only be published when it is up to the ‘highest’ academic standards. This allows a sense of credibility to be awarded to those who are able to be published in them, with a hierarchy of journals granting different status.

These journals restrict access to this information by initiating ‘pay walls’ online. These require money to be paid to view an article hosted by the journal website. By creating a pay wall system, it blocks off the information to people who may benefit from it, in favour of people who can afford it or through universities.

O ACCESS
Photo courtesy of The Economist.

This has led to the rise of ‘Open Access Journals’ where scholars can openly publish their works, while retaining their publishing rights. These journals are free to access and furthers the idea that this information should benefit all people, not just those who can afford it.

The journal publishers maintain that they need to charge a higher rate to maintain the review process, though many of these journals have started up with nothing. More thoughts can be found in The Economist.

A list of open access journals can be found at DOAJ.

What if my dream job doesn’t exist anymore?

You go through school to get a job.

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But what if your dream job doesn’t exist anymore? The convergence of old and new technology has shifted the way in which we participate with our world. In turn, media practices have also changed. The convergence of old and new media has shaped a different type of audience as well as a diverse selection of platforms through which people receive news and information.

The emergence of the prosumer is an alternative triumph to mainstream news reporting. By moving forward technologically we have allowed grassroots media to thrive. This has allowed a broader pool of alternative knowledge to seep through the cracks of what was once predominately a top-down, media dynasty.

While these moguls still rule the majority of commercial news media, the internet provides different ways to get information out there. While online people have a broader choice in what they want and do not want to see in news media. The internet allows us to create and disseminate information within an instant.

Internet blogging is an example of how you can start from nothing and become successful and famous for your writing. Bloggers such as: Mario Lavandeira of Perez Hilton, Jake and Amir of College Humor, Harvey Levin of TMZ and Peter Cashmore of Mashable, all began writing their blogs which are now read by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. They’re all examples of how convergent media has assisted in the creation of jobs.

These people started with an opinion and used it to create jobs out of nothing. Through blogging, they were able to break into an otherwise tough industry. The path they took represents a new breed of journalists who have understand what people want to read, are internet savvy, and adaptable to change.

So if you’re an aspiring journalist, start a blog – get a job.