Dangers to news reporting?

13 11 2013

This recent opinion post in The Australian titled “Lost in the Twitterverse” calls to mind the challenges of a world that can ‘talk back’ to media outlets, policy makers and politicians.

The author states that:

This mad plunge into social media-driven journalism would be mildly diverting if it wasn’t so dangerous to the future of news reporting. Hard-core media values – truth, accuracy, fairness, balance, perspective, objectivity – are being lost at precisely the wrong time, as the news media faces the challenges of falling revenue, distracted audiences and a loss of skilled practitioners. For newspapers, the danger is that many are abandoning their core mission in a democracy, bounding towards meaningless info-tainment and fleeting fashions.

What the author misses, is the fact that publics (the general public, advocacy groups, community groups) have always used any available means to comment about events and to ‘fact check’ information. In Goya’s day it was with illustrations. Where online ‘citizen journalism’ really took hold was in activist spheres, usually as a direct attempt to correct untruths and omissions made by news reports. There are many examples to refer to – refugee activism in Australia, the Arab spring, the  #occupy movement, Anonymous, Gezi Park, and, of course the big precursor to these events/actions – the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999.

A couple of years ago, I went to a Media140 event in Canberra and was quite amused at how journalists were trying to claim authority over social media tools, especially Twitter, as if they were gatekeepers to authoritative information. The truth is, they came late to the conversation and have been behind the game ever since.

I am not disputing other points in this post about journalists needing to connect with local communities face-to-face, that should be a given. For example, the author states:

Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are wonderful tools for journalists and the industry as a whole in terms of marketing. They can be used to promote stories, maintain contacts with readers and pass the time on the bus for those with short attention spans. But social media is neither a substitute for reporting nor a reflection of what is important in our democracy. Those reporters who inhabit Twitter – we can think of a legion at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald – rather than getting out into the suburbs of our great cities and towns invariably get the pulse of the nation completely wrong. It’s a path to ruin.

Perhaps. Or maybe it is time for journalists to look at how communities use these tools, and why.  It is clear that connecting with local communities is what many advocacy groups do very well. One only has to look at the Bring David Hicks Home campaign on GetUp to see how grass roots community activism can illicit changes in attitudes and policy. It is worth stating too, that these activities are not designed as forms of journalism, they are designed to get the attention of journalists and policy decision makers to effect the desired changes.

People who source news online want credible and reliable information, which is why many people are looking further than the local newspaper to augment their knowledge of a topic. The real danger to news reporting is continuing to ignore the capability of Joe Average of being able to decipher what is ‘news’. Also social media ‘news gathering’ and citizen reporting is about the transparency of the information – making it more accessible and open.

Something this anonymous author fails to get.



10 11 2013

I have been back home just over a week and trying to adjust to being back in Australia, back at work and trying to refocus my energies.

The garden is not too much of a job catching up, the mulching and weeding we did before we went away was effective, though as any garden, needs attention.

Our little cat Sooks (Genji) has not come home, which has changed the energy of the house somewhat, he is truly a member of our little family and his presence is sorely missed. When we travel and I get homesick, it was always for our little unit of four, thinking of sitting together, out the back on a beautiful Spring day.

Trying to refocus includes a desire to be more routine about writing, starting small, hoping that by regular attention to the practice of writing, that the writing will flow.

In all the blogs I follow is there a consistency about the writing, a discipline that I need to adopt. Writing regularly engages readers, which is the purpose of writing a blog after all.

The thing I love about writing for mediakult is that I can play across many professional and personal areas of interest: media, technology, environmental sustainability, arts, culture and ideas of place (which are also published on geokult.com).

I am also hoping that writing in this public context will help me with writing in a personal context, like as Virginia Woolf describes writing a diary as “a method of practicing or trying out the art of writing.”

Although the practice of writing sometimes frustrates me, it is also driving me in a way, there is a need to get better, to explore more, to learn as a writer. One thing is to learn balance, between the passive activity of writing and to be actively discovering new experiences and places.  Also, how to write while travelling, is a skill I would like to improve on. I have not yet perfected the art of regularly writing every day and I blogged very little on our last trip overseas, which was unusual compared to earlier journeys.

Being grounded I find is both a positive and negative thing – it gives you a chance to breathe, to take stock and clear one’s mind for fresh ideas and energy. On the other hand it can grind you, bringing you down by slipping into the repetitive routines and behaviours lived at home.

My little writing effort is to avoid that monotony one experiences about the every day grind, it is a chance to explore possibilities and think outside of the routine of working life.

Some favourite blogs

10 11 2013

I always wish I had more time for reading, it is one of my favourite activities and I like reading about all kinds of topics, from current affairs, media trends, gardening, art, etc.

Anyway, one way I have found useful to keep informed is by setting up Google Alerts, on a range of topics. I receive regular emails reporting of media and blog articles related to the topic areas.

I also follow a few blogs and always find something interesting in brain pickings, check out this article about Author’s self portraits. I also like this article about advice on writing from famous authors.

Another blog that regularly has interesting articles is gov loop, here is one – 8 lessons to guide your career and an interesting one on selfies.

I also like Purpose Fairy, for all kinds for reasons!

There also also a few email lists that I have followed for nearly 2 decades – nettime and -empyre-  are two examples.

It would be good to just sit down and read a novel now and again, but nowadays it seems that there is only time on holidays 🙂

Resources for Public Relations students and professionals

7 11 2013

Recently I did a scan of recent articles and texts focused on current best practice and theory in the broad field of media and communications.

One list I came across recently was very useful – A Partial Reading List for PR Students, mainly targeted at students with some very good resources.

Another one worth a look is Public Relations: Theory and Practice, a text designed to understand the varying roles for Communications and PR professionals. The text is targeted to students providing information on a broad range of communications areas including digital strategies and community relations. The description states that:

They show how to develop effective public relations strategies and tactics and explain how to research, run and evaluate a successful public relations campaign. Drawing on a range of communication and public relations theories they discuss how to work with the media and how to use print, electronic and other forms of communication for maximum impact.

There is so also a lot of information about writing for online audiences, which I think is a critical area of communications and public relations. Check out this article from 4syllables titled Managing distributed publishing, part 1: The challenges.

Here is some other good posts about PR resources:

A comment from one of the posts also mentioned that “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” by Jonah Burger, is a “great book” on viral marketing based on research. Might be worth a look.

Anyway, lots out there!

Some new ones to read and some which would be worth a revisit 🙂

The challenge of writing

5 11 2013

I have been doing a lot of reading lately about how to be a better writer.  My exploration has crossed many realms, including picking up tips on being more creative, how to be more effective (Covey) and how to be more productive as a writer. Much of the advice I have read discusses the importance of routine and habit as a writer – dedicating yourself to the task on a daily basis. This has always been a bit of a challenge for me as my writing practice ebbs and flows with my media art practice, my need to explore geographical locales, my job as a public servant, my commitments to a number of arts/community organisations, etc. I sometimes think I am juggling too many balls in the air!

What I did come across recently, via a friend was these great initiatives, designed to encourage aspiring writers:

National Novel Writing Month, shortened as NaNoWriMo is an annual internet-based creative writing project that takes place every November. NaNoWriMo challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel between November 1 and 30. Despite its name, it accepts entries from around the world. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get people writing, no matter how bad the writing is, through the end of a first draft. The idea is that many people are scared to start writing because it won’t be any good, and if there’s a time to celebrate length, rather than quality, more people will write an entire first draft, which they can then proceed to edit if they wish.#NaNoWriMo

There is also National Blog Posting Month (“NaBloPoMo”) #NaBloPoMo.

Although it is a late start to the goal of writing a blog post every day in November, I can still catch up.

Over the next month, I will be focusing on sharing some of the latest thinking and writing about communications, PR and media. It is my challenge to be a better blogger – to keep readers informed of a wide range of topics and help ground my thinking and share some of the great resources I discover.

I hope you will enjoy!

SCANZ2013: Potentiality

11 02 2013

It has been nearly a week since we left New Plymouth and the hub of SCANZ2013. Many conversations, thoughts and moments are now echoing, in particular the notion of ‘Te kore” the space of nothingness wherein lies potential, presented to us by Te Huirangi in one of the workshops.

The residency has presented many questions for me not only regarding how I approach my creative practice as an artist, writer and researcher, but how I can ultimately mesh my separate identities as writer/artist with my work in government with LivingGreener.gov.au

One of the big questions is about how I can be more aware and act in a more sustainable way, in terms of how I live, where I live and what I consume. Firstly, I am thinking that I need to be more remotely connected, meaning that I should where possible create and distribute work that does not require huge amounts of CO2 emissions. That is a tough call as I love travel and my eyes yearn for new landscapes to experience. Perhaps one of the answers is to work more with augmented media and play with spaces in a virtual context.

Secondly, I need to be more engaged in my local environment. Although I have lived in Canberra for nearly 12 years, a part of me has never accepted this place as my home and I have not engaged with my local community very well. My strategy for fixing this problem is simply to be more present and involved in local community activities, especially arts and environment. I am planning to have an exhibition at Belconnen Art Gallery later this year, which is in my local area.

So how can I be more present, active and able to tap into ‘potentiality’? I think this is an ongoing conversation and one that I hope to continue with other SCANZ peeps and anyone else who is interested.

When I was at the residency I created a dry point etching, sort of a return to home as I was trained as a printmaker at art school nearly 25 years ago. This work is an imagined topography of Mt Taranaki, influenced by my experience of walking on the mountain, which was physically difficult but in a magical, natural environment. I am now in the process of developing these images into an animation, which I will publish once it is completed. Here is a still from the animation below:

Topography, still image from Terrain

Topography, still image from Terrain

I found SCANZ2013 quite an amazing experience on all levels, revitalising heart, mind and spirit. I also found that the diversity of the artists perspectives very enriching. In many ways we all had similar concerns, but all focused on different issues within the context of our work and lifestyle choices. Personally, the message of connectedness also rang loudly, as this has been a challenge for me personally as I try to balance my separate identities as parent, wife, artist, writer, activist, researcher and civil servant. The difficultly has often been about ‘how do I speak’ through these identities in a way that is proactive and cohesive. I suspect that this question will sit with me for a long time as I try to work it out.

But for now, my thoughts turn to potentiality, what is possible and what can be created that can support the ‘new consciousness’ proposed to us the first day by Ian when we were at the Parihaka marae. My first step is to start a conversation via this blog and see where it leads me.

Walking on Mt Taranaki – Maketawa Hut

28 01 2013

On Saturday a small group of SCANZ residents (incidentally all Australians) got together and did some bushwalking on Mt Taranaki. This was an important part of my project for SCANZ as the artwork I have made for the exhibition at Puki Ariki focuses on aerial maps of the mountain. I needed to have an understanding of the terrain and the vegetation that was ‘felt’, not just observed.

It was probably one of the most beautiful walks I have been on for a long time and one of the most physically challenging. As we walked from the Visitor’s Centre, we headed up to the three way turn off to the summit walk, then headed towards Maketawa Hut for lunch. The first part of the walk was walking uphill along a series of ridges, with beautiful views of the valley below and the coastline. Mt Taranaki however was hidden under cloud so we were not able to see the summit.

Around the mountain circuit - from Dept of Conservation website

Around the mountain circuit – from Dept of Conservation website

(From http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/taranaki/taranaki/around-the-mountain-circuit/)

After lunch we started to head down the track, through what I can only explain as an enchanted forest, with tree roots in many parts acting as natural steps. Once we arrived at the lowest point above sea level, we then went up and down some steep ridges and creeks. I found the landscape was both gentle in its beauty but difficult in terms of traversing. Along the way were a number of ladders up and down, giving a real sense of the undulating land formed by lava so long ago.

It was also wonderful to see elements of the imagery that I had collected of aerial views in the landscape. For example, these beautiful shapes in the image below.

Mt Taranaki

Mt Taranaki (from ‘Message to the mountain’ 2013)

Here is some information about the walk we did from holidays in New Zealand website (note we did the walk in the opposite direction):

Maketawa Hut Round Trip – 4 hours

This is for those who are fitter. Take the Ngatoro Track from below the Information Centre and turn left at the Maketawa Track Junction.

This takes you through more mossy forest, changing to nikau, cordylines and other flora and fauna. It takes about 2 hours to Maketawa Hut.

Walk through the hut to the outdoor deck for extensive views. Leaving the hut you walk up through alpine vegetation………….steps…steps… and more steps! Eventually you come out on the road just below the Translator Tower. From here you walk back down the road to the Camphouse.

One of the things I have learnt about mountains in Māori culture is that they are like people being male or female.  In an earlier post I discussed the story of how Taranaki came to reside in this region. Something else, I found very interesting is that in Māori culture, one should avoid touching the top of the head as it is the centre of all knowledge and memory. For this reason, it is not culturally appropriate to climb to the top of the summit and ‘stand’ on someone’s head. To learn some more about cultural protocols go to http://www.headspace.org.nz/maori-mental-health.htm.

A special thank you to Jo Tito for reviewing this post.