Storyology 2015 Blog

Coverage from our University of New South Wales student reporters, who distilled all the best ideas and key moments at Storyology: Leni Vu, Grace Campbell, Riley Wilson, Iain Salvador and Annalise Bolt.

No agreement on Zacky Mallah, and other tussles at the ethics panel

5.33pm Monday, Nov. 16

Hugh Riminton, political editor at Network Ten
Michelle Gunn, editor of The Weekend Australian
Alex Lee, political reporter at Buzzfeed
Moderated by Richard Aedy, presenter of the Media Report on ABC Radio National

Was it ethical to run the photograph of drowned Syrian refugee child Alan Kurdi?

Hugh Riminton: “The power of it was so absolute. The power of the picture lay in the reality of that child…” Network Ten’s main news bulletin is at 5pm, which is children’s viewing time, so there was no possibility that the photograph could be shown. “After 6pm I would have made a judgement. I would have shown the image. … People should be able to see it.”

Michelle Gunn: “I think there are certain images like the little boy and maybe like the Napalm picture that is very famous from the Vietnam war that really have the potential to turn the tide of history.”

Alex Lee: “I originally really didn’t like that it was just there and I think I’ve changed my mind. Even within that day I thought: ‘This image is actually really powerful and it needs to be out there.’ When it is obviously impacting so many people and so many people are being moved by this picture and sharing it, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t as well.”

Was it ethical to show images of the victims of the MH17 airplane crash in Ukraine?

Riminton: “Heaven help us, you’re not going to be showing people blasted apart in a plane crash! But then again it happened. There’s no upside to that.”

Gunn: “We need to make judgements every day when we encounter these graphic images about whether we run them or not. We’re the filter. We then have to use the tools at our disposal – whether that be pixelating, cropping, the prominence of it, the position of it – to minimise the distress that might be brought to relatives.”

Lee: “Being able to work in the online space means that you actually have a lot more tools at your disposal.” One of these tools is online filters “you can put on a story to make sure tat they don’t show up on people’s Facebook feeds.”

The Australian featured on its front page an image of Khaled Sharrouf’s 7-year-old son holding up a severed head. What is too graphic?

Riminton: “It’s not particularly one to dwell on. It’s not one you’re going to constantly return to as a picture — but once a point’s been made, it’s been made.” The most significant aspect of this story is the fact that “out of our own suburbs, out of our own culture, out of our own norms has emerged this anomaly by which it seems like a cool thing or an okay thing to get your son to be there holding up a severed head.”

Gunn: “We pixelated the seven-year-old son of Khaled Sharrouf so that he couldn’t be identified.”

Lee: “It gets to a point of saturation” where it is OK to show the picture “if that’s what everyone has already seen.”

How should we label Man Haron Monis — Terrorist? Madman?

Riminton: “If he wasn’t mad before before, why do we call him mad now? That kind of … lets him off the hook. I choose to see him as neither as a terrorist or a madman, I don’t want to give him that label as a get-out clause. I want to see him as a pathetic, pathetic, violent piece of work. To glorify him as a terrorist encourages others to do similar acts of glory, whereas if he is perceived as a pathetic man it is somehow not quite so much of a recruiting sergeant to others.”

Gunn: “Even the police themselves are divided over whether to call him a terrorist or not.” “He committed a terrorist act, of that I have no doubt.”

Lee: “I don’t really know why anyone is using the term ‘madman’ in 2015.” We have to question whether this label actually gives meaning or if we are “giving reason for the audience to jump to a conclusion.”

Was the ABC acting ethically by allowing Zacky Mallah — a man who has been tried under anti-terrorism laws, and a vocal supporter of the Free Syrian Army — to appear on the ABC’s Q&A?

Context: Video of his remarks here

Riminton: “As long as these men are not advocating for violence, they are entitled to present a whole bunch of points of view. But I’m not going to be their megaphone.”

Gunn: “I don’t think the Q&A furore was about freedom of speech. I think it was about … the filter that you apply as an editor” when you decide “who to have on the program and in what capacity.”

Lee: “Zacky Mallah was not the best spokesperson for (Islamic terrorist organisations). His arguments weren’t particularly well-phrased. But at least we heard them.”

How should we represent ‘vulnerable villains’ in the media, people like Belle Gibson and her fraudulent cure for cancer?

Riminton: “I’ve got very little sympathy for the woman, to be perfectly honest…. She was the worst kind of fraud, in that she peddles an utterly false hope.” It is necessary to report on them because “if we are not there exposing frauds of any kind, what are we there for?”

Aedy: “Journalism is done by human beings. When a journalist is being lied to and they discover that they’ve been lied to, it does change how they approach the story from then on.”

Lee: “She invited as much scrutiny as she was given. I know people who had family and friends who were cancer sufferers – she was a bright light for them and gave them hope – and for her to be exposed as a fraud, that was so upsetting for them.”

— Grace Campbell

Political journalists are sometimes their own worst enemies

Laurie Oakes, Samantha Maiden, Eamonn Fitzpatrick and George Megalogenis: the Storyology elections panel.

Laurie Oakes, Samantha Maiden, Eamonn Fitzpatrick and George Megalogenis: the Storyology elections panel.

The age-old power struggle between the politician and the journalist is facing a rapid period of change as the 24-hour news cycle has taken hold.

“There’s never been more information. And that’s a really good thing,” said Samantha Maiden, national political editor for News Corp Sundays. “The challenge of the media is learning how to curate that.”

This challenge is made all the more difficult in a turbulent media environment that has seen four Australian prime ministers in four years combined with falling media profits and the constant demand for news.

“The parties are spinning the wheel so quickly,” said author George Megalogenis. “Both sides of politics are churning through leaders, ministers, senior leaders… (and) the ability to identify what need to be fixed becomes very difficult.”

The 24-hour news cycle has undoubtedly put pressure on journalists in the Canberra press gallery to increase their story output. “Media outlets invest a lot in having journalists working there,” said Eamonn Fitzpatrick, a former advisor to the Rudd/Gillard administration and director at Hawker Britton. “We have to continue to grapple with the best ways to engage with the electorate.”

This isn’t necessarily a positive contribution to political debate, according to Maiden: “The issue for politicians is they think they need to feed the chooks,” she said.

Maiden said Turnbull is undoubtedly changing the nature of the political conversation with his approach to the GST. By putting off announcing the Liberal party’s economic policy he’s “allowing the debate to run” and forcing the Australian Labour Party to publicise their thoughts on policy. It’s a remarkably different political strategy from Abbott’s hard-and-fast policy announcements and slogans.

The 24-hour news cycle has also spurred a departure from rounds-style reporting within news organisations.

“The problem with everyone starting as a political correspondent from the beginning is that you don’t know enough about the other topics,” longtime political journalist Laurie Oakes said.

Covering a round is where reporters “work out how a system functions,” Megalogenis said.

“You get to make mistakes,” he said. “You get to learn from mistakes.”

But the future of political debate doesn’t rest solely in the hands of traditional media organisations with new media also making an important contribution.

Julian Morrow argues “there’s a dangerously narrow puritanism” when it comes to political journalism.

Oakes sees value in organisations that broaden the debate, saying that Buzzfeed “provides a bit of hope for the future of journalism” and that he’s a fan of their political coverage — as well as their cat videos.

— Annalise Bolt

Tips for long-form writers, starting with ‘Shhh’

5.33pm Monday, Nov. 16

Boston University professor and writer-in-residence Mark Kramer at Storyology 2015. His annotated notes were a hit. Photo: Iain Salvador

Boston University professor and writer-in-residence Mark Kramer at Storyology 2015. His annotated notes were a hit. Photo: Iain Salvador

“One of the most useful pieces of equipment is four or five inches of duct tape that you should put over your mouth to prevent you from asking questions.”
— Mark Kramer, Boston University professor and writer-in-residence

We’re often taught to ask good questions. But Mark Kramer instead urged would-be long-form writers to be better observers.

Kramer advised writers of long form (and those wanting to get into it) to create a “sophisticated emotional and intellectual experience” for readers. And that only comes from good fieldwork, he said.

“You can come back from the field with a wheelbarrow full of parts and find that they may not sculpt into a lion but may sculpt into a perfectly good lamb,” he said.

He also teaches people to abandon a formal voice in long-form storytelling for one that’s more intimate —“so damned human” — to enthrall a reader.

— Iain Salvador

How India is ahead on Twitter innovation

5.25pm Monday, Nov. 16

Twitter VP Rishi Jaitly at Storyology 2015. Photo: Iain Salvador

Twitter VP Rishi Jaitly at Storyology 2015. Photo: Iain Salvador

What Twitter is — and what it’s for — is evolving.

And media markets in developing countries are leading the way in finding new ways to use it, according to Rishi Jaitly, Twitter’s vice president for media partnerships in Asia.

“They’re skipping desktop and skipping the concept of ‘incrementalism’ in digital,” Jaitly said at his Storyology talk on Friday.

At its most basic, Twitter is a microphone for news organisations: it “lets the voice travel”, Jaitly said.

Media publishers have used Twitter to gather people around live moments — what Jaitly called “the world’s biggest couch.”

But emerging markets are also showing that Twitter can be used almost like a “programmable remote” that allows news organisations to gather data on the “world’s largest focus group” in real time, tuning into different communities with search.

In India, the platform is actively used to poll the electorate — particularly useful in a land where elections seem to happen every other Sunday.

The Times of India, one of the most powerful publishers on the subcontinent, has a new Twitter delivery method. Its users can ring a mobile number to get tweets as text messages — so they don’t even need the Internet to stay on Twitter.

— Iain Salvador

Advice for young journalists

5.15pm Monday, Nov. 16

For Amy O’Leary, Editorial Director at Upworthy, it’s not about jobs.

“I’m a big believer that you don’t look at jobs, you look at skills,” she says. “Build your skill set and you’ll land in a good job.”

Those skills — like being able to find and pitch great stories, and write impactful and engaging headlines — are earned, she believes, outside the classroom, especially within rapidly changing career titles.

Campbell Reid of News Corp says that the ‘personal brand’ (a term he detests) and the masthead can work together: no fear. “You can still be loyal to the platform or site you work for, but the opportunity to develop within that is huge.” Find your topic, engage with it, and use it to your advantage.

Jeremy Gilbert, director of strategic initiatives at The Washington Post, says that uniqueness is key. “Find something that you’re passionate about and care about but ideally have it be something that the newsroom wants but doesn’t already have,” he says. “There is a huge advantage in bringing the skills to a newsroom that a newsroom needs.”

Discover your niche and go forth, young storytellers.

Riley Wilson

The end of websites?


From left, Gaven Morris of ABC News, Stephen Hutcheon of Fairfax Media, Tim Duggan of Junkee Media, Alisa Bowen of News Corp.

From left, Gaven Morris of ABC News, Stephen Hutcheon of Fairfax Media, Tim Duggan of Junkee Media, Alisa Bowen of News Corp.

Tim Duggan of Junkee Media called it.

“We are entering the post-website era,” Duggan said.

“We will launch a title or brand that will not have a website. It will exist entirely on social media.”

Duggan found this exciting. Alisa Bowen from News Corp found it problematic.

“I think as a society we need to think about what editorial lens gets put on the news,” she says.

She cited a statistic that over 80 percent of millennials find their news through Facebook and called it “a pretty scary trend for people that care about a balanced media.”

Bowen says that the “editorial art of curation” is still very important and “the essence of why people love journalism”.

Stephen Hutcheon of Fairfax argued that the media organisations need to follow where the audience is going. “You can’t fight what it happening,” he said.

“This was cutting edge in 2005,” he said, holding up his Blackberry. “That’s a fundamental change with what’s happening with a phone.”

As the innovation editor at the Sydney Morning Herald, Hutcheon seeks to create meaningful stories need to cut through the noise and tell people what matters, instead of embarking on “vanity projects”.

“Sometimes the effort that goes into creating stories doesn’t pay off with the number of people that read them,” Hutcheon said.

Duggan says the most important audience for Junkee is readers’ friends.

Junkee may embrace a rapidly changing media landscape, but is still driven by the philosophy that “just because everything is changing doesn’t mean we have to change everything.”

Organisations that distinguish themselves with a unique voice are the ones that will win out in the end.

“That’s the special sauce,” he says.

— Annalise Bolt

Jim Roberts of Mashable on failure


Print lives? The future of book publishing in Australia


This would be the best book club to eavesdrop on: literary agent Selwa Anthony, publisher Rebecca Kaiser and literary editor Susan Wyndham on the rear couch, with author Sue Williams in the foreground. Photo: Kate Golden

This would be the best book club to eavesdrop on: literary agent Selwa Anthony, publisher Rebecca Kaiser and literary editor Susan Wyndham on the rear couch, with author Sue Williams in the foreground. Photo: Kate Golden

Print is not dead, and e-books might be waning. Or so said the tight-knit trio of agent Selwa Anthony, publisher Rebecca Kaiser and author Sue Williams, in a Storyology discussion about the next chapter of book publishing.

Kaiser said the world of print “drives the success of e-books.”

Williams, as an author and journalist, values being able to publish in both formats.

“I think many of us (authors) hope to have a printed book as well as an e-book,” she said.

Anthony suggested the editorial quality for e-books is lower than for print.

“Everyone says they’re an author because they’ve got an e-book,” says Anthony. “But a lot of rubbish is being read.”

Beyond that, she says, books are physical objects that last.

“After a while, the real book-buyer wants to know where their money went,” said Anthony.

None of the panellists came to the e-book’s defence.

— Riley Wilson

Dave Earley of Guardian Australia’s tips for what audience data really matters


Dave Earley, Guardian Australia, at a Storyology Plus workshop earlier this week.

Dave Earley, Guardian Australia, at a Storyology Plus workshop earlier this week.

Unique browsers, pageviews, visits and content shares are essential measures of success for online publishers, but “attention time” and “stickiness” tell the real story, says the audience editor of Guardian Australia.

Dave Earley said the Guardian’s proprietary analytics system, Ophen, can distinguish between simple “time spent on page” and real attention time, during which a reader or viewer is actively involved in the content.

With Ophen, the Guardian monitor users’ online behaviours such as scrolling, following links, and whether they remain active on the site after watching a video rather than, presumably, wandering off to get a coffee.

Earley watches keenly the site’s monthly statistics to see how many people who visit daily also visit monthly. This ratio of “daily uniques” to “monthly uniques” measures stickiness, or loyalty, “and if you’re growing that, you’re doing well”, he said.

Data on pageviews do provide valuable information, including that “you can get a huge amount of traffic from one referrer, such as Facebook”; exactly where in the world the traffic is coming from; the keywords that have hit a nerve in the previous 24 hours; and the shape of the long tail, which shows when interest in a story drops off. But Earley uses this overview mainly as an entry point for deeper interpretation.

And journalistic instincts still play a vital role in judging how to appeal to the different types of audiences coming to the site.

In a story on Kerry O’Brien’s resignation from the ABC, Earley wrote “and thanks for the memories” into the headline. This struck an emotional chord, boosting traffic via Facebook, he said.

For a piece on the Rugby World Cup final, he added “kickoff time” to the standfirst (the summary paragraph at the top of a story), hauling in readers who were searching Google to work out how long they had to stay awake. Adding Auckland and Queensland times to the story flung the net even wider.

Adding “Stan Grant” to the headline of his comment piece on Adam Goodes made it findable in a way that the same words in the byline slot did not, because “the byline has no benefit for search engine optimisation”.

As well as adding sub-heads, pictures and video, and improving the opening paragraphs, you need to “make sure you’re selling the story accurately”, Early said.

To improve time people spend on the site, “the best thing you can do is to link to more of your own content”.

The Guardian encourages all 900 staff members worldwide to use Ophen to inform their work.

“Everyone needs to be involved in the data,” Earley said.

“You need to build a positive culture around analytics, and ask: What did the data reveal about what journalists should pay attention to in their writing?”

Kathryn Bice

Storyful’s quick reaction to the Martin Place siege: Aine Kerr


Investigative reporter Caro Meldrum-Hanna on how to get what you want


Why Making a Killing was so popular; how she sees the obstacles of investigative reporting. From Jack Fisher.

Here’s what makes investigative reporting hard. And worth it, says Adele Ferguson


Money talks in the business world, while the voices of its victims are silenced. Corners get cut. These are the injustices that Adele Ferguson, Gold Walkley-winning investigative journalist at The Age, works to reveal.

Journalists, Ferguson said at a Storyology keynote speech, can return dignity to people whose lives have been shattered at the hands of “deep-pocketed” corporations.

“It’s a good feeling when an obvious wrong has been righted and victims feel empowered,” she said.

That’s what gets her up in the morning.

Ferguson largely attributes the success of her work to the bravery of whistleblowers — “the unsung heros” who “don’t get the praise they deserve” and often make great sacrifices.

She was gratified when one of the victims of the National Australian Bank debacle that Ferguson investigated in February this year, claimed that “going public was the best thing she did.” In that series of stories, Ferguson and her Fairfax colleague Ruth Williams exposed misconduct, forgery and fraud related to the NAB’s consumer loans.

“Instead of feeling stupid and like a victim, she felt empowered,” Ferguson said.

Behind every hard-nosed investigation, she said, is a person.

Ferguson has faced many of her own struggles as a result of her dedication to investigative journalism, including family strains, “many sleepless nights”, and sexism.

In the past, Ferguson said, female business journalists were “an exotic species.”

“Some CEOs were less than enthusiastic about being interviewed by a female,” she said.

She persevered.

Ferguson said she believes investigative reporting gives silent victims a voice.

“Information is the lifeblood of democracy,” Ferguson said.

Leni Vu and Grace Campbell

Mashable’s Jim Roberts and the platform flood: We have to pay attention to Snapchat


Do not be afraid of all the new things.

Do not be afraid of all the new things.

Mashable’s executive editor and chief content officer Jim Roberts says the power of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are solid and undeniable. But he sees the rise of Snapchat, Periscope and other new beasts as an opportunity, not something to be feared.

“From the resource standpoint, it becomes very difficult to sustain it. But on the flip side is that these platforms have such huge audiences,” says Roberts. “We have to pay attention to new platforms.”

His recommendation for trends to follow include vertical and 360-degree videos, as well as moveable graphics and lots of “fun” (think Lego) to illustrate applicable social issues. At the moment, his biggest distribution focus is Snapchat — “it’s a unique platform that needs unique content”.

Penguins in sweaters are bread and butter for Mashable. But it is increasingly bringing in-depth pieces to readers at a fraction of the costs plaguing legacy media organisations.

Roberts says these legacy media would do well to add the tools of social and digital storytelling to their arsenal.

“I consider sharing content to be central to our day-to-day existence,” he says. “The human desire to share is really powerful. And I can’t say enough about how publishers can take advantage of this feeling, this emotion.”

Follow Jim @nycjim.

— Riley Wilson

Luke Pearson’s time-sharing Twitter account IndigenousX gives Aboriginal Australians a new voice. For a week


Last week, the Twitter account @IndigenousX was manned by Andrew Craig, the New South Wales leader of the Australian Football League’s Indigenous employment and education program. He’s been tweeting about providing mentoring and education for Indigenous Australians.

Before that its skipper was entrepreneur Charlie Jia, who urged people to exercise their civil rights in voting for members of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.

“Tomorrow polls open for #NSWALCelection. Make sure you cast your vote! Your land, your say, your future,” he tweeted.

Every week, a new Indigenous person runs the account. And with more than 22,000 followers, the weekly host now also gets a column on Guardian Australia’s opinion page, Comment is Free.

Account users have ranged from the very famous, such as Northern Territory senator Nova Peris, to the not-at-all famous. Twitter acts as a great leveller, Pearson said in a Storyology talk: Regular people can call out giant corporations or institutions at the same volume as anyone else.

Pearson doesn’t reckon he’s reinvented Twitter. He’s just made it “accessible and unedited,” he said.

— Iain Salvador

The art of adaptation: Matt Huynh’s process for The Boat

Before The Boat was a rich animated interactive piece, it was a series of drawings on rice paper by artist Matt Huynh.

But Huynh was, at first, apprehensive about adapting Vietnamese Nam Le’s celebrated collection of short stories about his refugee experience.

“I didn’t want to funny-book it,” he said in his talk. “We really tried to honour the spirit of Nam’s work.”

Here’s how he approached it.

First Huynh absorbed the work. He sketched it in exercise books, in great detail — using the lines from it word for word.

He stuck it up on moveable storyboards. Then he could literally step back and get the big picture.

That allowed him to pick and choose the most poignant scenes, leave some things out — take scissors and glue to it, he said.

Here are some selections from Huynh’s work. Check out the entire piece at

— Iain Salvador

The Boat. Courtesy of Matt Huynh

The Boat. Courtesy of Matt Huynh

The Boat. Courtesy of Matt Huynh

The Boat. Courtesy of Matt Huynh

The Boat. Courtesy of Matt Huynh

The Boat. Courtesy of Matt Huynh

The Boat. Courtesy of Matt Huynh

The Boat. Courtesy of Matt Huynh

Be paranoid. And human. Tips from investigative reporters

4.22 pm

Getting the story behind the story is a risky business. You might have to get your hands dirty and think like a criminal to stay one step ahead, according a panel of star investigative reporters Kate McClymont, Caro Meldrum-Hanna, Ross Coulthart and Paul Farrell.

Communications technology can be an ally in uncovering injustice, government bungles and dirty industry secrets, but it can also be a threat to both journalists and the sources they rely on.

“It’s important to protect your sources,” said The Sydney Morning Herald’s Kate McClymont. She suggests avoiding phones and going back to basics with a letter in the mail.

Caro Meldrum-Hanna from ABC TV’s Four Corners agreed. “Leave no traces of your conversations and who you’ve been speaking to.”

Ross Coulthart from the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes suggested taking the direct approach.

“There are many ways around technology, such as simply knocking on someone’s door.
Don’t use your phone. Just turn up and knock on the door as they’ll more likely agree to talk. Touch. Shake hands. Bring them a tea cake.”

Investigative reporting involves many ethical issues, such as whether the journalist is at risk of taking advantage of people who are not able to make sound judgements. And it calls for care and consideration for the source’s feelings.

“Being a male reporter and pursuing tortured women is a very sensitive job,” Coulthart said.

Paul Farrell covers immigration issues for The Guardian. If you are writing about a detention centre, “you need to speak with the people who work there”.

“How do you find them? You show up at their door, you attend the same events.”

Whether you’re relying on sophisticated technology or the human touch, investigative journalism remains time-consuming and labour-intensive — and thus expensive.

The key to success in investigative journalism, Coulthart said, is still “time and money”.

— Leni Vu

Dan Archer: Now is the perfect time for slow reporting

Dan Archer at his keynote. Behind him, a story about a Cree woman who was attacked.

Dan Archer at his keynote. Behind him, a story about a Cree woman who was attacked. Kate Golden/Walkleys


Even as the news cycle has accelerated, Graphic journalist Dan Archer believes that “slow”, visual reporting is vital to storytelling.

Archer is best known for creating virtual reality experiences out of eyewitness accounts — such as from Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, Missouri — and for live-drawing events (including Storyology).

People sometimes criticise drawings as being “fictitious”, he said in his keynote speech.

But he argues there’s an honesty in drawing.

“Text is inherently ambiguous. A lot of us forget that,” he said in an interview at the conference. And photographs in the age of Photoshop sometimes seem true but aren’t.

For young storytellers, he said, now is the perfect time to get involved with the medium.

“It promotes a form of slow listening and slow reporting,” he said.

“You have to sit and be with your subject.”

— Riley Wilson and Kate Golden; Dan Archer is sketching Storyology: @archcomix

Be nimble, work together, hold funerals: Innovation ideas


Dan Archer's live-sketched take on The Innovators' Dilemma panel at Storyology.

Dan Archer’s live-sketched take on The Innovators’ Dilemma panel at Storyology. He’s at @archcomix

In the Innovator’s Dilemma panel, Walkleys CEO Jacqui Park described the way storytellers are innovating as “like flying a plane while also trying to build it.”

Legacy media need to think more like start-ups, and collaboration “makes for a healthier system”, Upworthy’s editorial director Amy O’Leary said.

Innovation requires failure. We’re always told that. But it’s hard to do. So the innovators talked about how they “reward audacity”, as Jeremy Gilbert, strategic initiative director of the Washington Post, put it.

O’Leary’s team holds what she calls “joyful funerals” for ideas that don’t make the cut at Upworthy.

Campbell Reid, group editorial director for News Corp Australia, said he has tried to create newsrooms in which it is everyone’s responsibility to innovate — and ones that encourage risk-takers in part by not heaping blame on people for the inevitable failures.

And Gilbert talked about making sure that good ideas from individuals don’t get lost, even in big newsrooms.

“We don’t have it as figured out as we once did,” Gilbert said.

Iain Salvador and Grace Campbell

How Black Comedy approaches P.C.-ness

The ABC’s television show Black Comedy is pioneering the idea that it’s OK to laugh at indigenous people.

The show takes a no-holds-barred approach to giving a voice to Australia’s minority groups. Effectively, it’s pushing the boundaries of political correctness and what should and can’t be said.

The cast members all said the show’s humour isn’t representative of a collective group of people. They’re not speaking for whole ethnic groups. It comes from their own experiences. It’s what makes them laugh.

“Very little gets censored,” said Kath Shelper, the show’s producer. “If it’s funny, it makes the cut.”

Leni Vu

NewsCorp’s Campbell Reid: ‘I think we have time to get this right’

12.24 pm

NewsCorp’s Campbell Reid isn’t buying into the hand-wringing over newspapers’ future.

Discussing the power of digital during The Innovator’s Dilemma panel, he said, “Digital is changing the world, but there’s something magical about newspapers.”

The future, he believes, is still bright.

“We’re not going to give up. People overestimate the pace of change and underestimate the size of change. I think we have time to get this right.”

— Riley Wilson

The Upworthy secret: A boatload of data

Headline data visualisation at Upworthy, from Amy O'Leary's Storyology Plus workshop this week.

Headline data visualisation at Upworthy, from Amy O’Leary’s Storyology Plus workshop this week.

12.16 pm

“Know your audience” is staple newsroom wisdom, but many journalists take fright when that knowledge comes in the form of audience analytics.

Amy O’Leary, editorial director of the viral content website Upworthy, said their team of just 16 journalists reaches 25 million people each month because the site “looks under the hood” of readership data to keep its audience “engaged but still curious”.

Upworthy — tagline “Things that matter. Pass ’em on” — focuses on stories with a progressive angle on political and social issues. Established in New York in 2012, it has an Australian launch in sight.

O’Leary, a former New York Times reporter, said a common attitude among traditionalists is that “data could corrupt our journalism!”

Looking at data seems like “a depressing thing” to journalists, she said, while data analysts see storytelling as “an art they don’t understand”.

But O’Leary sees this “problem” as an opportunity for growth and development. Going beyond the “terrible” tally of clicks on links, Upworthy measures the time readers spend on a story, the completion rate — did they read through to the end? — and shares.

Then comes the journalism. Upworthy uses these metrics to create stories that combine knowledge of the subject and the intended audience with a sharp headline, a strong, engaging lead and “a narrative question”. The final element is “a layer of universal meaning — that’s the key to great storytelling,” O’Leary said.

“Embracing data is really embracing your reader.”

News after clickbait – Amy O'Leary at Storyology 2015 from Walkley Foundation on Vimeo.

— Grace Campbell

For every reporter, a coder: the Washington Post’s radical rethink (and reorganisation)

11.35 am

The Washington Post’s Jeremy Gilbert, director of strategic initiatives, has dramatically remodeled the Post’s newsroom to help it better adapt to the new media landscape, investing in journalists with large social followings and subject matter experts.

“We’ve hired about 130 journalists over the last 2 years,” he said. “Even more than that, we’ve hired more engineers.”

The Post has embedded programmers alongside reporters in the newsroom, with about 60 on staff now.

They’re building new tools both to help readers find content in the dizzying social landscape — and to help the journalists do their jobs in the newsroom.

“We build very targeted tools for ourselves,” Gilbert said. “There are a whole host of products that go from the engagement of content to the building of that content.”

— Iain Salvador

What does the future look like for young storytellers? Vox pop

11.14 am

Amy Wilson-Chapman, audience development editor, Australian Financial Review:

“There are so many new opportunities for journalists and non-journalists to tell stories without the barriers we had years ago. I also think it’s challenging, because there’s a lot of competitors and it’s a global market. You’re also competing with a lot of other people and organisations that didn’t used to tell stories.”

— Riley Wilson

More from Robyn Butler: ‘Stay true to your voice’

Finding your voice – Robyn Butler at Storyology 2015 from Walkley Foundation on Vimeo.

The creator of hit TV comedy Upper Middle Bogan, Robyn Butler, spent two years unemployed.

“I could not get a job to save myself,” said the writer, actor and producer. But Butler stuck with her vision and urges others to do the same.

“The writer’s voice needs to be specific and purposeful,” she said. “The only way to get a slice of the audience is to stay true to that voice.

“Find the courage, risk the failure, bear the judgement and create. Write your story.”

Butler’s newest story is her feature film Now Add Honey, directed by her husband and creative partner Wayne Hope.

“The best armour you can have is to know what to say. Eventually someone will be in your corner.”

Even writer’s block is part of the normal ebb and flow of the creative process, she said.

— Riley Wilson and Grace Campbell

"That thing they call writers block is actually writing. If you want to be a writer you just have to write." @butlerandhope #Storyology

— Eliza Jane Berlage (@verbaliza) November 11, 2015

Blast off! Meet the Storyology Newsroom

We’re all full up on pastries thanks to The Washington Post, and I’ve just sent out our intrepid team of student reporters.

You’ll be hearing throughout the day on this page from UNSW students Annalise Bolt, Leni Vu, Iain Salvador, Grace Campbell and Riley Wilson. Check #Storyology Twitter and Instagram to follow the conversation.

That’s where I found our opening salvo for the day.

" storYOLOgy "

— Tiger Webb (@tfswebb) November 11, 2015

— Kate Golden
Walkleys multimedia manager and Storyology Newsroom director

There is no journalism without coffee.

There is no journalism without coffee.

The pre-conference calm.

The pre-conference calm.

Rego desk, coveted lanyards.

Rego desk, coveted lanyards.

Find us upstairs at the Chauvel if you've got something to say!

Find us upstairs at the Chauvel if you’ve got something to say!