Our crack reporters from Western Sydney University — Chris Kelly, Megan Kelly (@megskelly_uni), Sandy Cheu (@sandycheu) and Curtis Mayfield M-H — distilled the wisdom, hopes, hilarity and chaos of Storyology just for you.
Sacked journos put their payouts into DIY news
By Debra Jopson
When the journalists who had put their hearts and souls into the Egypt Independent newspaper were sacked three years ago, they ploughed their payouts into their own publication.
“DIY news,” Lina Atallah, editor of Mada Masr, the journalists’ broadsheet and website, calls it.
The name means “horizon”, or the point where a gemstone is set into a ring, in honour of the journalists’ aspirations to make their own place, she said.
With a mix of longform, investigative and “fun” journalism, the bilingual publication in Arabic and English also performs the important journalistic role of “witnessing”, Atallah told Storyology.
For instance, following the massive protests in Egypt demanding the resignation of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, Mada Masr was often the only outlet to report violent events, she said.
“There was citizen-to-citizen violence and state violence and there was very little coverage of it, apart from the work we were doing … There would have been a missing record of this, otherwise,” she said.
As Mada Masr is journalist-owned, ethics and independence are paramount, and reporters are allowed to dig deep when needed, Atallah said.
“Text can be much more compelling if enough time is given to it.”
Stretching themselves to become money managers, the publication’s 30 media workers use whatever skills they can to keep its finances healthy.
They run events, including a dance party starring a copy editor who doubles as a DJ and an annual market which showcases Egyptian-made products, including T-shirts made by artistic staff members.
Editors hire themselves out to corporations and non-profits and even turn their hands to thesis editing. This move makes sense, because journalists are already part of the knowledge economy, she said.
“We thought we could manufacture hope ourselves and not wait for it to come our way.”
David Clinch: Don’t just go digital for the sake of it
By Megan Kelly
“If you’re working in a legacy business you have to find a way to manage its demise as well as you possibly can,” says David Clinch.
It’s essential to “reallocate your resources,” but don’t just go digital for the sake of it, says Storyful’s global editor.
Managing the growth of your digital strategy is also crucial, he says.
Thinking that a digital strategy is creating the same thing as a legacy product is where a lot of companies fail, he says. If your digital content is all text, something has gone wrong.
Media workers should make the most of digital platforms by creating content on them that will convince people to go behind a paywall, he says.
They can find, keep and maximise your audience by giving them the quality that they deserve, he says.
His final message to journalists and content creators was: “Make ads better.” Clinch says this is a reality that most journalists want to ignore. But finding a way to make ads worth watching is vital to their success.
If you’re waiting around for the advertisers to change, you will fail, he says.
Podcast helps open up murder case
By Curtis Mayfield M-H
In 1990 three children went missing over a five-month period: Colleen Walker, 16, Evelyn Greenup, 4, and Clinton Speedy-Duroux, 16.
At first the cases weren’t considered to be connected by police and were treated as missing person cases.
“It didn’t get the attention it deserved,” says Dan Box of The Australian. “And I wanted to know why.”
After digging further into the story, Box began to hear rumours that newspaper bosses had dismissed the story because the missing children were Aboriginal.
Box wanted to blow the lid off the story. But instead of going the All the President’s Men route of print, he put it into a podcast.
“We hadn’t done a podcast before and realised it was a lot of work,” he says.
Despite being a novice at the new medium, the podcast picked up a lot of steam.
“It went gangbusters,” Box recalls.
With 400,000 downloads worldwide, the podcast gained enough traction for Box’s editor at The Australian to encourage him to keep digging.
“He pushed it really, really hard,” says Box.
The case became a front-page story and gained enough attention for the police commissioner to apologise to the families of the victim in person, Box says.
A new case has been opened on the murders and is still ongoing.
The mother tongues of the land return
By Curtis Mayfield M-H
In an effort to promote their culture and traditions, several Indigenous Australians are making it their mission to connect young people to ancient Aboriginal languages.
BuzzFeed’s Indigenous affairs reporter, Allan Clarke, has made this a priority in his work.
“I think it’s incredibly important that young Aboriginal people have access to language and culture, because they become a different person when they actually are able to speak their language and practice their culture,” he says.
Clarke points out that there’s been a history of these languages becoming lost over the generations.
“Sadly for a lot of our people, that’s been taken away from us and cruelly eroded over the years,” he says.
Lionel Lovett is a language teacher at Parkes Public School and has been teaching the fundamentals of the Wiradjuri language to students from kindergarten to year six.
“At the very beginning of teaching language, I didn’t know what the outcomes would be for the first couple of days. Then it became months, then years. Then it developed into a passion that drives me along,” he says.
With this same enthusiasm and motivation, ABC producer Solua Middleton has put together a nationwide film called Project Mother Tongue.
“There are hundreds of Indigenous languages in Australia. It [the project] invited people to show their stories,” she says.
Middleton has managed to tell over 100 stories that touch on Aboriginal community issues.
Aboriginal languages are being kept alive by teaching the youth about them but there is still a divide between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.
Clarke says that advances in social media are closing this gap.
“Seeing social media and the rise of online forums, it’s great to see young people sharing culture and language and seeing them get the confidence that they didn’t have before,” he says.
Indigenous writer and director Bruce Pascoe has an older method for bringing communities together.
“Have a cup of tea with someone. This is what Australia is like, and that’s the way to do it. It’s amazing what a differencet it makes. That’s how you learn history,” he says.
Maybe there is hope for our ever-fragmented attention spans?
Arieta Rika, Storyology attendee, on what she learned from Heidi Blake of BuzzFeed News:
“I’m a digital comms specialist, and I always thought that the shorter the content the better — it will have more impact. But actually it’s okay, and it can be more meaningful to have a longer story that you’ve spent a really long time on, and it can still go viral.”
— Megan Kelly
How Sandra Sully and Emma Alberici broke into TV journalism
By Sandy Cheu
Two of Australia’s top television journalists tell Storyology that they fell into the industry unexpectedly, but it was determination and perseverance that got them to the top.
TEN Eyewitness News presenter Sandra Sully and ABC Lateline reporter Emma Alberici tell their tales of how they landed behind the camera.
With a budding passion for health, Sully had ideas of pursuing a career in fitness.
After chatting with a member of the gym, who was also an employee of Channel Seven, she decided fitness was just a hobby.
Soon after landing a production assistant job at Channel Seven, she began pursuing journalism and began living a double life – production assistant on the weekdays and journalist on the weekend.
How did she do this?
“I just kept pushing. I had already built a trust and a confidence,” she says.
“Show incredible determination and persistence once you realise what it is you want to do.”
Alberici, on the other hand, began studying journalism and economics at a time when journalism was a new degree and generally frowned upon.
“My family didn’t think journalism was a real job,” she says.
Alberici had gained a cadetship with The Herald Sun, when she was offered the opportunity to attend the launch of The Small Business Show with Channel Nine.
“I met the executive producers — and I think I was the only one in the room with a business background — and I asked them how on earth they were going to make the fluctuation of the dollar appealing to the audience,” she says.
She was offered the job as producer and worked there for six months.
Great persistence enabled both journalists to reach their goals.
“I was determined, interested and curious and I wanted to learn new things,” says Alberici.
For Sully, it was “opportunity and hard work” which got her where she is.
Our favorite moments from the conference so far
Megan: Every time I heard Kara Swisher talk.
Chris: “The simple idea of being able to gaze into the minds of some of the best in the business”
Curtis: Shooting the breeze with Buzzfeed’s Allan Clarke while eating a free sandwich.
Eliza: The conversation & playfulness between old & new media journalism. Listening and learning.
Sandy: That awkward moment when we were trying to get a photo with Sandra Sully and ended up taking video accidentally.
Debra: That tweet about narcissism.
Shoot to err, and other tips from a master photojournalist
By Megan Kelly
“You don’t have to just be first, you have to be best,” is photojournalist John Donegan’s advice for those who want to ace it as photographers.
His first tip is simple. “Always carry a camera. You can’t take a photo if you haven’t got a camera,” says Donegan, a Walkley award winning veteran.
You never know when news is going to break so having your equipment ready is vital, he says.
“You have to make sure that your technology is always on and always prepared,” he says.
And there’s more:
- Don’t be scared of the technology. Be on top of the developments and changes as they occur and make them work for you. Donegan believes that photojournalism has changed faster than the newspaper industry and “with that change comes new opportunities,” he says.
- If you happen to be working with a particularly dry subject, Donegan suggests not trying to include everything. “Photos should be value-adding,” he explains. It’s more important to engage people with a photo, not tell the whole story.
- For freelancers, he says it’s important to not “waste time trying to sell your photos, because then you’re not taking photos.” Let someone else sell them and focus on the photography, he says.
- Photographers just starting out should “shoot so that you make mistakes. Work out how those were made that way you can avoid them in the future.”
Sources: to friend or not to friend?
By Christopher Kelly
Two of the world’s most prominent investigative journalists have agreed to disagree on whether reporters should ever treat their sources as friends.
Investigative journalist Gerard Ryle says it’s okay.
Buzzfeed UK investigative editor Heidi Blake says it’s not.
“My friends are never my sources,” Blake told a Storyology session on cultivating sources. “I will say [to my friends] just don’t tell me [anything newsworthy], I’d rather you just didn’t because I am a journalist.”
“And equally, my sources are never my friends. I’d be friendly with them, care about them, I will protect them to the end of the earth. But I am never going to be their friend.”
Ryle befriends his sources and says, “I think it is very important to have a one-to-one relationship with them.”
“It’s also very important to understand them, and understand what their motives are when they come to you.”
“If it’s a spurned wife, and she is coming to you with all the documents of the husband … You need to know that this is what is motivating her.”
For Blake, it’s about how much you love someone.
“I feel like I am not objective about my friends. I love them, I think they’re wonderful, and I am not going to scrutinise their faults and their failings,” she says.
“But with my sources – I mean, I do care about them deeply – but it feels like it is more of a professional relationship.”
Whatever relationship reporters have with their sources, they need to understand that their informants may be vulnerable, Ryle says.
“We need to treat our sources with a great deal of respect at the beginning, because they are putting their arses out there for you.”
The buzz from the floor
By Sandy Cheu
Michael Coggan, ABC Adelaide – State Coverage Producer
Storyology is: “Inspiring, interesting and exciting”
Most enjoyed: Management shake-up panel from Thursday
His six-word bio: “Give a voice to the voiceless”
“Storyology is fantastic because for me, because it’s a reset… for me it comes at a time of the year where I’m looking for a bit of inspiration and looking outside the box for new ideas in terms of how to do reportage. It’s a great insight into where our industry is going.”
Lyndal Byford, Australian Science Media Centre – Media Manager
Storyology is: “Network, future and stories”
Most excited about: On trust and persistence: How to cultivate sources from Friday
Her six-word bio: “Behind enemy lines, journalists meet scientists”
“It’s really great. The media is changing so fast at the moment, there are new players, old players dropping off, old players are changing and no-one really knows where it’s going. Storyology gives you a great snapshot in time and also some real insight into where things might be moving in the next 12 months.”
Reflection: “Scientists and journalists sometimes come from opposing camps, they come from different agendas. Our job is to make them feel less like they’re behind enemy lines, and more like they’re chatting with a friend.”
Liz Keen, ABC Coffs Harbour – Open Producer
Storyology is: “Interesting, stimulating and diverse.”
Most enjoyed: Management shake-up session from Thursday
Her five-word bio: “Hunting for diversity and life”
“Storyology works in a couple layers, I mean it is a skill sharing opportunity. I think often we work in our bubbles and we feel like we are competing with each other. I think having sessions like these are an opportunity to open up a little bit and be a bit less frightened.”
Tweet power lost in Arab world
By Christopher Kelly
Political activism on social media, which worked well with the Arab Spring movement five years ago, doesn’t pack the punch that it once did, says Egyptian journalist Lina Attalah.
“A lot more people are online now, there is crowdedness, there is less of an influence for those early adopters,” she said.
“What was interesting back then [during the Arab Spring] is how the youth activists used social media as one of various other tools that lead the mobilisation,” said Attalah, who is editor-in-chief and cofounder at Mada Masr, a independent Egyptian media outlet.
“But right now … this prototype, this model, is not working anymore, because you don’t have that kind of weight that they used to have back then.”
Attalah believes the answer to upholding democracy lies in more organising and political movements outside of social media.
“I think that issues-based campaigns that are unsettling the traditional modes of organisations can have a chance at basically shaking the waters a little bit,” she said.
Quizzes rise to top of the toolbox
By Sandy Cheu
Interactive media and visual elements are powerful ways to engage and involve an audience, panellists at Storyology say.
Maps and filters that allow people to interact are tools which media workers can use to cater to audience members’ preferences, but quizzes are whizzing to the top of the toolbox for some outlets.
Quizzes help “to make the story understandable, or even how to make the story fun,” says Kavya Sukumar, maker of storytelling tools at the American company Vox Media.
While media companies can use quizzes for market research, Sukumar says her organisation does not draw on them for any sort of analytics.
In some cases, it’s just for fun. For instance, under its brand Eater, Vox Media created “Is This a Real Cookbook?”, based on nonsense-sounding cookbooks.
“We took the names of really ridiculous sounding cookbooks, and we, the team all made terrible and fake sounding cookbooks, and it was a real or fake cookbook quiz,” Sukumar says.
Even the august Australian Financial Review has published a weekly quiz with GIFs, said data editor Ed Tadros.
Panellists at the ‘Data gets personal’ session suggested that quizzes work well because they offer a two-way street and are especially useful in attracting and entertaining people with short attention spans.
Julia Smith, lead designer at the Institute for Nonprofit News (US) says: “I always like the ones that are used to test people’s assumptions before you get into the storytelling. Not so much telling your story through your quiz, but seeing where your reader is at, and showing what the actual facts are.”
Quizzes are also used to tell wider narratives and to understand how an audience perceives a topic.
Smith cites an interactive piece published by The New York Times recently, designed to shake up readers’ preconceptions about crime.
Day Three: Carbo-loading is back
Final day of the main festival. It’s well known that thinking hard burns extra calories, so we’re lucky to have a spread of schmear and bagels from BuzzFeed News to kick off the day. Breaking news: Apparently gluten-free bagels exist.
Australia is the Wild West of podcasting
By Curtis Mayfield M-H
Most media junkies know at least one podcast from North America.
And now podcasts are being made in Australia.
“It’s the Wild West, we’re probably defining how we produce and sustain podcasts,” says Kate Montague, executive director and founder of Australian company Audiocraft.
The challenge for Audiocraft and other Australian outlets with podcasts comes in two forms.
One is to find an Australian audience. The second is finding a way to make money from hosting a podcast.
“When you don’t have an existing audience, it’s really tough. We need to talk about building an audience,” says Alana Mahony digital content manager at audioBoom.
Because it is so easy to create a podcast with only a few pieces of audio equipment there has been a flood of amateurs posing as the real deal, says Heidi Pett from ABC Radio.
“I’m so sick of hearing three guys trying to make a comedy podcast by yelling into an iPhone,” she says.
One way of generating money from local podcasts is to figure out who’s listening.
Podcast creators can gather information can gather information about their listeners, such as their age, by using cookies, says Mahony.
Mamamia tries to target as many women as possible by having seven or eight different podcasts on topics ranging from parenting to which TV shows are best for binge watching, says podcasts general manager Holly Wainwright.
Mahoney estimates that 2.9 million Australians are listening to podcasts but wants to see a shift towards listening to locally produced ones.
“The trends that are happening in the US are happening here in Australia,” she says.
Technically this session was about first-person reporting and objectivity. But yes.
At #storyology, the session on narcissism is packed. Don't say journalists aren't an honest bunch.
— Fergus Hunter (@fergushunter) August 11, 2016
Diversity in management? These women think not
Quotes taken from Storyology’s Management Shake-up panel, collected by Megan Kelly.
Kara Swisher, Recode
“Look across the table and if there’s ten white men there, there’s something wrong”.
“They see themselves, they hire themselves … they like themselves”.
“One of the issues is there’s almost nobody to look up to”.
“That we have to ask for these things is ridiculous”.
Yassmin Abdel-Magied, author and engineer
“It’s difficult to be what you can’t see”.
“Change is uncomfortable and people aren’t necessarily going to do it if they don’t need to”.
“It requires extra effort, but we’ve got to put that extra effort in”.
Generally women undersell themselves and men oversell themselves, Abdel-Magied says.
Michelle Guthrie, ABC
Asked when we will have equality: “When there are equally as many incompetent female CEOs as there are male CEOs”.
There are more CEOs named John than there are female CEOs in the US, says Guthrie.
Women asked to do something should always say yes. Work it out later, just say yes, she suggests.
The most hardcore crew at Storyology?
Hacks/Hackers: These are the people who were not only up for more (and more technical) talks after the official Storyology program ended Wednesday, but asked so many questions of botmakers Simon Elvery from ABC and Ryan Hunt of News Corp that we had to physically kick them out of the Chauvel. They landed softly at Imperial, where the conversation continued.
— Kate Golden
Aussie law tough for reporters: Ryle
By Christopher Kelly
Australian law has made it tough for new investigative reporters who don’t get support from a media organisation, according to the head of an American based journalism centre, Gerard Ryle.
“You gotta have a lot of money to defend yourself,” he told a Storyology session.
In the United States, journalism is better protected legally and it’s rare to get legal letters from lawyers threatening defamation action.
“Getting a legal letter was a very common thing when I was working here in Australia. In America, it sends people into apoplexy. It’s so unusual.”
Ryle currently works as the director at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in the USA, which recently shook power brokers worldwide through corruption revelations in the Panama papers.
“I got a legal letter when I was over at the ICIJ and I was just waving it around the office thinking no big deal,” he said. “My boss went crazy, he almost had a panic attack.”
“You even get subpoenaed here reasonably easy, and it’s really like a badge of honor. I have been subpoenaed before, had documents seized, no big deal.”
Ryle was being interviewed by Sydney Morning Herald senior reporter Kate McClymont about his work on the Panama papers.
She jumped into the conversation mentioning data laws and whistleblowers.
“As soon as a whistleblower contacts you, they have already compromised themselves because there’s a trail,” McClymont said. “The safest thing to use is Australia Post.”
“I know it sounds old fashioned, but we do have to operate now using encryption devices… It’s hard for people to get in touch with you, and not leave a trail.”
McClymont was also worried about the cost of dealing with legal matters.
“Even somebody writing you a legal threat costs money to hire lawyers to reply,” she said.
“I could never do what I have done, without having the Sydney Morning Herald behind me.”
Yassmin Abdel-Magied on the lack of diversity in leadership
“How could you ever imagine yourself in that role when nothing around you says it’s possible?”
Here come the robots
By Curtis Mayfield M-H
Charismatic Californian tech writer Kara Swisher has come to Australia with an ominous prediction for humankind.
“There is no job a computer can’t replace,” she says.
Swisher is the executive editor of Recode, a publication that reports all things tech and she sees the world drastically changing, especially with the growth of artificial intelligence (A.I.).
“The A.I. revolution is coming, so we have to figure out how to manage it,” Swisher has told Storyology.
However, she’s not predicting a Terminator-style takeover by the technology we rely on.
“They [computers] don’t have to become like humans, they want to become like better computers,” she says.
Robots are able to see patterns like a journalist and are already performing some journalistic functions.
“They seem like they’re real because they’re programmed to be real,” she says.
Though technology has advanced and changed how reporters can tell stories, Kara feels that good storytelling is still crucial to the industry.
“I think it’s important to tell great stories and that has not changed. Telling great stories and doing great reporting are the two things that matter, period,” she says.
Many people now think that reblogging and retweeting are forms of news reporting, but they are not, she says.
Swisher encourages the journalists that write for her to work harder and better.
“We spend a lot of time developing them to think about those things and teach them how to do great reporting,” she says.
As Recode’s executive editor she doesn’t want readers to be force fed stories created merely to make “noise”, with no real information.
“It’s a really confusing world out there, and I think we bring a little clarity to it,” she says.
Swisher is a firm believer in being transparent with her readers and was one of the first to put her email at the bottom of her stories at the Washington Post so they could contact her directly.
She declares that there’s no barrier between what she believes and what she writes.
“Your digital self is your normal self now,” she says.
Her campaign to uphold journalistic values hasn’t stopped her from interviewing celebrities like Kim Kardashian – who taught her how to use Snapchat.
Meanwhile, Swisher feels that social media giant Twitter has its days numbered.
“I think the company will be sold in the next six months,” she prophesises.
She ascribes Twitter’s downfall to its attempts to imitate Facebook, while failing to make the site user-friendly.
Swisher may next use her straight-talking manner to run for mayor of San Francisco.
She particularly wants the big tech companies to be better corporate citizens and help tackle the city’s dire homeless problems.
And the key to audience engagement is … [insert magic answer here]
By Megan Kelly
The reader has been in charge of the content since the paywall went up at The Australian says digital editor Andrew Webster.
The newspaper is able to cater to its readers’ interests because they’re more engaged. And it doesn’t have to rely on clicks to generate revenue or please advertisers, he says.
“It’s not trying to be about everything. It’s just trying to be about the things that matter,” Webster explained to a Storyology session about the challenges posed by platforms and mobile devices.
The goal is to boost subscriber numbers, who provide 70 per cent of the newspaper’s revenue, he says. The Australian makes sure it is easy for readers to log on and view content, because that will bring the website a bigger audience, Webster says.
Buzzfeed has a similar goal with no paywall, according to the website’s Australia editor, Simon Crerar. “Not bombarding people is a useful thing to make sure they’re engaging”, he says, and experimenting with the various tech platforms is a great way to do this, Crerar believes. “We’re trying to be where our readers are”.
Mobile distribution of media content means that journalists are now “competing against everything else in the palm of people’s hands,” he says. In this environment, media workers need to be able to constantly interrogate the data and learn from it, to ensure the audience is still with them, Crerar says.
Peter Fray: How to fix our crippling click addiction
By Christopher Kelly
Audiences are paying less attention to facts these days, he said.
“They are more willing to believe in the simple nostrums of a Trump, a Hanson, and those peddling the untruths about the benefits of Britain leaving the European Union,” Professor Fray said.
Fray said he believes media are willing accomplices to these untruths because they are addicted to the clicks.
“Donald Trump makes a speech, and it’s full of lies, half truths, and distortions. What do you do? A lot of journalists and media companies when I grew up thought, ‘Well, you just report that’.”
“But if it’s total bullshit, do you report it?”
He has a solution: fact-check everything.
“If you feel compelled to report what a post-truth politician is telling you, then I think you have a duty to your audience to actually present the facts next to it,” he said.
ABC dips its toes in virtual reality journalism
By Megan Kelly
There’s a whole new form of media where audiences can shift their reality and experience to a different place.
That’s the message that ABC’s experience designer Amy Nelson gave a Wednesday Storyology session on how newsrooms are experimenting.
It’s something that traditional newsrooms haven’t been able to offer audiences until recently.
Virtual reality, mixed reality and artificial reality are bringing about more ways to create “more embodied experiences with content”, she says.
“The key thing is you would use it when you would want to transport somewhere, where you couldn’t otherwise be,” she says.
The ABC is just starting to experiment with different ways to tell stories. Last year they tested the waters of virtual reality with their first project, Warwick Gold, an immersive virtual reality experience about Michael Maher, a champion Queensland bronco rider. http://rd.abc.net.au/warwickgold.html
Because virtual reality is so new, there have been challenges.
“Every person experiences it totally differently”, Nelson explains.
Media workers on the Warwick Gold project were used to having complete creative control of how audiences view their work. With virtual reality, they couldn’t.
In designing these new types of media experience, content creators have to “let the audience take charge of what they see and when they see it”, Nelson says. They are creating a hyper personal experience for their audiences.
We are exiting The Information Age of the web and social media and entering what will become known as “The Experience Age” Nelson says.
However, “even though so much has happened in the past two years, we’re barely at the beginning”, she says.
Social: The audience wants it all. Right now.
By Megan Kelly
In the modern newsroom journalists “can’t afford to avoid any publishing platform”, according to Sydney Morning Herald editor Judith Whelan.
Whelan had other words of advice for the audience at Storyology’s session The Modern Newsroom. “It’s not just what story you’re going to tell, it’s how”. Whether it’s a written piece, a video package or a post on social media.
Social media giants like Facebook have such dominance that the major media corporations have to deal with it by doing all forms of multimedia well, Whelan said.
While in the past it was the journalist’s job to decide what was newsworthy, in 2016 content is largely driven by what the audience wants.
Kate De Brito, Editor in Chief at Mamamia, went on to echo Judith’s sentiment saying that “majority of our audience comes from facebook” which means they are always looking to find a way to tap into the power of social media and their “own unique take” on the breaking stories of any given day.
For Tim Duggan of Junkee Media, the key is to always be looking at multiple ways to approach a story and deliver it in a different way for their audience.
In the age of social media and smartphones the audience want it all, and they want it now. More so than ever newsrooms have to find a way to captivate audiences and keep them coming back.
Yaara Bou Melhem: Freelance rates should include cost of safetyBy Sandy Cheu
Journalism in war zones is more dangerous than ever for both local residents and media workers because they are being targeted, a prominent freelancer has told Storyology.
“When it comes to expat journalists, they are at the pointy ends of reporting in war zones, because news outlets either don’t have the budgets or are unwilling to send their own staff,” says Yaara Bou Melhem, who was just named the 2016 Walkley Freelance Journalist of the Year.
It should be mandatory for journalists to have the correct safety equipment, training and insurance in high risk environments from the respective commissioning program, she says.
Media outlets that are commissioning a freelance journalist on assignment often provide this support, she says.
“What is less clear is when you’re a war zone for different clients and it becomes uncertain which of these organisations will pay for these things,” says Melhem.
“Although the costs may be prohibitive, it should be incorporated into the [overall] costs by the commissioners and should be covered by the costs of your reporting,” she says.
She has recommended an organisation that supports freelancers that are living and working in conflict zones: Frontline Freelance Register (FFR), an independent organisation that works to improve the safety and pay for its 500-plus members.
Earning enough money is the other key question for freelancers, and Melhem had ideas on how they can ensure they are paid properly. Working closely with commissioning editors is crucial.
“I’ve only been working on amazing stories because of the support of the editors I’ve fostered relationships with,” she says.
Team up, lone wolves
By Curtis Mayfield M-H
Freelancers should “be colleagues, not competitors,” says Geraldine Cremin.
She believes that to succeed in freelance journalism, working with others is a major advantage — even if they’re your rivals.
“If freelancing is the way forward for the industry, then we need to collaborate,” Cremin told a Storyology session on revenue streaming for freelance writers.
As a freelance correspondent in the Ukraine during the start of the war, she found working with others was an advantage.
She and several other journalists hired a van to ease their path through checkpoints cheaply and safely.
This was a major help since she didn’t have the luxury of relying on the big budget of a major publication to move about the country.
This collaborative mantra was also shared by Zoe Rodriguez, who says that journalists don’t have to work alone.
“We’re stronger if everybody works together,” says Rodriguez.
Rodriguez is the author relations manager at the Copyright Agency, a non-profit that’s set up to ensure that journalists and other self-employed content producers get paid what they’re owed.
If there was one thing that was agreed on by all on the panel it was that freelance journalists need to know what their words are worth.
Writer John Myers warns that more freelance journalists need to make sure they’re getting paid superannuation.
Myers advises that freelance writers should focus less on having their work published as the end goal and focus more on securing their financial future.
Hello world: We’re all over this festival
There’s a lot going on, so we’re lucky to have an army of sharp eyes and ears out here at the Chauvel. Meet our team of student reporters from Western Sydney University. They’ll be blogging at this page for the next couple of days.
Benevolent overseers include the Walkleys’ Kate Golden, freelance journalist Debra Jopson and editor Kate Bice.
If you’re at the festival, come on upstairs and give us a tip!
— Kate Golden