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Media Students & Webdiary?

Dear Webdiarists,

Not so long ago Jay Rosen, the US citizen journalism guru, spoke to the MEAA's Future of Journalism conference in Sydney about the great migration journalists would have to make to the online world if they wanted to remain relevant to users of their work. I'm one of those immigrants - and I have a proposition for you.

At the start of the year I was asked to write an Online Journalism unit for the Masters in Media Practice and Masters in Publishing courses at Sydney University. The Media department thought I'd be up for the job because despite being a long-time broadcaster (community radio and ABC) and print journo (briefly), I'd been teaching convergent journalism at Southern Cross University for 4 years, experimenting with convergent publishing. I'd also been doing a PhD on the ABC's transition to web publishing.*

I went to consult with a range of industry stakeholders - online editors, convergent journalists and producers, managers and trainers - and realised that there's little consensus about how people should learn online journalism skills, or what they should learn. Then I thought about how I learned about the internet back in the early 1990s: through joining communities and networks, user groups and email lists, asking questions, talking tech, and trying out stuff. Apart from being flamed, crashing my computer and working all night to unreasonable deadlines it's been a thoroughly wonderful process.

Which brings me to my proposition. Margo and I have been talking since the Byron Writer's festival last year about getting students involved in Webdiary - in writing, commenting and site building/maintenance. But as I said to her, this can only happen if the Webdiary community is willing to embrace it. I know the word student conjures different images for people, not all of them complimentary.

Masters students are different. They're focused on developing effective professional skills. They have life experience. Often they can spell. And while they would be writing here for assessment, they will also be expected to become part of Webdiary - to correspond with you, to help out, to debate where to and how to. To think deeply about what's going on in our political and social life and how it might be imagined differently.

They could post stories by themselves, as individual Webdiarists, but I'd like them to have a different experience of online publishing - to experience together what it means to have an ongoing conversation with "the public" and how this might change journalists' work, their aims and their attitudes. To understand what it means to design for community and to be accountable for your reporting and publishing decisions. This is what Margo's been on about for years and I think it's critical that it become part of journalism education.

At the least I'd expect them to register to comment, to post news stories and news commentaries of a high standard and to offer comment on other people's stories. They'd also be expected to critically analyse how the community works and, where they have time, to take on tasks that the management team thinks they're up to.

I expect you'll want to ask questions of me and them about this - so fire away. They don't start class until late July and wouldn't be posting until late August, so I can only contact them by email, but I will direct them to this post and suggest they keep tabs on what you want to say. I hope this will be the start of a long-term, productive and exciting relationship - and I also hope that out of it will come some interesting research on participatory and deliberative democracy. But that's another, more personal story - one step at a time.


Fiona Martin

* And I've been rowing my tinny back and forth over the digital divide since the early nineties when I hooked up with geekgirl Rosie Cross to make programs for Radio National's "Coming Out Show" about women online, and made sound works with cyberfeminists VNS Matrix. But that was pre-web. Another world.


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Keeping their minds open is what journalists do for a living`

My mind is open on pretty much every issue. It’s what journalists do for a living: keep their minds open in the hope that they catch the next new idea out there.

Sadly, what a significant minority of my bloggers do is begin their posts with an assumption that everyone who disagrees with them is a “moron”.

Here’s why those posts grate: My job as a journalist is to assume that the person who disagrees with me doesn’t know what I know. To increase the sum of their knowledge, I can only tell them what I know on their terms, in their language. Which must begin with an assumption that I am not better than my reader.

So I try to tell them what I know in the most values-neutral language I can find; a language that:

a/ does not assume the reader is dumber than I am, and

b/ gives them the benefit of the doubt that their disagreement with me is based on both of us not having previously engaged in a direct discussion on the topic at hand.

Let’s face it, you cannot persuade a single person out there to change, or add to their world view by shouting at them. Most homo sapiens will assume, correctly, that the person shouting means them harm.

I try to direct the participants on this blog to observe some common rules of engagement. Talk to your fellow blogger as an equal, not as someone to belittle. Your ego may crave the sustenance that comes with abusing others. But trust me, it doesn’t make for good reading. Beyond Mungo MacCallum and Hunter S Thompson, there are very few writers in the political sphere that have ever done abuse as poetry. I love their work; I often yawn at some of yours - no disrespect; it’s just how I see things.

Words of wisdon from

Good advice but I am not sure all journalists have an open mind. Let's hope we can show them the way on WD.

Introducing myself

As another of  Fiona Martin's media students, I feel I should also make some form of introduction here.

My name is Gregor Stronach, and I'm a writer who (in a former life) worked closely with The Chaser. I currently have a fairly regular and irreverent  presence on ABC Unleashed and on an Edinburgh-based humour and satire site called Rum and Monkey (a word of warning - my work on R&M and The Chaser is not for the easily offended...)

 I'm looking forward to getting to know everyone here at Webdiary - and if it's the forging of long-lasting friendships with the regulars or merely enjoying the comment of a random internet passer-by, I am very much looking forward to hearing from you all when I post a serious article of my own. 

 Thanks everyone for the warm welcomes.

Richard:  I'm  offf to look at your stuff, Gregor.  Welcome ... we can always do with more irreverence.

(Later)  That latest piece on Rum'n'Monkey.....Eeew!  Especially just after snags for lunch!

Rum and Monkey

yeah - sorry about that.

It's a companion piece to something I wrote about four years ago, when I was exploring a rather unsavoury event from my early childhood - I found that writing about it has offered me the greatest catharthis - talking to shrinks / friends / family / strangers on the bus all helped - but in the end, it was the power that those words gave me that have helped me come to terms with what happened, and deal with it. in my own way, of course.

I'm glad you went and took a look - I have a much larger back catalogue of work on that site, including a couple of my favourite pieces. If you're so inclined, and feel like laughing rather than cringing, I would suggest hitting up this link and looking for the Performance Review pieces ( including a Human Resources Performance Review of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) and The Politics of Chess - which my mum reckons is the best thing I've ever written.

Also: The Right and Noble Thing, which was my response to the news that Saddam Hussein had been condemned to be executed in November '06. I'm proud of that one too.

Flame on Webdiary, MBD?

My personal favourite is a deep apology for any unintentional offence that I may have caused.

This is usually misinterpreted to mean that I regret unintentionally causing offence.  Which, of course it doesn't mean at all.

Dang!  Disclosing secrets!

New experience

It's a new experience for me although I surf the internet frequently for fun. However, after the first three weeks, I feel a little bit exhausted. I dare say this situation is tougher than any period we have gone through so far. 24 hours a day but we need more time for 8 hours readings almost every day. But I hope that may bring us positive effects which facilitates us to take study as a more serious matter. Do my best.

Fiona: Welcome to Webdiary, Yun Lou. Courage – one does eventually adapt to the pressures of the kind of studies that you have undertaken – generally once the examination period is over...

Please don't flame me...

Hi everyone,

I sure hope this is the right place to comment!

I have to admit that I was reluctant to post anything in fear of being ostracised for my grammatical errors and (lack of) vocab. I have a feeling posting on Webdiary will fine tune my subbing skills!

Richard:  Hi Carmen, and relax!  Care to tell us a little about yourself?


We don't do flame here Carmen K. Li. That is for other blogs. What I and a number of other Webdiarists regularly do is push the moderators' envelopes by seeing just how much veiled abuse we can get away with within the guidelines. It's a recognised part of the Webdiary game but even I get DNP'd, category: abuse, from time to time. That generally leads to email exchanges pointing out exactly how it was not abusive.

No-one is ever ostracised for grammar, just pizzled from time to time. Jenny Hume hates Shakespeare so I gave her Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales From Shakespeare for Christmas - that sort of good natured pizzling.

Apart from that, come on in, the water's fine.

Online News?

The Beijing Olympics - what an event!

Richard:  Welcome,  Zhang Xiaojia.   Would you tell us more about how, as Chinese, you view the Australian media presentation of the Olympics?

There is an response to your post which I have moved to the new Beijing Olympics thread to which you might want to reply.  Please follow this link.


Although I may feel free to helpfully correct another's syntax, I would like to point out that done to my posts, it is soley  an indication of quibbling, nit picking  pedantry.

The happiest example of benign correction I saw recently on a talkboard, where a poster referred to "a braisen example of..."

To which came the reply:  "Did you take cooking class instead of metalwork?"

A bit like yo

F Kendall, pedantic nit pickery is a real art around here as yo would know. Trouble is those that pick nits often fail to see what is lurking in their own hair.

These days do any kids know what parsing and analysis is? They would probably have to look up the meaning of the word parse first.

But freed of all that isn't it lovely to be able to start a sentence with the word but and not have someone nit pick. And start one with and as well. Mind you, I would still adhere to the rules in formal writing. I guess the net has allowed people to write on line as they would converse face to face. Not that a bit of soap and water would not go astray at times.

BTW: I am still going to look up those old hymns for you when I get my old Pressy school hymn book from Goulburn. Do you have a copy of Sankey's Sacred Songs and Solos - it is a pre 1900 book. What is the book you have?

The age-old joys of And

Jenny, I think if you look in that Bible of yours, you will see that the use of conjunctions to begin sentences has been around a little while longer than the internet. And it has enjoyed a respectable place in English literature ever since.

I could give you a quick run down on where the anti-conjunction injunction came from, and attempt to enlighten you on the thinking behind it, if I felt like it. But, hey — why would I bother? Just try to remember to make your sentences make sense, and you'll do OK.

Why oh why do so many people insist on rabbiting on about things they know so little about?

Richard:  Personally, I was just having a dig for the fun of it.  Actually, Bill, I think I got the conjunctive rule from the BBC's style guide.

Actually, Richard,

I think it goes back a bit beyond the BBC.

Richard:  I'm sure.  For the ejjumucation of myself and others, could you "bother" to elucidate a little?

Em I bovverd? Hmm — I s'pose…

Too many Js, Richard. Delete one, s'il vous plaît. Or I'll report you to a moderator.

I suppose it goes back to pre-BBC 17th Century, with John Dryden's ruling to the effect that no sentence should end in a preposition. Interestingly, Dryden quoted examples of the construction to which he objected by such luminaries as Shakespeare and, I seem to remember, Swift, to whom he was related. A Dryden on a hiding to nothing, as Scott might say. But he had his way, because then as now the world was full of people eager to embrace a set of rules in order to be correct, if not in what they said, at least in how they said it.

I have an amusing book around here somewhere which names the two educators it blames for widespread adoption of the conjunction rule. It would take too long to dig that book out and then find the relevant passage, so I won't do that. It's probably apocryphal anyway. What can be established is that the rule originated with the grammar written by Robert Lowth in the 18th Century. From memory (so don't quote me) with the abandonment of Norman French as the lingua franca of officialdom, and its replacement by Chancery English, Lowth felt a need to adapt English to the grammatical exactitude to be found in Latin. He could never succeed. Something equivalent to Latin grammar can never be imposed on the quite differently constructed language, English. And formal Latin was never the vernacular language of the hoi polloi Romans anyway, any more than Norman French was the language used by ordinary English people.

Unlike Latin, or the Romance languages which grew from it, English is a moving feast. It is best dealt with descriptively; not proscriptively. That is how the OED has always operated; and that is how Samuel Johnson operated when he compiled his dictionary. Words, their applications and the way they are put together are found in the writings of more than one demonstrably competent user of the language, and incorporated into it. Personally, I think the practice that has for so long served us well is becoming altogether too fast and loose these days. Johnny-come-lately lexicographers such as those who compile the Macquarie Dictionary seem content to find stuff scrawled on some dunny door somewhere, and sanction its use of words and shonky constructs in mainstream language.

Pedantry has its place, but when it comes to English grammar it is often misplaced. The pedant should not be preoccupied with some historical figure's attempt to impose mechanical rules, but attend instead to accuracy of meaning. And, if they care to stretch themselves, to elegance of expression. In this latter, observance of those conventions which some insist on holding as hard-and-fast rules are helpful. But not always. Consider the words attributed to Winston Churchill, as competent a user of the language as we could hope to find: Up with such nonsense as this I simply will not put.


I should have thought, Bill Avent, from this quarter at least, you were more than safe from being quoted on anything.

Malcolm B sensible

Yes, I'm sure you would have thought. If only, if only…

I have it on good auctority that it's hard for some. 

Using vs actually understanding

Bill, I was reading before I went to school, at 5. I lived only to read. “English” was simply something that I “knew”.

I recall driving a teacher to distraction at some point when he presented two separate sentences to be rewritten into one. He stated that it could not be done without a conjunction and one kid stuck up his hand and said that he had done so. A claim immediately demolished.

I however was looking at what I had written, and was damned if I could see that I had used a conjunction. Raised the point, a hesitation, then: “Yes but you can do anything with English, ignore him,” and the lesson continued along the same lines as before.

When I was in Jakarta I traded English lessons for Indonesian. That was when I found out how little knew, in the sense of being able to explain, as against instinctively using English.

(No, I never paid attention to the irrelevant nonsense that they went on with – it was so obvious, why would one bother?)

Hail pedantic nit-pickery

F Kendall, thanks for that.

While we laugh, the braisen exemplar is probably still scratching his/her head at the response. Like any afflicted must, who hasn't yet learned how to nit-pick.

online Journalism

Or, in this case, Online Journalism.   Offhand, I can't think of another example where a capital letter alters the meaning so markedly.

Free to a good home

To quote a notice seen on the back of a toilet door at the University of Sydney where Fiona's students hail from...

 "FREE TO A GOOD HOME: Surplus Vocabulary"

Rather than contact details laid out in vertical tear off tabs ready to be ripped off, this particular notice offers stray words for empty pockets and scavenger collectors.  It's a popular offer.  All the words have been torn off and taken away bar one: IMPARADISE.

 Impressed by this new twist on toilet humour I looked IMPARADISE up on www.dictionary.com and discovered a new addition to my own vocabulary.  IMPARADISE is a verb.  To imparadise is 'to enrapture'.

 That's what I love about students...they surprise you.

 Hi....my name's Bronwin Patrickson.  I'm working with Fiona Martin as a tutor in the new Online Journalism subject.  Together with many of the students I've lurked on this list long enough.  It's time to spruce up my syntax, jump in and add a few words.... Thanks for having us.  I hope we manage a few surprises.  Please forgive the odd trembling infinitive.

My own experience online has generally been characterized by the growing realisation that none of this is as hard as it looks.  In my time I've gone from fumbling novice to trainee (ABC) to cross-media producer (ABC) to online journalist  (NINEMSN) to teacher (this subject amongst others, including multimedia/print media and video) to utter newbie (computer games?) and phd student (in um.... media).

Go forth and be merry I say.


p.s. I admit, I'm biased.  I like rapture.

Richard:  Don't we all?  Welcome to Webdiary, Bronwin!

It wasn't that long ago that DNA was just a concept.

More evidence, if any was needed, that media students should have some basic science and science history.

This from Tony Eastley on ABC radio this morning:

"TONY EASTLEY: It wasn't that long ago that DNA was just a concept. But today anyone can purchase a DNA test online, and that's worrying authorities here and overseas."

I think, from memory, it was 1953 when Watson & Crick published their research finding in Nature, wasn't it?

So, yes, it's been quite a while since DNA was more than just a "concept".

Space cadets

I don't know about the future of journalism, but this weird contradiction from different reports in the same edition of today's Sydney Morning Herald on-line doesn't bode too well:

First this:

“Space websites around the world are abuzz with speculation about what NASA's latest Mars probe may have found.

The excitement has been triggered by a report in the journal Aviation Week that the space agency alerted the White House to "major new Phoenix lander discoveries concerning the 'potential for life' ".

Then this:

“NASA's Phoenix spacecraft has detected the presence of a chemically reactive salt in the Martian soil, a finding that if confirmed could make it less friendly to potential life than once believed.”

They don't teach much science in media courses, obviously.


Peter Hindrup, my first graduate job was as a trainee programmer with an international company.

On hiring me, the manager explained that it was company policy not to retain females if they were still unmarried at 30.  Because, he said, an unmarried woman of that age had become bitter, sarcastic, nasty, unpleasant to have around ... (or words to that effect).

I'm amused in retrospect that I found that to be acceptable and plausible.

Jenny Hume, I notice that the library has many kindergarten-type books of Arabic/English.  Maybe I need to start there.

F Kendall

F Kendall- early sixties.  Young, 22 I think, attractive lass, Loraine, was the ANZ bank’s computer systems expert — anyway on setting up the banks for the incoming computerisation, and travelled around NZ overseeing the changes necessary.

She turned up at a bank somewhere in the South Island, mini skirt, boots and all and the manager tore her to shreds over the "indecent" dress.   She returned to her hotel, dressed in an ankle length dress, returned,  and in her words: “tore his bank apart!”*

The job was somewhat high profile. She went to an anti Vietnam rally in Auckland, and in a confrontation with a police officer got herself handcuffed to a parking meter — and all over the front pages of most every newspaper in NZ.

Approached by a "beggar" one day she argued him into admitting that he wanted the money for metho.  From then on he met her on the steps of her office every payday, but had to confess that he wanted the money for kero.

Eventually she met up with some bloke and took off to tour Australia on the back of a motorbike.

I hope that she has had a great life, she was certainly a vibrant, funny lady.

    * She had absolute authority.

Don't mention mini skirts

Peter: Love the story of the lass from ANZ but don't mention mini skirts to me. Can you imagne the looks I got when I landed in Lahore in a, well not exactly mini skirt, but not much better, and with bare arms as well, in the sixties.

Fortunately after I was dumped in a hostel for girls six miles out in the desert a little Ceylonese student came up to me, and said:  you need a friend in this country if you are survive.  She took me off the next day to fit me up in the traditional Pakistani dress.  She and I remain friends 40 years on and when she married she asked me to help her get nice materail for her wedding sari as there was not much on offer along that line in Ceylon at that time. So I sent her 6 metres of beautiful lily of the valley embossed white silk. I have photo of her on her wedding day. .She looked stunning.

Without her friendship in those early days over there I may have come badly unstuck. The country was very restless with martial law in place- not much has changed unfortunately. 

F Kendall: I think if you persevere, you will crack the code, insha allah.
But you have to get used to writing backwards.

Innocence abroad!

Jenny, thank god for ‘strangers’. Not only can I imagine, I know the very real danger that you were in.

60's, I landed in Jakarta, a ticket on to Malaysia with not much money in my pocket as business deal had been all but completed and the proceeds, I had been assured, would be deposited by the end of the week.

I had a few basic words of Indonesian and an introduction to ‘Nano’ at Preok (??) the water front.

I have always preferred to go unnoticed, so slacks, tee shirt, straw hat, sunglasses and wrist watch!

Money never was deposited! ‘They’ decided that ‘with Hindrup out of the country he will never get back’

I went looking for my contact. Didn’t know until much later that he was a gangster chief, controlled part of the water front and had been out of jail for one day after serving a year when I found him.

The contact was solid and he took pity on me. Some harsh advice, a rundown of environment in which I found myself and a direct order to get rid of the watch.

I turned up next day, still wearing the watch. I quietened his somewhat angry comments with the assurance that I could handle any problems it might create.

He pointed to one of the open backed ‘taxis’ where the passengers inevitably sat with their arms along the approximately 8 inch wide board that ran along each side — sitting as I had sat — and told me that they took the watches by riding up along side on a scooter and slipping a knife under the watch and cutting it free.

The watch was in pocket by the time he had finished.

While walking the waterfront — my home and earn a living space since I had a whole ten Australian dollars — I was ‘hit’. Big lad, exceptionally for an Indonesian, dressed only in a skimpy pair of shorts and I knew immediately that my shirt pocket had been picked. Ten Rupiahs!

I had his wrist before he was past and he protested, opening his hands, pointing to these skin tight shorts. I tossed my hat and sunglasses onto the roadway, squiggled thumb and forefinger together in front of his eyes and repeated ‘polisi’ (??).

Out of the crowd, coming from the direction I was walking came a small Indonesian, proffering the still folded note and asking if it was mine!

Brilliant technique!

I went looking for Nano. He looked skyward as I told him that my pocket had been picked. Told that I had caught the thief and recovered my money he became attentive.

‘This guy was ...’ ‘ Where was he?’ a nod.

I said: ‘ I want you to find this guy and tell him that if my pocket is picked while I am on the waterfront, I will find him and break both arms.’

‘Can you?’ ‘Yes, and I will.’

‘But there are many pickpockets’

‘I know, it ought to keep him busy making sure nobody gets to me.’

I was thereafter known universally ‘as the mad New Zealander’. I could , and did, leave my sunglasses and hat upon bar tables and retrieve them ours later.

  • I’m 5'7'’, weighed in then at just over nine stone.
  • I collected the money in person, later.
  • There were 480 odd Rupiah to the Australian dollar.

I wish that I believed that I could learn Arabic, but having attempted Chinese and seen the merriment it caused to my young teachers — daughter and niece of a friend, it seems unlikely.

They spoke fluent English, Mandarin, Hokien (??), Cantonese and Basha Malay.

And I was the one that was supposed to be ‘educated!’

Young and innocent

Peter, quite a saga but does not surprise me one bit. Live in those countries for a year and you learn quite a bit in terms of survival tactics. I spent Christmas Eve 1969 up on the border with Afghanistan with a knife and a gun under my pillow. I bought the knife, a great long dagger of a thing in Peshawar, a far northern city which was very conservative area, and nowadays of course it is a centre for extremists.

But I think the closest I came to being caught on the hop was when flying into another country where alcohol and other goods were not allowed to be imported. Just as I was about to leave the plane a hostess came up to me and asked me if I would take a package through customs containing I was told two bottles of whisky - her argument being that I was allowed to do so but she wasn't. So here's this teetotaller armed with same, along with forbidden electrical goods from the UK I had bought for a friend who assured me she had contacts in customs and could get me through with them. As we approached the customs line I saw they were pulling part every bag bit by bit. I was within about three places of the officer, and beginning to panic, when someone tapped my on the shoulder and pulled me out of the line and took me out a back way and let me through. The hostess collared me in the street to take her package. These days you would likely be asked to carry drugs and given the laws about that I hope kids are a bit more aware and less trusting than I was, though I doubt it. It is so easy to get into situations when you are young and find yourself right out of your depth.

I had some pretty hair-raising experiences in Pakistan but grew to love the country and the people.

I think the tonal Asian languages are in fact far more difficult to learn than Arabic or any of the Indo European languages - especially for the tone deaf like me. Believe me, Arabic is not difficult – well, that is my view anyway.

These days of course I am older and wiser all round.


You can read and write Arabic, Jenny Hume?  I'm impressed.  I had been thinking of doing a short course in conversational Arabic, but after staring at the script, and remembering my poor showing with cyrillic, decided it was beyond me.

Embedding stuff

F Kendall, yes Arabic, but nothing impressive. I had to learn it as part of the honours year doing South East Asian Studies, due to Indonesia being a Muslim country and Arabic being to Muslim Indonesians that which Latin is to the Christian English.  And I then did a post grad course in it in Pakistan as part of my Islamic Studies at Lahore University. But a long time ago my dear so no tutorials from me.

It is a is actually not a difficult language though at first appears so; had me completely beaten at first. I thought I had somehow missed some important basic concept so I sat down with the textbook and started again from the beginning. I found if you actually pull the lanuage apart it is almost mathematical in its logic. I actually devised a system of numbers by which to remember it, and also passed that onto another girl (Dutch) who was having problems with it, on the basis that she teach me to read Dutch in a week, which she did. Why a week? A long story so won't revisit that. But suffice it to say my honesty got me into a situation where I had to do that. She passed her Arabic exam, by the way, as I did my Dutch.

The Urdu script I learned in Pakistan is very similar. I liken those scripts to shorthand, the vowels being basically 'understood'. I think that is what makes it seem so difficult at first.

But interestingly, though I studied both Indonesian and was fluent in it, and Arabic which I could read and write but not speak, I never used either of them - so in forty years it has been largely a case of use it or lose it.  While I can still read the Arabic script I have forgotten most of the words, other than the call to prayer and such like. Yet I found that the French that I learned in secondary school has stuck like glue. I can still easily read it, write it fairly well and speak it sufficiently to get by in France and converse with rellies there. Even Latin I learned at school has a better survival rate than my Indonesian, though I suspect the latter would all come back pretty quickly. Maybe the things we learn in life are  somehow more deeply embedded in the mind.

Peter, when you think that most children in the early part of the 20th Century rarely got to go to school beyond the age of 12 they did pretty well. Formal education is not necessary to be successful in life, and in fact even these days some young people with only short courses in IT are now pulling in large incomes. My nephew bombed out of uni, ( my brother said he majored for two years in wine and women before he told him no more - out!) - and then did a six month course in IT. He now gets paid huge sums for contract work. Young lass over the road getting over 50 grand, only 20, being trained in one of the big banks.   

So Fiona, maybe your journo students will learn more here than in class!  Cheers.

To skin a cat

Jenny, I know what you mean. My younger brother, six years younger than I, left school at 14, got a special dispensation to drive a “heavy motor vehicle” — being a big truck, and managed very well. Was well on his way to earning/being granted a “field degree” in ornithology — from memory he has three credits in the field of ornothology, caused a major upheaval by disproving the conventional wisdom on the nesting of Mallard (??) Ducks, found a colony of “extinct” sparrow like birds, established beyond any shadow of doubt that a particular little parakeet could be sexed visually — provided you had his observational skills!

What stopped him? His boss went off on a field trip and brother and the boss’s wife partied for several days with his distinctive car parked outside on the road.

He only got the schooling he did, in a little one teacher country school, because a very clever teacher took over and promptly made brother “chool farm manager. And yes, brother did know what he was about.

He then, with some encouragement became school tennis captain.

Having had little time to enjoy the status, teacher than took him aside and in a man to man, explained that he was having difficulty explaining to parents how a kid that was doing so poorly in his school work could hold these positions.

Funny how images of self-importance can motivate (some) people!

the club and other chaoses

As David Davis has in the past been a huge fan of Joe Hockey, a baby boomer, I assumed that his 11.59pm post was the result of some kind of over indulgence in the vine, some kind of mental crash, some feeling of personal betrayal, or some kind of reluctant and bitter appraisal of evidence...he may well have at last recognised that such were, as he says, "morally bankrupt".

I find any attempt to put people into categories based upon their year of birth to be a little silly.  To my mind,  eg, boys of say 17-25 tend to be like this, irrespective of whether they were born in 1890 or 1990....(See such as Norman Lindsay's 'Redheap".  The miltitary used to capitalise on it.)  Just as 1-3 year olds tend to be like that, again irrespective of whether that was 1000 AD or 2000.  It's developmental stages:  nothing to do with years of birth.

Retired people, who have survived through vicissitudes, may have an encompassing philosophy that allows them to exhibit calm, fortitude and endurance.  How foolish to try to ascribe this to some magical horoscope related to their year of birth.

The  vague, undefined and simplistic nonsense of these terms is well illustrated in the above post, where Jenny Hume says, "..the boomers' parents, the x's I suppose to you....are now either dead..."

There is no doubt that gen X are the children, not the parents, as she suggests, of the babyboomers.  And the X's begat the Ys,

But, when she describes their good values, their care, their worry:  I would certainly not disagree:  these are human attributes, not  those confined to people born in certain calendar years.

That I think is what I said F Kendall

Yes F Kendall I agree, and I think if you read what I said you will find that is exactly the point I was making. To talk of this and that generation having certain attributes is quite silly. It is knowledge, experience, the influences on a person and yo's age and level of maturity that defines yo, not the year yo was born. (That yo is so very useful my dear). 

Shakespeare, incidentally, summed up those young men twixt ten and three and twenty quite nicely - Winters Tale. He did not talk of that generation - he spoke of a certain age group.

See MBD - even I can comprehend a bit of the incomprehensible poet - at times.

As for x begat y - not for me F Kendall - for me it would be the other way round. zyyxwvutsrqp etc etc - more familiar to me. So for me z more likely begat y and y begat x and so on.  I think I might ask the OED publishers if they put out a new version just for the likes of me. Now I wonder if that fetish of mine is why I found reading and writing Arabic so easy? Worth a thought.  

I guess one should not be too pedantic. The word generation does have some useful applications.


F Kendall and Jenny, couldn’t agree more! This “generation this, generation that” has always been incomprehensible to me, and not worth the effort of exploring.

A further irritant. Describing 16, 17 & 18 years, while telling us how much more knowledgeable they are than we were — in world events they are, or certainly ought to be! — and how tough the world is for them, as opposed to “our” time.

At approaching 70, the majority of those at the time were working at 15. Many with no interest in school had been already working for a year or more, while turning up at school often enough for nobody to “notice”.

We had all had friends and classmates die of polio, rheumatic fever, scarlet fever, and god knows what else. Everybody had had measles, mumps, whooping cough and similar afflictions.

Many were already raising their own families by 17 or 18. Some were already in business — I ran my own contracting gang at 18.

Opportunity for formal adult education was opened up for us when I was 19 or 20. After you turned 21 all you had to do was convince the professor running the department that you could keep up, pay the fees and not fail any test along the way. The following year, if you did well enough, the government picked up the fees.

Nothing to it really.

Today’s youngsters — talking generally — remind me a lot of the young Americans we met in vast numbers in the early 60's. Better spoken, more assertive, travelled, if only to a bloody war — and woefully juvenile, as in being overgrown children, “uninformed” and “soft”.

Oh so easy

Scott Dunmore, the Baby Boomers are by far the easiest to pick. So very, very easy. I like the older folks, Gen X and Gen Y.  The Baby Boomers are horrid.  I love Gen Y.  They are terrific. Older folks have values and ethics.  Baby Boomers are bankrupt . They talk a lot but are not genuine.  I know in a nanosecond if someone is a Baby Boomer.  They can't hide it.

 If it is not one of the brighter students who choses to study me, I don't care.  I will happily take a dumb one under my wing. It doesn't matter.  I like them all.  I am a born teacher and can adapt my approach.  In fact I am glad you pointed that out.  Now that you mention it, I don't want one of the brighter students.  As I am the longest standing person surviving on Webdiary other than Margo, I am worthy of study.

 In lots of ways I could be a sort of Professor Higgens character.  The real question remains who will benefit from my insight? So far no one in this place has. I ran a fool's errand for over five years and then got it.  I was not one of the brighter students.

Generation this and that - all nonsense really

David: Generation this and that - all a lot of nonsense really. Kids are bing born every day of the year.  And even if you do want to talk in terms of generations - presumably a generation spans about 20 years - you might note that there is a whole generation that has grown up since the boomers were born. They are the boomers' kids and who are now in their late 30s and early 40s, hardly generation Y. And there is another generation  well and truly on the way with ipods, bare bellies and all the other paraphernalia of youth. So who exactly generation Y is is pretty debateable.

As for the boomer's parents, the x's I suppose to you, well most of them are now either dead, in nursing homes, at home getting meals on wheels, or being cared for and supported at home by their loving boomer kids. It is in fact the boomers who are becoming the older generation with each passing year. 

And most of them I know are people of good values, caring for their aged parents, and worrying about the future for their grandchildren.

Pearls before swine?

Perhaps Daffyd, the fact that the collective ignorance of Webdiarists is impervious to your attempts at enlightenment tells you something about either their recalcitrance or your self promoted teaching skills.


I find the thought of being under Mr Davis' wing somehow unsettling.

I like the sound of it

I was reading the other day that Year 12 students need training to write by hand.  They have spent their whole lives typing so find it difficult in exams to write essays etc long hand.  I've been typing all my adult life and don't particularly enjoy handwriting so I can relate to the issue.  It brought a smile to my face.

One thing I would welcome about student involvement is it would be a nice balance to the old Baby Boomers and their horrid mindset .  The students would not have such baggage. Hang-ups about identity, rules based on traditional journalism and suchlike may go out the window.  Maybe the exchange of ideas and search for truth would become dominant.

What is "media" anyway?  What about the dynamics of social networking? What is the meaning of an intersection of social networking and media? Who is a producer and who is a consumer?  What is a community?  Who is a student and who is a teacher? Isn't it the students who could teach here? We live in a topsy turvy world where concepts that were once opposed are now joined. People and products that were meant for each other find each other on the grid.  Attract and repel. Cats and dogs are living together and who's to say what's right and wrong anymore? Everything old is new again.

 I'd like to see someone plot all this stuff on a chart.  Now where's Barry Jones when you need him?

I may allow one of the brighter students to study me.

A Modest Proposal

Would it not be better to anatomise Mr Davis?

Given the views of the Chief Justice designate, aren't the questions he asks questions for the judiciary rather than journalism students?

The generation war

Just leave it at atomise Malcolm.

I defy you, David Davis, to pick someone’s age by their attitudes or style.

Now back in my day (I just love that expression), it was the young who were the libertarians and railed against conservatism; now we see a role reversal and it's left to us baby boomers to preserve what's left of liberty, equity and democracy. I find most people under fifty boring which is probably why you find us horrid (though strictly, I'm a pre-baby boomer.) No problem picking my age but I'm letting you know.

As Oscar Wilde observed, the trouble with youth is, it's wasted on the young and as my wife rejoined, wisdom wasted on the aged.

You'll probably find the brighter students wouldn't want to study you. Your best hope is for one of lesser lights.

Musing over the passing of the generations

Scott, they don't realise it these young ones, but our generation is the last living link to the very beginnings of white settlement in this country, and to an Australia that is so vastly different to that which they know today. The rapid change post 1970 must make pre 1970 Australia seem like the middle ages to young people today. 

I am glad of the time I spent with that older generation of my childhood and youth. Thirty-five years on they are all gone and so much has gone with them, but not all because their faces and voices and their words live on in my head.   

So Fiona who are we, we regular Webiarists. many of us now into our late sixties and beyond? Are we (and the baby boomers who are on our tail), as David  would seem to have us all, an anachronism not worth bothering with or listening to?  Maybe we are. Mabye our past is something the young student has no interest in, let alone the attitudes and values it spawned.

But if they are, then we can connect them to generations long gone, to their lives, their faces and their voices.

Like all children we grew up at the feet of and listened to the stories of our grandparents. They were born of immigrants from the slums and the noble homes of the old countries. They spoke of the clipper ships, of convict chain gangs, of the birth of their children in tents on the goldfields, of Ned Kelly and wild blacks, of a world of bullock teams and horses and carts, of selecting in the bush, buidling a hut and there raising a family far from help. They told us stories told to them by their parents, of coming to this country in the 1790s.. 

Then we listened to their children, our parents. Stories from a fellow called Henry Lawson for bedtime, poems from Banjo, of J H Archibald and a magazine called The Bulletin, of Kingsford Smith, of Miles Franklin and others. They spoke with anguish of a World War and of their brothers, fathers and and cousins who never came back. They talked of places we had never heard of;  the Somme, Paechendale, Pozieres, Gallipoli. They told us of their marriages in the midst of the Great Depression, of their fears as their husbands or brothers were again called to War; and we saw them come back, wounded and sick and we hung back, not wanting to ask mother: What is wrong with Uncle Fred.  They spoke of Alamein, of Tobruk, of Crete and how the Japanese might come and we would have to flee to the hills. - and we felt fear in our little heads. And we knew their own hardships, and shared them with them from the time we could crawl.

We worked from early childhood because not to meant no roof over the head. Some of our playmates were children who had been interned under the Japs .We read of the Holocaust and understood why some of our teenage peers who had immigrated after the war had no living relatives. As we grew up we saw the Berlin blockade, the Russians crush Hungary and then Czechoslovakia - we saw the world stand on the brink of nuclear war over the missiles in Cuba - we saw Menzies on his feet in Parliament commit us to Vietnam and our friends called up - we rocked and rolled - and listened to the Fabulous Four. We saw man walk on the moon on B and W TV. 

We started work and started raising families. We got to go to universit y - with opportunites our parents never had. We studied with people with names like Phillip Ruddock.  Then a man called Whitlam was sacked and we stopped and thought: This is not right.

Those were the people and events that shaped our lives, gave us fodder for thought and yes, set our values. It was a generation when the F word was never allowed in the home and one was judged harshly by the use of it. Now the young do not seem to be able to live without it. 

So as we head toward our seventies and then our eighties, are the students of today interested in what we have to say before the link is broken? It seems David would say No.

Looking forward to dinner

Jenny Hume, I do hope we can catch up for dinner when you and Ian are in Sydney next.  I spent huge amounts of time in my youth with my grandparents and my Great-Aunt's birthday yesterday was an intimate connexion with the past (you still can't shut her up).  Our family had a vast coastal/South Pacific trading fleet in the 19th Century.  History that has never been written.  History that must be passed on.

One of the things that being with SWMBO has done is put me in direct contact with her students.  Not only from Vinnies but also those she tutors privately.   She has done the same for my Mother and for many older people in the local community by engaging them in helping students with "special needs" for public examinations.  That is, the very kids that article in the Herald this week was about - kids who type so much they need to be taught how to write.

That is how we pass culture and acculturation on.  It takes time.

We have a scheme at the NSW Bar where we act as duty barristers (for nothing, as usual) but they have been rostering the younger barristers on with more senior people like me.  Last Wednesday was a heap of fun because I was with a fellow, older than I, who finished law ahead of me and who had a long career as a solicitor but had not nearly my experience as an advocate.  I think he learnt something.  I certainly did.

This idea of budding journalists interacting with us may be the same mutually beneficial exercise. 

Yes indeed Malcolm

Malcolm, yes indeed, we look forward to that and we will let you know the period around 17th we will be in town for a few days. A visit I have also been promising an 86 year old cousin - the last of my father's tribe.

My great aunt lived to be 104 (died in 1974) and I used to sit by her bed at night as she talked of her youth.  Wonderful stories.

You should get your great aunt recorded for the oral history records. Alex Hood came and inteviewed Ian and me a couple of years back. Ian's grandmother ran Pakies Club in Sydney where all the writers of the twenties and thirtees used to pass time - a haunt of Miles Franklin, Xavier Herbert, Kylie Tennant and their ilk.  Pakie was run over and killed by a red cross bus on the day the war ended.  I try to get Ian to write his memoirs - he has a wealth of anecdotal stuff on so many leading figures he rubbed shoulders with in his youth and was a history student under Manning Clark. Did you see the interveiw tonight about his letters being published?

Till later.....be in touch. And yes, the young journalists - should be very interesting indeed. In the meantime I have just had to write a character reference for a young lady appearing before the court - Greenpeace activist - arrested at the recent coal industry demos around Newcastle - I influenced her so much in her childhood I reckon I owed her that. I don't think it has harmed the friendship with her mother....yet.  

Aye Jenny lass

Yoong folk today, yeh tell 'em 'ow toof we had it, they'd never believe yeh.

You 'ad 'ouse? You were blooody looky. We 'ad cardboard box in t' middle of road.

Thinking about that, how do we as an older generation communicate the things that have enriched our lives?

The above is an oldies' insider joke although I was close to forty at the time of the Secret Policemans Ball. Still my sons, approaching forty themselves, have little knowledge of it or the Goons and everything in between.

The one thing that does bring generations together is music (which, of course, doesn't include "rap").

I welcome all to this place but am hesitant in that, are my experiences of any value to younger generations or are they too involved with making their own?

What's this dopey old fart on about?

A far cry from the days when...

.. if you were one of two "blokes" in the typing class you were looked upon peculiarly at the cricket nets.  Lucky for me that there weren't shorthand classes.

I don't find the mindset of baby boomers horrid, David, but I do think that generation has a tendency to not make plans for those who follow it.  That, though, is beginning to change.

Thanks Jenny

Thanks Jenny for your generous welcome.  I'm hoping some people in our group will also find this a way to bounce into more public writing... and to learn to take some flak from their users. Journalists are reasonably well shielded from the public, often to the detriment of their research.  Online forums are a good way to get out from behind the phone and the masthead, to learn to make a point more carefully and - if necessary - cop a good shellacking when you get it wrong.  In fact, moderating discussions and dealing with disembodied flak will be one of our discussion points in class. It's a pity though that some people can't be a smidge more civilised in their online exchanges. How's Webdiary been for trolls?

Postmodernist eh?

Well, Fiona Martin, I did my undergraduate thesis on Fielding's Tom Jones and Sterne's Tristram Shandy (the PhD on Sterne's Sentimental Journey is still in preparation).

Foucault. Read (it's not still in print) Malcolm Bradbury's Mensonge. That might convert you - it's a very short and funny read. If not, read his To the Hermitage. I lent it to Paul Keating and I think it came back without a fingerprint on it. I don't think he reads with gloves; I'm not sure he reads at all.

Ian (ed): Having just put Fiona's name into bold type for you, Malcolm, can I recommend to you a review of Webdiary's comment guidelines before starting that PhD?

No buts about it.

Yes, if but Richard, like, perhaps.

You are all about to discover one of the truly terrible consequences of recent educational developments, which is the dominance of postmodern thinking in the academy. I class myself a reconstructed but unrepentant modernist and try to explain that postmodernist philosophy was a necessary reflexive moment in modernity. That is to say, a moment when the modernist project attempted to take stock of some of the failures of modernity - like the Nazi genocide, ecological failure and so on, before preparing to set about a renewed attempt to generalize the benefits of modernity.

However, postmodern thought, which my daughter describes as "crack for intellectuals", is deeply entrenched in current teaching. Attempts at overarching theoretical understanding of social conditions or individual consciousness are frequently seen as "totalizing" and a violation of the intersubjective integrity of the specificity of of some subject's personhood.

Don't know what I'm talking about? You'll find out. But.

Go for it !

A super idea. Malcom B.Duncan's Claude has already shown it can be done.

Where are they now?

Afferbleck Lauder:  as sadly missed as Robert Treborlang, author of such seminal works as How to Make it Big in Australia.

Welcome to the students.

I welcome anyone to Webdiary, the more diverse the comment the better for all. To have students posting will add more spice to the mix. I hope we will all learn and grow as a result of their contributions.

Thanks again to all the editors and supporters of Webdiary.

Cheers John

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