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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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About Time! ;-)

As a long timer here, even if I'm not contributing much at the moment... I reckon it's only about time and It'll be great.

Very interestingly I have just started a Media and Politics course at Griffith Uni, so I might contribute some of the work I am planning submeeting for my Unin work, later.

I am  sure the post-grad student will be great!

Fiona: Carlos, it's great to see you back on Webdiary - we look forward to many more contributions.

OK with me.

Years ago, in the neolithic computer program age, before the dominance of Word, I had a computer program, well known and liked, titled WordPerfect. A clever program with the wonderful capacity to "show codes" which allowed one to proof read with speed and accuracy. It had an amusing add on program that allowed one to do comparative writing style analysis and it would compare one's style in any given document to US Library of Congress style databases and, if one was unlucky, it would announce that the document over which one had been slaving either conformed or departed from some preferred US bureau-speak. Sometimes it claimed that I wrote like Dickens. Not "wrote like the Dickens", which I assume would mean the speed with which I got my words down, but literally "like Dickens" which I think was based on the sheer number of suspended clauses I managed to leave delicately balanced all over the page.

So I would welcome journalism students. They would bring their own perspective to the Webdiary. They would use short sentences. And probably a lot of full stops as well.

Fiona Martin's responses

Anthony, I'm not sure about the likelihood of short sentences....but we'll try. I like them. I feel like I'm in racy TV current affairs land when I read them. I do beg my students to excise adjectives and adverbs, and reign in their clauses. But university study seems to encourage the opposite. Latinate exhibitionism. Sentences that travel far beyond the horizon and the marker's patience. Found as much when trying to perform my recently submitted PhD to guitar accompaniment the other night. It didn't scan well.

Wish I had a copy of that style analysis software. It might make marking more fun.

Jane sounds fabulous Richard. And from a very different world of journalism. I've spent the last couple of weeks doing media research, being swipe carded in and out of fortresses News, Fairfax, AAP and ABC and I have to say the noughties have taken their toll on newsroom ambience. It was all massive designer atriums, glass, chrome, orderly net browsing, nicotine patches, hubbing and hot-desking. Not a screaming editor or exec producer in sight.

Thanks for your encouragement...and looking forward to more talking.

Yes, Carlos, I'd love to hear what you're doing at Griffith. Maybe you could invite your classmates online too?

I'm from the slipless generation Richard so can't help you. As for what you can expect of our sentences...like, but, you know, anything goes online, doesn't it?

I can't say I've seen much evidence of a postmodern front at Sydney Uni yet Anthony. Perhaps there's a touch of Cambridge about the place. Disclosure: I come from a former hotbed of postmodernity (Southern Cross University) and have a special affection for Foucault - but he wasn't a postmodernist as such.

In any case I promise not to subject anyone to quotes from Derrida, Kristeva, Lacan et al. except in obscure academic publications designed to attract research credits. Can't say the same for the Masters class, but from my brief talks with the people I met yesterday I'd say the Webdiarists will be safe. And perhaps you can give us remedial theory if we go all, like, semiotic on you.

Richard: Fiona, I've taken the liberty of putting your responses together into one post. Hope you don't mind!


Anthony Nolan:  "They would use short sentences. And probably a lot of full stops as well."

They would probably also not begin their short sentences with "and," "or" or "but."   Or anything that  belongs halfway through a sentence,  just for the sake of chopping it in half ;)   And they probably wouldn't use silly internet acronyms, or symbols at the end of their sentences that need to be read sideways either   (:-0   ROFL

Come to think of it, I can't remember if my slips were pink or blue.  Any journos from those days able to help?


Once, Richard Tonkin, I was a complete purist and did not use conjunctives to begin sentences even in verse but, in this forum, I have come to do so from time to time because of its relatively laxer formality.   I also have adopted it for some of my differring styles/persona.  Alphonse wuldn't know a future pluperfect if it were to bite him some time later than he had already thought of its possible occurrence or predicted it.  Here I am apologising twice in one week.  Not, you understand, if it is stylistic (I mean really how much grammer do you expect a diabetic cat to know - hee, hee cat joke?)

For my formal writing, submissions, papers, lectures etc., I try to be more formal.  That said, I have never written a single submission, even for the High Court, that did not contain at least one joke.  Now, lawyer jokes might not be all that funny but I like the ones I write.  But I guess as we get older, and older and older,  we can  just be allowed a little indulgence from time to time.

Fiona Martin, I should be delighted to lecture your students at any reasonable time, and drink with them at almost any time.  I am regarded generally as an amusing and informative lecturer by all but Year 12 students (my lecture on the histoicity of MacBeth was greeted by yawning silence - they didn't even get the jokes).  SWMBO gets me to do Lear with her students every year between the trials and the HSC and an exhausting Sunday afternoon it is.  I take mandarine juice with a solid shot of vodka in it.  Reminiscent of the famous anecdote about Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton when they were appearing and had been to the pub for a long lunch before a matinee.  O'Toole reeled onto the stage, flubbed his lines and was being hissed when he said "If you think I'm pissed, wait til you see the Duke of Gloucester."

The rot set in about my time at University (1975).  In first year, I was in a Middle English tutorial with students (mostly destined to be English teachers, interestingly enough) who could not parse a sentence or analyse tenses.  

Any help I can give, I should give gladly as part of my public duty and the commonality of the University as one in convocation.

Just contact the moderators and they will give you my contact details or look me up on the Bar Association's website. 

And give Cathy my regards and tell her she still owes me lunch. 

Why does it raise a question

Anthony, Wordperfect is still alive and well, and I have no idea why anybody would bother with Word. Last time I got into real bother and had to use it I swore I was returning to the convenience of the quill and ink!

As for bringing in media students, why does it even raise a question?   

Great idea, hopefully some young, fresh observations on the world – though some TV show I saw some time back with students participating had some making comments that would have made my father look progressive.

Not too worried about the perfection of their English, but if even one percent of them learn to question by coming here, it will have been more than worthwhile!

From little things.....

Love of writing, you might not believe from some of my scrawls here, was locked into me after a week of work experience at the Portland newspaper.  For six months after that I was allowed to wag school a day a week to go and jot, and if I hadn't moved interstate, or not declined the subsequent invitation to return for a cadetship, I'd probably still be at it.   I had a fantastic mentor,a journo named Jane Belfield (tautology was her watchword) who used to be an ABC correspondent in PNG, who swore like a trooper, smoked like a chimney, cursed the editor, gave me all the support in the world and told me that if I wanted to write I should go and get experience outside of the newspaper trade.   All a long time ago, but I still feel her reading my pink slips.

Still a long way to go, and if it weren't for the mentorship of Margo, Hamish, Fiona, David  and others here I don't know what I'd be doing.

I have a great feeling that this notion might be something that grows. Webdiary's a perfect hunting ground for writing students, and there's plenty of campuses of those.     Any way that I can be of assistance will be my pleasure. 

Like "like",

I fear  that the distinction between "lie" and "lay" is a lost piece of knowledge.

like, wow!

We persume you are using strine, F  Kendall. You know a good "lie" when you come across one, don't you?

Political morality

Oh, it's still there in some quarters, F Kendall.  With a politician, if you don't get a lay you can be sure you'll get a lie.

Sounds a good idea

Fiona, need to take time to read all the links but I think it sounds a great idea and could benefit Webdiary enormously by broadening its reach and scope. Most of us here, by the way, were students at one time or another and contact with the new generation of students could be quite stimulating, and entertaining no doubt.

I have only been posting here for two years and have no experience in journalism but had previously compiled, edited and published two books. I am now actually writing a third. I found writing very hard back then and a real challenge and certainly could never write direct on screen - had to draft by hand would you believe. Not any more - it now comes easily - and I am very thankful for that Pitman typing course I did in 1959. These days I see kids are losing the skill of hand writing. So maybe they should attend a Pitman hand writing course or such like.

I attribute my improved capacity to write entirely to WD and it is the only site I write for. And I was most shy to even try to write a post here initially given it seemed such an academic site. But I took the plunge with two pieces on the live export trade and then branched out into more personal creative pieces like Christmas with Trevor, In Flanders Fields - Lest we Forget, Clearing off the Land. Two years ago I could never have written those pieces, or at very least, I would have agonised over them for days and even been too shy to publish on line.

I also found that I was prepared to engage more confidently with people I had never met and on issues over which we had very differing opinions and vastly different levels of expertise. Getting flamed and thereafter developing a tougher hide was a natural and necessary consequence of that engagement.

Look forward to seeing how this proposal evolves and meeting some students online. Cheers

And what does Prof Lumby think?

It sounds a wonderful idea.  Now, can we get the girlie journoes out for a drink and can remedial English lessons be part of the programme?  Just imagine if we could teach journalists grammar, how not to split infinitives, the proper use of the subjunctive, excise terms like "outcome" and confine the use of the word "like" either to an expression of preference or affection or simile.  Maybe even teach them what a simile was as it were.

It may even attract the benison of the new Vice-Chancellor who has indicated that he wishes to restore some autonomy to Departments, reversing the managerial depredations suffered by the University under Dr Gavin Brown.

Prof Lumby doesn't live here any more...but she'd approve

Catherine has gone to UNSW, but I'm sure she'd cheer on girlie and boyo journos with only functional grammar to call their own.  Sadly, Malcolm, the NSW Dept of Education canned formal grammar when I was seven or eight. Few of my journalism students would know an intransitive verb if it clubbed them, and I've been know to gaily split infinitives.  Would you like to volunteer your skills as a sub-editor/mentor?

On the drinking side, I'm sure we can organise something if you're in Sydney.  It would be great to meet more of the Webdiarists face to face - even under threat of linguistic remediation.

Ian (Ed): Fiona, First mention of the name of a rival/fellow Webdiarist in a comment should be, by established convention, in bold type. See About Webdiary for details re all this.

Jawohl, meine Fuhrettinen!

Terrifying! Do it!

Dr Jack Woodforde, OAM etc

Hunter S. lives.  Thanks

Hunter S. lives.  Thanks for the enthusiastic welcome.

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