Storify Critique: Re-Configuring Video Journalism

Jordan Osborne’s piece on the changes in video journalism practices was my favourite Storify from 2014.

Stylistically, the piece does well to reach an informed, general audience. There is an interplay of academic language and humorous metaphors which allow this. Furthermore, the paragraphs are relatively short and to the point.

Osborne presents a clear argument throughout the piece which he maintains and logically develops as it progresses. It builds to the satisfying conclusion that video journalism is a new and significant player on the block, but cannot usurp other methods of storytelling.

Primarily, this excels in the Storify platform. There are links to several other sites on the web, and the story is augmented by the fragments that are included, such as YouTube videos and tweets demonstrating his argument. One way I believe this could be improved is by expanding the range of web fragments that are included to increase diversity, such as including more videos that do not come from Vice News.

On the whole, this is a succinct, insightful, and effective piece that does well to delve into a complex trend in world journalism.

Journalists Use of Twitter

The three new journalists I followed were; Caro Meldrum-Hanna (Four Corners), Peter Van Onselen (Sky, The Australian), and Mark Riley (Seven News)

Caro Meldrum-Hanna has been responsible for breaking some of the most controversial stories of 2015, including an exposé on the practice of live baiting in the greyhound racing industry. This story has grown a life of its own, and Meldrum-Hanna often retweets and keeps her followers up to date with the progression of the story, as well as reminding everyone that she was the original reporter who is responsible for many of the findings.

Peter Van Onselen uses Twitter on a fairly basic level, promoting his columns in The Australian and his television programs To The Point and Australian Agenda. What he also does, however, is integrate humour throughout to create an affinity with his followers. Similarly, Mark Riley uses it as a platform to build up his cult of personality, with humorous observations mixed in with sporting banter, and the occasional political insight.

None of these journalists have used this as a platform to find sources, mainly because in both political and investigative journalism, news gathering tends to be more secretive.

Rebutting the patriarchy: Women and debating

It’s a remarkable twist of fate; in high schools, debating is an activity targeted at girls first and foremost. Come university, however, the tables turn, and it becomes a male-dominated arena, in more ways than one.

Female rates of participation in university debating are so low, that for major tournaments, such as the Australian National and Australasian Championships, affirmative action plans are in place, mandating that at least one third of a university’s contingent be female. There is also an annual major tournament wholly dedicated to female and gender non-binary debaters.

The inequality between men and women in debating comes as a surprise to many; sport is the traditional arena where female under-representation is a known issue. But a look further into the characteristics of debating, and it becomes clear that in a room full of argumentative people, using loud voices and pulling no punches in their attacks, men are by far more comfortable.

President of UOW Debating Society, Annie Hazleton, says that engrained beliefs about gender and a woman’s ability have contributed to their limited presence.

“In debating, there is less emphasis on women having the potential to be good…and I think it’s also – women just don’t believe in themselves as much, they just don’t have the same self-confidence as men do.”

Unfortunately, the discrimination does not end there.

Eileesha Smith, a novice debater from UOW, recalls a discussion she overheard at her first competition.

“I was kind of on the outside of a conversation that was really quite disturbing…specifically Sydney’s culture of having very young females sleep with older guys, and that that was often very coercive.”

The alcohol-fuelled culture at social events, combined with the aura of male dominance, makes it very likely that a woman could be propositioned, and in the most extreme cases, sexually assaulted. Sexual assaults did occur this year at both the Australian National and Australasian Championships.

Ms. Smith has herself been a victim of men telling her she owes them sexual favours for having beaten them in debates.

“I think that’s the most scary part about being a female in debating, for sure,” she says. Luckily, she has always had friends willing to stand up for her.

The strong friendships these women form keep them coming back, and improvements are starting to be made on the whole, with the introduction of a female mentoring program and an expansion in the equity policy at tournaments.

Change, however, will not happen overnight; it will take the efforts of many passionate women from many universities to improve the standing women have in the debating culture.

Storified tweets can be found here.

Assignment 2 Pitch: What is hidden?

The UOW1 team for the 2015 Women's Debating Championships, getting in some practice
The UOW1 team for the 2015 Australasian Women’s Debating Championships, getting in some practice.

I have decided to explore the overarching concept of sexism for the second assignment, and whilst that may not seem particularly ‘hidden’, my focus will be on sexism in the intervarsity debating community.

Debating at high school is generally considered a feminine pastime, but in university, it is a male-dominated environment in more ways that one.

Not only are women significantly under-represented, those women that do participate are sometimes subject to double standards in adjudication, and unwanted sexual advances by alcohol-fuelled men at social events.

UOW, however, is one of the best institutions when it comes to female representation on the executive, and fostering a supportive culture for women to participate in.

I intend to use primarily the interview material and my occasional voiceover as the audio, with selected ambient sounds to evoke the setting, and special effects to convey a sense of the seriousness with which this subject matter should be treated.

For the most part, the visual element of the piece will be a slideshow of images, and I will avoid colour, as black and white can give a sinister quality even to images that appear positive. There will be one short video clip, but that is all.

The main persona in the story will be the current President of the UOW Debating Society, who is a female, and will explain first hand the problems facing women at large. Additionally, I intend to speak to a first year female student, for whom her early successes have sometimes come at a price.

Convergent Journalism Review

One of the most professional, slick examples of convergent journalism that I have ever seen is Firestorm, a piece focussing on the escape of the Holmes family during the Tasmanian bushfires of 2013.

The structure of the project allows for the user to navigate their own way through the story, whilst still providing a clear method as to how it can be viewed in original order. This understated level of interactivity allows the viewer to participate without overloading them with too many options and making the story too difficult.

The interplay between text and audio is quite skilful; text is most commonly used when background information needs to be given, whereas the audio indicates that the story is engaging a personal perspective from the family, and from other eyewitnesses on the day of the fire. In addition to this, the many images and occasional video placed in the background of the story compliment what is being written or said, allowing for the true horror of a bushfire to come to the fore through the visuals.

The piece was shared on the Guardian‘s Facebook page, and certain clips can be found on Vimeo, allowing for a decent number of people not directly following the Guardian to access the story. The complexity of the project does, however, detract from its use on mobile devices, but this is a minor flaw in an otherwise very well executed story.

In direct contrast, Suspect America is in no way as layered as Firestorm. A critical examination of homeland security policy in the USA post 9/11, there is very little to no interactivity involved in the piece; viewers are simply viewing the video clip, and have no particular involvement in the story. In fact, it is difficult to see how it can be considered convergent; although a polished piece of animation, there is no substantial combination of text, audio and other elements.

The clip is readily available on YouTube, and would be easily accessible on mobile devices, but primarily, it is not a good example of how convergent journalistic practices should be utilised.

Audio critique: Creatures in the night

My favourite piece from last year’s selection was Creatures in the night, exploring Jack’s late night shift at McDonald’s.

The sounds used in this piece capture very well the mind numbing experience of late night work in a fast food outlet. The ambience of the meat patties being grilled and the fries in the oil is appropriately bland, and the music of the harmonica is depressing.

From the outset, it is clear that, unlike many of the pieces submitted for this task, Jack’s connection to this place is not one of enjoyment. Gradually, he opens up and divulges the loneliness that he often feels at this time of night. It is a deceptively profound story.

My main issue with the story is that, by only revealing the actual place at the end of the story, it requires a listener to listen to it multiple times to fully comprehend what the meaning of the story is. That is a structural element of the narrative that I would change if it were my work. Despite this, it is a story that is technically well executed and has a good sense of rhythm and flow for audio.

My dance space

Dancers ready?
Dancers ready?

In the world of ballroom dancing, Donna Shingler is royalty.

The popularity of the ‘royal sport’ in Japan meant that former Australian and British champions Donna, and her partner-husband Alan, were often recognised in the street.

But a commitment to developing the sport of ballroom dancing from the bottom up led to Donna’s return to her hometown. She and Alan have since taken over the Reeve Academy of Dance, now known as Dancespace, from Donna’s champion parents Ray and Margaret.

One gets the feeling that, despite all of the success she’s accrued over a glittering competitive career, there’s no place she’d rather be.