Can I afford Coachella?

10 Jan

Attending the annual Coachella music festival held in California is on my bucket list, towards the pointy end. I also want to go soon, taking advantage of my youthful ability to party for three days straight with minimum sleep and maximum music. The lineup released today almost made me cry, in a childish trantrum manner, because my favourite artists are on the bill. To see Radiohead, Florence & the Machine, Bon Iver and the Black Keys at the one festival would be beyond incredible.

I find myself staring at my bank account balance, wondering if it would be worth it. My economist father hopefully would applaud the following attempt at a rational breakdown of the cost of attending.

Ticket: $300 assuming I snag one of the tickets released by Coachella on Friday. If I don’t, then based on last years ticket sales on eBay, I’d have to pay at least $500.

Flights:$1586 Flying direct to LAX with Qantas 18/4/2012, returning 24/4/2012. That’s assuming I go just for the Festival, with a couple of days each side for timezone adjustment/hangover recovery. As it’s right in the middle of assessment at uni, that would have to be my limit at that time of year. Seems like a long way to go just for a weekend though.

Transfers/Accomodation: $500, that’s assuming I rent a camper van @ $50/night with $200 for fuel/tolls. Hotels/Hostels in the area are currently at $300/night, which sounds ridiculous to me. There are probably restrictions I don’t know about on campervan parking, but I figure it’s at least a plan to start with.

Food/drink/alcohol: $700 Music festivals are notoriously expensive. I guesstimate after everything was said and done, I’d probably end up spending $100/day, except on the Monday when all I’ll want is a greasy hamburger to nurse my hangover.

Grand total: $3386 for the best case scenario regarding tickets and campervan or closer to $4000 for the less lucky options.

That’s a very expensive weekend.


Politicians, media and refugees (ABJ2 Reflective Blog Post)

28 Nov

As part of the final semester of my journalism degree, my broadcast class changed the usual curriculum of practicing live-crosses and auto-cue reading, to producing a cohesive two hour radio program on refugees in collaboration with the ABC and Canberra Refugee Support.

Working in pairs, we set off to discover the untold local refugee stories in an attempt to cut through some of the stigma and political rhetoric that currently surrounds refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. I teamed up with Joe Prevedello with an aim to find a political angle of asylum seekers and refugees that isn’t heard in the mainstream media.

Prior Perspectives

As a videographer in the Press Gallery, I have been present at countless press conferences this year where the discussion of asylum seekers and refugees was completely de-humanised. There was a lot of talk of numbers, figures and ‘processing’ them like they’re a piece of meat, but hardly any of names, occupations or their reasons for leaving their countries.

I’ve been frustrated and angry with the politicians arguing about the Malaysia ‘Solution’ or the Naru ‘Solution’, like the legal arrival of these people seeking safety to our shores is a ‘problem’ that needs to be fixed. The Government’s plan this year was instead of handling the ‘problem’ of these ‘nasty queue jumpers’  ourselves, we’ll pay millions of dollars to ship them off to Malaysia, who haven’t signed the UN Refugee Convention, for them to deal with. Thankfully, in my opinion, the plan was foiled by a High Court challenge meaning asylum seekers will now have to be ‘processed’ in Australia, albeit in detention centres instead of being released into the community.

A recent study done by Monash University  ‘It Would Be Okay If They Came Through the Proper Channels’: Community Perceptions and Attitudes Towards Asylum Seekers in Australia’ (2011, Mckay, Thomas, & Kneebone)  found that “calling asylum seekers ‘illegals’ and ‘queue jumpers’ dehumanises people and their experience”.

Furthermore, The Refugee Crisis and Fear: Populist politics and media discourse (2004. Gale,P.) says that “while representing boat people as ‘queue jumpers’ engenders public support for a policy of mandatory detention, such a policy is also seen to breach international human rights standards.”

You don’t have to think back too far to remember when these racial tensions spilled over into violence, the 2005 Cronulla Riots is a perfect example of racial vilification in Australia.

Both of these articles argue that the language that politicians and media use to describe asylum seekers and refugees sub-consciously de-humanises refugees and instills in the public that these are people to fear, promoting the fallacies of an ‘orderly queue’ and ‘process’ that many Australians believe. These beliefs were documented by ‘Go Back To Where You Came From‘ (2011, SBS) where Australians were challenged on their beliefs about the refugee process.

I personally hadn’t had much face to face contact with refugees, but there was a large population of refugees at my high school, and I remember a Sudanese girl reading a haunting poem about her life in year 10. It brought most of the class to tears and provided a harsh reality check for me, whose biggest problem at the time was whether a boy liked me or not.

On Assignment for #reportingrefugees 

Joe and I decided that we would try to find a politician that came to Australia as a refugee and do a profile piece on them. It was a harder task than expected, as refugees are under-represented in politics. Eventually we decided on Steve Doszpot, who is a local Canberra politician who came to Australia from Hungary in the 1950’s as a young boy. I didn’t know much about the history of Hungary after World War 2, and was surprised and alarmed at the number of people that left Hungary during the revolution, estimated to be over 200, 000.

It was interesting to listen to Steve’s story and how his family adjusted to life in Australia, and the struggle to ‘fit in’ without being able to speak the language. The majority of my classmates had recent refugees as their talent, so I found it interesting to hear these same themes being repeated in almost all stories. It shows that as a society, we haven’t progressed beyond the racial discrimination towards immigrants that has plagued our country since federation.

I was surprised to discover the restrictions placed on journalists who wish to visit detention centres, and the length that the Department of Immigration goes to to ensure that the people awaiting security checks and clearances in the centres do not contact the media. They argue that is due to their responsibility to protect the privacy of those seeking asylum. On the other hand, the media argues that these restrictions violate the freedom of the press, and the freedom of speech of the asylum seekers and that the conditions placed upon journalists wishing to go inside detention centres are worse than those of Guantanamo Bay.

Lessons from the field. 

I think Joe and I were in a lucky position compared to our classmates that over fifty years had passed since our talent was a refugee, and his memories weren’t as fresh or as confronting. This meant he was more comfortable to talk about his experiences, and he didn’t have to worry about the safety of any remaining family members overseas like some of the other talent involved in the project. This allowed for a very candid interview, and Steve was able to go into a large amount of detail about his family’s escape from Hungary.

Where it became challenging for us was trying to get past the Liberal Party lines about the current refugee policies in Australia. We had made it clear to Steve that we were also going to be discussing that issue, and it was disappointing that he stuck to the political rhetoric instead of addressing it on a personal level. Finally towards the end of the interview he gave us some more open answers about his personal opinions of the current policies, but I don’t think we pushed him far enough on that.

I found it was important to just let the talent tell their story, instead of continually interrupting with questions. It resulted in a more natural story line, and allowed the subject to add bits that they may have forgotten. I do think this was helped by Steve’s political media experience, so a less willing interview subject might have had to be probed a bit more. As a journalist it is easy to fall into the trap of ‘grab chasing’, and I learnt that the most important thing is the story behind the ‘grab’, not just the grab itself.

It was also frustrating that our interview with his wife and daughter wasn’t up to broadcast quality, as I think that other element to the story would have improved our final story immensely.

Overall, I really enjoyed working on this project. It has made me a more informed citizen, a more compassionate Australian and hopefully a better journalist. I think Australia needs to move away from the hype surrounding asylum seekers and refugees, and just get on with helping these people find a safe and happy home.


The Refugee Crisis and Fear: Populist politics and media discourse (2004. Gale,P.) Journal of Sociology

It Would Be Okay If They Came Through the Proper Channels’: Community Perceptions and Attitudes Towards Asylum Seekers in Australia’ (2011, Mckay, Thomas, & Kneebone) Journal of Refugee Studies.

Go Back To Where You Came From‘ (2011, SBS)

Let’s follow Guantanamo’s lead (2011, Sales, L.) ABC

United Nations Refugee Convention (1951, United Nations)

Elevator Pitch

13 Oct

Our website aims to educate and inspire young people about Australian political issues and processes. It will cover topical issues in the mainstream media, along with backgrounders on Australia’s political and government systems in a straightforward, engaging and interactive way.

It will be aimed at the 3.5 million 16-25 year olds that currently live in Australia, which is about a fifth of the total population. According to the 2006 census, 63 percent of people between 12 & 25 we studying at either highschool, tafe or university and I hope our website will be able to complement their education as well as engage with those who are no longer studying.

The revenue model will essentially be advertising based, as our target market is also a prime target for marketers and companies. I also hope to also secure funding from the Department of Education or at least collaboration with the education system to drive students to the site. Obviously, if this were to be successful, the need for advertising would be removed or reduced but safeguards to ensure independence from political pressure would also have to be considered.

Grace has been involved in politics and youth affairs for over 5 years. Firstly through the ABC’s ‘Talkback Classroom’ program and now as a junior member of the parliamentary press gallery in Canberra. Youth affairs and issues have always interested me, and inspiring the younger generation to get involved in the political process is a goal. To do this, political education and facts must be available at an accessible level and done in an interesting way. I am also teaming up with another journalism student also interested in the youth and politics relationship, Dion Pretorius, who has a background in educating kids at Questacon and now works in public relations. I think our mix of skills and ideas will make a formidable team capable of achieving our common goals.

Our competition is youth focused websites and traditional news sources that already have a large online following. Triple J is currently the leading source of information for under 25’s with a huge presence online (website, facebook, twitter). Their news-focused segment ‘The Hack’ explores some of the issues affecting young people, but we hope to expand on these and provide more interactive content and facts then they do. Our site will involve a large amount of content that can be ‘shared’ through social networking to raise our profile and generate a larger audience because studies show young people trust what their friends recommend more than other sources.

Can it be done?

13 Oct

I think there is a hole in the market that ‘Cut the Crap’ could fill. While there is plenty of online news-based websites around politics, not many are targeted at a specific age range- they usually are left/right orientated. Furthermore- the aim to delineate between fact, opinion and media spin is something that is currently lacking in political rhetoric.

I think targeting it at generation Y is a worthwhile age group, as my research showed they use online media most frequently. This age bracket means that the content will have to be more creative than the traditional news material, and something that is valuable/attractive for the audience to share via social media.

Many of the survey respondents expressed a desire for political discussions to centre around the policies instead of the personalities, and I think that ‘cut the crap’ will be able to fulfil this desire.

The model for funding and support is still something that has to be worked through, with someone with more experience and knowledge than me, but the target market is certainly sought after by advertisers. I’d like to keep it advertisement free if possible, but acknowledge that means funding will have to be provided by someone with an agenda for the content, another thing I want to avoid.

Considerable effort would be needed to be successful in this market, with time consuming videos and graphics integral to the content model. I’m confident that high production levels and creative thinking would enable ‘cut the crap’ to be viable.

Carbon Tax timeline.

7 Oct

The Carbon ‘Tax’ is a perfect example of the sort of issue I’d like Cut the crap to cover. The media coverage on the issue has been covered all ground, from hysterical to sensible and every other degree in between. A lot of personal opinion has been spread, and many facts mislaid, forgotten or blatantly lied about. I imagine Gen Y finds the hysteria annoying, off-putting and offensive, so I would strive to present a fact-based, balanced case. This post will look at some of the examples of the media coverage; the good, the bad, and the down-right ugly.

First cab off the rank will have to be Andrew Bolt. As the most read Australian opinion blogger, it’s disgraceful how he has handled the whole argument. His blog is filled with anti-carbon tax pieces, and devoted a large chunk of his TV show on the issue too. This video sums of his show on the 9th of October sums up his ‘coverage’ of the issue well.

The ABC’s BTN program breaks the big issues down to a level that primary school kids can understand. I like the way they use hypotheticals and graphics to clarify the jargon and spin around the issue.

The major print companies have included a range of reports on the carbon tax over the last year, from positive, to negative and explainer pieces.

Sydney Morning Herald offered this article on July 10 aiming to explain the Carbon Tax. It’s a reasonable job, but pretty boring and un-interesting as far as interaction and engagement go. Jessica Wright also wrote about the compensation people were to receive on the 10th. These articles are fine factually, but miss the creative thinking that’s needed to engage gen Y.

On the independent media side, Crikey published a range of opinons, some rubbishing Abbott’s opposing views and also shining the light on the environmental lobby groups that support the tax.

Ben Eltam is a regular New Matilda contributer, and published this article praising the carbon tax the day after the detail was released. Three days after that he published this one, that was more critical of the plan, presumably after having more time to sift through the huge amount of detail that was released on the 10th. While rich in detail, and even having a graph, these look boring and seem like ‘hard work’ to chew through with the huge amount of text and not a lot of fun.

The topic is popular in the political sphere as it’s one of the biggest changes to the financial system in Australia’s history, and therefore has a high public interest.

Opinion, opinion, opinion.

1 Oct

The most popular form of online media about politics is certainly opinion writers. Everyone has an opinion and some are more willing to share theirs than others. These are called opinion bloggers and can range from the right wing, to the left wing and not many cover the middle ground. The best use facts to back up their points of view, the worst use hysteria and ‘selected facts’ to communicate their message.

The message is predominately text based, with maybe a clever image or two to get their point across. Text is good for opinion, because it’s quick to produce and is able to be completed in a much shorter time-frame than video or images. Time is of the essence in political opinion, and the quicker you can get your idea up, the better.

I think opinion blogs are popular because the average joe likes to know what someone they ‘trust’ thinks about a given issue, and is more likely to agree with their point of view. Conversely, others like to read what people they don’t like think about issues, to get a range of views about a hot topic.

Good opinion writers analyse the topic and not just regurgetate the political spin that goes along with it. My favourite opinion blog is the Drum because it represents a wide range of views and topics and as an off-shoot of the ABC refrains from name-calling.

Survey results.

30 Sep

After a week of spamming my facebook and twitter accounts pleading for people to complete my survey, only 43 had taken on the task. I suspect many of these were political/media orientated uni friends and work mates based on the hyper-political assertions and comments made in the answer to the last question. This means the results are certainly not an accurate snapshot of the population, but are still mightily useful for what I want to do.

So, the results! Because the cheeky ‘free’ website wanted me to pay $200 to get a nice pdf of the results, here’s some screen shots of the findings.

The open ended answer for question 10 received some interesting comments. The majority wanted more impartiality and the larger issues and facts reported instead of the name-calling.