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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.

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.



ABJ Reflective Blog

17 May

I have had a twitter account for a couple of years now, but only started using it in earnest in February when it was added as an assessment item for my advanced broadcast journalism unit. Before, I used it mainly as a ‘news feed’ and didn’t interact with other users. I would only check in once or twice a week, and as I didn’t have a ‘smart phone’ it wasn’t much use to me as a mobile news service. At the start of the semester, I had twenty followers, most of whom were ‘bots’, compared to my 165 real followers now.

What a difference a few months have made. Now, like ABC’s Mark Scott, Twitter is one of the first things I check when I wake in the morning. Placed between emails and Facebook on my electronic priority list, I check it via my new iphone or computer every couple of hours. I’ve also enabled ‘push notifications’ that alerts me every time I get a ‘mention’ or direct message. This allows me to respond in real time, just like I would to a traditional text message or phonecall.

Following the rest of my classmates on twitter created an instant community of people I knew in real life who I could exchange ideas with and learn from. I found this crossed over into the ‘real world’ and let me learn more about my classmates who I may have never spoken to in person in the previous two years of my degree. Uniting under the ‘hashtag’ #abj, it became easy to follow each other and tweet about our assessments. This progressed to other hashtags for different units, online journalism became #oj or #juice, sports journalism became #sj and investigative became #ij.

This is an apparent benefit of Twitter, creating a virtual community of people with similar interests and beliefs and enhanced my learning immensly. Having direct access to our tutors, lectures and team mates streamlined the often slow academic communication process.

I also had the benefit of being able to see how twitter was utilised in one of the fastest moving news environments for my job at the Parliamentary Press Gallery. Whilst my current ‘social media policy’ forbids me from ‘live tweeting’ press conferences, I was able to ‘follow’ other journalists and get a head start on stories I otherwise wouldn’t have known about until I got the release half an hour later. Journalism isn’t usually known for having a team like nature, but utilising twitter has promoted information exchange within the press gallery and beyond.

In addition to information exchange, twitter has enabled me to personally connect with other journalists that I usually wouldn’t come into contact with. From discussing Lord of the Rings with James Massola, to asking Mark Colvin if he would like to be in Egypt during their social revolution, I have been able to have conversations that I only could have dreamed of having last year.

I have found Twitter is an easy ‘icebreaker’ topic to bring up when meeting other journalists for the first time, and a way to delve into deeper conversations instead of the usual ‘who do you work for?’. I have found that you either love it or you hate it. A self confessed ‘dinosaur’ of the Press Gallery said that he thought it was a fad which wouldn’t be around in five years. He didn’t see the point of tweeting something, if he had a yarn to tell he’d much rather write an article about it. He also drew a link between tweeting and the ‘dumbing down’ of journalism, which he says is lacking the depth and analysis it used to have.

Others have made a career out of it. Latika Bourke was head-hunted by the ABC after following her twitter feed which live-tweeted press conferences she was at. Bourke is a prolific tweeter and is now ABC’s first social media reporter. She said in an interview with Mia Freedman that twitter has drastically changed the political news cycle, and maybe it’s too fast now.

Logically, if you speed up the news cycle, you will loose accuracy and depth of detail. Whilst the news of Osama bin Laden’s death broke to the world via Twitter, the tweets only contained the bare minimum information. The detailed account came after Obama’s speech and that information couldn’t be contained in just one tweet. Journalist either had to ‘live tweet’ the speech or post a link to another lengthy article somewhere else on the web.

Journalists who are quick to jump the gun are usually found typing retraction tweets a few days later. Continuing with the Osama theme, many journalists tweeted that Osama used his wife as a human shield moments before he was shot in Pakistan. The official story from the U.S military revealed a few days later that in-fact his wife had rushed at the soldiers, trying to attack them. Those that had tweeted it then had to decide whether to tweet to correct it, or let it slide. I imagine these ‘facts’ wouldn’t be published by a newspaper or put in a news bulletin without thorough fact checking more than ‘I saw it on twitter’.

I can certainly see the benefits of Twitter, and intend to keep using it, but I’m more than a little reluctant to sing its praises too loudly. I think quality journalism needs depth, clarity and facts that have been checked and explained; characteristics that are often left by the way side in breaking news on Twitter.

Audio Slideshow

13 May

It’s finally complete! After many hours of photographing, interviewing and editing, it’s finally all together. It was a lot of fun to use this medium, something new and interesting which I’ll certainly be doing more of in the future.

Audio Slideshow

21 Mar

Canberra’s Autumn Festivals. Big waste of money?

 We want to do a retrospective look at the festivals that Canberra has been swamped by in recent months.

The Canberra Festival is the umbrella festival that celebrates Canberra’s birthday every year. With the upcoming centenary, this year has seen record amounts of public money spent on encouraging visitors to the Capital. It encompasses Enlighten, the Balloon Festival and Skyfire.

I was inspired to do the idea after attending some festival events that were only half full, or didn’t attract many people at all. Eddie Vedder and Chris Isaak performed as part of the Enlightened Festival, and didn’t even come close to selling out. For such big international artists, it was surprising to see that organisers couldn’t sell all the tickets.

A smaller festival focused on Canberra residents is ‘You are Here’ which also received vast amounts of public money and grants to happen.

We have already started compiling images of the festival, and I am chief photographer as I have the best quality camera.

Here are some of my photos so far:

Hopefully we’ll also be able to interview David Finnigan who organised You Are Here to provide a countering view as his festival wasn’t targeted at tourists.