As I near the end of my university degree, it is time to reflect on what I have learnt and where I want to see myself in the coming years. Below is an essay I wrote, explaining my goals.
It’s important to begin by introducing the premise on which this essay is written. I am the subject but I am also the writer. This places me in a precarious position as I can recount events as I saw them or heard them, but I cannot detach myself from influences that help me make sense of my experiences. I cannot consider myself omniscient, but by making myself the subject of this essay, I inevitably become an omniscient source of knowledge in my own life.
The purpose of this essay is to dissect what drove me towards a career in news media, and how I can embed myself in the industries fluid landscape. It is impossible to ignore the industries current predicament as Flew (2009) describes; ‘the shift from the twentieth century mass communications media towards convergent media and Web 2.0 has raised the possibility of a renaissance of the public sphere based around citizen journalism and participatory media culture’. This is the world I will be entering, a news media world in which the power of the gatekeeper is being replaced with an observant and digitally connected public sphere.
In Flew’s study he examines the prospect of a ‘convergent news media environment’ along two axis; one being the minimalist/maximalist, and the other that of optimism/pessimism (Flew, 2009). A minimalist he defines as someone who believes changes to the news journalism industry have parallels in previous periods and can largely be understood from within existing knowledge paradigms (Flew, 2009). A maximalist sees the changes as transformative, marking out qualitatively new developments in journalism (Flew, 2009). The second axis refers to whether you consider these changes positive or negative.
Of these I believe I sit as a minimalist optimist, and I will attempt to reason why by reflecting on my own experiences and concepts I’ve studied across my degree. My experience includes working as a junior producer on 3AW Neil Mitchell’s Morning Show, as a producer and presenter for Crocmedia on SEN1116, as an intern TV journalist at Southern Cross News Hobart, as a marketing assistant and EA at Crown Melbourne and now as the social media producer for 9 News Melbourne. In addition to my studies at RMIT, I will draw on theories I learnt studying journalism, multimedia and world politics abroad in Denmark.
My interest in journalism sparked when I first watched Carrie Bickmore present the news on Rove. She was witty, creative, and held herself wonderfully. Her news was left of center and amusing, but always connected to a current social or political issue. What she did wasn’t actually ‘new’ but it was different. She still reported on lead stories, but coalesced them with opinions that she found on social media or other public forums. She could still be classed as a ‘news presenter’ but she focused on engaging her audience by empowering them, rather than the traditional asymmetrical power relationship seen in the 20th century (Flew, 2009). She created a media satire, in which she recycled old techniques, with new age technology.
The audience became the source of content, thus she capitalized on the participatory media culture Flew discusses. For example, one story she aired on Rove read, “the Federal government is deciding what kind of nuclear reactor it will build in Australia. A spokesperson has said they were just waiting to see which one was recommended by the chick on the Brand Power add” (Bickmore, 2007). Here she ties in a big issue, nuclear power, with a common text Australian’s can relate to.
This is, of course, my opinion of the segment, but I believe Bickmore’s success to date (Silver Logie for Most Popular New Female Talent 2010, Silver Logie for Most Popular Presenter 2015, and Gold Logie Award 2015) indicates that she has successfully capitalized on the growing movement towards, and interest in, infotainment. Many are praising this genre as being a way in which to attract more young people to civic engagement and enhance political engagement (Moy et al., 2005 & Thussu, 2007). It is the genre of news media, I believe, is most aligned with the shift from a localized public sphere to a ‘globalized public sphere’ (McNair, 2006), and the genre with which I want to work.
For this reason I consider myself a minimalist, because I believe the basic understanding of Bickmore’s style can be found in an existing paradigm of knowledge, that being infotainment. This paradigm is already used in commercial nightly news bulletins, where the media organizations survival depends on ratings and sold advertisement space. When I watch her show The Project on Channel 10, I note that the topics usually appear in nightly local bulletins. But what makes the show different is that they invite the audience to participate. So the show’s role is to inform and analyze, precisely what journalists have always tried to achieve, but they mix it with entertainment, in the form of a panel discussion. Its what I could term a remix culture, something I studied in great depth in my second year at RMIT, and can be generally speaking defined as ‘global activity consisting of the creative and efficient exchange of information made possible by digital technologies’ (Navas, 2012).
To further enforce my perception of myself being a minimalist, I think back to my first media experience. I was a junior producer for 3AW Neil Mitchell’s Morning Show, under the then guidance of Justin Smith. His radio show is live, and relies on people calling in to discuss issues with him, or otherwise inform him of events. I couldn’t help but draw a connection here with what Bickmore was doing. She didn’t have callers, but she used social discourse to formulate her amusing analysis of events. Mitchell empowers his audience by inviting them to call in and thus become part of the news cycle. While some of these shows can only be classed as entertainment, for example Hamish and Andy, Mitchell is undeniably a journalist who seeks to break down complex current affair topics for his audience.
Working on his show was a very rewarding experience and has opened up many doors for me. I had the opportunity to line up talent and work the phones. This voluntary position became full time work at the end of the year when a staff member went on leave. It was my first experience of working full time hours, and also of working in a promotions department. I worked as the Executive Assistant to David Mann, helping to line up on air promos and communicate with the sales team. This was my first experience of what I now understand to be ‘flexi-working’, (Deutz, 2009), operating between different departments within the same company. I gained a greater understanding of how a media outlet is funded and how vital this is to their survival. According to Hollands, employer’s want graduates who can ‘work flexibly in interdisciplinary teams and virtual contexts and can collaborate with a diverse range of stakeholders’. Unintentionally, I prepared myself for ‘liquid life’ (Deuze, 2009), and am now well aware of its importance, as I’ll highlight later in the essay.
Talk back radio was introduced in Australia in 1967, as a significant niche where radio could compete with TV (Australia.gov.au, 2010). Nowadays, live TV is very common, and programs such as Channel 9’s Today Show can cross to anyone anywhere in the country with the correct equipment. But they still lack the ability for citizen’s to dial in and appear on the show immediately like talkback can. Instead, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are used to connect with their audience, as well as source content. The audience can partake in the conversation by tweeting in or writing a Facebook comment, using a specific hashtag. I now work as a social media producer for Channel 9 News Melbourne and am beginning to understand the enormous potential these digital platforms provide for TV news.
In this sense, I class myself as what Flew describes as an optimist. I will even go that step further and use what Gynnild (2014) describes as a ‘hi-tech optimist’, someone that is ‘convinced that by means of ‘computational exploration in journalism’ (CEJ) the most influential journalistic approaches of the future will be carried out by professional news media institutions’. Channel 9 News is investing in social media and innovative ideas. I am an example of this, as my role was a completely new one they added to the team in order to expand. They are absorbing new digital concepts and responding to consumer demand.
They have successfully implemented remote operating, as I physically work in Melbourne, but our team is spread across the entire east coast from Queensland to Adelaide, with our manager in Sydney. We communicate over the phone, or by email and Google Doc’s during shifts to ensure no messages are lost in translation. Our manager herself sometimes works off-site, communicating only via the phone. Having said that, face-to-face communication is still a vital part of my job. Only recently I tweeted a photo of something that had been embargoed until the 6.00pm bulletin. I was unaware of this, simply because I did not ask. I had to sit down with my Chief of Staff and discuss our communication. She lacks an understanding of how the social team operates across states, and I lacked an understanding of how she likes to be approached. By physically discussing this we helped each other to understand our goals, and consequentially will be able to achieve them in the future.
By embracing influential journalistic approaches, such as social media, it shows how whilst there is still a need for innovative ideas, Nine News, as a professional news media institution, will survive. They can absorb new ways of operating, rather than allow new technologies to engulf them. Having said this, the use of social media platforms at the TV channel is still in its early days. We need to become a ubiquitous presence. The team of social workers is well aware of this, and is constantly testing and changing the way in which we operate. As I look now to my future, and my position in the news media industry, I will attempt to reconstruct a world dominated by digital platforms.
Futurist, Chris Riddell says holograms and wireless technology will play a massive part in technologies future (The Morning Show, 2015). He also says the balance between work, technology and home life will improve, as people can choose the hours they work, due to an increase in remote and online possibilities (2015). If I were to translate this into the news media paradigm, people will be so digitally connected that all news will be accessed via platforms like Twitter and Facebook. There will still be demand for news, because although audiences are soaked wet with information, they remain hungry for knowledge (Rickerton, 2009). News outlets will need to become, above all else, a source of knowledge as well as a trusted source of information. For me, this means I should continue to work in a flexible, remote manner, and be aware of technological changes. The answer to how I can embed myself in the industries fluid landscape therefore, is to become just as fluid myself.
Stories place knowledge in context and give many of us the framework that helps us to access new ways of knowing and being. Because of this, they are one of the most powerful tools we have to impact others emotionally, socially and intellectually. They must be told, and the storytellers voice must be heard. As a journalist I have the power to expound these stories and disperse them to a large and diverse audience. This is precisely what excites me about my chosen career path.
Bickmore, C (2007). Carrie at the News Desk, Rove Live, Network 10, 17th June.
Deuze, M (2009). ‘The Media Logic of Media Work’, Journal of Media Sociology, Vol. 1, Nos. 1/2 (Winter/Spring 2009) pp.24
Flew, Terry (2009). Democracy, Participation and Convergent Media: Case Studies in Contemporary Online News Journalism in Australia [online]. Communication, Politics & Culture, Vol. 42 (2), pp. 87-115. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/documentSummary;dn=942741848147122;res=IELAPA> ISSN: 1836-0645. [cited 16 Aug 15].
Gynnild, A (2014) Journalism innovation leads to innovation journalism: The impact of computational exploration on changing minds, Journalism, vol. 15(6), pp. 713-730. Availability: http://jou.sagepub.com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/content/15/6/713
Hollands, J., Developing Graduate Employability through Partnerships with Industry and Professional Associations, and Office of Learning and Teaching project and forthcoming publication
McNair, Brian (2006) Cultural Chaos: Journalism, News and Power in a Globalized World. London: Routledge.
Moy, Patricia, Xenos, Michael A. and Hess, Verena K. (2005) Communication and Citizenship: Mapping the Political Effects of Infotainment, Mass Communication & Society, 8(2): pp. 111–31. Availability: http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15327825mcs0802_3
Navas, E. (2012). Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling, Springer Vienna. Availability: http://link.springer.com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/book/10.1007/978-3-7091-1263-2/page/1
Rickerton, M (2004). Writing feature stories, Crows Nest, NSW, Allen & Unwin, pp. 56-70.
Riddell, C (2015). Future Forecast: Jobs, The Morning Show, Network 7. Availability: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAKuDuTS4z8
Thussu, D. K. (2007). A global infotainment sphere? In News as entertainment: The rise of global infotainment. pp. 156-180. London. Availability: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781446220337.n8
Ursell, Gillian (2000) Television production: issues of exploration, commodification, and subjectivity in the UK television labor markets. Media, Culture & Society Vol. 22(6), pp. 805-825.
 It’s interesting to note that nuclear power was also a topic for discussion on Neil Mitchell’s program in 2007, where he had the then Prime Minister, John Howard in the studio. Mr Howard refers to the ‘Chief Scientist’s’ findings to back his claim. It seems a link can be drawn between the role of the ‘Chief Scientist’ and the ‘Brand Power chick’.