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Jeanz Conference Abstracts 2004


Looking after reporters in a "macho" environment

Philip Castle, lecturer at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia and communications director of the Dart Centre for News Media and Trauma - Australasia.

Journalism in Australia and similar western cultures has traditionally been a “macho” environment when after covering difficult and traumatising stories the antidote has been self-anaesthesia at the local pub or to wipe yourself out at home.

Recent studies, including his own, have shown nearly all journalists, who have covered traumatic stories, have felt isolated, un-cared for and vulnerable with few finding constructive ways to cope. Some have developed what is known classically as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, others have become so unwell they cannot work, some good journalists have left the industry, a few have committed suicide and most have felt let down by an unsympathetic and inept media management.

This is changing and many journalists have taken it on themselves to seek out colleagues (often done in the past informally), adopted better self care and care for colleagues practices and used counselling wisely when offered.

Media management has also realised its obligation to look after its staff and with the added incentive of possible litigation if it did not, has begun to adopt a more realistic and humane way of supporting its staff apart from the “if it's too hot in the kitchen, well get out” philosophy.

There has been much work done, particularly in North America , the UK and some in South Africa and Australia . Media managements, journalists and even story subjects (often victims or victim-related) have combined positively to provide some research and proven practices to help journalists cope better and improve the way they do this work.

This has been helped by the world-wide establishment of the Dartcenter.org whose patron is CNN's head Chris Cramer. At the Dart annual conference in New York in May 2003, Cramer said university education and preparation was critical in reducing the damage done to journalists entering this environment.

Biographical notes:
Philip Castle, a print journalist with more than 30 years' media experience, including two years in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971, and nine years as head of the Australian Federal Police's public affairs unit, completed his research masters in 2001 on “Who cares for the wounded journalist?”. He has travelled extensively throughout North America, Europe and South Africa observing and continuing his interest in this topic, particularly its tertiary education application. His aim is simple; to improve the journalist's lot for a profession he loves.

 

Where have all the young men gone?

Yvonne Densem, journalism lecturer, New Zealand Broadcating School, Christchurch .

For the past six years, I have sat on the selection panel of the New Zealand Broadcasting School 's broadcast journalism course. Over those years I have observed few males apply for the course, fewer get an interview and still fewer a place. Similar panels for other courses report the same trends.

This project invited groups of students who typically apply to tertiary journalism courses to participate in research. Some students joined focus groups, some completed questionnaires, all had the opportunity to discuss their impressions of journalism and what might attract them to such a course. The research is set against published literature which highlights a gender imbalance in journalism courses, but does not address it.

The research reveals different levels of understanding among participants about what journalism actually is. It is clear also that their perceptions, largely based on the television news they see, determine their consideration of journalism as a career.

This project does not provide definitive answers to the question of gender imbalance, but does provide an insight into how young males view the news and the men who present it. They see male journalists as people they do not identify with, who appear to do a serious, difficult job in a uniform way and not have much fun. By contrast, they believe themselves to be ‘cool', ‘blokey' young men looking for ways to have fun.

 

The 'Jekyll-Hyde journalist': New Zealand journalists and the pursuit of professionalism

Nadia Elsaka, who recently gained a PhD in Mass Communication at the University of Canterbury

This paper draws on the author's recently completed doctoral thesis which explored the pursuit of ‘professionalism' by New Zealand journalists since the late nineteenth century. 1 The term ‘Jekyll-Hyde Journalist' is employed in the paper as a metaphor that captures the occupational identity-conflict within the journalistic occupation since its inception in New Zealand.

Taking the notion of journalistic professionalism as less a question of ‘professional traits' and more an issue of occupational identity, this paper illustrates how the ambiguity surrounding the status of journalistic work has plagued the occupation's pursuit of professional status since the late nineteenth century. At the heart of New Zealand journalists' ‘Jekyll-Hyde syndrome' was the dual identity of their occupation as a ‘profession' on the one hand, and a ‘trade/craft' on the other.

Advocates of professionalism appealed to the nature and importance of journalistic work to sustain journalists' claims to professionalism. They argued that the status of journalists did not reflect the importance of journalistic work to society relative to that of the ‘accepted professions'. ‘Professionalism' thus provided journalists with a model for the reform of their occupation's organisation, educational, and self-regulatory structures during the twentieth century. However, not all journalists accepted the notion of professionalism as either an occupational identity or a model for reform.

Through an examination of some of the key professionalising efforts of New Zealand journalists during the twentieth century, this paper illustrates how the identity-conflict among journalists was a significant impediment to the realisation of professional status for their occupation.

Biographical notes:
Nadia Elsaka has recently gained a PhD in Mass Communication at the University of Canterbury. Her doctoral thesis explored the appeal of ‘professionalism' to New Zealand journalists as a model for occupational reform since the late nineteenth century. In addition to journalism history, her research interests include journalism ethics and self-regulation, and she has published on these topics.

 

District health boards and the print media

Dr Grant Hannis, head of the journalism school, Massey University, Wellington .

This paper is a report on research work in progress. It uses a literature review, interviews and content analysis to examine the relationship between the press and local government. The research considers the district health boards, an example of local democracy in New Zealand . The intention of this research is to assess how useful media coverage of District Health Boards is to their local democratic function.

Key players have been interviewed to ascertain their views and a content analysis of newspaper coverage in 2003 is being conducted. Among the themes considered in the content analysis is the extent and nature of the press coverage of DHBs with regard to elections, health outcomes, management, public consultation and reducing social inequities.

Biographical notes:
Dr Grant Hannis heads the Journalism School in the Department of Communication and Journalism at Massey University in Wellington . Before coming to the school, he worked for 14 years at Consumer magazine. His research interests include journalism history, consumer journalism, and the democratic function of the media.

 

Journalism in a diverse, MMP democracy - help or hindrance?

Peter Northcote, manager communications, Electoral Commission

Electoral participation in NZ is falling, alongside international trends in the diminution of social capital – particularly that accumulated in expressions of “community”. Non or poor engagement can be expressed as apathy or as misdirected, futile, or more destructive actions – any of which can be to democracy's peril.

For those who do engage, using one's vote effectively – with the best shot of getting the electoral outcome you want – can be difficult. Knowledge and analysis critical to this outcome include of: individuals' party and electorate vote choices under different scenarios, parties' policy positions, and their list candidates. New Zealand election reporting under MMP has arguably let the electorate down in these respects, while feeding it a “junk food” diet of leader-focused party-scripted “battles between good and evil”.

In fact, New Zealand election reporting appears fashioned by that of US, UK and Australian electoral races – as well as old, FPP-New Zealand - where differing electoral systems, conventions, and balance of representative and executive power operate to those under MMP.

Meanwhile, in day-to-day political coverage we often see compromise portrayed as weakness; we seldom discover the power and work of citizens and select committees in holding government's accountable and shaping good law; and the machinery of government and poor communication questions that often exacerbate social and political issues in a nation of increasing diversity are generally passed over in favour of recording a “good scrap”.

The electorate needs better from its fourth estate lest its customers – and owners – go elsewhere to satisfy their needs. This paper attempts to make the case outlined, and discusses possible implications for New Zealand journalists and journalism educators.

 

Inky Wayfarers: New Zealand journalism and the Australian connection in the early 20th century

Allison Oosterman, journalism lecturer, Auckland University of Technology

The dozen years between the South African war and the First World War was a significant period for New Zealand journalism and it often had a subtle Australian flavour to it. An identifiable culture of journalism was emerging with the Bohemian spirit of the late 19 th century slowly giving way to a more professional practice.

While men were still transferring from other professions to become newspapermen, journalism was slowly becoming the first choice as a career. The first decade of the century saw the creation of several new dailies offering new opportunities for journalists. They moved freely and often between papers, with Australia included in the cycle of movements. Working on Commonwealth newspapers was seen as a logical career path for many a New Zealand journalist. For example, almost the entire staff of the Sydney Daily Telegraph consisted of New Zealanders.

It was not a one way street, however. Many Australian journalists reversed the flow and came to New Zealand and worked there as highly respected, if often quixotic, members of the profession. When New Zealand journalists made their first tentative steps towards unionisation, their antipodean cousins were the first to lend support and the New Zealand Journalists' Association was the result, seeing unions formed in all four major cities.

 

Journalism training in 2004: Feedback from the newsroom

Venetia Sherson, editor-in-residence, Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec)

In July, in preparation for my new role as editor-in-residence at Wintec, I visited 15 newspapers, the JTO and NZPA to conduct face-to-face interviews with editors and senior newsroom staff about journalism training in New Zealand.

The papers included New Zealand 's three largest metropolitans, five provincials, six communities and a national business newspaper. Most papers were in the North Island. Three were in the South.

  • I wanted to find out what editors thought about journalism training in the 21st century?
  • I wanted to know whether we were attracting the right people to journalism courses.
  • I also wanted to know whether journalists had access to ongoing training in newsrooms and, if not, whether there was an opportunity for journalism schools to provide professional training.

The research revealed some common complaints about graduates. Some related to basic skills such as grammar and spelling; others to lack of initiative and tenacity. There was a strong view that students would benefit from more “real time” experiences during their training. On recruitment, the common view was that the industry would benefit from more “intelligent rogues”, people from different or unusual backgrounds who bring different perspectives to the newsroom.

On the subject of ongoing training, it was evident training is a low or nonexistent priority in most newsrooms, especially in community and provincial papers. The papers that have in-house training programmes have varying results.

One student's story: Signals for change in journalism education

Ruth Thomas, journalism lecturer, Auckland University of Technology

The news stories of 20 students at one regional and one urban journalism school, were analysed, using as a model for change the same story “subbed and edited” by a professional journalist. Earlier research found that students are taught to become journalists using a uniform method described as “learning-by-doing”, uniform throughout the 11 journalism schools in New Zealand, monitored by the New Zealand Journalists Training Organisation. Using one student's early news story as a case study, this paper argues learning-by-doing leaves some areas needing more attention. It describes the changes made as “learning signals”. These eight signals – lead, news values, enhancement, lexical choice, order, background, facts, compression or deletion are discussed.

 

Guidelines on suicide reporting

Jim Tully, head of Canterbury University 's mass communication and journalism programme.

Health professionals working in suicide prevention generally have a problematic relationship with the news media arising from conflicting agendas. Health professionals advocate restricted reporting of suicide, journalists advocate responsible reporting in the public interest. This paper reports the findings of a study undertaken for the Ministry of Youth Development to assess the implementation of Ministry of Health guidelines on suicide reporting and media attitudes towards them. It argues that health professions must consult more effectively with media professionals to produce guidelines that will be efficacious.

 

Breaking with tradition: Journalism teaching needs to turn
a new page

Ndaeyo Uko, lecturer in journalism, James Cook University, Australia

One of the biggest problems of journalism has been the large number of untrained journalists covering the news. In the early days of journalism an insignificant number of practicing journalists held university degrees. And an even smaller number had formal tertiary journalism qualifications. It would appear that all that has changed.

The second half of the 20th century saw the proliferation of journalism schools, journalism students – and journalism textbooks. Unfortunately, while trends and numbers have changed, the journalism textbook remains anchored on the habits and perceptions of journalism's forbears. For example, most of the textbooks used in tertiary journalism institutions fail to teach students how to identify, pursue and write news for the 21 st century audience. The major textbooks describe and define journalistic terms and parts of a story and list examples of ‘good' writing rather than teach students how to report and write news. They appear to help students identify the parts of a fish rather than teach them how to fish.

Consequently, the general feeling among editors is that journalism school graduates bring theory but no new thinking and no new skills to the newsroom. If this perception of journalism school graduates is overlooked, universities and colleges including those in the Asia Pacific region will continue to produce students who cannot find jobs in the shrinking journalism market.

This paper will identify and question the key content elements of major journalism textbooks and curricula, notably the definition and perception of what news is and the teaching of key elements of news reporting and writing. It will propose an alternative – a reflective and practical approach to the teaching and learning of news reporting and writing.