Archive | January, 2012

What Now?

31 Jan

What will happen next?

How social media is altering our cultures

When England instituted the Riot Act of 1714, it did so to prevent “tumults and riotous assemblies, and for the more speedy and effectual punishing the rioters.” That statute came off the books in 1973, but now British Prime Minister David Cameron is targeting the “riotous assemblies” of the online and social media worlds in the wake of deadly and destructive waves of rioters and looters.

It all started on Aug. 4, when father of four Mark Duggan was shot and killed by police in the Tottenham area of north London.


david_cameron.jpgDavid Cameron. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Prime Minister.


A peaceful protest against the killing on Saturday, Aug. 6, then deteriorated into violent confrontations between Metropolitan Police and rioters. The trouble continued and spread to other parts of London and later other parts of England, including Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol and Manchester, largely dominated by torching vehicles and buildings, and widespread looting.

A total of five people have now died with more than 1,600 arrests since the trouble began.

When Parliament was recalled and members rushed back from summer breaks to sit in the house on Thursday, Cameron declared: “We are working with police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”


Initial suggestions that Twitter was to blame were dismissed early on by both the BBC andThe Guardian, which instead focused on what has been identified as a prime means of communication, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM).

A poll on the Daily Mail website suggested 53 percent of its readers were in favor of banningBBM after “inciting” riots. Channel 4 News reported one measure being considered was blocking some or all internet in an affected area while police regain control. But a meeting on Wednesday between the mobile phone industry and government raised serious concerns about such a proposal, they reported.

The Guardian on Monday offered a BBM account for people to message in confidence, publishing only limited ones, such as this:

Everyone in edmonton enfield woodgreen everywhere in north link up at enfield town station 4 o clock sharp!!!! Start leaving ur yards n linking up with you niggas. Guck da feds, bring your ballys and your bags trollys, cars vans, hammers the lot!! Keep sending this around to bare man, make sure no snitch boys get dis!!! What ever ends your from put your ballys on link up and cause havic, just rob everything. Police can’t stop it. Dead the fires though!! Rebroadcast!!!!!”

Mike Butcher, a technology journalist and digital adviser to London Mayor Boris Johnson, tweeted on Monday that it was unbelievable that BlackBerry had not shut down its BBMnetwork, and repeated the accusation on the BBC Today program on Tuesday morning.

BlackBerry declined to comment to PBS MediaShift beyond a press statement from Monday, saying: “As in all markets around the world where BlackBerry is available, we cooperate with local telecommunications operators, law enforcement  and regulatory officials. Similar to other technology providers in the U.K. we comply with The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and co-operate fully with the Home Office and U.K. police force.”

On the BBC’s Question Time program on Thursday night, former Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddock said police did not monitor social networking sufficiently. A man in the audience said his children knew three hours in advance that there was going to be trouble via social networks, and questioned why the police were not prepared.

But Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator magazine, countered: “If someone does, ‘I predict a riot’, odds are they’re talking about a pop song not an actual act of violence. You can’t do that unless you set up a Stasi state.”

That said, a number of arrests have been made around the United Kingdom for posting Facebook messages inciting criminal damage, in Glasgow, Dundee, Hastings, Lancashire and Essex, though there were no reported incidents in those centers.

There have been no reports as yet of arrests connecting the messages via BBM to riots or looting. There have, however, been problems with rumors circulating via social networking, in particular an early one on the Saturday night when trouble began, that police had attacked a 16-year-old girl, a claim police said they were investigating. Some shops closed early because they were afraid of false reports of looting.

The Metropolitan Police did not return requests for comment from PBS MediaShift.


Matthew Barnett, a youth worker in London, said politicians and commentators have focused on Twitter because it’s a buzz word. “Twitter is not a particularly popular medium for young people. It is public so does not lend itself to clandestine organizations,” he said.

“Most of the organizing was done by BBM, which is glorified texting,” he said. “Social media is still the hot young starlet. But, like the hot young starlet, everyone wants to cast social media in everything. In the context of the riots, it did have a role to play, but it has been exaggerated incredibly … Social media has become a scapegoat for some very serious questions raised from this violence.”

Barnett said the riots were not a clash of a “real” community and an online one populated by youth, the vast majority of whom were opposed and disgusted by the behavior.

“Young people don’t make the same distinctions between online and offline communities as an older demographic,” he said. “It’s just an extension of their local or religious or school communities. It’s not a distinct bubble. It’s just a medium of communication. I don’t believe the incitement to riot was from social media any more than from the newspapers.”

“We talk a lot about the instantaneous nature of social media, but between the incident in Tottenham which started this and the escalation and copycat, there was a full 24 hours, and that’s no faster than any other media,” he said.



The reaction and clean-up in the wake of the riots were far more public than any potential BBMincitement.

This image, of brooms held aloft once members of the community turned up to show local pride, was shared around the globe thanks to Twitter and Facebook.

Other groups were set up in almost every city and town saying, “let’s NOT start a riot,” with one calling for people to stay in and drink tea instead of rioting, getting more than 300,000 “attending.”

Grant Byrne, a student nurse living and training in Glasgow, said he learned of the riots initially on Facebook, then went to the BBC News website for confirmation. But days into the riots, he decided to start a Facebook page to call for the disturbances to be referred to as English, not the wider U.K., as no trouble had taken place in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland.

Within 24 hours, he had 13,000 fans of the page, far more than he ever expected, and most major media outlets no longer refer to “U.K. riots” on their news sites.

“There’s been a lot of good done on Facebook and other sites in the aftermath,” Byrne said. “Facebook is showing how people are coming together from all walks of life across Britain … The fact is, the online community has reacted faster than our government.”

So do Facebook pages supporting the police improve relations directly between those on the street and officers?

“Depends which streets,” Byrne said. “Tottenham? No. But in every street and city unaffected by the riots — or where the riots have been swiftly brought to an end as in Manchester — it gives us an opportunity to appreciate them and the job they do.”

Naturally, Facebook and other forms of social media can bring groups of people together. Byrne said for those normally forgotten, “the quiet kids in class, the victims of bullying, people who are alone — it creates a world where they can make friends without the necessary confidence.”

But there are limits, too. While Byrne’s page got 13,000 fans in 24 hours, it took a week coinciding with the riots for a page searching for a missing 59-year-old Scottish man to get just 7,000 supporters.


Criminal gangs may have incited some of the looting during the course of the week, particularly in Manchester, according to Channel 4 News. (The video report is not available online.) Many more were simply opportunists. The Guardian has a datablog of those convicted so far here.

Many of the clashes beyond street level in the past week have been between politicians and commentators looking to apportion blame. Some have blamed government austerity measures and inequality, while others have focused on the breakdown of families, absent fathers, and the welfare state.

If social media was used as a tool in a negative way during the riots, is it the technology’s fault, the individuals using it, or the wider social and real-world contexts in which those individuals live?

Sheldon Thomas runs Gangsline, a London charity working to free those caught up in the gang lifestyle. He said technology has provided a new generation with the tools to be creative. But those using the technology need to be shown how it can be used positively.

He’s found that with largely self-taught skills, some gang members write lyrics, record tracks, make videos and upload them to YouTube and promote them on Facebook, all with subliminal attacks on rival gangs. Thomas said this then escalates to conflicts but it shows enormous creativity and possibilities if the skills are redirected.

“We’re not talking about young people that lack education,” he said. “They have creative skills we can transfer. How come nobody is looking to transfer those skills into building their own media companies? The school system does not help people who are creative. They’re bored in school, and creativity is never explored with this group of people.”

“Most of them in gangs are creative. We look to seek out that creativity. We are saying, ‘how can they benefit from their media skills themselves?'” he asked. “We should be creating educational streams that allow these skills to come through. Everyone wants to put them down. They know how to use the technology. We are the ones who need to show them how to use it positively.”

Echoing others who are using the riots to highlight the social breakdown, Thomas said, “You cannot have community if family structure is broken. Community has been fractured. Community has been destroyed. There is no more community. They have created their own community but in a negative way. We need to retrain them. That’s what we’re doing.”


Hundreds of people are appearing in court, pleading guilty and being sentenced within days of arrest. Meanwhile, the dozen arrested in the U.K. phone hacking scandal are free on bail until October. An inquiry likely to last a year at least will be held into the hacking controversy, while the government has rejected any suggested inquiry into the riots that left five dead.

Just in February, Cameron praised the use of social media when he said: “[The movement] belongs to a new generation for whom technology – the internet and social media – is a powerful tool in the hands of citizens, not a means of repression. It belongs to the people who’ve had enough of corruption, of having to make do with what they’re given, of having to settle for second best.” That is in stark contrast to suggesting banning it when people took to his own streets, despite all politicians making use of social media when reacting to events or campaigning.

The rush to judge and explain, including by targeting social media, was perhaps to be expected when such dramatic pictures flooded print, TV and online media.

But whatever the causes of crime and violence during the riots, Thomas said the answer has to be deeper than the media the perpetrators use.

“It’s no problem to change their minds,” he said. “It’s who’s willing to come up to them. We have to make them understand how powerful they could be if they changed their lifestyle. It’s about making them see that this lifestyle leads to nowhere.”

Photo of the “broom army” by Eduardo Carrasco via Flickr.

Tristan Stewart-Robertson is a Canadian freelance reporter based in Glasgow, Scotland, operating as the W5 Press Agency.


Censoring Twitter??

27 Jan

Would this prevent you from Tweeting? Why do they feel the need for intereference?

Copy right laws, infringements and the all-famous SOPA.

It’s barely been a day since Twitter made the announcement that, going forward, tweets could be censored based on the local laws that govern a user’s location, and the rumour mill is hard at work trying to figure out the reasons behind the decision.

At the same time, many Twitter users are calling for a Twitter Blackout on January 28, vowing to keep Twitter quiet tomorrow.

While Twitter cited the example of the ban of pro-Nazi content in Germany and France, could there be more to it than meets the eye?

Why is Twitter doing this?

Taking a look at the hashtag, #TwitterCensored, a lot of fingers were very quick to point straight at the recent investment by Saudi Prince, Alwaleed bin Talal, without considering the fact that his stake in the company is a mere 3%. Alex Macgillivray, the general counsel of Twitter, has also confirmed to BoingBoing that the move has nothing to do with any investments that Twitter has received.

While up until now, Twitter is said to have only blocked content that violates copyright laws, the change expands to include tweets that violate the laws of any given country, provided that they are asked to remove the offending tweets.

One possible reason is that Twitter has been consistently targeted by governments for allowing what is considered “illegal” content to be shared via the site. Israeli law firm, Shurat HaDin threatened to sue the microblogging site if it didn’t boot accounts with ties to Hezbollah and al-Qaeda. Twitter has also seen increasing pressure from US politicians, with Congressman Lieberman decrying the fact that the Taliban has a very vocal Twitter presence.

Twitter obviously used carefully selected words to convey the changes – at the end of the day blocking tweets can’t be defined in any terms other than censorship. But it is a half-hearted form of censorship that seems to appease the lawmakers but has no real direct effect on the user.

Does this affect activists?

Much has been made of the use of social media in the Middle Eastern uprisings, particularly in Egypt. In 2011, Twitter proved to be one of the essential tools used to broadcast news from Egypt to the world, while a year before that, Cairo-based activists used Twitter to coordinate protests and warn each other of security presence around the city. Twitter provides one of the easiest mobile methods to disseminate information online today.

While it may be understandable to withhold racist, hateful or threatening content, Twitter’s definition is all-encompassing and has the potential to take down perfectly acceptable content.

Following the uprising in Egypt, the government passed a law criminalizing protests. What if a law were passed that criminalizes online criticism of authorities? It’s no stretch of imagination, not when bloggers have been arrested and imprisoned for exercising their freedom of speech. In that case, the government in question could tell Twitter what is considered acceptable content.

So does this mean that Twitter has given governments complete power to control what their citizens see on Twitter?

Is it really a big deal?

It’s very easy to criticize Twitter for this move, but the fact remains that in one day, it provided users with the news that content could be censored by location, while alsogiving them a simple method, one-click away, to make sure that the tweets do flow, regardless of location.

The backlash has been harsh, and Twitter has even been accused of committing social suicide, assuming that an algorithm would be taking care of the extremely sensitive task of censoring content. In it’s announcement however, Twitter points out:

“…if we receive a valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to reactively withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time.”

Twitter is not placing an automated censorship system in place, but rather will only comply with what it sees are valid requests.

Twitter has actually found something of a compromise. With the use of a technicality, Twitter is able to safeguard the company legally, comply with governmental requests, and still make the content available to users with the workaround.

The alternative would be to see Twitter blocked entirely in countries which consider its content to be a violation of their local laws. If the finger should be pointed at anyone, it isn’t Twitter, but rather the lawmakers that make it possible to censor content in the first place.

Twitter is viewing a hyperventilation of sorts, going to the point of calling for a Twitter boycott for one day, but as Jillian York points out, the announcement is not a significant change to Twitter’s existing policies.

The current attack on Twitter is no different from the common, but misguided, accusations that are often heard, that Twitter censors certain hashtags from making it into its Trending Topics, when in fact that is an entirely algorithm-based system,driven mainly by news outlets, and represent “topics that are immediately popular, rather than topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis.”

Taking a look at Google’s Transparency Report, which we reviewed here, you’ll find that Google is already exercising similar practices, having withheld content locally in the past in India, while refusing some requests to remove content, in the US for example.

It is not clear whether or not Twitter will do the same, and we could do well to give them the benefit of the doubt, before burning them at the stake.

Best Campaign EVER!

26 Jan

Easily the best and most simple PR campaign! It uses social media (Youtube) and is interactive which therefore creates more attention.

I think this campaign was very smart and well executed.

In January 2009 Tourism Queensland embarked on a global search to find an Island Caretaker to explore the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland Australia and report back to the world about their experiences. We like to call this the ‘Best Job in the World’

On offer was a salary of AUD $150,000 for a six month position with live in luxury accommodation on Hamilton Island and the opportunity to explore all that the region has to offer.

Over 34,000 would-be caretakers from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe and everywhere in between uploaded a 60-second video showing their creativity and skills. From celebrities, writers, tour guides, environmentalists, students, to mums, dads and retirees everyone was vying for the Best Job in the World.

A shortlist of 50 applicants from 22 countries were narrowed down to a final 16, 15 whom were chosen by Tourism Queensland, and the 16th a ’wild card’ applicant Claire Wang from Taiwan chosen by popular vote.

Anjaan - India Ben - France Ben - UK Cali - USA
Clare - Taiwan Clarke - New Zealand Erik - Canada George - Ireland
Greg - Singapore Hailey - Australia James - Australia Juweon - Korea
Magali - Netherlands Mieko - Japan Mirjam - Germany Yi - China

PR vs Twitter

26 Jan

As an undergraduate studying Public Relations I understand how important social media is in contemporary society, we use it to contact friends, network with other professionals and a traveler like me, show everyone back at home that I’m alive and having a great time. However if I am a Public Relations professional looking after a celebrity or known brand, twitter and other portals of social media can affect my timing, my mark, my job.

We don’t just have to wait until the next morning for the newspaper to see the news, its everywhere. I see people waiting in coffee shops looking and waiting for a new tweet to appear in their news feed, news travels like lightening.

However on a positive note, this could be seen as a good thing if you had good news that needed to address your audience instantly.

As a person who is connected to her facebook and twitter all the time I can that in some point in my life, this will be a challenge.

Social Media Revolution

25 Jan


This is an interesting presentation of statistics of social media. As communication professionals it is vital to know how we are to engage with our niche markets. It is clear that if we are sending messages to young demographics to address social media as 50% of the worlds population is under 30.

Social media; its not a question of when it is going to dominate. It’s now,

University students use social media to report!

23 Jan

Journalism students at my home university (University of Canberra) had an assignment to report on refugees which is a controversial and prominent topic within Australia. I found this article very insightful as social media was able to create significant attention to this topic. Students were given air time on the local radio station to give an insightful look into the lives of refugees.

How Social Media, Collaboration Fueled Reports on Australia’s Refugees

Julie Posettiby Julie Posetti, January 19, 2012

Tagged: ,,

An innovative Australian public journalism project has partnered student reporters and theAustralian Broadcasting Corporation with a refugee support agency and a social media startup.

The aim of the project, #ReportingRefugees, was to tackle problematic media coverage of asylum seekers and refugees in a volatile political climate in parallel with educating students to connect with a “citizens’ agenda.” The result was a student takeover of the airwaves in Australia’s national capital and a fundamental shift in attitudes.

MediaShift correspondent Julie Posetti anchored the project at the University of Canberrawhere she teaches journalism. This is the first in her two-part series on #ReportingRefugees.


For the past 15 years, racist and xenophobic political memes have dominated public discussion of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia, with asylum seekers who arrive by boat demonized as threatening aliens by politicians whose divisive messages are fanned and fed by inflammatory headlines and tabloid TV.


Reporting Refugees Husseinis.jpgThe Hussaini family — Hazara refugees, now living in Canberra. Picture by Tim Anger


In this climate, and on the back of involvement in a substantial national research project on the reporting of multiculturalism (which led to metheorizing about the potential transformative impact of minority encounters on journalists), I decided to embark on a public journalism project with my final-year University of Canberra broadcast journalism students.

The end result was two hours of radio journalism, fueled by collaboration and social media, that gave a much-needed voice to refugees, a better understanding for the public of the complicated issues surrounding them, and important lessons for those of us working on the project.


#ReportingRefugees was built on partnerships that I forged with 666 ABC Canberra, the ABC’s radio station in the Australian capital; Canberra Refugee Support, the city’s best-known organization for refugees and asylum seekers; OurSay, an innovative crowdsourcing startup; and the School of Music at the Australian National University, also based in Canberra.

Reporting Refugees CRS.jpg

I made my first approach to CRS, and their initial response reflected the impact of xenophobic political campaigns and media stereotyping: They were reluctant to get involved. CRS President Geoff McPherson said concerns about resourcing the project were also paramount. But I persisted, pursuing meetings and arguing the merits of interventions in journalism education and public journalism approaches in tackling problematic reporting of marginalized communities. The proposal was for CRS to facilitate contact between student journalists and asylum seeker-refugee clients and provide advice on relevant policy and community programs, with the aim of minimizing any potential harm to vulnerable interviewees and assisting in the development of culturally intelligent reporting on a complex and often poorly reported issue.

Ultimately, just a fortnight before the project kicked off, CRS agreed to participate. “The judgment of the CRS board was that the potential return on this project far outweighed the risks and (we) decided to proceed,” McPherson said, reflecting on the project at its conclusion.


By contrast, the ABC was keen to be involved from the outset. They were even prepared to hand over two hours of airtime on their main Canberra radio station to the students. They agreed to allow the students — under the joint editorial supervision of the ABC, me and my tutors — to report, produce and present a radio special devoted to #ReportingRefugees which was scheduled for broadcast on November 27 last year — three months from the start of the project.


Reporting Refugees ABC.jpgABC 666 was a key partner in both creating and broadcasting #ReportingRefugees.


Jordie Kilby, ABC 666 Canberra content director, explained the network’s motivation for involvement: “We hoped for an insightful look at the local community of refugees living in the Canberra region; we wanted to build on our relationships with local refugees and asylum seekers and the community groups that help and support them. We also hoped the project would give us an opportunity to look at some future journalists and their ideas and work.”


By this stage, my ANU School of Music collaborator, Jonathan Powles, had agreed to offer his students the opportunity to produce original scores to accompany my journalism students’ stories. Apart from being an interesting cross-disciplinary education collaboration and a potentially rewarding creative merger for broadcaster, teachers and students alike, the provision of original music for the planned radio program meant that the ABC would also be able to podcast the show. (Copyright laws in Australia prevent the podcasting of commercial music broadcast on radio.)


Finally, I decided to approach OurSay — a Melbourne startup which partners with media organizations, universities and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to crowdsource questions designed to address the “citizens’ agenda.” They jumped at the chance to be involved, and we launched the project’s OurSay page which asked the public to identify the questions they most wanted answered by a panel of experts on asylum seeker-refugee policy during the ABC broadcast.

OurSay’s CEO, Eyal Halamish, explained the role of the platform in the project: “Especially on such a contentious issue as that of refugees and asylum seekers, where the mainstream media latch onto sensationalist, short-termist news instead of taking a broader view, a social tool such as OurSay can help set the agenda more effectively and help express what the public feels about an issue, as sourced from their own questions and comments.” It worked like this: Over the course of a month, OurSay users were asked to submit the questions they most wanted put to the panel, and the top five questions were selected by popular vote on the site.


With these #ReportingRefugees building blocks in place, I was able to finalize the structure of the project within the syllabus. This was no easy task! Trying to balance learning outcomes and university assessment policies against real-world media deadlines is always tricky. But doing so on a project seeking to break new ground through multiple public journalism partnerships, on a complex and sensitive reporting assignment, proved to be the most challenging teaching project I’ve ever been involved with. Fortunately, it also emerged as the most rewarding experience of my journalism education career.


Zoe Daniel.jpgZoe Daniel


#ReportingRefugees became the foundation of the Advanced Broadcast Journalism unit (a class of 50 students) I convene at UC. I gave lectures on public journalism (featuring the work of professor Jay Rosen and others) and reporting trauma in the social media age. I also devoted a lecture to a live Skype interview with the ABC’s South East Asia correspondent, Zoe Daniel, whose beat includes the massive refugee camps and asylum seeker communities of that region.

The major assessment required students to work in reporting duos networked via loosely themed production units, on original, long-form audio or audio/video stories about refugees-asylum seekers (or policies and programs pertaining to them) which would compete for selection in the final radio program. Additionally, they had to produce images and text to accompany their stories for online publication. They were encouraged to speak with, not just about, refugees-asylum seekers and to explore personal stories and angles that the media had largely overlooked. Some reporting duos were assigned to refugee-asylum seeker families and community services facilitated by CRS, while others independently identified stories and sources.


Additionally, the students were required to maintain Twitter feeds (with a focus on community building around content, crowdsourcing and content distribution) as part of an “audience engagement” assessment. They also needed to participate in Facebook groups dedicated to editorial management. The final assessment involved publication of an academically groundedreflective practice blog which required the students to critically analyze the project, their involvement in it and their experiences of it, with reference to scholarly readings.


So, what did the students think of the project at the start? Many have admitted they were daunted by the theme and the workload when they first heard about it. One, Ewan Gilbert, conceded he was initially a tad perplexed: “I went into the assignment thinking it was all a bit over the top.” But Gilbert, now a cadet journalist with the ABC, clearly understood the project’s purpose in retrospect: “I think one of the biggest barriers people face when it comes to understanding refugee issues, is that most Australians have probably never met one,” heblogged. “Putting a face to an issue was so important to helping my understanding of the problems. You learn to treat the issue with humanity. You learn to see refugees as people and quite often extremely vulnerable people at that. If the whole refugee debate didn’t have any relevancy to me before, it certainly does now.”

Another student, Grace Keyworth, who was already working in the Canberra Press Gallery as a videographer when the project began, wrote that #ReportingRefugees was an important and timely intervention.

“I have been present at countless press conferences this year where the discussion of asylum seekers and refugees was completely dehumanized. 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,” she lamented. “It shows that as a society, we haven’t progressed beyond the racial discrimination towards immigrants that has plagued our country since federation.”


The students were encouraged to openly reflect, through their social media activity, on their pre-conceived ideas about the refugee-asylum seeker issue and broadcast reporting conventions as they worked on their stories. They had to navigate very complex issues — such as balancing the need to avoid re-traumatizing refugee interviewees who’d survived torture against the need for editorial transparency and independence. Many encountered significant journalistic obstacles — from paternalism within some organizations which led (inappropriately) to one service provider refusing its refugee clients permission to speak, to nervous interviewees backing out of stories close to deadline. But in every case, these experiences delivered important learning outcomes — about the need for sensitivity and informed consent in reporting on refugees-asylum seekers, and about the need for journalistic perseverance and resilience when confronted with problems that threaten to derail stories in which many hours work have been invested.

There were logistical hurdles to mount, too. The collaborative editorial management of the project with the ABC meant that assessment deadlines had to be interwoven with ABCproduction deadlines. And multiple classroom visits by the busy ABC content director needed to be scheduled across four tutorials, which were timetabled for only three hours each per week.

Once the students had filed their rough-cut stories for assessment, the difficult process of selecting the content for broadcast and web upload commenced. I shortlisted stories from each tutorial with my tutors (Phil Cullen and Ginger Gorman, both of whom are experiencedABC broadcasters) but the ABC’s Jordie Kilby was responsible for selecting the final line-up of 10 stories. Meanwhile, we auditioned potential student presenters, and student executive producers attached to each tutorial began wrangling students to deliver final cut radio and web stories.


Ultimately, the students broadcast two hours of moving, human radio with a focus on personalized stories, situational reports on community programs such as a psychological service which treats traumatized child refugees, explanatory journalism that unpacked highly complex and sensitive themes, and an intelligent panel discussion, featuring the former Commonwealth Ombudsman and the UNHCR’s representative in Australia, that addressed thequestions crowdsourced via OurSay in a way that allowed misconceptions to be powerfully countered.

As the program aired, students, listeners and ABC staff participated in a lively Twitter discussion triggered by the stories, aggregated by the #ReportingRefugees hashtag.

Additionally, the ABC website continues to host a bundle of additional student reports produced for the project, along with a podcast of the radio special (Hour 1 & Hour 2).

I’ll focus in more detail on the impact of the project on those involved, its reception by audiences, and the implications for journalism education in part two of this #ReportingRefugees series, but this quote from international student Linn Loken, sums up the value of the project and makes my own very substantial investment in time, energy and effort in its execution seem worthwhile:

“Knowing a few refugees now, this is not just a word to me anymore. When I hear the wordREFUGEE mentioned, I think about the people I talked to during this project and I can see their faces.”

Julie Posetti is an award-winning journalist and journalism academic who lectures in radio and television reporting at the University of Canberra, Australia. She’s been a national political correspondent, a regional news editor, a TV documentary reporter and presenter on radio and television with the Australian national broadcaster, the ABC. Her academic research centers on journalism and social media, on talk radio, public broadcasting, political reporting and broadcast coverage of Muslims post-9/11. She’s currently writing her PhD dissertion on ‘The Twitterisation of Journalism’ at the University of Wollongong. She blogs at Twitter.