Tag Archives: journalism

Are newspapers terminal?

A couple of nights ago, at an excellent National Year of Reading forum at Whitefriars College, a student asked me if journalism was dead. I answered that journalism will never die because humans will always want to know about the things affecting other people’s lives. However, I did concede that newspapers, where I started out in the media, are definitely in the intensive care ward.

If I’d had my wits about me I might have recalled the recent robust discussion on Gruen Planet about the future of newspapers. The ever-entertaining Gruen team pointed to an advertising campaign by Britain’s Guardian newspaper that highlights why we will always need journos, even if they’re not transmitting stories to us via newsprint on dead trees.

Great stuff.

Spasmodic blogging

Yes, Thunder Road has been beckoning… but being drowned out amid the clamour of other goings on.

Firstly, the floods. As with the February 2009 bushfires, I’ve found it difficult to focus on other tasks with this disaster going on. The vast areas underwater in Queensland, New South Wales and now Victoria are almost impossible to comprehend. Lives and landscapes are being rewritten. The repercussions will be substantial and ongoing, long after the stories fade from front pages and current affairs bulletins.

I followed the flooding on Twitter, where citizen reporting came to the fore. As a journo, I know that covering a flood is exceedingly difficult. Once roads are closed you need air transport – and then it’s not always possible to find a safe landing site. Water takes out power supplies and telephone lines. Mobile phones have limited battery time. Making contact with witnesses (and newsrooms) becomes nigh on impossible. In this instance, Tweeting made everyone with a charged phone or web access a reporter. There were constant updates with the #qldfloods hashtag when media organisations couldn’t tell the whole story. It was compelling to watch.

I follow various authors on Twitter, several of whom are Queensland based. I watched as authors began auctioning their books, services or company for flood-charities and I’ve jumped on board the Queensland Writers’ Centre initiative, Writers on Rafts, to offer any support I can. It’s brilliant to see the writing community pitching in this way and a lesson in how things could have been done after the fires. (I know of several authors who did unpaid book tours after the fires but there was no co-ordinated charity effort like this that I know of.)

Shifting from floods, I’m on the cusp of entering a minimum six-month project at the website where I work as content manager. I’m reviewing job applications and doing other preparatory work and wondering if I’ll get to be an author at all in coming months.

That’s a bit of a bummer as the ideas have been coming thick and fast lately and I have several projects under way in one form or another. Maybe I need a renaissance-style patron to keep the wolves from the door. With a new year under way I do feel the (self-imposed) pressure to finish a new book. Realistically, that’s a long way off. And Five Parts Dead isn’t even six months old yet. Chillax, Tim.

For those of you that follow the saga of Mr Bump on these pages, the good news is that he’s still in one piece – touch wood – with one public holiday on the near horizon. Hmmmm. Better assume a crash-landing position.

Hopefully 2011 will find its rhythm and semi-regular blogging will resume soon.

Reading: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
Listening to: The Jezabels, Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town and The Promise
Watching: Mad Men series 1, Man Vs Wild re-runs, Modern Family re-runs.
Mood: Pensive.

Leaking lists

Newspaper editors around Australia must be besides themselves with joy that the WikiLeaks story has broken during the silly season when news can be hard to come by. We do have the Poms belting us black and blue at cricket but that can only fill so many pages. Other perennial summer yarns include the road toll (tick) and wild weather (tick, tick, tick). In the bygone era of aggro industrial relations you could usually count on a beer and/or postal strike to liven up the pre-Christmas period, too.

Without such staples, newspapers, magazines and current affairs shows fill up with Top 10s and Best Ofs. Many blogs do, too.

Before I conducted my 2010 autopsy, I delved a little to see what influences have lingered. Here are the 2009 and 2008 entries. Hey, at least I can show I listened to Angus & Julia Stone before they became mainstream cool.

Ms Adele at Persnickety Snark suggested 11 Top 5s to countdown to 2011 but I’m going to have to settle for this mutated selection from her list, because I clearly haven’t read as quickly or widely:

5 Great Covers: Kirsty Murray’s India Dark, Leanne Hall’s This is Shyness, Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon, Karen Tayleur’s Six and, dare I say, my Five Parts Dead (thanks to Chong at Text Publishing).

5 Great Series: Based on reading these with my son, Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant Series, Sandy Fussell’s Samurai Kids series, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. Based on my own reading of the first book in the series – Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, and Joseph Delaney’s The Spook’s Apprentice.

5 Great Re-Reads (books you’ve LOVED so much you went back for more): These aren’t YA fiction but this year I found myself re-reading Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore, Neil Gaiman’s Instructions, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Dav Pilkey’s The Dumb Bunnies and lots of Dr Seuss with my daughter. I am planning to re-read Markus Zusak’s The Messenger real soon, though.

Most Anticipated (2011 titles): Sheesh, I’m still working my way through a backlog of titles. Books I can’t wait to consume come from 2010 and even further back and include Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, Scot Gardner’s Happy As Larry, Kirsty Murray’s India Dark, Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Lian Hearn’s Heaven’s Net is Wide, Justin Cronin’s The Passage, Kate Constable & Penni Russon’s Dear Swoozie, Fiona Wood’s Six Impossible Things, Paul Kelly’s How To Make Gravy and Kevin Keefe’s Paddy’s Road: Life Stories of Patrick Dodson. Sally Rippin’s Angel Creek is a genuine 2011 title I’m keen to read.

But that’s just the tip of the bedside table stack. One of the apps on the iPad that makes me feel 11 all over again is the ComiXology store where I have already downloaded enough graphic novels to keep me going until next summer.

5 Great YA Bloggers
Authors – Cath Crowley, Kate Constable, Kirsty Murray, Penni Russon, Simmone Howell. Passionate book people – Book Gryffin, InkCrush, Miffy, Persnickety Snark, ReadPlus. There are countless others – but these snare me most frequently.

5 Books I Thoroughly Enjoyed in 2010 (but could have been published any time): Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon, Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man, Craig Thompson’s Blankets, Joel Deane’s The Norseman’s Song and Simmone Howell’s Everything Beautiful.

The funniest thing I’ve read all year was a chapter in Rene Goscinny’s Nicholas about a teacher doing yard duty at a boys’ school after several days of wet-day timetable. Absolute gold.

Favourite Films from 2010: Up In The Air, The Social Network, Animal Kingdom, Toy Story 3, The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. (Runners up: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, The Hurt Locker, HP7, Inception.)

On Regular Rotation in 2010: Clare Bowditch, The Jezabels, Angus & Julia Stone, Arcade Fire, Whitley, Ben Folds and (still) Bon Iver.

On The Idiot Box: This year I bought a box set of The Wire and became a wirehead whenever free-to-air failed to grab me. Great stuff.

One show that entertained, upset, challenged and inspired me was The United States of Tara. The most recent series of Skins faltered somewhat but I’m still stunned it’s getting re-made in the US. Cue wail of anguish. Nooooooooo! Australian Story is consistently good. Channel 9 desecrated Top Gear.

Thanks list: In a year when I’ve had a new book released, I am acutely aware of the support I need from booksellers, reviewers, Text Publishing, speakers’ agency Booked Out, teachers, librarians, fellow authors, friends and family. Thank you all for being in my corner. I appreciate it.

Have a safe, jolly Christmas and may 2011 see your dreams come to fruition.

UPDATE: Whoops, I’ve added some titles that slipped my foggy mind first time around. And FYI, here’s the New York Times list of Notable Children’s Books of 2010.

Ethics for sale

I’ve worked as a freelance journalist. I know how hard it can be to make a living without regular contracts. I’ve haggled with major publishers over whether a particular article deserved the pathetic 65 cents per word standard rate or 85 cents per word for humour*.

Having worked as an online journo for a decade, I also know how easy it is for people to rip off other writers’ work. Define. Copy. Paste. Change a few words. Send. Ignore your conscience. (I’m assuming the last bit as I’m not speaking from experience.)

Plagiarism is rife out there and I’m unashamed to have ‘dobbed’ people in to programs like Media Watch where I’ve been able to prove theft of work. I’ve also used websites like Copyscape to track down folks who ripped off work – and then penned intimidating letters demanding they stop using unauthorised content without paying.

While most journalists adhere to an industry code of ethics, some don’t. Then there are professional writers who would never claim to be journalists and therefore are unencumbered by such considerations. If it pays or advances the cause, they’ll do it.

But even I’m gobsmacked by this professional writer’s tale. I’m not surprised this industry has cropped up but it makes you wonder. How many fraudulently qualified graduates are pulling in big wages after participating in this type of dishonesty?

*This was some years back. I hope to God this crappy rate has progressed since then… but I’m not optimistic.