If we had to ask every journalist why they entered the profession, they would probably all give us a different answer. Journalists have “their own beliefs about what they do and their own reasons for pursuing a career in whatever field of journalism they work in” (Charles 2013, p.384). I believe that each student in journalism has different reasons to be willing to enter the battlefield of the industry, and it is the same for me.
I did not choose journalism straight away. Back home, I always loved writing but my poor French grammar made me doubt about my capacity of being a good journalist. I ended up wasting one year in Chemistry before eventually stepping into the profession. I chose journalism because I wanted to learn perpetually. Learning from others while reporting, and by extension, bringing that knowledge to the audience.
Being only a French journalist would not have given me enough skills to be successful in the industry. Agnès Yves (2008, p. 30) states that one of the keys for being a good journalist is a good English practice. Indeed, the language of Shakespeare has become necessary for journalists as “it is considered as a global language and a lot of research resources are in English” (Yves, 2008 p.30). Coming to Australia and undertaking this Masters degree has particularly been a challenge. The language skills required made me push myself every single day, especially in this Journalism Major Project class.
My perception of the Journalism Major Project is that it is the final project of our life as a student before entering the professional world. It is a project which should act as a resume builder and this is why I decided to do a documentary. To me, this class was the only possibility to do a journalist piece in this particular format.
Print journalism has always played its role by keeping citizens informed, but nowadays, the younger audience relies less on print sources for their news (Floyd, D 2017, p.2). People are turning away from traditional media such as television, print or broadcast to rely more and more on the Internet. It has offered a new way of practicing journalism and it known as transmedia storytelling. According to Laura Schlichting (2012, p.83), it consists in telling stories on multiple platforms and with different formats. Today, news’ organisations expect young journalists to know how to produce multimedia content.
I believe this new trend in the industry will play a major role in the hiring process. Students are now required to develop cross-platform skills on the top of more traditional ones while they still need to be proficient in oral and written communication (Hodgson. P & Wong. D 2011 p.197). Young journalism graduates in quest of a job will be exposed to a highly competitive industry where the winner would need an extra skill to get the job. As a result, knowing how to make a documentary would be that extra skill for me.
Before this course, my knowledge in documentary making and video shooting were almost non-existent. I chose this format in order to learn extra skills necessary for my future career such as video shooting and editing. Since day one, the process of making this documentary has taken me through a learning journey. There is no doubt I have improved as a journalist thanks to this project.
In my documentary, I decided to explore the entrepreneurial side of the hemp and medicinal cannabis industry. I already knew that medicinal cannabis had been legalized in Australia but a recent press conference by Greg Hunt, the federal Health Minister, made me question myself about the topic. In January 2018, he declared the legalization of medicinal cannabis exports, willing to make “Australia number one world medicinal cannabis exporter”. My first question was how? But also who? Who are those entrepreneurs working in the industry?
This journalism piece would have different impacts depending on its format. It needed to be done as a documentary. Since we are talking about a stigmatised plant and industry, images are necessary to show the audience what is exactly happening. It allows the audience to quickly be bound to the topic. An idea supported by Floyd (2017 p.4): “documentaries offer a more immediate experience for audience than print journalism”.
Using a video support enabled me to provide the audience with details and experiences that would have been hard to describe via another platform. Visuals allow the audience to dig in at the same time than the journalist. Videos also leave no room for interpretation, nothing is described, the audience sees it. According to me, it provides a notion of truth to the public.
Compared to my previous project in this Masters, making a documentary is by far the most complex one. In the previous articles I wrote for this course, I always researched the background of the story and some interviewees. I often go for three or four interviewees for one article. Although the process is quite similar to other media platforms, I feel like I have spent more time in background research and planned way more interviews than I would have done for a print article. For the first time, I also had to think about pictures and visuals in order to make the documentary coherent and attractive.
This documentary project allowed me to further develop other skills such as organisational skills. Planning interviews and juggling with people’s schedules have not always been an easy task and have sometimes delayed the realisation of the documentary. However, journalism articles depend on the interviewees; journalists cannot make any journalistic piece without them. Making this documentary also improved my interviewer skills as I definitely become more and more confident each time.
This documentary has been a learning process. I hope it will allow me to work again on project like this in my future career.
Charles, M, 2013, News Documentary and Advocacy Journalism, Centre for Journalism & Communication Research Bournemouth University, pp.384-392.
Floyd, D, 2017, Making ” The Gray Area”: Transitioning from Print Journalism to Documentary Filmmaking, Undergraduate Honors theses, East Tennessee State, pp. 1-12
Hodgson, P, Wong, D, 2011, Developing professional skills in journalism through blogs, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, Vol. 36, no.2, pp.197-211
Schlichting, L, 2012, Transmedia Storytelling and the Challenge of Knowledge Transfer in Contemporary Digital Journalism. A Look at the Interactive Documentary Hollow, Special Issue Media Convergence and Transmedial Worlds, vol 21, pp. 81-95
Yves, A 2008, Manuel de journalisme, La Découverte, Paris, France.