High on journalism

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.

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Bibliography

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.

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Learning languages: between myth and reality.

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English has always been one of the most spoken languages in the world. More than 40 countries worldwide have half of their population speaking the language of Shakespeare.

Nowadays, learning English as a second language has almost become mandatory in order to travel and work.

It is commonly thought that the earlier you start to learn a foreign language the better you are at speaking it. This is what Dr Nils Jäkel and Prof. Dr Markus Ritter at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany tried to demonstrate. “Starting foreign-language lessons at an early age is often very much commended, even though hardly any research exists that would support this myth,” says Nils Jäkel. Both researchers conducted a study between 2010 and 2014 including 5,130 students from 31 secondary schools in Germany. They compared two groups of students: those who started to learn English in first grade and those who started in third grade. By the seventh grade, it was observed that third grade students were better.

A surprising result.

For Tom Doyle, English Teaching for Young Learners (ETYL) Trainer “those results are surprising but learning a new language is intense and it takes time to reach fluency. Studying earlier is better but limited by the restricted learning capacity in early age. The brain is better able to learn when you grow up”.

According to Peter Roger, Head of the Applied Linguistics Department at Macquarie University, these results can be explained based on the type of learning process followed. Learning in a classroom environment does not give that many advantages to learn languages. “Classrooms limit the exposure to the language, it is still a good idea to start early but if you want to achieve proficiency you need to be in an English environment at this age”. This opinion is shared by both researchers who also estimated that in secondary schools, 90 minutes’ lessons are not sufficient to achieve sustainable effects.

The teaching method needs to change for Annabel Mangin, English lecturer at the University of Lorraine in France. “We are aware that something needs to change in France. It is too formal and theoretical. It should be like learning the mother tongue and being in a natural environment. More autonomy should be given to the kids. Let’s let them speak and debate!”.

Unlike French or Spanish kids, Northern European children can benefit from an environment directly embedded in the English language. “Smaller populations are under more pressure in terms of languages to communicate with the other countries. Their languages are not spoken worldwide” said Peter Roger.  In the Nordic countries, inhabitants are constantly exposed to English (e.g: from a young age, they get to watch television in English). This natural exposure makes them better English speakers compared to the rest of Europe.

Learning English as a second language in an early childhood may not give the expected outcomes but it is still a great advantage for kids. It helps them to be more open-minded, to experience another culture and to gain self-confidence.

Will healthier canteen menus help to reduce childhood obesity?

by Emilie Lauer and Lewis Godwin.

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In order to combat childhood obesity, the New South Wales government recently introduced the Healthy School Canteen Strategy, a program designed to increase the availability of healthy food and drink options in school canteens. The strategy will see the reduction and removal of foods high in saturated fats, sugars and salts. Public schools in NSW will be expected to implement this program by the end of 2019.

According to the Australian Health Tracker, 25.6% of Australian children between the ages of 5 and 11 are overweight or obese; a figure the government hopes to see reduced to 21.6% by the year 2025.

Shortly, Australian canteens will see foods such as Vegemite, burgers, chicken schnitzels, hot pies, sausage rolls making up no more than one quarter of menus. Instead, they will be replaced by humus, rice paper rolls¸ vegetable burgers and water as a main drink.

However, is the food available in canteens the real source of the problem, or are there other factors affecting obesity?

Childhood obesity depends not only on food, but also on education. Children do not have sole control of their lives, a lot of what they know about healthy eating or exercise is learnt from and affected by their parents.

According to Timothy Gill, Research Programs Director at the Borden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating Disorders, changing the school canteen menus will help to counter childhood obesity, but alone, it will not be sufficient. School canteen menus send a strong signal to children, educating them with the notion of good food. Through the school and their children, the government will also try to engage the parents in this process.

For Gill, factors such as your area and social situation also need to be taken into consideration as those can also affect your health.

Jobs and income play a major role on the family as a whole. The amount of money a family makes impacts the foods and activities they can provide their children with.

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The above graph lists the suburbs in NSW with the highest and lowest rates of overweight and obsess children between the ages of 2 and 17 years. It also lists the median wage earn by families in those areas

By examining this data, it is apparent that suburbs of a higher median wage tend to have a lower rate of obesity. Mosman, an area with median wage of $64,631, averages around 18 obese or overweight or obese children out of every hundred. This contrasts with Lakemba – Wiley Park, which has a median wage of $34,002 and averages 32 overweight or obese children for every hundred.

From this, it is evident that money is a factor in obesity. The more money that you earn, affords you greater access to fresh, healthier foods and sporting facilities. Living close to your work also allows you more leisure time, including cooking fresh meals or exercising. By contrast, those from lower economic classes may have less control over what they eat. Travelling from work may deprive of the time to cook proper meals and result in them resorting to fast foods.

In saying this, however, Homebush Bay – Silverwater demonstrates a fairly high median income of $57,753, yet shows a high average of 41 out of 100 children who are overweight or obese. This suggest that there are other factors that need to be taken into account, such as physical activity.

Kevin Moultrie, the Founder of Transform-Us Fitness for Kids, notes that while changing canteen menus to include healthier options is a positive step towards reducing childhood obesity, it is not enough. Another crucial factor is the amount of regular exercise children are involved in.

Australian children, Moultrie notes, put too much energy in their bodies through food and drink, but do not get enough physical activity.

Children, according to NSW Health, need to engage in 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Their reports, however, found that children in grades K-2 were only getting between 86 and 99 minutes, while grades 3-6 averaged 105 minutes per week. While between 23-30% of urban schools reportedly did not provide grades K-2 with any sports at all.

While changing the eating habits of children at school may be effective, in order to find a sustainable solution to childhood obesity, Moultrie recommends an increase in sports at school as well. Schools currently offer between one and two PE lessons a week, on average. This is not enough, as children need to be exercising every day.

While government tries to improve children’s health in general, there is another factor who need to be taken in consideration: marketing. Nowadays, products are marketed through cartoons characters, movie stars or sports people in order to appeal the children, said Gill.

According to the Cancer Council and the University of Sydney, 44% of the food advertisements suggest unhealthy food.  21% of them (1 in 5) are staring fast food. Those advertisements are broadcast during the peak hours, usually between 6am to 9am and 4pm to 9pm on weekdays. During the weekend, from 6am to midday and 4pm to 9pm.

Marketing, Gill believes, has changed the family rules. Parents are no longer the only decision maker for what will be found in their basket. Advertisements push children to ask for unhealthy food. For Gill, parents are still responsible for the food they provide, but they are working against an environment that promotes the wrong type of food.  It becomes more difficult for them to say “no”.

The NSW Cancer Council is now waiting on a government action to regulate and protect children from the impact of junk food advertising. This is a point of view shared by Gill, who hopes an environment who discourage kids from asking for unhealthy food.

Would it be the next government move?

Sexism: let’s talk about it!

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A few months ago, Anais Lecoq, a French print journalist, launched a new Facebook page “Paye ton journal” to denounce sexism in the French media. It compiles anonymous testimonies of different female journalists who faced sexism at work due to their colleagues and their interviewees. The rules are simple: there is no name, no recognizable media, just the story of those women.

It was something “important” to do for Anais Lecoq. “{Now} female journalists have found a place to speak up and to be heard. It allows them to legitimate what happened and to understand they are not alone. But I would obviously have never thought there would be that many people interested in this page. That certainly shows a problem in journalism…”.

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Female journalists do not only face sexism through inappropriate remarks from colleagues or others. There are also some inequalities in the media itself. Although more and more women are present in the newsrooms today, there is still a gender gap between journalists.

Women journalists face a vertical segregation which is also known as the glass ceiling. More prestigious positions in the media (e.g: editorial or management positions) are still hardly accessible for women. It often requires long hours and can be held on weekends and/or at night. According to some media employers, this is apparently not suitable for women who need to take care of their house and children. They are clearly boiled down to their primary conditions.

The glass ceiling is not the only bias faced by women in the media. There is also a horizontal segregation which divides men and women in the sector they cover. Some journalistic fields such as politics, sports or economy are still male dominated. At the opposite, female journalists are more likely to be found in specialized press, women’s magazines, culture or education pages. It appears those rubrics are more suitable for women because it is a primary extension of their nature. Their redaction expects them to be kinder, less aggressive and to write with feelings in their papers.

“A sad reality” for Anais Lecoq. “I remember a female journalist telling me that she applied for a job covering politics and her chief editor told her: “Don’t you like what you do right now (culture)? You’re not serious enough for politics”. Another was told that she was “too cute” to be covering economics and “so much better in fashion magazines”.

In fact, sexism can be found everywhere in our society which is why it is also present in the media. Differences between both genders can be observed in the early stages of life (girls are pink and boys are blue). Then, parents, friends and school help children to understand them.

Tracey Holmes, senior journalism lecturer at UTS believe that “it will change with the new generation. It is an education progress, we are mixing classes, men and women hold the same qualifications and they debate together”.

Although some positive changes already occurred, there is still a long way to go to find perfect equality between male and female journalists. Until then, “female journalists need to be confident and to do a better job that the male can do. It is a fantastic remedy against those who don’t believe in women” said Tracey Holmes.

Media influence

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The suspense of the French presidential elections is coming to an end and the voters are still hesitating in this final round.

A recent report from the French Think Tank Fondapol revealed that 55 % of French people believed that the media had influenced negatively Marine Le Pen’s campaign whilst 46% believed that it had a positive impact on Emmanuel Macron’s campaign.

Does the media really influence the election?

Associate Professor at Swinburne University, Andrew Dodd believes that “the media play an important role in the issue and how they address and expose news”. Informing people means making a choice according to the agenda setting.  Thus, some information benefits from a better coverage (including numerous follow up) compared to others. According to Dr Mitchell Hobbs, “the media does not tell you what to think but what to think about”. It highlights news according to its own agenda. Some candidates are more exposed than others.

In fact, the public does not have a very wide choice in terms of news during an election. The media tends to stick together according to their coverage (e.g: every media dealt with the Penelopegate).

The theory known as the Spiral of Silence was developed in 1974 by Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann.  In her opinion, people are highly sensitive to their social environment and how they are perceived by others. It is easier for them to discuss what is seen in the media in order for them to conform to the public opinion. A person whose personal beliefs are not aligned with what the majority thinks will tend to remain silent.  In the case social pressure is too overwhelming, some people could even change their mind and adopt everybody else’s opinion. In this regard, the media could easily influence their audience. But nowadays mass-media have lost in popularity and people turn to other platforms to get information: the social media.

“People are not conscious of the fact that they are being manipulated by social media. It selects what they have to read” said Andrew Dodd. Facebook is well known for its algorithm. The feed received on social media ensues directly from previous reading / liking. People are trapped in this algorithm and receive only the same kind of post. The access to different information is then limited.

Another element needs to be taken into consideration: polls. It offers an overview of what people intend to vote and it can “motivate people to turn out if their candidate is behind”. People change their intention because they are convinced their candidate will not reach the top. It is the case of Anais About who voted Fillon in the first round instead of her favourite candidate Dupont-Aignan because “he was a too small candidate”.

Media, social-media and polls are playing an important role in a presidential campaign. Candidates use them to promote their ideas and reach a bigger audience. But the media do not tell the public who to vote. Every voter comes from a different cultural background, family and those cultural factors play a major role during the elections. People’s vote is very often influenced by their primary social circle (family, friends…).

Alone in front of the ballot box, people do make their own choice and it is not always based on the media’s forecast (e.g: the Brexit or the French European referendum in 2005).

FAKE NEWS VS FACT CHECKING

 

fake-news-invasionIt is not a real surprise if “fake news” has been voted “word of the year” by Macquarie’s dictionary. Yet, its main user is no more than the 45th US President Donald Trump. Fake news are everywhere and have been under the spotlight for a long time now. Nonetheless, Trump is the one who made the term popular using it against the press. Us, who are telling (very) fake news and no fact.

I define “fake news” in two different ways. It is either false information spread by fake media on social networks (such as the support of the Pope for Donald Trump during the US election) or false statements launched by politics and public figures.

Social media brought journalism to another era. They are present in our everyday life and 12 % of the population consider social media as the first source of news. Thus, Facebook and Twitter are the easiest way to spread fake news by sharing them without having any third party to verify the sources.

The immediacy of social media pushes journalism to publish the information as fast as possible. They have created a competition fiercer than ever before. Being the first is primordial. For Sunanda Creagh, editor at The Conversation: “In a day-to-day work, regular reporters are under incredible deadline pressure and it is not always possible for them to spend as much time on each article as they did in the past”. Hence, fake news is spread by journalists who are under pressure. Deadlines have an impact on the quality of the information. Quantity is now more important than quality.

One of the challenges for journalists is to give true information to people while information is increasingly accessible. Journalists and newspapers have to fight against fake news. They also have to keep a dominant position in the way to inform people.

As a reply to the immediacy, the media made a U- turn focusing now on the quality of information using fact-checking teams to scan and prove the news. Fact-checking is blooming worldwide and although it started just a few years ago, the post-truth age contributed to their development.  Fact-checking units focus on particular public claims, articles shared on social media or beliefs which have been spread around. They confront those statements against the research evidence, data set and/or experts. Spending time to prove the truth. “{Fact-checking} is really important if you want to have a proper public policy debate. It is essential to have a sensible debate» said Russell Skelton, funding editor of ABC Fack-Check which has just been re-launched.

Is fact-checking a way to reconquer people? The firm Eldeman just released a report that proves the incredible fall of people’s trust in media. Being trustworthy is essential in journalism. According to Sunanda Creagh “it will help some people trust journalism again but some others who have lost faith in media see just fact-checking as another form of bias reporting. Everyone does not see fact-checkers as objective arbiters of truth”.

Fact-checking might be the first step in the reconquest of the public.

Is fact-checking a new trend? Difficult to say. Being accused of spreading fake news during the US campaign, Facebook just announced its plan to counter through a partnership with Snopes and ABC News. Is Twitter next?

Fact-checking is increasing and this is a good sign. We should not forget that the first role of journalism is to be the counter-power.