Hi to those in my reporting tutorials at the University of Canberra.
Because I'm still new to Moodle I'm going to maintain this as a duplicate site - providing general information about the course, some working notes for the particular weekly tutorials, and finally some more general thoughts about journalism with, hopefully, some extra reading you may be interested in following up on.
And, by the way, I can always be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org by anyone . . .
The one key idea I wanted to get over to everyone this week was to feel free to hassle me. If you've got any problems; if there's something you haven't understood; if you have a question on the readings or any of the ideas Matthew covered in the lecture, please contact me via the hotmail address or the University of Canberra one that should redirect the e-mail so that I receive it quickly. I may take a day to respond but please feel free to keep hassling me . . .
THE FIRST TUTORIAL - INTERVIEWING
The exciting thing about this particular course is that it investigates the practice of journalism in Australia from two quite different perspectives. Our primary focus is an exploration of the 'trade' (or 'art', or 'craft', or 'profession', we'll discuss the difference later) by considering the tools that are used by journalists to prepare a story. But this is not a simple course that will teach you how to write a news story. We're at university now, not a simple trade-training college (although that's not, in any way, to 'dis' the idea of journalism as a trade). Our aim is to investigate the role of journalism in society. It's only by doing this that we can understand how to prepare the sort of really exciting and gripping journalism that will fire our audience with excitement and leave them wanting more and more. And that's the aim of any journalist: to be sought after by an audience.
This lecture introduced us to one of the key tools in the journalist's toolbox. During the tutorial we considered what these are. We need to be able to take in, objectively, what's happening in front of us. We need to be able to 'see' what the story is and to create a frame within which we can place the events we're witnessing. We need to be able to 'hear' or understand how others may feel about those happenings. We need to be able to research, so that we can place what's happened in context. However these are all passive tools. We are the witnesses that then have the opportunity to place those occurrences into our story.
But there is one other, vital, tool we possess. That's the ability to interrogate events and question people about what's happening in front of us. This adds new depth and understanding to our reports. This critical tool is, of course, the ability to interview.
And that's what this week's lecture was all about.
The textbook chapter provides a very good introduction to the idea of interviewing. It's worth a detailed read and then going back again, skimming over the concepts that are explored, to make sure you understand them. If you don't please feel free to contact me. In particular, it's worth following up on the links to interviews. Ask yourself, if you were conducting the interview, how would you handle them? Would you have asked a different question? Try to work out what you would have done as you watch the interviews.
This leads on to the other distinction I tried to bring out in the tutorial. Some interviews are (merely) to gain facts for the story. It's possible to probe more deeply to draw out the emotions of someone you're interviewing. These are the sorts of interviews most journalists do, most of the time. They mainly consist of open questions, designed to reveal information and provide more detail about what's occurring.
If, however, you happen to be working in the electronic media, there is another sort of interview. This is when journalism becomes drama; when it probes beyond the simple facts to reveal another dimension of what has really occurred. This is when the way the question is formed becomes vital. You may, for example, suspect you already know the answer you'll receive if you're speak to a media-savvy politician. Quite often they may have been in the business of manipulating the media far longer than any of the journalists at a press conference may have been asking questions. This is when formulating the right question becomes vital. When you only have one chance to pose a question it's critical to ask the correct one. That's why some electronic interviewers prefer to ask closed questions, like the one Richard Carleton posed of Bob Hawke when he'd just become Labor leader.
Take the time to go through the interviews and reading.
I'll try to add some more links to good interviews later, for those who are interested.
THE BRITISH HISTORIAN NIALL FERGUSON HAS ACHIEVED A DEGREE OF POPULAR CELEBRITY. HE PRESENTS HIS ARGUMENTS AS FACT, BUT NOTHING IS EVER QUITE AS SIMPLE AS IT LOOKS. AN AMERICAN JOURNALIST HAS BOTHERED (IN THIS LINK) TO GO THROUGH ONE OF HIS OP-ED (OPINION) ARTICLES SORTING OUT WHAT'S REALLY FACT AND WHAT'S MERELY INTERPRETATION. IT'S THE SORT OF THING EVERY JOURNO SHOULD WATCH OUT FOR . . .