Trial by social media

You would’ve had to have been living under a rock not to have heard about the case of Jill Meagher in the past two weeks.

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RIP Jill Meagher. Source: Mamamia.com.au

Jill Meagher, a 29-year-old ABC employee from Brunswick, Melbourne, was out drinking with work colleagues on a Friday night and into early Saturday morning.  On her way home CCTV footage shows that she was approached by a man in a blue hoodie. She failed to arrive home and a police homicide investigation was later set up.

A Facebook page was set up to help find the missing woman and accumulated more than 120, 000 likes. Ms Meagher’s body was found early Friday morning and a 41-year-old man has been arrested.

Facebook page set up to find Jill Meagher. Source: Facebook.

Related coverage on Facebook involvement in case: ABCSky NewsThe Australian.

Related articles on Jill Meagher: Herald Sun, Sydney Morning Herald

Police are now concerned that comments posted on the Facebook page could jeopardise the trial.

A name and shame Facebook page was also set up.

It’s not the first time this issue has arisen. In America jurors have been thrown out of courts for accessing information on social media sites and news sites through phones, tablets and computers.

We saw a very similar case, involving the issue of social media usage during a trial last year with the Daniel Morcombe case.

According to a Perth Now article:

“New media, including Twitter, Facebook and blogs, which broadcast to the entire world, means individuals now have a power once only held by major media organisations.”

“Because the man has been charged, any comments relating to his circumstances published prior to the conclusion of the case could lead the court to deem it impossible for him to receive a fair trial.

“The worst case scenario, according to legal expert at the Queensland University of Technology Peter Black, is that the judge grants a permanent stay of indictment because pre-trial publicity about the man was too prejudicial.”

In many cases the intent of the Facebook page is originally created to do good but many people don’t realise whilst they are venting their outrage or anger over particular actions they are also doing the case a lot of harm.

The Victorian Police asked Facebook to take down the page due to the fact that it could very well jeopardise the case involving Ms Meagher’s alleged killer, but Facebook refused.

Listen to the 3AW radio interview with the Victorian Chief Commissioner about social media usage during the trial.

In an article by the Age Kristen Boschma, the head of social media at communications firm Haystac said the level of social media engagement with the Meagher case was “unprecedented other than natural disasters in Australia”.

Although concerns are now growing over the harm social media could be doing to this trial it did play a huge part in the case.

The CCTV footage of Ms Meagher was viewed more than a million times on social media and assisted in people coming forward with further information that helped the police.

One of the reason’s it played such a major role in this case is because people like to feel a sense of connection and community, and want to feel connected to others who feel the same as them.

“Where things start to become incredible, I guess, is that Jill’s name had appeared in more than 35 million Twitter feeds in the early stages of this case and a lot of the sharing came from Australia and Ireland,” University of Canberra journalism academic Julie Posetti said.

As journalists we are taught to be very selective with what we write, whether it’s on traditional formats or online formats, to ensure we don’t publish material  that is defamatory, in contempt of court or sub judice.

Now that everyone on the internet could almost be called a journalist the same rules should apply and do apply. If members of the public want to embrace the role of a journalist when sharing breaking news or contributing in such cases as Jill Meagher’s, then they should be prepared to also take on the responsibilities that come with the territory. If they want to practice journalism they should follow the code:

MEAA Code of Ethics for journalists. Click photo for the full code.

Ms Posetti said education programs needed to be rolled out to assist with this issue.

While ‘professionally qualified journalists’ know (or should know, or know and don’t abide by the laws as we see with some shock jocks) it is the ‘citizen journalists’ who need to realise how greatly their actions can impact.

Maybe a new Twitter trend should be started now to remind or warn people not to talk about the case in a way that could cause a mis-trial.

Find here tips on what you can and can’t publish during a trial.

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A Brisbane pony club fears closure due to development

Development closing in on the Mt Gravatt District Horse and Pony Club means it will be forced to close if the Brisbane City Council (BCC) fails to find it an alternative block of land in time.

Mt Gravatt District Horse and Pony Club have had their grounds drastically reduced. Picture: Kate Leonard-Jones

The club on Prebble St in Rochedale has been running for over 50 years through the support of volunteers but now FKP Property Group, who own the land, have begun development on the site.

According to FKP the plan is to develop the site into The Rochedale Estates comprising of over 1,000 residential houses with the total development costing a total of $8 million dollars.

Club president Eddy Foster says members feel they have been let down by the BCC after it failed to deliver on it’s commitment to help relocate the club to a nearby block of land owned by FKP.

“In 2010 Campbell Newman when he was Lord Mayor came to a big event we had here and told us the Mt Gravatt Pony Club was going to stay open,” he said.

“Newman said he believed the club was a really good thing and the council would fully support us in moving to the new premises.

“They’ve led us to believe that we will always have grounds and it’s now coming up to October and we don’t have anything for next year at all,” Mr Foster said.

FKP’s pony club usage plan                 BCC development plans for the pony club site.

The area within the yellow outline is all that remains of the pony clubs land. Souce: Google Maps. Picture: Kate Leonard-Jones

Before development started the pony club was the biggest on Brisbane’s southside attracting Olympians, World Cup champions and budding equestrians from interstate.

A local chicken farmer originally owned the land before it was sold to developers who then sold it onto the current owners, FKP.

Mr Foster says the developers have been helpful but the BCC hasn’t actively cooperated.

“We’ve known this was coming for about 10 years, the developers have been good in keeping us informed, the council have been very slow to react,” he said.

“The developers were kind enough to say they had some other land down the road on the other side of the freeway that they would let us use,” Mr Foster said.

View timeline of Mt Gravatt District Horse and Pony Club

Council need ‘to see the bureaucracy’

The state government’s Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) has classified FKP’s block of land on the other side of the gateway a category five in environmental sensitivity.

Now the pony club can no longer be moved to the alternative site that Campbell Newman publicly promised the members two years ago.

…Councillor Adrian Schrinner has advised that for a variety of reasons, council is no longer in a position to proceed with the acquisition. This decision was announced after the recent elections, however just prior we were informed that negotiations were now approaching a final stage, and all looked good.

The reason given is the impact of DERM offset planting that was registered over the lands as part of the development approvals. We find it curious, as FKP had informed council of this in February 2010, so council made the Civic Cabinet decision, with full knowledge…” 

Read full Facebook post.

Mr Foster says he believes DERM’s environmental ruling should be reassessed and feels it is another case of the community losing out due to political bureaucracy.

“I would like council to see the bureaucracy and hypocrisy and say yes this land would be good for outdoor community groups,” Mr Foster said.

However, Brisbane’s Lord Mayor Graham Quirk says the council has not given up on the pony club.

“We are still negotiating with the new state government to try and achieve a common sense outcome,” Mr Quirk said.

“We want to see, at a council level, the pony club retained and we’re doing all that we can to try and clear up those bureaucratic processes to achieve that outcome,” he said.

However, Mr Foster says the BCC and the state government have not visited the pony club site or the block of land DERM restricted.

Land at the end of Prebble Street near the Gateway Motorway. Source: Google Maps.

Waiting game for ‘devastated’ members

According to a letter from the Premier’s office to the pony club, the state government declined to meet with club members and developers to discuss the situation and instead referred the matter on to Mr Ian Walker the Member for Mansfield.

Do you know more? Facebook message us or message us on Twitter with information and images.

Club secretary Maree Forrest says the loss of the club will have a huge affect on the immediate community.

“We would have to disperse and look at other clubs further distances away, which is like breaking up a family,” she said.

“Members here have been quite close and have developed a community within themselves and they’re distinct from other local clubs.

“We’re just devastated,” she said.

Once the developers decide to build on the remaining land, which the pony club are still utilising, it will have a month to move on. View one of FKP’s letter to the pony club.

Mia MansonCome on members let’s show the Mayor/Councillors we’re not happy!”

Mia MansonGet busy and write to them! We want our grounds! the more complaints maybe they might give us something back!”

Katrina Scottwrites: Posted on 30 Aug 09 at 03:25pm I feel for the Mt Gravatt pony Club. But it is not appropriate for the conservation land to be ‘co-used’. If land that has been bought with the Bushland Preservation Levy, for the protection and enhancement of the natural environment, it should not then be used for an intensive sport like cross country equestrian course. Although I love horses and trail riding, being a hard hoofed animal they cause loss of ground-cover and can lead to erosion. This is not an activity that we want to occur within metres of a creek.”

 Mr Foster said there were Camphaloral trees, weeds and rubbish on the DERM classified  land.

Mr Foster says the pony club could face closure as early as Christmas if the BCC does not find a new site by the time developers start work.

Mr Walker the Member for Mansfield was contacted but did not respond.

Excavation works are carried out around the club grounds. Source: Mt Gravatt District Horse and Pony Club.

 Are you affected? Tell us your story.

Tell them what you think:

Premier: ThePremier@premiers.qld.gov.au or premiers.master@premiers.qld.gov.au

DERM: info@nprsr.qld.gov.au

FKP: michael.shannon@fkp.com.au

Lord Mayor of Brisbane: Contact Lord Mayor Graham Quirk.

Council project development: rochedale@brisbane.qld.gov.au

Related Coverage: Saddled by doubt 

Follow us on Twitter.

 

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Fast writing for fast news

After completing my first week of QUT’s Radio and TV Journalism 1 (@qutnews) praxis I found where my major fault lies as an aspiring journalist. It is a lack of speed. However, it seems that with the advent of online journalism the need for speed has become a guiding principle within the industry.

Last week from 8am to 1pm a group of QUT students put together a radio bulletin, which involved sourcing our own stories and talent, interviewing our talent and putting together a pre-recorded radio package to be broadcast on Brisbane’s 4EB as a 1pm news bulletin. To say the least, the newsroom was manic: phones ringing, people interviewing, trying furiously to get onto someone who could give you a comment, and meanwhile in the background the loud thumping of keyboards, as we stressfully tried to type up our stories to make the deadline.

Although this real-world scenario opened my eyes (well, more like reality slammed into me like I’d been hit by a bus) to my lack of speed when putting together a news story, so did the assessment exercises in my other subject, Online Journalism. Our tasks have involved transcribing a radio script into an online news story, updating a running story and live blogging, all of which required a serious overhaul of fast typing and quick thinking, which I struggled with. But this is how journalism works – in a very fast, changing and volatile way, especially thanks to social media, which I have previously referred to in my other blogs.

With an overall perspective, David Craig in his book ‘Excellence in online journalism’ says:

“Breaking news is one of the key ethical battlegrounds in online journalism because it highlights the tensions between the best traditions of journalism and the competitive realities of the new media world.”

Whether it’s making a radio deadline, scripting for an impromptu live television cross or a running/breaking news story through an online news site or twitter feed there is an enormous amount of pressure placed on getting your story up quickly.

The Poynter Institute lists under their ‘how to’s’ section a range of chats that provide tips for improving journalists’ writing speed.

Roy Peter Clark shared some helpful hints in this Poynter post. 

He says the most common problems he sees with people trying to write fast is:

1. Dumping stuff online.

2. Insufficient fact checking.

3. Doing so much research that you get lost.

4. Waiting too long to write.

5. Giving yourself too little time for revision.

Roy Peter Clark says:

 If I have, say 30 minutes to write a story, I will still spend five, maybe ten minutes, thinking of the parts and scratching out a plan. I usually just jot down the five things I want to put in the story, and then number them to give me a simple beginning, middle and end. I can write much faster, and much better, from a mini-plan.

He also suggests starting to write early on. Sometimes you can pre-empt some of the things your talent might talk to you about in your interview and start scripting early on. This is one thing I failed to do in my radio praxis. Waiting to get my interviews (usually between three and four a day) and then listening back to them, cutting up grabs and then lastly writing my story. When in fact it would have saved me a lot of time if I started writing in between my interviews.

Roy Peter Clark spoke about one former journalist in particular, named Ray Holliman. He was a sports reporter in the 1970s and was notoriously fast in his writing and reporting. Roy puts this down to his ability to report, write, report, write. Whilst at the same time the first thing he thought about was what is important? and what does my audience need to know?

Poynter chat with Roy Peter Clark. Click picture to view the full chat on the Poynter website.

About.com Guide also wrote an article on tips for writing faster. In summery the article advises:

– Don’t agonise over your copy

– Just get the words down and then revise at the end

– Just get the lead right and focus on the point of the story

– Practice makes perfect (the more you practice writing stories fast the better you will get)

Well it may be easier said than done. But I believe practice makes perfect. And both my radio praxis bulletin and my Online Journalism assessment has highlighted this for me.

My advice is to practice by using Twitter to live update what’s happening in your day at least three times a day. So tweeting in the morning, lunch time and evening or when something you think is significant or newsworthy happens that should be reported on.

In addition to this, using the iPhone app, Evernote (which I spoke about in my previous blog) to write stories about things that happen within your day. This allows you to share your story on social networking sites, email it, store it on your phone as well as add photos and a video.

Although university life can be very busy and it feels like we don’t have a spare second to even file a story in our spare time, we have to try to make time to practice this craft otherwise we will not improve.

We need to get faster to keep up with the on-demand news industry that will only continue to pick up pace in the future.

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News today: blogs and Twitter


The journalism industry is changing, no question about it. Our J-school educators know it, professional journalists know it, news organisations know it and the readers know it. But where it is heading no one actually knows. Many have theories and attempt to map out where the industry will be in 10 years but students can only learn and educators can only teach what the industry practices now. We can only try to pre-empt the skills that may be needed in the near future.

A Poynter Institute article written by journalism educator Katy Culver talks about teaching and preparing students for jobs that don’t even exist yet. She says:

“If journalism is to thrive, this generation of students will have to create things that do not yet exist.”

She believes the way to go from here, for up-and-coming journalists in the future, is to hone entrepreneurial skills with a critical focus on new technologies including applications like google maps, interactive sites and social multimedia. Fortunately for students at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) (map) we have been learning about these vital skills in the subject Online Journalism.

Source: globalnerdy.com

In fact, in the lecture a few weeks ago we had former journalist and now entrepreneurial blogger, Nikki Parkinson who operates her own blog, address this exact issue. She says she was able to get out of the dying journalism industry just before the influx of job cuts started and emphasises it is the best thing she ever did. Nikki is now a self-employed blogger who makes a living out of using her journalistic talents within a business model – but her product is produced in a virtual space.

Last week Daniel Hurst from the Brisbane Times also spoke about his role as a journalist and his duty to live blog from events, speeches and conferences, not just to write hard news stories. This obviously differs from Nikki, who blogs to make money as a privately run business but nonetheless both Nikki and Daniel are a part of this revolutionary shift in the way journalism is performed.

Poynter Institute talks about the skills digital-first newsrooms are looking for (article) in today’s and future journalists. It has posted, on its website, a chat with John Hiner, MLive Media Group’s vice president of content, who believes its hard to change journalists’ habitual behaviour.

He says:

The reality is, we can teach people to use the technology. The biggest hurdle we have had is ingrained behaviors that are skewed toward legacy outcomes. The daily deadline. The print-length story. Staying in the bubble, inside of the citadel that is most newsrooms.

So for journalism students we need to broaden our minds, think outside the box, or the ‘citadel newsroom’. Everything we learn in today’s classes at university may have gone out of the window by the time we are practicing in the industry.

At the moment journalism is walking the thin, blurry, intangible line, integrating traditional formats and styles of journalism with new interactive, Web 2.0 culture technologies that take news into a virtual 3D world.

But, one thing is clear, it is moving forward and has morphed into a hybrid industry.

As many experts predict – journalism in the future will be digital. So while we’re learning about writing for TV, Radio and Print news we need to be looking at what’s happening in the virtual world. Here is also an Age article on the digital future of journalism.

However, some industry professionals in America say that journalism is dead – the old model is dying but the new media model is dysfunctional. Nothing seems to be working. 

For current journalism students I think all we can do is equip ourselves with traditional journalistic skills but open our minds to entrepreneurial journalism and new digital ways of sharing information. OR after completing a three-year journalism degree, never become a journalist!

Here are some depressing facts from Poynter :

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Twitter crippling the journalism industry

Every time we, or maybe it’s just me, think about journalism, now and what it will look like in the future, our attention immediately turns to social media sites. Yes once again I am particularly referring to Twitter.

One comment in particular from our guest lecturer Daniel Hurst, from the Brisbane Times, got me thinking. He said he didn’t like the new trend of tweeting during live press conferences, as many journalists are now being ordered to do by their superiors. This was based on the fact that after continuously tweeting little snip-its of the speech and bite-size packages of information the journalist then finds it hard to go and write the hard news article for that story. Their audiences have already got the information, they have already been updated and filled in on the information they need from Twitter, so where does that leave the news organisation as a business? They will find it harder, as Daniel pointed out, to be able to sell an advertisement place next to that hard news story and therefore the snowball effect starts.

Do we keep up with social media demands, a fast, constant cycle of news, or do we limit our involvement with such new forms of journalism so we can still make revenue from our online news sites.

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) future media director Ralph Riveria admits journalists and news organisations are still using Twitter simply as a platform to divert readers back to their traditional mediums of news. Martin Hurst adds to this in his 2011 book, News 2.0,  saying:

“Despite the problems encountered in trying to codify their reporters’ actions in the world of social media, mainstream media organisations are being pushed to embrace social networking or be left behind…The simple reason for this mainstream media interest is one of the economics – that’s where the eyeballs are going at the same time as the television viewership is declining”.

Hurst also discusses peer-to-peer sharing of content in his book and noted that “including information that might on the surface seem to be news-like-almost totally negates the need for professional journalists content”. How is it that we journalist can make a living if so many people are happy to do it for free?

Citizen journalists and real-world professional journalists are already doing all the work for Twitter, as if Twitter is its own media corporation and people are working as journalists for their company for free.

This theory was brought up by Matthew Ingram who described Twitter as a media business simply using other people’s content.

“It has become obvious by now that Twitter is building a digital-media business, powered by a rapidly-growing advertising platform. But trying to capture more of its users’ attention is going to bring it into conflict with the media companies who are providing all of its content.”

So is Twitter really a force for good? It seems we are moving forward so fast that someone is going to get hurt. Well, news organisations are already getting hurt and the flow on effect is hurting journalists, sub-editors, layout designers and photographers just to name a few. I mean we only have to look at what is happening here in Australia with the thousands of job cuts across Fairfax and the sale of Australian Consolidated Press (ACP) to a German company. The journalism industry isn’t healthy. So do we embrace the future technologies – keeping your friends close but your enemies closer?  It seems that this is the only option the ailing industry has been given.

Even researchers at Indiana University are examining how Twitter users display journalistic behaviors and how they shape the site as a news source. Read the full article here.

The article highlights that users who aren’t professional journalists are showing behavioural signs of a journalist simply by the content they are sharing and their interactivity on the site.

“On the most basic level, this highlights Twitter as a disruptive force in the changing media ecosystem. Even as a relatively small percentage of online adults use Twitter (about 13 percent, according to Pew), people are able to act journalistically without relying on traditional channels to do so.”

What are we going to do when there are no newspapers or magazines or radio? Will society regret what they have done to the industry?

As Nokia researcher Timo Koskinen highlighted in the ‘News Online: Transformations and Continuities’ the term ‘citizen journalism’ is constantly used:

“but technological innovations – particularly the introduction of mobile multimedia computers – have transformed the concept. ‘Citizen journalism’ is beginning to embrace a wide range of public engagement with media, from groups of contributors organised around a subject or geographic location to the casual participation of observers who are lucky – or unlucky – enough to be at the scene of a newsworthy event.”

For me, I know that I often feel like I want to throw my iPhone away and not look at a computer for at least one day! I don’t want to spend my weekends inside on my computer or even outside squinting at my phone screen to get the latest news. I cherish my weekend newspapers, which I can take to the beach, spread out, do the crossword, touch  and enjoy physically. And I think most Australian’s do too.

The likelihood of stopping a force as big as the Twitter revolution is slim. Martin Hurst in his book News 2.0 makes a good point:

“This change appears perhaps as a dichotomy – do we embrace the chaos and uncertainty of DIY news, or do we rally around professional journalism and defend the current institutions of the mainstream media? But unfortunately it’s not that simple.”

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