STUDENT MEDIA PASS
Student Industry Day, Redfern Town Hall, 7th May 2009
By Jessica Millman
After wondering the streets for half an hour looking for the Town Hall we file in to a nondescript building in Redfern, taking a chance that a student looking type knew where he was going. A tiny plaque at the bottom of a pillar suggests this is the Redfern town hall. I don’t know why I was expecting to see ‘Alliance’ flags waving in the breeze, proudly announcing the location of the ‘Student Media Pass’ day.
The event has been put on by ‘Alliance’ as it is affectionately known by those of us in ‘the industry’, or the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance to outsiders.
We gather in an excited huddle in the foyer and join the crowd wending its’ way up the stairs. I make my way to the very back of the line knowing that when I reach the school desk behind which sits the young lady with ‘the list’, she will not be able to find my name on it. I RSVPed a little too late but was told I could stand at the back of the room.
After twenty minutes I reach the desk and am told to wait at the side with a handful of other recalcitrant media hopefuls until all the people with their name on the list are called.
The wait is cursory and we are handed (to my delight!) an Alliance ‘showbag’ containing the latest Alliance publication and a pen along with black and white print outs of the days’ schedule.
I can hear people shifting around in school chairs on a wooden floor. The crowd consists almost entirely of very well dressed individuals, a number of guys with dreadlocked hair (the alternative few) and those that seem to be here because they ‘have to.’ The hall is dimly lit and devoid of decoration apart from a lone Media Alliance banner to the right of the stage. Never mind, I’m sure the light shows and spiffy sound effects will begin any minute now.
The first speaker arrives with a laptop. It is Jonathan Este, the communications Director, The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance. Ah, here comes the multimedia aspect. Este welcomes us and then proceeds to wow us with a Powerpoint slideshow. I am less ‘wowed’ than most as the display cannot be seen from the back of the room. In fact, the projection cannot be seen from any further than about the third row of seats.
Este discussed the future of journalism – or, as he described it, “The future of ideas”. While his lecture was clearly very interesting, as none of us could see the images he was referring to, much of it was pointless or would require looking up websites he had mentioned at a later date. Maybe it was intended as a test of our journalistic skills (or our patients!).
It is widely accepted that the industry is currently going through something of a crisis.
“There are a lot of layoffs in newsrooms worldwide. Revenue to news organisations is currently in a free fall”.
Asher Moses, Technology news reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald put it more bluntly;
“…There is no effective business model for the future of news”.
Gone are the days of meeting a deadline or two before nipping off home for a scotch or two to celebrate a good day’s reporting. Journalists are now expected to update their stories 3 or 4 times a day as they publish podcasts or other online content. The expectations on newsroom journalists are much higher- there are now deadlines every 10 minutes.
As an example of a very successful blog, Este refers to a Pulitzer Prize winning article from the Las Vegas Sun by reporter Alexandra Berzon.
The author of the article has created a highly interactive, multi-media article that really borders on a website. It has been heavily researched and is littered with relevant images including photographs, graphs and an interactive Google map.
Perhaps the most effective aspect of the site is the section focusing on the number of fatal accidents on the Las Vegas strip. The viewer clicks on a 2D outline of the building within the map of the area to zoom in on that area. The map slides off to the side to reveal a concise report of the overall safety situation of that building. Directly below the map and article is a row of greyed out portraits. If you click on a portrait, the article is replaced by a brief, personalised account of how the worker was killed. You can go further in depth by clicking on the portrait again to reveal a bio about that person. This has the effect of personalising the deaths and bringing the story home to the viewer and, as Este puts it, “it gives a 360 degree view of the story.”
The site includes Video, Photographs, profiles of victims, Interactive Google map and more.
It sounds impressive, but we can only take Este’s word for it.“I wish I could click on some of the pictures and show you how it works” he said.
Yes, we wish you could too!
The main elements of the blog were certainly inspired by Facebook, the social phenomenon that has taken over the way we communicate. The method of ‘tagging’ in Facebook allows the webpage’s author to click on an individual and type in a name to identify them so that when visitors ‘mouse-over’ this image, the person’s name appears within a little frame. The technique is prevalent on this site.
The Internet’s ability to make its audience so comfortable with certain aspects of usability points at a society that is ready to take on the challenge. People want to use programs that are ‘User friendly’ and site managers are finally starting to realise this and reap the benefits.
The World Wide Web is beginning to find common elements that work everywhere. Certain tools that in the past may only have been known to designers and programmers are becoming commonplace. For example, we have all come to recognise the symbol of the little magnifying glass and understand it to mean we can ‘zoom in’ on the image at hand.
Standardisation is bringing a visual language common to the entire world.
After Este came a host of young media types who started in journalism in one form or another around the age of fifteen. I started to wonder if, at twenty nine I had left it too late to pick up a career in journalism.
I looked around to see how the crowd was receiving the lectures.
“Are you finding this boring?”
the girl in front of me was writing to her friend in huge block letters. After decorating the entire page with intricate designs she promptly went back to her iphone.
At just the right moment we are let out for a break, some using the time to quietly slip away, others to chat excitedly about what they had learnt so far.
Though the ability to use multimedia effectively was the topic of every speaker, the event was seriously lacking! Perhaps Alliance thought it would be kitsch to have decent lighting, or mics that worked properly, let alone any real display of the capabilities of multimedia to reach an audience.
But it was not all bad! The talks were informative and generous in content, the presenters themselves were available for individual questions at the end of each session and freely handed out business cards to media hopefuls. Better yet we were provided with a free lunch! There was a copious amount of delicious sandwiches and orange juice laid out for us to enjoy. I’m not talking vegemite sandwiches here; these were Tandoori chicken with salad and salami, sun dried tomato and lettuce affairs on fluffy grain bread. I thanked the lady who served them.
“You’re most welcome” she smiled, “We know what it’s like being a student.”
Not only that but we were offered free membership until the end of the year! I have since been sent a welcome kit with a plastic card that says:
I get quite a buzz every time I see it – imagine all the free sandwiches I’ll have access to now!
But seriously, the card is a wonderful affirmation of my future and I would strongly recommend the ‘Student Media Pass Media and Entertainment and Arts Alliance day’ (or whatever it is called) to prospective journalists.
Just make sure you get in to the first row!!!
“Good Journalism comes from the quality of the ideas, the information we disseminate to people. It comes from our engagement with people” Jonathan commented, enthusiastically.
“So, what sets us apart from ‘bedroom bloggers’?
Our skills and experience, the depth of our research.”
Jonathan ended with the comment that the opportunity still exists to work in Journalism, but not in a regular newsroom. He suggested we all start our own blogs and build an online portfolio.
There was something very encouraging in the way Jonathan referred to the entire audience as ‘us’, his efforts to be inclusive were not lost on me and I felt buoyed by his enthusiasm for ‘the future of Journalism.’
It was as though he thought that if we had made the effort to come to a dingy hall in Redfern to listen to lectures about the Media industry, then we must all be very keen!
Seriously though, overall all of the speakers were excellent and highly informative. The only fault was the lack of actual multimedia in the event itself, but nevermind. We all have good imaginations 😉
The general themes of the media day were:
If you’re currently doing a degree in Communication and Media – change now!
Start an online portfolio and build it up
Take any experience working in the industry that you can get (paid or unpaid) to help build up your portfolio.