Boundless Plains to (reluctantly) Share

 

‘Poor, brown and destitute’.

That is our image of a refugee, as described by Dr Evans (2014). Panic has emerged in Australia over the last couple of decades over the ‘tidal waves’ of refugees crashing onto our shores. It is a surprise to learn that Australia only takes 3% of the world’s refugees and 88% are found to be genuine.

According to Salazar (2012), more than 6.6 million people have migrated to Australia since 1945 and a staggering 40% of the Australian population are first or second generation migrants. Why then is Australia in panic mode? We owe our distorted perception of refugees as a ‘problem’ to popular media.

It has been found that popular media uses terms such as “illegitimate”, “illegal”, “threatening”, “problem” and “burden” to describe refugees. Media representations are overwhelmingly negative, with 76% being pessimistic.

“..Australia over the past decade can be characterised by a fragmentation of social movements, social networks and local social solidarities, and a formal de-politicisation of community media strongly influenced by ..the role of mainstream media in fostering fear and misconceptions regarding refugees,” Salazar states.

Despite seeking refuge in Australia and arriving without a visa being completely legal, there remain deeply engrained misunderstandings among ‘white’ Australians about refugees and migrants in general. The barriers created by mainstream divide society into distinct groups based on ethnicity. One could go so far as to hypothesise that these misrepresentations are responsible for some, if not most, of inter-racial violence and tension within our supposed land with “boundless plains to share.”

In the words of American philosopher, Richard Rorty, “The process of coming to see other human beings as ‘one of us’ rather than as ‘them’ is a matter for detailed description of what unfamiliar people are like and a re-description of what we ourselves are like. This is a task not for theory, but for genres such as ethnography, the journalist’s report, the comic book, the docudrama.. and the novel.”

References:

  • Rogers, Simon, 2/7/13, ‘Australia and asylum seekers: they key facts you need to know’, http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/jul/02/australia-asylum-seekers
  • Rorty, Richard, 1989, ‘Contingency, Irony and Solidarity’, Cambridge University Press, UK, (the link is far too long but can be viewed here).
  • Salazar, Juan Francisco, 2012, ‘Digital Stories and Emerging Citizens’ media practices by migrant youth in Western Sydney, 3CMedia: Journal of Community, Citizen’s and Third Sector Media and Communication, Issue 7, http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezpr oxy.uow.edu.au/ehost/detail?vid= 3&sid=c5373eb0-b85c-44ea- b3e5- cc2e901acc61%40sessionmgr40 03&hid=4201&bdata=JnNpdGU 9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db= ufh&AN=79551905

 

Because Eurovision.

5,384,678

The number of Tweets sent during the 2014 Eurovision final.

1,124,463

The number of Twitter users online on the night.

47,136

The number of Tweets they generated per minute.

In the words of Ellie Hall, “Once a year, the internet becomes flooded with ridiculously strange/ awesome images, GIFs and music
videos that resemble nothing so much as American Idol on LSD.”

Ask a European what Eurovision is and they will tell you simply, “war”. Member countries of the European Broadcasting Union submit a song to be performed live on television in the hopes that their lyrical number will be voted the favourite by the people.

The Eurovision Song Contest was originally started in 1956 to unite the European Nations in wake of the devastation brought by WWII. What’s so beautifully cyclical about this is that Eurovision has become the poster child of globalisation, uniting not only the European nations, but all countries as we witness the spectacle on our computers, phones, TVs and engage in live commentary via social media.

Twitter allows users a “back-channel” behind the screens of their televisions to engage in live commentary and conversations about the media event unfolding. Previously, users would have to ‘follow’ or ‘friend’ one another to see another user’s comment. Through the use of the hashtag, users are unified under a common theme, if you will.

“The Eurovision Song Contest already contains a degree of interactivity for its audience through public voting, therefore, even without the backchannel provided by social media,” Highfield (2013) says.

“Over time, the contest has also developed a cult following, with viewers watching Eurovision not just for the multicultural showcase, the music and the performances, but also in some cases for the kitsch spectacle, enjoyed (but not always) with a degree of ironic detachment.”

This television/social media interaction is contributing to our perception of the world as a smaller space, where users can feel like they are discussing an event with their neighbour when they are really conversing with someone on the other side of the world.

Twitter was the platform which spelled out, in capital letters, how the globalisation of Eurovision is dismantling the walls between nations and between the East and West.

Some people just haven’t read the memo.

References:

Hall, Ellie, ‘Everything Non-Eurpoeans need to know about Eurovision’, 21/5/13, http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/everything-americans-need-to-know-about-eurovision

Highflield, Tim, Harrington, Stephen, and Bruns, Axel, ‘Twitter as a Technology for Audiencing and Fandom: The #Eurovision Phenomenon’, 2013, Queensland University of Technology, http://snurb.info/files/2013/Twitter%20as%20a%20Technology%20for%20Audiencing%20and%20Fandom.pdf

Macleod, Ishbel, ‘Infographic: How Eurovision happened on Twitter’, 12/5/14, http://www.thedrum.com/news/2014/05/12/infographic-how-eurovision-happened-twitter

A New Fantastic Point of View

As a child, Aladdin (1992) was one of my favourite movies. It taught me lessons like not letting social classes define you and that wealth shouldn’t change who you are. Let’s not forget that that every race which isn’t Caucasian is inferior and, often, evil.

Hold up, that escalated quickly, didn’t it?

Looking at the history of media, Western entertainment has often been at the expense of other races or cultures. Take, for instance, ‘blackface’ humour which was popular during the 19th century which wasn’t a good time to be black- millions of Africans were enslaved by Americans. According to Mahony (2009), “a style of theatre known as ‘minstrel shows’, in which actors would dress like ‘black people’ by exaggerating the size of their lips, wearing torn clothes and using burnt cork or shoe polish to blacken their faces, began to emerge as a popular form of entertainment.”

During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, it dawned on people that ‘Blackface’ humour “was politically incorrect, any hint of blackface humour has become the subject of widespread public criticism” (Mahony, 2009).

Yet, we don’t see a problem with our children watching Disney movies like Aladdin.

The first lines spoken in Aladdin, “Oh, I come from a land, from a faraway place… where they cut off your ears if they don’t like your face. It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home” summarise in a nutshell the movie’s not-so subtle message: that Arabs are a separate, inferior, sub-human race.

The shop merchant who persecutes Aladdin for the theft of a loaf of bread declares: “I’ll have your hands for a trophy, street rat!” Similarly, Princess Jasmine takes an apple from a store to give to a peasant child and the shop owner raises his sword menacingly, prepared to decapitate her arm immediately on the street.

The depiction of violence as normal in the Orient is further substantiated by the Sultan’s acceptance of Jafar’s claims to have killed Aladdin. Calling the incident an “outrage”, he says simply that he wishes to “put this whole messy business behind.” Violence, therefore, is not only commonplace in the Middle East, it is trivialised as “messy business”- an occurrence unworthy of distress.

Perhaps, as Aladdin suggests, it’s time for “a new fantastic point of view.”

References:

 

Aladdin, 1992, John Musker and Ron Clements, USA, Disney Pictures.

Mahony, Melanie. (2009). ‘What’s all the fuss about “blackface”?’. Crikey. http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/ 10/08/crikey-clarifier-whats-all- the-fuss-about-blackface/.

 

Sex doesn’t Sell

Prostiutes have become a class of their own- lower than journalists, politicians and whoever pranged your car without leaving a note. They are portrayed as sub-human, worthless and unworthy of our respect. Their deaths are the punchline of jokes, as the above video demonstrates.

After all, why should we respect them when they can’t respect themselves?

Jill Meaghre, a 29-year-old Irish woman living in Australia was raped and murdered walking home from a pub in Brunswick on the 22 September 2012. Adrian Bayley pled guilty to her murder. Her death received national coverage with over 30,000 outraged people marching down Sydney Road to honour her.

Johanna Martin was found the year before wrapped in a bloodstained sheet next to a Port Melbourne car park on October 11. It is believed she was strangled. She was 65 years old, a mother, a grandmother and “she loved shopping at the South Melbourne Markets,” according to Clementine Ford.

“I know that she took delight in flashy jewellery, and was a regular visitor to the theatre. She had a dog named susie, who she was regularly spotted with around the Port Melbourne area… Her friends spoke of a larger than life personality.”

And she was a prostitute.

Everyone has heard of Jill Meaghre, but if you ask about Johanna Martin you will be met with a blank stare and a “who?”

The fault is that of the media, but also ours by extension. The media is able to gander profit from ‘heart throb’ stories involving relatable people- people like us. “Because the media.. perhaps doesn’t care enough about the murders, rapes and violations of women not like us to pay it the same kind of attention.” Though we may point our fingers at the media in condemnation, journalists produce stories in accordance with what will ‘sell’. In this case, sex doesn’t sell.

Ford points out that this prioritisation of women, of the white middle-class above sex workers, is what caused Meaghre’s death. Meaghre was Bayley’s sixth rape victim. The previous five had been sex workers. “And yet each of those crimes, as vicious as they were, was considered only serious enough to warrant the most minimal of sentences. After all, they’re just sex workers right? They don’t experience violence in the same way other people do. They have no respect for themselves,  so we can’t exactly respect them back.”

Though sex-workers are downgraded by the media, portrayed as sub-human and worthless, they are someone’s daughters and someone’s sisters. If we can’t respect them, can we respect ourselves?

 

References:

Ford, Clementine. (2013). ‘How did we let Adrian Bayley happen?’. DailyLife.com.au. http://www.dailylife.com.au/new s-and-views/dl-opinion/how-did- we-let-adrian-bayley-happen- 20130613-2o67f.html. Accessed 30 January 2014.

Growing, growing, not gone.

blog-cartoon

 

“I think we could agree that anyone who’s in the business of predicting the future of journalism is going to get clobbered,” David Carr presents in a nutshell the underlying truth of the industry- that no one is in any position to foretell which direction Journalism will take.

He does assert, however, that despite journalism’s changing nature, the industry is not dying. “Any time digital media get a little money- this is true of Huffington Post, true of Vox Media, this is true of BuzzFeed- what they do is they go out and hire Journalists.”

Many are quick to pronounce journalism a terminally ill case- supposedly no one wants news anymore. Yeah, that’s why Yahoo News has approximately 125,000,000 monthly visitors and Huffington Post has 105,000,000. That’s why, as I write this #ukraine is trending on Twitter.

Maybe not as many pick up the Newspaper on a Sunday while enjoying a cup of coffee, but not as many have that luxury. Lifestyles are changing. Sunday once truly was the day of rest and to work was nearly unheard of. People had time to read the paper. Now, we have to read the news whenever and however we can get it.

Andrew Lack, Carr’s conversation buddy, agrees that Journalism is an evolving industry. “I think old media, new media, those walls are coming down. It’s all storytelling… And in a digital world you consume it differently than we did. My parents consume it differently than I do. This is part of the natural evolution of the great use cases of the technologies of our time…”

Tom Rosenstiel is equally optimistic of Journalism’s future, arguing that the current model is the most beneficial to the audience than its predecessors. Previously, we were force-fed news and information as corporate conglomerate saw fit. We were the proverbial trash can for whatever garbage they threw us. Now, though, the audience has absolute control over what they consume. We are able to access whatever we want whenever we want- and that’s pretty empowering.

Sources

Boston University 2014, NYT’s David Carr on the Future of Journalism, online video, 6 March, Boston University, viewed 15 April 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPlazqH0TdA.

TEDx Talks 2013, The Future of Journalism: Tom Rosenstiel at TEDxAtlanta, online video, 28 May, TEDx, viewed 15 April 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuBE_dP900Y.

 

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Publick Occurrences

 

Benjamin Harris’s Publick Occurrences both Forreign and Domestick  was the first newspaper in the American colonies. Spell check was obviously yet to be invented.

Although it was shut down soon after for not having a required license, “Harris’ newspaper employed an early form of reader participation” according to Rogers in ‘A (Brief) History of Print Journalism in America’ (2014). It consisted of three sheets of stationery-size paper and a fourth page which was left blank for the reader to add their own news and pass it on.

The stories printed were deemed necessary to understanding the world by providing information, in a meaningful, relevant and engaging way, that people needed to live their lives (Shelley 2007). Over the decades, what is deemed necessary to engage with the world has outgrown the boundaries of primitive paper into the vast digital realm. With our ever-expanding repertoire of outlets, media has evolved to include traditional news (deaths, crime, politics, economy, etc) and what is often referred to as ‘soft news’ (the arts and human interest stories).

To engage this subject matter, journalists are rejecting the traditional written articles and press releases, and instead opting for documentaries, the internet and advertising- a branch referred to as aesthetic journalism (Cramerotti 2011).

With news being reported 24/7 through countless platforms by thousands of journalists, traditional news does not sell like it once did. People are looking online to filter their own interests which often lie in the broader category of arts or popular journalism. The information available on these platforms is still just as necessary to allowing readers to engage in their world in a meaningful way, but that information is no longer encased in the A4 pages of Publick Occurrences.

I have cultivated an arts blog over the past few months which you can visit here, should it interest you.

References:

Cramerotti, Alfredo, 2011, “What is Aesthetic Journalism,” in Cramerotti, Alfredo, Aesthetic Journalism: How to Inform Without Informing, Intellect, London

Crutz, Shelley, ‘A Brief History of Journalism’, 12.4.07, http://shelleycrutz.com/a-brief-history-of-journalism

Pratt, Andy C., 2011, “The cultural contradictions of the creative city,” City, Culture and Society 2 pp. 123–130

Rogers, Tony, ‘A (Brief) History of Print Journalism in America’, 2014, http://journalism.about.com/od/ethicsprofessionalism/a/printhistory.htm

Pop- Pop- Pop Journalism

The 'sit down, shut up and listen' era. http://everythingdifferent.co.uk/tv-makes-a-comeback/

The ‘sit down, shut up and listen’ era.
http://everythingdifferent.co.uk/tv-makes-a-comeback/

“Journalism is dying,” I’ve been told. “Why are you wasting your time on something that won’t be here tomorrow?”

Oh, ye of little faith, the art and practice of Journalism has not, nor will in the foreseeable future, suffer any decline in either the number of practitioners nor in the public audience. Certainly the days in which we would sit sedately around the ‘wireless’, listening to the news of the day whilst the wife made tea are well and truly behind us. What used to be a ‘sit down, shut up and listen’ attitude has given way to a media landscape which is largely cultivated by the audience itself. Journalism is not dying, it is changing.

As Berkowitz argues in Journalism in the Broader Cultural Mediascape, “Journalism takes on a new role in the mediascape, it is time for those who study journalism to move beyond the age-old lens of conventional journalism perspectives and consider what journalism means.”

So what then, does journalism mean? True to my generation-Y ways, I turned to Google and found that I agreed more-so with Wikipedia’s definition than the dictionary’s: “A method of inquiry and literary style that aims to provide a service to the public by the dissemination and analysis of news and other information.” Rewind and freeze- “a service to the public.”

What service would a Journalist be to the public if they did not convey information which was pertinent to the interests of the public? The reader’s hunger for conventional Journalism may not be as insatiable as it once was, but information on popular culture is rarely turned away (that’s why it’s called ‘popular’). Berkowitz hypothesises, “media audiences will probably continue to reduce their intake of conventional journalism, substituting other forms that satisfy just as much or even more.”

Journalism is, in the end, an industry which revolves around making a profit. Any smart business owner would recognise when a product isn’t selling it and replace it with one that will. You are the consumers and the producers- you call the shots.

(I don’t have a stutter- the title is a reference to the song Pop Muzik, 1979).

References
Berkowitz, Dan, 2009, “Journalism in the broader cultural Mediascape,” Journalism, Vol. 10(3): 290–292
‘Journalism’, 30.3.14, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism

‘Journalism’, 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism