Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Vox pop with students Siobhan O'Brien and Alex Bissell: Both have had Facebook throughout their high school years

A sixteen-year-old schoolgirl’s critique of the phenomenon of sexualised ‘selfies’ online has sparked fresh debate over the reasons and ramifications for teenage girls posting sexy selfies on social media websites.

Olympia Nelson sent an essay on the online popularity contest for ‘likes’ driving girls’ to post sexualised images online to The Age.

The essay was published in July and generated an immediate and ongoing response online across social and mass media.

Debate has continued among teenagers and adults about the causes and consequences of these images.
Primary and secondary school teacher Debbie O’Shea has worked closely with teenage girls for over twenty years.

Peer pressure is a significant factor

Like Ms Nelson, she says peer pressure is a significant factor in the decision to take and post sexy selfies.

“I think the mind set of these girls is that it is easy to do and everyone is doing it so it must be okay. They think ‘What harm can it do?’ They are under great social pressure to conform by posting the selfies. They get more attention; they are more popular with the cool girls and many of the boys. Their self-concept is often tied to this,” Ms O’Shea said.

Nineteen-year-old Siobhan O’Brien has grown up alongside her peers in an online environment where sexual images are common.

She also says conformity is the driving cause for the images.  

“I think we live in a really sexualised culture so I think that the drive comes from the girls wanting to fit into that culture…

“It’s a very kind of predetermined type of sexuality so it might not work for all girls and they might be boxed into this one idea perpetuated by the selfie culture,” Ms O’Brien said.

Concerns about long term consequences and safety

The practice of posting sexy photos on social media has also raised concerns about safety and privacy and long term consequences.

Ms O’Shea says once something is on the internet it is there forever, something that girls may come to regret in the future.

“It may work against them to create a ‘slut’ reputation; it may prevent them getting a job as most employers search social media to vet future employees; family and close friends may be hurt by the image. The future consequences could well be quite serious,” she said.

Ms O’Brien says her problem was not the images themselves, but rather strangers accessing them.

“I think that it’s a new way of girls interacting with sexuality and owning their sexuality but I think there is an issue with posting online where people that they might not want to see them can see them and access them. They don’t have a lot of control over who sees them,” she said.

Nineteen-year-old Greta Nelles has also watched her peers mature online, and like Ms Nelson she says the increasingly sexualised selfies can cause competition between girls.

“It makes girls really competitive with one another and think that they have to outdo each other in terms of how they look and how they dress … that opens up a whole other world to bullying,” she said.

Ms O'Shea says she hopes the trend will fade.

"It's one of the current very strong forms of peer group pressure ... In the long run respect, friendship and even sexuality is something that's not reliant on particular selfie images.”

TWEET: Schoolgirl’s critique of sexual selfies sparks fresh debate over reasons and ramifications for teenage girls posting sexy selfies on social media.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013


A trio of savage zombies stormed the KJB222 Online Journalism 1 lecture theater this morning. The lecturer was dragged from the room as terrified students looked on.

Consequently, this week's blog post comes in the form of a breaking news video Alessia and I made in our tutorial on the morning's events, featuring an interview with an eye-witness (uh, me) and first-hand footage recorded on an iPhone as the incident unfolded. I think you'll agree it makes for compelling viewing.


Monday, September 9, 2013


If there's one area of journalism that has undergone the most change during the 'digital revolution', it's breaking news. Breaking news has become more time sensitive than ever, and the online environment has opened up a whole host of new ways for journalists to share stories with their audience as events unfold.

This morning our guest lecturer was Marissa Calligeros, breaking news journalist at brisbanetimes.com.au. It was really exciting to have Marissa share her experience with us and for someone so young she had a wealth of knowledge to share.

Perhaps the most important objective of breaking news in an online world is to break news first - and stay ahead. Marissa works to the motto of making sure brisbanetimes.com.au has the latest on the biggest stories of the day. Essentially, the 6pm news should become redundant.

Aside from speed (which, let's face it, has been done to death on this blog), Marissa talked us through the ins and out of covering breaking news.

Often, she'll be covering a story on the scene and that means filing stories on an iPhone or iPad (ironically, I had to use my phone to take notes in the lecture this morning after forgetting my book). Covering breaking news can tend to be a one-man job, so it's important to be across everything. Phones can be used to take perfectly fine photos and videos, but a decent camera will always be preferable. Aside from the usual journo staples of a notepad and a recorder, one of the best tips I picked up from Marissa is how incredibly useful phone apps can be for journalists. Aside from social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram which can be updated on the go, there are radio apps to keep a track of other news and apps like Evernote for writing or Qik for video-sharing.

Marissa also encourages us to think about how our stories could be best communicated. Big breaking news stories tend to be covered by a number of different news outlets, so offering an immersive, more complete, reader experience can give you an edge over the competition. This might include:
  • A livestream video
  • A live blog
  • An embedded Twitter feed
  • A Google map or photo gallery
  • Reader comments
  • Poll questions
  • A video VOX pop
  • Video or audio coverage
Breaking news is an exciting and fast-paced area of journalism, and the online environment has only served to further increase the intensity and demand. It isn't something I'd really considered pursuing, but my interest has been piqued by Marissa's lecture.


Saturday, September 7, 2013


Natalie Bochenski, the arts/entertainment reporter for brisbanetimes.com.au, talked us through the emerging online news trend that is live-blogging/live-tweeting in yesterday's lecture. With twerking and porn-references galore, Natalie was thoroughly engaging and entertaining, and fortunately I'm not feeling quite as apprehensive as I was beforehand about our live-blogging assessment next week. 

Earlier this week, I decided to 'practice for my test' by live-tweeting an episode of Gilmore Girls. Admittedly, a political speech or a reality show grand final may have been more suitable for the exercise, but wherever I can fit some Gilmore Girls into my life, I will. So, get excited for a play-by-play of Tuesday night's intense live-tweeting, interspersed with some of Natalie's best and most important tips:

Live-tweeting is still new. Journalists are still woking out the best ways to reach audiences through live-tweeting and at the moment, there aren't a lot of rules. What remains as important as ever in the news industry, though, is the truth. Make sure what you're putting out there is correct, because sure-as-sunrise, lies will travel faster than the truth.

Re-iterating the above point, Natalie says you should always choose accuracy over speed. Yes, we want to be as quick as possible and get the scoop, but it is worth taking the time to make sure it is correct. Or it will come back to bite you!

Tweeting provides the opportunity to make news sharing a bit more fun. You're able to delve into a more 'media rich' landscape than usual. Use hashtags and provide links. There's also room for a bit more humour, if it suits what you're covering, to keep things interesting. And interact with your audience! That's the beauty of Twitter. It can become a conversation.

Keep it brief. Filter out what isn't important. News values are just as important with tweeting, so keep things relevant. Your audience wants the need-to-know facts, and it's your job to get rid of the clutter and make it clear what is most important.

You're a journalist first, so make sure you aren't neglecting those duties for the sake of tweeting. For example, at a press conference or something similar, journalists still need to be asking questions and getting all the information they need. You need to be proficient at that before Tweeting.

So, in summary: keep it relevant, keep it brief, include hash tags and links, keep it interactive, don't be afraid of humour, make sure the facts are right and choose accuracy over speed.

(Does it weaken or strengthen my case if I admit that I realise I only used about two of those tips in my live-tweeting practice? I got caught up in the drama.)

Do you feel informed about Gilmore Girls? I hope so. I hope you feel 100% on top of it.

Also, one of my favourite bands favourited a bunch of these Tweets, so we can definitely call the whole thing a success.


Sunday, September 1, 2013


This morning's lecture on the future of 'modern journalism' came courtesy of brisbanetimes.com.au editor Simon Holt. Talking the profitability and readability of journalism as it adjusts to the digital age, Simon's lecture was thought-provoking and kind of inspiring - surely that wasn't just me? I left the room amped up about entering the journalism industry and excited about the challenges I'll face and innovation and creativity I'll need to get my stories out there and finding an audience.

Simon is of the opinion that within a few years, daily newspapers will be close to non-existent, with online sources providing all the weekday news. He believes weekend papers will still be around, though, and I agree. It's a lifestyle thing - we're busier than ever and where we can save time we will. Online news is convenient and quick and you can read what you want: perfect for a work day. There are still plenty of people who enjoy having a long breakfast and settling down with a print paper for a decent read, and more often than not, that occurs on a weekend. It makes sense when you think about it.

Slightly murkier, however, is the idea of print magazines versus online magazines. Rolling Stone's Eric Bates notes that "magazines are in a very different position to newspapers relative to the internet." There is an entertainment aspect to news, but at the end of the day it serves a specific purpose, and that's to share important information as efficiently and conveniently as possible. It can generally be agreed though, that magazines are far more skewed towards 'entertainment,' yes? As someone who hopes to work in magazines and has more of an interest in longer, feature-style stories than straight-up news, this is something that intrigues me - will I be working in print or online? What skills will I need to excel in these mediums? And what about the whole 'making-money' side of the industry?

There is a massive variety of strongly-voiced opinions on the topic. There is no denying that the industry is facing tough times. Barbara Rowlands notes that "challenging times lie ahead for magazines," and with "declining circulations, rising print costs and competition from free sources like Google, blogs and social networks, traditional magazines are facing a perfect storm of changes that are threatening the very model their businesses have been built on."

At the same time, Eric Bates' believes that magazines will survive because "it's portable, it’s high-resolution graphics, beautiful like an iPhone if it’s done right. You can read it in the bathtub or at the beach or during takeoff." This resonates with me because it's the tangibility of magazines that appeal to me, much in the same way that I've stuck with my paperbacks despite the convenience of e-books. Print has a one-up on digital in a few ways, and for print magazines to survive, these need to capitalised on.

As Samir Husmi points out, "Fail to connect with readers, and a digital-only strategy won't work either." He says a community of readers is the most crucial part of a successful magazine business model, and it's about assessing the most effective way of connecting with your specific audience. Editor of magCulture.com Jeremy Leslie agrees, stating "People like to say 'this is dead and that is living' ... 'It's not as simple as that. As with most new forms, digital will succeed in various aspects. Print will continue to succeed in others.'"

Almost every one of the magazines I'd love to work for one day have adopted a strong digital presence, but interestingly enough, none have gone completely online. Last year Oyster Magazine announced that they would be moving from a bi-monthly format to a bi-annual one, explaining "we will be able to continue to grow oystermag.com and our other digital properties, as well as focus on other exciting projects that we have in the works." Since then, the magazine's online presence has continued to grow, and their biannual issues have been super-sized and super-special, turning the print editions into something collectible that the Oyster audience can justify buying twice a year.

The story isn't quite as bright at Triple J magazine, which closed earlier this year. The company stated that "this gave us a chance to look at what we're doing with the magazine and we've decided to focus on the annual edition, rather than a bi-monthly magazine." The annual, for those out of the loop, is a super-sized and in-depth look at the songs voted into the radio station's annual Hottest 100 competition. A major Australian music event, it's not really a surprise that the Hottest 100 issue is the money-maker. Though it's (very!) sad that the staff were made redundant, the situation does demonstrate the importance of finding a niche and offering something readers can't get elsewhere - music news and interviews like those in the standard Triple J can be found online for free in thirty seconds, whilst a 100-song-round-up-with-specific-quotes-from-the-artists is something you can only get in the annual magazine.

For a budding journalist, such an in-depth look at all this might not seem terribly important. These kinds of decisions are made way further up the food chain! But if I want to write for magazines like this, then my writing has be just as super-special and super-interesting and super-full-of-points-of-difference if I want to be published. It's important to consider the audiences being writen for and have an understanding of what they will respond to, and dish out their cash for. And taking on that challenge really excites me.