Bashful Birds

Last week I had come across a post on the social networking site for locals, Neighbourly, that talked of incubating eggs from fallen and abandoned nests in my local area. The woman was a local bird lady who cared for sick birds she was given and found in parks. She had acquired a professional incubating device for eggs and was notifying neighbours in our area of its availability.

Her post was met with a number of eager neighbours mentioning instances where they had needed her and that they would keep her in mind for the future.

I made contact with Maddie this week and she was initially receptive to the idea of having a story written about her and her efforts, despite being a very busy woman. However this all changed when I disclosed that I was wanting to take photographs and video to accompany the story. Maddie told me that she has a really great phobia of media/photography and respectfully declined to be a part of the story.

Unfortunately for me this development means I am shut out in the cold with two weeks to find, investigate and produce a new story.

I have my eye on a string of thefts and break ins that have occurred in the last week or so in my neighbourhood that appear connected. In light of announcements of the new hard line on burglary by police, there may be critical angle to be found.

Blooming Arborists and Empty Nests

As much as someone can wax lyrical all they like about how much they know about interviews, at the end of the day none of that really matters when you can’t track someone down to interview.

Last week I called up the Auckland City Council in an attempt to contact the Auckland City Council Arborist. As it turns out, there is more than one of them. This would be fantastic as I needed to talk to someone about the origin and nature of the cherry blossom trees that line my road, however both were unreachable by phone so I was given their email addresses and names by the council worker. I sent out polite, professional and inquisitive emails to the arborists, and received a reply from one within the day, the other is still yet to reply. The one who did knew nothing about the trees lining my road but referred me to a heritage arborist who would. I sent out another email, and am still awaiting a reply.

Though we were given a lecture on tracking people down online last week, my sleuthing skills could only dig up old reports on consents to cut trees down, and not any phone numbers that could lead me to my absent arborists.

As it stands, my current story lacks key information and vital media from when the trees were in full bloom and eco-tourists were out and about making a nuisance of themselves all over the street. It may be time to jump this leaky ship of a story before the deadline sinks my chances at a decent mark for this assignment.

Thankfully, I have just made contact with a local bird enthusiast who lives one road down from me. She has gotten ahold of an egg incubator and is on a mission to save local bird nests from cold and lonely deaths in addition to her care of sick birds she finds and is given. This human interest community hero may just be my saving grace.

Stoptober: Just smoke in the wind?

Wednesday September 28, 2016

Stoptober is less than a week away, and smokers are ignorant and apathetic about it.

Smokers we spoke with knew little to nothing about the anti-smoking campaign, though they had considered quitting. One smoker, Rico Peng, 19, stated simply, “it’s just part of my life”. His view is indicative of many smokers, although many consider giving up. Mele Finau, 27, claims, “it’s way too hard for me”.

Those that knew of the initiative thought it was a bit of a laugh. “My friends tag me in Facebook posts about it all the time, but I can’t quit,” says smoker, Selu Iloahefavia, 20.

This apathy extends beyond the latest anti-smoking campaign to other combative campaigns, including the most recent preventative advertising released by Smoke Free. “It’s a bit off-putting,” thinks smoker, Elana Smythe, 22, but she does not believe that it would prevent anyone from smoking.

The indifference to quitting their addiction remains prevalent despite the rising cost of cigarettes in New Zealand. Smokers we talked to quoted spending between $40-$70 a week on packets. The cheapest cigarettes Elana Smythe claimed to buy were $20 per pack.

Stoptober provides an outline of their campaign on their Facebook page Stoptobernz.

“Stoptober is a one month stop smoking campaign being jointly run by Inspiring Ltd and ASH NZ (Action on Smoking and Health), Ministry of Health National Quality Assurance Smoking cessation training providers. The campaign runs throughout the month of October and is New Zealand’s first stop smoking challenge of its kind.”

– Sean Stapleton in association with Cassidy Makonio

Interviews: From Mild to Wild

As a journalist, the interview is one of your primary tools. The art of the interview, as I have previously discussed, requires a certain finesse and degree professionalism. The skill required are universal in application for interviews, no matter the situation. However interviews do vary in context, and it is important to keep this in mind.

One of the most common and easiest way of getting an interview out of people is by calling them. Telephone interviews are simple, all you need to conduct one is a number, it’s quick and convenient for both the journalist and the interviewee. Conversely however, it can also become quite time consuming to pursue someone over the phone, it’s quite easy for the subject to hang up if you get too pushy, not to mention the inability to read their body language. Bad phone lines and mumbling can further hinder the interview. It is key to remain patient during these interviews as they can get frustrating.

Interviewing someone through an interpreter can be just as tricky. There is always the potential for the interpreter not to tell you everything the subject said. You should be prepared to push the interpreter to expand on what was said if you believe they didn’t tell you everything. These interviews will take longer than usual. It should also be noted in your final piece that interpreter was used in the interview.

On scene interviews can be quiet a rush, although it can be tricky to get access and information about what occurred. Authorities are usually prohibited from talking to media, but by making small talk with them you may be able to find out some of the smaller details, ask who you could talk to about what happened. It’s important to pick your moments, avoid being inappropriate or rude in your pursuit of the news in sensitive situations. Be wary of talking to children as it can become a bit of an ethical minefield with potential accusations of exploitation. Members of the public are fair game however, witnesses may still be on an adrenaline rush and keen to talk.

Press conferences are much more of a competitive environment. It is imperative that you get there early so you can get a good spot. You should be writing notes for questions and from what other journalists are asking as you go, be mindful of giving away your potential news angle in the questions you ask.

As often as you might arrange interviews by appointment, journalists are known for turning up uninvited for various reasons. Whether it be in public or knocking on someone’s door, it requires a confident attitude. To get the best response, you should be polite, introduce yourself quickly and it may even pay to apologise for taking up their time. Be prepared to get brushed off or to get off their property, in this case try to get their contact details or leave yours so they can contact you later at a better time.

The most dreaded of interviews amongst journalists is the “death knock”. This is when you make contact with the friends or family of a deceased for an interview about their loss and the deceased. These are sad and difficult interviews that take a lot of courage, sympathy and empathy. These interviews are the alternative to pilfering the deceased social media for images and information to publish, and the family iscan be grateful for the opportunity to talk about their loved one. You have a job to do and it is of great importance that you get all the details right, you should not be adding to the grief by publishing inaccurate information about the deceased. You should be very polite in your approach, apologising for their loss, make your approach as an offer to talk about the one they have lost. Avoid being pushy, especially if you are turned away, do not harass the subject. Something you should be very careful about in this situation, is being the first to break the news of the death to the family, this must be avoided at all costs.

Interviews come in all shapes and sizes, requiring varying levels of sensitivities. As you spend more and more time practicing as a journalist you will get to experience a full range, and with hope, become a strong and capable interviewer.

Spot News

Spot news was the focus of our studies this week, the kind of news  that occurs unexpectedly and can be reported immediately. Generally, this sort of news is easy to cover, dramatic and enticing to the reader. This is great for both early and late shift journalists as there is often little to cover during the wee hours.

To find spot news, it pays to have a widespread social media network so you can be aware of events and stories as quickly as soon as develop. As a journalist you are never off duty.

In terms of coverage, you become the eyes and the ears on the scene. It is essential that you document the moment, take photographs of what is happening. Ask questions, particularly of anyone directly involved that you can gain access to, or even witnesses and those standing by. You must keep to a certain code of conduct in these conditions however, it is imperative that you avoid conflict and arguments, be polite and courteous and conduct yourself professionally.

In many instances, you may be faced with road blocks or cordons from police or fire services. To gain access to these areas find the nearest relevant authority and explain who you are, identify yourself as a journalist and you may be granted access.

Gatekeepers and Accountability

The focus of the final week of this quarter has been the relationship between journalists and public relations practitioners. A symbiotic relationship, beneficial for both involved as the public relations worker is seeking positive media representation for their client while journalists seek content to produce stories. Essentially, the public relations worker has material, which if the journalist picks up, makes the hunt for stories much easier. They no longer have to actively pursue a story, they are simply given it.

This relationship can be problematic as it has a tenancy to undermine the integrity of the journalist and brings into question how critical their work can be. They are less inclined to criticise or look deeper into their source or even validate claims and stories with external stories as it may undermine their relationship with the public relations. This creates a pitfall in terms of the journalist’s ability to hold companies, politicians and high profile individuals to account.

Reaching Out

This week we were sent out in the the mean streets of Auckland to test the waters of public opinion and to write our first article as journalism students. In partners, we were assigned the task of choosing a well known topic to quiz the public on, with no more than two questions. Upon doing so we were to hit the streets in search of interview subjects who would be prepared not only to give us their thoughts but hand over their contact details and personal information as well as have their photo taken. As it turns out, not only is it hard to get people to talk to you on record about something as simple as their opinion, but many are also very camera shy. Nevertheless, if you’re dressed well, walk with purpose and sound like you know exactly what you’re doing then it’s not as hard as you may think to get the job done.
[To find the finished article from this week, check out my previous blog post]

All news stories have a universal structure and categories, this was the focus of the week. To make headlines, a story must generally meet one of the following six news values.

Proximity – Timeliness – Prominence – Conflict – Novelty – Human Interest

With structure it must follow the inverted news pyramid. This is way of ensuring the most important and interesting part of a story comes first. The lead of the story contains the 5Ws and H, which should be followed by non-essential additional information that fills out the story, concluding with information surrounding the subject that supports the subject of the story. This structure was developed, not through newspaper logic, but by nineteenth century  telegraph operators in order to ensure that if messages were cut off mid way, they could still relay the essentials (Conley, 2002).

In terms of progress on my personal news story, I’ve heard through the grapevine of locals that an Engineering student studying Mechatronics in my street has just received a scholarship to work on developing robotic limbs for children. I’ve done some digging through old newsletters and records, and this is certainly an up and coming student. They are no stranger to scholarships. In the coming week I hope to reach out to discuss the nature of their scholarship and work.