I’m no longer a “student journo”. In fact, I’m no longer trying to be a journalist at all, and have just taken a post managing a project aimed at preventing sexual violence by developing young people’s skills in negotiating ethical sexual relationships.
Exciting – but for the two people who are regular readers, I want to explain the shift since I started blogging to write about journalism and the media.
Critiquing the media is almost too easy, which is why the blogosphere is often such an entertaining read, but I was very fortunate this year to write for community paper the Hutt News and editor Simon Edwards.
Simon won the NZ Order of Merit for services to journalism last year (before we culturally cringed our way back to the English class system), and under him the Hutt News has won Community Newspaper of the Year awards in Qantas and Community Association competitions. He’s won journalist awards, and he runs a paper which aims to serve the Hutt community well by running news stories about all the people who live there.
He was an inspiration for me while I was studying, and I feel very fortunate to have worked there and learned from him.
But there are no jobs in Fairfax-run community newspapers. In fact, they are firing staff or losing them through natural attrition, and then failing to hire new staff, which looks awfully like deliberate disintegration.
Luckily for me then, you might think, I was offered the opportunity of interning at the Dominion Post in January. I’ve blogged about this before with some lies of omission. This time – post any desire to work in the field, and with the consent of my Whitireia tutor – I’m going to be a bit more honest.
I wrote this to the Dominion Post Chief Reporter Haydon Dewes before I started my internship:
Jim Tucker just passed me your email – just wanting to check in re: my internship with the Dominion Post starting on 12th January.
What time would you like us to arrive on the Monday? Anything we need to know about coming in?
I’ve been having a think about story ideas, and will get back to you about this closer to the time, but one I wanted to run past you now at Jim’s suggestion is the Parihaka Peace Festival. It’s on 9, 10, 11 Jan – and full of story opportunities – could do a colour piece, piece about the event’s growing popularity, piece about the history – anything you think might be of interest?
Looking forward to starting.
Whitireia Journalism School
My reply, commendably within the same day, ran like this (my emphasis):
9am on Monday is fine. Just report to reception downstairs and someone will come and grab you.
Keep thinking about news story ideas and issues-based stories that you can work up.
I’m not terribly interested in the Parihaka festival – unless there is a hard news angle from it i.e. riot/police raids etc.
So a festival attended by about ten thousand people, on land with a fascinating history of peaceful resistance to colonisation – so fascinating Te Whiti o Rongomai is acknowledged internationally as a leader on the scale of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi – well, that kind of a festival is only of interest to a national newspaper in Aotearoa if there is a police raid or riot.
Mmm. Trust the media.
Unfortunately for me, while the internship at the Dominion Post could hardly get any worse, it did not get any better. I listened to one journalist question a child over the telephone before he talked to their parents about their uncle who had been arrested. From his voice, the child was about 12. Afterwards, he was congratulated on “getting the dirt” by another journalist.
I listened to another journalist call a friend and tell them the media knew she was having a sexual relationship, and it was about to hit the papers, and would she talk to him about it, because otherwise someone she “wouldn’t be able to trust” would do the story. She gave him no joy that day anyway.
I finished my internship disgusted, and full of self-doubt about choosing to even try mainstream media.
The Dominion Post seemed to feel just as satisfied with me, judging from my internship report. I guess we were not a match made in heaven 🙂
Hence my change in career. But I’m keeping the blog name. And the enquiring mind.
My last piece of journalism is now up at Newswire. It features some really quite remarkable claims from Matthew Hooton about last year’s elections and the influence of particularly right-wing bloggers. And yep, I have even the most sensational of those quotes on tape.
UPDATE: If it’s unclear above, and I gather it was for some readers, none of my tutors read this blog before I posted it. The content is my responsibility, no one else’s. Some might call it freedom of the press.