The ethical media manifesto – “I commit to being an ethical media maker”

I commit (1)I commit to being an ethical media maker.

I will strive to live up to these values in every piece of content I make. I recognise that being fair and ethical in my content making is a lifelong journey and I may make mistakes, but I will always seek to learn and to do better.

I promise to:

1. Always consider the impact of my content on the audience.

I recognise that the content I make can have a wide range of impacts on the audience. I will always consider those impacts and ensure they are not without purpose. Where my content is likely to have negative impacts or cause distress it will be justified and I will ensure the audience have access to appropriate support.

2. Always consider the impact of what I produce on my subjects.

If I am producing content about people or communities of people I will consider the impacts (whether direct or indirect) my work may have on them. If a person or a community of people are the subject of my work I will seek to include them in the process. Where this is not possible I will weigh the public interest of my content against the potential impacts.

 3. Attribute the work and contributions of others.

When I am using, remixing or adapting the work of others I will ensure they are appropriately attributed. When my content is a work of collaboration I will provide clear and appropriate credit.

4. Be clear about potential conflicts of interest or relationships.

If there is a potential conflict of interest or a relationship which may impact my work I will be upfront about these conflicts or relationships. I will also investigate the potential conflicts and relationships of those I collaborate with. I recognise that the integrity of my work relies on this.

5. Produce content that has a positive impact on our society.

My aim is to produce content that will have a positive impact on our society. I will not produce content with a negative intent. I will choose educating over manipulating.  I will seek to add to collective knowledge and understanding rather than take away from it.

What would you add to your own ethical media manifesto? I consider this a working document and I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Leave a comment here or send me your ideas to @JB_AU on Twitter.

-JB

 

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Photography – getting started

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As I mentioned earlier in the week I’ve invested in a new digital camera and I’m starting to get back into photography more seriously after a few years off. Thanks for your tips – particularly for some classes around Melbourne to try out!

I’m in my “experimental phase” with the camera and learning to stretch my abilities and discover what the camera is capable of. It’s so much fun to walk around your city with a new camera – you start noticing little things you would have walked past without a second thought and almost everything becomes an opportunity for a photo. Our dogs may be a little sick of being turned into models this last week too!

I’m posting my favourite photos and experiments up on Flickr (JB_AU88). I would love your thoughts and ideas for fun  photo opportunities or challenges I can take up.

-JB

Simple and effective interviews

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Basic interviewing skill is one of the most important things an emerging media maker needs to learn. The best interviewers manage to balance natural conversation and allowing for spontaneity whilst providing enough structure to ensure a good story is told.

Research is often cited as key to any good interview – the better prepared and knowledgeable you are about a topic the better positioned you are to interrogate the topic and tell a good story. Unfortunately you don’t always have the resources for extensive research. I’ve done current affairs programs where breaking news happens and within minutes you have a guest on air on talking about a topic you haven’t thought about in months or years or music festivals where PR agents confirm an interview with minutes notice and you don’t even have internet access for sneaky research about an artist.

Regardless of whether you’ve had 5 minutes to prepare or 5 months to prepare for an interview I’ve always found basic story telling to be my saviour. Any basic story has a beginning, a middle and an end. That’s why I always aim to prepare questions and conduct interviews with the following structure:

PAST – Contextualise the interview.

Your first questions should help contextualise the interviewee or the topic for the audience. I do this by focusing on questions from the past. In a current affairs context this might be asking the guest for their recollection of an event or asking a musician to share what sparked their latest creation. Don’t assume the audience inherently holds this context or you risk alienating them from the very start.

PRESENT – Find the currency.

What makes this interview relevant to the audience right now? Once you and the interviewee have hooked the audience with a bit of backstory what’s the conflict or the point of interest most relevant to your audience right now? In current affairs this might be a question like “What are you doing to fix this issue right now?” or for a musician it might be sharing experiences on their current tour.

FUTURE – Come to a satisfying resolution.

All good stories must come to an end. What information can you draw out of your interviewee to come to a satisfying resolution? This is where you’ve contextualised the topic or interviewee, ascertained the relevance to the audience and you now need to help them to consider the future. In current affairs this could be asking what will happen to a community group who have lost funding or for a musician asking them about their next creative plans.

This structure has helped me to conduct thousands of interviews on a wide range of topics, but it should be made clear that it is just a framework. In many cases I’ve prepared a whole list of questions following this structure only to throw them aside and focus on more interesting and engaging parts of the conversation. Never forget that you are hosting a conversation – not just between you and your guest, but between you, your guest and your audience. All three must be considered equally.

My final suggestion is to treat every interview as though it’s a live one. Even if you’re conducting an interview with significant editing in mind treat the interview as if you are live on air or in front of an audience. Your raw interview should tell a powerful story without editing and be strong in its own right. Interviews are a performance – the better you perform in the initial performance  the easier your job will be in the edit suite. You’ll thank yourself later.

-JB

[Image source]

Thank you for supporting community broadcasting

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This week the community broadcasting sector was one of the lucky few community groups that was spared in the 2014 Federal Budget. Community broadcasting is about so much more than just broadcasting – I really believe it changes lives and has a huge impact on people’s participation in our democracy. I’ve seen first hand people from a wide range of under represented backgrounds become more connected, confident, skilled, socially aware and positive members of the community as a result of their involvement in community broadcasting.

Thank you if you supported the Commit to Community Radio campaign. It means a lot to me.

Even if you didn’t I hope you’ll still consider keeping track of it where it goes from here: http://committocommunityradio.org.au/

-JB

The binary is not balance

For a long time I’ve been hammering on about the damage that binary thinking does to our society and one of the topics that this is most prevalent in is the “debate” about climate change. John Oliver (Of ‘The Daily Show’ fame and now hosting his own HBO show ‘Last Week Tonight’) has summed up the ridiculousness of binary thinking in climate change with his segment “A Statistically Representative Climate Change Debate”. It’s hilarious and just goes to show that the binary is not balance.

-JB

Self deprecation and media making

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One of the most common things I come across in emerging media makers is a fairly consistent stream of self deprecation. On a daily basis I watch, hear and read emerging media makers joke about how “unprofessional” they are or how “shit” they think their own content is. Some of my favourite television makers, radio broadcasters and writers manage to deftly balance considered wit with self deprecation and it can be really powerful/hilarious – but too often emerging media makers rely on self deprecation to manage their nervousness/anxieties and come off worse for it.

It’s good to be open and honest with your audience (in fact vital for establishing a connection with them), but when your content becomes more focused on reminding your audience how rough, raw, zany or chaotic you are you risk forgetting the one thing that people come to you for – content.

What often confuses emerging media makers is that much of the best media sounds “off the cuff”, “in the moment” and natural, but the truth is that a lot of hours and hard work goes into even the most casual sounding content by professional media makers.

Personality driven content has become extremely popular in recent times, but this is way too often confused by new media makers as a message to focus on personality fetishisation and forgetting about making good content. The assumption is too often that you can walk into a studio without preparation and your stellar personality and talent will do the rest. The problem with this mindset is that it shows a significant ignorance for what goes on behind the scenes of the big media personalities – hard work. Most of the big media names work long hours or have teams behind them tightly planning and curating good content. A raucous, zany or controversial personality might be an initial drawcard, but people stay because the content is good.

When you haven’t planned enough or haven’t put the effort into understanding your audience that’s when you’re most likely to rely on self deprecation for a cheap laugh, but unless you get it right it does more damage to your content and your reputation than anything else. That’s not to say self deprecation is necessarily a bad thing – it can make for hilarious content, but very few people have the talent or the skill to get it right.

-JB

Image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/atoach/8094737104/

Do you know how to talk about mental health?

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One of the most important things for any young or emerging media maker to learn is how to approach the topic of mental health. Anyone producing media has an ethical responsibility to consider the impact their content might have on the mental health of their audience.

Mindframe Media provide excellent resources for media makers and media talent to help them cover mental health responsibly.

The media is an important source of information for the community about mental health issues and plays an important role in influencing the way people think and act towards those who are affected by mental illness.

– See more at: http://www.mindframe-media.info/for-mental-health-and-suicide-prevention/talking-to-media-about-mental-illness#sthash.t2jERhdy.dpuf

If you make media on any platform (especially social media) I highly suggest reading their resources and learning how you can act responsibly and have a positive impact on mental health reporting.

[Mindframe for media professionals: Resources]

-JB

Commission of Audit puts media diversity at risk

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The Federal Government’s Commission of Audit report has revealed bad news for media diversity with Australia’s community broadcasting sector set to take the biggest hit if the report’s recommendations are adopted.

The report has recommended the abolition of $17.7 million in funding support for over 350+ community broadcasting organisations, approximately 20,000 volunteers and a weekly audience of over 5 million Australians.

In justifying the recommendation the report stated that “The Commonwealth Government already provides over $1 billion per annum to the operation of the public broadcasters. There is a limited rationale for the Commonwealth to also subsidise community radio services. Continued government funding of this area does not meet the Report’s principles of good governance.”

The commission’s recommendation comes after a 2013 funding crisis with the then ALP Government affecting the sector’s digital radio services. The crisis led to the Commit To Community Radio campaign which resulted in the eventual reinstatement of the funds in the final hours of the Gillard Government.

The Community Broadcasting Association of Australia released a statement to its members saying “The CBAA is liaising directly with the Department of Communications and the Communication Minister’s office for clarification. We will get back to you within the next 24 hours with more information. If necessary the CBAA is prepared to launch a national campaign to fight any moves towards abolishing the Community Broadcasting Program. Your assistance and expertise with this will be critical.”

If adopted the recommendation would have a serious impact on a wide range of services for ethnic, youth, indigenous, religious, print handicapped and mature age communities as well as music and cultural communities underserved or ignored by other media sectors. Cuts to community services could also prove to be tricky for National Party MPs whose electorates make up a large number of the 34% of stations acting as the sole providers of local programming.

The community broadcasting sector will now be nervous heading into the May budget and awaiting signs of support from Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The Department of Communications and the minister have yet to make a formal statement.

UPDATE: The CBAA has issued a new media release with CBAA President Adrian Basso saying “The recommendation from the Commission of Audit shows a complete lack of understanding of the community broadcasting sector and the significant contribution it makes to media diversity in the country” You can read the full release here: CBAA Commission of Audit statement

-JB

Disclaimer: The author is a board member of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. His views are his own and do not represent those of the association or his employer.

What you can do:

Read and share the facts about community broadcasting.

– Sign up to Commit To Community Radio and follow the CBAA for the latest updates. If further campaigning is needed this will be your best source of information.

– Tell Malcolm Turnbull and your local MP how important media diversity is to you and not to cut from community broadcasting.

– Tell your friends and family that this is a very real threat to a vital platform for many in our community.

– Tell other media outlets to cover this story. In amongst all of the other proposed cuts this story is too important to be lost.

I will continue to update as we learn more about the situation. If you believe in a diverse, independent media which the whole community has meaningful access to please spread the word however you can.

Why you should join or support your local community broadcaster

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Community broadcasting has been a huge part of my life. When I was only about ten years old my grandpa took me into his local station as a special guest on his program “Jazz with Jim” and ever since I’ve been obsessed. I’ve volunteered for a number of radio stations across the country, become a board member at the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia and I currently work for SYN Media based in Melbourne.

If you’re a budding young media maker, a social change maker, love your local community or someone who just has a passion to share there couldn’t be a better way to do so than community broadcasting. Here are some reasons why you should join or support your local community broadcaster:

– In a world where much of the media we consume is driven by profit or ideology community broadcasting is one of the few places designed to be for the whole community – not driven by consumer needs and wants, but driven by community needs and wants.

– It’s driven by people speaking for themselves – not being spoken for. It’s increasingly important that we share the skills and platforms for people to speak for themselves.

– It’s diverse, it’s different and it’s batshit crazy (in the best way possible). If you want to meet some of the most interesting, passionate and diverse people in Australia community broadcasting is a great place to do so. I’ve met so many inspiring, challenging and interesting people by being involved in community broadcasting.

– It’s important for our democracy that everyone has a meaningful opportunity to be heard – regardless of their socio economic background, gender, sexuality or cultural identity. Community broadcasting is about giving people meaningful access to be heard.

– It’s challenging and it’s fun. Community and volunteer organisations can be extremely challenging, but rewarding places. You can learn about more than just media making, but so much about yourself. Community broadcasting is an amazing place to learn life skills and connect with your community.

Australia has hundreds of diverse community broadcasters covering a wide range of topics, interests and communities. You can find out more and find out your closest broadcaster at CBOnline.

-JB