Sprocket Update – Going off lead

Happy Sprocket

Meet Sprocket – the newest member of our family. He’s an 10 month old Terrier cross (We’re not sure what’s in the mix!) adopted puppy from Melbourne’s The Lost Dogs’ Home. Follow along as I share his and my story as a new dog owner learning how to raise a healthy and happy little dog. I’ll also be doing regular updates on JOY 94.9′s Pets-A-Loud about my experiences and what I learn along the way.

It’s Sprocket’s birthday! Well, we’re guessing it is – being a stray we’re not exactly sure when his birthday is so we’ve made a guesstimate for his first birthday. Sprocket is still very much a puppy – full of energy and curiosity and his infamous cheeky streak. At the moment obedience training is all about getting him to the point where we can take him off lead. Because he’s still quite young he doesn’t always pay attention or stay focused so the challenge is to keep him engaged and happy during training. Eventually we want to get to the point that he will listen to commands by voice, stay focused at a distance and trust him off lead – particularly with other dogs around!

The lesson I’ve taken out of our recent training is that it can be way too easy to get frustrated and the forget the most important part – have fun. He’s learned some basic commands and tricks, but as we get more complex it can be quite mentally taxing for both of us. Our obedience club makes a particular effort to teach us about enjoying training with our dogs and making sure your dog considers training to be a fun and positive experience.

With quite a hectic schedule in other parts of our lives (work, social life) it’s been hard to find regular training times so our upcoming priority is to get back into a routine of daily training so Sprocket can continue learning and maturing and so we can strengthen our connection together. He’s in the early stages of learning more flashy tricks like jumping through hoops and the like so I can’t wait to show off what he’s learned.


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.


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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.


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

Why you should join or support your local community broadcaster


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.