Day 8 Journalism – An intensive class wrap up

The fun is all had, the story wrote,

There’s smiles and tears we cannot quote,

Now new friends depart this week.

It’s all about the thing we learned,

with so much more to seek.


Not quite Haiku, or nearly Welsh, but it is definitely mine

 Ian Skidmore’s final Blog, a grand farewell to us all

 Just one of the eulogies by his peers, in Gentlemen Ranters

 So the course is over, three years jammed into a few very, very fast and furious days.

And with this end, decisions must be made……. whether to continue learning more about journalism, and to a lesser extent, whether I have improved writing skills enough to continue the blog.

Then if a blog is to continue, what could the time scale be between ‘writes’, from a practical perspective?

 Blogging daily, as done during the course, has really severe drawbacks socially.

With a rather limited journalistic ability, one needs many hours to assemble thoughts of events, or activity, to get them into some sort of linear order.

The alternatives are either; loose those three or four hours of social activity time, or as in the case of this exercise, loose sleep time!

Four hours sleep each night on a continuous basis, just would not work for any extended period. But short bursts like this for a week or two might work ok, I guess .

 Much more importantly though – what did I get out of this course, in terms of writing ability?

Well unequivocally, a lot.

But for the sum of what I learned to work effectively, I would prolly need to become a lot more active in the writing side of at least some of the social groups I am active with.

This would be a clear fork in life’s path, and my guess is that this is another of those ‘dither points’. Ones that will oscillate continuously until someone or something gives direction more than just a nudge.

 Looking back, this final day in class came on with a bigger rush, than any adrenalin junkie could describe.

We participants had used so many different formats to gather data, and tell a story for the final Journal.

A mix of photographs, research through the Internet, phone calls recorded (with permission, of course), Vox Pop interviews, and recollection interviews, all with professional results.

 I was so lucky that my story was edited first, while minds were fresh, and every one looked relaxed and beautiful.

But as the day wore on, we were absolutely stunned by the the amount of editing work needed on our stories, Think for a moment – a story like this that takes you only a few minutes to read, took our editor an hour or more to sort out to an acceptable stage, for the lay out process to begin.

I was asked by one of the other students to include this next bit of inf on my story, as example of what editors have to go thru when passing a story up the line for publication.

Superfluous commas – thirty nine, syntax errors – nine, extra spaces – 28, missing full stops – three, two repetitive statements, an out of place piece in a paragraph. There was even a typo, in-spite of the spell checker!

Other writers also had the order of the story a little crossed up, or parts of the tale needing more clarification.

Interesting to me was that all the stories had similar editing problems, and every single one of us believed that we had submitted a perfect job to the editor. Sigh

 Summarising our course of ‘Three years of Journalism – in eight days’, and to show our educators that we did really listen most of the time :

Always use ‘Who did What’ with attributed statements.

Always think, Who Where What When Why and How, to write

Abide by the law, its there, so accept.

Act ethically, be fair and meet audience expectations.

Build, and be a part of your community.

Be Credible, be able to back up your statements,

And finally, check your Grammar, and check your Grammar, and check……


Thank you Ursula and Bec and … for your time and patience with us all.

You know we all had a great time, finding we could do so much of what we had believed was impossible to achieve on day one, and reaching an understandable end for day eight.

You are a great teacher, and you did it well, Missus.

 Gentlemen Ranters tend to say, “if it isn’t totally accurate, at least it is accurate enough…”

Day 7 Bringing on the blooming plants

It rained again last night, and it looks like the gardener will have to service the Lawn mower before long.

Ha, one can only dream!

 Had a thought about this course on my way to The Edge, in a carriage on a train.

I will probably never be able to watch another news story unfold with out thinking of the cut-aways, voice overs and other artifacts, that are used to create a more interesting television tale.

 Now, as they say in the big world, ‘The story is wrote, the tale is told’, and the early part of the day was spent having the aforementioned scrutinised for Grammar lapses, Glaring omissions and Gloop like rubbish, by our long suffering coordinator.

The best bit was that The Piece was not completely discarded into that big dustbin, bottom left of screen (on an Ubuntu operating system). It survived with just a modest little rewrite.

 So, with a huge sigh of relief, the remaining hours were spent making the suggested changes and generally tarting up the script, and finally making it LOOK as if it had some potential to be turned into a printed story, on the morrow.

Fail Again…. Never shout words with capital letters, see?

 This was polishing tartiness in the truest sense. I was amazed at how many punctuation errors there were. Many of them were caused because those sorts of punctuation had been totally erased Terminator style, by the long thin cane of school days.

Not talking about forgetting full stops or commas, but rather the correct use for placing bracket types, hyphens, colons and semi colons. And I know a Grammar Nazi who loves nothing better than……..

 There was a lunch break to day – for some. But most of us spent the time huddled in desperation over our laptops, trying to have the finished version out by Noon +30 minutes.

 The afternoon session turned into a great surprise (well almost everything turns into a surprise for me, I forget so quickly).

Intensive Marketing. A lot the discussion related to our earlier work, on the various methods of defining and maintaining a consistency in Profiles, Marketing and measuring the effectiveness of a campaign throughout a given event using a variety of tools that I will not expand upon, because the unloved and unclean won’t have the slightest idea what I am writing about. The last sentence a bit of a lung-full, used to get the taught bit over as quickly as.

 How the instructor managed to shoe horn so much more usable data into our already saturated brains, one can only live in amazement and wonder.

 The days wrap up was clear and concise, and in precisely the language I understand.

Do the final layout tomorrow morning, and we will all party on, thru afternoon and night.

 Had a nice little interlude afterwards, when one of the course members came home with me, to take a few photos of the Native Bee’s, living in an old tree trunk down the bottom of the garden.

I hope that some of the photo’s work, but the bee’s were not very cooperative.

 The sunshine departs, with no sign of rain tonight, so I’m off to have a 7 kilometre run with Brisbane Southside Hash House Harriers tonight

 Awesome, I finally got a Website tag into this blog. Learning, all about learning, you know.


Day 6, Confusion and Confessions

I must be sending the wrong tributes to our Rain Gods. Only 4 mm in the gauge for the whole weekend. Rubbing salt in, Emergency Services sent me 3 SMS warnings that my home was about to be pummelled by hail, and left awash with gurgling drains.

Can’t help wondering if the discussions held between self, and the scrawny, hair-suit rain god, is being transmitted at the same rate as my ISP, Telstra Bigpond Cable.

Meaning that the last message to the afore said rain god was in January this year, and might only just been received.

That message read “slow the bloody rain down, you miserable sod, or the fruit on my grape vines will get a dreaded botrytis”

 Before entering class I paused and reflected on the importance today, beside the fallen Elephant. Remembering…. Remembering the mates we all had, who never quite made it back from our various conflicts.

The eleventh Hour, of the eleventh Day, of the eleventh Month.

Until next year then, my living friends.



Now, this is important too – To day I learned with more than a little dismay, that I had completely misunderstood what I was supposed to do over the weekend.

Teacher said we were to get all the research and information for the final story, work it into something usable, so that the remaining time could be spent making it readable.

Definitely not what I thought I heard, when talking to Gazza about his coffee machine the other night.

 Its now a little after 11pm on Monday evening, I have just caught up with where I was supposed to be, by that time last night.

Back to the Blog of today, and think of all I should have absorbed, for disgorgement to digital word, tonight.

As an aside, I now have a certain empathy for the Goose, that produced the Pate de fois gras I will be consuming at Thursday’s Beefsteak and Burgundy luncheon. I am sure I better understand now, how forced feeding works.

One of the key issues in writing, is getting a story read by a wide audience, and text alone is the least intimate form for getting the message across.

So, how to improve the situation?

Well for start there needs to be a caption, to grab the reader and create a need to read on.

A bit of a Kicker.

The introduction should paint the overall message of the story we are trying to tell – a sort of precis, but interesting, and holding out the main issue, for all to see.

Always try to place a picture, or map, or some visual artefact close to the banner, but do make sure that it does not impinge on other stories close by.

If using quotes, and a good story should have at least three, make sure you have some medium to verify that what you have written, is accurate.

If you are not able to make that recording read what you have written back to the Talent, and have him/her confirm it is correct. While its not the best solution, it’s better that not having a quote at all.

Always do your research for for legal implications, and introduce clearly, any legal matters in the story.

 Use the software Murally, to create the story line with sticky notes – I am a long way from using that right now and feel it may be some another incarnation before any understanding of the usefulness takes hold. Pinned up there with the usefulness of Twitter.

Things not to do when writing

Don’t use an Acronym without first elucidating– I used HUMBUG, in the as yet unpublished story, then went to type out what it stood for [its a computer group I have hung out with for about 15 years] I was stunned when I found I had to go back to the web site to find what the letters really stood for. I like to think that in this particular case I was having a bit of a senior moment [like loosing my car keys for the last 3 days]

Moving right along ….

Do not use slang or jargon unless writing to a niche group [Like the HUMBUG group?]

Remember your audience – hmmmm, mine is very small, and all very polite.

Don’t assume that your audience knows what you have just said or written – I can see a pattern coming up here. I’m no longer sure what I just wrote, either.

 With Interviews to camera

One needs good footage, use cutaways to enhance the story, eye witnesses can be good, even when they are not sure what they have seen? What?

Check sound – you cant get away with poor sound. I have found Truth at last.

 For Elements of an Audio story

Use a good voice for the presenter, get sound grabs of relevant noises, use atmospheric noise if it fits with the story line. Use music to set a mood, but be aware of copyright restrictions

And finally –

Not all stories will have these elements.

 Somewhere about this stage of the lectures, I found that I had left the laptop battery charger at home, and the warning light was blinking. So I made my excuses and bolted for an early train.

The rest of the tale will unfold …. Later, I’m sure

 Good night all.

PS. I’m sure that all will have noticed, that this blog has broken almost ever single guide line we were given today.

Think Images, Links and a Cosmic picture at ‘The End’.

Day four, The interview and Interviewee

Gazza Curtis, is geek, a dedicated dabbler in all forms of electronic circuitry, and most importantly for today’s interview, a barista extra ordinaire.

 I am not too sure how to present a conversation on paper – oops, as an electronic, digital, type face – so have used an[*] for the question and [-] for the answer.

So let ‘Understanding one man’s view on coffee’ unfold.




* Just what is it you like about your coffee

– Well, let me say quite firmly, I am not a coffee snob, even thought my daughter is. I have always enjoyed coffee over other beverages, and have had many different coffee makers. Two years back I bought the standard Aldi model for about $40, and have stayed with the brand ever since.

The actual sachets work out to only 35c each, so it makes a s reasonably cheap cup. And it tastes great, he added.

*What is the difference between a cup instant and a freshly ground bean coffee?

– well the pod type always tastes fresh because it’s only opened moments before the liquid gets forced thru it. A jar of Instant 42 bean coffee degrades from the moment the jar is opened, and continues to loose its fresh flavour from that moment on. Well, in my view, that is.

*How many different styles of ground coffee bean can you identify

-well I have my preferred style, at the moment my favourite pod is the Expressi Abruzzo. But there are many more styles to choose from. We will be tasting the Tauro and Perugia which are mid strength brews, while the Reggio and Colombia rate a little higher at 8, the Abruzzo is very strongly caffeinated, and rated at 12. At the other end of the scale you could try a Decaf, which is only rated at 2 or a Florenzi at 3.



*Do you have to have coffee at the beginning of each day to function normally

– absolutely, I have the same type of coffee maker at work as well! So I know I can always drink a consistent style of coffee.

*Do you think coffee makes one constipated?

– Well it is a diuretic. I have had people tell me it does, but personally never experienced that type of problem. [The rest of this conversation was edited out, in case my Grand children read this blog]

*Which country do you think produces the best tasting coffee bean?

– I think that almost any Arabica beans taste great under certain circumstances, particularly if well roasted. At one end of the scale, the Somali method of roasting the endosperm laden beans in a pan over an open fire will obviously lead to an inconsistency in flavour, but that might well be a part of the character of their particular style, Not that I am biased, but the coffee grown inland from Airlie Beach, and up in the Atherton Tablelands taste quite spectacular. Their production is very limited, so that sort of knowledge is best kept a secret. Oh hell, did I just say that?

*Do you suffer withdrawal symptoms if you go without coffee for more than a day

– not as much as I used to.

*Is it very difficult to operate this particular machine?

– Its really quite simple. There are just 7 points to remember

.make sure there is water in the jug

.turn the power on

.put a mug under the spout and press the flush button, it looks like a shower spray!

.drop your chosen pod into the slot, but make sure it is located correctly.

.now all you have to do is choose if you want a full cup or half, and select that particular button.

.if you want milk, warm the mug and milk in a microwave, before putting under the spout, and you will get a very nice frothy brew.


We wander off to talk about visiting Vietnam, quadrocopters, the next Linux conference in Perth, while sipping strong black coffee.

Thank you Gazza

Interview event ends at 22.00 hrs.


 Lessons learned from doing my first interview.

 I was surprised that it took only a little time to think about the questions I needed to ask, and even more surprised to find that in general people really do enjoy talking about their interests. Where I have come unstuck on both attempts, is in placing the questions to the Talent in the correct order, so the narrative flowed a little more clearly.

Start the questions gently, and leave the Talent plenty of time to reflect on what they want to say. I noticed that after a moments pause Gazza would add another interesting point to fill out what he meant.

Leave the tough or ‘naughty’ questions to the end, in case the Talent spits the dummy, or worse, looses interest in talking to you.

And Most Importantly of all, treat coffee tasting in the same manner as Wine tasting

Sip and spit.

Last night I drank far too many different styles of coffee, while discussing the character of each pod, so that after getting home around midnight, the will to sleep was long gone and the brain remained buzzing away in front of the TV for several hours, trying to wind down!

Not a great start for the 30km bike ride on Sunday morning!

Day Three, Channel 10 Television is alive and well

I have discovered that there were a lot of people in our world that actually savour coffee, and experiment with the roasted bean flavours and styles, in much the same way that others do with grape varieties in wine, or hop and wheat in beers.

So this morning on the way to The Edge, I thought to count the number of coffee shops, between Roma Street Station [no photography allowed] and our class, a distance of about one kilometre. Amazed to find 14 shops or stalls, all open for business at 9 am, and all seemed to be able to compete successfully! Good grief, Charlie Brown, what does Guinness know about this.



So made a point of getting in earlier today, to have a Long Black before the learning began.


Most of the class day was spent preparing for the weekend assignment – To interview one or two people, then write a story based on the questions asked at the interview.

Now I know all the work so far has been leading up to this, but as the lectures unfolded a vacuum seemed to grow ever bigger inside my head. Been thinking ‘bloody hell, how to find a topic’, where to begin to do research on a topic that is still a vague mist in my mind. Oh Wikki, you and I will be so close tomorrow.


So, if I had to summarize my activities today, it would fall into just three parts, or perhaps four sections. Ahh, and a little bit.


Spent the morning listening to others input, because I really had nothing at all to contribute.

I have realized I have virtually no concept at all, of how to think questions to do the research, to ask an interviewee [known as ‘talent’ in the trade].



finding out that one needs to learn heaps more about half a dozen more software tools [do not mention them here, save for later]– and I’m not talking about the scant knowledge acquired over the last 5 days on the in-adequateness of WordPress and an unfathomable Twitter. No idea how many of my Twits are still jiggling around in the ether, but few seem to have found there way to their intended targets. Let me clarify the latter. I think that when I have worked out how to use the # and @ I might well have it all sorted. What to use now to disguise letters in naughty words? I ponder.

For the former, this has a long way to go. Each student has somehow managed to create a different version of WordPress, that has differing controls for layout and print style. Or in some cases, none at all.

For instance I can’t get my parchment style background to ‘stick’ and there seems no way to change type styles.

And this sort of thing is vital to indicate our very individual Brand of Blog. Cough cough.



Our outing to the Channel 10 TV station at the top of Mt Coot-ha was certainly the most interesting of the three media outlets we have seen so far. We left the building with a feeling that the staff there really enjoyed working together. They were all so accessible, and are the first to  encourage us to continue with the CitizenJ concept, giving us information on how to access to their news system via various the social media they used.

I have completely changed my views on the role Channel 10 the Company, and their cheerful staff, play in our society’s quest for information.



For our 5pm evening break, I headed over to Archives in West End, and dropped down a few well hopped IPA’s, and began writing up the days events, while it was all fresh in my mind.


Early evening saw some of us heading a few hundred metres up the road to Avid Reader, for wines and nibbles, and to listen to Emma Carter’s insights at her book launching. The book, ‘Beyond the Logo’ is designed to help small to mid sized companies understand the process of creating and marketing a Brand Image in the correct sequence, and with the right types of graphic design.

Several of the CitizenJ students bought a signed copy




Photography and Public Relations for the event was handled by Bridget Heinemann. Thank you Bridget, and further to our all too short talk, I know you would enjoy getting involved with CitizenJ

Looking forward to the Humbug over at UQ, tomorrow afternoon, to find suitable ‘Talent’ to Interview, for an as yet unknown Topic. Don’t stop breathing.

Day Two, is there a story out there?

And it seems like I’ve been here weeks already, and I know my way around the State Library complex like an old timer, and I really don’t get lost at all.


Just have to go back to the elephant once more, this time to follow up on the first public comment made to my Blogg on Day One, that there was much more to the fallen statue than first appeared.

I discovered that the million dollar elephant had ended up on its nose because of a Rat. And I have to wonder how many passers by ever knew there really was a Rat out there – but on ‘The Other Side’?

It is a fairly large and handsome rat, at that. A sort of Cane Rat, or Ruttus Rattus, or perhaps even a King Rat, with its very own patch of green, green grass.




Now quickly, back to the class room to see what the day brings.

We looked at successful photo journalism styles, uses of slides with audio overlay, straight audio as well as descriptions of an event blending a mix of all three.


Today, for our ‘Outing’, we visited The Fairfax Newspaper offices at 420 Adelaide Street, and were shown around the Brisbane operations by Cameron, the Brisbane operations editor.

Even after the ABC visit yesterday, I still find it amazing that so much news is gathered, and later disseminated, by so few journalists. At Fairfax there were a mere handful in the entire Brisbane operation.

Honestly, one got the feeling that there were many more IT personnel at work maintaining and operating the electronic Guts in the building, than all the journalist staff using it! Only a feeling, mind you.


On our return we split into two teams. Our team worked a topic involving an editor, journalist  and sound man on one side, wanting to get a emotional story out of a bloke, who five hours earlier had reversed his car down the driveway, over their two year old child.

The other team discussed surveillance, and non disclosure by a journalist and editor, to a police official, and a Lawyer acting for an irate mother of a fourteen year old daughter, who had held a Rave? Party while mother and father were away.

 My own worst nightmare had arrived.

It was Role Play time.

No point in summarising how it all unfolded, as you had to be there to catch, and hold tight, to that roller coaster ride of polite discourse.

Suffice to say I am surrounded by a cast of superb word artists, and became enthralled by the verbal sparring that erupted, as each point was put, pushed and pulled.

 And at days half time [it was only 5pm and we all still had many more hours of review work and homework  to do] I stepped away from the train station, and came a upon a huge crime scene right in the middle of our little village.

Dozens of flood lights on stands, people with clip boards, a big thick power cable snaking back to a smelly generator, and a mass of young blokes all in working gear dashing about carrying boxes of gear in and out of four massive trucks. I instantly visualized the investigation set up from tv series like CSI New York, or Body of Evidence.

A biggie right in my own suburban back yard.

 Oh yes. I know, right now, I really really know …….. I have the ultimate ‘up’ on tomorrow nights homework. This I Truly Know. A real scoop for class tomorrow. Almost piddling with excitement. Honest Johnson.


Out with the Android to begin surreptitiously clicking away, until I realised that I could be more brazen and take photos of almost anything I wanted from a public foot path – another one of our lessons today.

Only five steps further down the foot path, there was a large sign.

“This Subway branch is closed all day for a National Photo Shoot. We apologise for any inconvenience”.

Oh Bloody Hell, crime story blown away, photos so wasted, and I’ll have to work like all the rest of the team, over the coming weekend.

You see, the essence of yet another of today’s lessons was, “to maintain honesty in Journalism”.

Day One

What a fascinating course this has turned out to be.

Looking back on the day, I am wondering just how much I have really absorbed, and am guessing that this essay/blogg? will show, it has been written ‘on the fly’, after judging more than a dozen wines in three hours, earlier this evening.


Our days course began with a walk past an elephant statue – perched on its nose.

Not perched as in Norwegian Parrot, rather Perched Precariously, as in it just fell off the back of a truck! I can’t help thinking that Terry Pratchett must have had a hand in it.

Lectures began with an outline of what we could expect to achieve, and moved on with individuals explaining why they wanted to become part of the world wide Citizen Journalists group. I had already decided that reporting on interesting events might cause readers to become involved in a range of different hobbbies/pastimes.

The really interesting part here is that one really needs to discover what ones ‘Brand’ is, in order to create a consistent style. Many hints and descriptors were discussed, and most participants seemed quite able to identify with one or two of the dozen, or so, recognised categories.

I felt a little alarmed and confused here, because a part of each and every one of those descriptors for the ‘Brand’ belonged inside me. That’s not to say I felt I was all, or even many, at any given time – rather that I could easily identify with most all ‘Brands’ at some point in time.

In my case, our networking lunch was used to learn a little more about the vagaries of Twittering, though I’m no closer to seeing where it is applicable. The following weeks will tell, I’m sure. Thank you Elizabeth.

The tour thru the ground floor of the ABC studio/office set up was an eye opener. Technology that I had used in the past has changed so much in the last twenty years, and I really should have been prepared for this. So the overall impression left afterwards was of subdued amazement, though I really don’t know why, as the geek in me recognised the purpose of most all the equipment we were able to look at. Thank you Genevieve for an excellent description of your operation.


The afternoon wrap up was designed to have one look inside ones mind, to see where a particular writing style might lead. But at this point I can only surmise that any style within me, if it does indeed exist, might become a little more apparent as the course progresses