Monthly Archives

July 2012

Actual Work, In the news

What can we learn from The Circle?

July 30, 2012 | 2 Comments

Television networks have a mixed relationship with social media.

On the one hand, social media has buoyed television. In the olden days, event television was something we shared with our family or our mates. They would physically come to our houses and we would sit around the idiot box and share our opinions with each other. From time to time, we would grab the corded phone and watch Hey Hey together in real time, and while the ads were on we’d talk about whether Red Symons could possibly really be that angry all the time. Early social media / event television.

These days, social media is the driving force behind event television. Social media can be partly to blame for the perpetuation of shows like The Shire and Being Lara Bingle and, sadface, Masterchef. While the latter seemed close to an axing at the start of its 2012 run, and was then significantly squished so as not to come up against the Olympics, it ended on a ratings high of around 2.2 million during the finale.

On Saturday morning, miserable people Australia-wide climbed reluctantly from bed, pushed from their warm slumber by the knowledge that their friends on the internet would be waiting for them. Together, they (we!) watched the London 2012 opening ceremony. For the first time, Twitter was part of that ceremony. The ratings in Australia were not spectacular (though combined with the afternoon repeat, and considering the 5:30am live telecast, they were beyond acceptable), but worldwide ratings were smashed to bits. Social media perpetuated the trend to switch on and be part of the conversation. And as NBC soon found out, it’s fairly important to be on the right side of that conversation.

Which might be why, on the other hand, the networks rarely listen to social media audiences. This is never more evident than when they make changes to programming that contradict what viewers are saying in their very public – and easily monitored – social media networks. As in, “don’t put The Shire on the telly, we won’t watch it!” and “We like The Circle, it’s got strong, smart women on it!”

How is it that networks can be so demonstrably supported by the parts of their audience that use social media to have open conversations about what’s on the box, yet so dismissive of that same audience when it comes to decision making? That instead of monitoring the social landscape before heading to the boardroom (“People say the Sunrise hosts make them want to vomit in their cereal, let’s see what we can do about it?”) they seem to abjectly ignore it in favour of traditional research methods (“Three-quarters of our focus group of four people said they like the Breakfast hosts”).

Today, Channel 10 announced the canning of its morning show, The Circle. It’s not a show for everyone, that’s true. But it is a panel of smart women saying smart things about important subjects. Remember Beauty and the Beast? It’s a bit like that, but without misogyny. It’s topical and relevant and not idiotic. And it’s locally produced and, in this TV watcher’s opinion, much better than the offerings on the other stations.

In the wake of the announcement, Twitter users went ballistic. “Why is The Circle being axed, but Breakfast is not?” they cried, bewildered as to where they, as viewers, went wrong and why the TV had gone topsy turvy. “And why is The Shire still on?”

There is no question that network television is about driving advertising dollars. And I’m not suggesting that all programming decisions should be based on the opinions of a few thousand social media users. But the time has definitely come to stop treating viewers like passive idiots and to consider wider sentiment when making these kinds of choices. The alternatives to watching television are many, and the audience doesn’t need much of an excuse to go elsewhere.

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Family, Womanhood

My one-sided Mummy War

July 30, 2012 | 4 Comments

Stop the presses: Mummy Wars do exist! I know this because I am currently having one. It is a battle of epic proportions. Literal tears have been shed. Each morning I wake with a sense of foreboding, wondering how many men I might lose. I can hear the air raid siren now.

But here’s the thing about this Mummy War: I’m having it with myself.

I’m one of those dastardly mothers who chooses to do “everything”. They call us “women who want it all”. In this context, “it all” means “a job”. It has also been known to mean “an education”, “some friends” or “new shoes”. Women having it all is quite different from men having it all, in that no one has ever muttered such words in all of history.

At any rate, I am currently sick with the same thing that everyone else has – one part cold, one part cough, one part heavy fatigue. I lose my voice overnight, hack up some insides for a while, improve marginally throughout the day and then become incredibly bad company at around 8pm.

Because I am a woman who wants it all, I am not taking the easy way out by sleeping off this minor illness. I am working. I’m not in the office sharing my germs around, but I am sitting at my desk, doing very strenuous things like replying to emails. Because that’s what women who want it all do. I feel like a bit of boiled ham floating in a pool of tepid milk, but that’s the price you pay in this Mummy War. If the other mothers knew that I was taking it easy so as not to end up with pneumonia, they would laugh about me at pick up time!

This morning I dropped the kids off at before care (very late, due to my failure to rally the troops prior to 7:30am). The before care lady took one look at me and said, “No offense Anna, but you look like shit. Like, all pasty.” Recognising her as the enemy, I told her how little time I had to commit to recovery due to my having it all. She didn’t miss a beat, deliberately sabotaging me by suggesting I “sleep it off”. Yeah, you’d like that! All those hours of missed pursuit of it all! What would the other mothers think? “There goes Anna. She gave up having it all in favour of sleeping.”

Later on, a well-meaning friend sent me an incredibly insulting email. “You should have a rest,” she said. “What about if I just get a haircut?” I shot back, expertly implying that I could afford both money and time for a haircut due to my having it all. “No,” she said, “you have to actually rest. Like, with your eyes closed.”

Then I realised. I’ve been speaking like Joan Rivers for six days now. I can’t remember driving home from school this morning. I can’t swallow anything harder than orange juice. I am losing the Mummy War, and the only person who gives a shit is me. Because I’m the only person in the Mummy War. Because there is no Mummy War.

bbl, sleeping.

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Actual Work

Mean Girls: not just a movie

July 29, 2012 | 3 Comments

I have some strong feelings about bullying, especially the kind of psychological torment that seems more common in young girls. With that in mind, I took my anger forth and found out a little more about what Australian schools think, and what they’re trying to do to combat this kind of behaviour.

“The weird thing about hanging out with Regina was that I could hate her, and at the same time, I still wanted her to like me,” says Lindsay Lohan in the cult classic (and, some would argue, her best ever role), Mean Girls. It’s a good laugh, sure, but with clique behaviour rife in groups of girls as young as three, will we be able to cut the next generation of Mean Girls off at the pass?

You can read the rest of this article over at Essential Kids.

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Actual Work, In the news, Ranting

Bloggers and Journalists: not as dissimilar as you may think

July 17, 2012 | 21 Comments

If you don’t know The Punch, it’s essentially an opinion based website comprised of a series of “serious” blogs. Today they are running a story about Blogging and Journalism, and why the two ne’er shall meet. Because journalism is Proper Writing and blogging is Poetry About Dog Poop.

With no offense intended to Allison Lee, I have a lot of problems with this piece.

Much has been made of the demise of the mainstream media. Popular opinion would have us believe news journalism is a dying art as newspapers go digital. The future is a brave new world of citizen-journalism where bloggers will reign supreme. Just one problem – blogging and journalism are not the same thing.

Let’s talk about how we define each of blogging and journalism, so we can figure out exactly what makes them so different.

Blogging first became a “thing” when Greymatter was released in 2000. 12 years ago. Some of us painstakingly changed our cgi-bin folder permissions and uploaded files as ASCII and created blogs. We mostly talked about our lives, why that boy didn’t like us, why our parents were jerks and who was going with whom to the formal (well, I did). That was personal blogging. In 2012, people still have personal blogs. They write about the things in their day that have nothing to do with current affairs or politics or economics or climate change. But tens of thousands of people do write on those subjects, and some of them do it in a way that sits outside of the limitations of traditional journalism and so actually offers its readers more.

By comparison, a journalist is someone who writes about current affairs, politics, economics and climate change. Oh. A journalist is someone who produces content to connect with an audience and to provide them with information that may be relevant to their lives. Unlike a blogger, who produces content to connect with an audience and provide them with information that may be relevant to their lives.

Blogging isn’t a genre. Blogging is a format, a framework, a means to publish content. Blogs have always been defined simply as ‘chronological content’. Not ‘content about pushing my child on a swing’.

There are blogs being published every day that push the envelope, that challenge and inform people and provide them with thought provoking, relevant content. One of my favourites is that of Melbourne writer and braniac Geoff Lemon – Heathen Scripture. It’s a blog. That means it’s published in a series of chronological entries. Lemon produces content that introduces new concepts and ideas on matters of writing, politics, sport and culture. On his blog. Read this piece and tell me it’s not journalism.

Sure, both arts involve words, but comparing bloggers to journalists is like suggesting Rupert Murdoch is the next Stieg Larsson.

No, comparing bloggers to journalists is like suggesting Rupert Murdoch contributes to the media and also that blogger over there contributes to the media. The only people who perpetuate the idea that “journalists” are the only people qualified to produce news worthy content are journalists. They are self-styled as “qualified”. There is no requisite qualification to look at an issue in the world and think “that’s interesting, I wonder what else I can find out about it” and then do exactly that and share it with other people. Studying journalism (something I’ve done) teaches a person how to gather facts and how to approach interviews and how to survive being the shit kicker on the newsroom floor. It is easier to be a journalist if you have a journalism degree, there is no doubt. But it is not impossible to act in a journalistic capacity if you do not.

To recognise the difference between bloggers and journalists, we need to avoid mistaking influence for journalism.

There is no question that “being more influential” is not the same as “being a good journalist” (see your own Rupert Murdoch example, above). We also need to avoid mistaking “writing words in a newspaper” for “journalism”. And “saying things on 60 Minutes” for “journalism”. And “fronting up to a council meeting” for “journalism”. Influencing a group of people – according to this article, “51 per cent of bloggers believe they influence a niche audience” – does not constitute acting as a journalist. Because what journalists do is publish content on behalf of a) employers, and b) advertisers, in order to influence a mass audience. As you can see, the wording is slightly different.

That’s because bloggers and media have a completely different agenda. The single biggest factor driving bloggers today was having fun, cited by 75 percent of respondents to the study. 43 per cent claimed to blog as a creative outlet.

These figures mean nothing without a clear definition of what constitutes a blogger. Is a blogger just “someone who isn’t a journalist”, as the article suggests? Or has ‘IMPACT’ sourced a number (how many?) of personal bloggers, because that’s the loose definition they’re using, in which case it’s no surprise that they cite ‘fun’ as a driving force? Why not take a group of bloggers that comprises one part personal blogger, one part political blogger, one part awareness blogger and one part war commentary blogger and see how much fun they are having?

Also, and this may blow your minds, some people write, research and analyse because it’s fun. I’m having fun right now even though I’m writing about work. The purpose of this blog is as a creative outlet, but my idea of a creative outlet might be different from yours or his or hers or that monkey’s.

Lee fails to mention the contrasting agenda of the journalist, so we are left to presume that it is self-immolation on the sacrificial altar of the great story and the good of the people.

For bloggers and their readers, what happens at the kitchen sink is just as important as what happens in Canberra. Sometimes, more so. Not a single blogger cared about breaking stories or beating fellow bloggers to a story. It’s journalists that break news and bloggers don’t want that job.

Let me reiterate my favourite part of this paragraph: what happens at the kitchen sink is just as important as what happens in Canberra. SOMETIMES, MORE SO. This clearly scientific and unbiased study claims that not one single blogger cared about breaking stories. Not one. Not even a mouse. And we know that bloggers don’t care about what happens in Canberra, because do you know how many of them turned up to Julia Gillard’s blogger morning tea? None! They were all, “No thanks Jules, we are more concerned with what happens at the kitchen sink THANKS ANYWAY!”

Blogging isn’t going to replace journalism any time soon. In the brave new digital world, there’s room for journalists and bloggers. Just don’t expect them to do the same thing or tell the same story.

Spoiler alert, Allison Lee: there is no need to make the distinction between bloggers and journalists. Some bloggers are like journalists. Some journalists are like bloggers. Opinion pieces form a massive and vital part of media, mass or otherwise, mainstream or otherwise. Blogging isn’t replacing journalism, it’s contributing to journalism. Time and time again this writer has watched mainstream media pick up stories (news or otherwise) that were first written about on blogs or on Twitter by people who are not, by journalism’s definition, journalists.

I don’t expect them to tell the same story any more than I expect Bernard Keane and Andrew Bolt to tell the same story. That doesn’t mean they’re not both journalists (though the latter may be a good example of when a journalist is not a journalist); it’s a reflection on our ability as a society to provide consumers with many disparate pieces of information and a variety of opinions from which to form their own opinion.

Which is exactly what bloggers do. From behind their kitchen sinks, obviously.

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Actual Work, Ranting

Proposal: “I Don’t Want to Get Sick” Days

July 17, 2012 | 8 Comments

When I arrived at work this morning and pushed open the door, I found myself inside a dense cloud. As I walked down the corridor, I heard a classic winter chorus: coughing, sneezing and loogie hocking. In stereo. The cloud followed me to my office, pointing its germy fingers in my eyes and trying to get its bacteria laden hands down my shirt. I raced to my desk, trying to erect a forcefield with my mind, but in actuality just sitting prone in a field of potential influenza.

Everyone in the office is sick. And instead of staying warm in their beds and becoming gradually un-sick, they come in to work and say things like “How am I? Oh lady, I am about to croak for real!” and “You wouldn’t believe the colour of the stuff that came out of me this morning!” Luckily, I brought my stash of gold medals with me, so I could hang them around the necks of all the heroes who came in despite clearly being at death’s door.

To combat this tradition of Hardening the Fuck Up and Coming to Work Anyway, I propose the implementation of an I Don’t Want to Get Sick Day. Like a Sick Day, it will allow the employee to take a paid leave of absence in order to extend the duration of their life. Knowing that it is flu season and that everyone in the office will be fighting it out to be Australia’s Next Employment Devotee, a staff member may opt out of working in the office to play Mario Kart (64, obviously) and not inhale the disgusting snot molecules of those around them.

We have a right not to get sick. I want to spend my weekends doing fuck all on the couch, not lying miserable in bed! Who’s with me?

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