Tag Archives: Journalism

Know how to Bullshit …

These were one of the first words our Journalism lecturer uttered to us bright eyed, raring to go Journalism enthusiasts when we joined University.

“A good journalist can bullshit about anything”, he blasted over the microphone in the cavernous lecture hall as we sat there gawking at how someone in a “teacher’s” position could so easily swear in a mock classroom. I know, I know, boy did we have some catching up to do on reality!

Anyway, this story (although pretty pointless as well) has nothing to do with my wild and unrestrained journalism days (let me live the fantasy okay?).

I decided to put this theory to test with my gym instructor after hours of targeted researching on the net over the weekend (basically just bumming around really) on how exercising is really and truly detrimental to my health. Turns out my gym instructor, in addition to being allergic to sanity, happiness, content taste buds and a well rested skeletal structure (just to mention a few) is also highly allergic to apparent, well researched “bullshit”.

Either that, or I’m not as good a journalist as I think -_-

News as you see it?

As some of you may know, I am slightly crazy about the concept of Citizen Journalism.

As an at times, real life journo, the idea of masses reporting on world events gets me all excited. Why, you may ask? Well, even if you didn’t, I’m going to tell you anyway so thank you in advance for gratifying my gluttonous indulgence in hearing the sound of my own voice, or at least reading my own mismatched words.

Journalism was once a noble profession, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but just hear me out … please. We were the watchdogs of society; the crusaders for truth, the freedom fighters if you will, for supporting those bludgeoned by the cruel ways of those “top management” individuals – and then came business.

You know what I am referring to. The media moguls of the world, those who started abusing the pen is stronger than the sword metaphor, the power crazy, hungry individuals who supposedly, tirelessly fought for the “no one person should have all the power” ideal throughout their university paths in their hippie enthused, inspired protests when they lost it like so many of us do.

Dollar signs replaced all the dignified determination to make a change for the better when suddenly reporting on events became who is going to give ME more? Who’s going to scratch my back if I scratch theirs along with all the other clichéd excuses we give ourselves for doing what we do when our gut tells us it’s so very wrong.

Journalism just became another means to an end and before we knew it we were up there with the other apparent “scum of the earth” right next to used car salesmen (no offence meant by the way, unless you’ve been ripped to shreds by an unscrupulous one, then by all means go ahead and offend!).

Not a very encouraging pick me up for journalists fresh out of university who still, perhaps naively, just a teeny weeny bit, believed that maybe, journalism could get a much needed revamp and actually start representing the people again, returning to its embryonic conception once more.

Citizen Journalism is once such effort in my opinion, where people are beginning to take a stance, reporting on events as they see it rather than as perpetuators for the guilty do. People may snicker at its brazen “cheapness” as they call it, the easy pimping out of words by those who give it up far too easily but really, in this social media obsessed world, does anyone really care about what those who misguidedly believe they have the authority to report, think?

Um, no.

So what if the “cheap whore” as some term citizen journalists gets his/her words across without all the nice trappings the “professional prostitutes” do?

Let’s not kid ourselves, if the “cheap whores” Likes and Shares are anything to go off, professional writers may want to readjust their strategies. I think 200 times more Likes for a popular citizen journalism site such as FakingNews in comparison to a reputed Business Standard journalism report may be warning signs for a change guys – just saying.

We live in a Democracy but … you’re not allowed to say that.

“But” – such a seemingly simple, nonabrasive word, hardly ever recognised for its severe hypocrisy enamoured intentions and the scantily clad evilness it embodies. Often, I hate the word “but” because it provides us with the ability to shift the blame onto some invisible imaginary wickedness outside of ourselves no one else can quite seem to see.

“I don’t hate you but …”, “I’m really quite an open minded person but …”, “That country doesn’t deserve being bombed the way it has but…” The list is never ending, in a painful sort of way. A general rule of thumb that I try to live with every time I hear the word “but” is to disregard every single syllable that unfortunately preceded it, which believe me, is extremely difficult because it is often times someone’s best material. Everything tends to go downhill once that foreboding word “but” is included.

As some of you may know, Australia is going through a very democratic BUT questionable rule at the moment that basically puts a muzzle on everyone else who isn’t a politician. It’s a shame I know (not to mention enormously embarrassing) for a country that prides itself on being a crusader for democracy BUT it is a question of national security after all. Well naturally, that should be explanation enough if not for that one measly detail – all those advocates for truth? You know the ones I’m speaking of – the Julian Assange’s and Eric Snowden’s of the World.

If you were truly off your rockers and decided to believe what’s coming out of our current politicians mouths, regardless of the party they belong to (isn’t it creepy when opposing political members get together?) this innovative rule that basically involves everything we say being censored by the government is actually to keep us safe. Come on, when the words “national security” are mentioned, obviously that should be enough for us to take their word for it. Isn’t that what it’s all about, them verses us?

While watching Q & A on Monday night (a program that encourages free thinking) on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation free to air television channel, a politician actually had the gall, (can you believe it), the ludicrous audacity to promote her vicious, down right undemocratic stance against free speech by telling a journalist (of all people) that an anti-freedom of speech law was required because, wait for it, not all journalists are socially responsible. Aha, that makes sense because I can count on one hand the amount of “socially responsible honest” politicians out there. Hang on – can I call a friend for this question please?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly feel very secure with the idea of global politicians being the gatekeepers of truth, not with the human rights records a lot of countries have, the (often leaked) dismal, inhumane and downright “slave inspired” conditions of our detention centres, and well, some of the nincompoops we have (obviously in a drunken stupor) elected to represent us.

I thought evolution meant we were supposed to get better, not the other way round. Am I on a different page, or better yet, book? Aren’t we supposed to be getting more open minded and better at sharing knowledge rather than keeping the dirty (and often not so little) secrets of corrupt politicians under wraps? Hang on, aren’t you, Australian Government supposed to be representing me? I don’t recall ticking the “please silence me unless I agree with you” check box on the ballot paper the last time I voted.

This is not about who gets whose vote, there are more important issues on hand at the moment. This is not about being on anyone’s side, it’s about standing up for what’s right. The journalist on Q&A said it right, the government can try and lock truth seekers up as much as they want BUT for every Assange or Snowden they attempt to get rid of, a hundred more who are willing to stand up for what’s right no matter what the consequences will mushroom towards the surface. Muzzle that.

Could we be any more screwed?

A lot has happened in the World this week, as it does every week.

We’ve had a Soccer World Cup finish, Australian Swim Legend Ian Thorpe has come out as being gay, a few choice celebrities (no names being mentioned) have gone around doing what they do best, being social misfits and poor examples of role models for those who tinker on their seats edges wondering what their next moves are going to be, and something else I quite can’t recall. It’s on the tip of my tongue, so I’m guessing it’s semi important?

Oh that’s right, that little pesky thing the World is snappily entitling The Gaza Strip. Maybe not as catchy as Brangelina, but then again, it isn’t quite as important either, is it?

I mean how could an entire nation of people in devastating upheaval and pain, a clear brazen example of genocide occurring under our very noses in the twenty first century, a blatant demolishing of the very concept of human rights, truly compare to whether Germany actually deserved to take home the inanimate Gold Cup, the gender Ian Thorpe chooses to spend his private life and nights with, and whether Justin Bieber’s crotch shot was a misguided PR stunt? The answer is simple, it can’t.

It’s not bedazzling enough for all of us, sitting here comfortably in our arm chairs in our own little private havens with our fingers securely brushing our remote controls ready to tap the buttons lightly to change the channel every time a haunting image of what’s occurring in the Middle East has the audacity to interrupt our lives and assault our screens. I mean, how dare they? It’s happening a world away, why should I care?

I’m not here to make a statement on who’s right or wrong in this war occurring on the same planet we all share, but what I am incensed about is our extreme powers of “de-sensitsation”.

Who’s right or wrong is hardly significant really, what does matter though is the mammoth loss of life that the rest of us couldn’t care less about. I am met with a lot of anger and opposing comments every time I dare to broach this subject, you know the kind – scathing hate like “Why should we interfere?”, “They don’t want us to get involved”, “It’s their problem, not mine”, “If they’re too stupid to understand, that’s their fault”, and the undulating list rolls on.

Hailing from a nation that prides itself on never having invaded another’s home, I couldn’t agree more. The rest of us shouldn’t interfere, because the message that gives is that we don’t think you’re civilised enough to deal with this problem on your own, but how does that justify turning a blind eye to the pain and misery of our fellow brothers and sisters?

How does understanding, making our children aware of what seething animosity results in so that they learn that war and inflicting torture on one another is not the solution, not make this world and our conjoined futures better? How does not teaching one another that no matter what our creed, caste, and colour, that we share our basic human emotions of grief, agony and turmoil at losing a father, a mother, a brother, or sister and our children, not be an absolutely imperative lesson to study for all of us?

Is the media to blame? I think this is far too simplistic and just another brazen example of ‘passing the buck’, shifting responsibility onto someone else humans so easily partake in to feel better. As hungry devourers of news, why do the people so often forget that the real power lies firmly enclosed in our palms? The fact that you chose to click on the photograph brazenly displaying one of the Kardashian sister’s blaring bikini clad behind more than the one that excruciatingly portrays a mother’s incomparable desperate desolation at the loss of a child as she clutches her daughter or son’s lifeless, dismembered body to her bosom, begging for it all to stop while she cradles them both into oblivion, dictates what the media gives you.

It’s time we take a little bit of time out of our busy reality television watching schedules and participate in a little reality check of our own. Try and think about how it would feel to be in the middle of that tumultuous turbulence and what you’d experience if you truly believed you were all alone and that no one else cared enough to think, even in fleeting, about how your life was worthless.

This world is never going to improve if we don’t stop for a moment and think “what am I doing to make this better?” Make your voices heard people, the powerful in our society don’t own half as much as you believe they do and they know it. They’re just waiting for you to fight for your basic human right to tell them that.

You need to shut up sometimes

I am a big supporter of the age old adage of keeping your mouth shut if you have nothing worthwhile to say. Often, just because you can say something doesn’t necessarily mean you should go ahead and let it rip! I was never made more aware of this philosophy than in my first year of Journalism studies.

In the famous words of Stan Lee, “with great power there must also come great responsibility”, it is terrifyingly easy for those of us in journalism and the media to forget that we are in a very fortunate, but dangerous position of influencing a lot of people reading and/or listening to our work.

Our audiences are often poles apart – from the aged to the very informative young, those that blotch an entire spectrum of social status & class, and those who (though it may be a little disrespectful to admit, but how we journalists at times dissect our readership/listener base) vary in intelligence and simple, good old fashioned common sense (an increasing rarity in modern times unfortunately!).

Journalists wield a great amount of power that is directly correlated to the magazines, television stations, newspapers and other forms of media we work for. The freedom of speech act is a card pimped around a lot by journalists who often try to cover up what we write/say and as a human rights activist, I strongly agree with the ability to give a voice to those of us who are more often than not, ignored. But what about when that speech is treacherously bordering on inciting hate, discrimination, negativity and the blatant ability to bully an individual/organisation because they clearly aren’t in a position to provide a comeback?

I have been a part of very large Australian based publishing houses (as well as the number one arguably) and as much as I hate to admit it, I cringe at the “stories” that have been reported by some of the big guns I have written/worked for. It would seem that our media outlets are so brazenly deciding what is Gospel now, we no longer have to cloak our “opinions” as “newsworthy stories” for the greater good, because now what we say is what goes, similar to the common bullying antics repeated in the murky corners of the school playground of “it’s right because I say so”.

But it isn’t, is it? Journalism evolved from a noble concept, a strong belief that the people had the right to know, where events were presented as objectively and unbiasedly as humanely possible, where we trusted the integrity and intellect of our audience to shape their own perspectives and viewpoints. What changed? Why do we in the media feel the need to dictate what others think and who/what they should support in a world we pride ourselves on as democratic?

Are our viewers no longer knowledgeable enough to make up their own minds? I would strongly disagree. What I do believe however is that we in the media have, as all humans regretfully eventually do at the first sniff of it, become power crazy, hungry for more, devouring the possibility of ruling those who we can as much as we can.

History is testament to exploitation failing and that is the real reason I believe news is a dying phenomenon, not the reality television shows wrapping their tentacles over unsuspecting viewers’ minds the way some would have us believe.

The cancer attacking “real news” is the need to control, not the diminishing rationality of our potential audience. I would suggest that if we start presenting “real news” the way our virtuous profession set out to do when it started all those centuries ago, news will become cool again.

And until we can do that, could we please learn to think before we write/speak? There is no shame in shutting up sometimes.

There’s a fine, blurred line between Writer’s Block and Procrastination…

So I sliced my finger while dismembering a passionfruit yesterday, and under the painful stinging and profuse bleeding, barely cloaked, mind you, lay a think under layer of gleeful relief.

I mean, how could I possibly type under these dire circumstances, and if I can’t type, I can’t write. It’s as simple as that, an incorruptible fact that has no dubious double meanings or ulterior motives. At least, this is what I have been telling myself for the past two days every time I do a U-turn as my pinkie, even remotely steps towards the vicinity that is housed by my overbearing computer screen. Though this ailment has been inflicting me for the past seven days, long before I nearly mutilated a vital part of my body, that hardly matters – I just promised myself I would be honest on this blog, so full disclosure is a prerequisite, hence I am boring you with the details, if you’ve even bothered to continue reading.

I am, however, rambling. Something I often do when I am trying to cover up a slightly poor aspect of my personality, which, in this event, is a severe case of procrastination syndrome. I find it extremely difficult to distinguish between Writer’s Block and a simple case of blatant, unashamed “bleh”, which some may term as gluttonous laziness, but what I much rather sum up as a “get off my f#%!n ass and write something already, will you?” phase.

I also attempt to avoid thinking about how Writer’s Block is a luxury I never dabble in when I am writing a journalistic piece, because it’s funny how your brain kicks into full gear if the choices are “Writer’s Block” (quotation marks are placed here for ‘yeah right’ sarcastic emphasis), or food on the table tonight. I am Indian, so in the end the stomach always wins, hands down … and I mean always.

Does that mean that I believe that the very notion of Writer’s Block is just another excuse for your undeniable sloth? Before I start getting spammed with hate mail from writers with a very legitimate case of the disease (my condolences by the way), just hold your horses, because the answer is a very convincingly flamboyant no!

It’s just that when I force myself to commence the untangling of the layers that build up my complex personality the way I would shred an onion, I can honestly say that it is unlikely that I am truly inflicted with the pesky disease 364 days a year, because if I am, I really need to start looking for another job.

Does this stab at a soul searching excerpt on my writing endeavours help me to clear my doubts in an effort to commence writing something that can, at least, be construed as a somewhat pitiful example of a sentence by a five year old?

Hell no! This pep talk was for my writing karma. In fact, I think all the unrequired exertion may result in complete bed rest for my index finger for the next week or so, ah the things we writer’s do to put pen on paper, right? I’m off to ice my unfortunate butchered finger … score!