Embrace the power of the written word and discover how your flair for writing could lead to an exciting new career as a journalist, magazine editor or children's author. Australian College of Journalism is part of Open Colleges, Australia's leading provider of online education. Read more
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When social media is not so socialRead More
Social media can be a force for good when it’s properly harnessed, but what happens when it’s used to convict online?
This is an increasingly important question for journalists as well as bloggers, and those who like to comment on online sites, as more and more people gets their news – and spread their views – via social media.Real concerns are being raised about the effect social media is having on actual criminal prosecutions, with one judge warning the general public are tainting evidence.
Cases like the killing of Jill Meagher in Melbourne have highlighted the problem of trial by social media, and a South Australian judge says websites like Facebook are prejudicing witness accounts.In an appeal judgment, Justice David Peek said, “Facebook has spawned a new generation of private investigators”.
He says it is now much easier for witnesses to discuss what they saw. “The process itself has very great problems in relation to potential contamination of evidence,” he said.Everyone who blogs or uses a social media site to make comment or write a story must understand the rules are exactly the same as publishing an article anywhere else.
This means libel and defamation can easily rear their heads and anyone commenting either before or during a court case can also risk prosecution for contempt of court.But why? After all, you may know so-and-so is guilty. You may live next door and have witnessed the assault he is charged with. On your social media page or news site a hundred people may have come forward and said he did it.
Well, the point is, everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Trial by Facebook is not allowed. The law deals with facts, not with what often amounts to hearsay, and it’s the same with journalism.If you post a picture of the charged man in handcuffs being restrained by two police officers, and let’s say his face is revealed too, what will members of a jury think when the trial comes around?
Some of those jurors may be persuaded by these images that the man up in court must be guilty. That could mean he won’t get a fair trial because some jury members’ minds are already made up. Given that, any defence lawyer worth his salt will attempt to get the case thrown out before it begins, claiming his client will not receive a fair trial because of prejudice.What that means is a guilty man may go free because of over zealous social media pundits.
So, whether you’re a professional journalist, or an aspiring journalist looking to break into news via your own website or blog or any other form of social media, you need to be aware that once someone is charged with a crime, his or her picture should not appear and any comment should cease, as well as any implication that the person committed the crime he or she is charged with.
News goes HyperlocalRead More
Hyperlocal news is all the rage in the UK and Europe at the moment, but what exactly is it and what does it mean for aspiring freelance journalists here?
Hyperlocal news as a concept is not too hard to grasp – it’s typically a social media news site or website that truly concentrates on a specific local geographical area. Not only that though, using the latest in online technology it allows – even encourages – locals to interact and post their own news and views, so building a true community heart.For journalists and editors this is an important development and a terrific opportunity, but not without its challenges.
Hyperlocal news has, in part, started to grow because the traditional news outlets have either pulled out of the local areas, or they produce little more than glorified advertising publications interspersed with a bit of so-called editorial – all too often puff pieces for restaurants and businesses.Established print-based news organisations also have legacy hardcopy newspapers that have to be printed, and they often only appear once a week. They have constrained space because the number of pages depends on advertising revenue, and they can never be up-to-date simply because they don’t come out every day.
Just a reminder now: are you revving up your laptop/picking up your pencil and notebook/inking your quill and unfolding your parchment and writing every day like I’ve been advising? I hope so, because at the end of the day (whoops!) practice, while it doesn’t necessarily make perfect, will help you rise above the ordinary in your work.So there are real opportunities for journalists who want to connect with their neighbourhood but also build that neighbourhood too and really inform readers about what’s going on. The news can be posted immediately and it costs next to nothing to do so.
And it’s not too far fetched to see that for those sites that really build an audience with solid numbers there will be possibilities to pull in revenue from advertising, which will ultimately support the website financially.But to start a really good hyperlocal news source you need two things; a good understanding of journalism (good writing, news sense, a knowledge of legal issues, etc), and local connections.
Without spruiking our credentials too crassly, it’s true to say you can learn all you need by completing a journalism course through the Australian College of Journalism. We can provide you with the skills, expertise and tools to make this cutting-edge idea work, and work well.If you are going to be successful with a hyperlocal news site you definitely need journalism skills to make it work. There are plenty of sites out there claiming to cover local areas but most are purely gossip sites, often with very unpleasant posts at their core. That’s not what hyperlocal news is about. Hyperlocal news is taking the place of the typical established local newspaper, and delivering news swiftly, with input from locals too in the form of tip-offs and comments.
As a writer and eventual editor it’s important you lay down the foundations of the site with good compelling writing. You need to be mindful of legal issues including libel and defamation (all skills you can learn on our courses). You will need to moderate the site and invite comments, and let readers post information about upcoming events, or post pictures and reviews about events that have just occurred.Of course, local connections begin where you live, you simply need to be engaged with your community. If you stop and think about it, you already know people in your area, and they know other people too. Once you start letting your friends and contacts know there’s an online news and meeting place catering to true local news and views, people will begin to come on board and the site will grow quickly.
Encourage readers to tip you off about news in the area too. Even investigate stories yourself, and very soon you will find people get to know and trust you as a reliable journalist.It won’t be long before you have a lively and interactive home where all the folks in your area can come together to share news and views and help to build a true interconnected community.