New offerings prepare students for modern media world

New offerings prepare students for modern media world

RMIT is responding to the ever-changing media landscape, with journalism students learning how to respond to and report on trolling, as well as fact checking and verification.

Reporting on and responding to new challenges

AFLW star Tayla Harris is the latest in a long list to be targeted by online trolls after an image of her kicking in full flight was posted on Channel 7’s social media channels.

While the Carlton Blues player fought back and received significant support from the community, she described the trolling as “sexual abuse” and was later worried for the families of the online abusers, in the context of these attitudes potentially leading to violence against women. 

For journalists working in 21st century media, trolling – the deliberate act of posting negative or hateful comments online, often anonymously – is something they must be equipped to report on and respond to.

Newsrooms are notoriously busy, prompting the question of how to train journalists to report on critical issues in society.

One solution is industry, advocates and educators working together to deliver training for those starting out and already working in the industry.

A recent panel coordinated by Our Watch and the RMIT University Graduate Diploma in Journalism was designed specifically for student journalists and working reporters and was coincidently held on the same day the Harris trolling story broke.

RMIT ABC Fact Check chief of staff Sushi Das, journalist and author of Troll Hunting Ginger Gorman, author and commentator Jamila Rizvi, academic and activist Dr Jessamy Gleeson, and Office of the e-Safety Commissioner spokesperson Rosalie O'Neale spoke at the event.

Graduate Diploma in Journalism program manager and Our Watch National Media Advisory Group member, Maree Curtis, said educators had a responsibility to make sure the curriculum adequately reflected and prepared students for the reality of working in modern, ever-changing newsrooms.

“Journalism training that once took place almost exclusively in newsrooms has, in recent years, largely been ceded to university journalism programs and this is a responsibility that RMIT's journalism programs take very seriously,” she said.

“Our graduates have to be not only technologically-savvy, but also know how to report with sensitivity and compassion, to be determined, tenacious, fair and balanced and to be able to sort fact from fiction.

“Collaborations between our journalism programs, industry and organisations such as Our Watch are vital because our students are future industry leaders and they are the ones who will bring about cultural change in newsrooms and be prepared for the complexities of being a journalist in a changing world.” 

Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly said collaboration was needed to drive real change addressing the drivers of violence against women.

“The scope of our national media engagement work includes working with universities on journalism curriculum so student journalists are trained on the complexities and sensitivities of reporting on violence against women, and to ensure they don’t pick up bad habits or harmful myths and misconceptions,” she said.

“We’ve also developed National Reporting Guidelines, aimed at supporting journalists to achieve best practice reporting on violence against women.”

Director of Student Wellbeing and Inclusion Fiona Ellis said sexual harm had diverse and far-reaching impacts.

“Events like the industry panel around trolling align with the RMIT’s ‘Changing the Course’ framework, which aims to build a community where every student and staff member feel safe, respected, valued and treated equally,” she said.

Graduate Diploma of Journalism student Riordan Davis is headed to Paris to share his views on the future of journalism education.

A student’s view on the future of journalism education

It’s a long way from the small Gippsland town of Cowwar to Paris but that’s where postgraduate student Riordan Davis is headed to share his views on the future of journalism education.

Davis will visit the City of Lights this week as the Oceania representative at the World Journalism Education Congress and will present his ideas about how the principles of journalism should be taught.

He will also join students from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe to participate in a panel discussion.

Davis said he was looking for any reason to return to Paris after spending last year there and, as a result, put in a lot of effort when one of his lecturers shared the worldwide competition with Graduate Diploma of Journalism students.

 “I’m incredibly excited to go back to Paris and meet lots of other young journalists from around the world with different backgrounds who are thinking about the same topics,” he said.

“I said in my paper that the principles of journalism should be taught to everyone because they’re important for everyone in a democracy to know – verification of facts, multiple points of view and engagement with what’s happening in our society.

“Therefore, if we teach that to say primary school children or high school students so that everyone has that education, journalism school would then be very specialised. Students would come in with the basics down pat and would the learn the craft, how to tell stories really well, interview techniques.”

Davis, who ultimately hopes to be a political reporter, is also the recipient of a regional journalism scholarship.

The scholarships, worth up to $40,000 each, from the Australian Government’s Department of Communications and the Arts support student journalists from regional areas as they acquire the skills and knowledge to be job-ready journalists.

What the fact?

In an era of fake news, RMIT journalism students will undertake an Australian-first new subject focused solely on teaching fact checking and verification skills.

Spotting photoshopped images and fake social media accounts and using Google Earth verification are among the skills students will learn when the subject commences in Semester 2 2019. While designed as a compulsory subject for first-year students, the inaugural semester will be open to all journalism students.

RMIT Journalism Lecturer Gordon Farrer said the subject was about teaching students to think like a detective.

“Journalists need to think like they are an investigator, not just a journalist who's just gathering information and putting it together,” he said.

“This subject aims to teach practical critical analysis skills needed to sort fact from fiction, opinion from reliable reporting.”

But it’s not just journalism students who will benefit from learning these skills – a free micro-credential on fact checking and verification is also available to RMIT students through RMIT Creds.

Developed by Fact Check’s Sushi Das, the 90-minute online course aims to teach basic fact-checking skills and help students identify fake news and adulterated photos and videos.

 

Story: Amelia Harris 

                            

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