Belinda Weaver, Journalist, Creator of JournOz, Educator
& Librarian: 1st December
am a librarian and Internet trainer. I have worked
in Sydney and London as well as Brisbane. I have worked
at the University of Queensland Library since January,
1996. During that time, I have also worked as a lecturer
with the School of Journalism and Communication at
UQ teaching first Computer-Assisted Reporting and
then Multimedia Journalism.
published my first book, Catch the Wave: find good
information on the Internet fast, in 2003, with RMIT
Publishing. I also contributed the chapter 'The computer
as an essential tool' to Journalism: investigation
and research, edited by Stephen Tanner, published
by Pearson Education, 2003.
created the Web site, Guide to Internet information
sources for Australian journalists (http://www.journoz.com)
in 1998 and have been keeping it updated ever since.
am the list owner of the OZCAR mailing list on Internet
and computer-based resources for Australian journalists.
This list has been running for more than three years
now and has more than 320 subscribers.
maintain the Web log, journoz:updates for Australian
journalists (ISSN 1448-2762). This blog has been running
since late 2002 and the full archive of entries is
searchable by date or by category.
have written a Web advice column, FindIT, for the
Courier-Mail 's e-Mail section since August, 2000
and a monthly what's new column, Weaver's Web, for
inCite, the news magazine of the Australian Library
and Information Association (ALIA) since July, 1999.
I also contribute to the journal Online Currents and
to other publications.
when and why did you get involved in media, and specifically
was a liaison librarian for the Journalism Department
at UQ, and became interested in improving journalists'
access to online information after I realised most
journalism students had no real clue about using the
net for background, research or finding contacts.
(When I visited the Courier-Mail in 1999, I realised
that not many journalists knew much either.) I set
up my Web site, Guide to Internet Information Services
for Australian Journalists in June, 1998. I then set
up the OZCAR mailing list so people could swap information
about computerised and Web sources of information
via email. I enrolled in a Graduate Certificate in
Journalism and taught Computer-Assisted Reporting
at UQ in 2000, standing in for a journalism lecturer
on sabbatical. I have since taught the CAR component
of the UQ Multimedia Journalism course in 2002 and
2003. I began writing a Web advice column for the
Courier-Mail in 2000 and have been doing it ever since,
along with other freelance work for other publications,
including some radio spots about the Net for 4BH.
I set up another Web site in 1998, Foreign Correspondent,
but have since transferred the ownership of this site
to staff at Griffith University. I have also run a
lot of training for journalists - workshops at the
Canberra Times, for journalists from the Asia Pacific
and for regional journalists in Australia.
like to try new things and new ways of doing things.
I also like to empower other people by showing them
new ways of finding and using information.
do you prefer to report on?
mostly write about the Internet - searching, software,
tips and tricks. I would be happy to do more technology
reporting and am also interested in business.
your professional and personal style?
but approachable. I expect a lot from students but
I give a lot back if people try. I aim high.
have been the highlights of your career?
my Courier-Mail column, getting other freelance work
commissioned, having journalists and students tell
me they value the work that I do, speaking successfully
at conferences such as the Mediating Globalisation
Conference, getting my book, Catch the Wave: find
good information on the Internet fast published in
has the Australian media landscape changed over the
years, in ways that have affected you the most?
think there is too much ill-advised opinion in papers
and not enough hard news. News is also too shallow
- concentrating on conflict, personalities, human
interest and not enough on the issues. Also not enough
background (facts, figures, statistics) is given to
help people make up their own minds - there is too
much 'he said, she said', most of which is achingly
predictable and doesn't advance knowledge. However
the growth of specialist sections has been good to
me since I have been able to find a niche.
do technologies like the Internet assist you?
are the basis of what I do.
freedom of the press in Australia?
the Australian public become more cynical of the media,
and is it deserved?
sections of the media such as A Current Affair etc
are a disgrace. Also news is just so shallow - the
supposed 'deep' analysis is often predictable too
- why not get in outside experts who really know their
media companies and individuals do you respect?
generally turn to the ABC for news, and also make
extensive use of the BBC and the UK Guardian. I enjoy
the SMH though I think it is much too concerned with
lifestyle. I respect anyone who tries to do a proper
job of reporting the truth.
are the pros and cons of new media blogs?
for tips, ideas, inspiration, new directions and so
on. They are also wonderful mechanisms for soliciting
feedback and collaboration. Cons would be self-indulgence,
and an inability to sustain the medium. Starting a
blog is easy - keeping it going, and keeping it interesting
and relevant is the hard part.
do you get your ideas from?
email newsletters, alerting services, newspapers -
and just constantly thinking 'what if
is it important to be unique, and to find your own
market is very crowded - you have to have a unique
selling point, or an angle to be noticed. And I am
not interested in being a clone - I have my own ideas
does one, or yourself, recognise real news from spin?
you have sufficient information to get a balanced
picture and to be able to draw your own conclusions,
then it's probably real news. If something is very
one-sided or superficially presented, glossing over
questions that need answering, or if it seems to be
just too much 'good news', then it's probably spin.
% of a typical Australian newspaper is PR?
does some media prefer to stay away from real news,
and run with spin? (I think I know the answer, but
I would like you to document your answer, if your
easier. Journalists are getting lazy. They don't want
to leave the newsroom and find stories - they want
stories to come to them. With the millions of words
pouring in to newsrooms each day from PR flaks and
press releases, the easy option is to reuse them.
It's harder for downsized newsrooms to find the time
- or the money - to allow a journalist to follow a
hunch. I also think it's a training issue - so many
journalists are clueless about information online
- where it comes from, which are the trustworthy sources,
how does one get reliable, deep background? If more
journos were trained properly, they could incorporate
those skills into their reporting.
is your local community a great source of real news?
it's about what happens, and the things that affect
"current affairs" programs pay for news?
but they probably will continue to do so - again it's
laziness. Once money comes in, who knows what happens
to accuracy - people getting paid for stories would
have a powerful incentive to invent information, or
'spice up' the facts.
"current affairs" programs engage in product
placement, under any conditions?
and certainly not without clear disclaimers.
your views of new car models being passed off as news?
the media business ever stop prostituting itself?
not the best person to ask.
do you make a positive difference in the media?
a good job. Be ethical and honest in your dealings.
are your current projects?
journoz Web log, and a new, practical book on incorporating
Web research and computer-assisted reporting techniques
into the daily round.
note: This journalist knows her stuff. If you want
real news, from someone who respects the craft of
journalism, and respects their readers, you need to
keep logging on to JournOz!