Each month I spend an extra Wednesday night at work, gladly hanging out with an excellent, interesting group of people: JNI’s Community Voices crew.
In an industry where long and weird hours are normal it hardly counts as an imposition, but in this situation both the company and the activity are real standouts.
Community Voices hit the ground running at the start of 2021. As I wrote earlier this year, JNI undertook to develop the media skills of a selected group of culturally diverse community representatives. It was a lateral way to respond to mainstream news organisations that continue to fall short of representing contemporary Australia, and journalists’ perennial cry of ‘but I can’t find the talent’.
With partners Media Diversity Australia, we embarked on a training program that’s part skills development, part environmental familiarisation, part introductions to key people like editors, and with the benefit of iterative learning over time.
Now as we plan for Community Voices session seven it’s time to give you an update. Here are the half time highlights, as it were.
Insights from the experts
Early on, the Community Voices met and heard from senior media executives from The Australian, the ABC, and Nova Entertainment in a personal, intimate setting about how the news is made. They spoke with different newsroom editors and senior journalists about the way news teams make daily story choices. They heard from communications experts about how to pitch stories into media.
Each session, the Community Voices practiced new skills: writing headlines, points for press releases, mock interviews on camera and in front of their peers. They’ve practiced conversational interviews in studio settings with community radio programs.
Increased screen time
Community Voices project manager and lead trainer Jim Carroll arranged for group members to join the audiences for Q&A and Insight, which was as up close and personal with mainstream media as most participants had been.
The media can be a tough arena, so Community Voices discussed techniques for managing media and social media from culturally diverse leaders. They learned how to plan for and manage the personal effects of media interaction and a public profile from media trauma experts DART Centre.
Hit the ground running
It’s fortunate the Community Voices have had all this and more in the first six months of the program. Very quickly they came into demand as the news cycle turned.
- Amar Singh was in ‘high rotation’ across many outlets when repatriation flights from India were paused.
- Joy Adani spoke about women facing domestic violence on a recent Insight program.
- Jeffery Wang appeared on SBS news after Taiwan was excluded from the WHO.
- Basim Al Ansari featured in an SBS TV story and on SBS Radio Arabic on the COVID-19 lockdown in Sydney.
There have been happy stories too: Daniel Gobena spoke at length about his community’s garden on Gardening Australia, and Amar again on community-based disaster relief activities.
Others have had their first media experiences with 2SER and FBi Radio on a range of topics, from Refugee Week to teaching democracy and civics, religious freedoms, mental health in the African community, endometriosis, and migrant support for Reconciliation.
It’s been exciting to see the Community Voices participants grasp this program with both hands, and watch them meet and exceed expectations. Just as importantly, they’ve become a peer group learning with and from each other as they stretch themselves on unfamiliar ground. Each session they leave wanting more and return hungry for new experiences. And with each media appearance they cheer each other on.
I can’t wait to see their progress through the remainder of the program.
Andrea Ho is the Institute’s Director of Education.
She was previously Head of Planning for the ABC’s Regional and Local Division, with executive responsibility for a broad portfolio including emergency broadcasting, diversity and inclusion, content collaboration, workforce development, and technology partnerships for teams in 56 locations.
She has a deep interest in striving for media to reflect and include all Australians, and in 2016 completed a Churchill Fellowship, researching practical strategies for increasing diversity in broadcast media.