Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fromelles Fallen - An ABC News Special Presentation

I have to admit, before I started on this project I had no idea at all what a Fromelles was.

A village in France? OK, if you say so.

First combat seen by Australian forces on the Western Front in WWI? Makes sense I guess.

A complete cock up that saw the death and injury of over 5500 Aussie troops, at a time when Australia only had a population of 5 million? Oh, really? Hmm. That's not good.

So as this project went on, and the reporter, Tim Leslie, shared his obvious enthusiasm for the subject, it was hard not to become more and more intrigued by this story.

The end result is "Fromelles Fallen." A combination of video interviews, photo galleries, a timeline of the battle and extracts from the diaries of participants, this has been hard work, but a great experience.

Kudos to Tim Leslie, Ben Spraggon, Tim Madden and Jim Whimpey for their hard work, and to Aaron and Rudy Fedrick and Peter Dunstan who agreed to do interviews for us and fill us in on what it's like to have a relative who just disappeared during wartime.

I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My GenCon Oz schedule

What follows is what I've signed up to at this year's GenCon Oz.

As some of my friends and compatriots have mentioned, GenCon Oz is the type of event where you need a little flexibility in your schedule, so I probably haven't gone as tightly scheduled as I might otherwise. I've also not joined up for as many LARP events as I did last year, mainly due to the costuming and time required.

Don't worry Steve, I have signed up for yours (against my better judgement and sleep requirements).

A pity there weren't more Feng Shui sessions available, and minimal Shadowrun sessions available.

Anyway, if you want to join me in a game sign up quick! Early rego ends 31st August and sessions are filling up fast.

Game ID: RPG00028
System: Feng Shui
Event Duration (hours): 3.5
Event Start Date: 18-Sep-09 9:00 AM

Game ID: RPG00044
Title: RADIANCE: Lost Contact
System: Radiance
Event Duration (hours): 4
Event Start Date: 18-Sep-09 2:00 PM

Game ID: RPG00040
Title: Valley of Diamonds
System: D&D
Event Duration (hours): 3
Event Start Date: 19-Sep-09 1:00 PM

Game ID: LRP00005
Title: Warhammer: Sunset Claws
System: Systemless LARP
Event Duration (hours): 3
Event Start Date: 19-Sep-09 7:00 PM

Game ID: CCG00006
Title: Shadowfist - Final Brawl - QLD Championship
System: Shadowfist CCG
Event Duration (hours): 5
Event Start Date: 20-Sep-09 12:00 PM

Game ID: CCG00007
Title: Shadowfist - Who Wants Some? Dueling comp
System: Shadowfist CCG
Event Duration (hours): 1
Event Start Date: All conference long

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

They're calling it Chasergate now? - A conspiracy theory

A whole bunch has been said about The Chaser and "that sketch".

The show has been put on hiatus for two weeks, the show's creators have publicly apologised and a number of high ranking positions at the ABC are looking increasingly shaky. The Prime Minister even weighed in when he should have been discussing Fitzgibbon.

Without wishing to belittle the issue or fail to take the whole thing seriously, let's wander into the realm of "conspiracy" for a moment (tongues planted firmly in our cheek). Please note this is entirely speculative, and more than a little fanciful. I don't know the Chaser team and have no personal insight into what may or may not have occurred.

The Chaser came back on air Wednesday 27th, with rave reviews over its ratings, if not its content. Then Spicks and Specks beat it the following night.

So the next week comes along, with the previous week's ratings winner up against a little known sports juggernaut known as the State of Origin. Without doubt, even with the two program's viewer bases being pretty well separated, there was always going to be a huge drop in ratings. So the Chaser boys figured they needed a water cooler moment and they needed it now. Hence, the sketch that launched countless complaints, became banned from view on the ABC, but became well and truly available via YouTube (as evidenced above).

If there's one thing the Chaser lads have shown they're good at it's understanding emerging media and making use of platforms other than TV to augment their shows. With a likely ratings drop ahead, and a possible international syndication deal, what better way to keep all eyes on them than with a skit that pushes the boundaries just a little too far, something everyone would be talking about the next day?

The reaction was obviously huge, and possibly a little more than anticipated, but you have to admit it would definitely be considered virally successful.

I floated this idea around the office and found it met with not a small amount of derision and dismissal. "Conspiracy theorist!" they joked. "Next you'll be saying they're secretly working with Elvis." Yeah, fair cop I figured. I mean, the whole incident was enough to push the Chaser team to unreservedly apologise to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and for the ABC to pull the Chaser off-air for a fortnight, returning the 24th of June. Despite what can only be described as creating an air of anticipation to see what they come up with upon their return, it seemed like the kind of response you couldn't, or wouldn't, script regardless of the publicity.

Then I started thinking, "hang on, isn't there some other event on the 24th?"

Of course! State of Origin 2.

[See also "Mumbrella: Why the Chasergate furore is bout the future of the ABC"]

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How does Chk-Chk-Boom change News Video online?

Let's talk Clare.

By now anyone invloved with the media in Australia should be aware of Clare “chk chk BOOM” Werbeloff and the Nine News raw video that shot her meme to super Internet stardom. Here it is for those who missed it.


I've been following the whole thing for a while now, when a colleague alerted me to the video as "best vox-pop ever". Since then we've seen claims of conspiracy, a publicity stunt, a hoax , the birth of a Facebook Fan page, even merchandise highlighting Clare's inane comments.

Jen Dudley outlined her concerns in her blog (a little tongue-in-cheek I suspect) that it seemed we just couldn't trust what we saw on YouTube anymore, that every meme needed to be viewed through a far more cynical filter looking for the hoax angle.

Now, I love a good meme as much as anyone and I love watching how these things grow and mature. I also love how the internet provides the tools for a meme to not only thrive, but also allow the means for it to be fact-checked and verified almost as easily. But let's step away from the viral nature of this video, or the absurd celebrity status of Ms Werbeloff, and instead believe that this clip was a purposefully created news story, shot and edited by one of this nation's more credible news resources. If so, it highlights some serious shortcomings in the way broadcasters can make news video available online.

The thing that bothered me from the start was the quality of the vox pops. Quite apart from the less than eloquent Clare and her fanciful retelling of the events, the entire story is related to us through the drunken rantings of apparent onlookers who want to make sure we realise that, whatever actually happened, there was "no need for it, eh" and that the gun was "awesome"! We do get a 10 second slab at the end of the clip showing police grappling someone on the road, as if to prove the validity of everything we've just been subjected to for the last minute and a half.

But where's the police statement? Where's the legitimate witness? Where's the obligatory police officer standing there spouting cop language to verify what happened? ("This evening at approximately 2am a male person of middle eastern appearance was allegedly shot by a second male person...) It beggars belief that a news organisation with the history and reputation of Channel 9 could have dropped the ball so badly on this one.

TV News is, by nature, pretty formulaic and any camera operator with some experience will know they're shooting for the nightly news. That means meeting certain expectations on what content is required to create a standard TV news story. To believe there was no official and credible evidence available to verify the story is a little concerning (What's more concerning is the notion this clip may have been made more "internet friendly" by removing its news credibility and turning it into entertainment instead).

Now, TV newsrooms have lived for years using an overnight skeleton crew of single operator camera guys and girls, either staff or stringers, just shooting footage of events while the rest of us sleep. They know there's plenty of time to get the facts together before the footage is finally seen by the public in an update or bulletin the next day. And that workflow is still valid in the environment we have in Australia where broadcast newsrooms are still cautious about "scooping" themselves, letting the footage out before the big money maker at 5/6/7pm. But if you're going to engage with the net enough to warrant a specific "9 Raw" watermark you have to think some thought has been put into this venture. If so, should we see newsrooms putting journalists on graveyard shifts to add editorial verification before this sort of content is put online? Or, and here's a crazy idea, should camera operators and editors be properly trained in editorial guidelines, just the same as journalists, so they can make informed editorial decisions on the run rather than expect they'll pick it up as they go? Camera operators are already having to ask questions in press conferences where a newsroom is unable to get a journo out in time, so why not train them properly?

Of course (stepping down from my high horse and getting back into my cynical suit), despite Occam's Razor it's difficult not to believe the whole thing was specifically created by someone to be what it is; tasteless, vulgar, and as entertaining as a car crash.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

[Edit - NineMSN's blog response to the hoax rumours]