White, Roger (2009). Better Media; Your simple guide to better writing and reporting. Lane Cove: Dolphin Press.
This book like the commercial radio news that shaped it, is sharp, short and perhaps a little circumscribed.
The author, Roger White, is a radio pro, with a quarter of a century behind the microphone. He’s currently the State Political Editor for 2UE in Sydney.
It’s a labour of love. White said that he hoped it would be a basic, easy-to-understand and practical introduction to the industry. He began his career, not at university, but at a country radio station, 2WG at Wagga in NSW.
“Part of my role as a ‘journo’ was to walk around town, sitting down for a chat with the local police sergeant, fire crews or ambulance teams at their respective stations, sometimes over a coffee and a biscuit. So much has changed, with networked or ‘hubbed’ news services and media comment often taken out of the hands of the small town emergency services, replaced by central media teams, police, ambulance or fire ‘media units’.”
Outside of Sydney, where White now works, deregulation has allowed commercial radio newsrooms to become little more than shadows, relying on news packaged elsewhere. Local reporting is increasingly left to the ABC, which is equipping a new generation of reporters armed with recorders, digital cameras and laptops. These “field reporters” file text, audio, images and vision to the ABC’s growing online services.
However, the tips offered by White are still useful. Journalists still need to write clearly, accurately and quickly. They have to find angles and develop contacts. They must learn to ask questions.
This 122 page book is therefore useful to people starting out in journalism and might find a market with bloggers who realise that there’s more to the craft of writing than casual abuse. It might deliver better media however, offered in CD format, or even better online, so that the author’s expertise in audio could be more fully demonstrated.
But a book like this, even written by a pro, can’t begin to compare to doing a university course in journalism.
The best of the journalism schools offer degrees with more than a dozen journalism courses, each thirteen weeks long. Radio journalism is taught through broadcasting on community radio, which is not as tightly constructed as commercial radio, but which allows novice journalists to conduct longer more penetrating interviews. They also learn about law, ethics, advanced reporting and most recently multi media journalism, which folds audio, text, images and animation together to create the future of the craft.