For my Hard News story, I attended the Ordinary Council meeting at Glen Eira City Council on April 26, 2016.

The news values relating to my piece are conflict, human interest and the prominence of the councillors.

My story would be appropriate in a local publication, such as the Leader. The issues all pertain to the people of the Glen Eira area and would therefore be irrelevant in a larger news publication that is available nation-wide.

My imagined audience is residents of the Glen Eira City area who feel as if there are not enough opportunities for their opinions to be expressed. The meeting was filled with middle-aged to senior citizens who expressed their dismay and dissatisfaction with their lack of power at various points during the meeting.

My story is of interest as it shows that the council has taken one step forward, but also a step back. They are attempting to make changes yet are holding back and taking a more conservative approach. Although the motion allows the public more say and gives more opportunities for public questions to be answered in the meetings, rather than just by email or phone appointment, the lost amendment is a low blow to those who were hoping to be able to speak their grievances during the meetings, where all councillors would be present to hear them.

I chose my sources based on their personal attributes as well as their prominence in the local community.

Cr Mary Delahunty, a former journalist, has a prominent presence in Australian politics. She is a retired politician with the Australian Labor Party and was a news journalist for both the ABC and Network Ten. This influenced my decision to include her quotes in my article. She was reliable and endearing and I thought she was very sensitive to many issues as well as concise and eloquent in her delivery. I was also very impressed, after researching each councillor, to see that she received a Gold Walkley Award for a story produced by Four Corners in 1983. I felt that her prominence would add an element to my story that would engage more readers. I mentioned to my grandparents, who are both nearing eighty, as well as my mum, who is fifty, that Cr Delahunty was present at the meeting. All knew her for different reasons – as a politician, a journalist, and a television personality over the years. This cemented my decision to include her as a main source in my story.

The news value of conflict was also important, as I wanted to show a balanced account of the meeting and share the opinions of more than just one councillor. This element of conflict would be pivotal as disagreements and tension often engages readers. Cr Delahunty and Cr Michael Lipshutz, both representatives of the Camden residents, disagreed on more than one occasion, although I did my best to remain impartial and unbiased. I used Cr Lipshutz as a source for two reasons. Firstly, he was outspoken and passionate about his beliefs. He has also served as President of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria and Chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission. His prominence with the Jewish Community led me to believe that more members of the public would read this article.

I was compelled to use Cr Oscar Lobo as a source due to his ethnic background, as he often spoke strongly of the need for democracy and his heavy accent and appearance led me to believe that he was an immigrant. He was raised and educated in Goa, India during Portuguese rule, and prior to migrating to Australia, lived in four different countries with his family. I felt that his opinions would appeal to others of a different ethnic background and that his comment did add to the story and expressed the need for uniformity.

My news story was not as solid as it might have been had I spoken to someone in the industry in order to find out the best sources possible. As I previously have had little to no interest in politics and legislative matters, I did little research prior to this task, as it simply did not excite me. It would have been helpful had I interviewed more people as to how they may have felt about the verdict, for example, if they were for the amendment but it wasn’t passed and vice versa; if they were against the motion that was brought forward, adding a human interest element to my piece. This would have really humanised each councillor in order to show that they truly care about the welfare of the residents and that their job is more than just a steady pay check.

I struggled with time management. I had the same unedited first draft ready for weeks, and didn’t realise until a few days before the due date that my approach was entirely wrong. I had to reformat and pick apart the entire article. I recognise that when working as a journalist I will have tight deadlines and will have to learn to manage my time accordingly.

Difficulties arose in researching and writing the piece. I had so much information on every item on the agenda at the meeting. I was originally going to write on another issue involving VCAT, but I ruled it out due to its complexity. It was beyond my understanding and I found it difficult to understand all the diagrams of the relevant properties and spaces that were discussed. I also had to relearn the Fairfax writing style as I had forgotten most of it since the Week 3 Lecture. Additionally, I had to make a conscious effort to not be verbose and to get straight to the point. I learned that drafting is an incredibly important part of the writing process, as it took me four drafts to finally feel content with the direction in which my story was going.

In the future, I have to plan my time out accordingly and ensure that I am always working, whether it be researching, writing or just interviewing. When I didn’t work on my story for a few days, I would forget what it was that I had to do next and found myself wasting a lot of time going over all my notes and the meeting minutes.

Overall, I found this assignment very enlightening as I now have an interest in legislative affairs. I also felt that the meeting was a combination of a courtroom, an auction and a debate. Although I previously associated these three aforementioned things with great anxiety, I felt completely engaged and interested in all topics and felt a great buzz just being in the room as it all unfolded – conflict and all.

By Simone West

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