The first thing I realised when beginning this assignment was that, despite my few contacts I had made for my earlier assignment, I was again starting from scratch. I was uncertain of how to find a ‘newsworthy’ story, and how to write about it in only 300 words. Through the process of seeking out my story, my understanding of how proactive a journalist must be, particularly in the beginning of their career, has grown.
Being in the earliest stages of my career, I have no professional reputation to fall back on, and had no contacts strong enough to yet consider bringing me a story. I have to be proactive, and prove my willingness and commitment.
My hard news story relates to the resignation of my local Council’s Mayor, Stefanie Perri.
Stefanie Perri made the announcement at the local council meeting that I attended on April 27.
As her resignation was effective from 9am the following day, timeliness was a big focus on my story. I wrote it with the idea that, were it to be published, it would come out within a few days after the announcement. While a new Mayor was elected by the Monash councillors within my deadline for this assignment, I chose to focus on Perri’s resignation as the topic of my hard news story and so wrote it as though Geoff Lake had not yet filled this vacancy.
I deemed this story newsworthy due to my belief that it satisfied multiple news values. In terms of proximity, Perri’s resignation directly impacted the local residents within the Monash City Council jurisdiction. As such, this news piece was written with the target demographic being those residents, with the intention for it to be published in a local newspaper such as the Monash Bulletin or Monash Leader.
The story was significant for my local community as I believe residents should be aware of who their mayor is. A change in leadership could bring a change in the focus and running of the council, and people have a right to know who they are being led by. The content would also appeal to locals with an interest in following the federal election, due to the knowledge that Stefanie Perri is a candidate for the seat of Chisholm.
Referenced in my story was some discontent towards the Monash council that has been growing recently. Living in the Monash suburb of Glen Waverley, I had heard some of these whisperings, particularly following the council meeting that took place in March this year that ran until around 2am. Therefore, I believed there would be extra interest in a change in the dynamic of the council.
The biggest difficulties I experienced completing this assignment was striving to achieve balance in my article.
In the beginning, gaining quotes was very achievable as I was able to quote Stefanie Perri directly from her resignation speech. Further, through gauging the reactions around me I could see how citizens were reacting to the news- the more public, the greater the chance of their willingness to speak to me.
I ended up sitting next to a particularly passionate local citizen, Noah McMahon, who was pleased with Perri’s announcement. Initially I had spoken to Noah about a different topic I was considering pursing, and taken down his details for that. Fortunately, Noah was also willing to speak to me about Stefanie Perri’s resignation. Noah ended up being quite an enthusiastic source with a strong civic interest, which made him a valuable contact for this story (and potentially stores in the future).
A challenge in achieving balance came from a lack of confidence. I had quotes from Ms Perri, and an opposing voice in Mr McMahon, but I did not have anybody vouching for Stefanie Perri. I was hindered by shyness, in approaching other citizens at the Monash council to find a balancing viewpoint. I wasn’t bold enough to search through the crowd for a balancing opinion. It is a necessary skill for a journalist, yet one that for me, is a work in progress.
I contacted multiple fellow Monash councillors and the Monash Women’s Business Network (established by Perri during her time with the City Council), as well as I sought comments via twitter and the council website in the hopes of finding a citizen I could reach out to for a comment, however was unsuccessful.
I conducted an interview with Cr Theo Zographos- a relevant source due to his close working relationship with Perri, and understanding of the processes behind public council meetings. Although I didn’t get a balancing comment, my article was improved through the insight into the processes of the local council regarding interim leadership protocols.
My enquiry into the Women’s Business Network facilitated balance in my article, through a response provided by Mayor Geoff Lake. Mayor Lake was a highly relevant source (elected as Perri’s successor within my assignment deadline), due to his position of leadership within the Monash Council, and intimate relationship with Stefanie Perri, as (formerly) fellow Councillors as well as employees within the economic development department of Monash Council.
This assignment was a big learning experience for me in sourcing a story, recognising if something is newsworthy, and the numerous behind-the-scenes processes that go into creating a hard news story- no matter the word count.