REPORTING REFUGEES FOR ADVANCED BROADCAST JOURNALISM – REFUGEE WOMEN’S HEALTH

Reporting on female refugees and their experiences with the Australian health system was a valuable experience for both my journalism career and personally.

Extensive research was involved in this topic; particularly because there was a lot of information on the health system to piece together and it was often difficult to grasp a good understanding of.

The first step was to research the different health rights of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. We found a useful page from the parliamentary Library (2011) outlining the differences between asylum seekers and refugees in general and what each group is entitled to. Also from the Parliamentary Library was another page we used for information on history, facts and figures, and specific entitlements.

This page gave us a starting point and a firm understanding of the basic rules and regulations. It also helped form ideas for which direction we wanted our package to head in.

The Department of Health was another source we looked to for background research. The department’s page on refugees and the health system gave good insight into what rights refugees have when entering Australia and what illnesses and struggles they can encounter. Since the page focused solely on refugee women, we discovered interesting facts for use in our package, such as many migrant women experience a double disadvantage due to lower levels of English proficiency than male migrants, which impacts on the ability to access health related knowledge and health services, or that the adoption of Western diets and lifestyles and changed environments can accelerate the development of diseases and conditions in some groups.

In this assignment it was imperative we gained a full and complete understanding of the programs, services and limitations of the Australian Health System. The question in our minds was what do we offer, and what can we improve on? It wasn’t until speaking to the refugees themselves that we got a better understanding of the main concerns that they have with the system – being  difficulty with language barriers and navigating the health system. This helped piece our story together. A helpful paper collated by Foundation House  offered insight into why it is so important for these people to have an interpreter and the special health concerns of refugees. This paper supported the argument of the refugees we spoke to.

We found many of the refugee service sites suggested that a cultural respect framework or tool be developed to assist health policy makers and program managers more effectively address health issues for immigrant and refugee women.

After researching all this information, one struggle we had was an overflow of information – there were so many interesting facts and angles we could take that we simply had too much and therefore had to cut the package down significantly, focusing on just one or two key points. This was probably my biggest struggle, as I was quite attached to this story and missing out on facts I thought would interest audiences was a shame, but it was an important lesson – sticking to word limits or time limits will always be an issue I will encounter in my journalism career.

PRIOR PERSPECTIVES

Before this project I had limited contact with refugees in person. I often saw them reported on in the news, but there were no opportunities for me to engage with them personally. I did complete a story on an annual refugee breakfast at the University of Canberra for my job as a journalist at Monitor,  but was not actually required to interview the refugees themselves. Many of these refugees had such interesting stories from coming from their home countries, some sad, others happy, but all were deeply moving. I was pleased to get a chance to explore their lives further with this assignment.

ON ASSIGNMENT FOR #REPORTINGREFUGEES

I didn’t have a full understanding of refugees and their entitlements prior to this project; something I realised whilst researching. The portrayal of refugees and asylum seekers in the media is often in a negative light. Particularly in the John Howard era, they were usually portrayed as trouble-makers, a nuisance, invading our country, or put in the ‘too hard basket.’  (Sydney morning herald article, 2011) According to Jeniceck, Wong and Lee  (2009) many media articles rely on culturally racist and classist stereotypes of minorities to demonstrate the claimants’ legitimacy. Meanwhile, Kampmark (2006) believes there is an ‘Australian’ slant in the media towards refugees that demonstrates a subtle process of marginalization and exclusion based on notions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ refugees.

From this limited information I didn’t know enough to make a formed opinion myself. The reporting on refugees I saw was always quite distant and cold. Julie Posetti stressed the importance of talking to your talent rather than about them, and now I know why. I can’t say I had ever heard a story like the packages we did for this assignment.  It was always talking about what the “boat people” and the government’s policy, and refugees were put in the same basket as “the boat people.” They weren’t really ever treated like individuals. Despite their perils, I didn’t realise so many of them are just like us. They are too often seen as “the others”, or a “threat to Australian values and norms” (McKay and Thomas, 2011).

While researching for this assignment I realised I had misunderstood the differences between refugees and asylum seekers. I learnt there is actually a very clear difference to their entitlements and management but I (and others in my broadcast class) actually placed them in the same category.

Because of this I had assumed refugees would get limited entitlements to the health system (as asylum seekers do), but they actually get just as much as most Australians. It was instead the language barriers and cultural differences which weren’t really being addressed by the government, which perhaps defeats the purpose of these people having wide-ranging entitlements when these barriers prevent them from seeking medical help in the first place.

I learnt that the services available for refugees were wide-ranging but not “user-friendly” for people whose first language is not english. Even then many refugees do not have access to the internet or even know where to start when navigating the health system so it is extremely difficult for them. There are services that are available that can help, but unfortunately in Canberra the services available are quite limited  and are often small, voluntary groups who do not have the capabilities to handle large amounts of refugees (Department of Health, 2011).

Scholarly resources such as Hollifield and others (2002) support the argument that data about refugee trauma and health status are often conflicting and difficult to interpret.

Sadly, I feel there is still a stigma between Australians and refugees, an inequality that was explored in our package and supported by Chindu Day, one of the refugees we interviewed.

LESSONS FROM THE FIELD

First and foremost, this project has taught me to speak “to” refugees rather than about them. Another important lesson was altering my interviewing techniques when dealing with talent who have experienced trauma. We found the refugees we spoke to were extremely shy and cautious around new people, since they are often coming from extremely violent and disturbing backgrounds. They found it hard to trust people and were reluctant to speak about their experiences. Therefore getting to know your talent in this instance is key if you want them to open up to you. Simply thrusting a microphone in their face is not enough. When we found our talent, a group of female refugees working with the multicultural advocacy group, my ABJ partner Rafa Ehsan and I were invited to first meet with the multicultural advocacy counsellors, then attend a cocktail party the refugees had organised to familiarise ourselves with the women before interviewing them. Although they were shy at first, thanks to the relaxed, familiar setting the women begun to open up to us with casual chatter (understanding we weren’t just out for a good story, we actually wanted to hear what they had to say and help them). This made it easier for us to return the next day for the interview and we got much more warm, natural responses than we might have had by just turning up on the day, interviewing them and then leaving. There is also the misunderstanding that refugees just want to “complain’ or speak about sad experiences – many of them are the opposite, wanting to talk about the positive side of their experience, for example how happy they are to be here and how nice people have been. They are so often portrayed in the media as people to feel sorry for, so many of them seemed keen to steer away from that stereotype.

Next time I am assigned with a story like this, I will ensure I am well prepared beforehand. There is a lot of research involved in a topic of this nature, and it is quite complicated, so it is very important to get your facts right. If you only know half the information, your story will reflect this. I think we did the research required so our story benefited from it.  

Next time I also won’t worry so much about accents – although I could understand her, I was concerned the audience wouldn’t understand my talent because she had a strong accent. However Ginger said this is often only a concern of mainstream media and quite a racist view by them – since we are such a multicultural country we should embrace it and not shy away from using the more experienced person with an accent, as it is assuming our audience aren’t educated.
Overall this project gave me an excellent insight into the lives of refugees. It was rewarding and assisted with my interviewing techniques, research techniques, vocal techniques and general knowledge.

REFERENCES

Briskman, Latham and Goddard, (2008) “Human rights overboard: seeking asylum in Australia”, Journal of refugee studies. (http://jrs.oxfordjournals.org/content/22/4/539.short).

Hollifield and others (2002) “Measuring trauma and health status in refugees – a critical review”, the JAMA. (http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/288/5/611.short).

Jeniceck, Wong and Lee (2009) “Dangerous shortcuts – misrepresentations of sexual minority refugees in the post 9/11 press”, Canadian Journal of Communication. (http://cjc-online.ca/index.php/journal/article/viewArticle/2119)

Kampmark, B. (2006)‘Spying for Hitler’ and ‘Working for Bin Laden’: Comparative Australian Discourses on Refugees”, Journal of refugee studies. (http://jrs.oxfordjournals.org/content/19/1/1.short)

Mckay and Thomas, (2011) “‘It would be okay if they came through the proper channels’: community perceptions and attitudes towards asylum seekers in Australia,” Journal of refugee studies. (http://jrs.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/10/22/jrs.fer010.short)

TOC |next page

Click here to view a (very draft) example of my site – its just the bare minimum at the moment!

Along with the serious stuff, my site will offer advice, opinion pieces, and fun, light-hearted features for my target audience; to act almost like a reliable friend they can visit each day; not one who will ditch you if you wear the same top as her.

At my high school, the girls were bigger bullies than the boys. After a few days of beating eachother up, the boys would usually shake hands and go on being friends as normal. But the girls, they would stew and plot and remain bitter for months, if not years.

But it’s not just me. The girls I have spoken to who have experienced this in their lifetime are countless. Which means a number of girls are experiencing this right now – and are desperate for an outlet to escape their isolation, to know that they are not alone.

Further examples of topics I will write about:

-‘Why are we so body-curious?’

-‘First date advice you can’t go past’  

-‘The art of being invisible’

-‘How to host a party that gets attention for all the right reasons’

-‘How to find out if he likes you’

-‘How to talk to guys’

-‘Drinking sussed out – the pros, the cons,  and the just plain wrong’

-‘Facebook crimes you could be guilty of – how not to be the most annoying facebook friend’.

I’d like some of these stories to have input from teen girls themselves, their experiences etc.

Permanant featured pages on the site will be:

-Life

-Love

-Lessons (first hand accounts/experiences/lessons learnt for this week – this will be contributed by readers/guest writers who are teens).

-Fashion

-Beauty

-Hot deals this week

-What’s on (events in your area)

After further research I discovered my target audience of boys and girls for an online media enterprise was too broad. By targeting boys and girls I would be creating market dissonance, alienating either the girls or the boys.

After looking at sites like Rookie and Frankie, I discovered there were more sites for teen/young girls than I initially thought, but there is still room for more. These sites are targeted at more ‘indie’, festival-going, older girls, but what about the younger, girlier, shyer girls? This is the market I want to focus on.

After further analysis, I decided to narrow down my audience even further – young girls aged 13 – 20. Shy, ‘girly’ girls who may not yet have the confidence to talk about personal issues with their parents or friends, but would prefer remaining anonymous behind their laptops.

Once I gained further insight into my target audience, the issues I wanted to explore on my website became clearer. Body image, alcohol, and bullying were still there, but other issues such as contraceptive methods (like the pill), how to tell if a guy likes you, and ‘the art of becoming invisible’ at school.

At some point every teenage or young girl will find herself alone, confused, or wondering where her life is going. It’s a part of the growing up process – you’re never sure what lies ahead. Therefore, there should be enough of my target audience to ensure this site is successful, because it something every teen girl can relate to.

It’s a known fact that most teenagers and young people these days are technically-savvy. 93% have a facebook or twitter page or go online, and they spend at least 3o hours on the internet per week. Why wouldn’t they visit this site while they’re scrolling through Facebook, downloading music, or studying? Our site subscribers will be allowed to comment on the site and interact/debate, something teenagers love doing. They are often eager to be being heard, listened to, as so much of their life they are not being taken seriously. (I know this from being one myself once).

Things I can offer that haven’t already been covered by youth sites:

-There will be new stories up every hour until 10pm – keeping the audience interested and coming back.

-If the audience ‘like’ this site on Facebook or follow it on Twitter it will ensure we are interacting with them and advertising any new stories, inviting them to read it. This could mean the site will become popular through both word of mouth and social media interaction.

-Different categories: not only Life, Love, Issues, Reviews, Fashion, Features and Celebs but also Sub-categories on the side-bar such as: competitions, daily discounts, and upcoming events for each state (not just Sydney or Melbourne, like most other sites).

I believe that all of the above is enough to keep my target audience interested, and from narrowing my target audience down I can confidently say that my audience will be faithful to the site and continue to visit on a daily basis. Because of this I believe my area of interest will be successful in its participation and intervention into the online world, as it will have enough of an audience to keep it going, covering relevant issues that cater directly to them.

Click here to view examples of articles for my site.

Click here to view a (very draft) example of my site – its just the bare minimum at the moment!

‘Sexting’ is an issue that is highly topical and has been covered by many media outlets in the past few months, triggered by a number of A-list celebrities’  own sexting scandals. If you don’t know already, ‘Sexting’ is when someone takes a sexually explicit photo of themselves – and texts it.

The latest celeb to get caught sexting is Scarlett Johanson, whose nude photos were supposedly leaked by an unknown hacker.

One of the first media outlets to break this story was the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 September 2011. The article was shared on Facebook 165 times and had 55 re-tweets on Twitter.

ABC News then followed suit later that same day – which was surprising, given their tendency to steer clear from celebrity gossip. Ninemsn was next, taking the angle of surprise that ‘sensible Scarlett’ took the nude pictures in the first place.

One of the sites I’m following for my ‘youth’ site, Mamamia, tracked the issue on 16 September 2011 and also referred readers to their previous article on a fellow A-lister who got caught sexting, Black Lively, asking “why would you sext?” The article received 5 shares on Facebook and 8 re-tweets.

The story was then followed up again on 20 September with a fresh angle; that the story (or pictures, rather) was amongst the most googled topics for the week. 1,000 people liked the story on Facebook and 3 people re-tweeted it.

Sydney Morning Herald covered the issue again on 22 September with a different angle – a frank and ‘feminist’ view by Clem Bastow, saying that celebrities like Scarlett are after all, human, and naked photos can happen. A very different angle to the folks at Mamamia. This article was shared 5 times and re-tweeted ten times.

Scarlett then broke her silence on the photos on 29 September, saying that she was enlisting the help of the FBI to track who leaked the photos. International Business Times covered the story in their entertainment section. The Daily Mail posted a similar story only minutes later.

Now begs the question: why is this story popular in the media? Well it’s pretty obvious. These are extremely private, personal photos taken by high profile people, away from the structure and formality of red carpet events where we usually see them. It’s in their own home;  and they’re vulnerable. Most people love seeing A listers get brought crashing down to earth with an embarrassing slip-up. It shows they’re human too.

This story is relevant to my area of interest because ‘sexting’ is highly popular amongst young people, as well as celebrities. Many teens  have engaged in the act despite the embarassment faced by people like Scarlett who have done the same. As mentioned before there has been a lot of coverage on sexting and the perils that can come with it.  Harmless fun or dangerous act? This is the debate so often explored by the media. I would like to explore it too for my audience, but in a different way. Perhaps a couple of stories from teens who have actually participated in sexting, one who has had a good experience and one who has experienced the dangers of sexting – with the photo coming into the wrong hands. This will hopefully spark a debate amongst readers who will be invited to share their experiences and views on sexting.

We have been asked to critically examine research on who our target audience is.

To begin with I looked at a Social Policy Report on the Impact of Youth Issues. This is a fairly comprehensive report, and looks at everything from impacts on audiences to channels of distribution.

Focusing on target audiences, survey and interview data in this report reinforced the assumption that young people are a primary target audience for the majority of youth media organisations discussing youth issues. The report states: “of the survey respondents, 91% target youth as a primary audience. Only nine percent of survey respondents do not include young people as a target audience, and instead target adults and/or policymakers” (p.11-4).

However, the report also claims that “50% of survey respondents said that both youth and adults make up their primary target audience. In some cases, this is because organisations are seeking to reach as many audience members as possible and are less concerned with the exact makeup of their audience. In other cases, the explicit goal behind including both youth and adult audiences is related to promoting dialogue across age groups.”

The report states that common secondary audiences for media organisations targetting youth issues are “adults who work with youth or are concerned with youth issues, such as educators, parents, social workers, youth workers (including adults working with teens in foster care and juvenile hall), and policy makers” (p. 11-5).

The most common form of content I found in my area of interest, youth issues, were websites and blogs for the ‘concerned parent’. The topics are grim: suicide, eating disorders, unwanted pregnancy, and so on.

“Why is my teenager acting like this?”; “Teenagers behaving badly”; and “My teen won’t talk to me!”

Many of these sites are in the form of forums, where a concerned parent will write in their problems with their troubled teen and in most cases an expert would answer their concerns. In ther cases, other parents can join in and add their advice.

All in all, these sites are talking about the youth rather than talking to them, and are thus not targeted to the youth, but rather, the parents.

But why is this? Well, according to some parenting sites, parents are the ones that want to talk about these issues, not the teenager. We’re told the teenager will not seek advice themselves because they can’t recognise their actions until they are much older. Or, according to popular belief and trashy current affairs shows, they’re out partying and simply couldn’t care less.

I beg to differ. Teenagers have loads of questions – questions about their changing bodies, questions about their sexuality, questions about their future. Those awkward (but important) questions that almost every teenager must face at some point. So why aren’t there more outlets for teenagers to ask these sticky questions?

Given the amount of time the average teen spends on the computer per day; I’m surprised there’s not more forums dedicated to teenagers who want to seek help themselves. I would have no doubt these ‘troubled’ youths would seek the internet’s help over the embarrassment of approaching their parents, friends or a counsellor. The internet’s always been there for them; from every YouTube hit, every download, every Facebook post. So why not seek help on a site like this, where you are free to remain anonymous but ask for genuine advice?

In summary, there were far less sites for teenagers themselves, and more for the parents of teenagers – but this is something I believe should turn around, and soon.

Sources I will be using/contacting for my site:

For youth statistics, issues, etc – this site collects and disseminates issues on the youth of Australia – particularly social issues.

http://www.acys.info/

Information for young women on health, mental health, etc. Has interesting articles that I can use as a good talking point.

http://www.wchm.org.au/

For upcoming events my target audience would be interested in:

http://www.vmusic.com.au/gigs/search?gclid=CPaXv7Hs-qoCFYU3pAodLAmt1w

Most of the ‘youth’ love hearing about celebs. I might post a few stories from this website source that might spark their interest:

http://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/famous/

I would talk to these people if I want some balanced, factual quotes on youth issues, stats, etc.

http://www.acys.info/

Funny videos my target audience would like (I want to have one video each morning to brighten up their day/make them laugh.

http://www.funnyordie.com/

Changes in government to youth policies: (e.g centrelink payments etc).

http://youth.act.gov.au/cms/

The majority of my target audience aren’t exactly cashed up – so this is a site I would regularly source hot deals from and mention my site. There are deals on fashion, makeup, pampering, dinners, drinks etc:

http://www.grabone.com.au/canberra

It’s important to note I want to make my site to talk to the youth, not at it, or dictate/lecture. So, I want input from my readers. Comments will be available on each story and I would want someone from the website to reply every so often if there ate questions etc. I’d also want some guest bloggers between the ages of 17-25 with some real life experiences, reviews, funny stories, etc. So to summarise, the ‘youth’ will be my sources too.


Since I found it difficult to find a large amount of websites on my area of interest, youth issues, it was even more difficult to find a scholar who regularly engages with the online world or commentates on the issue.

I did find one interesting article by Media commentator Mike Males, writing for website ‘Fair‘ – a site dedicated to challenging media bias and censorship. Males regularly writes about youth issues, and in this particular article  he speaks of the media myths surrounding teenagers – something I wanted to touch on also in my site.

It looks at the way various big-name publications and news agencies depict youth:

“Unplanned pregnancies. HIV infection and AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases. Cigarettes, alcohol and drug abuse. Eating disorders. Violence. Suicide. Car crashes.”

The 21-word lead-in to a Washington Post report sums up today’s media image of the teenager: 30 million 12- through 19-year-olds toward whom any sort of moralizing and punishment can be safely directed, by liberals and conservatives alike. Today’s media portrayals of teens employ the same stereotypes once openly applied to unpopular racial and ethnic groups: violent, reckless, hypersexed, welfare-draining, obnoxious, ignorant.

And like traditional stereotypes, the modern media teenager is a distorted image, derived from the dire fictions promoted by official agencies and interest groups.”

The article effectively manages to get a good honest grasp of the media industry and its tendancies to lean towards the stereotypical “teenagers out of control” view we always get to see on such shows as “a current affair”.

It is a balanced article with solid facts and statistics supporting its arguments that goes against what the more sensational news outlets claim about youth pregnancy, drug use and alcohol.

We have been asked to provide a critical summary of who (individuals and media outlets) is publishing material in your area of interest. Aka, our competition.

Upon a quick search of google, I didn’t find much on youth issues in general.

The sites that did come up were either helpful advice for parents of troubled teens containing bleak statistics on drug use, alcohol abuse and more; or bubbly sites – where the biggest, most groundbreaking issue of the day is whether Justin Bieber wears lipstick or not.

The good sites were few and far. ‘Tuneinnotout’ was the only site I found that seemed to be heading in the right direction – a good range of youth topics, clear and easy to use, real stories from real teens. The issues are still quite serious though – eating disorders, suicide, bullying. Although I want to explore these issues too, I’m hoping to offer a bit of light relief.

Now at first I was worried with my search results, because I thought this meant I was barking up the wrong tree – maybe there was no demand for the type of site I’m looking at producing, hence no sites – it seemed to be either one extreme or the other. But my tutor suggested I should stick with it because it might be a good sign there’s nothing out there yet – I could (hopefully) pave the way, or test the waters, if you will.

Searching for my competition made me realise I have a lot of work to do though: since youth issues is a bit broad, I need to think more about the exact age of my target audience, and the age group I’m talking about.

I felt I had to reconsider who I was talking to. Now I’m hoping to create a one-stop site for the ‘older’ youth, rather than the concerned parent (given that I’m not a concerned parent, I thought it best to stick with what I know).  I’m thinking more the 17-25 age bracket. I’m talking relationships, body image, crazy news stories, videos, etc. Maybe aimed more at the girls – but hopefully the guys can get a laugh out of it too.

This is the age group that is perhaps the most easily influenced by negative media portrayals and social media bullies. Maybe a site like this will be a welcome companion.

I’m thinking kind of like a mini mamamia.– for the younger audience. Who, by the looks of google, appear to be crying out for something in the middle of scared parents and Bieber-fanatics.