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Tell it like it is: How the media has changed and why I have decided to re-open my blog

Prior to my career as an opinion writer / journalist in Australia, which began four years ago, I ran a successful poetic blog. My poems were political and a kind of social commentary and activism. But with this new demand for my opinion writing, I decided to close my blog’s doors. I was getting one to two articles published a week in major news sites, and so the need for my blog became redundant, because I was writing about topics I was passionate about.

But things have changed in the Australian news landscape – and across the world – and as readers of news, it’s important that you know how things have changed because it does affect you as a member of society.

Platforms such as Facebook and Google have sucked the advertising from news sites

Remember when Facebook was so simple, and you would post and all your friends could see it? Those days are gone. Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook for college students to socialise but today it is a money-making machine appealing to advertisers. So instead of paying to get TV commercials and spreads in print and online news sites, they are advertising to you directly every time you log into Facebook. And same goes for Google. It collects information about you when you search and it stores that information and uses it to sell to you.

With less income from advertisers, news sites have had to cut content

Have you noticed that there is a lot more white space on the home page of news sites? This is possibly a way in which these sites hide that there are less articles on the home page as opposed to how many there were a few years ago. Editors have had their budgets cut so where writers like me were getting one to two articles published a week, this output has steadily declined over the last few years to now sit at around one a month.

There is even less diversity in opinion writing than there was four years ago

Many freelance writers have had to start looking for work elsewhere which means we are losing a lot of great writers. With so much competition to get articles published, diversity has fallen down the priority list as news sites scramble for survival. What this means however is that our media is more whitewashed than ever.

News sites take their content from American sites and package it as their own

Another way news sites have cut costs is that some of their content now comes directly from overseas news sites, usually from America. This is called syndication, and what it means is that rather than paying an Australian writer to write an opinion article, they pay an American news site a smaller fee to republish their article. Syndication can be identified by scrolling to the bottom of the article where you will see ‘LA Times’ for example but the article was published in an Australian news site. The flow on affect from this is that less Australian voices are being heard and our content is becoming more Americanised.

Advertising is seeping into articles

Have you noticed there are more prominent ads on the homepage of news sites? With the competition from Facebook and Google, news sites have to offer more to their clients so they can continue to have their business. This includes having larger ads or offering what is called branded content. This is where advertisers may have articles written for them, by journalists, for news sites. These are articles usually identified as ‘sponsored by’.

Extreme views and more followers are more appealing than quality journalism

One of the ways news sites sell to advertisers is by showing them statistics on how many views they get across their sites. So clicks are very important. But what this means is that more extreme political or social commentating will appeal to news sites, yet this kind of commentating might not be what is most helpful to make our society better. Some examples are Andrew Bolt and Clementine Ford or Trump! Writers with a large social media following are also going to appeal to news sites as they will promote the article to their followers. These big names can become the cash cows of news, but this puts those writers in an extremely powerful position.

Why content going behind the paywall is really bad for society’s evolution

With advertising revenue decreasing, news sites have had to resort to putting their content behind a paywall and charging readers a subscription fee. But readers will tend to subscribe to news sites they politically align with and they won’t have access to other sites with views different from their own. If the left cannot read the right and the right cannot read the left, how are we supposed to learn from each other and evolve?

News sites don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them

Our government funded news sites will err on the side of caution when they publish content about the government in the same way that a news site will think twice about publishing an article that might offend their major advertising clients. We have just seen major funding of $84 million slashed from the ABC which came after fierce criticism from the government of its reportage. News sites have been put in a difficult position where they must be more vigilant than ever in an effort to fight for survival.

Don’t piss your editor off or you won’t be writing for that publication

Writers have less power than ever over their work as they scramble to be published in a market which is at overcapacity. It is even harder for writers to speak up if they have been treated unfairly by an editor, or if they have seen injustices in the media, and if they do they can very quickly be faced with getting barred as there are many more writers out there who will do what they are told.

So why start my blog up again and how can you help

I am still very passionate about writing opinion articles for major news sites and will continue to pitch my ideas to them. However, as a writer, I need an alternative platform to publish views that I know will never get published in the media because there just isn’t the money for it. As a reader, being aware of the issues above is especially important. I hope to open up my blog to other writers in the future. Support your news sites and support alternative sites such as this one in the hope for a better future. Also rally governments to subside journalism, and particularly our public broadcasters SBS and ABC, as we need their impartial journalism more than ever.

Like what you just read? You can buy me a coffee to say thanks! Or become a patron!

 

2018-05-21T19:41:07+00:00 May 21st, 2018|Writing|0 Comments

What I learned from the Handmaid’s Tale

The thing is, I’m just really sad since watching it
I know it’s only a TV show, a story, but it’s not, not really
I don’t know what to say other than I feel feverishly shit
My only appeasement to huddle like the handmaids do
Together with all the women in the world so we can cry in chorus
Even though we don’t trust each other
Compete in whispers to trample through the funnel for air
I started watching the series The Handmaid’s Tale at 10pm one night
I was conscious of the time and school drop off in the morn
Being a single mum, can’t afford too many late nights
But as soon as I saw Offred and her forced foetal offering
Her world controlled by Gilead’s Christian fundamentalists
(not ISIS, that’s Islamic fundamentalists which is different)
Her screams swallowed and gagged on until nothing came out
I couldn’t move, my gaze super-glued to her plight
And I couldn’t leave her alone trapped inside the TV
To be fucked between the Father and the Mother and the Holy Fucking Spirit
So I made the decision to stay up all night until I saved her
In the morn I woke exhausted having had no sleep and failed my mission
I told myself it was just a story by my favourite writer and poet, Margaret Atwood
I hadn’t read the book yet, and I was cursing myself that I should have by now
Margaret wrote her story in the 80s
But is it really a story or a terrifying premonition?
Sometimes fiction is just a stone’s throw away from fact
Or maybe a rendition of something we pretend isn’t happening
Thirty years later it seems the same issues are lingering
Except feminism and capitalism have morphed into some deformed monster
Or maybe that has always been the case
Margaret’s tale had me thinking back to my first poetry class
How I asked my teacher about rules and she told me there are none
I didn’t consider her a feminist as she was old and grey
But I guess she was because she showed me pages of writing by feminists
It was Margaret’s and Sylvia’s and Patti’s poetry that resurrected me
Their words had me question the cultural, sexual and religious repression
I had inherited like a birth right spawned from patriarchy
Never had I considered I had choices
I married when I was only a baby
So in poetry class I took to the notebook with bound hands
Wrote till blood soaked my clothes and I was considered mad
Sex poetry came out of me until I was labelled a slut
I like to be fucked so to men and the literati I made sense
I fought so hard to be free even my tears became blood
Wiped with the tissues of women I had never met wanting to be my friend
But I didn’t realise till I watched the last episode of The Handmaid’s Tale
Which was seven years after my emancipation
That my hands are still bound
Bashed, shoved, murdered, controlled, fucked in every way possible
I still exist under the foot of a man
The palace of patriarchy still reigns
Did anyone actually ever ask us
If we actually want to fulfil our biological destinies
Under His fucking Eye?
Margaret’s metaphor opens us up to consider
Gilead could happen even today
All that’s needed is some crazy man
With sexist, religious, racist beliefs
That has access to chemical warfare and bombs
To execute a Handmaid’s order
And suddenly Gilead is just a stone’s throw away from now
However, what I learned from the Handmaid’s Tale
Apart from how fucked the world was for Margaret
That she resorted to write such a disturbing and traumatising tale
Is how fucked the world still is today
But despite this, even in the most repressive circumstances
Where speaking up is punishable by death
The controlling power will push forbidden and wicked ways underground
But human nature is to fight even silently, to rise
And I learned that the resilience of women
The gender that bares the world in her womb then births it
Bleeds her dirty sin though her uterus and out of her vagina
Will find a slow, but gradual way, to an almost freedom
I also learned that Canada is the best country in the world
Even in the land of fiction, in the past and in the now
Especially when it comes to treating refugees
And every other country is pretty shit
It probably came as a shock of course
When white people were watching The Handmaid’s Tale
That the refugees where westerners (unlike today)
So they were probably relieved when Canada handed them
A phone card, money, clothes, food etc
Rather than a big fuck off and go back to where you came from
I don’t know how Margaret came up with this story
But it had me crying like a scared child
Longing to slash my wrists in the bathtub

This was first published in Tuck Magazine

2018-05-21T09:55:56+00:00 October 20th, 2017|Poems (R rated)|0 Comments