Valentine’s Day: How small businesses can prepare for the busiest days in their calendar

The impending anniversary of St Valentine is a chance for people to show how much they and value that special person in their lives – and a time when consumer demand for products such as chocolates and flowers spikes.

SMEs around the country have been busy preparing for the romantic holiday on January 14 in a bid to shares in the millions that Australians spend on flowers and chocolates each year.

Flower retailing in Australia was worth an estimated $716.6 million last year while the specialty chocolates sector is worth a cool $307.5 million, according to research by IBISWorld.

Sherpa is a new Uber-style courier service operating in major cities across Australia and the business is anticipating 3000 flower deliveries will be made using its service between February 12 and 14.

The startup, which allows members of the public to use their own vehicles to make deliveries within 10km of a central business district, estimates 30% of its deliveries are for flowers alone.

Sherpa co-founder Ben Nowlan said in a statement the fact Sherpa delivers seven days a week will also give it an edge this Valentine’s Day.

“We’ve built up a fantastic relationship with florists all over the country … some of our drivers are earning their income almost entirely from deliveries from local florists, which must make it one of the best jobs around,” he said.

“With Valentine’s Day falling on Sunday this year, we are calling on all of our drivers to be prepared to put in extra hours to meet the increased demand in weekend deliveries.”

Man with roses

Another popular choice for Valentine’s Day is chocolates, with Noosa Chocolate Factory co-founder Chris Thomson bracing for a hectic weekend of trade.

“[We’ve been preparing since] probably mid-December last year and the reason for that is we need to select our chocolate moulds in time and come up with a Valentine’s Day campaign a couple of months ahead,” Thomson told SmartCompany this morning.

“The actual chocolate is only made two weeks ahead to ensure it’s as fresh as possible.”

This Valentine’s Day Noosa Chocolate Factory will be stocking 1000 hand moulded and hand painted chocolate hearts  – with each taking a painstaking 16 minutes to make.

Chocolate Hearts

“You want to make sure you’ve sold them all before Sunday, they’re very low margin with the work that goes into each product,” Thomson says.

“You always hope that when someone comes in to purchase a few hearts that they purchase more from our regular lines.”

Thomson says Valentine’s Day is a big event for his business, almost as big as Easter, and being organised for the events is crucial.


Thomson’s top tips for businesses to prepare for times of high demand:


1. Be organised

For Thomson, preparing for a peak trading time takes around two weeks of planning what products are going to be made for any event, from which promotional marketing is decided upon.

“Before every event we team up with a local business designer so that marketing materials can be done… the designer we had for this Valentine’s Day did some quirky eye catching designs for our little gift cards,” he says.


2. Forecast sales

Anticipating the your business’ sales levels to avoid having a stock surplus is crucial, Thomson says.

“With chocolate you obviously don’t want to make too much, you need to read how busy it’s going to be,” Thomson says.

This is especially the case with chocolate Valentine’s Hearts, which Thomson says are not going to sell well after February 14 has gone.

“But no matter how much we make, every year we almost sell out anyway,” he says.


3. Consider extending trading hours

Thomson has extended trading hours at each of his four retail stores, keeping them open until 8pm every night this week, except Sunday when they will close at 6pm.

He anticipates the final two hours before trading closes on Sunday will be extremely busy for sales, potentially bigger than any other year due to Valentine’s falling on a Sunday.


4. Capitalise on the day

Like Sherpa, Noosa Chocolate Factory will be reaping the rewards of Valentine’s Day falling on a Sunday.

With most people finishing work on Friday afternoon, this will leave two days for them to buy their Valentine’s gifts, with Thomson expecting Saturday to be a busy day of trade.

Being available on the weekend also gives your business an edge over competitors who choose to close on Saturday and Sunday, he says.


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 12, 2016

Why giving is good for business: TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie shares six steps for building a global social enterprise

For entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie, the act of giving is fundamental to business success.

Mycoskie is the founder of popular ethical shoe brand TOMS and during a visit to Melbourne this month, he advocated for continuing cohesion between business and philanthropy.

The 39-year-old is attributed with pioneering the one-for-one business model: for each pair of TOMS shoes purchased, a pair is given to a child in need.

“Giving doesn’t just feel good it’s good for business and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Mycoskie says.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the TOMS brand, which Mycoskie founded in 2006 after rising to notoriety on US television show The Amazing Race as the contestant who caused his team to lose the million-dollar prize by just four minutes.

TOMS now gives away shoes in 60 countries and according to The Guardian, the company was valued at $US625 million ($890 million) when private equity group Bain Capital purchased a 50% stake in 2014.

Speaking at an event to launch a partnership with Australian NGO Save the Children and the Australian Olympic Committee, Mycoskie shared the story of how TOMS started and his top tips for an ethical business.


1. Use entrepreneurship and business to solve the problem

TOMS began when Mycoskie took a month off to visit Argentina, after spending between 80 and 100 hours a week launching an online driving education company. While on holiday, Mycoskie spent a day donating used shoes to children in Argentina.

The day felt initially heart-warming but Mycoskie says it led to pangs of guilt.

“What happens when people stop making donations? When there’s a hurricane or a tsunami and people are putting their efforts for that?” Mycoskie says.

For these children, who would need new shoes almost every five months from growth spurts, one random donation would not suffice.

Mycoskie used his business background to consider the shoe business, the basic maths involved and the significant mark-up that would allow consumers to buy a pair of shoes for themselves and fund a donated pair.

This sparked the TOMS philosophy: shoes today shoes tomorrow.


2. One-for-one is a human idea

The concept behind TOMS shoes, of being able to buy something and help someone at the same time, is a very human idea that transcends geographical boundaries, according to Mycoskie.

“It’s not a Californian idea, it’s not an American idea, it’s not an Australian idea it’s a human idea,” he says.

Just a year after starting the venture, 10,000 pairs of TOMS had been sold.

“Today we’ve been able to give 50 million pairs of shoes,” Mycoskie says.

“The reason we’ve been able to grow and evolve is because I believe humans truly want to help one another.

“I believe that given the choice between purchasing something where there’s going to be profit on the bottom line versus one that can be caring for the planet and its people they will make that choice.”


3. It doesn’t have to be a big idea

Mycoskie is often asked for his “epiphany moment” for when the notion for TOMS struck him but he says a winning idea doesn’t have to be particularly big.

“Often times when a business has success things get kind of mythical and the truth is it wasn’t a big idea,” he says.

“It was a very small idea: wanting to help 250 kids. And had it only stayed that way and had it only helped those 250 kids, it still would’ve been awesome.”

“The truth is had it not worked it still would’ve been an idea worth creating.

“When I think back to the life-changing moment that everyone wants to talk about, it wasn’t the idea, it was actually when we first went to deliver the shoes to the village.”

4. Your personal brand matters

“Giving feels good…and that in itself is a reason to do it,” Mycoskie says.

“Giving incorporated in an authentic can have a positive impact on your business and your personal brand.”

Mycoskie believes spending on traditional advertising is not necessary: if your story is important, your supporters will tell your story.

“What we found is our customers became our marketers, no one who wore a pair of TOMS in that first year or two didn’t tell our story,” he says.

“We didn’t ask them to but they were proud to tell the story.”

5. Have a purpose

“Business is all about people and how you can track, retain and motivate and what I’ve found is the best way to keep people motivated is to give them a purpose and not just a pay check,” Mycoskie says.

By having a vision to be a for-profit social enterprise business, TOMS is able to keep consumers invested in the TOMS mission.

“We have a purpose beyond profit,” Mycoskie says.

6. One-for-one becomes one-for-something

The future of TOMS is now in not only donating pairs of shoes, but offering other services, such as vaccinations or eye surgery.

TOMS are now manufacturing in many of the countries where the giving takes place, thereby adding an additional aspect of supporting social enterprises, something Mycoskie hopes other businesses will adapt.

“When you make your life about something that is more than your own personal gain then people want to partner with you, they want to see you be successful,” he says.


Originally published on SmartCompany on January 27, 2016.

STEM professionals over the age of 45 stereotyped at work: Survey

Half of all professionals in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics professions are stereotyped as “resistant to change” based on their age.

The Wasted Potential survey, conducted by Professionals Australia, reviewed the workplace experience of STEM professionals over the age of 45 and found 16.6% of respondents received “less favourable” treatment on the basis of their age.

Almost a fifth of professionals reported they had been sidelined for promotions due at least partially to their age, with close to a quarter stating their employer was less likely to invest in development for older staff compared to younger staff.

Of the 1671 STEM professionals surveyed, 18.1% worked in companies with less than 100 employees, 19.97% worked in companies with 101-500 employees and 61.93% worked in organisations with more than 501 employees.

Chris Walton, chief executive of Professionals Australia, told SmartCompany this is the first time his organisation has conducted research about mature workers in STEM fields and the report highlights a culture of stereotyping.

“Essentially you’ve got incredibly skilled staff that are both critical for the business – particularly who we surveyed with STEM skills – which are clearly essential to business with digital disruption and yet these very people who are surveyed are not having an opportunity to develop the next generation and are leaving early,” he says.

“The Prime Minister has described the importance of Australia’s future relying on an ideas boom to drive productivity and innovation… critical to that innovative future will be STEM staff and yet this report shows we are not developing the next generation of STEM professionals.”

The report shows 41% of respondents report their employer does not currently offer development or training for mature-age professionals.

Eve Ash, psychologist and chief executive of Seven Dimensions, told SmartCompany businesses shouldn’t assume that age is an issue when it comes to training and career advancement.

“Everything needs to change because people bring different qualities and experience to work and we can no longer assume that because someone is older they are incompetent…  in fact it’s often the opposite,” she says.

“I think there is an issue that people who at any age need to be really open to learning and open to change otherwise they will be left behind because you’ve got to keep up and you’ve got to be really enthusiastic about what’s changing….and that’s why especially in those professions there are competency professional development points to maintain.”

Ash says businesses shouldn’t rush to enforce policies but instead run discussions that encourage openness to diversity and to appreciate experience.

She says performance reviews or appraisals are one way to review performance standards or deliverables.

“People’s performance should be managed no matter what age 20 or 80,” she says.

“Some people have limitations and some people have amazing strength and the really good [business] leaders know how to best put them.”

For Walton, what businesses have to do is simple.

“What can employers do? They can support mentoring programs, they can have better transition to retirement planning including flexible working arrangements,” he says.

“I don’t think we need to tell business the basics of developing a younger professional they know they’re not work-ready out of university.

“It’s this older generation of professional that are critical of developing that generation before it’s too late.”


Originally published on SmartCompany on January 25, 2016.

Etsy a full-time job for a quarter of the online marketplace’s sellers


Selling homemade wares on Etsy is no longer a hobby or just an extra stream of income for many creative people, with more than a quarter of Australian sellers turning the platform into their sole occupation.

Two thirds of this group consider their Etsy store to be a business, even though in Australia Etsy sellers have an average weekly income under $800.

These findings form part of a new report released by Etsy Australia dubbed “the new face of creative entrepreneurship”, which surveyed a sample 770 Australian Etsy sellers from December 4 to January 5.

According to the survey, 94% of Etsy sellers in Australia are female and they are twice as likely to be under 35 compared to other Australian business owners. Many sellers are also parents with children at home.

The majority of sellers are city based (73%) and 67% are university educated.

Sellers are self-starters and majority run their businesses without additional financial help, with less than 1% of sellers taking out a business loan.

Helen Souness, managing director for Etsy in Australia and Asia, said in a statement the report is the first of its kind for the Australian branch of Etsy.

“What’s clear from this report is our sellers’ desire to run businesses on their own terms and in ways that support their creative and professional goals,” she said.

Since arriving onto the scene in 2005, Etsy has grown to host more than 1.5 million active Etsy sellers globally.

Etsy is appealing for many sellers for its quick and affordable listings, with prices starting from 20c a piece, and success stories like the husband and wife who turned 30c into $5000 in four months.

Sellers also are very collaborative in building their business with networking, offering advice and being part of online support groups or Etsy teams.

Melbourne Etsy seller Petina Walker is the leader of one such support network, The Australian Press and PR team, which offers help and advice to help Australian and New Zealand Etsy sellers get more press.

She supports herself working full-time running her two Etsy shops Pepper Ink and Geek Ink, both of which produce niche custom temporary tattoos for grownups.

Pepper Ink was launched in 2012 and focuses on artistic vintage and custom designs, whilst Geek Ink allows shoppers to embrace their fandom with Doctor Who, Harry Potter and Star Wars tattoos.

Her co-founder Francesco Fazzini told Women’s Agenda’s sister site, SmartCompany, Etsy helps sellers of handcrafted items find their customers.

“Customers go to Etsy to find unique and beautifully designed products so our kind of customer is already shopping there,” he says.

Working relentlessly out of their Fitzroy studio has seen these creative entrepreneurs turn over more than $110k last year from their Etsy businesses.

“I love all things handmade and community and have always wanted to work for myself. Etsy was the obvious answer for a unique business like ours as it already brings buyers from all over the world,” he says.

“The majority of our customers are international and they would never have found us with a bricks-and-mortar store in Melbourne.”

The report proposes an “Etsy economy” that offers an alternative approach to traditional retail models.

Sellers reported being focused on keeping their businesses at a manageable scale, with close to three quarters of sellers not looking to employ any more people and not considering taking out a loan to expand.

Fazzini says the storytelling and community feel of Etsy, combined with its ease of use, make it a winner for Pepper Ink.

“(Customers) want personal touches and to know the stories of our business,” he says.

“Not being techy at all – it’s also easy to set up shop compared to building your own website. You also have a great community with other sellers supporting and cheering each other on.”


Originally published on Women’s Agenda and SmartCompany on January 19, 2016.


Physio exercises via mobile phone app another tech first

A new mobile phone app created by two physiotherapists from country Victoria is set to fundamentally improve patients’ at-home rehabilitation.

The app is being used in conjunction with traditional physiotherapy consultations, providing informative “how-to” videos for clients doing rehabilitation exercises between appointments.

Exercise Connect is available on both Android and iOS, offering more than 800 videos demonstrating between 400 to 500 exercises for rehabilitation, and strength and stability training.

Launched six weeks ago, the app comes in two versions – a free one for the clinic’s clients and a ‘pro’ version for health professionals.

A subscribed health professional, such as a physiotherapist, can open the ‘pro’ version of the app and select exercises best suited to their client.

Each exercise can be customised by choosing the repetitions, times and the frequency per day. Users can then choose when the client will receive push notifications reminding them to complete the chosen exercises.

The app even has a built-in feature to add special instructions using a Siri-like microphone, allowing it to be tailored to each client’s specific recovery.

App founders Marg Perrott and Tajinder Singh, who run the Kilmore Physiotherapists Centre, about 60 kilometres north of Melbourne, have spent the last year bringing their idea to reality.

“Exercise Connect used the thought processes we as health professionals use every day,” Ms Perrott said.

The app includes a mix of traditional and contemporary exercises, with plans for these to be updated around four times a year as physiotherapy research continues to evolve.

Both founders believe the app is more effective than the existing paper hand-outs with sketched exercises, which can be misinterpreted by clients, risking further injury.

“All my clients say ‘I know what to do now’ ”,  Mr Singh  said.

The client version of the app is offered free to the Kilmore clinic’s clients, with plans eventually to offer the pro version on a subscription basis to other health professionals.

The decision to offer the app free for clients was a simple one, with Ms Perrott believing that “even 20 cents would be a barrier to clients”.

The physios have been business partners since 2013, just 12 months after Mr Singh, who is originally from India, moved to Kilmore and joined the centre.

Both brought considerable professional experience to the creation of the app, with Ms Perrott  having worked more than 30 years as a physiotherapist, and Mr Singh having seven years’ experience in Australia, coupled with prior experience in India.

Mr Singh first came up with the idea of  a physiotherapy app last year, believing that it would help clients understand and safely complete their exercises at home.

The partners hired an Indian-based app developer, while Ms Perrott’s son, Llewellyn, a contract technology all-rounder, filmed and ‘white-screened’ the background of all 800 videos to date.

The physios are now in the process of trademarking the app, while awaiting approval from the Apple Store for the pro version, which is currently only released on Android.

Already, they are fielding phone calls from interested health professionals across Australia.

A small advert placed in the industry physiotherapy magazine ‘In-Motion’ two months ago had generated keen interest in Exercise Connect, they said.

Weighing up the cost of life as a freelancer

Freelancing, despite erratic pay and low rates, is still a feasible path for prospective journalists who are not afraid of rejection, according to a panel of media professionals.

“Don’t ever let a rejection define you,” said full time freelancer Amy Gray, advice which was backed by a former editor-in-chief of Private Media, Sophie Black, who nonetheless cautioned that freelancing required “a thick skin”.

Junkee editor Steph Harmon said she received almost 20 story pitches a day and writers needed to understand how the editorial process worked.

“Don’t just sit there,” she urged. “You have to be pro-active, as well, and say to them: ‘Please get back to me’, and if they don’t, then move on.”

Gray said she took a lot of time to find the best home for her work.

“You’ve got to get pretty smart about where you pitch. For me, there’s a bit of a formula.”

This involved writing two big pieces a month for publications such as The Monthly or The Saturday Paper, or for a mainstream newspaper, and following up with “bite-sized” articles, such as short opinion pieces.

But Gray said this strategy could be upended when payments were delayed, such as when Fairfax changed its payments system and she was forced to wait 12 weeks for her money.

Gray, who was taking part in a New News workshop on freelancing at the Wheeler Centre(link is external), said making a viable plan was like “freaking Tetris”.

“You have your end-of-the-month goal – unfortunately — and I’m trying to get to that end goal where I need to pay my rent, or whatever, and then I suck it up and go and do a little contract,” she said.

However, Gray said this was made even tougher as the money paid for freelance articles had been halved in recent years, with almost no publications willing to pay an agreed rate per word.

The panellists were unaware of any publications currently paying at the rate of 93 cents a word, as recommended by the journalists’ union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, but New Matilda’s national affairs correspondent, Ben Eltham, said it was not all bad news.

“I’ve been talking to a whole lot of other writers and it’s just a little bit better than it has been,” he said.

His advice to journalists was not to underestimate the importance of building a relationship with different editors, and to be flexible.

“I say yes to everything,” he added.

Gillian Terzis, who edits the quarterly magazine The Lifted Brow, also advised freelancers, particularly women, to not put themselves down when pitching to an editor.

“Strike a balance between being confident and being open to collaboration.”

But what about the issue of aspiring journalists writing for free in order to get a foothold in the industry?

Junkee’s Harmon, who is a member of the Pay the Writers group, said journalists needed to weigh up what being paid meant to them, and not to feel bad about writing gratis.

“There are different ways you can get paid for your work,” she said. “It might be feedback. It might be mentoring. Just keep that in mind.”

But Harmon was adamant on one rule for freelancers. “Don’t ever write for a publication if you’re not getting edited and not getting feedback.”

Originally published on The Citizen on October 9, 2015

The Citizen Report – TV Presenting


As part of my Masters of Journalism degree I took on a project to create a Video News piece on Melbournian’s enduring love of Jane Austen. My piece was selected along with other student’s work for The Citizen Report, which I was asked to co-host with the wonderfully talented Bessie Byrne. The piece aired on Melbourne’s Channel 31 Wednesday, 23 July at 7pm and repeated on Thursday, 24 July at 4.30pm. The show is currently showcased on The Citizen.

Interview with an oral historian

Dr Melissa Walsh spent seven and a half years completing her thesis at The University of Melbourne, making the gradual academic move from sport historian to oral historian. I met Melissa in her office over a cuppa to learn about her passion.

‘The thing that makes oral historians different from say, an ethnologist or a sociologist is we’re primarily interested in the past. The other thing is when we engage with an informant or a narrator it’s very transparent. We record the interviews and the person is very much understood as being a partner not simply a subject.


An oral historian goes into an interview understanding that it is a dialogue not a survey. Then we’re taking the material and we’re interpreting it. That’s challenging because we’re working with living, breathing people who may not like the interpretation we put on their words.


Unlike other historians, we are totally implicated in the making of the evidence. We’re actually there in the moment the evidence is being created. I can’t think of any other field of history where that happens.


I actually started doing Law/Arts and I worked out pretty much from day one that I didn’t want to be a lawyer. That’s when I did my Honours in history and went and trained as a history teacher and went on from there.


(For my thesis) once I decided I was going to do interviews, I then went away to read some key oral historians and the ones that really struck a chord with me and impressed me the most was Alessandro Portelli, an Italian, Luisa Passerini another Italian, and Alistair Thomson, an Australian. Those were the three that really opened my eyes to what oral history was, it wasn’t just asking a question and sticking a microphone in front of someone.


The type of oral history that I like is really political in the sense that it is interested in people who aren’t considered ‘important’ historical actors. But what it does do is say your story, the spectator’s story, is valuable and it’s important, partly because of what it reveals about culture, but partly because what it reveals about yourself. Go into it willing to be a good listener, learn about the craft by reading and by listening to experts and then practicing and reflecting. Having a go.


The oral history skills are something that I definitely do take with me in my work. At the moment I work as a facilitator in the Big Issue (Magazine) classroom. I work with the guest speakers, who have all been homeless, to help them shape their narrative and tell their stories.


I also work three days a week at an organization Young Christian Workers as an archivist and historian and one of the reasons they’ve employed me is because I’ve got an oral history background. We’re running a national oral history project to gather people’s life stories about their membership of this organisation.


I’m also blogging every week now on a Sports History Blog and it’s really good because I’m mining some stuff from my thesis in that and I’m enjoying the discipline of writing for a general readership.’

Sports historian to oral historian

Published on The Citizencitizen my phd

Born in Richmond as an avid Collingwood supporter, Dr Melissa Walsh continued her passion for the game in her thesis on memory in AFL spectators, beginning as a sport historian and emerging seven and a half years later as an ‘oral historian with an interest in sport’.

‘I actually started doing Law/Arts and I worked out pretty much from day one that I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I got to third year in my undergrad and I suddenly went you idiot, you’re a historian that’s what you’ve been doing the whole time. It hadn’t twigged until then that that was the thing I loved and kept coming back to and kept enjoying. So that’s when I did my Honours in history and went and trained as a history teacher and went on from there. Then when I was on maternity leave – so my son’s nearly 11 – that was the time where I thought I would go back and do more study, and when I did my PhD.

I suppose it does partly go back to growing up in Richmond where, you know I could walk to the MCG, walk to Victoria Park and footy culture was really part of my school. It was Richmond and it was Collingwood. I’ve always barracked for Collingwood, but it was through friendship that I really got interested in football and I would go every week. I was there when Collingwood won in 1990.

In the mid-1990s there was lots of changes in football culture and I began to be interested more in a critical sense, trying to understand the processes involved in the nationalization and corporatization of the competition. There was much talk about “the end of football”. But football didn’t end, people didn’t stop going to the football. I wanted to know how fans accommodated those changes. Did personal rituals persist, and did this help fans’ ability to meanings in their interest in the game? I figured that doing oral history – interviewing football followers – was a way in which to probe that.

Firstly, I discovered that in the late twentieth century there developed a “popular memory” about Australian rules football fans – that they have “always” been dedicated supporters of a particular club. But when I looked at the archival material from the nineteenth and up to the middle of the twentieth century, I discovered that that there were many who publicly criticised and questioned spectatorism and the ways in which spectators behaved.

I was able to build the argument that there is a popular mythology or legend about Australian football spectators that really crystallized over the last thirty years. In periods of change and transformation, societies and groups tend to look back to the past and construct simpler stories about the way things used to be. The important question to me was: how do football fans today negotiate the legend? Does the popular myth of the football fan – partisan, passionate, loyal, demonstrative – neatly match up with fans’ lived experience?

All of the people I interviewed still have a favourite player. My favourite player of all time is Gavin Crosisca who wore number 28 for Collingwood and who kicked two goals in the 1990 grand final. I still have a picture of him on my fridge, even though he’s been retired for so long. I draw this conclusion: people still have a favourite player and it’s someone who they picked in adolescence; someone they loved as a kid or as a teenager and it’s a love that just continues over the years as mine has for Gavin.

The other key thing that I’ve learnt in my research is a really big deal is made about the game; “it’s the best game on earth”, now I love the game – but my argument is that the thing that people love about football is that it’s social. What I really found was that people have a pretty scant recollection about what happens on the field. But what people remember are the social interactions. When people stop going to the football it is often because of shifting social dynamics.

At the moment I work as a facilitator in the Big Issue (Magazine) classroom, working with guest speakers in how they tell their story and how they shape their narrative. I think doing the thesis has made me a much more attuned listener. I also work three days a week at an organization Young Christian Workers (YCW) as an archivist and historian, and one of the reasons they’ve employed me is because I’ve got an oral history background. We’re running a big national oral history project to gather people’s life stories about their membership.

I think the biggest implication -I hope so at least – is to offer a new way of doing history about football fans, a way that looks at personal experience and interrogates the ways in which stories about personal experience are told.’

Melissa Walsh submitted her thesis “Re-calling the Game: Oral History, Popular Memory and Followers of Australian Rules Football” in December 2012.

You can follow Melissa online at her Sport’s History Blog

Academic Essay – Discussing “Journalism’s first loyalty is to citizens”

The fifth estate, or journalism, has many varied roles, but among them is a need to inform on matters of public interest. Journalists are relied upon to impart knowledge of what happened in the world whilst people in the community have been at work, play, or sleeping (Lamble, 2011: 35). In their work The Elements of Journalism, Kovach and Rosentiel stated, “Journalism’s first loyalty is to citizens”. But to what extent do journalists fulfil this “first loyalty” and are they obligated – morally or otherwise – to present issues in a particular way? In this essay I will be discussing the issue of first loyalty in relation to the coverage by Australian Mainstream Media (henceforth referred to as MSM) of the March in March Australia rallies held on March 16 and 17. The March in Marchs’ were a series of “peaceful, non-partisan” marches held across capital cities and large country areas nation-wide to show “people power” and “no confidence” in the current serving Liberal government and more specifically, Prime Minister Tony Abbot (March in March, 2014). Reportedly between 50,000 to 100,000 people attend nationwide, with 30,000 people alone at the Melbourne march (Robin, 2014). The large scale of the protests was newsworthy information for people to know; although protesters felt that much of the coverage was negative or scarcely existent in what one Crikey commentator dubbed a “March in March media blackout” (Robin, 2014). March in March was news, just not of the front-page variety. In this essay, I will be discussing the first loyalty of three prominent news outlets in Australia: News Limited, Fairfax Australia and a public broadcaster. I will be looking at primarily text coverage, both print and online. I will also be highlighting the Media Watch story regarding the March in March news coverage. Throughout this essay, the term “first loyalty” will be discussed as media coverage that is not slanted or self-interested in any way, even at the expense of a media outlets own interests. I will argue to differing degrees, none of the news outlets demonstrated “first loyalty” to citizens, and that March in March can be considered a case study for the growing disparity between mainstream news media produced, and what the online world of consumers craves.


Mencher (1997) described news as information needed by people to make “sound decisions about their lives” (58). An event like March in March, that featured such a significant number of citizens to show dissatisfaction with the federal government, is an issue needed by voters to make democratic choices that will affect their lives. Journalists’ first loyalty strives to create balanced, objective news. The idea of first loyalty was a highly regarded quality by early newsmakers. In 1835 the first issue of the New York Herald strived to record facts “stripped of verbiage and coloring” (Bennett as cited in Stephens, 2006: 214). An aspect of “coloring” and a potential impact on first loyalty is the angle, or the journalists’ shaping of information to produce news (Alysen, Oakham, Patching and Sedorkin, 2011: 177). In the case of the rallies, journalists from both Fairfax Media and News Limited used the angle to write about March in March. The lack of coverage in the MSM was a topic much discussed online, to the extent of being featured on the ABC television program Media Watch. An almost six minute segment entitled “March in March coverage pleases no one” discussed the failings of media outlets to give fair and balanced coverage of the event (Media Watch, 2014). The segment highlighted the fact that a News Limited publication The Daily Telegraph published no news of the event happening, but subsequently published three columns, one editorial, and three letters all negative, and attacking the marchers (Mediawatch, 2014). Likewise, Fairfax Media’s Sydney Morning Herald did not print news of the event in Monday’s paper, although a bitingly sarcastic wrap-up by Jacqueline Maley was published online (Media Watch, 2014; Maley, 2014). Print editions of SMH, Daily Telegraph and Melbourne’s The Herald Sun all had no mention of the Marches (Media Watch, 2014).


After finding no space in its print edition of that day, on Monday March 17, the Herald Sun website published the story ‘Thousands take to Melbourne streets to Abbott Government policies’ (Herald Sun, 2014). The story focused on the derogatory signs depicting the prime minister, which rally organiser Sarah Garnham said was the responsibility of protesters and she was not willing to apologise. Although the story did detail the key facts of the event, it was scant and focused on linkink to the Coalition’s election win in Tasmania and close political race in South Australia. Overall, the article placed the March in March rally into a negative light, highlighting hypocrisy of protesters using “Abort Abbott” signs whilst Ms Garnham found the Julie Gillard “Ditch the Witch” protest sexist and offensive (Herald Sun, 2014). The overwhelmingly narrow and negative description of a large-sale democratic event is not in the best interest of the public, and the organisation has not held up its first loyalty. Journalists have an ability to change how the public uses language, and therefore have a “responsibility to use words with care” (White, 1996: 154). In this case, the article has subtly suggested the event was a nuisance bringing the city of Melbourne to a “standstill” and causing “significant traffic disruption” (Herald Sun, 2014). The article makes no mention of the fact that no one was arrested or injured as mentioned – albeit last – in an article published online by both The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald (Lillebuen, 2014).


In an ever-changing media landscape where the newspaper business model is becoming out dated, now is a crucial time for commercial outlets to not antagonise its readers. As new media start-ups begin, and fold, as online outfit New Matilda was announced today (May 5, 2014), pressure will be ever-increasing on traditional media outlets to remain commercially viable (New Matilda, 2014). Neglecting that journalism’s first loyalty is to citizens – as newsmakers have in the coverage of March in March – may impact on readership, credibility and trust in an organisation. Readers and consumers of news are becoming more discerning of the MSM, and increasingly more critical of their actions. In the subsequent days after March in March, much of the MSM – including Jacqueline Maley personally on Twitter – was criticised for its lack of coverage, or lack of balanced and fair coverage. Maley responded to the criticism in a column that attacked protesters “It is strange that people who despise the MSM so much are so angry at being ignored by it” (Maley, 2014). Maley herself recognises the “widening gulf” between news online and trends on social media against what MSM deems newsworthy, but declares that “newspapers still get to make that call” (Maley, 2014). Maley has failed to fulfil her first loyalty; in fact she has allowed her own arrogance to come before her duty to the public. Her failure to recognise has generated much mistrust of her as a journalist, The Herald, and the MSM at large. In fact, an open letter by Timothy Pembroke to The Herald, was shared more than 90,000 times online and was eventually published by The Herald, forming much of Maley’s column, and eliciting regret from The Herald’s editor-in-chief calling it an “error of news judgement” (Media Watch, 2014).


The ABC covered March in March in television bulletins and online. If News Limited and Fairfax Australia were condemned for lack of coverage, or for portraying the March’s too negatively, or too flippantly, than the ABC has faced criticism for being too positive. Their online piece ‘Thousands drawn to Australia-wide protests against government policies’ reflected factually, and in pictures much of the protests, choosing to not show graphic evidence of overly negative protesters. On Media Watch, this was deemed to not give power to the extremist fringe of protestors (Media Watch, 2014). Arguably this was the wrong decision. Every aspect of a story should be showcased to exhibit a fair and balanced report. However, the ABC still provided the most balanced coverage by showcasing a variety of aspects and not merely honing in on the negative aspects, or the trivial and laughable aspects. As a public broadcaster, the ABC does not have the same commercial and business interests or competitive edge to consider, as their commercial counterparts. Both publications from News Limited – The Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph – and Fairfax – The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, gave limited coverage of the issue, largely dismissing it as inane. White (1996) emphasises that the perfect, totally objective journalist is “an impossibility” as reporters are too much a product of their societies (174). In the case of March in March, coverage was written with an angle. News Limited publications scarcely mentioned the events, but gave space to more opinion pieces or negative aspects, using photographs to highlight the negativity of protesters, which attending protesters have vehemently declared were the minority of protesters, not the majority the media coverage has it appear (Sant, as cited in Media Watch, 2014). Fairfax too gave accounts of the event online, but in its coverage, particularly the biting comment from Jacqueline Maley has left many distrusting the media. One letter from a March in March participant was published and shared online, telling Maley “We don’t believe you and we know you don’t put our interest first.” (The Australian Independent Media Network, 2014). A lack of trust in a journalist can create a lack of trust in a media organisation, and the MSM at large. Consequently, how can a media organisation continue to create news with the first loyalty to its readership, if the readership has no trust in the organisation?


March in March was a newsworthy event, with over 100,000 people taking part in 31 rallies across Australia over two days. The number of participants alone makes it newsworthy, coupled with the democratic importance should have ensured it coverage. Although the event took place less than two months ago, already it is evident looking back that the event should have been given more coverage, and fairer, more partisan coverage that did not reduce the complexity of the rallies to crazy-greenie-leftist protesters, or internet-based nutters. In considering three news outlets (News Limited, Fairfax Australia, ABC), the ABC covered the event with the most loyalty to Australian citizens. News Limited and Fairfax both failed the public by choosing not to cover the march in print editions of their publications as a news story on Monday, March 17. Furthermore, using online branches of the publication to ridicule protesters, particularly considering the marches began as a Facebook discussion and grew online, was a foolish decision both commercially and news-wise. The March in March received plenty of opinion pieces and columns, including Jacqueline Maley’s piece referred to above, a column by Andrew Bolt, and both Simon Copland and Van Badham in The Guardian (Maley, 2014; Bolt, 2014; Copland, 2014; Badham, 2014). However, it is beyond the scope of this essay to discuss in-depth columnists and opinion writers’ first loyalty to citizens.




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