October Walkley magazine column
The tools available to reporters have changed radically in the past decade, and will continue to evolve. Journalists need to embrace new digital tools to succeed in the multimedia future. It is no longer enough to have native cunning and a word processor.
Journalists tend to embrace new tools if they make the job of storytelling easier – and if those tools are easy and intuitive to use. This article proposes a range of tools that will help the newsgathering process.
Blogs are useful research tools to get a sense of what audiences are talking about. As with newsgroups, the quality of blog information sits on a long continuum from erudite offerings to lunatic ravings, sometimes more often at the latter end of the continuum. As with all information on the web, it pays to be careful.
The Google of the blogosphere is Technorati.com. It works similarly to Google and is a useful way to find out what people are talking about. Think of the content of blogs and podcasts and video blogs as scuttlebutt – like overhearing conversations on public transport or at social events. Sometimes they will stimulate ideas for stories.
Google has a good bog search tool at Blogsearch.google.com.au. The same search terms typed into a blog search tool such as Technorati will produce different results compared with using those same terms in a search engine. So when casting the net wide for information make sure you search both on blogs and search engines.
Blogs blossom so quickly it is difficult to keep up; some analysts suggest 20,000 new blog posts appear each day. A technology known as RSS (“really simple syndication”) helps journalists follow the latest blogs. The technlogy “pulls” content to your computer, as opposed to being “pushed” with email.
Google Reader is a great RSS tool, though you will need to set up a Gmail web-based email account. The latter can be useful when you are on the road. You can have your office email forwarded automatically to a web-based account. A RSS reader checks a list of sites the journalist nominates and displays all updated articles. The software provides summaries of content plus links to the full version of each story. As with email, unread entries are shown in bold.
Google’s Gmail is useful for journalists. The chat option keeps a transcript of all conversations, and if you have a camera on your laptop you can see the person you are chatting with.
Skype offers free software that lets you make free phone calls to anyone who has skype installed on their computer. If you put money into a skype account, you can phone mobiles and landlines. This Poynter column headlined “Skype: Why every journalist should use it” is a helpful read: http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=31&aid=155339
Before the spread of the web, broadcast companies controlled breaking news. Now newspapers easily break news online, often ahead of radio and television. Multimedia breaking news builds and holds audiences for web sites.
Call Recorder software ($US 19.95 from the web for Macintosh computers) works with Skype to record any phone conversation in audio and video formats. The local and remote audio is recorded on different tracks.
This is ideal for people who want to make multimedia slideshows. Software for making slideshows is available from Soundslides.com for $US 39.95, or $US 69.95 for the “pro” version with more bells and whistles.
The simplest and quickest way to get multimedia news on a web site is via the mobile phone. Enter the mojo, a mobile journalist armed with only a mobile phone and a 3G connection. At least five companies offer free software for streaming video from a mobile phone. They are Qik, Shozu and Kyte in the United States, Bambuser in Sweden and Flixwagon in Israel.
The process is simple: Register your mobile phone number at one of these web sites. Within seconds you receive a text message with a link to the software. Click on the link to load it onto the phone. Thereafter, clicking one button opens the video software on the phone and one more begins and ends filming. Video is streamed to the company’s web site.
Of the software mentioned earlier, Qik and Bambuser work best for breaking news. My main criteria for selecting the software were simplicity of use and quality of image. Other mojo software for iPhones is available from iTunes. Showcase ($US 9) is the best for making slideshows with a mobile phone.
Most journalists will be aware of Wikileaks, based on the wiki concept. Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia in San Francisco. He envisioned it as a way to capture the knowledge of the group rather than the individual. Journalists will have to make individual decisions on whether to report based on content found in wikis. Reporters pressed for time to do research might find Answers.wikia.com a useful tool.
Wikis could be a useful collaboration tool for reporters working in different cities, where they pool information in a password-protected site. Similarly, hundreds of thousands of people use the social bookmarking site Delicious to store useful links. These are publicly available on the web, which offers useful research options on specific topics. Type key words into the search box at the top of the screen. Examples of my bookmarks are at Delicious.com/sraquinn/
One of the big developments since early 2008 has been the concept of micro-blogging via the web or mobile phone. Posterous and Twitter were the original tools. Posterous is the simplest to use because everything is done via email.
Free software called TweetDeck offers a powerful tool for working with Twitter. Twitter has become such a large subject that it needs its own column. A site that aggregates all of the photographs put on Twitter can be found at Picfog.com, and the “liveflow” option opens a stream of images.
Finally, all reporters should be using social networking tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, Bebo and FriendFeed, though again these require a separate column.
* Stephen Quinn was a journalist for two decades in five countries with some of the world’s premier media before becoming a university teacher in 1996. Dr Quinn, an associate professor of journalism at Deakin University in Victoria, has written 14 books and has run multimedia courses for journalists in nine countries.
* “In touch and on top” in The Walkley magazine, Oct-Nov 2010, page 47.
China Daily wine column #12
Sunday September 12th 2010, 3:02 pm
Filed under: wine
Variations in weather and the caprice of fate make it tough for a winemaker to produce excellence every year. So consistently great wines deserve special mention.
Such is the case with Eileen Hardy chardonnay, which has won a gold medal at every wine show it has entered for almost two decades. The newly released 2008 vintage is superb. It won three trophies at this year’s prestigious Sydney wine show, plus at least five gold medals at other shows.
James Halliday, best known of Australia’s wine writers, said this chardonnay represented “the state of the art” in the country and gave it 97 points out of 100.
The grapes come from cool climate regions in Victoria and Tasmania. Chief winemaker Paul Lapsley told me the combination of regions gave the wine elegance and length. “This is the distillation of 20 years of winemaking.”
The bouquet reminded me of a great French chablis: mineral or flint, toast and grapefruit beautifully integrated. The depth of the Victorian fruit balances the rapier-like acidity of the Tasmanian grapes. In the mouth the wine tastes like lemon curd and cashews, and the flavours linger like the memory of a great love affair. This wine would keep for at least a decade, but is delicious now.
Eileen Hardy shiraz is another iconic Australian wine with a host of medals. The 2005 vintage represents the 35th version of a formidable heritage. It is a blend of McLaren Vale fruit, much of it from vines at least 100 years old.
The nose offers masses of blackberry and peat aromas. The wine starts sweet in the mouth and ends with a savoury finish, built around a silky tannic structure. Cellared well, it will be superb drink in 2020.
The 2006 Thomas Hardy cabernet sauvignon also has an exceptional structure that means it would be magnificent in two decades. Yet it is so artfully made it drinks beautifully now. The nose exudes elegance and refinement, with aromas of black olive, cassis and mint. Flavours of dark berries, chocolate and cedar keep rolling through the palate like the echo of an erhu in a concert hall.
To select one wine ahead of the others would be like choosing one child ahead of their siblings – an impossible task. All are wondrous and represent the best of Australian winemaking.
Constellation Wines Australia said Eileen Hardy chardonnay sells for RMB 880 in Beijing. The Eileen Hardy shiraz and the Thomas Hardy cabernet sauvignon each retail for RMB 1,380.
* “Great Australian wines” in China Daily, 25 September 2010, page 12
China Daily wine column #11
Wednesday September 08th 2010, 9:27 am
Filed under: wine
Cool climates mean grapes ripen slowly, which improves the flavours in wines made from those grapes. This is part of the reason cool climate regions are attracting so much attention.
Tasmania, the island state off Australia’s southern coast, is the coolest region. It makes only 1 per cent of Australia’s wine, but produces 7 per cent of the ultra-premium market.
Wine has been grown on Tasmania since 1848. But production effectively stopped until the 1950s, when people began to appreciate the similarities between Tasmania and regions on the same latitudes in Europe.
Tasmania has seven main regions, three above latitude 42 degrees south and four below. The three northern regions are identified as North West, North East and the Tamar Valley.
Tamar and the North East produce 70 per cent of the island’s wines.
Best known of the Tamar vineyards are Pirie, Elmslie and Josef Chromy. The last has made a sensational entry with more than 12 trophies and 130 medals in its three-year history. I especially enjoyed their 2007 chardonnay, which was like tasting a vinous version of lemon sherbet.
This week we will concentrate on Jansz from the North East region, world famous for their sparkling wines using an approach called “methode Tasmanoise”. The French champagne house Louis Roederer of Reims has been involved with Jansz since 1986, and the quality shows.
The 2005 cuvee made by Natalie Fryar is an exceptional wine, a blend of 51 per cent Chardonnay and 49 per cent pinot noir. It spent five years on yeast lees after the secondary fermentation. This gives an aroma of freshly baked bread. The wine explodes in your mouth in the best possible sense with flavours of honeysuckle and rose. And those flavours linger.
The 2006 rose, also by Natalie Fryar, is 100 per cent pinot noir. It is pale pink and tastes like tangy Turkish delight. The high natural acidity would make both wines perfect for a range of Chinese food. The natural acidity gives the wine great structure and wonderful length, so it would keep for decades. But that requires great willpower because the wine is so delicious.
Fryar became the winemaker at Jansz in January 2001, having made sparkles for Seppelt’s Great Western winery in Victoria. She said her passion was “turning great fruit into exceptional wine”.
Jansz does not appear to export to China but wines can be purchased from the company’s web site.
* “Cool wines that come from colder climates” in China Daily 11 September 2010, page 12.
China Daily wine column #10
Wednesday September 08th 2010, 9:19 am
Filed under: wine
Sometimes serendipity and wine tasting go well together. Serendipity refers to unexpected yet pleasant discoveries, and that is precisely what happened when I attended the most recent meeting of my local wine club.
The club has been meeting each month for the past 11 years. We know the club’s age because Penny, the daughter of one of the members, was born when we first met. And this month she turned 11.
This month’s theme was family-owned wines. Many wines around the world are produced by corporations, and sometimes those wines can feel mass produced.
Family-owned wines often have more character. Here are two of the best.
The Penley Estate sparkling pinot noir from the Coonawarra region of South Australia fills your mouth with strawberry and raspberry flavors. It is a vibrant dark cherry in the glass and the sparkles accentuate the hint of spice on the nose.
Winemaker Kym Tolley says he created the wine to enjoy now. It spent six months in old French oak, and the oak gives the wine a slight mouth-puckering finish. The wine sells in Australia for $24 and would go perfectly with Peking duck.
Penley Estate wines are available from Jointek Fine Wines, in Guangzhou. More details about Penley can be found at http://www.penley.com.au/
The lustiest wine of the night was the 2006 Stanton & Killeen durif ($28), which has won a series of gold medals. In Australia, durif is mostly grown in the Rutherglen area of northern Victoria.
Dr Francois Durif created the variety in France in 1880 by crossing shiraz (also known as syrah or sirah) grapes with the peloursin variety. In the United States it is known as petite sirah.
In hot climates like Rutherglen, durif produces monster wines. They are almost overpowering in their combination of aromas, alcohol and intense color, especially if they spend time in new oak.
This wine is almost black in the glass, and aromas of raisins, aniseed, fruitcake and plum cascade over one’s palate. The flavors almost hide the 15 percent alcohol. It is a wine that demands rich dishes like beef.
James Halliday’s authoritative 2010 Guide to Australian Wine gave Stanton & Killeen the highest ranking of five red stars. Only 7 percent of about 1,500 vineyards received this ranking.
The company does not appear to sell into China. But you can order from their website at http://www.stantonandkilleenwines.com.au/.
* “Family-owned wines show off their character” in China Daily 4 September 2010, page 12.