The Walkleys, Al Jazeera and Editia’s latest author


Scott Bridges

18 Days author Scott Bridges.

In November last year, a few days after the birth of my second child and in something of a daze as a result, I spoke at the 2012 Walkley Media Conference as part of a panel on entrepreneurial journalism. I was hoping to inspire potential Editia authors in the audience: journalists who had already or would soon come up with narrative longform works that would fit in with our digital first non-fiction list.

On the eve of the 2013 Walkley Media Conference, I’m thrilled to report that that bleary afternoon session last year was absolutely worthwhile: one of the journalists who was in the audience that day has now signed a contract with Editia and we’ll be publishing his book later this year.

Scott Bridges is lecturer in journalism and communications at the University of Canberra. He’s also a former Al Jazeera English director who was on shift when Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed after the fall of Tripoli, and is in the early stages of research for his PhD looking at how Al Jazeera’s reach and influence is expanding in the non-Arabic speaking world.

Upon his return to Australia in 2011, Bridges started work on a book about his former employer. He has spent the past 18 months working on 18 Days: Al Jazeera English and the Egyptian Revolution, including two research trips back to Qatar.

“I was inspired to write 18 Days because the story behind AJE’s incredible coverage of the Egyptian Revolution needed to be told,” Bridges says. “Having heard some of the channel’s correspondents’ anecdotes first-hand, and experienced for myself how news and television is put together inside that dusty Doha studio, I thought I’d be able to give readers insight into AJE that other commentators couldn’t. And with the Al Jazeera Network’s current expansion in the USA and other non-Arabic-speaking markets, there is no better time to examine how this unique hybrid of Middle East and West works.”

The book is a fast-paced tale that provides an insider’s view of the Al Jazeera English newsroom pushed to its limits. It will appeal to readers with an interest in the media, current affairs and recent developments in the Middle East.

You can learn more about Scott Bridges and about the book at www.18daysaje.com. You can learn more about Al Jazeera English by watching its Managing Director, Al Anstey, give the keynote address at the 2013 Walkley Media Conference, Storyology, tomorrow (the session will be streamed live from 1.10pm to 2pm here). Follow the conversation via the #storyology hashtag on Twitter too.

Anstey has been a supporter of Bridges’ book from the start.

“Al made himself available for a couple of interviews, approved my access to AJE staff, and most crucially, placed absolutely no conditions on that access,” Bridges says. “Despite my focus on some controversial topics in interviews, Anstey put his case to me as a Managing Director but respected the process as a journalist.”
“His appearance at the Storyology conference gives journalists and media professionals in Australia a chance to hear directly from the head of one of the world’s most interesting news organisations.”

Here’s the official blurb about 18 Days:

This is the story of a plucky newsroom in the middle of an anonymous Middle Eastern desert city that through its coverage of one huge story changed the rules of 24-hour TV news.

On February 11, 2011, President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule of Egypt came to an end after 18 days of massive and unprecedented street protests. In the course of those few days, a 24-hour news channel unlike any other, Al Jazeera English, emerged in a crowded global news market as the source for reporting on the Egyptian Revolution. While established networks such as CNN and BBC World battled to provide comprehensive first-hand accounts of developments in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, news consumers across the world found superior coverage on Al Jazeera English. The New York Times said AJE “provided more exhaustive coverage than anyone else”; The Atlantic argued, “It is no exaggeration to say that Al Jazeera has been the eyes and ears of [the Arab Spring].”

18 Days examines the Doha-based channel’s coming of age and discovers how a network known to many in the West as “Terror TV” was transformed almost overnight into a trusted and indispensable source of news. Drawing on content analysis and interviews with key players inside the organisation, the book goes behind the cameras to tell stories of newsgathering ingenuity, hair-raising moments of danger, and internal tension. It examines the network’s relationship with its Qatari benefactors and charges of editorial bias, along with the legacy of Egypt for Al Jazeera English as the brand expands its footprint into the United States.

 

 

 

Editia at the Walkleys


The October-November edition of the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance’s Walkley Magazine features a two-page feature by Editia Founder + Publisher Charlotte Harper entitled Rise of the journopreneur.

Continuing that theme, Charlotte joined a panel at the 2012 Walkeys Conference in Canberra yesterday called Maverick to mainstream: successful start-ups. The session looked at “the secrets of successful media ventures from some of the industry’s sharpest entrepreneurs, while learning effective ways to overcome the many challenges of a competitive marketplace of ideas”.

Chaired by James Kirby, who together with fellow shareholders Alan Kohler, Stephen Bartholomeusz and Robert Gottliebsen recently sold Australian Independent Business Media to News Ltd for some $30 million, the panel featured John Griffiths, Editor and Founder, RiotACT; Leonard Witt, US journalist, scholar and blogger; and Jane Nicholls, CEO, The Global Mail.

Each spoke for seven minutes about their background and start-up experiences. Here is part of Charlotte’s presentation, including several paragraphs that didn’t make the cut:

If you’d like to run your own start-up but have no idea where to start, try working for another small business first. As publisher of Management Today, I work for Canberra start-up MSA Media. Run by former News Ltd journalists Gerard McManus and Tom Skotnicki, MSA pitched against ACP and Pacific for the Management Today contract and won.

I run a team of young writers there and it’s a hotbed of creative ideas, some of which are on track for 2013 launch. Working with Tom and Gerard is like undertaking a journalist’s apprenticeship in small business management.

Being involved with online publishing since 1997, I’ve worked on numerous such in-house launches. Intrapreneurship is a great way to learn project management skills.

While blogging and social media smarts are essential, these will come more easily to journalists than competitor analysis, business plan writing, bookkeeping, design and contract negotiation. I recommend Xero for bookkeeping and befriending a contracts expert or lawyer as well as a graphic designer.

Other factors to consider are insurance (professional indemnity, public liability, workers compensation) and ergonomics for occupational health and safety – including your own.

Take small business courses run by local/state government business development arms; attend industry events, courses and conferences related to your idea; read books like Ian Benjamin’s Consulting, Contracting and Freelancing, John English’s How to Organise and Operate a Small Business in Australia and Entrepreneurial Journalism: How to Build What’s Next for News by Mark Briggs and visit websites like Startup Smart, Mashable and Flying Solo.

Learn from the mistakes of others, and most importantly, your own.

In launching Editia, I’ve discovered that most things cost 20% more than you budget for and take twice as long as you expect.

I’ve also learnt that it’s possible to be too cutting edge. Nearly half the people I talked to about crowdfunding in promoting our first book had never heard of the concept. We needed to explain what it was before we could begin to convert them into customers.

Another hitch was the many requests for a PDF or physical proof review copy from those who found ePub and browser-based versions beyond them. We will cater to this in future.

A big lesson was that ebook distribution is not yet ready for our fast turnaround needs. We went direct to Amazon and Apple and the book was live within hours. For other retailers, we used a specialist distributor with mixed results. From here on, we will only deal direct.

More positively, I am inspired daily by the success of journalist-driven ventures like Wendy Harmer’s the Hoopla, Mia Freedman’s Mama Mia, Amanda Gome’s last launch for Private Media, Women’s Agenda, and Tim Burrowes’ Mumbrella.

Australian university journalism schools should be inviting entrepreneurs like these to present guest lectures on their experiences, and indeed offering entire postgraduate entrepreneurial journalism courses, perhaps in partnership with TAFE, for journalists with a few years’ experience.

Some of my UC students already have plans for subscription blogs and YouTube channels of their own – I believe that even at the undergraduate level, we should be helping them develop these plans rather than dwelling on how legacy media organisations operate.

If I were in a position to, I’d be heading to the US in 2013 to attend the City University of New York’s 15-week entrepreneurial journalism course, which is designed for mid-career journalists. Students develop a start-up project and work with Big Apple start-ups like the Atavist and FourSquare. One student raised $50,000 via crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to get his project, Narrative.ly, off the ground this year.

Despite all the doom and gloom in mainstream media, digital technologies provide real opportunities for journalists to build their own profiles and create the stories that they want to publish or broadcast globally – wherever they are, whatever their means and no matter how many babies and children are sharing the home office.