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Panpa Bulletin : July 2006
TRAINING 34 | PANPA BULLETIN July 2006 any news photographer who covers courts can tell you it takes more than experience and skill to get the shot. often it takes high-level diplomatic skills, ability to defuse aggression and when all else fails a sudden burst of speed. Courts are one of the many places where reporters and photographers doing their jobs are confronted by angry and aggressive people. Television foot- age of an attack on cameramen and photographers outside a Mel- bourne court, andnewspaperpho- tos of the riot in Cronulla show the risks many editorial staff increas- ingly face. So, the development of a course specifically for photogra- phers and frontline reporters has been welcomed by newspaper staff throughout the country. News and Conflict is a two-day risk-awareness and risk-manage- ment course for editorial staff who cover incidents that have the po- tential to involve threat, aggression or violence. News Ltd and Fairfax have jointly funded the develop- ment of the course and are sepa- rate clients of the company that delivers it, Beltin Group. The first courses were held in September 2005, and at the time of writing 60 News Ltd and almost 50 Fairfax staff had completed it. Driving the project are Colin McKinnon, Group Editorial Learn- ing and Development Manager at Fairfax Holdings, and his counter- part at News, Sharon Hill. "Co-operation between News and Fairfax was a pre-requisite to the development of News and Conflict," Hill said. "Colin and I wanted to create a course that would become a benchmark for this kind of training in Australia and, with Beltin Group's help, that's what we've done. "From the outset it was impor- tant to us that the content reflected the reality of news-gathering. No off-the-shelf course could mimic the situations our reporters and photographers find themselves in every day, so this course was built from the ground up in close con- sultation with News and Fairfax staff." News and Conflict develops skills to help photographers and reporters work as safely as pos- sible in situations where there are obvious risks. It includes training in how to gauge and minimise the risks of a particular situation; de- fusing threats or aggression; and ways to build resilience for han- dling distressing jobs where there has been loss of life. Barely a month after they did the course late last year, several News Ltd photographers were assigned to cover the Cronulla 'day of pride', which degenerated into a violent race riot. Other course graduates covered the street attacks the fol- lowing night in which gangs of men roamed beachside suburbs vandalising cars and assaulting residents. "There's little time in today's busy newsrooms for senior staff to prepare their junior colleagues for events such as these. And in an increasingly unpredictable world the need for adequate preparation is more important than ever. The safety of our staff is paramount," McKinnon said. "But it is not just junior and mid-career journalists who are being targeted for this course. Editors must be able to identify, analyse and evaluate risks before assigning reporters and photographers to cover potentially risky news stories." One Fairfax editor with more than 20 years' experience as a journalist said he wished he had done a course like this years ago "instead of relying on trial and too many errors". Hill said the core value of News andConflict wasbetterjournalism. "If our photographers understand how crowds behave and know what triggers can turn a crowd into a violent mob, they can position themselves in the safest places to get the best shots," she said. "Equally, if they know some- thing about police riot tactics, they can anticipate what is likely to happen and make sure they aren't caught between the rioters and an advancing police line, as has hap- pened in the past. Everything staff learn in News and Conflict is de- signed to support them in getting the best possible stories and pho- tographs -- and to do it as safely as possible." If our photographers understand how crowds behave and know what triggers can turn a crowd into a violent mob, they can position themselves in the safest places to get the best shots Learning to read a confict Race riots. A mob smashes a man with beer bottles at North Cronulla. Hooligans yelling racial, insults targeted anyone they believed to be of Middle Eastern background, 11 December 2005. Picture by anDreW MeareS, faIrfaxPhotoS