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Panpa Bulletin : July 2010
www.panpa.org.au The PANPA Bulletin | JULY 2010 | 23 EDUCATION has been a focus of many headlines in Australia recently, primarily over its government's decision to pour billions of dollars into construction of covered outdoor learning areas in schools. There has also been the centre of a fierce row between government and the teaching union over literacy and numeracy testing. While there are sideline issues over how this so-called Naplan information is used, I find it extraordinary that there can be any credible opposition to increasing the focus on literacy and numeracy. Spelling used to be a fundamental part of the old fashioned three "Rs" of education -- read- ing, writing and arithmetic. In fact, and this is aging myself, spelling was still a required subject in the mid-year Leaving Certificate examination when I finished high school in 19 61. It is estimated 53 per cent of Australian resi- dents are not competent in literacy and 46 per cent are no competent in numeracy. These are scary figures but more so when you consider the projected popula- tion explosion between now and 2050, and the increasing demand for skilled workers needed to meet the infrastructure require- ments to cater for this. Industry leaders say the unsatisfactorily low level of literacy and numeracy, which covers those currently in the workforce and people seeking to re-enter or acquire additional skills training, poses a real threat to productivity and safety standards. This has been reinforced in a survey con- ducted by the Australian Industry Group (AIG) among its member companies, which employ more than 750,000 workers around the country. It found many workers cannot read or understand standard operating procedures, which in turn can trigger safety issues and the poor use of machinery. A number of the AIG's members reported an inability of their employees to be able to read drawings, which led to sub-standard workmanship. So what does this have to do with the news- paper publishing business? For a start, there seems to be an increasing tendency to dumb down the written and spo- ken word. Chris Pash, the director of content licensing for Dow Jones Asia-Pacific, also an author and former journalist, has appropriately thrown the spotlight on the lazy use of clichés in the media. The cliché report which Pash presented to an e-seminar organised by the Newspaper Publishers' Association (NPA) recently was very timely. Bad and lazy as this practice is, it is only part, and probably the least offensive, abuse of the media's art of communication. Journalists are increasingly engaging in "police-blotter-speak" reporting that someone has been charged with break and enter, for example, when the offence is breaking and entering, regardless of what the police charge sheet says. This annoying practice of parroting po- lice jargon is particularly evident on radio news broadcasts. Meanwhile, people apparently don't try "to" do something anymore they try "and" do it. They "lay down" rather than "lie down" and "take off" someone rather than "take from" someone. The surge in social networking has given birth to a new language, which is further driv- ing down traditional communication skills. This is a trap which the established media organisations must avoid falling into as they try to relate to a generation, which is creating and sharing its own content. Because of its ubiquitous nature, media at all levels has a vital role to play in upholding and encouraging literacy skills. Rapidly advancing technology resulted in the Readers' Room, where galley proofs of all editorial content were checked before publica- tion, disappearing years ago. But the responsibility for maintaining the highest standards of language communication is still there -- it has simply moved from the backroom to the frontline. Mind your language Journalists' writing is falling into the trap of clichés and police speak Malcolm Colless Malcolm Colless is a former senior executive at News Ltd and writes a column for The Australian's media section The newsroom has a responsibility to lift English standards, which will feed into the classroom" " Something a little Extra British newspapers, The Guardian and The Observer, have launched a new membership program called Extra, writes REBECCA LEAVER. It allows members to sit in editorial meetings, watch football games with sports journalists, visit the print site and go to classes to learn about photography and poetry. Richard Thompson (pictured), Head of Membership at The Guardian, explains the innovative marketing approach. What is Extra membership all about? Extra is a new membership scheme for readers of The Guardian and The Observer. Extra does exactly what is says on the tin, we're giving readers extra things. We're creating new events, including lots of events with our journalists because we think that is one of the areas our loyal readers would be re- ally interested in. And how do you hope to raise revenue from the membership? After September 1, there will be a charge, £25 subscription fee for an annual membership. If you are a subscriber you will become a mem- ber automatically. It is a commercial strategy for us but this is not about getting rich and retiring, this is much more about the interaction we have between our members. What do members get when they sign up to Extra? We have a series of offers which are all editorially-relevant. We will concentrate on things that have already been recommended in the newspapers or online. We are going to hold courses and workshops like learning to write poetry, or one we have launched will use our experts in The Guardian imaging team to teach members how to tweak their photo- graphs with Photoshop. I hear that there will also be vis- its to The Guardian newsroom? Yes. On a monthly basis, we will be running a prize draw, where we will invite five people to come to The Guardian and attend the editor's morning conference, where the editorial staff come to talk about that day's newspaper, and also what is go- ing on in the current news agenda. And we will be looking at, for those who are interested, a tour of our print site as well. So for all those tech people out there who grew up with Meccano, they might find it quite interesting. What sets Extra apart from other membership schemes? When you look at membership schemes for other newspapers, or loyalty schemes for any major brand, you are going to find some offers and you might find the occasional event. But we have created something ab- solutely bespoke, rather than some- thing which is more scattered in its approach. How has the response been so far? We are doing rather well so far; we are selling out our early events. We have our editor, Alan Rusbridger, talking about the future of journalism in July and that's sold out already. We are also watching a World Cup match with our football weekly podcast team -- we have James Richardson who is one our journalists who will be watching England Vs Algeria on the 18th June with 60 loyal readers, which is also sold out. becca Leaver NPA Richard Thompson . . . "we have created something absolutely bespoke"