Archive for November, 2010

Hats off to a Tweeting hack

Having experienced magazine envy last week, today I experienced envy of another kind.

Latika Bourke is a political reporter for 3AW, a radio station based in Melbourne.

Her job is to while away her hours hangin’ out in the Parliament building in Canberra, covering all the goings on in the senate and house of representatives.

And pretty good at it she is too – so good in fact, that a few months ago she was named young political reporter of the year.
Latika pretty much won be over straight away – not just because of her snazzy dress sense, but because, unprompted, she started telling me how useful Twitter was to her work.

I’m always bangin’ on about how much I love using Twitter for finding stories, contacts and talking to readers, so it was good to hear how someone in a different branch of the media utilises it.

Firstly, Latika uses Twitter to grow her ‘brand’, giving her followers a glimpse of her life so they feel like they get to know her and trust her. That way, when she Tweets a work-based story they are more likely to see her as a credible source and follow any links she posts.

She also uses it to monitor reader response so she knows what interests them, what angles she should take and what readers want to know.

Latika isn’t the only Canberra-based political journo using Twitter either – pretty much every member of the reporting pool uses it to follow trends, find stories and hunt out contacts.

Therefore, Latika says, it should make perfect sense for farm organisations to use it too so they can become part of that information and contact source.

So the envy? Well, Latika does have a pretty cool job – she was rushing back to the house after our meeting to cover the delayed universal broadband bill – but my jealousy is one I obviously share with former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

If only I could get away with wearing a fedora in FW Towers.

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A spoiled sheep station

Three hours south of Sydney is a little place many Australian’s seem to hold dear.

“What are you going there for?” one friend asked when I told them of my planned trip.

“Don’t stay for longer than a day,” another said. “Nothing happens there.”

Not quite what you’d expect to hear about the capital city of a country as big as Australia, but Canberra seems to have as big a place in Aussies’ hearts as somewhere like Milton Keynes does to people in the UK.

Canberra

Similar to ol’ MK, Canberra was an entirely planned city. It was built in 1913 by a couple of American architects who helpfully based it on a load of confusing concentrically-circular and hexagonal road systems and tree-filled areas. It’s home to Australia’s parliamentary buildings, as well as a load of galleries and buildings which have seemingly sprung up because they felt obliged to be in the capital, and not because they thought anyone would actually visit them.

The city replaced a load of sheep farms and agricultural land and, according to the plaque on some street art, it’s described as “a good sheep station spoiled”. Randomly, there is still farmland less than a couple of minutes out of the city centre, with huge irrigators set up to water field after field of turf.

Continue reading “A spoiled sheep station” »

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An Australian pastime

I’ve been staying with a friend for the past couple of days just outside Sydney CBD. They’ve been doing a sterling job showing me the hot-spots of Australia’s largest city, especially the culinary delights it has to offer.

I’ve eaten some fantastic seafood in Sydney harbour, gorged on Thai and stuffed myself stupid on some of the nicest sushi ever at a local Japanese restaurant.

But after a somewhat heavy evening bopping to Mr Saxamophone, watching a humbug dance and talking tomato-growing with the Dutch at a swanky waterfront bar, we didn’t feel quite up to venturing far for food today. Instead we decided to do something something  sterotypically Australian: we lit a barbie.

bbq
Going for the full Aussie effect, we even threw some shrimps on there. Having never cooked them before, we we’re slightly scared we had inadvertantly poisoned ourselves. Still, at least I knew how to peel them properly this time.

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Green with Outback envy

Today I experienced a new emotion: magazine envy.

It wasn’t a pretty sight either. Goodness only knows what Mark, the editor of Outback, thought  as I sat stupidly gaping as he brought out issue after issue of one of the nicest-looking publications I’ve ever seen.

outback

(I realise I’ve broken a load of copyright/reproduction laws here, but I’m hoping Mark won’t mind – I just wanted you to get some idea of what I’m talking about).

I’m guessing this post is of no interest to normal people, so you might want to skip along here. Apparently there’s a rubbishy cricket match on, maybe you can go and watch that for bit. For the print media geeks among you, you would love this.

Continue reading “Green with Outback envy” »

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Resc-ewe mission

It may have kicked off slowly for some (it’s such a hassle when your blood sugar levels drop and give the symptoms of a hangover, innit?), but today I had a whirlwind education on the world of Australian sheep production.

merino sheep

I’d gone along to Meat and Livestock Australia, who are a levy board pretty similar to EBLEX in the UK and look into research, development and marketing of beef, sheep and goat meat across the country.

Funded by the 180,000 livestock producers in the Australia through a compulsory levy, the MLA is doing some interesting things in terms of telling its 48,000 members (who represent about 80% of livestock production in Australia) about the research it’s doing.

Alongside publishing magazines and articles on its website, the MLA has also started producing a magazine-style show which it sends out to members on DVDs.

I’m not totally convinced about how many people would bother playing the DVD in relation to it’s cost of production and distribution, but one chap from the sheep meat council told me some illiterate farmers have said the videos give them access to science they otherwise can’t obtain.

Anyway, it’s been a couple of interesting days and I feel like I’ve got back on track with things after the randomness of Brisbane. It certainly wasn’t a rescue mission though, okay? And I won’t listen to any claims anyone flew the equivalent of London to Russia to come and sort me out. Thanks though :) x

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Sheep and a colour-blind scientist. I hope.

Fed up with the bedbugs and in need of some fashion tips, I flew to Sydney yesterday to catch up with my favourite sparring partner, drinking buddy and wannabe cowboy, Rob.

ned-flanders

Rob was over from Perth for a sheep CRC meeting (of which he’s a board member), and had invited me along to an evening soiree to nibble canapes, talk sheep with industry’s great and good and deflect attention away from his wonky mo.

The Sheep CRC (Co-operative Research Centre) is a mostly industry but also part Government-funded organisation that does research into the broader issues affecting Australia’s sheep industry. As part of a seven-year project, it has $111m to spend on sheep-based research in a bid to make the country’s producers more competitive and productive.

Discounting a near-miss with a lump of smoked salmon and a sheep geneticist’s loafer, I managed to sail through the evening almost looking as though I knew something about sheep, trade barriers and measurement of wool fibres.

I also had some interesting chats about how the CRC is getting it’s research findings out to farmers, and how sheep farmers within the organisation go about discovering new information.

As with the UK, it seems there’s a wealth of information out there, but none of the really useful, scientific, business-changing stuff is simple to access. There seems to be a gulf between the researchers and the people who could benefit from their work as – so far – no body’s really acted as a mediator between the two.

Maybe the CRC will help change that, but if not, there’s an apparent red-head who wouldn’t mind a freelance job…

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Brisbane bites (today, at any rate)

I’ve never had anyone get on a plane to avoid be interviewed by me before, but apparently that’s what happened to me today.

The Brisbane leg of my trip has been a bit of a disaster, I must admit. Meetings I’d planned have fallen through, other meetings I thought I could sort out on my arrival haven’t materialised.

To top it off, I’ve booked myself into a hostel that seems to have based its bedrooms on the set from Porridge (or Bad Girls, if you insist on being modern). Because there apparently aren’t enough of us crammed into a tiny room with no windows, my bed has handily come equipped with some extra residents: bed bugs.

bedbug

It’s one of the horror stories of backpacking that I’ve so far managed to avoid, but for the last two days I’ve woken up covered in bites. Sorry, I take that back. According to the lovely receptionist, the lines of bites are in fact heat bumps. Yep, definitely heat bumps…

Today I set about trying to make the best of a bad job by doing some interviews over the phone and trying to get to various peoples’ offices to meet them. One interviewee suggested I meet him at the airport, so I made the trek out there and stupidly sat in the departure area for two hours before I conceded he wasn’t coming.

I’m my grumpiness, I’ve booked a flight for Sydney tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll get to catch up with Magnum, talk sheep, wear my happiness-inducing red shoes and sleep in a bed where I’m not going to get bitten.

I live in hope…

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Cuteness and sheep

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Brisbane: it’s not that bad.

After much sensible discussion and guidance from Magnum, I decided to travel straight from Hervey Bay to Brisbane.

Briso, as probably nobody else calls it, is the state capital of Queensland and is the first proper city I’ve been to in the last month. When I got off the coach I felt like kissing the concrete and hugging the nearest office blog as I inhaled a few healthy lung-fulls of polluted air.

My Farmers Weekly chum, Mr Poultry World, hails from Brisbane and as I know how much he likes the place, I took a few photos to remind him what he’s missing.

brisbane

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Sandig insel

Wie gehts, meine blog Freunden?

Who’d’a thunk I’d end up coming to Australia and learning German, eh?

I’m pretty sure there isn’t anyone under the age of 35 left in Deutchsland, as they all seem to be here. It’s like they wanted to fill the gap between drinking beer during Oktoberfest and mulled wine at the Christmas markets so they hopped on a plane to Queensland to pass the time.

I’ve just spent the last two days on Fraser Island where I was shacked up with two very lovely German-speaking gals. It quickly transpired that my school-level German – which taught me how to tell someone my favourite lesson is art and that I help my mother by laying the table – is pretty much useless in everyday conversation.

Luckily, the girls spoke impressive English, so we were able to get around the island and get along pretty well. Fraser Island, in case you’ve never heard of it, is about 300km north of Brisbane and is made up almost entirely of sand.

Fraser Island
Home to rain forests, fresh water and rain water lakes, swamps and mangroves, as well as the world’s most pure-breed dingoes, it was designated a World Heritage site in the early 1990s.

In the past Fraser was an important place for forestry, with wood from the island used to help build the Suez Canal. The government decided in 1991 though that, even with conservative farming practices, forestry was damaging the island’s ecosystems, so it’s now just a haven for tourists.

Once again, I cleverly managed to time my trip to a tropical island paradise with a whacking great rain belt, so I got to see the place at it’s grey and murky best:

Fraser Island montage
Still, travelling in the rain meant I got to learn some new German words – ‘ganzehaute’ for goose bumps and ‘nieselregen’ for drizzle. Who knew this trip would be so educational.

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