Feature Writing · University assessment

Snapshots of real life – Profile Article

Published at: http://www.suncoasttimes.com.au/features/snapshots-of-real-life/

Richard Grenfell 29-04-2017-0015
Looking from another angle … Richard Grenfell started the photo blog Humans on the Sunshine Coast to explore the texture of the people.

BY TAYLA LARSEN

For most people, social media is their trophy cabinet: a place where they display their achievements, flaunt their feats and show only the best version of themselves. Not Richard Grenfell, he is here to smash the cabinet’s glass.

With his new found love of photography as the paint and the realities of everyday life as the brush, he aims to create a truer picture through his photo blog Humans on the Sunshine Coast. “I don’t trick the photos up at all; I don’t try and flatter people with the photos. I try to keep things as I saw them at the time rather than make it look anything other than what it is,” he says.

A staggering 9500 people follow his Facebook page, but Richard hopes adding to his already impressive portfolio will create enough community support to push this figure to 10,000 within the next month. His spare time is spent scouring the Coast’s hot spots, camera in hand, looking for people who are willing to share their story. But it hasn’t always been this way; the venture comes after a life of continuous reinvention.

At just 15, a fresh-faced Richard left school to join his father on the regional show circuit selling jewellery. That’s where the rollercoaster began. Travelling show to show, the teen was exposed to various and diverse groups, but quickly learned there is more to people than meets the eye.

“The guys who do sideshow stuff, they are full on those dudes, but they are cool when you know them … but they are a different breed and I mean that affectionately,” he says.

What followed is a decision which still boggles Richard’s mind: army enlistment. His voice lowers and he shakes his head in pure disbelief recalling those few brief, regrettable years. At another loose end, he made a career out of his love of music. “I was an instrumental music teacher, that’s a fancy way of saying guitar teacher, for about five years. I did that full time for that period and then I got sick of that. That’s a bit of a common thread in my life,” he says.

Curiosity finally got the better of the tired muso in his mid-40s. His beloved rock magazines had always left him questioning what exactly made a photograph great, so he decided to find out for himself. Talking about trading in his guitar for the camera, the self-taught photographer’s eyes light up and his face almost disappears behind his infectious grin. He says at first handling equipment as intricate as a DSLR was baffling but his confusion only left him wanting to know more.

“I think there’s magic in still photos. I think they’re far more iconic than anything else. Like you think about the great images in history and they’re very iconic and I can’t think of an iconic video, apart from movies of course. But a single image is far more powerful I think and people change the world with them like those iconic shots in Vietnam,” he says.

The streets of Nambour are where the now pawnbroker’s latest passion began. Over a year ago he took up street photography, capturing and talking to the town’s characters, but was unsure what to do with this material. It wasn’t until friends told him about a similar project already happening that a light switched on. “I looked at what Brandon Stanton [creator of Humans of New York] did and I thought ‘wow this is cool and exactly what I like doing,’ so that’s what I did. I copied his idea, pretty blatantly too,” he says.

After a life of ups and down, the 49-year-old knows better than anyone else that everyone has a tale or two to share. Although he’s aware there is nothing original in his idea, Richard carries on aiming to tell all stories good, bad or indifferent. The quirky pastime has paid off. The project has quickly become a local sensation and is well on its way to reaching the goal of 10,000 followers thanks to the man behind the scenes breaking away from online delusions.

“I’ve got a theory that social media is riddled with crap. The other side to that, is that people tend to censor themselves as well to look as awesome as possible. It’s either one or the other so to put something in the middle, which is kinda real, maybe that’s what it is, maybe that’s what people relate to,” he says.

With such instant success and support, it’s only a matter of time before Richard destroys the trophy cabinet’s glass.

 

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University assessment

Two is better than one

It’s an ongoing debate. Who should the public trust, the professional or the citizen journalists? Those on either side often disregard their so-called rivals when in fact journalism is only enhanced when the two join forces.

Social media has aided the rapid increase in citizen journalism as everyone with a phone and internet access is able to broadcast to the world. Since then, it has become clearer how the public benefits when the two parties work together.

Here are just three examples.

  1. Citizen journalists provide the footage professionals sometimes can’t

Have you ever wondered why most news stories seem to have the vision of a scene as it unfolds? Well, everyday people are to thank for that. It’s near impossible a professional journalist will be at the scene as a major, unpredictable story occurs. However, these people are simply in the right place at the right time and become citizen journalists the second they begin to document a newsworthy event.

When the public sends in footage of such incidents, it helps journalists to create an engaging and “full” story. It also benefits the journalistic inquiry of the story as viewers or readers are able to see the events as they truly happened.

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It’s rare that professionals will be at the scene to get these shots.

 

  1. It’s paramount in dangerous situations 

Terror events or emergencies are often present within our news. The combination of citizen journalists and social media have become crucial in disseminating information in these situations. As mentioned above, journalists can’t be everywhere all the time so it’s important these people play watchdog for the public too. We, as outsiders, don’t know what’s happening at the scene without these people posting to social media.

Those who find themselves in such situations keep the public informed of the immediate danger.  They are not only firsthand sources, but also contributors. Ultimately, it’s the public who benefits though, as the professional and citizen journalists can work together to broadcast information to protect and inform others of the situation at hand.

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The reach of social media helps citizen journalists spread messages.

 

  1. Professionals and amateurs can together create change

In recent years, an increasing number of social movements have been in the public eye thanks to the reach of social media. Protests, rallies and cause-supporting hashtags have been broadcast to the world and as a result, injustices have been brought to light.

Citizen journalists often have no barriers when publishing work online, especially if it’s something they feel passionate about. Due to them bringing awareness to an issue, professional journalists are able to report further on the matter, creating even more awareness.

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Professionals help citizen journalists to widely broadcast issues.

 

 

Beware! 

If working for a news organisation ALWAYS ensure you check the validity of your sources. This is crucial to ensure the public aren’t given misleading information, particularly in an emergency. Make sure to ask yourself these questions before using citizen journalist information.

  • Is the source credible and reliable?
  • Does what they’re saying link in with other available information?
  • Are they actually at the scene?
  • How did they get their information?

 

What are your thoughts about the professionals working with citizen journalists?

Are you now inclined to be on the watch for newsworthy events or think it should be left to the journalists?

University assessment

The 21st Century Journo

Journalism is a constantly evolving profession. Different publishing methods have differed in popularity throughout the years and more recently the introduction of smartphones has greatly influenced the way we deliver news. Such an advancement in technology has prompted journalists to use social media to engage audiences with news content.

In the 21st century, it is crucial that a journalist realises the positive effects social media has for this industry, here are just some:

It’s a new way to reach people

Although you may argue we have always been able to reach people through print and broadcast, social media takes this to a whole new level.

Audiences are becoming busier and it’s rare they are always able to read the whole newspaper or sit down to watch the evening news. However, they can still receive important news updates through their social media feed.

Let’s be honest, how often can we scroll through Facebook without seeing at least one news story?

The people in our online network who comment on, like or share these posts are to thank for that. Simple interactions like this are the reason why news can spread so easily nowadays and can reach more people than before.

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People sharing online content help to extend its reach.

Younger audiences are also jumping on board with the idea and social media is becoming their main source of news.

We can post directly from the scene

Thanks to the opportunities social media provides, it’s now easier to keep the masses informed about breaking news.

Yes there are live crosses but these usually have to wait until the 6pm bulletin. With Facebook live or Twitter we can now post news as it unfolds, in real time.

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Smartphones and social media make it easier to broadcast live. Webster, T.

This is a pretty big deal for journalists because it helps us fulfil our primary role as a watchdog for the public. Audiences simply have to be on their mobile devices, which they usually are, to receive news updates and they can also use social media to track the progression of a story.

The people can interact with us

Communication is central to journalism and social media only enhances this. Instead of just publishing stories we are now able to interact with our audience and know their thoughts. For example, allowing public comment  on content posted to social media encourages reader interaction and can be used as a lead for a new story.

Another perk is audiences can provide us with content by sending in pictures or videos from the scene of an event, which we can use. However, make sure you are always cautious of these sources and question their validity.

If the material is accurate though and can be used for reporting news, this is known as citizen journalism.

If you’re unfamiliar with this term, it’s basically members of the public providing information about a newsworthy event or topic. It’s yet another great benefit social media provides the industry.

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Social media opens up a new world for audiences to interact with the news.

 

How does social media influence the way you receive your news?

Has your consumption of news changed since the introduction of social media?

University assessment

Social Media and You

In this technological era it seems as though all of us are part of online communities and have more than one social media account; the world is at our fingertips. But have you ever really thought about the many benefits of social media?

You probably have some idea of the benefits like being able to re-tweet your favourite celebrity or share hilarious cat videos on Facebook. However, what I’m talking about runs much deeper than that and is purely based on what you, as an individual, can achieve through this medium.

Here are some important benefits of social media:

Social media allows you to connect with more and more people.

Active Australian social media users are on the rise meaning you have the ability to interact with a growing number of people in this online space. Another plus is that location is no barrier to the internet and you can develop networks and relationships globally. Just by connecting with users you can form small communities across various social media platforms and deliver your message or thoughts to a large audience rather than to a small group of people face to face.

With social media you can post any time and any place.

Immediacy has become central to the 21st century way of living and social media delivers this through allowing you round-the-clock access. You can participate in real-time conversations regardless of where you are or what you are doing. Any time of the day you are free to voice your thoughts or post updates, unlike other forms of communication. This freedom is greatly thanks to mobile devices that can and do, go with us anywhere and everywhere.

Your opinion and interests matter more than ever.

You have never had more freedom to publicly voice your opinion, so why not take advantage of it? Online audiences are increasingly interested in what others, like themselves, think about an issue and often prefer an everyday person’s commentary over the news. Every day billions of people are posting their thoughts on all matters political, environmental, social, etc. If you publish content that matters to you and those in your network you can get the ball moving on a bigger project and initiate change.

Woman posting to Instagram.
A simple upload to social media has the potential to influence and inform the masses. Sebastiaan ter Burg 2013, Flickr

 

You may be wondering what all these benefits have in common. They all form the basis of citizen journalism, when non-professionals take it upon themselves to provide the news. Social media and smartphones are the main tools citizen journalists use to deliver this content because of audience reach as well as the constant access.

Whether you post from the scene of an event or state your views on a topical issue you are essentially being a citizen journalist as you are providing information to others. Perhaps you already are one and you just haven’t realised it yet.

Let me know your thoughts about citizen journalism.

Are you excited or maybe even intimidated by this concept?

Does it encourage you to utilise social media for a greater cause?