Note, even using the paste from Word function the numbered lists are coming out as a block of dense text - When I find out how to link a PDF I will correct this.
ECOMEDIA - STRATEGY and TACTICS
Author: John Austin,
This is a very brief paper for eco-media in environmental and social reporting. I accept that social and human issues are important, but I focus on the eco-aspects as without a stable and sustaining ecosphere any attempt to address human equality or survival problems will be impossible.
Eco-fights are generally on a local level, mining, timber, water extraction, et alia. These small fights have to be viewed as part of a global attempt to halt eco-degradation while there is any chance left. Forest cleared in Australia has an affect on the climate as a whole, and on. “Think globally, act locally.”
Adventure capitalists and the resource extraction companies who follow them and the “free world” governments they lobby are exhibiting an increasing greed for natural resources without any acceptance that we have to spare something for current survival and for the future.
In most countries resource extraction is a federal government issue, and normally subject to processes which are designed to give local communities little or no voice. In the minds of mining and logging companies small communities have no relevance and protest is futile. This fait accompli has to be changed by us now, we are already over the edge of environmental collapse.
When knowledge of a new project is uncovered it is crucial that your organisation is included as a key stakeholder from the beginning, and clearly distinct from any local authorities that might have a vested interest.
NEO MEDIA DARK AGE
Investigative journalism, film making and photography were professional fields that required training, skill, experience and courage. Good reporters still exist, but are marginalised in Australia. Internationally they are imprisoned and tortured, or simply shot on the spot.
A covert media black-out is in effect in Western Australia, covert because we are generally unaware of it. Even the formerly trusted ABC News is now merely entertaining chatter.
The roots for this paucity of reporting, relevance and truth stretch back to the Crimean War, where reporting the reality of injuries was blocked. In World War I the British Ministry of Information, a chillingly pre-Orwellian term, was formed and taken to a peak in World War II. Third Reich propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels admired and adopted the British techniques and extended his own media strategy to gems like “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.” Dear Jo even tried to block the work of Leni Riefenstahl, who made the propaganda films Triumph of the Will and Olympia, these two films are still the pinnacle of their form.
Seek your information with care.
Cherish your skepticism and question everything.
WHERE FOR US?
We have to consider what we need from media once a new mining, logging, dam or other project is uncovered, listed here in point form.
- Quickly and publicly establish your organisation as a key stakeholder.
- Include in your media that global warming is a very real threat and any future clearance of insert will make your story part of the big story. Therefore, although your potential fight might be a small part of the global defence against the assault on nature, you should include the global aspect in your media.
- To present yourselves as a thriving, harmonious and united community worthy of support, an important image to project, but one that has to be true, but see nr.1 below.
Before the main media points there are four dangers for any social or environmental group within a community.
- Traditionally resource extraction interests have used divisive tactics to cause dissent within the community. In the broader local community people not immediately affected by the project are often supportive of a proponent’s plans as they will “save our town” and “create jobs”.
- The second danger is that alternative and fake “environment” organisations will be set up to divert people and resources with the specific aim of dividing and constraining dissent. This is an old tactic which has worked well for the Australian timber industry in the past.
- Thirdly, moles can be inserted into genuine social and environmental movements to report on meetings and plans, to make meetings tedious to the point that people stop listening, to sow falsehoods and in extreme situations to act as agents provocateurs to incite unwise statements or acts. These people often volunteer for committee positions to further their aims.
- Fourthly, environment and other grass roots groups are attractive to persons whose primary, ‘though unstated, goal is self-aggrandisement, kudos and control. They are one of the biggest internal dangers and is crucial to institute procedural safeguards to ensure a broad and democratic process for decision making, with no one cowed into silence. The Australian forest battles of the late 1990s were riddled with them, which caused many genuine activists to leave forest defence in disgust.
- Fifth, and this is a new one to me, new since 2022 is a posse of, pompous, privileged,’pinionated know-it-alls who have even never participated in a protest rally. These people are the new experts and anyone with any eco-defence experience is disregarded as a lefty-loon.
Cherish your skepticism and question everything.
Resource extraction has vast federal, state and local government influence, and has huge lobbying powers. You are probably tiny, which means you must be determined and efficient, because venture capitalists are determined, are big and have no empathy.
Strategically timber and mining exploration are the offensive and active party, with you in a defensive or reactive position. Normally resource extraction companies keep in the shade, read shade, and depend on secrecy or use “commercial in confidence” to keep their plans unknown. The best defence against mendacity and obscurantism is to shout as loudly as possible across the world.
Therefore media and your relation to it is going to be important and you need to form a responsive and fast learning media group within your community. This can be allied with the people making banners and other media attracting devices, but banners without publicity are pointless, as are physical protests, ecomedia is crucial.
For media output most communities have two story angles, on the human level “Small forest community under threat from mine” and the environmental level “Forest to be destroyed for planned mine.” Understand the difference and use both.
- Research is of fundamental importance. What is needed are dedicated researchers willing to spend long nights delving into the Dung Pits of Cyberia or reading tedious industry or government reports. You can not overestimate the value of your researchers or cherish them enough.
- Veracity, all statements have to be as accurate and factual as possible. You will have your statements questioned or attacked on every level. Note, however, that government and industry can be as mendacious and obscurantist as suits them, it is expected and accepted, even praised by investment media outlets.
- Interchangeable roles, not all of your group will be available all the time, so it is good policy to have several people adept at each role. This idea is touched on later.
The range of media for getting your message known is wide, from stalls at markets and festivals (the current equivalent to town hall meetings); letters to editor; flyers and posters; Youtube and Instagram videos; radio and television interviews and items on television magazine programmes.
The choice of medium will dictate the way the way you are perceived and the way the message is read, (Understanding Media, McLuhan 1964) The difficulty with the huge range of valid media is that you must be careful to keep the approach and content appropriate to the the selected medium, ‘orses for courses.
You will need to aim your media output as high as possible, for instance Australia the Guardian or The Saturday Paper, if you are to be taken seriously. Community stalls are fun, but lack gravitas.
However, include cake stalls for gaining local support, a stall at a community festival can introduce you as a community demanding its right to exist.
A community blog is a bit like a permanent web based market stall, but can be used as a historical time line, which is probably its greatest strength. Included here are FB and Instagram pages, but these can become targets for industry supporting trolls.
An article in a serious alternative or ecological publication will present you as a committed group defending your community or local ecosystem.
Appearances on national current affairs programmes will define you as a researched and articulate political entity, thereby conferring gravitas. Gravitas is good.
These, and the media in between, have their own significance and signification, thoughtfully use which suits the message, as it will become the message.
ACTIVE (CONTROLLED) and PASSIVE (UNCONTROLLED) MEDIA
Your own media (controlled) is that generated by you where you have control. Flyers, videos, photographs, T shirts, bumper stickers, banners, statements and press releases come under this category, ‘though press releases start active but become passive when reframed by external media outlets. We have control over active media
External (uncontrolled) media is where we cede control to the owners and editors of external media outlets. Consider the way media owners who hold resource shares report social and environmental stories. Unless tactical issues are understood you have little or no control over how external media is used.
Getting media stories started is often difficult, but one story in Real Media UK, https://realmedia.press or in Australia The Green Left https://www.greenleft.org.au will be a start. While appearing alternative and radical, these news sites are run by people who appear know what they are doing. International outlets, like Real Media UK, have value in getting your story added to global awareness and possibly causing local embarrassment. Major news organisations sift through these radical sites looking for new material, so after one or two stories have been published, other outlets are likely to follow and spread the waves. Cite the first published stories to encourage outlets like Guardian Environment to pick up the thread. But tread wisely, your group needs to visit, read and understand the way resistance media present stories, choose which ones to send stories to and frame your article or video to suit.
A few points:
- Legal and strategic constraints need to be followed. Never blurt to a newspaper journalist. These media bottom feeders take the worst few words they can find and use them to suit their employers aims. However, there are genuine journalists out there who will fashion their reports to show the truth, but you must first see how they start to tell your story before opening to them.
- The following two paragraphs appear negative, but are based on experience and are intended as a guard.
Television and radio interviews (passive) - TV and radio interviewers are in general people with their own news organisation’s agenda, their jobs depend to it. They greet you with smiles before the interview, but their questions are often slanted to get the answers they need to push their network’s view, so have your own considered script and stick to it, Murdoch’s SkyNews is the worst for this, where the interviewer clearly states the desired answer as a proposition at the beginning of the question. If the interviewee refutes the premise it is already too late, the desired answer was aired to uncritical listeners a few seconds before. (Yes, my best beloved eco-defenders, I have suffered Sky News online for you.)
Newspaper interviews need the same care as you give a television reporter. Newspaper reporters select quotes and bend the story to keep their jobs, and still attribute the content it to you.
- Media/Press Releases follow a set format with definite stages in the document, It is important to follow this format so that whatever reporter or sub-editor reads it will know where to look and thus save time. Journalism is fast, so wasting time is something we must avoid.
It is preferable to send press releases out under the aegis of your group using your group’s email and telephone number. After this, follow up ‘phone calls and meetings will provide important personal contact. However, even with personal communication established, private email addresses and ‘phone numbers should be avoided, Use only your group’s media number and email addresses. Beyond privacy protection a secondary benefit of this is that should the media contact person be unavailable, whoever is filling that role will be able to see previous communications and understand the content, context and purpose.
A format for writing press releases is appended to this document, Appx A
- Copyright can be a vexed issue. To avoid any misunderstanding or later dispute it would suit your purpose if the copyright on any relevant written text, sound recording, photograph or video be shared with or ceded to your group or ceded under Creative Commons.
- Letters to editor and talk back radio, as a group you have no control over who joins in these public forums and what they say. However, within your group you can offer guidance and support, with an offer to help letters-to-editor to be clear, concise and discussing only one or two points. Where more points need to be covered it is preferable to have several brief letters, each one dealing with a maximum of two issues, and from different people.
Returning to the point of veracity, “John of Wherever” on talk-back radio generally backfires, sometimes spectacularly, sometimes spectacularly and hilariously.
- Writing has to be truthful, succinct, cogent and grammatically correct. Grammar is crucial if you are to be taken seriously by major networks. Also, writing needs to be engaging for the reader, to have an easy flowing structure with a sprinkling of linguistic panache. Do not go below the Guardian level of vocabulary and refer to the Guardian’s online style manual when writing.
Do not use excessive or emotionally loaded adjectives. “Small forest community” is descriptive and factual, while this recent quote “And as a community, we strive to promote and protect our interests, which include our beauteous and pristine environment, our community relationships founded on respect, equity, and sustainability, and our unique historical and cultural heritage.” Is a New Age emetic.. This babble was actually put in a draft for a DL flyer in early 2022.
- Photography and Video are important media, for more detail see Appx B and C
- Graphic Design expand . . .
- Keep a Media Contacts folder, a collection of media contacts, emails, phone numbers and other information, such as what selected journalists areas of interest are and samples of their writing or interview style.
- Proponent folder, the contents of this to come from your deeply respected researchers. The folder will contain everything you know and can find out about this company, its officers, shareholders, maps, plans and where the CEO’s mistress buys her underwear.
- DL and A4 folded to DL (active) flyers need to be written with care, see previous comment on writing. Veracity has primacy, as any factual error will be used as a crack to drive a wedge into your publicity. Of course, changes to proponent’s plans or government approvals will affect your content, that is beyond you, but clearly stating the date on the flyer will normally get you out of that poo. And keep the previous information on record. Design components of flyers should be transferrable to web and social media.
- T shirts, banners and bumper stickers (active) also need to be considered terms of your overall story, and be well designed.
- Legal and strategic constraints need to be followed. Do not blurt!
Cherish your skepticism and question everything
TRADITIONAL MEDIA and NEW MEDIA
Traditional media were, and still are, about using writing, photography, film and video to document and publish events.
These older forms are retreating or evolving into a cacophony of new/social media. We are living in a post-photographic age dominated by cameras. (See Kamber, interview NY Times 2010.) This means, in terms of journalism and new media, that a photograph is no longer a discrete object. Photographers as such are now redundant, replaced by multi-area workers increasingly less adept in an ever broadening range of roles. (For proof look at the acceptance of the deteriorating quality of visual reporting on national media, so much so that when reporting is good it stands out clearly.) Further, bearing witness is no longer enough, we have to do much more and to be visibly part of the event. This could be seen as a cybernetic evolution of the “New Journalism” of the 1970s, when the journalist became part of the story; see Thompson, Wolfe, Didion et alia.
While the need for new/social media engagement for our campaign is obvious, these media have to be treated with care. We live in a time of Photoshop™ normality and now that affordable “deep fake” video programmes are a reality, digital images and video have to contend with the question of veracity. Even with traditional photographic images on a page, un-cropped and un-manipulated, you must be aware of these images as artefacts that bear the burden of time and the æstheticisation that photography confers the moment an image is pried from its source.
Although touted as democratic and free, the new/social media are definitely not free. TikTok is used by the Communist Party of China and Facebook and Instagram are owned by a Very Strange Young Man.
Very Strange Young Man’s rapid evolution of social media into a digital meta-verse is troubling; troubling because we are drawn into a self-responsive (meta) somnambulism, from which we will not wake until we go to the supermarket and the shelves are bare.
Another danger with digital and social media is their widespread abuse. Calliste Weitenberg’s exposé on the Australian SBS The Feed shows how easy it is to become an Instagram Influencer. (See That Coastal Girl https://www.instagram.com/thatcoastalgirl/ and SPONCON, SBS The Feed 2021 Episode 3 https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/watch/1871025219840 .)
As a community defending itself you will need someone with the understanding of social media’s inherent drawbacks to guide or manage your presence there. You need to engage with all the platforms, but with care.
Video recording language is briefly considered in Appx C to this document.
NEW (RELEVANT) NEWS OUTLETS
There is a terrible paucity of relevant environmental or social news on mainstream media, sports gets more coverage than arts, although arts are a bigger economic presence. Environmental news gets no mention unless it results in a cyclone or heatwave
Western Australia 6258
2022.01.15ECOMEDIA. Appx A
ECO MEDIA RLSE FORMAT
This is partly from memory, partly from internet searches. Unfortunately the majority of internet results were for commercial promotion, and needed modification. For articles on press releases some of these internet “fact sheets” take verbosity to unimagined depths. Brief is best.
Be aware of legal and strategic issues.
- Group or community logo, to confer authority.
- Group or community official address block, also group Media Liaison contact, email and ‘phone number, but this is normally at the end and can be placed here as a convenient repetition.
- PRESSS/MEDIA RELEASE and Release date, for news or non-commercial releases the release date is normally immediate.
- Title or headline, description to attract attention, no longer than a headline should be. Often bold, centred and in upper case.
- Introduction, Brief description of content, no longer than thee or four sentences. include the who, what, where, when and why of the story. Write in the third person, and avoid adjectives.
- Content, the story, generally in no more than 400 words. Continue to write in the third person, and continue to avoid adjectives. It will not hurt to include a differently worded version of the who, what, where, why and when of the story in the first paragraph. For newspaper use think of this as a potential cut and paste job for a busy journalist, so write in the appropriate language. This means we need to read papers on a regular basis to get a feel for current language.
- Who QCA and Quinninup (Boilerplate?) are, a brief description. This can remain on the template. (I would have thought it would be placed earlier in the release, but this is where it goes, according to everyone.)
- Optional List of attachments, generally photographs or maps, or the availability of video recordings. Include copyright status, but as we are offering photographs that is basically a licence to use. Maps from Allup’ could be a different case.
- Optional, list of relevant URLs in case a journalist is attracted to the story and wishes to do further reading,
- Optional, list of attached photographs, videos and scanned maps.
- Repeat of media contact details, so the reader of the release does not have to go back to the beginning if they wish to contact us. This repetition, ‘though really the repetition is at the beginning, is optional, but visible at top and bottom saves time for a busy journalist.
- End, just that, END or ###ECO MEDIA Appx B
- Research, before you get to the action, learn what you can about the event or action and the protagonists to be photographed. Understanding the story is as important as charging your batteries and having clean SD cards or plenty of film.
- Stock pix these are useful and easy to get and keep, pix of the proponent’s registered offices, bull building and entryway, trucks emblazoned with logos, CEO arriving or leaving the office. Anything relevant, but use nothing that could be construed as personally hurtful, this can rebound on the group’s public image. Pix of the CEO with his mistress could be kept on file, but . . .
- For legal reasons take care what you photograph prior to the police arriving. People setting up banners or rigging abseil ropes can be prosecuted for aiding and abetting if your camera cards are confiscated by the police as hevidence, which means we can loose valuable workers to legal hindrance. Once the police are on the scene go for it. Sprinty, dodging kids are great for running away with SD cards to if you see the TRG bearing down on you.
- The value of the work of an eco-photographer is nearly as important as the action itself. The media looses interest as soon as someone is arrested or cut out of a lock on. But the action or event can continue to be shown and used via the photographs recording the event.
When working keep your mind as open as open as your eyes. A pair of Leicas or Nikons can be a barrier to being part of the action, but are our tools. Keep in your mind that while being observationally opportunistic your work needs human engagement and empathy.
The forces of repression are now beginning to learn the value of documentation, and photographers will possibly be excluded or arrested more often in the future. A young woman was arrested in 2021 for photographing an ‘Xtinction Rebellion event in Perth. I was arrested for documenting the Nairn Quokka Protest in Nairn Forest in 2003, but I knew the situation and decided that behind a log truck where the police shoved the media I thought “phuq-it only one place to get the pix”.
- Plan a cinematic approach to your picture story. The research you have done will lead to a planned cinematic shot list. Establishing view, nice and wide angle, mid shot showing the action, and close work for details.
However, the reality is that once an action has started the planned series of pictures the story goes off in its own direction and the shot list becomes irrelevant, but there is value in the planning as it will give an overall framework.
A cinematic approach also means your images can be edited into video productions, a still camera has a number of advantages over video for image recording. Many photographers have adopted the practice of keeping the camera in a horizontal orientation whatever the subject, thoughtful composition can make this work. This broadens the image’s usefulness.
- Lenses, normally I work with two camera bodies, both either Nikon or Leica, with 21, 35 and 90mm lenses. One body carries the 35mm lens permanently. The other body has either the 21 or 90mm lens depending on the situation. If only one camera is in use a 35mm lens is mounted, as this will do almost everything. I do not use zoom lenses, they are, big, awkward slow to use and when watching people work with them I am shocked at the length of time they spend zooming back and forth without really deciding on a composition. This is personal, but . . .
The logic of lens choice, yes there is logic, 15 or 21mm equates to full peripheral vision, panic mode for shock effect of extreme wide angle. 35 or 50mm is normal walking and driving angle of awareness, how we see nearly all the time. 85, 90 or 105mm is our concentrated angle of vision, when we are in conversation or writing. It is as simple as that. I have tried 24, 28, 50 and 135mm lenses and found no use for them, but that is personal, a lot of people like 28 and 50mm.
- NO Cropping do not crop an image. Cropping an image shows poor camera management, bad positioning or lack of awareness of what is happening at the edge of the frame. Take your pix with your feet, get in the right position and work. If someone says, and we hear it all the time “every image is improved by cropping” turn your back on them, improve your pix by critically looking at them and learning good placement.
Video format cropping exception for insertion into a 9:16 (1:1.777) ratio video. A standard 35mm or “full frame digital” gives give a ratio of 2:3 (1:1.5). This means cropping a slither top and bottom. Full frame digi-cameras offer 9:16 as a framing option, and using this as a standard gives a slight paranoiac effect and makes life easier for the video editor, who will be pushed for time. Another ratio is the Golden one, 1:1.618, bit less off the top and bottom of a 35mm frame and a bit off the sides in a 9:16 video format. (Affinity photo editing programme offers this in its pre-set range, and it has a lot to recommend it. If 1:1.618 is good enough for a spiral galaxy, a nautilus shell or a pineapple it is good enough for anyone.)
The mere fact a tsunami, pyroclastic flow or the TRG might be bearing down on you is no excuse for sloppy camera work.ECO MEDIA Appx C
Video has become the lingua franca of the internet, and good video production is something we need for social ecomedia. Short, engaged, well made videos edited for maximum effect that can also be inserted into broader media stories. Clarity and cogency are the first goals, and will help the video editor craft a legible story without too much frustration.
Average video length to accompany a written story or an Instagram post is about two minutes, rarely longer than three.
- The mobile ‘phone is a truly amazing piece of equipment. A mobile ‘phone will allow direct spoken or written communication, it can record sound, photographs and video and transmit these to the world in moments. Everyone has one, even I have one, ‘though I dislike having a ‘phone with an IQ vastly greater than mine.
- Discipline when using a mobile ‘phone for video recording is important as we need the videos to be easily understood by the viewer. Always start recording with the camera-phone in horizontal (landscape) orientation, even with someone talking to camera. We see in a horizontal shape, there is a simple two finger exercise to prove this. All screen devices, televisions, computers and cinema screens are in horizontal mode, so keep life easy for the viewer and record in horizontal format.
It is important to start the recording in horizontal mode rather than starting in vertical and rotating the ‘phone through 90 degrees: if you do this the replay format will still be vertical, but the image will be shown sideways. Where a video clip is in horizontal format, the action is shown at a larger scale on a television screen. I am urging visual discipline because that is what is needed to get the story understood.
The mere fact that a tsunami, pyroclastic flow or angry miner is bearing down on you is no excuse for sloppy camera work.
- Steady camera work, hold the camera steady and avoid waving it around or zooming during the recording. Excessive camera movement or zooming are distracting to the viewer. It is better to have a number of stable video takes that can be edited around the audio track or interview. The steadiness is to help the viewer read the story, which is the point of the process. Even short sections of still images can be edited into a video.
- Video camera language should be simple and uniform within the group. To use idiolect forms in your situation could make fast and cohesive video editing difficult. You are trying to communicate clearly and make your recording usable on as many platforms as possible. You can make personal recordings and use them for art as a separate project.
- Video recording sequence should be followed where possible. Start with a wide establishing shot, showing the whole arena where the action will occur. This will give the viewer an introductory overview.
Then to a few mid-shots, closer, possibly from both left and right, but not crossing the line, the level of the action. These tell the story.
Then get in close and personal, showing details of lock-ons etc. Also record several cut-aways for the benefit of the editor. New Age hipsters call cut-aways “B Roll”. The real meaning of B Roll is half an alternating two-roll editing technique in 16mm film making. But, with video editing programmes it is easy to have as many visual streams running along the time line as we wish. With the resurgence of film film the two uses of the term B Roll can cause confusion, so I continue to use the original term cut-away. Editing is another story altogether, bigly so.
- Aerial Drone camera recording, as the two roads into the proposed area are currently “officially” closed and now that DBCA use surveillance cameras, driving on these roads could present legal problems. Having recently visited Wattle Forest it appears that DBCA are using Disease Risk Area, DRA, signs as a cover to keep observers away. A drone can record without touching the ground. We have one in the community and one owned and used by a friend in Bridgetown.
- Sound recording quality is also crucial, but something I know absolutely nothing about.
- Editing, syntax and syntagm, the crucial process where the video elements are crafted into logical statements, like syntax in a sentence. These short statements are then pieced together to form a visual paragraph, and on to the whole story. Two minutes seems like a very short time until one is actually editing.
Although a fictional work, Chris Marker’s La Jetee is a superb example of how strong editing can produce a masterpiece from simple images. La Jetee is the film to which Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys is an homage. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeTdW6IrwIw Prior to being a film maker Marker worked as a left wing journalist.
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