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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bmag May 8th 2012 - Why so nasty?

When did we all become so nasty? I’ve repeatedly expressed my enthusiasm for social media, especially Twitter. But in the last couple of weeks, it’s really bugged me. I know how to handle criticism. I wouldn’t have survived two decades on radio without learning how to listen to those who I respect and ignore those who are just baiting for a reaction. But last week, someone made it through the armour. Why? Because Ben Limmer (real name? Who knows? Who can tell on Twitter?) wasn’t attacking me. He was cutting down the hopes and dreams of an 11-year-old girl. Here’s what happened.

Saturday night at 9.52pm, I tweeted: “Lemonade stall, you’ve been replaced! Eleven-year-old girl has dropped home-made pizza menu in our letterbox! Have ordered for next weekend! :)”And Ben’s reaction (I’ve fixed his spelling):“Hope she has a BCC (Brisbane City Council) food licence”.I replied: “Hope you have tongue in cheek”.He continued: “No, if you are paying money for her food it would be illegal.”I told him that I had no doubt how the court of public opinion would find this girl’s business get-up-and-go, to which he responded: “If your whole street got food poisoning where would public opinion be then?”

At this point, other Twitter users or tweeps added their two cents worth. There was Lyndon, who showed support by asking: “Does she offer a blue cheese and pear pizza?” (For the record, she’s kicking off with Supreme, Hawaiian and Vegetarian). Nathan, who co-owns a cafĂ©, suggested there was a higher risk at “most Saturday barbecues”.Zsa Zsa described the girl’s pizza business as “wonderful” and Elizabeth simply tweeted“Awww…”Glenny chimed in from Melbourne with: “It’s just a young girl making a little pocket money. Good luck to her. People just read too much into a girl getting off her butt to make a few bob”.

So yes, there were those who jumped to defend my neighbour, but it was Ben Limmer who scored a victory by getting to me. On the Monday, I asked my radio listeners why we’re so quick to judge nowadays. Stan said: “The girl was just getting off her posterior and doing something for herself. She deserves praise not negative comment. But I am afraid I fall into that category from time to time. I blame it on the pressures of living.”From Deb: “I don’t know why but crankiness seems to kick in a lot earlier. It used to be the domain of the older people but the young’uns seem to get really cranky these days. Maybe it’s impatience?”Christina offered: “It’s stress, trying to keep a husband and five kids happy, juggle the little money we have and all for very little thanks. Some days it’s not too easy to pull out a smile, a laugh or even a smirk.”Paul’s response was simple: “There are too many people!”Linda took aim squarely at Twitter: “It’s a platform for uninformed and uneducated morons to vent about anything and everything without thinking about the impact their sometimes poisonous words have on innocent individuals”.

And finally, Patty suggested it’s because we can, now that social media has given everyone a voice. There’s something in all of the above but I think Patty’s nailed it. Social media sites don’t have a gatekeeper. Where newspapers have always been able to select which letters they publish, and radio producers have enjoyed similar control over which talkback callers get to air, Twitter, Facebook and the internet in general have given everyone the ability to publish whatever they like.

This whole experience has really affected me and I’m going to do what I can to change the tone. I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to watching TV and live-tweeting comments about what a newsreader or reality contestant is saying or wearing. It’s keyboard road rage. And it has to stop. Here and now, I’m taking a vow of social media positivity.

And for those who are wondering, no we didn’t all die of food poisoning. The pizzas were delivered piping hot and perfectly on time, packed high with toppings, exceeding all our expectations! And they earned our young neighbour both a handsome tip and another order for this weekend! Who’s joining us?

Bmag May 22nd 2012 - Righting radio wrongs

Want to inject some honesty and accuracy into the world? Read on. I’ll show you how!

We all have our fields of expertise. Something we know inside and out. It could be a TV show or a period in history. For most of us, it’s as simple as what we do for a living. You might not feel comfortable calling yourself an expert. In fact, in a moment of self-questioning, you’ve probably wondered how long it will be before you’re “found out!” We’ve all done that.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, says it takes 10,000 hours’ practise to become expert in something. I say you achieve it when you can watch a TV show or movie and spot mistakes.

I’m not talking about continuity errors –my favourite of which is the car chase in Diamonds Are Forever, where James Bond (Sean Connery) drives into a narrow lane on just the two right-hand tyres. As the car leaves the laneway, it’s flipped onto the left! I mean mistakes you could have fixed if only the studio had hired you as a consultant!

Brad Pickersgill, who runs a fire prevention consultancy, says he regularly has to reassure clients that sprinklers do not all go off at once like in the movies. Brad continues: “Don’t even get me started on Towering Inferno, with its gas mains inside fire escapes, elevators that don’t shut off during a fire alarm and a water tank on top of the building which would weigh enough to collapse any structure.”

Forensic scientist Jen Dainer says TV shows like CSI and Law and Order present real problems for police and the courts because of “how much forensic evidence they always seem to have lying around and how rapidly they can get results from the evidence”. She says jurors now expect forensic evidence all the time.

Former drover David Morgan says he lost count of the number of mistakes in the movie Australia: “When the cattle jumped and rushed (or to use the American term, stampeded) the manner in which the mob was wheeled and brought to a stop had tears (of laughter) running down my face.”

Brisbane Philharmonic Orchestra concert master Robyn Gray says: “In the opening scene of August Rush, Keri Russell holds a cello back to front!”IT support worker David de Groot points to the movie Hackers with its “blatant ineptitude about computer hardware, such as referring to the specs of a PC-style laptop then showing a Mac instead”.

“Mad keen golfer” and film critic Matthew Toomey says the climax of Tin Cup sees Kevin Costner’s character hit his ball onto the green with a three wood. It appears to sit a metre from the hole then somehow spins back off the green and into the water, destroying his chances.“Firstly, you can’t spin a ball with a three wood and secondly, there’s no way they’d put a pin placement on a slope where the ball runs so easily into the water.”

You get the idea! It makes you wonder how these mistakes slip through. Of course, by the time you see the show or film, it’s too late. All you can do is shout at the screen! However, and this is my point, if ever you hear a radio interviewer failing to understand something about which you are an expert, there is more you can do than just scream.

This is my 20th year presenting live daily radio. Every day, I conduct interviews on seven or eight different topics. That’s a lot of interviews over the years. Try as you might to stay on top of everything, there are times when you say goodbye to a guest wondering whether the conversation was accurate and useful for someone who really knows the subject (not to mention someone who doesn’t). This is especially important when you’re interviewing someone who may be trying to avoid telling “the whole truth”.

I’m sure I speak for my colleagues at the ABC and other stations when I say we truly appreciate you phoning, texting or tweeting a critical snippet of information that can be woven into a live interview. No, you can’t change a mistake in a movie, but you can play a part in ensuring the accuracy of live radio in this city.