Journalism students visited by blockbuster producer
Peter Charley, an Australian journalist who is also the Washington DC-based executive producer of Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit, produced a three-year investigation into the US’s gun lobby which uncovered how officials from a far-right Australian political party, sought millions of dollars in political funding, while offering to soften Australia’s strict anti-gun laws.
Using hidden cameras, Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit tracked representatives of ‘Pauline Hanson’s One Nation’ as they travelled to Washington DC for meetings with the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other lobby groups, including the energy giant, Koch Industries.
Peter Charley said during the lecture: “Initially we were focused on infiltrating the NRA, One Nation only came to the story late in the frame, but from the beginning of 2016 we’ve been working within the NRA, and we fabricated this 'gun rights Australia' organisation”.
Speaking about the how the content was captured, Charley commented: “I’m not surprised that there is interest in the way it was gathered, it is controversial, I set out to push boundaries and I am quite comfortable with that”.
“We were very careful indeed to make sure we didn’t mis-represent anyone, that we didn’t create any so called “franken-grabs” or anything like that, we never did that”.
Al Jazeera Executive Producer
'Stories from the Streets: Local Journalism' is a core journalism subject in the Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) program. Students develop an understanding of news content, writing and current ethical and legal standards employed in newsrooms in Australia; and research and produce accurate, well-edited news stories across online text, audio and video platforms to deadline.
Head of Journalism, Professor Monica Attard said: “The Al Jazeera documentaries – Selling a Massacre – were aired right as we were focusing on journalistic ethics. In a sense, manna from heaven. There were many questions from students in tutorials the week the ABC aired the documentaries about whether the doco-maker, Peter Charley had acted within the MEAA Code of Ethics which we teach almost as a bible study. And of course, he didn’t adhere to the code, though the code envisages its ‘rules’ being overwhelmed by public interest values. These are important discussions to have with journalists in training and so to have Peter come in to chat to first year journalism students was about as special as it gets”.
“To hear from Peter as the film maker, about the ethical considerations he personally took in to account, the legal hoops that had to be jumped and some of the takes that ended up on the cutting room floor was fascinating. I hope hearing from people like Peter inspires our students to look to video – particularly as the world of multimedia swamps pure text. All journalism deals with words. Sometimes words and pictures are just a magical formula.”
- Professor Monica Attard, Head of Journalism, University of Technology Sydney (UTS)
In line with Pete Charley’s visit, students attend presentations by professionals and experts in the field, to develop both an understanding of the current professional climate and the necessary individual skills and aptitudes. UTS Journalism students will, in the coming weeks, be interviewing the industry’s most high-profile journalists – Leigh Sales, Hamish McDonald, Rick Morton and Sandra Sully.