Public holiday drama, dread

While public holidays are generally considered a welcome respite from the usual working week, or at least an opportunity for extra pay, some of us dread them.

Yes, dread them.

Largely for the uncertainty.

Which shops will open? What time do bars close? Is public transport disrupted? Will my lunch come with a side of surcharge?

According to the Department of Labour, employees are “entitled to a paid day off on a public holiday if it would otherwise be a working day … separate from and additional to annual holidays.”

Employees who are made to work on these days “should be specially rewarded”. Generally, this is via time and a half pay, which is legally the minimum paid to an employee on a public holiday.

Different entitlements apply to each type of holiday. In New Zealand we have, 1) Christmas and New Year holidays, and, 2) “all other holidays”.

The first category includes Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and the day after. Weirdly, it also includes Waitangi Day (6 February, today) and Anzac Day (25 April), because they have fixed dates.

As of this year, such holidays evoke “Mondayisation”. This means that if the holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday that would not otherwise be a working day, it is transferred to the following Monday or Tuesday. On the other hand, if the holidays falls on Saturday and Sunday and the employee usually works this day, then they are given a paid day off.

However, law limits employees to no more than four public holidays, regardless of work patterns.

The second category includes Good Friday and Easter Monday (dates variable), Queen’s Birthday (first Monday in June), Labour Day (fourth Monday in October) and Provincial Anniversary Day (date determined locally).

There are only three and a half days of compulsory shop closure per year. Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and until 1pm on Anzac Day.

According to a survey published by the Restaurant Association of New Zealand in March last year, just over half of the industry (59 per cent) open their businesses on public holidays, which was down from 62 per cent in 2010.

However, more business that do open are reluctant to slap on a surcharge, even if it means losing money that day. Many restaurant and cafe owners said their reason for doing so was a sense of public service.

In last year’s survey 62 per cent indicated they did not apply a surcharge, up from 45 per cent in 2010. For those who did apply a surcharge, the average amount was 15 per cent.

When the day arrives, my public-holiday-dread turns into frustration. The local cafe is closed, nobody is available for an interview, and, when I called the Department of Labour, I’m met with an automated response:

“Please call again on the next business day”.

What makes good photojournalism?

“A camera is a mechanical device which records a moment in time, but not what that moment means or the emotions that it evokes. Whereas, a painting, however imperfect it may be, is an expression of… feeling. An expression of love. Not just a copy of something.” (Charles Ryder in Brideshed Revisited).

As a painter, I shared Charles’s skepticism towards photography.

A camera can depict a face mid-expression – distorting emotion and capturing an image that never existed in real time. A photo can portray one side of a story but too easily crop out the other. You can shoot with altered lighting, backdrop, context, thus impacting mood and story implication.

As Ric Stevens (Deputy Editor at the Press) said today, you can never take too much care when selecting a photograph to accompany a news story.

What makes good photojournalism?

Photographer Paul Comon said great photographers take images that “cross language barriers, appeal to people of all age groups, and to individuals of both sexes equally.”

“Subject content, and its proper treatment, is the most important element of any image.”

International expert on photojournalism Ken Kobre said the most dramatic photojournalism results not from city desk assignments, but from breaking news situations.

The most powerful shots are “real”, not prearranged; photographers are observers, not stage-directors.

This means that the best time to take photographs often isn’t the best time to do an interview.

Kobre said that “the photographer and reporter should not become joined at the hip. Each has different needs. One is following the action as it flows down a street, while the other is checking a quote and making sure the name is spelled correctly.”

But what if the “photographer” and the “reporter” are the same journalist?

The benefit of writers taking photographs is their background knowledge of the story. This contextual awareness ensures that words and images develop alongside each other, in the most complementary way.

As news moves online, we are provided with literally limitless space for uploading images without incurring additional costs. Given the visual-heavy nature of the internet, photojournalism is on the rise.

Sam Ruttyn’s Nikon Walkley award winning photo essay in the Sunday Telegraph encapsulates the ideal relationship between photo- and print journalism (and of course it helps that Rosie Squires is a very good writer).

The winning image appeared on the paper’s front page, and accompanied Squires’s article inside.

Ruttyn’s shots of five-year old Josh Carter preparing for another round of brain surgery were unembellished, yet powerful.

Ruttyn described the photo shoot as the most amazing of his career to date.

“My five-year old son Archie is almost the exact same age as Josh so it was quite confronting to watch the surgery up close like I did,” he said.

Ruttyn’s pictures force me to disagree with Charles Ryder. With the Carter images as proof – photography does have the potential to express feelings.

Image credit: Photographic Communication, edited by R. Smith Schuneman

Dispelling prejudices upon entering the blogosphere

I approached this task with a skepticism bordering on sheer reluctance.

You see, to me at least, the concept of blogging evoked brooding teens and a population of vegan-recipe-swapping leisure-class females.

Perhaps I was thinking of Pinterest.

Anyway, quick research revealed that my view of blogging was outdated.

Oh, I’m quite sure that pregnant women are still swapping sewing patterns for elasticated pants on Tumblr, but the frontiers of the blogosphere have been commandeered by an altogether more intellectual and opinionated crowd:


I’ve been living in a cave, according to Mark Glaser (and so has anyone else who “still believes that bloggers are one breed and journalists are another”).

Now that I’m a student journalist, not only do I have to vacate my cave, but I’m expected to join this online frenzy. “Student journalists have no excuse [to not have a blog]. Get a blog. Get writing. Get used to it.” Credit to Adam Westbrook for that wakeup call.

I like Mindy Mcadams’s metaphor of the blogosphere as a giant network of nodes (I admit, I initially misread “nodes” for “noses” and was baffled for several seconds by the notion of an online hongi).

A sense of interconnectivity is promoted amongst major bloggers – both individuals and media organisations. Indeed, Westbrook points out that “the thing that actually makes a blog a blog (and not a normal web page) is its RSS feed, which identifies each individual post as part of a larger series and delivers new posts to peoples’ newsreaders or inboxes.” (Side note: I still haven’t figured out how to use an RSS feed – feel free to enlighten me in the comments section).

So, what makes a good news blog? I consulted Annabel Candy’s blog for handy hints on “effective blog habits”, and her contributors provided – in my opinion – the most insightful tip of all: “Having a thick skin” is integral to being a successful blogger.

I’ll admit that I’m still struggling to place the light-hearted, often-personal culture of blogging within the realm of “hard-news” journalism.

What makes a good news blog?

Just today, I stumbled upon a recent post by our own Russell Brown on Public Address; it begins:

“Hello! I wrote up the following for this week’s Media3, but it didn’t make the cut. I thought it might make for a conversation-starter here…”

Although Brown’s facetiously self-deprecating comment suggests second-rate material, this post wasn’t necessarily unworthy of official publication. It was simply more suited to the multi-directional, multi-media platform of social critique that the blogosphere provides.

Not all bloggers are journalists, but almost all new journalists are bloggers. But, what does this mean for “news” in its traditional sense?

I’m not sure, exactly, how one should go about separating and appropriating their media “presence” to cater for today’s complex news industry.

How do journalists succeed at blogging while maintaining their status as credible, impartial observers?

Cartoon by Alex Gregory, New York Times
Cartoon by Alex Gregory