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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Wikinews reporters are everywhere

Yesterday I had the pleasure of stepping out and doing a spot of Original Reporting for Wikinews. Earlier this week I had heard in mainstream media that Australian Prime Minister John Howard was going to be in my home town of Bathurst to do a spot of campaigning for the local MP. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to get out and do some original reporting on the streets of Bathurst.

Two days before Mr Howard's visit I heard that a group of protesters were arranging a protest to greet him on his arrival to a Liberal Party luncheon. I then googled for details of the protest's organiser, a unionist by the name of Daniel Walton. He told me that protesters would be assembling shortly after 11:30AM on Friday and to look out for "the guy in the red shirt" to have a chat and get some quotes.

So I took my Pentax Optio 60, a notebook, pen and my Wikinews press card and headed for the protest. Once there, I was surprised by the attitude of police towards me given the relative unknowness of Wikinews in Australia. Police told me I was pretty much free to wander around, take photos and write notes so long as I followed their orders. While I was being told this, I was seeing other people being ushered towards the barracades where protesters were standing behind by police.

Once I spoke to the police, I went looking for Daniel Walton. To my surprise (or perhaps his sense of humour) there were quite a number of people in red t-shirts. I wandered around the protest crowd, talking to protesters and gathering comments until I was approached by another organiser Michael Foggarty. He was more than happy to be interviewed, asked some questions about Wikinews and then introduced me to Daniel Walton.

I interviewed Daniel, took some more photos and then noticed people were beginning to enter the luncheon venue across the street. I crossed the road where I was stopped momentarily by riot police, who told me "Protesters aren't allowed over there". Once I flashed my Wikinews press card and explained what I was doing, the officer apologised and sent me on my way.

Half way across the road, I spotted perhaps the highlight of my day - a young man impersonating our PM. Having a chuckle to myself I continued on my way and requested a few comments from luncheon attendees, all who refused. Even the Deputy Mayor of Bathurst refused, telling me he "doesn't speak to journalist trash", despite walking only a few steps further down the street and speaking to reporters from the local newspaper!

As antendees were walking in, protesters made their voices heard, calling atendees Chumps (which I learned on Urban Dictionary means a stupid or gullible person) and yelling chants about the PM and our local MP.

After standing opposite the street from the protesters for a short time, I noticed the police were beginning to barracade the street block off. Knowing Mr Howard wasn't too far away I moved into a good vantage point to capture a photo for when he arrived. I was able to stand probably two metres behind the rear of his Holden Caprice as it pulled into the kerb.

When Mr Howard exited his vehicle, I caught a shot of him stepping up the curb. I then turned and took a shot of the protesters with their backs to him.

It was the first time I had seen Mr Howard in real life and would have been standing not more than five metres from him.

The most difficult part of putting the article together for Wikinews was the lack of comment from luncheon attendees, this made it difficult to comply with the neutrality policy. Fortunately, the Prime Minister's speech to those at the luncheon was transcribed on the internet, where he had commented on his industrial reforms the protesters were discontent with.

I am looking forward to covering the next major event in Bathurst to publish on Wikinews when it happens!


NZGabriel said...

Great work.

Brian said...

Agreed, Cool Story. Well Done!