Focus on timely issues ensures annual Forum always booked out
By Emily Bogue
Proven popular and valuable
Young rural and regional journalists gather yearly in Melbourne, Australia, for a professional development forum with the Rural Press Club of Victoria. We have found it a popular and valuable opportunity.
Traditionally, RPCV events are breakfast or lunch meetings with speakers of interest to the rural media. These events during the year are usually held in Melbourne, a central location for our members.
The Regional Journalists Forum has been popular since it was started in 2007 with a goal of offering a professional development and networking opportunity, particularly to younger journalists based in regional, non-metropolitan areas.
Several features make it popular
The timing. It’s held on the same day as the Club’s gala awards night to encourage journalists to make the trip to Melbourne. This also encourages support of their editors!
The agenda. Speakers and topics are decided based on the emerging issues and trends of the year. For example, the 2009 forum featured discussion panels on:
- “Facing disaster: reporting disaster events such as bushfires”
- “Cutting through the ‘spin'” (How corporate and government media managers deal with the media)
- “Creative creatures: a guide to feature writing”
During 2007, a panel looked at online reporting for print journalists. Other forums have featured discussions with seasoned investigative reporters, government media representatives and newspaper editors.
The interaction. The Forum gives young journalists the opportunity to ask seasoned reporters about their experiences, including the highlights, the adventures and the challenges. Learning about the career paths of veterans is inspiring for newer reporters. Many of Victoria’s leading journalists have started successful careers in rural areas. Through the Forum, young journalists also have been able to meet key public relations practitioners, such as the Premier’s Head of Media, to assist with their access to information and interviews.
How it’s organized
The Regional Journalists Forum is held at the headquarters of a major media organization (e.g., the Herald Sun newspaper or Australian Broadcasting Corporation). This approach provides an opportunity for a tour and discussion of the inner workings of these large organizations.
Attendance is free for Club members and priority is given to young journalists. Public relations practitioners who wish to attend are put on a waiting list, pending availability. Forum attendees have increased each year with the event always booked out.
As we are a not-for-profit club, this event is run at minimum cost. Speakers volunteer their time and the venue is provided free of charge. We supply a light lunch, which may be sponsored; otherwise, the event is independent and inexpensive for us to run.
Another tip about planning
For any guild or club wishing to run such an event, we recommend starting your planning early so that your ideal speakers can be available. Our 2009 Forum program featured eight panelists and speakers. They varied from a Black Saturday bushfire reporter and skilled investigative broadcast journalist to a corporate affairs professional in agribusiness and head of communications in the Premier’s office.
Want more information about the Rural and Regional Journalists Forum?
Check with the author at emilybogue(at)westnet.com.au. Emily is treasurer of the Rural Press Club of Victoria and Secretary of the Australian Council of Agricultural Journalists.
Does your guild or group offer special programming to serve your young rural journalists?
If so, send information about it to Jim Evans at evansj(at)illinois.edu. We will be pleased to help you share your approaches, experiences and suggestions with others.
(This professional development feature is provided through a partnership of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists and the Agricultural Communications Documentation Center, University of Illinois.)