Rex Martinich
Journalist
The Hamilton Spectator

The 2014 Rural Press Club Victoria Forum provided a great insight into how journalists, reporters and correspondents deal with challenging situations.

The forum also gave a valuable insight into how the new State Control Centre manages bushfires and other disasters and responds to the needs of both traditional and social media.

The day was, of course, capped off with a trip to the local watering hole which was handily embedded in the ground floor of Telstra’s HQ.

The ABC Papua New Guinea correspondent, Liam Fox, stole the show with his vivid description of a nation deeply rich in culture and tradition but marred by violence and poverty.

His experiences made Australian-based journalists feel spoiled by having access to dedicated government media staff members who usually try to help us with questions and statements.

Liam had been dealing with government departments for five years who answered the phone on the 50th ring of the 10th attempt to get someone on the line.

The incidents of shocking violence perpetrated on a daily basis also made PNG a difficult assignment for Liam but came with the rewards of producing memorable reports with almost complete autonomy.

The futuristic surrounds of the State Control Centre were a world away from the chaos depicted by Liam.

However, Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley has been tasked with controlling a different kind of jungle: social media in the midst of a disaster.

Craig said the State Control Centre had learned a lot about how to handle online criticism during the Hazelwood mine fire and Morwell pollution disasters.

The State Control Centre is set to expand its social media presence and monitoring next fire season.

Channel Nine News Melbourne journalist Brett McLeod and 3AW state political reporter Lauren Hibbert covered life in a budget lockup and debate whether such a theatrical event is justified in the age of constant leaks and story drops.

Social media popped up again with Brett describing how Nine uses Twitter and Facebook to promote its main news bulletin.

Lauren said 3AW took a different approach by treating the radio station’s website as a separate product but could also see in real time how social media influenced its online radio stream audiences.

And then, as they say, it was “off to the pub”.

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