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Our first story – The Narrogin Feud

March 30, 2010

This week is a week of firsts. The journal website is being finalised as I type and the first story written for Research Journalism is running on Crikey.

The story is a five part series on a family feud raging in the Indigenous Noongar community of small town in the south west of Western Australia. Crikey is running the five articles over this week and next, but that’s not all there is to this story.

As a piece of academic writing it needed to be more than that. The story will soon also be posted on the new Research Journalism site and there the five articles will be accompanied by an introduction, explaining the importance of this kind of coverage and the methods of research used – including a discussion about their provenance and their limitations. In the academic version, each of the five articles will be followed by a list of footnotes detailing the sources of the information used and the pieces will be followed by an exegesis that locates the points raised by the Noongars of Narrogin within broader debates about Indigenous Issues in Australia.

The article, as it will run on Research Journalism, was peer reviewed by three journalism academics. Their task was a difficult one as they had no standard against which to judge the article. For the past few decades journalism has not been considered to be an academic form of writing, only exegesis style writing about journalism has been, and so to satisfy concerns about sufficient rigour this article does both. The result of this is that it is long. One reviewer maintained that he thought it was too long, but it’s early days for this kind of writing.

As a group of academics we are still collectively establishing the norms of this genre. The process of negotiation about what should and shouldn’t be included will proceed as new articles are submitted and over time we will settle into its conventions.

For now though, it’s a first and that in itself is an achievement.

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One Comment
  1. Rhonda Wilson permalink

    Congratulations on an important ‘first’ in my view! As a mental health academic, it is very useful to see timely public discourse of public interest issues, especially as they relate to mental health in communities. The added strength of rigorous process will be beneficial to the whole community. Important human life stories such as the one your first article portrays today is told in such a way (and with evidence) which allow this knowledge dissemination to be useful in many other scholarly forums also. With this particular story in mind, it is an interesting contrast to consider that Australia has rural communities which require the assistance of Oxfam, because we do not have sufficient rural mental health resources of our own. And, yet last week our political leaders had a ‘health debate’ which did not mention how they might plan mental health services for the future at all. Thank you to the journalists who shed light on these important and timely issues. I look forward to more credible stories with sound evidence coming to light in the future.
    Rhonda Wilson
    Lecturer Mental Health Nursing
    School of Health
    University of New England

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