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In a tiny, soundproofed room on the upper floor of the University’s Old Canberra House, ANU student Maya Bhandari carefully adjusted her microphone. In just a few minutes, three of Australia’s leading security experts would squeeze into the matchbox studio to discuss some of the most significant changes ever to occur in Australia’s intelligence industry.
Last year, the Turnbull government announced a decision to centralise Australia’s national intelligence and domestic security arrangements into a single organisation. Headed by Minister Peter Dutton, this new Home Affairs ‘super-ministry’ will combine the Australian Federal Police, Border Force, and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (read more here).
It’s a subject that has prompted much debate in academic spheres. In that little studio, Maya hoped to capture some of that discussion through podcasting.
Maya’s podcast, ‘Australia’s New Intelligence Jigsaw’, has been a huge hit since it was released online. It’s just the latest episode in the Policy Forum Pod series, produced by the Policy Forum team at Crawford School of Public Policy at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.
Maya wrote, produced, and edited this podcast as part of the Editor’s Practicum course, a unique course for both undergraduates and postgraduates offered by Crawford School. The internship-based course offers highly practical guidance to students on creating, editing, and distributing academic knowledge across a range of online platforms and academic blogs. This semester students have had valuable internships at Policy Forum, Devpolicy Blog, New Mandala and the Austaxpolicy blog.
“It’s a very hands-on course with – for some – a steep learning curve,” says Martyn Pearce, course convenor and Engagement Manager at Crawford School. “But at the end of it they have produced a range of content which demonstrates their own skills as blog editors, as well as creating engaging content for the blogs they are involved with,” he adds.
A former journalist and newspaper editor, Martyn has many years of practical experience in the industry he is eager to share with students.
“The course has been designed to give students a range of important skills they need to work on one of these academic blogs,” Martyn explains. “It’s about helping them to communicate academic research to a broad audience, of course, but working on these sites requires much more than being able to write well.”
“So with that in mind, the course gives students experience in devising strategy for a blog, commissioning articles, editing and working with authors, creating engaging social media to support the blogs, learning interviewing skills, getting an understanding of some of the legal issues faced by blogs, and learning how to create podcasts – an increasingly-important type of content for many of the sites,” he adds.
The course has drawn on a stellar line up of talent from the college and all around the university. The students have had Hugh White talking to them about writing opinion pieces, Rod Lamberts of The Wholesome Show podcast and Evana Ho of the Love, Canberra podcast talking to them about how to create great pods, James Grubel from the University’s media office teaching them interviewing skills, Nicholas Farrelly talking about how to stay on the right side of the law in this space, and Ross Tapsell from CHL giving them insights into Asia’s rapidly-changing media landscape.
The practical skills taught make transitioning into the industry much easier for students once they have completed the course. Nicky Lovegrove is a graduate from the College of Asia and the Pacific and former Editor’s Practicum student. He now works closely with Martyn as an Associate Editor on Policy Forum, putting the skills he learnt into practice.
Since he finished the course in 2016, he has seen it evolve in response to the rapidly changing world of academic blogging.
“I think the opportunities it gives students now are probably better than what they were,” says Nicky in relation to the Editor’s Practicum course today. “There was no opportunity to learn about podcasts when I did the course.”
But the Editor’s Practicum offers more than just a reference on a resume. Helping to get academic knowledge out to the public has been hugely inspiring for both Nicky and Maya.
“More and more universities are recognising that it’s so important to have popular channels for their ideas,” says Nicky. “Academic knowledge is supposedly among the best knowledge that we produce in society, but too often it’s only read by a handful of people. I think universities are starting to learn that they need to get their knowledge out there if it is to have an impact on the world,” he adds.
“Academic research has the potential to change the world for the better, but only if the right people get to hear about it – policymakers, the public, politicians, etc.,” he says. “This, of course, gives people the chance to influence public debate on the big issues of our time, change people’s views, and create impact.”
It’s an exciting space to be a part of: “Academic blogging has the potential to become the main method of getting important ideas heard,” says Maya. “I think podcasting also has a vital role to play in making academic opinions more accessible.”
By Student Correspondant, Dot Mason.