Welcome back. We've enjoyed hearing about your journalism practice in the discussion forums, and I hope you found the feedback from your peers on your news writing exercise useful. Simple to read is not simple to write, as some of you found out. Mark Twain famously once said that he had written a long letter because he didn't have time to write a short one. It's often harder to write something short, sweet, and clear than to write a long, rambling, or technical essay. But short and sweet is the way that news writing has to be, if you want to communicate clearly to a wide audience. So far, it's this aspect of the journalist job that we've been concentrating on for the most part. This week, though, we're beginning to explore another aspect of journalism practice, the second side of the journalists job, finding things out. That, too, is not as simple as it sounds. How do journalists find out things? Particularly things that people don't want the public to know? There are basically three categories of answer. We might group them under the headings place, people, and paper. Though, of course, these days is it's less likely that you'll be accessing actual paper documents. You're more likely to find the information you need online in the wealth of information that governments make available to citizens in general. Let's start with place. Last week we saw the journalists of news town turn up to a media conference. This was obviously a staged event held for the benefit of the media. A citizen journalist, or an ordinary citizen who is curious or wanted to ask questions, might have trouble being invited or getting in. The citizen journalist might not even know the event has taken place until later, when they see it on the evening news, hear it on the radio, or see it reported online, or in a newspaper. It's one of the ways in which traditional journalists have been privileged in most Western societies. They get access to the people and the places that matter. Whether or not they get answers to their questions is another matter. As we saw last week, some people can say a lot of words, while not actually giving much information. Nevertheless, part of being a citizen journalist is to do your best to get similar access. And to make the most of the information that's made available, often by law, to all citizens as part of an accountable democracy. So we're going to talk about that this week. And then there are some other laws which vary from country to country that can help you in your work. We will talk about freedom of information legislation and how to use it. But no matter how good you are at searching and accessing documents, the heart of finding things out is people. Or as journalists call them, sources and contacts. It's people who tip you off to stories. Often you need people to tell you a document or information source exists. And these days, as we've seen with people such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, sometimes people or whistle-blowers don't go to journalists at all or any other part of what they do. They also take charge of the process and publish material themselves, collaborating with mainstream media to add reach and impact. We aren't going to get to that level this week. But we are going to talk through some of the basics of dealing with people. In teaching journalism we often find that the thing people find most difficult Is contacting strangers and asking them questions. There is no doubt at all that this is difficult work and sometimes confronting. Nevertheless it is essential. This week we're going to talk about the ethical considerations to keep in mind when you approach someone for interview. Next week we will become a bit more practical, actually talking through some of the tricks of the interviewing trade. And in week five, we will go deeper still, and talk some more about developing contacts, handling leaks, and the niceties of on and off the record conversations. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Let's start under the heading of places. Where, as a citizen, are you entitled to go, for the purposes of your reporting? This is an international course. And of course your legal rights will vary from place to place. It's worth checking out the actual laws that apply to where you plan to do your work. But what follows is some general principles that apply to most Western democracies. Most parliaments are open to the public. So, for example, here we have the European Parliament website. Now we're going to give you time in a few minutes to spend some time clicking through and exploring yourself, and having a look at the thing you might be interested in. But if, for example, you're wanting to access documents before the parliament, you might start there. If you had a general inquiry as a citizen journalist, maybe that would be a good place to start. If, let's say, you were doing an investigation into a contract that had been awarded by the European Parliament, or some other government body, or a grant, or political parties and foundations. Obviously, you're not necessarily going to finish your investigation here, but it's a good place to start. So, parliaments are usually open to the public when they're in session. And of course, so too is the Congress of the USA. Both the Senate and the House are open to the public when they're in session. You can plan your trip here. There's information on accessibility and so forth. And of course, you can watch the webcast without actually going there. If we look at the House of Representatives, again you can watch what goes on there, you can find out information about the agendas and what's coming up. And again, depending on what you're looking at, you might want to explore links like Financial Disclosure Reports. If we look at the Parliament of Australia, my home country, we'll see similar sorts of information about the lower house and the upper house, the Senate. Hansard is the record of what's happened in those forums, and these days you'll find if you click through, you can actually search it by keyword, which is a very useful attribute. You can again watch Parliament when it's sitting. It isn't as I'm doing this, but you can certainly do that. Likewise committees, and you'll find heaps more of information at a number of these links as well. We're going to give you time in a moment to explore at your leisure. So with most of these kinds of bodies, congress, parliaments, and indeed, local government council meetings. You're free to go along, take notes, and publish a fair and accurate account of what you see and hear. Be warned, there are usually restrictions on taking photos, videos, or audio recordings. You will have to rely on your note taking ability. More relevant for the kind of reporting many of you are doing, most local government bodies, city halls, and councils also must allow citizens to observe their meetings, unless a special ruling is made to exclude the public. In Australia each state has different legislation on local government meetings. Here is a link to the relevant law in the state of Victoria. Section 89 of the local government act lays out the circumstances under which a meeting can be closed to the public. If it isn't closed then you can attend and take notes and publish account of what you see. Similarly any documents tabled during the meeting are normally open to the public. Local government is also normally required to make a lot of information about its dealings public. For example, counsellors and parliamentarians have to make a public declaration of their pecuniary interests. The property they own. The companies in which they're involved and any gifts they've received. Here's an example of this kind of document. It is a register of pecuniary interest for the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. You will see that his wife holds shares in a company called General Gold Resources Incorporated, while he has shares in the Hanbord Community Bank. You can also see that he's been given gifts of suits from Liondos Tailors in Sydney. Those entries relate to 2010. But scroll down and you can see the updates he's filed. If you're interested in Australian politics, you might like to have a look at the link that we've just explored. And you'll find the register of pecuniary interest for other Australian Parliamentarians as well. But you're probably most interested in looking at the equivalent information where you're working. So information about national politicians is one thing, but I know that many of you are most keenly concerned with reporting your local community, and the immediate concerns of people in your street, and your suburb, and your town. And of course in that case it will be local government, City Hall, which is most significant interesting to you. Now, the laws differ from place to place, from country to country and even from state to state within a country, but most local governments these days also have to provide different kinds of public information comparable to what we've just seen for national politics. Now if we look at local government in Victoria where we are, for example. As you can see from this webpage from the Moreland City Council, the local government area in Melbourne, Victoria. The public is entitled to see documents concerning allowances paid to councillors and council staff, expenses paid to councillors, and agendas and minutes of meetings. These days a lot of this information is usually posted on a local government's website. In fact, if it isn't that would be unusual. You might like to click through and see what expenses councillors have been paid. Or perhaps, more relevantly to you, do the same in your local governed area, and check out the laws that apply where you are doing your work. If you're in the USA for example, the Digital Media Law Project contains a great compilation of your rights as a citizen to turn up to the meetings of government and access information. Take some time to review the open meetings laws in your state. Or if you're working in the United Kingdom, you might to take some time to review this site on the open government partnership, which aspires to make information on who owns businesses more easily public. Take some time now to find out what you can about your rights to access government information in your place of work. And if you find anything juicy, please share it in the discussion forum.