The first bi-monthly Snapshots event for 2017 was presented by Pat Aufderheide a 2017 Fulbright Senior Fellow at Queensland University of Technology, and University Professor of Communication Studies in the School of Communication at American University in Washington, D.C.
Pat began her talk in participatory fashion by teasing out the audiences’ interests for being there, this nicely set up the concluding discussion.
Of particular interest to the Docuverse group is Pat’s research on the question of, ‘How can journalism and documentary benefit from an area in which practices overlap and how can makers stay safer while telling truth to power?’
Part of Pat’s research has involved conducting an online survey. The online survey research aimed to gain a ‘better understanding of Australian copyright benefits to creatives’. Pat has been extensively interviewing people who do controversial documentary and journalism, to find out what limits their work. The study is based on the ways exceptions of fair use are treated in USA, where documentary filmmakers were more effectively allowed to utilise fair use provisions in the law and save on production costs.
Pat was principal investigator on The Center for Media and Social Impact‘s study entitled “Dangerous Documentaries: Reducing Risk when Telling Truth to Power”. Taking the premise that non-fiction filmmakers who tell truth to power often face aggressive attack from powerful individuals, governmental bodies, businesses and associations. The primary ‘blowback threat’ Pat refers to are the ways journalists and filmmakers are either facing or avoiding major litigation when utilising third party media. The study asked, how are independent makers, often working outside of media institutions for long periods of time, and sometimes untrained in journalistic practices, working with this reality?
The problem emerged, as USA law has fair use provisions, but Australian law does not, yet Australian filmmakers can claim under fair dealing provisions. Pat commented, one of the major issues was that Australian law has too few provisions in place, for courts to work into grey areas of law.
Pat believes there is a lack of exploration of the mutual areas of overlap between journalism and documentary skills and practices. The study recommends these areas would be great together, but asks what institutional support do they have and can some of that support become more mutualised.
On the topic of dilemmas faced by local journalists balancing safety with speaking truth to power, Pat was interested in drawing on Docuverse’s own Nicholas Hansen’s experience producing the documentary Breaking the News and in particular how local journalist Jose Belo balanced the pressure of his investigative reporting for local and foreign news crews. In response, Nicholas mentioned how he chose to highlight the legal dangers and potential arrest Jose was facing, for contacting rebel sources and giving them a voice in the aftermath of the 2008 shooting of Jose Ramos Horta.
The ensuing discussion attended to many participants’ questions and teased out the topics of activism and journalism and ways of being both truthful and subjective in journalism whilst facing the issue of telling people one thing over another.
Study: Dangerous Documentaries: Reducing Risk when Telling Truth to Power
Blog post: https://cmsimpact.org/social-impact/documentaries-telling-truth-to-power/
Photos by Nicholas Hansen