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Local media to star in academic study

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Coonamble Times

12 May 2024, 7:40 AM

Local media to star in academic study Visiting researcher Dr T.J. Thomson is looking for local feedback.

Coonamble's visual media landscape will feature in an academic study on local visual news by senior lecturer Dr T.J. Thomson and local residents can be a part of it.

Dr Thomson (known as T.J.) works as a senior Lecturer in visual communication and digital media at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and is a fellow at the Australian Research Council (ARC) where he won the Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA). 

T.J. arrived in Coonamble on Tuesday 7 May and will be staying for around ten days.

His study focuses on local visual news looks like, who's making it, how it's made and what audiences expect of their local visual news. 

"A country is more than its capital cities. Australia is a huge country with so much diversity and so many interesting stories happening beyond the coasts and capital cities," Mr. Thomson said. 

"Yet, regional and rural communities don’t always see themselves represented in the news they consume. Local news plays so many important functions, from establishing social cohesion and a sense of shared identity to providing accountability for how tax dollars are being spent and how politicians are representing us."

T.J. grew up on the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and started working as a photojournalist when he was 18. 

"I was always curious about how people reacted to my camera. People were either shy and tried to fade into background or began acting up and appeared more theatrical than normal."

He went on to study photojournalism at the Missouri School of Journalism.

T.J. has been living in Australia for the past six years and is now a dual American-Australian citizen.

For the study, he is taking a closer look at the Coonamble Times & Western Plains App journalists and how they do their work. 

But it's not only the local publisher's team members who fall under the loop of Dr Thomson's research.

He is also seeking five members of the community who would be willing to participate in a diary study. 

During the study, participants will mark down anything that seems remarkable to them in the news. 

They can also chat to T.J. about what they think is missing in their local news outlet. In return community members will receive a $100 gift voucher. 

Locals can also say "g'day" to T.J. at the Coonamble and Gulargambone Shows where he will be handing out $10 gift vouchers in exchange for a few minutes sorting news photographs from most to least engaging. 

He chose to come to Coonamble after meeting editor Lee O'Connor and her team at the Country Press NSW Conference in 2022 and was struck by Mrs O'Connor's passion for local news and local businesses. 

Coonamble is the second of eight towns and cities that Dr Thomson will visit as part of his study that is expected to be finalised in 2026.