What is The ANU Observer?

The ANU Observer is a news organisation produced by and for ANU students, seeking to provide accurate, timely, and detailed news on everything ANU. Here’s what you need to know about the content we provide, our history, how we’re run, and how you can get involved.

Our goal is to provide students with everything they need to know about what’s going on at ANU. We’re a news-first publication –  the primary purpose of everything we put out is to inform, not persuade. We do branch out from the standard news article format, but we don’t do opinion, satire, or cultural comment.

Observer is online-first. That means articles get to you as soon as they’re written – no waiting for a print cycle or schedule. To us, speed comes second only to accuracy. Campus is a fast-moving place, and you need to know what’s happening when it’s happening.

The Observer team comprises around 30 dedicated and talented students, and includes a news team of 20 reporters, researchers and editors, as well as a digital team of livestreamers, video editors and photographers. We have a strong culture of support and mutual learning, which allows our team to develop the skills they use with us, which they can carry with them in the future.

What does Observer publish?

We produce a range of stories in various forms, which you can check out on our website and various social media platforms:

Where can you find us?

Our mothership is our website, ANUObserver.org. This is where you’ll find all our articles and most of our other content. We’re also across social media, from Instagram to Facebook to Twitter. Our livestreaming content all exists on our Facebook page and we share all the stories on our website to the page.

Finally, if you want to come see us at work, we have an  office at Copland G032. This is a fantastic central space and is our base of operations. If you stop in any time, chances are one of us will be there.

Who runs Observer?

Observer is governed at an institutional level by the Observer Council, which consists of the Secretary, Treasurer, two News Editors, and one Digital Editor. The news output however is managed by the Editorial Board, which consists of five Editors. The digital functions of Observer, including Observer Live, are managed by the two Digital Editors. You can see all our officers, including their conflicts of interest, here.

Who owns Observer? Well, ultimately, it’s you. Observer is an ANU Student Association, the same as ANUSA, PARSA and ANUSM. That means all students are members, and we’re accountable to the student body. Our editors and several other officers are elected each year by students at our Annual General Meeting.

If you think we’ve stuffed up by doing something wrong or unethical, any student can make a submission to Observer’s independent Arbitration Panel. The Arbitration Panel can accept submissions from any students, investigate, and make rulings on the content of Observer articles or the conduct of Observer reporters, and can assign penalties up to and including removal of officers. They can be contacted at [email protected].

How is Observer funded?

At the end of 2017, Observer was provisionally awarded SSAF (Student Services and Amenities Fee) funding from the university, allowing us to continue and expand our reporting for 2018. This is a fee all students pay, and the University allocates it to projects it believes are in the student interest. SSAF means we can provide all our work free, to all students, forever.

Observer’s allocation is $32,000, by far the smallest of the Associations – for comparison, ANUSA receives $1.8 million, PARSA $1.2 million, and ANUSM $200,000 – but we pack a big punch with what we have.

While the ANU decides where it goes, we consider SSAF to be your money, and accordingly we spend it on what benefits the student community. Observer funds go to the maintenance of our online platforms, purchasing of equipment for digital content, and operation of our office space. We also pay our elected officers an allowance, but this is less than any other student Association.

What’s the history of Observer?

Observer was founded at the start of 2017 by Michael Turvey and Eliza Croft to provide fast and reliable news for ANU students. During 2017, Observer grew swiftly to a team of almost 20, and drew a significant audience amongst the ANU community thanks to a strong commitment to providing news, publishing multiple stories each week. This commitment was recognised as Observer won a community-voted Stir grant, providing our burgeoning organisation with its first significant funding. In March, we merged with ANU Alive, a livestreaming platform founded by Ming Chia, establishing our own Observer Live wing and making events more accessible to students than ever.

During 2017, Observer had a wide variety of reporting successes, continuing to grow our audience. Readers were particularly interested in stories revealing a ‘demolition party’ for Union Court, planned admissions changes to end ATAR-only admissions, and analysing a ‘cull’ of returners at halls of residences. We informed ANU students throughout an alleged attack in a Copland classroom, during which we broke news on our Facebook page and website as events unfolded, and then investigated disturbing videos left by the alleged attacker, in a story which was later picked up by The Australian. We also played a major reporting role in the ANUSA election, and attended the National Union of Students conference as official media observers in December.

How can you get involved in Observer?

If you like what we’re about, we’d love to have you join us. Any student can get involved in a number of ways, with absolutely no experience necessary – we’ll train you up and team you with an editor to guide your work. It’s a great way to gain skills, get to know people, and immerse yourself in the ANU community.

Reporters go to events and meetings, interview important people, search through documents, and then write all of it down. If you’ve got a little writing skill, a little understanding of journalism, and a lot of tenacity, you’re perfect. As a reporter, you’ll be researching, writing, proofing, and otherwise helping with whatever Observer needs. We estimate a workload of 8 -10 hours a week for reporters, liable to fluctuate based on the busyness of the week. You’ll be paired with a News Editor to show you the ropes, and hopefully you’ll learn, enjoy, and maybe even become a News Editor yourself eventually.

Research analysts are the document-scourers, story-getters and number-crunchers of the news team. Your job will be similar to reporters, except you can have little to zero involvement in actually writing and publishing news. If your skill set is less in vocabulary and descriptiveness, and more in reading through every page of ANU Council minutes to find the interesting stuff, this is the role for you. Again, we estimate a workload of 8 -10 hours a week for reporters, liable to fluctuate. Research skills are among the most prized in the workplace, and you’ll also be credited on stories where you had a major contributing role, which allows you to build a portfolio of work.

News photographers are on-call for photography of campus events and shots for articles, and also work to build up a backlog of generally useful campus shots which we might need for articles. You don’t need any formal qualifications, but some experience with photography is preferable. Also, ideally you’ll have your own camera, as we don’t have anything too brilliant. We’re still mostly self-funded!

Video editors help us with our video explainers – making informative, graphic and voice driven videos explaining topical campus issues. You would help produce those videos, including animating graphics and text and editing audio. We’ll also be making news video, including interviews and footage of protests and other events, which you’ll help edit. Some experience in video editing is necessary – experience in graphic design, audio editing, and cinematography are also a great plus.

Livestreamers come to events, set up gear, and operate the camera and maintain the stream throughout the event being streamed. We also want news footage, so you’ll be coming to major events and operating a camera and/or microphone, as well as helping out with footage of interviews, and general campus footage for other projects. No experience is necessary, though some prior camerawork is obviously great.

If any of these appeal to you, there’s more information about each position on the ‘Get Involved’ page on our website. We’d love to have you join us as we take Observer to new heights in 2018!