Hard News by Russell Brown


Networking takes a back seat

Even before the kookaburra, Leo and I agreed it was the best trip to the Zoo ever. We'd taken the left-hand option to the Kiwi House on entry. Quite often you can go in there and not see a damn thing, but yesterday morning there were two fat, sleek, symbolic birds -- one the size of a rugby ball -- busily poking their way through the litter. It was very cool.

From there, we moved on to the new tiger enclosure, where one beast was reclining right up against the glass, a centimetre away from some cooing toddlers. It was quite an amazing sight, especially when the big cat yawned and exposed those fearsome incisors. There were visible harblz. (I'd post a picture, but my phone won't mount via USB and I can't be arsed bluetoothing the files over right now.)

Next was the Aussie zone, where it turned out to be lorikeet brunch time. We held little pottles of Complan in our hands and the brightly-coloured birds swooped down and perched on our hands to scoff and push each other around.

We thought that was great. And then, as we tarried briefly in front of the kookaburra's cage, a zookeeper came in with a young, slightly nervous-looking trainee. She handed him a dead white mouse, by the tail.

"Just hold it out at arm's length," she said.

In the blink of an eye, the kookaburra swept from its perch at the back of the cage and, in one blinding arc, snatched the mouse and landed again, announcing its haul with a wild fanfare of hooting.

We cheered and clapped. That was choice.

The zoo trip had been a spur of the moment thing. I realised that I've spent so much time rushing away to talk to interesting people lately that it was time Leo and I had some time together.

That meant passing up the chance for more lively conversation at an impromptu lunch in Westhaven, where a fun group had assembled to shoot the breeze. But sometimes, networking takes a back seat …

Among those people I didn't catch up with at lunch was Julie Starr, who I met last week at Webstock. She returned home to New Zealand last year after a high-profile role as "chief change agent" for the Telegraph Media Group's multimedia newsroom in London. She was closely involved with the development of the award-winning My Telegraph service, which allows readers to have their own blogs on the newspaper's website. She is now teaching at AUT (good catch!) has a really interesting blog on future-of-news issues called The Evolving Newsroom.

Also blogging on the news, albeit in a rather different style, is a person unknown at TVNewsNews. The blog is busy and energetic and it's in my feeds now -- but some spellchecking would be an enhancement.

Also new: a whole cluster of blogs on GayNZ, including those by longtime commentator Craig Young and my friend David Herkt.

And it just keeps coming: I've thought for a long time that the libraries and archives sector needed to find some blogging voices, and it turns out that the National Library has launched several of them. Courtney Johnston sent me this list:


This is run by our web development / tech people (including me). We write about things we're doing / looking at / interested in. we have quite a diverse range of people, so it runs the gamut, from web writing to metadata. There's also a weekly feature called The Source: one of our Information Advisors posts a weekly round-up of interesting-for-libraries news on the web that gets posted to our staff intranet, so we decided it would be great it we could share that love with the people.

Create Readers

This is (secretly) the blog I'm proudest of, because the staff who work on it have upskilled so fast and are so passionate about it. The Library has 14 School Services centres around NZ (many of which are only 1 or 2 people). They work with teachers and school librarians, providing advice and training and resources. On Create Readers they write short reviews of books for various age groups, curriculum areas etc, and also post ideas to get - and keep - kids reading, on- and off-line.

NZ Poet Laureate

This is our newest blog, and while we run it, the content is written by Michele Leggott, the recently-appointed Poet Laureate. I'm really thrilled she's doing this with us - I think it adds a new dimension to the way she can communicate with the public, plus hooking into the wider national and international poetry blogging community. The blog was launched just before the death of Hone Tuwhare, and Michele was able to collect and post poems and tributes to Hone from many other writers.

Also, a couple of blogs that have been around for a while, but you may not have seen them: departing APN Digital dude Gordon White has SmallScreens ("helping screenwriters navigate new media") and Ryan Sproull's Born on State Highway One, because it's unofficially the 84th most popular blog in New Zealand and that has to mean something.

Takeaway message: that there's a lot more to the form than ideologically binary political commentary.

And finally, Leo is back with some more YouTube clips that have taken his fancy lately. Feel free to say hi.

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