SYN: Media Made for Youth

RSS feeds, social media, blogs, podcasts and online TV – Internet, like a hurricane, rushed into the media space and blasted all traditional notions of information, its delivery and accessibility. Very few industries have experienced such drastic changes so quickly as a journalism. But what new media are actually about? And what opportunities they bring? Meet Australian "youth to youth" media project called SYN.

SYN- the biggest media platform for youngsters in Australia

Talia Azaria is the General Director of the popular Australian media organization SYN (Melbourne). The organization offers young people up to 25 years old, the opportunity to be creators, not just consumers of media. SYN has its own radio station and television channel (broadcasted via the Internet).

The main idea of the project is “Youth for Youth”. All journalists, editors, TV, and radio anchors are people 25 years and younger. SYN is one of the most powerful platforms in Australia for growing true wordsmiths.

Tell me about yourself and your background. How did you get into the media industry?

I started my career in the media industry by studying a Bachelor of Communication at RMIT University in Melbourne. From there I began volunteering at SYN and Melbourne’s community television station, Channel 31. This was pretty much the starting point of my career. I’ve been volunteering at SYN for 5 years and then I was appointed General Manager.

How does SYN work? How does it manage the work of all the volunteers?

SYN is governed by a Board of Directors, who hires the General Manager to oversee all operations: hiring and managing the staff and volunteers.  These volunteers oversee the direction and production of all the content that goes to air online, on radio, and on TV.

Each position lasts for one year, and then we recruit a brand new team – this makes sure that as many people as possible get a chance to contribute at a leadership level. All volunteers at SYN must be under the age of 25. We currently have approximately 1000 active members. Of that number, under 10 are over the age of 26 and they remain members in order to vote at our Annual General Meeting.

How do the creation, editing, and scheduling of the content go at SYN?

All content is created, edited, and scheduled by our volunteers. The Leadership Team includes roles such as the Radio Manager, TV and Screen Manager, Online Manager, Talks Manager, and Music Manager. Together with their teams, they keep SYN running.

Every season (13 weeks) we changeover our radio programming so that more young people can have a go on air. Our broadcasters cover all kinds of topics – from news and entertainment to niche topics like feminism, obscure sports, and video games.

We make sure the key topics like music, current affairs, and arts are covered by broadcasting ‘flagship’ shows – that is, shows that we never take off the air. As young people are always changing, growing, and learning new things, so do their shows. It’s great to have such a wide range of programs on the air.

As far as I understood you’re organizing training classes? How effective are they?

Our Education and Training Programs are extremely effective and vital to the successful running of SYN. We have had hundreds of young people start careers in the broader media industry – the most notable is Hamish Blake and Andy Lee, who is now nationally recognized media personalities.

Do you, as directing manager for the broadcasting organization that does podcasts and broadcasts programs both on the TV and online, find it challenging to manage both types together? Does broadcasting on TV and online help each other or do they compete?

We strive to produce content across a range of platforms and encourage all our volunteers to work together in the production of their programs. As the General Manager, I do not find it difficult to manage different media platforms as they all interact and complement each other.

Digital media is a huge development area for SYN. In the past year, we have begun broadcasting on digital radio, and we are currently working on how to take full advantage of that opportunity. We’re very lucky to be one of only nine community radio stations in Melbourne to be granted a digital license by the Federal Government and look forward to giving our volunteers that broadcast time to produce unique content.

Do you think that TV broadcasting should change and adjust to the requirements of modern times and the existence of on-line broadcasting that seems to appeal to the modern youth more?

TV broadcasting definitely still has its place, despite the proliferation of online media. Ultimately I think people like to sit in front of their TV at the same time every night and watch the same shows – people are creatures of habit and need the social interaction that comes from watching TV with their families.

What qualities shall one possess to become a successful journalist or TV program creator and host?

In my opinion, the most important quality for aspiring journalists or media-makers is perseverance. It’s a very tough industry to crack, so people need to be determined!

What qualities shall the directing manager of such media project possess?

The qualities I draw on in my role include my leadership and communication skills, my ability to be organized, and juggle multiple tasks, along with the capacity to think big and constantly question what we are doing.

How do you think SYN and its TV broadcasts differ from the ones from classic TV broadcasts. And which one do you think has a future?

SYN differs from mainstream media because it is driven entirely by young people. No other organisation in Australia comes close to producing the amount of youth content that we do, because that is what we are built on – it’s why we exist.

Being a community organisation we strive to produce innovative media that is independent – that is, free from commercial pressures – and that is a key difference between us and the commercial stations.

In terms of which one has a future, well I think both industries do because we serve very different purposes. It’s important to ensure that there isn’t just one or the other – having both ensures we have a diverse range to choose from.

Do you think that Australian Television is different from the others across the world? Does it have some specific characteristics?

I’m not too familiar with TV internationally but I’m really supportive of home-grown talent and programming. It is incredibly important for any country to have a localised feel through news, drama, comedy, and other programming.

Youth Make Media project is funded by Federal Office for Youth. What is the relationship between your project and government? Are they afraid of this kind of project that gives opportunities to the youth to participate in the work of media, do they see a threat or a benefit with a positive outcome in it?

SYN has a strong and positive relationship with the Federal Government. In my experience, the Federal Government has welcomed opportunities for young people to participate in the media. I believe they see the benefit in providing young people with opportunities to share their stories and opinions.

How do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

In ten years I will be 35 and way too old for SYN! By that time I expect that SYN will be the leading training ground for young media-makers in Australia.

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