Edited Volumes

Asia Pacific Media Educator, Issue 18 December 2007, Narrative and Literary Journalism Special Issue

Narrative or literary journalism has often been treated in journalism courses as either a speciality or an historic oddity. However, with the changing nature of journalism innovative narrative approaches to both news and features must be taken more seriously. An early 1990s research project at the St Petersburg Times in Florida showed that readers preferred news in narrative style and today’s newspapers and magazines present an array of different news and feature styles that have taken journalism away from the traditional inverted pyramid approach that is still the mainstay of many journalism courses.This special issue of APME aims to explore both traditional approaches to the practice and teaching of literary or narrative journalism as well as the narrative impulse in daily news journalism.

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

O’Donnell, M., 2008, “Stories of Jack: myth, media and the law,” Law, Text, Culture, 12, pp 188-213.

ABSTRACT This paper identifies three interacting narrative strands in the Australian media coverage of “Jihad” Jack Thomas. The character story of Jack interacts with a broader story of law and the story of the war on terror. Secondly it argues that a set of mythic motifs emerge in the texts and these are read against a set of news and popular culture events and figures. This second part of the paper focuses on the figure of the “sleeper” which became one of the key ways of describing Jack Thomas during the trial. This figure of the sleeper is linked to an ongoing set of figures in popular culture and to traditional mythic motifs such as the trickster.


O’Donnell M 2008 ‘Jack Bauer: The Smart Warrior’s Faustian Gift,’ Media International Australia Incorporating Culture and Policy, No. 128.

Abstract:Jack Bauer of the television series 24 is a highly charged contemporary mythic character who exists in powerful relationship to past and present real world and fictional figures. If Rambo was a classic Reagan era cinematic “hard body” (Jeffords 1994) Jack is the archetypal Bush “smart warrior,” in a post-Patriot-Act-era. However like Rambo, Reagan’s displays of bravado were decisive and successfully staged but George Bush has faced a multiplying set of uncertainties. This sets up a more complex set of relations between Jack, George W. Bush and contemporary masculinities than those presented by the Reagan era. Jack is both an emblem of unimpeded presidential will and a parable of its Faustian consequences.


O’Donnell, M., 2005, “Blogging as pedagogic practice: artefact and ecology,” Blog Talk Downunder, 19-21 May 2005, Sydney, Australia.

ABSTRACT Much of the published discussion and research on blogs and teaching and learning in higher education focuses on evaluation of blogging as a communicative technique. This type of discussion largely assumes that successful integration of blogging into course delivery should be judged against a pre-existing and unchallenged pedagogical model. This paper argues that to leverage its full educational potential blogging must be understood not just as an isolated phenomena, but as part of a broad palette of “cybercultural” practices which provide us with both new ways of doing and new ways of thinking. The paper looks at the ways broader theoretical models associated with the development of the blogsphere might challenge or enhance current theories of teaching and learning. Spatial metaphors inherent in network models of blogging will be contrasted with the surface/depth model of student learning. The paper will argue that blogs should not be seen merely as a technological tool for teaching and learning but as a situated practice that must be brought into appropriate alignment with particular pedagogical and disciplinary practices. A model of blogging as a networked approach to learning suggests that blogging might achieve best results across the curriculum not through isolated use in individual units.


O’Donnell, M., 2004, “Going to the chapel media narratives of same sex marriage,” Pacific Journalism Review, 10(1).

ABSTRACT: The public discourse about marriage oscillates between a story of the ideal and a story of the everyday. A range of symbolic references or myths are mobilised in media stories about marriage, this is particularly evident in the polarised debate around same-sex marriage. The article identifies and explores three of the myths that underlie the rhetoric in same-sex marriage stories: 1) the evolution/revolution myth; 2) the apocalypse myth and 3) the myth of the child. It also argues that the production of such stories has effects on the realm of “intimate citizenship” (Plummer 1995) and that it is through this contested storytelling that new identities and their attendant rights become possible.


O’Donnell, M., 2004, “Star Wars: Patterns of change in community journalism at the Sydney Star Observer,” Australian Studies in Journalism, Issue 13

ABSTRACT This article traces the dynamics of change in Australia’s oldest surviving gay and lesbian publication, The Sydney Star Observer. It does not pretend to be a complete history of the publication but is a thematic study 0f change and self-definition, particularly interested in tracing the connections between visions of community, politics and market that have driven the Star. I have situated this analysis of the Star within the context of key works in the media studies literature on the gay and lesbian press. At different points in this study I will return to American examples in order to chart the sometimes contrasting, sometimes parallel trajectory of local and U.S. publications. I will argue that the Star has gone through regular cycles oriented to community access journalism and other cycles of pursuing traditional journalistic standards and conventions. Although much of the debate in the queer studies literature points to issues around commodification of gay identity through the gay and lesbian press I will argue that McKee’s (2002) notion of gay citizenship is a more satisfactory way of understanding the interactions of commercial and political gay and lesbian cultures.


O’Donnell, M., 2004, ““Bring it on”: the apocalypse of George W. Bush,” Media International Australia Incorporating Culture and Policy, No 113.

ABSTRACT: This article examines a number of cinematic, literary and journalistic texts in the context of what film maker Tom Tykwer calls the “aesthetic memory” of September 11. In particular it explores the way these narratives relate to deeply embedded Western cultural myths of the apocalyptic. The apocalyptic language of American Christian fundamentalism and the heroic narratives of Hollywood film are explored as twin influences on a powerful civil religion dubbed by Jewett and Lawrence (2003) “The Captain America complex”.


O’Donnell, M., 2003, “Preposterous Trickster: myth, news, the law and John Marsden,” Media Arts Law Review 2003/4

ABSTRACT Recent scholarship has explored the mythical function of news reporting. A diverse set of studies has shown that when news takes mythic shape it can perform both a community-building cultural role and/or a boundary-setting ideological role. This article looks at theories of myth and the way it functions in both journalism and law. This mythical understanding is contrasted with the widely held views of journalism and law as truth-seeking and fact-based institutions. The public identity of any plaintiff in a defamation case will necessarily come under challenge. The adversarial system necessitates the construction of competing tales of who that person is and how he or she customarily behaves. This process seems to have been exacerbated in the case of Sydney solicitor John Marsden, the longest running defamation case in Australian legal history. Powerful archetypal patterns shaped the telling of the Marsden story, which takes it well beyond the realm of the controversial and into the realm of the mythical. Mythical images of hero, villain, martyr and initiate are identified as operating in the Marsden trial and its reporting. But the image of the mercurial Trickster is identified as a key myth in understanding the Marsden story.


O’Donnell, M., 2003, “Hate Speech, freedom, rights and political cultures,”UTS Law Review, Issue 5

ABSTRACT Much of the international debate about the regulation of hate speech has been dominated by American first amendment jurisprudence. However a broad human rights approach, such as that emerging in Canada, allows due recognition to be awarded to concerns regarding both freedom of speech and the rights of minorities to live with full equality before the law. Australian jurisprudence has neither a strong freedom of speech nor a strong general human rights tradition although aspects of both have been developed in our common law. However Australia does have a strong set of commonwealth and state statutory laws which proscribe hate based vilification. Although the earliest of these laws is now over 20 years old, there is still a simmering public debate that questions both the need and wisdom of such provisions. Ironically given the strong freedom of speech values underlying much of the opposition to anti-vilification legislation one of the most striking contributions of the broader legal discourse created by anti-vilification decisions is in fact a significant contribution to an Australian jurisprudence on expressive rights.



I have worked as a journalist and editor since 1992. I have written widely about visual art, architecture, film, health, religion, politics and gay and lesbian issues.

Before taking up my present position at the University of Wollongong I was Editor in Chief of SSO Media a small alternative media company which publishes Sydney Star Observer Australia’s oldest and largest circulation gay and lesbian weekly newspaper. I was appointed editor of the Star in 1999 before that I was editor of OutRage a national gay lifestyle monthly.

In the early nineties I was Melbourne editor of Monument – one of Australia’s leading architecture and design magazines and movies editor of SBS television’s subscriber magazine, Ariel.

A set of links to a sample of recent articles is available here.

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