Hello my loyal Journo Project tribe!
This week we continue our "Best of The Journo Project series" in readiness for my next episodes from Perth which will soon hit the podcast airwaves.
And, of course, you my loyal subscribers get first divvies on the new podcasts, getting them a day before their official release on iTunes and Spotify and all the other myriad podcast providers.
So keep an eye out for the amazing Tony Barrass, Helen Pitt and Kirsti Melville Journo Project poddies soon to land in your inbox!
Today though, in this latest of my recap series of The Journo Project, we’re going to revisit some of the amazing journos from around the country that you may have forgotten are even in your inboxes waiting to share with you their inside goss on the journalism game in Oz.
First let’s go back to the incredibly insightful journo with the mellifluous voice who has managed to cross the public broadcasting and commercial broadcasting divide by working for commercial TV and the ABC at the same time: Hugh Riminton.
Listen back: Hugh Riminton on the power of storytelling
He’s been in the journalism game for more than four decades, and even with that impressive pedigree still proudly calls himself a hack.
Hugh Riminton has worked around the globe in more than 40 countries as a foreign correspondent, and now embraces new technologies such as podcasting in his storytelling pursuit.
In his episode of The Journo Project, Hugh speaks openly about the high price often paid by journalists on the front line, in order to get the truth out.
“I’ve learned the hard way, you can’t report the true awfulness of many things because the reality of it, they’re impossible to watch,” Hugh said.
“This is what I call the champagne cocktail theory. And that is, that when you’re reporting traumatic and horrible and awful events, you can’t give people light beer. You can’t pretend something bad hasn’t really happened, but you can’t give all the horror, all the detail, all the unthinkable unspeakable stuff because people recoil from it and they can’t take it in. So you have to find a way to tell a story that rather like the champagne cocktail—it gives enough for people to absorb what’s going on without absolutely making them recoil. And that’s the challenge for foreign correspondents who do tricky, difficult work.”
I spoke to Hugh at the ABC Radio National studio where he records Sunday Extra in Sydney’s ABC Ultimo studios.
He said the AFP raids on ABC and News Ltd journos were more intended to send a warning to potential whistleblowers.
“Their whole purpose is to intimidate. The media is the secondary purpose,” he says.
“The primary purpose is to intimidate whistleblowers. And what we have to understand here is that we have a situation where people who find information out, that is really damaging to our fellow citizens, if they blow the whistle on it, they get punished.
“They might use the media to get it out, but they get punished.
“There are court cases at the moment where people are facing long periods of time in jail...A tax officer who revealed appalling practices within the tax office is now facing 160 years potentially in jail. And having gone public with it, they’ve had to change the way the tax office works. He did a good thing for the country and he risks going to jail.
“We should all be worried about that.”
Also we have the great episode featuring the fearless journo who has wandered around the world to tell stories from the places less travelled: Dominique Schwartz.
She was one of the founding members of the ABC’s iconic program Foreign correspondent, and has since reported from rooftops in the Middle East while gunfire rang out around her, from devastating mine collapses in New Zealand and Chile, and from the aftermath of earthquakes.
“The bottom line is you need to be curious, you need to be able to ask questions, and the simplest of questions, and the most obvious questions often lead to surprising answers or surprising lines of inquiry,” she said.
“And you need to listen. That’s actually one of the things I think we have to really remember in this fast-paced era of journalism where there are so many demands on our time.
“There’s a real danger that you can go out and ask just this, this, and this, but you might be missing a far better story if you’re not open to it.
“Why are we journalists? We are journalists because we want to make sure that our democracy works well. We want to make sure that those are treated unjustly have a voice. We want to make sure that those in positions of power are conducting themselves in a way that befits their position.
“It’s not about journalism, it’s about democracy, and it’s about you Australians living in a place where you can say what you want, that the machinery of government is working well, that corporations are being responsible, that unions are being responsible and not corrupt.
“If journalists aren’t asking the questions who are?”
And of course, now we can look back at The Journo Project’s good fortune in grabbing Lisa Millar, just before she began her new gig as the host of ABC News Breakfast.
Lisa Millar has been in the reporting game for decades, working as a journo everywhere from small outback Australian towns to New York, Washington and London.
And her desire to tell those stories has not waned.
Lisa Millar told me on this episode of The Journo Project how she’s always found a way to find great stories, meet great people, and make great friends, finding happiness wherever she is based.
“I turned 50 earlier this year and I think I am learning things every single day about this job that we are doing,” she says.
“I love it. It’s my family.
“I think everyone has a story.
“You just need to sometimes be quiet and that’s something I’ve learned over the years, is just being quiet.
“There is a real art form and technique to knowing when to just actually shut up and let someone tell their story.
“They might pause, and there might be silence, but you just stay silent, and then they’ll feel that comfort of revealing something of themselves that they may not have otherwise.
“I am so lucky that I wake up every day, even if it is at 3 o’clock in the morning, thinking ‘I love this job!’, and I cannot believe that I can still say this after 32 years of doing this job.”
What I’m reading (and hopefully you too!)
I couldn’t help but think about Hugh’s insights into the difficulties of reporting from some of the world’s most treacherous conflict zones, while reading this incredibly moving piece he filed just recently from the field. His pithy writing style fires off like gunshots, every word chosen carefully to reflect what he sees. Be in no doubt, this is a Master of the craft at work:
There’s a look to men after a successful battle, and these men have it.
They are filthy and grimed with sweat, but they swagger like teenagers, their voices just a little too loud.
This piece was incisive and brutal beyond words, and left me wondering what could be done to make our society safer. But sometimes journalism raises questions, not answers them.
After all the futile measures to address the perpetrator’s underlying problems are trialled, failed and exhausted, we are left with one woman per week being murdered by her (ex)partner.
Having started my ABC career at Port Augusta in outback South Australia, this story really rang a few familiar bells with me! As I say to my university students all the time: there is so much more to Australia than the place where you grew up—go out bush—that’s where the real stories lie.
“Imagine if we turned this idea on its head and more and more city people thought of regional areas as the land of opportunity.”
Talk again soon, my wonderfully supportive Wandering Journo tribe.