The West Australian (2015 – 2017)
The West Australian borrows stories from its regional subsidiaries when it deems the copy to be good, and the appeal to be broad. I’ve had a number of my court stories featured in the paper to this end (most notably the sordid Liyanage murder trial, but also everything from sex offenders to shoplifting).
The West also relished the kind of yarns you can only find out in the country: A romantic proposal in the air which became a death defying emergency landing, or this guy’s car exploding after he hit a kangaroo.
The statewide publication also used content from the regional papers for their online platform, where my environment and conservation reporting proved personally rewarding and popular – such as this one about a family nearly killing a baby possum when they tried to raise it as a pet.
The Geraldton Guardian/Midwest Times (2015 – 2017)
The Guardian was certainly what honed my practice to a professional standard. Published was three times weekly, with distribution throughout Geraldton and outlying areas to reach around 12,000 regular readers. The weekly Midwest Times spanned from central WA to the coast, casting my stories there out to about 30,000 readers. In my time with the Guardian I took on beats for heritage, agriculture, court, environment and business – with plenty of stories to fill the gaps between, depending on where it was needed.
An early success in my work with the Guardian was my work on the Point Moore lease situation, in which a section of Geraldton’s coastline faced grim future habitation prospects due to coastal erosion and rising sea levels, likely to cause dangerous flooding. Unfortunately the area’s inhabitants were faced with difficulty sifting through the confusing, technical and bureaucratic information being made available to them. Local folks, retirees for the most part, were rightly afraid of losing their homes for reasons that couldn’t be adequately explained to them. Through my reporting the Guardian was able keep people up to date and work closely with involved parties to ensure all voices were being heard.
With a more rural focus, the Midwest Times provided a great platform to dive deeper into agricultural science and conservation – both of which are of utmost importance to regional Australia. In particular, establishing an ongoing relationship with the Gnaraloo Turtle Program gave the paper great access to their cutting edge work satellite tracking loggerhead turtles (and the follow up research), and allowed report on the discovery of an entirely new and unique breed of black-footed rock wallaby.
With The Guardian‘s court reporter of six years experience departing shortly after my arrival I put up my hand for the job. This was a bit of a trial by fire, and I got no shortage of angry emails and calls from people who didn’t want their name in print, but it really polished up my media law skills. The Dr Liyanage murder case was probably my highest profile work, but readers were also interested in how courts dealt with the local meth problem and continuous attacks from uncontrolled dogs.
I also regularly photographed social pages for both The Geraldton Guardian and Midwest Times, which was a great way to get acquainted with the community and build networks.
WAToday/The Age/The Sydney Morning Herald (2015)
In my last semester of university, I took up an internship with Fairfax’s WA news outlet. The fast-paced online-focused workplace brought my productivity up to a much more efficient standard, with the live-updating metrics giving us insight into what content readers actually wanted (which, no surprise, is completely different to what they say they want).
A complete list of my work for Fairfax can be found here.
My most successful effort on the site was the story of a few young ladies trashing a public bathroom at a bar. It’s not a topic I look back on with particular fondness, but I worked with what I had to effectively draw in the clicks that were being requested. It ended up ranking as the most viewed story across the whole Fairfax news network that day and was spread over to The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, where it continued to rake in viewers. It kept on giving, with follow-up stories tracking equally large view numbers. It even made national television news.
I took rather more personal pride in my science stories, like this one about UWA researching vaccines to shrink cancerous tumours. Good news stories like this local-tradie-turned-millionaire or local-chef-turned-youtube-celebrity also saw plenty of readers. By the end of my internship I had even stretched out to some international politics.
The Western Independent (2012 – 2015)
Curtin University’s student paper has maintained an extremely high standard by collecting the editorial content of the entire journalism faculty and ruthlessly cutting the best of it up into worthwhile newsprint. It’s a mammoth task, and the lament from the editing office (staffed by final year journalism students) was often “we wrote the whole damn paper”. They weren’t wrong either, as a first year I was delighted to see my stories in print, but I’ll readily admit they had often gone through some serious changes and attracted a second byline. However, as much as we complained, being in that office during production week was fantastic.
It was a hive of constant activity, and the stories we were reporting were good, strong, newsworthy pieces that really added to the discussion of current affairs. Sean Cowan was an excellent editor-in-chief and through some miracle (namely some very, very late nights) kept us in check to get every issue out the door by deadline. It was here that I really dug my teeth into subediting and production management. In the end I learned to love it nearly as much as chasing down stories.
At The Western Independent I worked as chief of staff, production manager and reporter (at different times). Among other things got a chance to do some feature writing and a little bit of tech and environment reporting.
The Ryerson Eyeopener (2015)
Moving to Toronto for a semester was a little jarring, but I was still able to get involved with the content hungry student newspaper. Actively competing against the Ryerson Review of Journalism, the Eyeopener pitched itself as a more in-touch publication, with a pulse on political issues that concerned the student body, not news they could read in the daily tabloids. It got a little too edgy for my taste at times, but made no apologies for itself and broke some decent on-campus pieces.
This was also the first weekly publication I got a chance to work on, which taught me to deal with sharper deadlines than I had previously been used to. There was no shortage of people who slept in the office, but it came out every week on time.
The piece of work I’d pick out of my time with the Eye would be my short investigation into bill C-51 (available online here and as an archived print scan here). It wasn’t the most nuanced or comprehensive piece, but it gave me the chance to dive into a political system I was completely unfamiliar with and really explore it – a challenge as satisfying as it was confusing.
Grok Magazine (2012 – 2013)
A student magazine through and through, Grok gave me a chance to experiment with a bit of everything. While breaking news wasn’t the order of the day for a quarterly publication the focus on feature writing gave me an unprecedented amount of page space and an abstract theme to work within. Editorial oversight was low, and outrageous topics were encouraged.
While I did a few reports on events here and there, I also started to work up my interest in science writing with a pair of human biology features. The Mystery of the Male Nipple was exactly the kind of gender-questioning exploration the student readers were looking for, and while I cringe a little at the immature writing it shows how early I wanted to explore science communication in my writing. Faster than the Speed of Life took a dive into “Uberman” sleep cycles, which sounded great for students who needed more hours in their day but turned out to just be kind of dangerous.
Curtin University’s online platform was started as a teaching tool to initiate students into online writing formats and deadlines: My lecturer Chris Thomson made it something really worthwhile.
Chris was in the online game early, and had run his own news website with oneperth.com.au (which to this day breaks a surprising number of local stories). He encouraged me and other students to think actively about how our pages would look when they were posted, and use that to drive the kind of writing and photographs we were looking at. He was living proof that one journalist really could, with digital technology, handle the content that would’ve been divided across a whole team a few decades earlier.
I wrote some decent stories about trike licensing and WA’s special olympics, but the lessons in digital media I took away from my time writing at Inkwire were much more valuable than the editorial experience.