Tell us about your journey into the role of Deputy Editor of the West Australian?
I was lucky enough to be selected right from university into The West Australian’s graduate program in 1996. Back then I had absolutely no proper experience in the media and my university degree (law) was not a great fit for the wild ride that journalism promises its participants. But even a kid in primary school I was a very keen reader of The West and in particular its much “racier” afternoon sibling, The Daily News. And I always felt that I had good instincts for what made a decent news story. After joining the newsroom, I fairly quickly specialised in politics and joined the State Parliament bureau and then the Canberra bureau, where I spent a couple of years in the John Howard era. Since then I worked in a whole series of news executive positions, starting as the chief-of-staff, then news editor, night editor and finally features editor before being offered the job as Deputy Editor.
What does a typical day in your role look like?
Almost without exception, the days are long and hectic. I get up pretty early (about 5.30am) and my main priority first thing is to get across the news agenda of the day and look out for any issues or ideas that might lend themselves to being developed in The West and online. That continues right through to the 10am editorial meeting in the office, after which my day switches more to working on the stories that have been placed in the pages of The West. That often involves working with reporters to make sure they are picking the right angles, have covered all the main issues and have written the story as clearly and vibrantly as possible. After 7pm deadline, the role becomes to ensure that we are across any late-breaking stories and to reshuffle the paper accordingly to keep it as fresh as possible for the morning.
What is one of the biggest news stories the West Australian has covered this year that has captivated readers?
I think the retirement of Mark McGowan caught everyone by surprise. Such was his dominance that it seemed almost unthinkable that McGowan would give it all up seemingly on a whim. I was on day off when I got a call from the editor-in-chief Anthony De Ceglie that there were whispers McGowan was going to pull the pin. I watched the press conference at home and got into the office by 2pm where all hell was breaking loose. That story took out the entire front two-thirds of the paper the next day and then dominated the news agenda for the next week as the ALP selected its next leader and new Cabinet.
Who or what inspires you the most?
I always get a buzz from the work of some of the more junior reporters. They never fail to inspire me with the lengths they go to get a story, often inserting themselves in slightly dangerous or dodgy situations to be able to bring the readers an eyewitness account of whatever is dominating the news cycle at the time. It’s not the glamorous side of the media but it’s gutsy and necessary for us to stand out from the pack.
If you could give your younger self some advice, what would it be?
Make sure you get enough sleep. Other than that, don’t get locked into an outcome, especially when you are editing the paper. It’s easy to fall in love with a headline you have come up or a clever layout idea. But sometimes that can make you a bit stubborn about changing the paper when news breaks late in the day. You always have to stay flexible and willing to change your mind as the facts change.