Tell us about your journey into the role of Social Affairs Editor of The West Australian?
I started at The West Australian in 2007 as a business reporter just as the global financial crisis was about to explode all over us all. It was an exciting time to be covering the stockmarket and a brilliant opportunity for a young journalist who didn’t exactly remember her Year 12 economics lessons. But, after a couple of years, I wanted to try something new that didn’t involve donning a pair of steel cap boots so I moved into the general news pages, where I covered everything from local government to planning and, eventually, social affairs. Don’t tell anyone but it’s the best gig at the paper and my aim is always to write about the issues that my friends and family will be talking about the next day.
What does a typical day in your role look like?
It’s such a cliché to say there’s no typical day in the life of a journalist… and yet here I am saying it anyway. It’s probably not true, anyway, because there are some things I do every day: I always start by catching up on news, which involves reading the daily papers, listening to morning radio and, of course, scrolling through social media on my phone. Journalists just starting out who don’t follow the news (yes, there are some) do my head in: you have to read/watch/listen to the news if you want to be a journalist. Sometimes I’ll already have an idea of what I’ll be writing about, whether it’s an opinion piece for the next day’s paper or a longer read for the weekend magazine, and sometimes I’ll be looking for inspiration. Then it’s usually a combination of doing interviews, researching stories and – my favourite bit – doing the actual writing.
What is one of your favourite stories The West Australian has covered lately?
I’m really proud of the series The West is currently running in the lead-up to the referendum on the Voice to Parliament, which has involved sending journalists out to Indigenous communities. Platforming the voices of First Nations people doesn’t happen often enough in this country and it’s great to see. I can’t take any credit for it – I haven’t written any of the stories – but I hope readers have got as much out of it as I have.
Tell us about one of your favourite opinion pieces you’ve written for The West?
I’m still proud of a column I wrote last year with the headline “The Word Women Is Not Under Threat”, pushing back against the idea that trans people were somehow attempting to erase women’s existence. I got some lovely feedback from readers who either are trans or have trans friends and family members, saying how much they appreciated the way I’d approached it, which meant everything to me. I hope other readers felt like they learned something.
Who or what inspires you most?
This sounds like shameless pandering to readers but… it’s the readers. When readers take the time to write or call to say how something I’ve written about has affected them, or to thank me for writing about an issue close to their heart, it is a wonderful feeling. It also makes a nice change from the readers who write in to tell me how awful I am and that they hope I die in a ditch, preferably yesterday.
If you could give your younger self some advice, what would it be?
Not to be afraid to ask more experienced journos in the newsroom for help and guidance. I’ve been lucky to work with some of WA’s best journalists, both high-profile characters and quiet achievers with an enviable depth of knowledge. To shout out two of my favourite newsroom curmudgeons, The West business journalists Sean Smith and Neale Prior were a huge help in my early days at the paper. Experienced reporters are a goldmine of information and expertise and they tend to be very generous with their knowledge.