In late 2013 I had been working as a print journalist for 15 years, and had just been hired as business editor of independent website Crikey.com after finishing my second book, Boganaire: The Rise and Fall of Nathan Tinkler.
I wanted to skill up in audio and video, and to do some basic economics and accounting to get a deeper understanding in my main area of specialisation, business.
Why I chose UTS
Many years earlier I had done a Graduate Certificate in Journalism at UTS and so I approached the head of the Journalism School about converting it to a Masters. I had to do five subjects including Journalism Studies, Storytelling with Sound and Image, Journalism Major Project 1 and 2, and an elective made up of two units from the Business School, all spread over three semesters (I had to defer in 2015 to concentrate on my biography of Malcolm Turnbull).
I enjoyed all my subjects but the most fun was making my first radio documentary, an investigation into clean coal, which aired on ABC Radio National’s Background Briefing program in 2014 and was my major journalism project counted towards the degree.
How my studies benefited my career
The postgraduate degree gave me an opportunity to reflect on and rethink the journalism I had been doing for more than a decade, particularly in business. For example in Journalism Studies I did a five-part series on the challenges in business reporting which ran on Crikey, “Watchdog or Lapdog?”, and was later republished in the MEAA’s Walkley Magazine.
The degree also gave me the opportunity to learn broadcast skills, particularly in sound, which helped me go on to make four more radio documentaries for Background Briefing, which has been a very rewarding experience. I am now working on ideas for a podcast and future documentaries.
What I’m up to now
I am working on a fourth book, working title Inside the Greens, which will be published next year, and have just done a cover story for The Monthly magazine, on how the party fared in the recent federal election. I am also juggling some freelance work on the side, to keep a bit of extra money rolling in.
The process of writing a book
At the beginning of a book the days are spent blissfully researching, often enough at the State Library, or arranging and conducting interviews (and later, painfully, transcribing them). The days roll past until the middle of the process, when draft chapters have to be produced. I have always submitted my manuscripts in stages, to keep me on track and get early feedback about tone, direction and structure. Towards the end, as the final deadline approaches, the writing gets increasingly urgent and I tend to lose a lot of sleep, often getting up at 3am to turn out 1000–2000 words a day.
My advice to students
Fragmentation of the media is both daunting and exciting and I would encourage students to go their own way, chase the stories they are most interested in, and not be too spooked by the ever-diminishing job opportunities in the mainstream media. It is very tough making it pay but good stories will always find an audience.
In the mainstream media, journalists are often jostling in a shallower pool – constrained by the cycle and limited resources, time-poor, and working in increasingly staged environments, which leaves huge opportunities for independent storytellers. Establishing a successful podcast or YouTube channel on your own terms could be just as valid and have as much impact as getting a story up in traditional print or broadcast media.
I would also recommend collaboration with other independent journalists as much as possible; I count myself lucky to have worked alongside experienced journalists in some of the biggest newsrooms in the country and can’t emphasise enough how much is gained from journalists who sharing their experience, contacts, and leads – even as they compete for breaks.
Paddy was also a grateful recipient of the UTS Luminaries Postgraduate Coursework Scholarship