When did you decide you wanted to be a journalist and how did you get started?
Well I really stumbled across the career path. I was living in Singapore; I had an arts degree and was working at an insurance company. The opportunity arose when The Straits Times (equivalent to The Age) was advertising three positions for sub-editors. I applied and was chosen as one of them. It sounds impressive but it really wasn’t as gruelling as the process young journalists have to endure nowadays. We did have to know our general knowledge but everything was straight up print. There was no care for social or digital writing, and no tabloid publication. There wasn’t as much specialist knowledge required because the newspaper covered everything from hard news to lifestyle.
What traits does a journalist need to be successful?
Whether you’re a lifestyle writer or whatever it is, a journalist absolutely really needs a good news sense. Often news is cut and dry, then there is news where you must figure out, ‘is there a story in this’? Some young bloggers don’t understand this. A good journalist has the ability to recognise a good story that will grasp human engagement. You have to think about what makes your story so compelling that the reader will stay with it after the first three pars. It is also important to be a quick thinker and knowing what target questions to ask. A lot of interviewers ask the questions and walk out; you must have a connection with the person you are talking to. You also need to ask yourself if you can look at the story visually, for the digital and social aspect. The best grounding frankly is print journalism. It teaches you how to frame your story and to sum it up.
Who have you always wanted to interview? And what are the most interesting interviews you have done?
Wow, there are so many people I’d love to interview I don’t where to start! I love architecture and my brother studied it. There are some very interesting architects that I would just love to interview, such as Zaha Hadid (now deceased). I love how they frame things. I would like to interview Barack Obama, and on the flipside Donald Trump. I have an interest in politics and this rise in neo-liberalism and world governance. There are quite a few interesting people I have interviewed, like Tina Turner in Singapore. I recently sat in on a conference with design trend forecaster Victoria Redshaw (of website Scarlet Opus). They are serious business, and are just out of this world.
Where do you think is the ethical/moral line in journalism?
Balance in a story is crucial; you cannot write a story without an opposing point of view. I’m also very careful about not publishing pictures of people in a public place; I would never want to defame anyone. Plagiarism is also very wrong, and it has become saturated now because of the internet. You must always attribute the source of your story. As an editor a story might present itself and I have to make the decision about who is going to write it. You have to be honest to the writer if you think that the story would suit the writing style of someone else. There has also become an issue in promoting. Lifestyle articles often involve products and service, in which a writer might receive free of charge. A writer should never promote something unless they genuinely love it.
When did you realise that online publishing was going to overtake print?
It was about 10 years ago when we all realised there was going to be a massive change, and our jobs would be on the line. I was working at The Age and more and more print sections were let go. From then on redundancies were happening. Journalists basically had to re-invent themselves in this new social and digital world. They had to adapt to the change that everyone was following. I decided to leave to pursue other things. I think if I had stayed I would still have a job, because lifestyle writing has always been around and there’s always a demand for it.
Where do you start when writing an article?
It really depends on the subject, but more often than not I start with an image. I frame my story around that image, and pull it apart, particularly with topics such as design where the image is so critical. I also use press releases to base my story. I do like having a news element in lifestyle writing. Often with design there is a theme that I want to base my story around, and that helps me to form it.
What are the pros and cons of your job?
Well, you’ve really got to love journalism. But there are a lot of perk with this job especially because it is lifestyle focused. We get to attend events around the city and meet eclectic people. You get the pulse of the big city. I think what makes my job less stressful is a great team of colleagues. We all work together as a group, and that makes a massive difference. On the other hand, there are long hours involved and deadlines to meet. Journalists are never well paid. We are also battling the evolving profession thanks to technology. No one has the magic formula to it.