Country broadcast journalist Phil Holmes

Broadcast journalist Phil Holmes speaks of his experience as a print and radio journalist. Photo Samantha McCombe.
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“Journalism makes you think ‘I’m not trying to hurt anyone, I’m just trying to report the news’ and people need to realise that.” Phil Holmes, broadcast journalist for Ace Radio Station Hamilton, spoke to Samantha McCombe.

How did your passion for journalism begin?

“My passion started once I was into the job. I was into hospitality and then I sold my business. It was like a clean slate. A cadetship came up at the local paper, The Hamilton Spectator, to be a sports journalist. To be honest if the job was in general news I wouldn’t have been interested and I wouldn’t have gone for it. But I love sport and I’ve always been interested in sport. I thought my knowledge was good and if they taught me, I could do the job. Once I got into the role I began to love it and that’s where the passion grew.”

As a journalist for a rural town, how would you say your job differs from that of a city journalist?

“I definitely have an advantage that I got a job in the town I grew up in, therefore I know this place like the back of my hand. I’ve built a lot of relationships which helps. If I need to get a hold of someone I can do it pretty quickly. I know where to go. In the city you’re making more cold calls and you never know really what’s coming at the other end, especially if it has a bit of controversy with it. I think it can help you as a journalist if you don’t have that connection because you can just do your job.”

Have you found transitioning from print to radio journalist difficult?

“I spent 12 years working in print and I got to know the ins and outs of everything in that medium. In radio everything is shorter whereas when you’re writing for a paper you’ve got time and you need time to be able to delve into the story and do it fully. I miss that sometimes because being in the country I think it’s important to tell stories with a thorough outlook. But at the same time, I love working in radio because you can get the news done and then move onto the next thing. I’ve found the transition fairly easy. The stuff you have to learn working in radio including the programs, computers and soundboards, that’s the toughest task when you’re making the transition.”

Having worked in both print and radio which are you more passionate about?

“I’d say radio because I work in radio now, but there are positives and negatives to both. In print journalism I had a team so I could hand things off to other people to do. But here in the radio station I’m the only journalist. So I do everything. There’s more pressure and less time. You source the stories, write them up and record the bulletins and you don’t go home until it’s done. So if you’re having a tough day finding news, it’s a tough day.”

What is it about rural journalism that excites you?

“The relationships that you can build. I like the fact that I’m accessible to people. If someone has a story I’m easy to find and I’m happy for that to happen. I think being accessible is probably the biggest part of it and telling local stories because if you’re not doing it then nobody else is.”

Is there one story that you’ve reported that stands out from the rest?

“As a reporter at The Hamilton Spectator, there was a time when a lot of people were not available for a court case. And the court case was a murder case that my cousin was involved in. The whole time I refused to touch the story but there was a day when I had to write about the court trial. That always sticks in my mind as something that was tough. Again, we’re a rural area and it’s up to us to do it and everyone knows each other. If you’re a journalist in your hometown most of the time you’ll know someone. I remember that writing it didn’t sit well with me but that was my job and it had to be done. Then I had to answer to my family. But it always falls back on ‘it’s my job’. You do your job.”

What advice would you give to someone hoping to become a journalist?

“Get a thick skin. It’s a loveless job because people are always quick to shoot you down but if you do something they’re happy with you generally won’t hear from them. If you’re doing your job and not getting too much negative reinforcement but also not too much positive reinforcement, you’re in a good place. You don’t get everything right and it’s all about learning. So just make sure you listen to people and that you don’t get too affected by what’s going on.”