From wheat farm to the Big Apple
GROWING up on a wheat and cotton farm in northern NSW, Sally White always had a passion for agriculture but reporting on it wasn’t her first career choice.
“When I finished high school I was actually going to study theatre, bizarre I know. I wanted to be a playwright or a film director, but then I saw an ad for a cadetship with The Land,” she said.
“I was with my dad at the time and he said I should go for it, so I had a crack at it and I got it. I was only going to stay for a year but that’s not how it turned out.”
After her time as a cadet, Ms White stayed within the company moving around the country from Sydney, back home to Moree then to Melbourne where she was editor of Fairfax’s regional Victorian paper Stock and Land. Then came an opportunity to edit the paper on which she started.
“When the opportunity came up to come back and edit The Land, I felt as though I had gone full circle. Every few years I had been moving around and it felt so great to be offered the editor’s job,” she said.
“Working at The Land is such a privilege because you get to write for an audience whose voices on so many issues sometimes mes don’t get heard, and we get tot to campaign i forf for th them.” ”
It was Ms White’s commitment to her audience while editing The Land that saw her take home this year’s Hegarty Prize.
Ms White explained that when she found out she didn’t know what to say, which h she pointed out was rare.
“I was quite speechless and people who know me well know that I am never speechless.”
With The Land’s success in the past, Ms White thought her chances were slim for a Hegarty as well.
Working at The Land is such a privilege because you get to write for an audience whose voices on so many issues sometimes don’t get heard, and we get to campaign for them’
However, The Land not only took out Newspaper of the Year in the 25,000 to 90,000 category for the fourth year in succession but Ms White was award Hegarty Prize, which recognises the management potential of young news media executives.
“We were really stoked to have won three PANPA Awards and to win a fourth was just the icing on the cake – and with the run we’d had I just didn’t think we’d win the Hegarty as well.”
Ms White has had little time to think about her trip to visit overseas newsrooms, which is part of the prize – but she believes that she will end up going to the US.
“My ultimate, I would love to go to the New York Times or The Guardian. I think I’ll probably end up going to the US, hopefully visiting a mix of Metro and agricultural papers,” she said.
While Hegarty is an individual prize, Ms White credits her success to her team, as well as the readers who place The Land in such high esteem.
“As a team, they just couldn’t be more chuffed and it was truly a team effort,” she said.
“How well we’re doing as a paper really comes from our readers, whether we’re engaging with them on our coverage of issues. Making a difference that is our real level of success. You’re only as good as your last paper, it’s clichéd but it’s true.”
Ms White is now general manager of Farmonline, the online arm of Fairfax Media’s rural mastheads, and Andrew Norris is now the editor of The Land.
Former The Land editor Sally White after receiving the 2013 Hegarty Prize