Who would be a jour­nal­ist?

Central Otago Mirror - - CON­VER­SA­TIONS -

I’ve been sit­ting at my kitchen ta­ble this week writ­ing a cur­ricu­lum vitae, drum­ming up hol­i­day ideas and re­flect­ing on my 21-year re­port­ing ca­reer.

Re­dun­dancy has been a slow train com­ing. It started down the track to­wards me just a few days af­ter I joined Fair­fax in 2014, when the com­pany (now Stuff) an­nounced sweep­ing re­forms and a ‘‘dig­i­tal first’’ fo­cus.

I first ques­tioned my de­sire to stay in my pro­fes­sion in 2012, dur­ing a self-spon­sored sab­bat­i­cal.

I went for a long bike ride in Europe, crashed on a couch in Jersey with a cat called Ted, read the lo­cal news­pa­per and took stock of the dire state of Bri­tish jour­nal­ism: re­porters hack­ing phones, broad­cast­ers con­don­ing al­leged child abuse, out­lets pub­lish­ing sto­ries re­sult­ing in sui­cides.

Who would want to be a jour­nal­ist? I con­cluded then I still did, for a whole pile of rea­sons mostly to do with my lo­cal re­port­ing val­ues, my sense of hu­mour and ad­ven­ture, and be­cause it is a priv­i­lege to help tell other peo­ple’s sto­ries.

Com­plaints! There have been a few. Peo­ple don’t bother ring­ing any more. So­cial me­dia shame is the vogue, even if read­ers are just bawl­ing out an apos­tro­phe.

I con­fess I trig­gered a pretty de­cent avalanche of com­plaints about four years into my ca­reer. It had phones ring­ing off the hook.

I wrote about a Dunedin cat that had been run over in the mid­dle of the road and then had a white line painted on it by a road mark­ing crew.

Re­ally, the photo told the whole story and my words were kind of su­per­flu­ous, but call­ers were an­gry and deeply dis­tressed.

It proved ev­ery­thing. Read­ers are out there. Cat sto­ries rule.

At the Mir­ror, I’ve par­tic­u­larly en­joyed out­doors stuff with en­thu­si­as­tic peo­ple, such as moun­tain bik­ing with the Cardrona crew, swim­ming for cit­i­zen sci­ence with Touch­stone, bird watch­ing with con­ser­va­tion vol­un­teers Heather and Stu Thorne and catch­ing rab­bits with fer­ret-hunter Billy Bar­ton.

I have even en­joyed re­port­ing on That Wanaka Tree, which did weird stuff to my data an­a­lyt­ics.

But even the world’s most pho­tographed tree (sup­pos­edly) could not save my job.

Changes in tech­nol­ogy and fi­nan­cial mod­els, plus the 24-hour news cy­cle, have dis­rupted many me­dia in­dus­try ca­reers, par­tic­u­larly in print me­dia.

The in­dus­try is ev­er­chang­ing. Ev­ery­one is ex­per­i­ment­ing. In this new world, we are all re­porters, whether we are ob­jec­tive or par­ti­san about the news.

I think be­ing in­formed is now a big self-re­spon­si­bil­ity. But it’s like what your mum or your teacher said: lis­ten, take notes, check the weather, be on time, pay at­ten­tion, be kind, spend time with peo­ple. You’ll be fine.

I also think Wanaka will be served well by the remaining lo­cally-owned print and dig­i­tal plat­forms.

Wanaka sto­ries will still get through to Stuff via Deb­bie Jamieson and Jo McKen­zieMcLean, who re­main on deck to feed the hun­gry na­tional news mon­ster.

And dur­ing my next sab­bat­i­cal, I’ll still be keep­ing my ears open for a good story.

Keep in touch!

❚ Mar­jorie Cook has been the Wanaka-based cor­re­spon­dent for the Mir­ror and Stuff.co.nz for four years. From Fri­day she is head­ing off on new ad­ven­tures.

MARK PRICE

Mar­jorie Cook, sign­ing off for the Mir­ror team.

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