Who would be a journalist?
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.
Marjorie Cook, signing off for the Mirror team.