Dispatches from New York
Impressions from some of the world’s cutting edge newsrooms, as part of the trip I won as 2018 Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year.
Week one- NYTIMES and Quartz
“He said they’re fucking idiots!”
“He said that about three female legislators?”
“Can we quote him?”
“Yes but I don’t think we can say ‘fuck’ in the headline…. What about ‘expletive’ idiots?”
It’s my second day at the New York Times, and I’m shadowing the New York metro team. They have a tip that an aide to Cuomo — governor of New York — has insulted several female Democratic representatives, after they criticised Cuomo about his fundraising tactics (an earlier metro team exclusive revealed the governor held a secretive $25,000 dinner with lobbyists).
After much debate (“what about curse-word idiots?”) the final headline reads “In profane rant, Cuomo Aide Calls 3 female lawmakers ‘Idiots’.
This isn’t the only exclusive of the day. In between one-on-one meetings with members of the team, I’m privy to the hustle and bustle of a day on the metro desk — including the overall newsroom meeting at the end of the day, where I’m introduced to the whole editorial team of the New York Times. There, the big topics of conversation are Brexit, and whether to cover the first Trump rally since the release of the Mueller report.
My day with metro is the midpoint of what is a whirlwind two week tour New York newsrooms, organised by the Walkley Foundation. I spent the first two days at Quartz, learning about the intricacies of how to make a Facebook show, and meeting with an array of journalists, including some fellow Aussies and Kiwis.
As a TV producer and presenter, I was particularly excited for my day with the New York Times video team. There I attended a presentation by the head of the visual investigations team, Malachy Browne, as he explained his process to journalists across the organisation.
Their award-winning investigative multimedia pieces on stories like the LA shooting, the Khashoggi assassination and a bombing in Yemen are renowned for using cutting edge technology and in-depth reporting to break new ground and reveal startling new facts on internationally important stories.
In this presentation I learned about how they use ‘open source’ journalism (popularised by groups like Bellingcat) and how they tap into the skills of specialist research teams like Forensic Architecture, to break down exactly what happened in complex cases of shootings, bombings and murders. After the presentation I also had the chance to sit down one-on-one with Malachy and quiz him about his methods (and to bond over his Australian roots!).
The rest of my day was spent meeting an array of editors and journalists across the video team. As a former video journalist I was particularly excited to sit down with a few young female video journalists from the Dispatches team and share stories about the stresses and joys of reporting from remote areas. I also got to help set up for the next recording of Diary of a Song, where they were about to interview Lizzo via facetime. While I didn’t get to chat to Lizzo (devastating), I did get to quiz the head of cinematography about his gear and shooting style.
Week two: Columbia Journalism Review, Twitter and Buzzfeed
My second week started with the Columbia Journalism Review, a media industry publication within Columbia University. I quickly learned that ‘reporting on the media’ is a very wide remit, especially in the age of Facebook and Twitter. I spoke to their journos about some incredibly personal and harrowing reporting (like this piece, telling the story of the Parkland school kids who reported on the shooting as it was happening) as well as a more traditional (but still fascinating) media analysis pieces like this one, looking at whether outlets abided by best practice reporting on extremists when reporting on Christchurch.
The team also arranged for me to attend a Masters class at Columbia Journalism School, and a lecture on Journalism and Human Rights, where renowned writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and an array of America’s most acclaimed writers and thinkers on race debated the issues of the day. One of the panelists was Jenni Monet, an Indigenous journalist who has been critical of American media’s misrepresentation and erasure of First Nation stories.
Unlike Australia, where we have a publicly funded channel for Indigenous stories, NITV, there’s no such thing in America and I had struggled to find Indigenous journalists in any organisations that I visited. After the panel, I approached Jenni and arranged to catch up with her for a coffee later in the week. We had a fascinating chat about reporting on Indigenous communities in America and Australia — a relationship and dialogue I hope to keep going!
Next I spent a day at Twitter, which I soon learned is staffed by many, many ex-journalists! I learned about their attempts to battle disinformation on Twitter and provide greater context to world events in their ‘moments’. I also learned that Twitter has possibly the most luxe headquarters of all time (hello free gourmet lunch and brekky).
My last, and probably most enjoyable stop, was Buzzfeed. As a young journalist who works on a show that does an eclectic mix of serious investigative journalism, comedy and pop culture (The Feed on SBS Viceland, check it out!), I felt very at home at Buzzfeed, in no small part because of Tom Namako, who is the head of breaking news and, according to his staff, the nicest man alive. I met with journalists across the organisation, including their head of investigations Ariel Kaminer and the head of their celebrity interview show PROFILE.
A big highlight was spending a morning with the much beloved ‘AM 2 DM’ team as they put their show to air. The team had a really collaborative and fun approach to the show, and as you can see from the picture, the hosts Isaac Fitzgerald and Saeed Jones, are very welcoming to Aussie intruders!
I left New York with dozens of contacts, new relationships and a much deeper appreciation and understanding of many facets of journalism. To any young journalists thinking of applying for this year’s award- go, apply now, you won’t regret it!
Find out more about the Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year Awards, for journalists aged 28 and under, and apply online here — don’t miss the April 26 deadline!
Laura’s trip to the US was made possible with the support of the Jibb Foundation.
Thanks too to our international media partners in the program: Buzzfeed, Columbia Journalism Review, Quartz Media, The New York Times and Twitter.