Reflections on being a regional journalist

A few months ago, I sat down to interview World War II veteran Keith Anderson and his wife in their Inverell home.

It was on my list of stories that week which would cover local schools, agriculture, government funding and policy, sports, social issues and human interest stories, like Keith’s.

Keith had been recently awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honour by the French government for his contributions as an astro-navigator during the War.

Though the honor was great, the veteran downplayed the prestige. He felt we all have had enough of war, and wanted those things to remain in the past.

After we spoke, I was curious about their beautiful collection of artwork on the walls. Up to that point, Keith had been chatty, but his wife seemed a little cranky. I was one of too many people asking about the award.

Once we started talking about the paintings, she warmed into another person entirely. We spent another 15 minutes talking about each piece, and art in general.

As a regional journalist, anything and everything that happens on my sprawling rural patch is news for the taking. There is a story around every corner, and I wish I had more time, or two of me. The job is addictive.

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I accepted the position at The Inverell Times on a sunny June morning in 2013.

The manager phoned to offer the job as I was driving the 45 minutes to Inverell on an errand, and I pulled over to take the call.

I had been of two minds to even apply for the full-time position.

My father worked for a large Chicago newspaper over 40 years, and still actively works as a journalist. His father was also a Chicago journalist.

Like any child growing up with a parent embedded in a long-term career, I witnessed and absorbed the demands of the newspaper on my father and my family.

Despite my misgivings, taking the job was one of the best decisions I have made. And no matter how much I knew about the life of a journalist, I could not guess how deeply I would connect, and continue to connect in this role with my community.

There is little difference between the stories of a big city, and the smaller towns like that in which I work. We all share the human experience, wherever we live.

I have interviewed goat producers and one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. I have sat down to share time with victims of domestic violence, homelessness, and heard the heartache of a family driven from their home by coal seam gas.

Countless children and athletes have spoken about their best achievements. Centenarians have reflected on life.

The job is testing, humbling, yet gratifying. I try to accurately give a voice to those who live here.

I believe in its most successful form, the islands of Australia’s regional and rural populations feel they own their newspapers, and I’m proud of that.

 

-The featured image was taken by Danny Middleton, social programs co-ordinator of BEST Employment. That’s me on the left, photographing Tara Lavender holding a hen.

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