By June Ramli
Sydney, Sept 18: Would you ever consider a career as a journalist? I’d be honest, I never did. In fact, I got into the profession by sheer chance after the public relations company I was initially working with went bust and I had to find a job fast to pay the bills! Fast forward to this fateful day, here we are! This year and thanks to COVID-19 along with the mindless lockdowns, I’ve finally managed to garner enough courage to launch a news website alongside with my former uni roommate Fazleena (Lin) Aziz. Not only did we study together but at one point we even interned and then subsequently worked at the New Straits Times, Malaysia’s oldest English newspaper – which is still in existence till today. So, here we are celebrating our six-month mark. We would like to humbly give a special shout out to all our readers with the message “Thank you for reading DailyStraits.com!” We both really appreciate your support and to celebrate that milestone, we’d like to unveil our latest news app titled: Dailystraits.com on the Apple store and simply DailyStraits on the Google store. The app is free to download and the best thing about our app is that it has a text to speech function that is available on all our stories.
We have also had the liberty to interview two journalists with news websites, one from Malaysia and the other one from Australia and asked them what it is like to start news sites and their thoughts on journalism today. We will kick-start the feature with one of Australia’s renowned journalist Richard Ackland (pictured below), the owner of Justinian News. Without further ado, let’s read the interview below:
What got you involved in journalism in the first place?
I’ve always loved newspapers. Bought them, smelt them, hoarded them, contributed to them. So naturally, I wanted to get a job as a newspaper reporter which has now morphed into digital reporting and commentary.
Do you remember your first front page story? Tell us what was it about and how you felt right after that?
I think it was for the Financial Review, a story about the new Trade Practices Commission taking on anti-competitive behaviour in the concrete pipes industry. It seemed riveting at the time. I also had an interview with attorney general Lionel Murphy in his darkened office at midnight.
How long have you worked as a journalist?
I worked for Maxwell Newton in the early days, crazy and braze (now folded). Finance Week (folded). Financial Review, The National Times (now defunct), The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian, The Saturday Paper and the ABC. That’s 50 plus years in the salt mines.
Is journalism the sort of career you go to make money?
No. It’s more about the fun than the money.
What do you think of the level of journalism today?
A curate’s egg.
Do you think sub-editors are an integral part of any news production agency?
Yes. The old subs I knew were geniuses. Smarter than the editors – but unacknowledged.
Why did you start your own news outlet?
To be free of editors.
What were some of the challenges faced in starting your news outlet?
It is best not to think too much about why you are doing what you are doing. That only leads to doubt. Press on. The challenges are money and time – but that is not unusual for anything worthwhile.
How much investment did you pour in to start your own publications?
Do you recommend any journalists to start their own news outlets?
I do. It’s fun. Working for yourself has its own psycho-satisfaction.
How does your news organisation monetise?
Subscriptions – ideal for niche publications. There are other ways, of course, like conferences, tote bags and sponsorship, but I’m too busy to think about them.
What are some of the challenges faced in running day to day news organisations?
Administration, chasing stories, writing stories, posting stories, technology dramas, administration, chasing stories.
What are some of the challenges faced in running a news organisation while holding a full-time job elsewhere (if this is what you do)?
I have done that. It’s necessary sometimes, but not ideal. Like the art teacher who only wants to paint. Frustrating because your heart lies elsewhere.
What are some of the challenges faced as a full-time news maker of your own news organisation without any other income coming in from other jobs?
Staving off starvation. I remember when I first started Justinian, for a few days I didn’t have enough money to buy an orange juice or a sandwich.
Do you have an exit plan for your news outlet once you get sick and tired of running it?
A plan in development.
Some advice for journalists who would want to start their own news outlet?
Try to be brave, or at least appear brave. Have some savings in your back pocket. Try to consider the chaotic consequences of all this on partners and loved ones. And don’t give up too easily.
Do you have any regrets starting a news outlet?
Too few to mention.
What is the difference between a blog and a website?
A blog seems to be more of a personal expression of views whereas a website might be more likely to deliver news and scoops and analysis.
Would you recommend the journalism profession to anyone else?
Compared to real estate, stockbroking, being a solicitor, politician or mortician – it’s the only thing.
Tune in tomorrow, as we feature another interview with Malaysian journalist JOHARDY IBRAHIM, the managing editor and owner of dagangnews.com, a Malay business and news portal.
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