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Interview with Benjamin Strum, Presenter & Producer at Junkee

16 January, 2020

Benjamin Strum is a producer and presenter at Junkee. Benjamin can be seen on Junkee’s popular Facebook series ‘The Junkee Takeaway’, a daily news show where viral news stories are given an in-depth look and full breakdown. Ben is passionate about documentary making and film, and he has worked with SBS Untold as an associate producer shooting ‘Country Town Pride’ and online publisher Heaps Gay. He posts at  @benstrum.

What aspects of journalism motivate you the most?
Journalism tells truths, builds bridges and creates change. I’m motivated by prevailing justice, bringing issues to light and the craft of visual storytelling. Growing up, I was an avid drawer. My artistic streak eventually turned toward photos and movies. The drive to ‘do journalism’ via video motivates me to hone skills in directing, screenwriting, cinematography and editing. I love documentaries and multimedia journalism. There’s something about beautiful stories being told beautifully that’s really satisfying.

What are the most important new skills that your new job requires?

My current job as a producer and presenter of The Junkee Takeaway taught me invaluable skills. Junkee’s audience is predominantly young and consumes news on social media, so my role requires a relaxed approach to reporting. The Junkee Takeaway goes behind-the-news to explain or provide new perspectives on big stories. My writing has to be casual, and when I’m reading autocue, I’ve got to come across as conversational. The role wasn’t a simple transition from documentary making, but I got there eventually! I’ve learned a lot from my co-host Elfy Scott and executive producer Nick Arnold.

How has a press release added value to a story of yours before?

I was an associate producer on SBS Untold documentary ‘Country Town Pride.’ A few weeks before it came out, I published an editorial on SBS Pride about the film’s subject (and star) Holly Conroy. SBS writer Sam Leighton-Dore then wrote further about the film. It was interesting to see how those articles sparked conversations about our work. The film’s electronic press kit was also a great tool for networking within the industry.

What is the most memorable story you’ve reported on?

At Junkee, the most memorable story I wrote was about the impact of sexism on the K-pop industry. A spate of suicides drove my attention to the issue, and I was shocked by what I learned. South Korea has some of the highest revenge porn and suicide rates in the developed world. And K-pop record labels are notorious for treating their artists poorly. The video we produced about this went viral.
Earlier in my career, I worked for LGBT+ publisher Heaps Gay. My most memorable story in that role was about Melbourne singer Mama Alto. They’re a non-binary ‘waria’ (Javanese trans-feminine person). Mama is incredibly active in the cabaret scene and an advocate for transgender rights. I learned so much from them, and we formed a genuine friendship.

Tell us what’s next for Benjamin Strum.

After Season 1 of The Junkee Takeaway, I’m directing a documentary web series about female financial vulnerability. The project is being produced in collaboration with The Sydney Community Foundation. I’m also in the early stages of developing two documentaries with established producers. The topics we’re tackling are close to my heart.

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