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Interview with Oliver Gordon, Journalist at ABC Alice Springs

18 December, 2019

He most recently won the 2019 Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year for his scoop exposing racial profiling and segregation at an Alice Springs Hotel. He has worked across many mediums such as radio and online, covering local and national politics, Indigenous affairs, health and the arts. Oliver was also named the 2019 Journalist/Photojournalist of the Year, at the NT Media Awards. He tweets at @olgordon.

What aspects of journalism motivates you the most? 
The aspect of journalism that motivates me most is the day to day diversity of my working life. It’s an honour and a privilege to be able to meet new people and spend time in their world every day. Other aspects that motivate me include getting to speak truth to power, and getting to work as part of a team. I think journalism is very much a team sport, and I’m lucky to work with lots of really nice and supportive people in my team.


How do you protect your sources that wish to remain anonymous?
I don’t tell anyone their names and use private messaging services. I also double-check that I am not revealing parts of a source’s identity in any other conversations I am having with other people. Often this involves remaining very diligent and being very intentional about which words you use and what conversations you have. That’s OK though, all part of the job.


How did you originally become aware of the racism and mistreatment of Indigenous people found in your ABC story?
I was leaked an internal email instructing staff to use certain rooms for certain people. After I was leaked the email I worked closely with the people who leaked it to me to talk about what we could do with it, and how we could turn it into a piece of journalism. This was a long journey that took many conversations and a lot of planning.


Why are press releases still important in today’s journalism?
Good press releases provide accurate summaries of complex reports or events. This can save everyone time and energy. I like dot points, clear headlines, and connections back to newsworthy events. I think I can tell when an ex-journalist has written a press release because they have been on the receiving end of pressers. There’s an art to a good press release, and I respect people who take the time to do a good job of them.


What advice would you give to aspiring journalists who hope to earn the Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year award one year?
If it’s possible for you, move away from your home town so you can really focus on your work for a couple of years. Also, read books that are written by people with different perspectives/upbringings/life circumstances. Another thing that’s important is being persistent in your newsgathering. Make that extra phone call. Learn the art of getting people to speak to you without being annoying. That will be good for your career.

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