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Journalist Spotlight | Interview with Emma Elsworthy - Newsletter Editor and Reporter at Crikey

18 October, 2023

Emma Elsworthy of Crikey talks to Medianet about her experiences in the industry as an award-winning journalist, as well as her hopes for the future. Emma’s career has seen her cover the 2019 election for the BBC, as well as the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires which saw her team win the 2020 Walkley Award for Coverage of a Major News Event or Issue. Emma now works remotely from Vancouver, Canada for Crikey, covering climate news and editing the daily newsletter, Crikey Worm.

What inspired you to study journalism and enter a career in the Australian media industry?

Like a lot of folks working in journalism, I don't have a degree in it! I actually studied public relations, and I took some journalism classes for fun because I've always loved to read and write. It was my first day interning at the Newcastle Herald during my final semester that something clicked into place for me. The deadline-driven daily whirlwind, the trust people placed in me to tell their story, and the welcoming space for professional creativity. It just felt right. 

What has been the most memorable experience of your career to date?

It was certainly memorable tracking down and interviewing Tony Abbott for the BBC on 2019's election day. It was the last day of his parliamentary career after his blue ribbon seat was won by an independent. Earlier this year, I interviewed a personal hero, Bob Brown, the grandfather of the Greens and Australia's first openly gay member of parliament, which was wonderful. And I'll never forget the angst of covering Black Summer bushfires in 2019-20, for which my team at the ABC won a Walkley.

What perspectives and stories are you most interested in hearing more about through your work and bringing to your readers?

Climate change is the single biggest story of our lifetime. Our research shows readers agree, but industry data shows it's been historically challenging to get them to click those stories. At Crikey, I've tried to avoid the broad doom-and-gloom and instead focus on how climate intersects with other news topics, like business, politics, big tech, tax, advertising. I try to impart to the reader how and why, left unchecked, climate change will change everything, including in their own lives. 

What are some of the challenges and advantages that you have encountered while working at Crikey? How has it differed from other outlets you have worked at?

I began my career at Fairfax, which once had more than 100 newspapers under its purview, before moving to stiff-upper-lip BBC News and then to our broadcaster ABC News. Big media is known for its bureaucracy and red tape, particularly broadcasters because of what they owe to the taxpayer. Crikey is a world away from that - we're independent media, making us much more agile in our editorial direction yet also scalable during big moments like elections or budgets. There are fewer resources, but I think it's fair to say Crikey does a hell of a lot with a little.

Are there any misconceptions about the media industry and climate reporting that you disagree with?

Fake news was a funny Trumpian slogan at the time with a rather dark consequence that followed. People are more wary of newsrooms peddling conspiratorial agendas than before. And while I have my suspicions about directions coming top-down at News Corp, accusations of some sort of coordinated propaganda effort at places like ABC are a fantasy. The left works at left or centrist leaning outlets, sure, but most journalists I've worked with are just telling stories in the most accurate way they can.

Where do you see yourself in the future and where would you like your work to take you?

I hope to author books, speak on writers' panels, teach a class at university, work on climate policy at a think tank, mentor aspiring journalists, work in digital storytelling innovation, the list goes on. I find I thrive on challenge and change so I look forward to the future, whatever opportunities it may bring. 

Is there any upcoming work from you or the team at Crikey we should keep an eye out for?

Crikey's Northern Territory correspondent Julia Bergin has recently relocated to Alice Springs and brokered a partnership with Indigenous Community Television, or ICTV for short. Crikey is fortunate to get valuable access to community and language, while ICTV receives a national platform via Crikey for telling important stories from regional and remote communities. The coverage is helping Australians go beyond the Yes/No soundbites in the Voice to Parliament debate, while also spotlighting underreported NT voices. I feel chuffed to be a part of that.

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