Journalist Spotlight | Interview with Jack Derwin, Markets and Finance Correspondent at Capital Brief
Today, Medianet is in conversation with Jack Derwin, Capital Brief’s Markets and Finance Correspondent. Jack has covered the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, taught English in a politically volatile Spain and interviewed Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and Prime Ministers. Still, one of his proudest journalistic accomplishments - at least, if his Twitter (or X) can be believed - is his interview with Chad Profitz.
What attracted you to a career in journalism and how has your decade of experience subverted or met your expectations in what it's like to be a journalist?
Blame it on a short attention span but I never wanted to have a job that threw up the same routine day in, day out. Journalism to me was an opportunity to get out of my own little world and find out something new. I grew up in a country town and came to appreciate that the world is a lot bigger and more colourful than the little bubbles we all occupy.
In that sense, journalism has lived up to my hopes. I get to constantly speak to new people who are far smarter and more interesting than me every day and then tell their stories. It beats working for a living.
As part of a national education program by Spain’s Ministry of Education, you took on the role as an English teacher in two schools in Cordoba. Could you tell us a little bit about your experience and what attracted you to the position?
I had studied in Mexico for a year during university and was looking to both polish my language skills and get out of Australia for a while. My parents were both school teachers and it was always something I wanted to try.
The opportunity came up and I worked across a primary school and a high school in two very different parts of town. It was a wonderful experience teaching a range of subjects to kids (aged 7 to 17). The kids were wonderful as were my unlucky colleagues who made me feel at home in Andalucia.
I was there just after the Catalan Independence Referendum was held and at a time when a fiery political debate around national identity and history was raging. It was educational getting a front row seat to that chapter unfolding and how the different sides were covered in the press.
Having had extensive experience in covering humanitarian and social issues alongside business and finance news, what made you decide to focus on covering the business and finance sector in Australia?
I don’t know if I ever made that decision. The dream was always to be a foreign correspondent, covering history as it unfurled, before I realised just how few and far between those jobs have become. Perhaps that’s where the interest in social issues come from.
But covering business isn’t a bad consolation prize. Companies and those who helm them wield enormous influence on the world we live in. It’s crucial we have a press that covers them fairly, analyses their actions closely, and holds them accountable when things go wrong and people get hurt.
Business and finance aren’t separate from our societies. They’re a major cog in them. Business stories are human stories, just told through a different lens.
How has your experience for a financial institution like Macquarie and investment platform Superhero shaped your reportage or views on the finance industry?
Having been a finance journalist before, it was fascinating to get inside companies and see them from the other side of the fence. It gave me a greater appreciation for the immense work that goes into building one, how the cogs all fit together and how things can go wrong. Businesses, and the people who make them work, are usually a lot more complicated than headlines and PR spin might suggest. I try to keep that nuance in mind when I’m reporting.
How have the attitudes towards the business and finance sector changed throughout the years, particularly in the age of data and digitisation?
It’s changed remarkably. Customers, employees, investors and the public can, in some form, share their experiences and opinions in real time. Their stories can be amplified and consequently, can have major ramifications. So too can companies interact with them. Brands and business folk now have online ‘personalities’, and share and overshare. This firehose of information exists, for better or worse.
When I started, I was disappointed that the world of smoky newsrooms had disappeared and that I wouldn’t be meeting people in dark alleys exchanging sensitive information. The 24-hour digital newscycle isn’t quite as romantic.
But nostalgia aside, the Information Age has its advantages. It’s easier to crunch numbers and find data when you’re sitting at a computer. It also gives you incredible access to tools and people you otherwise wouldn’t have had 20 years ago. I can call an international source to get a different perspective or discover important background information. You can’t turn back the clock so I’ve learned to accept the bad and try to embrace the good.
You’ve worked in and reported on many countries throughout your career. What were some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced when navigating media environments around the world?
Differences in language and culture can be dramatic so it’s about coming to terms with local customs. I’ve reported in places where bureaucracy is stifling and people don’t pick up their phones or answer their email. Places where you’ve literally got to track people down when you land. Thankfully, those same people were incredibly generous with their time when we met face-to-face.
Poverty and social issues can be affecting when you come face to face with it. In those cases, it’s a challenge to persist and do your job. You quickly realise your sympathy doesn’t go very far. The challenge is to be empathetic without losing sight of why you’re there. To tell their stories as best as you can.
And lastly, what do you look for in content pitching?
I’m looking for great stories that haven’t been told. Whether it’s an interesting perspective, an innovative business, or a burning issue that isn’t being addressed. I get pitched plenty so get to the point and tell me why your story matters, why it's unique.