Journalist Spotlight | Interview with Laura Murphy-Oates, Presenter and Producer of The Guardian's Full Story Podcast
Laura Murphy-Oates is the Presenter and Producer of The Guardian's Daily News Full Story Podcast. She is a Ngiyampaa Weilwan woman and has launched a fortnightly extension of the podcast to educate listeners on the voice, The voice AMA. She hopes to increase community understanding by tackling some big questions head-on.
What does a normal day look like for you?
Like many journalists, unhealthily waking up and straight away opening various news apps. Also checking the podcast apps to see that the day before’s episode has gone to air, so a slightly anxious start to the day.
In the office, I’ll come in and we’ll have a Guardian-wide meeting every morning between 9-9:30, where everyone gets to talk about what they’re doing. At the end, everyone can pitch ideas about what The Guardian should be covering, which can turn into really lively and interesting debates about what’s on in the news, lifestyle or funny things we saw on the weekend, you just never know where it’s gonna go.
Then throughout the day, it’s various interviews with Guardian journos, with people around the country, talking mostly about cost of living and The Voice to Parliament at the moment, those are the two things we’re really covering. Hopefully finishing at a reasonable time with a podcast made for the next day is pretty much it.
Not a small plate you’ve got there! Can you tell me about your new podcast and your current role at The Guardian?
So what we’ve launched is a special series within our existing podcast, Full Story. It’s essentially a different format that we’re doing once every fortnight. We get people from different backgrounds but with a vested interest, an expertise in something to do with Indigenous communities and the voice, to answer listener submitted questions.
The really important thing is to increase community understanding about all the different viewpoints on the voice, about blatant misinformation on The Voice, and about what Indigenous people think. So our thought was, ‘let’s go straight to listeners, see what they want to know each fortnight.’
On the podcast, we create a panel, kind of like a rotating cast, of guests of all different ages, from different communities, remote, regional, urban. Some of the voices you won't necessarily hear in other voice coverage, come on the podcast and answer those questions directly.
Not just in a way that’s a sound bite in a press conference, or a grab in an article, but in a thoughtful, extended conversation, where you really get to know that person and their perspective.
Do you think it’s important to listen to Indigenous journalists about Indigenous issues?
Yeah, not just Indigenous journalists but Indigenous people in general. I think Indigenous journalists, yes, do know the issues in our communities better. We are not propagating misinformation in the ways in which parts of the Australian media can. That's been very clear so far. Indigenous voices in general, bring a complex understanding of what a voice would do, and what it would mean, and are definitely the best people to ask these questions to.
What impact does Indigenous representation in the media have on Indigenous communities?
I suppose what I’d say is that something that I’ve found over time is that there is a bit of distrust between some of the Indigenous communities and media - and rightfully so. When you have Aboriginal journalists speaking to communities, there is a level of understanding and better trust. You end up hearing from more Aboriginal people, because you have formats and programs where Aboriginal people can speak, and speak safely.
So you know it does help having more journalists there on the front line, you end up with more voices, a diversity of voices, and we’re able to create better conversations - that's for sure.
Is it important to have all-Indigenous platforms? Such as NITV.
Absolutely. That’s kind of where I started, I was a cadet for SBS. At the end of that, I worked at SBS and NITV as a multimedia journalist, kind of doing radio, tv, print - everything. Being in that space of all-black journalists, was a really foundational time for me. Learning about media but within a black mindset and mindframe. You had these really amazing people going on to do amazing things within society coming from NITV. It was just this sense of a really formative experience working at NITV.
You have extensive experience with Indigenous communities across the world, including a spotlight on Indigenous women in Canada that earned you a Walkley Award, what did you learn from that experience? And do you see any similarities in Indigenous representation in the media across these different cultures?
It's so interesting learning about the similarities in the experiences of colonisation in both countries. There’s so many similarities between Canada and Australia in general, both as democratic countries and similar economies. Then there’s this awful past and present of colonisation that we share. I saw the strength and culture of the community and met some incredible community leaders while I was there. That community spirit and culture, similar to Australia, is a bit of the antidote to some of those confronting things that you might come across.
Something that I find really stark is the poor representation of First Nations people in North America. They’re amazed to hear that we had a National Indigenous Television station in Australia, there’s really nothing similar in the States. When that lack of representation is compared to the conversation we’ve got going on in Australia, it’s kind of a positive thing for us.
I did all these placements as part of the young Walkley trip back in 2018, I went to all these different media organisations and I asked people, ‘where are your First Nations journalists?’ I managed to meet one. So I think that’s not really talked about in terms of the positives, we do actually have some pretty amazing things going on in the media in terms of First Nations representation.
What does an informed audience look like to you? If someone is looking for a well rounded approach, what sorts of media would you advise they seek?
I would really encourage people to be reading a few media outlets in Australia, to look for organisations that are trusted that don’t spread misinformation. I’ve got to say that podcasts are a really great place to actually understand things on a much deeper level. It can be really overwhelming reading a new headline on the same issue everyday and feeling like you can’t keep up. Podcasts are one way to do that because they bring it all together with the person that’s at the centre of that story.
Early in your career you worked mostly in video journalism, and now you focus primarily on audio, what differences do you see when you’re trying to convey your message across these different mediums?
One of things I like about moving from video to audio, is that while video is so powerful, you can see peoples faces, expressions, emotions, it’s very time consuming and expensive. So you are spending quite a bit of time getting the message and better information out there. There was a sense in me wanting to do that more efficiently, because of the urgency of some of the things that were talking about.
I find that sense of urgency in being able to cover things day-in day-out, helping others to understand the news when it’s breaking, when the audience is engaged and it’s in the headlines everyday.
There’s so many really personal conversations that I’ve had with people about their lives over the phone. Listening to it can feel really personal because you’re essentially speaking in someone’s ear, and I feel a sense of responsibility helping people understand things. Also walking the audience through some of these big issues each day, in a way that hopefully doesn’t traumatise them too much, and gives them a better understanding of what’s going on.
Do you think that motivated you to get into journalism?
Yeah I think so. I wish I had a perfect origin story, I’m not sure that I always wanted to be a journalist, and it wasn’t something I was dreaming about as a kid. Originally, I wanted to make music videos, or do something creative like that. I think I found my love of journalism while doing it.
It’s kind of a normal human reaction to read some of the news and feel quite confronted by it and how grim it can be. So when you’re in it, and helping write the first drafts of history, there is something incredibly exciting and motivating to wake up each morning and know you’re gonna understand something new, and meet someone new by the end of that day.
When you’re feeling really frustrated by big world issues, to know that some of your work might help in a small way, is definitely something that I grew to fall in love with, rather than always knowing I was gonna love.
What is your favourite part about being a journalist?
I think it is that thing about just being able to pick up the phone and talk to someone on the other side of the country, or the world. When you speak to your friends, usually you don’t end up getting into the deep stuff, but as a journalist you do that with strangers all the time.
Those interactions are some of the rawest, most wonderful and thoughtful interactions I’ve ever had. You have these very moving, and kind of philosophical conversations with people all the time, and that’s something that’s really special. I don't take it for granted that people are happy to open up in that way, that often to me, about what’s going on in their lives.