Telum Media talks to Independent Australia political editor Dr Martin Hirst

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At home with Dr Martin Hirst (Image supplied)

What makes hard-working IA political editor Dr Martin Hirst tick? This Telum Media interview paints the picture.

Can you tell us a bit about Independent Australia? 

Independent Australia is a progressive journal focusing on politics, democracy, the environment, Australian history and Australian identity.

We have a broad remit, to cover news and opinion from Australia and around the world. We are keen to use citizen journalists where possible and to promote progressive voices that don’t get much of a run in the mainstream media.

It’s only a small team and none of us really makes a living wage; it’s a labour of love, but we believe it’s worth doing.
Are there any themes you’ll be focussing on this year?

As political editor, I am working closely with managing editor Dave Donovan to have IA accredited to the Press Gallery in Canberra. We’ve just submitted our application. If we get in the real work begins. We are going to launch a crowd-funding campaign so I can cover as many sitting weeks as possible in 2017.

We’re also working on another project, that I can’t say too much about, but I can tell you that we are looking to train more citizen journalists to expand our political coverage.

You write a weekly media column for IA, what do you think are the big media issues we’ll see this year?

Right now, the big issue for me is: "How do we cover Donald Trump’s presidency?". He has turned political journalism on its head in Washington and the shock waves are travelling around the planet. The explosive leak about Trump’s dismissive attitude to Malcolm Turnbull during what should have been a friendly call means we have to examine our own practices too.

I’m also looking closely at the ABC; what’s happening under Michelle Guthrie’s leadership is gutting a national treasure. Media concentration in Australia is going to be a story for me this year and the whittling away of institutional memory in mainstream newsrooms.

You previously taught journalism for 20 years, most recently at Deakin University. What new techniques are journalism professors employing to prepare students for an ever evolving workforce?

Well, we can’t ignore social media and we have to re-examine the whole premise of professional journalism. The crisis of profitability in the media demands that we take notice. Newsrooms are shrinking and the post-truth, "fake news" tsunami is upon us. Getting students through this and helping them learn to navigate this difficult terrain is the key thing journalism educators must do in the current climate.

It means a focus on the politics of news, not just how to use Twitter, or writing an inverted pyramid, though these are still important skills. Data journalism and coding are "hot" right now but, in my humble opinion, they are in danger of being just fads if not carefully integrated into the digital curriculum.

What does a day in the life of Dr Martin Hirst look like?

At the moment, I’m very busy. I’m freelancing so it takes a lot of effort to make a bit of money. I have to be ready to take assignments at short notice and to deliver good copy to tight deadlines.

I’m also writing my eighth journalism book, and the deadline for the manuscript gets closer every day.

I’m constantly looking for new commissions and story ideas, so hit me up if you want something done.

I take care of myself. I go to the gym and swim a few times a week. I’m also a house-husband to a very busy woman, so I cook most weekdays. On weekends, I turn off the keyboard and social media. I like to get out and smell the roses (and highly recommend it).
Pet PR peeve?

Badly written media releases, overbearing sales pitches and unpaid internships.

Coffee, lunch or drinks?

Depends on the time of day (LOL). I can do any of those options, but I don’t drink while I’m working. I have at least three alcohol-free days a week. I’ll make an exception if you want to take me out for dinner. On weekends, a dry martini with artisanal gin, good vermouth, and olives; but no more than two drinks, usually with oysters, or sashimi.

Contact Dr Martin Hirst with freelance opportunities and story ideas at He also blogs at Ethical Martini and is on Twitter @ethicalmartini.

This interview was originally published by Telum Media and has been republished with permission.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

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Telum Media talks to Independent Australia political editor Dr Martin Hirst

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