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TV & Radio

Aug 3, 2011

The quality journalism project: now crossing to Leigh Sales

Crikey picks the brains of some of Australia's most respected journalists, editors and producers to find out what great journalism means to them and where they go to get it. ABC's 7.30 host Leigh Sales divulges her media diet.

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Last week  Crikey introduced its quality journalism project, where we pick the brains of some of Australia’s most respected journalists, editors and producers to find out what great journalism means to them and where they go to get it.

The project will quiz a new person each week to catalogue the top 10 sources of Australian journalism that inspire and inform them. From that, we’ll put together a master list of the best places to find quality journalism in Australia.

The quality journalism project is a long-term affair, meaning if you have ideas for particular journalists and experts you’d love to hear divulge their media diet, please drop us a line. If you missed last week’s, go check out the Financial Review‘s Laura Tingle giving her wise words on journalism and her top 10 Australian journalists.

Today we have Leigh Sales, host of ABC’s 7.30:

CRIKEY: What is your definition of quality journalism?

LS: It must be well-written and engaging. It must tell me something I don’t know, especially if it’s about a topic that’s been well thrashed over. It should adhere to the highest standards of accuracy, fairness and impartiality. I believe that most Australian media outlets are patchy in their quality. Good pieces tend to pop up all over the place, rather than consistently in one place. It means I tend to associate quality journalism with individual reporters who produce it consistently, rather than with specific organisations.

Leigh Sales’ top 10 quality journalism sources in Australia

  1. Pamela Williams at The Australian Financial Review. Everything she does illuminates a subject in a way few others can do. Her writing style is pacy and engaging. Every time I read one of her pieces, I feel like I need to go and do work experience with her for six months to learn how to be a journalist.
  2. Sarah Ferguson at Four Corners. I am in awe of how she delivers scoop after scoop. The content is not only excellent, but she writes and structures her material very well for TV which a lot of TV reporters don’t actually do. If I saw them promoting a story that Sarah Ferguson was reporting on how paint dries, I’d watch and expect to be riveted.
  3. Conversations with Richard Fidler on ABC Local Radio. An unfailingly fascinating program because Richard is the best interviewer in the country. He brings terrific warmth and preparation to every conversation. He always comes across as highly intelligent and knowledgeable but never because he’s trying to make himself the focus. Instead, he lets the guests shine.
  4. Lateline. If you only watched one TV program on Australian TV, Lateline would tell you everything you need to know about national and world affairs. It punches well above its weight. It was a privilege to anchor it.
  5. Cameron Stewart in The Australian. I can’t think of a more versatile reporter in Australia, who breaks so many stories across so many different areas. He’s an absolute gun — his news reports are equally as good as his feature writing.
  6. Amanda Hooton in The Good Weekend Magazine (Fairfax). The best profile writer in Australia.
  7. Mark Colvin on Twitter. I probably should pay him for doing so much work for me every day by reading the world’s media and tweeting the best of it, which I then surf off. If I could only follow on person on Twitter, I’d follow Colvin and get most of the best of what’s on there I believe.
  8. Laurie Oakes in The Daily Telegraph. Always insightful, gives great context, writes crisply, doesn’t appear to be running an agenda. Can’t ask for more in political analysis.
  9. Helen Garner wherever and whenever she appears. I think she’s one of the great non-fiction writers in the country. I devour everything she writes.
  10. The Big Issue. I buy it whenever I can and not for charity reasons, but because it is a really interesting, quality read. Alan Attwood has done a great job as editor.

CRIKEY: What media do you consume on a daily basis?

Wake up and surf Twitter to see what’s happened overnight. Favourite whatever I think I need to read later. In the morning I read The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald in detail. I skim the Financial Review and The Daily Telegraph when I get into the office. While I read the papers, I listen to ABC Radio News and AM. Sometimes I have Today on Nine on in the background if there’s been a major “visual” story that I want to see, not just hear or read. Then, Richard Fidler at 11am.

During the day, I read whatever I’ve favourited on Twitter, which can take me to pretty much any media site in the world. I periodically check Twitter all day, along with various websites including ABC Online, news.com.au, smh.com.au, bbc.co.uk/news and nytimes.com. I only watch rolling TV news coverage if there’s a major event, like the capture of bin Laden for example. Otherwise I prefer radio in the background.

From 5pm, mostly it’s just stuff on in the background that I keep half an ear on around studio commitments, like Ten News at 5pm. I’ll check the PM rundown and switch on if there’s something I think I need to hear. I’ll switch between Nine News and Seven News at 6pm to see what they’re running. A Current Affair at 6.30pm. ABC News at 7pm until I go to the studio at 7.10pm.

If I’m awake, I’ll watch Lateline. If not, I check their website in the morning to see what they had.

On a weekly basis, I read The Economist, The Spectator Australia and The New Yorker (I get behind on all three and often have to skim). On a monthly basis, Vanity Fair and The Australian Women’s Weekly. For world media, I regularly check, if not daily, every few days, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the BBC and The Guardian.

CRIKEY: What particular stories – either Australian or international – do you think are classic examples of quality journalism?

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