Australian Financial Review Perth Bureau Chief Jonathan Barrett has left the paper. His farewell email, sent on January 7, finally made its way to Crikey this morning. “I was going to sneak off without a public goodbye; but I couldn’t resist,” he wrote to colleagues. “I call this last piece, The bureau life”. An abridged version is reproduced below:
“Given a reporter’s happiness directly corresponds with how far he or she is from head office (the further, the better … in case you were wondering) the bureau has been a happy work place.
“Paper deadlines hit in the early afternoon Perth time, and so, it’s possible to squeeze in a dusk swim, otherwise known as feeding time, in Cottesloe’s pristine shark-infested waters.
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“Not that it is all fun and games across the Nullarbor.
“In my first few years here, it was not unusual to get a call from a sub asking why, for example, some court story hadn’t been filed. ‘Because proceedings haven’t started yet,’ was my usual blunt reply. Or there were the 5am phone calls asking for online copy on the latest company or political announcement.
“The Fin might be the country’s premier financial publication, but time differences apparently trip up the best of us.
“The humble bureau has been shifted around a lot; four offices in five years. We eventually settled into a new home in East Perth, sitting next to news, radio and disc-jockey types working for companies owned, or once owned, by Fairfax. We are squeezed into a corridor. I know I mustn’t complain … at least we didn’t fall for the hot-desking fad.
“Our modest surrounds correlate with the changing economic conditions of the mineral-rich state. At the boom’s peak there were six journalists in the bureau, and we had another four empty desks we were preparing to fill. While printed newspaper sales were dropping everywhere, they were actually rising in WA. I used to order weekly updates from the circulation team for self-aggrandizement purposes. Really nice guys those circulation people. When a WA story was placed on the front page, local sales rocketed.
“Our copy was so good — evidently so, given I use words like ‘self-aggrandizement’ — the AFR’s Perth bureau was bucking global newspaper trends by recording increased paper sales.
“There was even talk the bureau was going to secede. Or, at the very least, I was thinking of a Robert Holmes a Court-styled raid on the rest of Fairfax. Then the boom ended. The figures didn’t look so good. I stopped talking to the circulation team. I never liked them anyway.
“Once I leave, the bureau will be back to two people. It’s no great loss, everyone knows [they] run the office anyway …”
After thanking a few people, Barrett concluded by saying he had no set plans other than to tend his tomato patch.