Telum Talks To: Joey Watson, LiSTNR

Telum Talks To: Joey Watson, LiSTNR

"I spent years hunting the spy who betrayed Australia before it got picked up by LiSTNR and turned into a series."

Following the release of his new series, Secrets We Keep, LiSTNR's Joey Watson spoke to Telum Media about his experience chasing stories and solving mysteries as an Investigative Journalist.

Tell us about your career in journalism and how it led you to investigative reporting.
I hustled my way into a job rolling the autocue for ABC News when I was 18. I did it for almost four years and gradually, during those late nights of rolling, I realised that I really wanted to be a journalist. After a few false starts, I managed to get some work producing long-form audio at ABC Radio National. In late 2021, I started doing some work for the Guardian Australia, where I got to learn from some of the best journalists in the country.
For a long time, my investigations have been self-funded forays into the worlds of extremism and espionage. I’ve spent a lot of my twenties trying to solve a bunch of seemingly unsolvable mysteries with my friends. One of them was a hunt for the Australian spy who betrayed Australia during the Cold War. I was extremely lucky that LiSTNR was as interested in this story as I was, and let me work with the best team in the country to make it into a true-spy investigative podcast series.

You recently released a new series, Secrets We Keep: Nest of Traitors. What's it about it?
During the Cold War, an Australian spy had turned to work for the Soviet Union’s KGB, sabotaging ASIO from the inside. Three years ago, I heard that this spy had never been identified, so Secrets We Keep: Nest of Traitors is a chronicle of my quest to find them. I found myself searching for answers in a world of mystery and deception that I’d read about in books and seen in movies but never really anticipated existed anywhere - let alone in Australia.

What is the most exciting thing about your role?
Long-form audio storytelling allows me to strive for a full understanding of whatever story I’m working on and the time in which it is set. A lot of the people you hear from in Nest of Traitors I now have relationships with that extend from years back. This is extremely cool! Audio is also creative, and I get to work with my colleagues to solve creative challenges and experiments. What a dream!

What tools do you use on a day-to-day basis, and do you have any tips for young journalists?
I don’t feel senior enough to give anyone tips but one thing that has helped was realising that what makes a journalist a journalist is not a job title but the actual process of chasing stories. I spent years hunting the spy who betrayed Australia before it got picked up by LiSTNR and turned into a series. I think the fact that I had hours of tape ready to go helped me get it over the line. So my tool would be my recorder, it’s a worthy investment.

Any advice for media professionals wanting to work with you and the team?
The Secrets We Keep team is looking for pitches. They’re keen to hear about mysteries and investigations that profile parts of Australia that don’t normally get attention - twists and turns are a big plus.

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Joey Watson

Investigative Journalist

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