Telum Talks To... Kirsty Johnston, Senior Reporter at Stuff

Telum Talks To... Kirsty Johnston, Senior Reporter at Stuff

Congratulations on winning Reporter of the Year at the 2022 Voyager Media Awards. What did it take to get there?
Longevity! I've been a reporter for almost 15 years, starting at the Taranaki Daily News, where I learnt how to cover a round and find stories from anywhere. It also took a lot of trust and goodwill on behalf of the people I interviewed for the stories in my portfolio, which were mainly about trauma and the justice system. 

How broad is your remit at Stuff? What are you covering right now?
I'm a senior writer and I mainly work on investigative stories. At the moment, I'm interested in worker rights and the way the justice system works for some people, but not others.

I'm also working on stories about gender discrimination - the kind of work featured in the "Tell Me About It" podcast I host with Michelle Duff and Noelle McCarthy. These stories highlight the complexities and challenges in women's lives.

Tell us about a day in the life of Kirsty Johnston.
I'm currently trying to quit my social media addiction, so I usually try not to open Twitter, fail, and end up getting up much later than planned. I live in Tauranga, so I then take the dog for a waterfront walk, gossip with the other dog owners in the hope of a news tip, and start working from there. Most of my day is spent either on the phone, or if it's a writing day, listening to weird atmospheric electronica to help me focus.

What are your top tips for PRs looking to pitch you a story?
Pitch directly! Investigative reporters like me don't have as much to do with PRs but where we do it would be for case studies or perhaps positive examples of an issue we're writing about. That's where you're likely to get some engagement.

What’s the most memorable story you have covered so far?
I covered Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu a few years ago. I spent a couple of nights sleeping on the floor of a hut in remote Tanna while reporting on the devastation there. I remember arriving in the dark and being handed a chicken as a gift - I was trying to report back via satellite at the time and the Chief Reporter taking my copy was definitely disturbed by the squawking at my end.

My return flight off the island also got cancelled, and I was just gearing up for a night on the floor of the airport when the New Zealand Air Force arrived. Good timing from them!

Answers submitted by Kirsty Johnston, Senior Reporter at Stuff.

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