Telum Talks To...Misha Ketchell, Editor of The Conversation

Telum Talks To...Misha Ketchell, Editor of The Conversation
Chloe Arentz

How have you seen The Conversation evolve since your time at the helm?
The Conversation has been operating for 12 years and we've got a unique approach to journalism: a team of professional journalists follow the news and work with academic experts to come up with articles that help make sense of what's going on. We want to be part of a healthy media ecosystem so everything we do is free to read and free to republish. We started with a small team of 12 editors working out of a single office in Melbourne. Now, it's a global network with teams in Australia, Africa, Canada, France, the US, the UK, Spain, New Zealand and Indonesia.

Has your audience changed at all during this time?
We built the audience from nothing and it's been a story of fast growth with a couple of plateaus or small drops when Google changed its algorithm. When Covid-19 came along, our audience tripled because people wanted to hear from the experts and we had access to many of the top epidemiologists and immunologists. Now, the Australia and New Zealand site is routinely getting over five million monthly unique users onsite. 

What kind of content is The Conversation covering on The Voice?
At The Conversation, we believe that better decisions start with better information and when it comes to The Voice, we see our role as informing the public deliberation. Our coverage is being led by Indigenous and Policy Editor, Carissa Lee, and it features explainers, constitutional law experts, and all the things you'd expect to be covered by experts. We are also doing a series of turning points in this history of relations between Indigenous people and settlers - sometimes you have to dig a little deeper and go back a little further to get the full picture.

The Conversation is known for its academic-led features; what are your thoughts on how AI can misconstrue reliable information?
As a journalist, I hate the idea of AI and technological automation, so my view is coloured by my love of our industry and my fears about what it might do to me and my colleagues. I think it's too early to say where it's all going to go, but I can't imagine a world in which intelligent, thoughtful and curious professional journalists aren't the key ingredient for any media company that wants to succeed.
Tell us about your Story Alerts. Do they follow the news agenda? Who currently receives and curates them?
At The Conversation, we start each day with a news conference and we often commission fast-turnaround articles that can explain complex things in the news. We produce a daily heads-up for colleagues in the media who may want to pluck some of our work to add another dimension to their coverage.
What’s your number one tip for media professionals wanting to work with The Conversation?
We know that on big stories you are doing your own coverage, so The Conversation often has timely explainers and analysis that fill gaps and go a bit deeper. We've also got a senior team member dedicated to working with republishers to solve any problems and make it really easy to take our work.

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