Telum Talks To: Nance Haxton, Senior Reporter at National Indigenous Radio Service

Telum Talks To: Nance Haxton, Senior Reporter at National Indigenous Radio Service

By Callum Logie

Tell us a little about your current roles.
I’ve started working part-time as a Senior Reporter with the National Indigenous Radio Service (NIRS). On my other workdays, I freelance as an arts writer with InQueensland and make podcasts for clients such as the Daniel Morcombe Foundation. I also work on my indie podcast, Streets of Your Town, which features stories about incredible Australians I've met during my travels in Mildred (my cantankerous kombi). It’s just clocked over its 100th episode - not bad for a podcast I produce completely on my own!

How have you seen journalism change throughout your career?
It might sound strange to some, but I can honestly say the craft of journalism hasn’t changed much. I started as a pimply-faced cadet at Quest Newspapers on the Wynnum Herald. I still remember driving to work on my first day and seeing a man sculpting an old tree stump outside his house, pulling over and interviewing him to make a great profile for the paper.

I was the only person on the ground for my first ABC gig in 2000. It was in Port Augusta in outback South Australia, and was probably my greatest teacher in terms of journalism. If something amazing happened, I was the one who went. It was not the most senior journalist in the newsroom like in a big capital city. As such, the live crosses I did from the Woomera Detention Centre riots won me my first Walkley award for Best Radio Coverage in 2000. I felt this award vindicated my choice to go outback and leave my family and friends for the big adventure. I also made friends that I still cherish and keep up with. I learnt how to nurture contacts, particularly Aboriginal people, because they don’t send you a press release when something’s happening. You have to keep in contact and establish trust.

I did a podcast series called The Journo Project, where I interviewed and celebrated more than two dozen great practitioners of the craft. I spoke to people such as Mark Willacy, Hedley Thomas, Adele Ferguson, and Sandra Sully. In many ways, it was like my own little masterclass in journalism, and I learnt so much from it, and I know my listeners did as well. But I always remember Hugh Riminton (National Affairs Editor at Network 10) telling me how, even after his four decades in the game, the central skills are still the same. I couldn’t agree with him more.

Is there a piece that you’ve been extra proud of recently?
I was happy with this piece I did on Kuramanunya, a Brisbane Festival show by respected Indigenous dancer Thomas E.S. Kelly. It was an incredibly moving solo dance work that pays tribute to First Nations people who died during colonisation. I combined that review with an interview with him, which worked well because it meant he could explain the important context around the show.

I’m also proud that the State Library of Queensland is negotiating to buy the rights to hold my Streets of Your Town podcast series in their digital collection. I never made that podcast to make money, so having them approach me to hold my work in the library makes me feel so proud. I love telling the stories of incredible everyday Australians wherever they are, and to be told that these are also important historical documents that have captured some of Queensland’s history makes my heart sing. These overlooked stories are the best stories to tell.

How do you best work with PR professionals?
I’m always open to story ideas in press releases, but I would appreciate that extra line that shows you have thought through a specific angle that would suit the realms where I work, whether that’s a strong news angle, First Nations angle, or arts angle. Or hopefully all three! I’ve always prided myself on being a consummate general round reporter. So, I have no limits as to my interests! Some of my best award-winning stories have come from areas that, until I started researching the story I was writing, I knew nothing about.

I’m always up for a cuppa to discuss story ideas! I appreciate meeting people face-to-face and am open to meeting people on my travels as my work has a national focus. I find the best stories generally don’t come from press releases, but that said I would never discount them! I generate a lot of stories myself by ringing contacts or following up on news I’ve heard from communities. My favourite method is talking through story ideas and getting fresh interviews and a new story angle.

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Nance Haxton

Senior Reporter

National Indigenous Radio Service

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