Telum Talks To: Peter Milne, Business Reporter at WAtoday

Telum Talks To: Peter Milne, Business Reporter at WAtoday

Congratulations on your recent WA Media Awards. Do you have any favourite stories you have published over the past year?
I looked at the Western Australian of the Year award after noted climate-denier Gina Rinehart got it. A bit of digging revealed it was organised by a private outfit (with taxpayer funding but no accountability), that mostly awarded the title to fellow members of the top end of town. You can read the article here. But the biggest impact came from a piece in February on how Alcoa's mining of bauxite near Perth's biggest dam threatened the water supply of two million people. Before that, the US miner had flown under the radar for years. I've done about 30 follow-up stories, and expect that to continue for a while.

How did you get your start in journalism?
It was a late start - a career change on the wrong side of 50 after 20-plus years as an engineer in the oil and gas industry. I did a year at Curtin University, then started getting freelance work with the business section of The West Australian, which gradually built into a full-time role. I think my experience in the resources sector, which is the main game of business coverage in WA, helped make up for my lack of speed. I've been at it for seven years now, the right decision in every way, except financially.

What do you enjoy most about the business round?
I like destroying corporate spin as often as possible. It is a target-rich environment. I also enjoy talking to sources, decent and talented people in the corporate world or bureaucracy who just want things portrayed as they really are.

What's in your journalist toolkit?
  • The Visual Ping Chrome extension for detecting web page changes.
  • Inoreader - an RSS reader so I can scan a huge number of feeds.
  • And - this is an odd one - a book, The Watchdog That Didn't Bark, about how the US financial press completely missed the warning signs before the GFC. It is a great read, but also taught me the difference between access journalism, which reports what the powerful say and accountability journalism, which digs into what they actually do. As much as possible, I try and do the latter.
Any tips for communications professionals looking to pitch a story?
Don't be offended when you get no response. Spinners vastly outnumber journalists, and the ratio gets worse every year, it seems. Target more, pitch less.

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Peter Milne

Business Reporter


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