Telum Talks To: Sam Brooks, Staff Feature Writer at The Spinoff
Interview

Telum Talks To: Sam Brooks, Staff Feature Writer at The Spinoff

By Callum Logie

What are your favourite types of stories to cover and why?
I love being able to be a conduit for something - a bridge between a subject and our audience. Whether that’s a profile subject, a piece of art, a festival, or something else. The chance to communicate the essence of something to an audience clearly and efficiently, with a sense of humanity and humour is going to be something that I love to cover. I also love reviewing and think it’s such a valuable skill for any writer to develop - the ability to dissect something and what does or doesn’t work about it for you is such a core journalistic skill, and reviewing is a really great way to develop that.

The big thing I was keen to cover this year was the Kia Mau Festival in Wellington, and thankfully I was able to go down for a full week and cover it. It’s the kind of festival that New Zealand needs more of, and now that the world is open back up, I’m excited to see more arts festivals where local artists can meet and network with international artists.

What will you be covering for the rest of year? 
My big project, which we’re halfway through right now, is a partnership with Creative New Zealand called Art Work. The kappa of it is to communicate to audiences the day-to-day labour of what it means to be an artist and make art. The general public often doesn’t understand all the ins and outs of what it takes to make art - the amount of admin and other things that need to happen before someone even starts to write a book, compose a song, or paint a painting. 

How is gaming and pop culture reporting seen in New Zealand? 
I think NZ media, on the whole, hasn’t figured out how to cover gaming. Most of the coverage I see from mainstream media either treats it as a part of tech, or as a curio, when the reality is that gaming is one of the biggest and most culturally significant art forms in the world right now.

The problem here is that a lot of editors are from a generation where gaming wasn’t seen as culturally significant, let alone an art form, and there’s equally not a lot of writers who have the interest, ability, or freedom to be able to write about gaming. It’s sad because there’s a genuine hunger to read about gaming from an NZ perspective, but it seems the only way into it from a coverage standpoint is talking about it from a tech or business perspective.

What do you find most helpful when researching a story? Where do you see NZ pop culture reporting going?
Honestly, time. Whenever I’m doing a profile, I try and go in as deep as I can on the subject, so I’m coming armed with as much information as possible. That also helps me figure out what hasn’t been told, or what hasn’t been covered. My background in arts also means that I have a little bit of insight into what questions other journalists might not think to ask, so that also helps!

I hope that people in the industry realise that people want arts and culture stories! Especially in an election year that seems to have started months earlier and particularly brutal, people want to switch off from the news and switch into humanity. 

What tips would you give to PR and media professionals looking to work with you?
I work best with PR and media professionals when we’ve both done our research and our work. It’s quite easy for anybody to take a look at the stuff I’ve written recently, and figure out if a pitch is right for me or not.

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