Telum Talks To... Tom Dusevic, National Chief Reporter at The Australian

Telum Talks To... Tom Dusevic, National Chief Reporter at The Australian
Clare Manera

What does a day in the life of The Australian's National Chief Reporter look like?
Each morning’s to-do list is always longer than the previous day’s. COVID-19 has kept me in my home office more than I would like, but I get out for face-to-face interviews a few times a week. I have three or four stories on the go, on issues that I follow for weeks and months.

Even when I’m not meant to be working, my mind is grappling with a story. It’s a curse. I always know what’s on our news list, as it changes throughout the day; if I can add value, I’ll pitch in or be ready to drop the day’s Plan A if there’s a request out of the morning or afternoon conference. I’m in frequent contact with dozens of people in a variety of fields, through text, email, apps and phone, hunting and gathering.

In the early evening lull, I try to write at least 500 to 1000 words, either for the edition or as a foundation for a story later in the week. After dinner, I’ll sneak up to the office to read the main stories in our production system and the next day’s front page.   

You have covered many rounds and worked in a variety of roles during your career - what have you enjoyed the most?
Reporting has many pains, but editing has no pleasures. I most enjoy going to new places, especially outside the capitals and in our region, meeting people, hearing their stories and trying to faithfully convey what is going on in their lives.

I try to link human experience back to the bigger picture of politics, the economy, and clash of policy ideas. Being on the road is immersive, obsessive, exhausting, and a privilege. I’ve been lucky to learn about the world and to share what I’ve found due to the investment of news organisations and excellent editors, especially during my nine years at TIME with Steve Waterson.   

What advice do you wish you had received as a journalist just starting their career in the media?
I’ve had wise counsel, but I’m a slow learner: get out of the newsroom. In this era of media transition one of my friends said, "Just because you love journalism, doesn’t mean it’s going to love you back." The news business is a grind. It tests you relentlessly. It makes you “hard”.

If you do journalism properly, you can’t avoid upsetting people. Still, if you’re possessed by the essential ingredient of boundless curiosity, journalism makes every other job seem dull.

What's the most memorable story you've covered during your time at The Australian?
The pandemic is the story of our time. Over the coming years, we’ll see COVID-19’s legacy in many ways, not least its long tail of debt, trauma, social division, technological upheaval, and geopolitical instability. I’ve focused on the health and economic shocks and policy responses, especially the government’s spending spree and vaccination. The program was mishandled from the very start, hit by bad luck, and eventually rescued by taxpayers’ deep pockets, the amazing health workforce and motivated citizens.

Last year I saw first-hand how abject failures in Indigenous health and housing exposed remote communities to danger.

What are your top tips for PRs looking to pitch you a yarn?
The only pitches I consider are from people I have a working relationship with. To build trust you need to understand the readership of The Australian. You’ll need to explain why our subscribers will be interested.

It will help if it is an exclusive, and you have knowledgeable people at hand to answer any questions about the story. Please give me a few days to absorb the material and be prepared to take your chances in the chaotic news ecosystem.

Answers submitted by Tom Dusevic, National Chief Reporter at The Australian.

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