Covering the crime round isn't just about catching the perp and publishing a court verdict. Behind every crime sits a victim and their loved ones, who are impacted in life-changing ways.
Melissa Mobbs has made the victims of crime a central focus of her successful journalism career. She has reported on murders, missing persons cases and outlaw motorcycle gangs. But Melissa gets the most satisfaction from sitting with victims and their families and advocating alongside them for systemic change.
Now working as Deputy Editor at The Examiner in Launceston, Melissa still covers the crime round and works to highlight issues within Tasmania's youth justice system. Most recently, her work exposing allegations of violence and sexual abuse against youth offenders within the system has established her as a leading Crime Reporter in the field.
Melissa shares her experience as a woman in the world of crime journalism for Telum's Women in Crime (Reporting) series. The series, featuring the experiences of prominent female crime reporters across Australia, will run across several News Alerts this week.
Tell us about your career in crime reporting so far.
I began court and crime reporting in 2013, while working in Roma in regional Queensland at The Western Star. I worked closely with local police in the region, and covered mostly Magistrates Court sittings. I continued with police reporting when I transferred to our sister paper, the Dalby Herald, and sadly, a lot of that time was spent covering road fatalities and speaking directly with the loved ones of those who had been killed. I have since covered hundreds of crashes, and spoken to countless families, and will never forget those stories.
Relocating to Launceston in late 2015, I took a short break from crime reporting and worked as an Executive Producer for a talkback radio show. Joining The Examiner in 2016, I moved back into crime and court reporting. During this time I covered murder cases, horrific child abuse cases, and serious drug trafficking stories.
I also launched several campaigns, including one targeted at removing police from court security duties
- something the Tasmanian police union had called for, for decades. After a month of reporting on the issue, the state government removed police from the Launceston Supreme Court
and hired new correctional officers to replace them. The campaign not only increased the number of police on the streets, but created new jobs for the community which was a huge win in my eyes.
What made you choose this area of the media to specialise in?
Before studying journalism, I completed a degree in human services and majored in corrections. I initially thought I would end up working in the prison system! So when I ended up working as a Journalist, I naturally drifted towards crime reporting and have focused a lot of my career on campaigning for changes within the justice system, and advocating for victims of crime.
On one occasion, I covered a decision to grant a double murderer day release from prison. After speaking with the victims' families, who were devastated to learn the person who brutally murdered their loved ones was being released into the community for leisure time, and contacting the justice department about the decision to grant him an excursion, the prison cancelled his release
. I think as a Crime Reporter, it's not just about sharing shocking stories, but also advocating for victims.
What I love about journalism is being able to tell people's stories and create change. As a Crime Reporter, you are able to be with people not only during their best times, but also at some of their worst. You can be their support, and give them a voice. For me, supporting victims and pushing for change within the justice system is the most fulfilling part of the job.
What are some highlights of being a Woman in Crime (Reporting)?
I think being a woman, and particularly a young mother, affords me a strong level of empathy for a lot of the families and victims I interview. Empathy allows you, as a Reporter, to build a connection with the people you are interviewing, and to tell their story in a really personal, genuine way.
What are some challenges of being a Woman in Crime (Reporting)?
A lot of people, particularly offenders, still see women as being weaker, and feel that you can be intimidated. So I find men will try to challenge me more than they would my male colleagues.
What is the most memorable story you’ve covered in this field?
When I first began my career, I interviewed a young family whose little boy had been tragically killed in a motorbike accident on their farm. The family came to see me in our office on a Saturday morning, the day after it had happened. Their pain was so raw, and we all cried together. They thanked me for letting them share his story, and for the chance to talk about him.
Every story like that, where I have been privileged enough to share in such a personal moment with someone, is special. I have had many moments like that since, and I am sure I will have many more. And I think it is one of the great honours of this job.
I recently created a national podcast on the Port Arthur massacre
, and interviewed a series of police officers involved in the siege with Martin Bryant in 1996. I was really proud of that series and grateful to the police who allowed me to share their stories.
Another memorable story was being able to interview the wife of a former Australian Army soldier and mercenary
, who had worked for notorious drug lord, Pablo Escobar, in Colombia.
Any tips for PRs wanting to pitch you stories?
Localise it. Regional papers are all about the community, and writing about what matters to their readers. A national issue may be important, but it is our job to tell our readers why it is important for them. We can do this best by sharing local experiences.
Answers submitted by Melissa Mobbs, Acting Deputy Editor at The Examiner in Launceston.