The stories I wrote in 2021 did number more than three, I promise. But most of them were about cycling or fell into the realm of penning an unbylined radio news bulletin on COVID-19 public health information. So out of all the stories I wrote in 2021, here are the top three.
Life in Limbo for The Age (reprinted in the Sydney Morning Herald)
Why was it important?
Because we had to talk about why different groups of refugees get treated differently in Australia and why sometimes it comes down to not the law but policy.
What’s the difference? Well, the law is what is in an actual Act. Policy can be a decision related to the law or a decision made by the relevant Minister within the space not covered by the law. Can refugees be resettled in Australia? Nothing in the law says that they must be or must not be. This allows the Minister to make a blanket policy decision on whether they will be allowed to settle in Australia and one was made in July 2013 by the Rudd government that no refugee who had arrived by boat would settle in Australia and this has not been overturned since.
In short, nothing in the law prevents nor specifically mandates that policy decision.
We talk a lot about the different plights of specific refugees but this particular family had a case where several members were treated differently to each other based on policy decisions.
It was also important for me as it brought with it a bunch of corrections. To be fair, some of those corrections were useful as I realised I had misunderstood a few things that were quickly corrected. As far as the stories I wrote in 2021 went, it was a good learning experience.
I got the story via a commission. A fellow journalist was a source and recommended me to an editor I had written for before. There was a lot of miscommunication over who had told what to whom but we finally worked it all out and I wrote the story.
My thanks to my sources for the story and to my fellow colleagues for taking a chance on me writing this story. I hoped it went some way towards explaining what is often a very complex legal and policy situation for the general public to get their head around. It certainly confused me a great deal while writing it.
Pop ups, podcasts and public libraries for The Penington Institute’s The Bulletin
Why was it important?
There are a few groups amongst the population that are at high risk of massive health issues due to COVID-19. For example, immuno-compromised people. But one other such group at high risk are those suffering from addictions to different drugs and substances.
The story was one about how across the world, different groups were trying different ways of reaching, informing and vaccinating people who use drugs or substances. It was an important story as it would help show what programs and initiatives were working and what policy decisions could look like.
I got to write the story in October because just a couple of months earlier I had sent in an email responding to a call for freelancers. So this was a commission but a commission to someone that they had agreed to take on as one of their freelancers.
I had to interview people at odd times of the day and night for me but it was worth it to put together such a great story.
Welcome to #couchpeloton for Fansided.com
Link to the story: https://fansided.com/2021/06/23/couchpeloton-cycling-digital-fan-community/
Why was it important?
When we think about important stories we assume they must be the sort of stories that expose corruption or talk about something that has gone wrong that affects a lot of people. Those are important stories.
I also think too much reliance on this definition of importance creates a hierarchy of what is valued in journalism that misses the point: people create the value in the stories.
What I mean by that is that people like to think that regional journalism does not matter for example or that hyperlocal news is not important. That it is a punishment if your editor sends you to cover the dog show for example.
When I decided I wanted to write this story about cycling and the community, it was in part a homage to a community that had made me feel welcome. I wanted to thank them in some way for that.
But it was also a thank you to SBS producers and staff who didn’t try to take over the community like many others might but had worked out ways to work with it.
I also wanted to highlight how many good things came out of it, how it allowed some fans to connect with riders so that more impactful things could happen, like fundraising for charity. Or more recently being very vocal about equal pay for women riders.
And I wanted to also talk about what I had found about how companies can gatekeep and paywall sports broadcasting so that in some areas people have to resort to other means to watch the broadcasts that they want to watch.