Andrew Olle Media Lecture

Kate McClymont speaks at Olle Lecture

Kate McClymont speaks at Olle Lecture

“Because I haven’t lived in Sydney before, I didn’t quite understand some of the references”, my friend Sue told a couple sitting at our table at last night’s Andrew Olle Media Lecture. Last night’s lecture was given by Kate McClymont, the Sydney Morning Herald investigative journalist who famously writes about crime and corruption in New South Wales. The woman in the couple then related a story about how she had purchased a house from one of the crime world figures mentioned in Kate’s speech. Between purchase and settlement, hers and a bunch of other houses were burned down in suspicious circumstances, I recall her saying. “These are very Sydney stories”, I told Sue.

“I remember Abe Saffron”, is a phrase I’ve commonly heard in social occasions with older journalists. “I reported on the disappearance of Juanita Neilson”, someone once told me. “She’s in a ditch somewhere in the Blue Mountains”, is a phrase you’ll also commonly hear. Everyone in Sydney seems to have a dodgy crime story. Indeed, I know quite well one of the “flamboyant figures” Kate often writes about.

Because of that sense of familiarity, her speech last night got a lot of laughs. I loved this anecdote in particular…

Not that I am saying journalists are infallible. We are human. We make mistakes. Look at me, I identified the wrong person in He Who Must Be Obeid, the book I co-wrote earlier this year with Linton Besser. When I was told that the book would have to be recalled, it was one of the worst days in my entire life. But a setback for one person is an opportunity for someone else. In the middle of my misery I received the following text message.
Thursday 21 Aug 2014 10.36am
Hi Kate, It’s John Ibrahim her (sic) could u pls send me a copy of ur book that be nice…thank u.
Me: Very funny! Who is this really? Kate
“It really is John,” he replied. I had last spoken to the nightclub boss several years earlier when we had run into each other outside Goulburn jail. “I don’t like what you write,” he said. “That’s funny, because I don’t like what you do,” I shot back, mentioning his penchant for threatening witnesses. He pointed out that the charges against him had been dropped.
We ended up talking about our mutual love of the TV series The Sopranos.

As much of her speech dealt with the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Sue and I both loved the fact the couple sitting next to us at dinner included Nick Greiner, the former NSW Premier who set up ICAC, and in fact became the first “victim” of investigation. Really interesting guy to chat to by the way, as was his partner.

The thrust of her speech was that, in many ways, investigative journalism, and investigative journalists are under threat. As well as for economic reasons, there’s the the issue of free speech and she mentioned the case of the Australian journalist, Peter Greste, currently in prison in Egypt.

But she also made the point that all journalism, to an extent, should be investigative.

People often ask me about the secret of investigative journalism. There is no secret. All journalism should use the same tools – curiosity, scepticism and the willingness to take the road less travelled.

The speech will be on ABC TV tomorrow night, and is well worth watching. You might even see me, as they often cross to images of the audience during the televised speech. “The one thing you need to remember is don’t drink during the speech as they’re bound to cross to you just as you’re having a glass”, I told Sue. I knew this from experience. There was one year when they crossed to an image of me twice during the speech: on both occasions I was sipping on a glass of wine. But there again, that’s “Very Sydney”, isn’t it?

Read the speech in full
http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2014/10/31/4118651.htm?site=sydney

Busy Week – Many Choices

It never rains. It pours. There are many weeks (and weekends) where I find myself sitting at home staring at the ceiling, or sitting on the couch scrolling through the television channels hoping desperately there’ll be something to watch. Dullsville

This week and next don’t fall into that category. Work is super-busy right now. On top of that, I have a number of after-hours work-related social occasions. On top of that, there’s a trip to Western Australian for work (with a bit of pleasure tagged on at the end). I’m looking for ideas on the weekend in Perth, by the way, which I haven’t already done, having spent a year of my life living there. I’m catching up with friends, but there are still some gaps in my schedule, especially on the Sunday.

And of course, I also have a “real life” which includes a birthday lunch on this weekend, my own birthday in November, and a bunch of unrelated social catch-ups.

The combination of all of these things means I’ve actually had to say “no” to a number of events.

Tonight, I had the choice of attending Art After Hours at the Art Gallery of NSW, or a recording of Now Hear This at the Art House Hotel. In the end, I chose Now Hear This, a story-telling night that eventually finds its way on to ABC Local Radio and Radio National.

I’ve attended a few of these previously, and I have to say tonight’s was the best. The room was crowded, the stories were great, and there was a lovely vibe. I even received a heart-felt thankyou from the host, Melanie Tait, for some of contribution I’ve been able to make. I even contributed what I thought was the most interesting user-contribution of the night to the theme of unexpected surprises. A lovely night, and an excellent choice.

I’m sure that in two weeks time I’ll be sitting on the couch twiddling my thumbs. :)

Love Dem Apples

Discovered a new shop on my morning walk around Surry Hills, this morning. “Love dem Apples” sells what appears to be “gourmet” toffee apples. Very tempting, though possibly a little too early in the day.

The Friendly Bus Driver

Not the actual bus.

Not the actual bus.

Have just sent the following note to Sydney Buses…

I know you get lots of complaints. Previously I’ve complained about drivers who fail to stop. But today, I’d like to pass on a compliment about the driver of the 393 route, bus 4873 which just brought me home from Railway Square. He greeted everyone with a smile and a “how are you”, and as people got off he wished them well. You could “feel” the impact it had on passengers to be welcomed on a bus. So, a big thumbs up to the driver, and I hope he does well and continues to maintain his positive energy.

Hoping you might encounter this driver on your next Sydney bus trip

La Perouse

Even though I’ve lived in Sydney for almost twenty years, I’ve never been to La Perouse before today. I think it’s because I’m not much of a “beach person” (fair skin and all that). But when Sue texted me today and asked me if I wanted to go, I quickly said yes.

And why not? The weather today was spectacular. Blue skies. Definitely not too hot. It was perfect weather for wandering around the beach, having an ice-cream, and having a chat about life, the universe and everything.

The coastline is really beautiful. There’s some really wonderful sandstone.

There were lots of people basking in the glory of the South Sydney win in the NRL, wearing their jerseys. “When do you think they’ll take them off?”, Sue wondered.

GMT

I spent some time this week visiting Governor Macquarie Tower, Sydney. I’ve been there a few times before and every time the view gives me a “wow” moment. I snapped a few photographs of the view this time. Unfortunately, the photographs aren’t that great (camera phone quality, window reflection), but still you can see those who normally work in this building have some damn fine views. It was nice to be a short-term visitor.

Redfern Small Bars

Even though I live fairly close to Redfern in Sydney, I’ve never really socialised much in the area. Sure, I’ve been to a few pubs. I’ve been to Railz. I’m a member of South Sydney Rugby Leagues Club. I’ve also been to the uber-hip Freda’s. But aside from that, I’ve never really experienced much of the emerging small bar culture in the area. Partly, it’s because this small bar culture has developed only in the last few years, and now being in my late forties, friends and I tend to socialise in places which are little less-hip, a little less noisy.

And that’s the one thing you have to remember about small bars: they can be quite noisy. Like us ten years ago, these bars are full of younger types out for a night on the town with their friends. They’re probably out for a pick-up too. But that wasn’t the case for two friends of mine and I on Thursday night: we were just out for a few drinks and a catchup. We had previously called ourselves “The Boozehounds”, reflective of a time when we were all a bit younger, single, and thus able to be fairly spontaneous about our social lives. But when partners and young babies come along, you need to plan such events.

That said, it was a fairly spontaneous night. We started off at Arcadia which is a nice enough bar, though really very noisy. From there we wandered to The Beardedtit, a bar which we all really loved. The bar had a great vibe about it : there was a hip young crowd, but there was also room for 40-somethings like ourselves. On the walls there was art for sale, including one piece I almost made an impulse purchase of. You could also order take-in food from nearby restaurants : we had some really fantastic Chinese. We also chatted to the woman who runs the bar, and she was really lovely. We ended up the night at The Dock. An intimately small bar, we even had a dance to a band playing just a few feet away from us. So yeah, a night of great spontaneity, and great to get “The Boozehounds” back together.