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Journo explores the issues, opportunities and challenges facing journalists and shaping the media industry. It is hosted by Nick Bryant. Journo is a podcast from the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas, and is produced by Deadset Studios.


Season 2

Season 2 | Episode 8
If it bleeds, bin it — Will your tired news audience click on a constructive news story?

War. Environmental peril. The never-ending pandemic. No wonder audiences are tired of bad news. And in worse news for the media, that widespread news fatigue is rapidly becoming active news avoidance. Constructive journalism offers a solutions-based approach to reporting, which is appealing to audiences. But how do you convince the rest of the newsroom of its value? In a world where we just want to hear about something going right, solutions journalism pioneers are rethinking the age-old adage “if it bleeds, it leads” — and they say it results in more nuanced, engaging reporting. In this episode of Journo, Nick Bryant finds out whether solutions journalism is really the answer to re-engaging our disillusioned news audiences.


Season 2 | Episode 7
From tip-off to pay-off — Inside the minds of the world’s best investigative reporters

Investigative reporting might make great fodder for Hollywood movies, but the reality is far from glamourous. Blockbuster investigations can take years, even decades, and require grit and determination. So, what drives this special breed of journalists? In the latest episode of Journo, we hear from two outstanding investigative reporters: Chicago-based journalist Jim Derogatis, who helped expose the crimes of disgraced singer R. Kelly, and The Sydney Morning Herald’s Kate MyClymont, who has spent decades covering the murky world of organised crime and corrupt politicians.


Season 2 | Episode 6
From drum and bass to hard news at a viral pace — How Ros Atkins became the voice of reason in global news

Ros Atkins has perfected the art of the explainer. His team at the BBC consistently produces viral videos using story-driven journalism that starts conversations and, crucially, works just as well on social media as it does on TV. But this success hasn’t just come overnight. Atkins has spent years honing his techniques, experimenting with new ways of telling stories, and thinking deeply about the technologies he can use to reach audiences. Every element of a video is meticulously scrutinised, from the language he uses to the clothes he wears, all with the intent to connect with the audience. In this episode of Journo, Nick Bryant sits down with the BBC’s ‘explainer-in-chief’ to understand the precision that goes into making his must-watch content.


Season 2 | Episode 5
Geopolitical football — How cash and culture are shifting the goalposts for sports journalism

Veteran sports reporter Jim Trotter was doing a live cross for ESPN when the host began describing American footballer Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem as “disrespectful to the flag”. Jim had a choice – to let the host’s opinions go unchecked or to report the facts. As sports arenas more frequently become platforms for cultural debate, reporters like Jim have expanded their old beats from player drafts and starting positions to include athlete activism and political commentary. From the taking the knee to boycotting the Olympics, it’s become increasingly common for off-field controversies and cultural shifts to make their way onto those hallowed grounds. But as the clubs and codes grow richer while many media outlets become poorer, is there now a power imbalance that’s impacting our coverage?

Full transcript and further reading

Season 2 | Episode 4
How Leigh Sales made it to the top of Australian news

Leigh Sales is a towering figure in Australian journalism, and after almost 12 years as the anchor of the ABC’s flagship current affairs program, 7.30, she has decided it is time for something new. She’s built her reputation on forensic cross-examination of prime ministers, as an award-winning author, a one-time wedding singer and the co-host of a hugely popular podcast. In this episode of Journo, Nick Bryant sits down with Leigh Sales for a wide-ranging exit interview, with rare insights into Leigh’s working process and how her grandmother’s words have kept her focused when the critics take aim.

Full transcript and further reading

Season 2 | Episode 3
Activism or accuracy — As climate change disrupts the planet, should it upend journalism as well?

In 2021, New Corp’s Australian tabloids made a stunning announcement: they would be running a national campaign on how to tackle climate change, for the month leading up to the Glasgow climate summit. Was it a flash in the pan, or was it a turning point in climate change reporting from one of the biggest publishers in the world? And what does it matter anyway when you’re reporting from the Pacific, where you’ve been telling the story for decades? Look closely and you’ll notice journalists are finding new ways to tell the defining story of our time — even as the water is lapping at their door. In this episode of Journo, Nick Bryant talks sinking islands, columnists in denial and “patronising the messenger”.

Full transcript and further reading

Season 2 | Episode 2
Get in the bin “gotcha” — A vote for change in political reporting

Australians have elected a new government and many also sent a clear message to journalists — they want a higher standard of election campaign coverage. In the second episode of Season 2 of Journo, host Nick Bryant examines a campaign where journalists faced almost as much scrutiny as the politicians they were covering. So, will the media abandon the ‘gotcha’ questions that plagued the 2022 campaign? Does political journalism need a root and branch overhaul? What can we learn from the quality in-depth and innovative reporting we did see throughout the campaign?

Full transcript and further reading

Season 2 | Episode 1
From TikTok to Telegram — What is the war in Ukraine teaching journalists?

A key battle in the war in Ukraine is playing out online, with misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda rife as both sides take to their phones to share their experiences of the war. So how are newsrooms countering the flood of misinformation while also using new platforms like TikTok and Telegram in their own reporting? And where does good old-fashioned, eye-witness reportage fit into it all? In the first episode of Season 2 of Journo, host Nick Bryant asks what lessons we are learning from the kind of conflict we hoped had been banished to the past.

Full transcript and further reading

Season 2 | Trailer
Journo is back!

In season 2 of Journo, foreign correspondents are pulling on their flak jackets and scouring new platforms like TikTok and Telegram to report on the war in Ukraine — and local reporters are taking huge risks to stay in their homes and bear witness to the atrocities of war. It’s time to unpack the tactics used to get politicians off script in the Australian federal election. We’ll dive deep into the craft of investigative journalism and look at the geopolitical events that have forced back page sports reporters to become front-page players in international reporting.

Season 1

Season 1 | Episode 8
Clairvoyants and correspondents — Where political journalism gets it wrong

Covering the cut and thrust of politics is one of the most thrilling jobs in journalism. But why are reporters misreading the mood of our nations? Brexit. Trump. Australia’s surprising 2019 election outcome — all resulted in plenty of soul-searching from political journalists. What if it’s more than just faulty polling — what if it’s a basic failure to connect? Has the excitement of the #spill and race to be first with a scoop seduced political reporters away from the real work of covering issues that matter to their audience? With Australia about to go to another federal election, host Nick Bryant investigates whether political coverage needs an overhaul.

Season 1 | Episode 7
The story-breaker — The remarkable rise of Jonathan Swan

He is one of Washington’s most recognisable and influential journalists, who became even more well-known thanks to his facial expressions in that interview with US President Donald Trump in 2020. But it wasn’t an easy road for political reporter Jonathan Swan. The Aussie print journalist’s first ever TV interview was also with President Trump — only a couple of years before his Emmy-award winning one. Only that first interview was definitely NOT a critical success! So how does this Axios journalist view the peaks and troughs of his career? Swan attributes his success to constantly honing his reporting craft, and working harder than anyone else in one of the toughest rounds in journalism. But he didn’t just work hard, he worked smarter — eschewing the daily press briefings to work his contacts, which led to him becoming one of the most reliable story-breakers of the Trump presidency.

Season 1 | Episode 6
Steve Coll on journalism in this disrupted world

“We have to recognise that the truth is often complex. And it’s often elusive in some respects. And it’s nuanced. That’s not an excuse for enabling liars or for being complicit in propaganda campaigns.” From inside the Washington Post on the day the Drudge Report cracked open the Clinton scandal, through the digital disruption of the past 20 years, double Pulitzer Prize winner and Dean of Columbia Journalism School Steve Coll unpacks how the business of journalism has undergone a transformation over his working life. He walks us through his years in newsrooms, as a correspondent in South Asia, to leading the team at the Washington Post and Columbia. He talks partisanship and false equivalence (“both sides journalism”), the dominance of Facebook and Google, and whether the media is responsible for the election of Donald Trump.

Season 1 | Episode 5
Live from your living room — Reporting from the frontlines of the pandemic

The daily press conference, Covid case numbers, border closures, reporting from your living room or from the silent streets of a locked down city. Barring world wars, has any event had a bigger impact on the way journalists do their jobs than this pandemic? Covid-19 has changed the way we live but also the way we cover news. For journalists, it’s meant living with the possibility of getting the virus and passing it on to their families. It has thrown science and health journalism into the spotlight, showing how critical and well-researched that reporting must be when the science itself is changing. It has challenged political reporters to try and do their jobs while being scrutinised by a tribal and sometimes vitriolic audience.

Season 1 | Episode 4
The Troublemaker and the Terrier

Our outlook and media consumption are increasingly global, but local journalism remains more important than ever — keeping communities connected, saving lives during disasters, and holding power to account in places where few lights shine. Within weeks of Australia’s first COVID lockdown, in April 2020, more than 200 regional newspapers announced they could no longer keep their presses running. Yet green shoots are sprouting in the news deserts. In some places, local news publishers are growing in ways no one thought possible a few years ago, as audiences crave information and connection in their immediate community. Host Nick Bryant meets the Troublemaker and the Terrier. One’s a former lawyer whose fierce reporting has been stifled by a local council that says she asks too many questions. The other wonders how she’ll keep her one-woman operation going in the face of mounting overheads and increased regulation.

Season 1 | Episode 3
Who’s really listening — Reporting when your phone is the enemy

“If you’re targeted by Pegasus, you see nothing, you smell nothing, you taste nothing. You’re minding your own business, doing whatever it is that you do with your phone. And then it’s infected.” It might sound cloak-and-dagger, but cyber security expert John Scott-Railton says spyware poses a very real threat to journalists’ ability to do their jobs. The Pegasus Project, an international coalition of journalists, has found around 200 journalists are potential targets for surveillance by the malicious spyware. Founding Editor of India’s The Wire Siddharth Varadarajan was among them. He received the disturbing news his phone had been infected, giving remote users access to his every text, call… and contact. “As journalists, phones are an extension of our bodies… And what we found is that the sense of intrusion and violation is profound.” But does the fear of surveillance have the potential to be as dangerous to a free press as the spyware itself? In this episode of Journo, host Nick Bryant investigates the technology being used to monitor and intimidate those holding power to account — and finds a coalition of allies who’ve banded together to resist the digital incursion.

Season 1 | Episode 2
WeCensor — Getting news into and out of China

China is closing its doors to foreign journalists just as it becomes the most interesting story in the world. So, is this all part of a strategy by China to control its own news at home and abroad? But with geopolitical tensions rising, China is not a place the world can afford to ignore. Nationalistic media reports produced under the watchful eye of the Chinese government are stirring suspicion of foreign media among Chinese people. Meanwhile, more than one million Australians identify as part of the Chinese diaspora — and a large proportion rely solely on tightly controlled platforms like WeChat for their news. In this episode of Journo, host Nick Bryant investigates how journalists can get accurate information to Australia’s Chinese diaspora, and whether it’s possible for foreign news organisations to get authentic coverage out of China without boots on the ground.

Season 1 | Episode 1
Journalists will be free to report — and other lies the Taliban tells

“You’ve got no one left to tell the story” warns Bilal Sarwary, legendary Afghan journalist, as he flees Kabul following death threats from the Taliban. Bilal’s not alone. He’s part of a new generation of journalists who’ve come of age since 9/11 who’ve been forced to abandon their homes and careers reporting on their homeland. Those reporters who do remain in Afghanistan face an uncertain future under a regime that once banned television and the internet, and who have maintained an assassination campaign against journalists — particularly women. It’s a reality at odds with the reformed, liberal image a slick new Taliban PR machine is constructing. International correspondent Jane Ferguson (PBS, The New Yorker) calls the re-brand “a brilliant idea cooked up in Doha by Taliban leaders”. But she says implementing a more moderate rule is impossible. While the Taliban says women are free to keep learning and working, Moby and Tolo News boss Saad Mohseni faces a world where his reporters are beaten up for doing their jobs. In this first episode of Journo, host Nick Bryant investigates the exodus of Afghan media, and the powerful spin from Taliban HQ that helped them claim the country.

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