ABC News Breakfast national sports presenter, Paul Kennedy
Q: How did you get your start in the Journalism industry and what inspired you to go down that path?
A: Basically, I was good at reading and writing at school. I didn’t have much of an interest in school. So, when I finished my secondary schooling, I thought it would be good to get into journalism and just write stories for a living. I applied for a cadetship at the Herald Sun and missed out. So, I kept badgering them to give me some sort of work, and then they gave me a job as a copy boy. It’s basically just a “gopher” around the office, taking care of any little odd jobs. I did that for 12 months and then I was able to leverage that experience and get a job as a cadet journalist for Leader newspapers based out of Cheltenham.
Q: What knowledge did being the copy boy in the Newsroom provide you with?
A: It gave me a great introduction to newspapers and also just generally how to cover news, as well as all the different departments within news like sport, the arts and photographic. At the end of the year, I basically knew every little nut and bolt at the newspaper and I just understood how Journalists worked, obviously without being a journalist. The other thing it did is introduce me to the excitement of the Newsroom which I really loved. The excitement and the experience that I got and just how everything worked really set me up to be a journalist.
Q: When you cover sensitive topics such as the Adam Goodes saga, how do you take on sensitive issues in your reporting?
A: I always just draw it back to one question and that is am I being fair? So, whenever we talk about big issues or deciding what stories to run, we always draw it back to fairness, and what is fair coverage and are we being fair to this person? So, I feel like that’s a good measure of high standard journalism. Truth is obviously another high standard that I feel I have to meet. Is what I’m stating true? And then I guess as time goes by, I can bring a level of experience to discussions on issues.
“I don’t need to have any big thrills out of journalism, I’m here to do a job, and I get satisfaction when I do it well.” Paul Kennedy
Q: How did the process of creating your investigative report ‘Undeniable’ shape and influence your career?
A: Well, really writing a book with Chrissie Foster, ‘Hell on the way to Heaven’ was the start or at least the centrepiece of my coverage of child sex abuse and the cover ups that went on in institutions. After the book came out, there were a series of developments including the Victorian parliamentary inquiry, and then of course the Royal Commission, and I stayed involved in the reportage of that issue.
As the Royal Commission came to a finish, I had a feeling that the general news in this country had grown a little fatigued by the coverage. But with people behind it like Chrissie, whose stories were important to uncovering this great scandal and cover up, played a major role in restarting the discussion. I think you’re right to say that the documentary was one of the most important things I’ve done, but certainly no more important than that book, which started so much.
[Chrissie Foster is the co-author of Undeniable with Paul, but also the mother of two daughters who were victimised in the child sex abuse scandal]
Q: How do you keep the process interesting for yourself when it comes to the sports round?
A: I think with the News Breakfast viewers it’s not like a Fox Sports news type thing where I have to hammer home the scores and the statistics all the time. I like to provide the news, but also give it plenty of context so it might be interesting for people who wouldn’t have watched the game. For instance, the concussion discussion around cricket is a great example, the positive doping tests in swimming another example and the rise of Ash Barty has been a really interesting story as well. I look for stuff that interests me and that usually interests other people, and that’s how I select stories, but also measuring against fairness.
Q: When you have a look back on your career, what stories do you think back on the most?
A: Covering the Rio Olympics and the Commonwealth Games was really good. Also, the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. But mainly the things that have stood out in my career are stories that have moved me. Stories that matter like child abuse, the horrific bushfires on Black Saturday. The stories that stand out are really the ones that give you some sort of an emotional or everlasting response. There was a country Victoria accident that I covered for Channel 9 where a truck ran into a passenger train at Kerang. That was a story that had a long-lasting impact on me.
Q: When you first started the broadcast aspect of your career, how did you compose yourself when you started on live TV?
A: My nervous times were on my first live crosses. My first ever live cross was from a rooftop in Port Moresby in relation to the Tampa incident which was exciting, but I don’t ever really remember being terrified by live TV. I like to say to myself, “if you know what you’re talking about, you can never really get into too much trouble.” If you’re going live, there are nerves around getting it right. But if you know what you’re talking about and you’ve done the research and you’ve got it all in your head, then you’re going to be okay.
Q: What piece of advice would you give to young journalists trying to gain a foothold in the industry?
A: My number one tip for budding journalists is to work out what journalist you want to be, work out what standards you want to hold yourself to and, once you’ve done that, then the job and the decision, making along the way is easy.