Communicator’s Corner: Sunday Age Political Reporter, Melissa Fyfe

Melissa Fyfe is the State Political Reporter for The Sunday Age. Her career with Fairfax has seen her take on a varied number of roles including: Sydney correspondent, health editor, section editor and also the state news editor. She has won several awards for her reporting on climate change and water during her time as The Age’s environment reporter.

With a State and Federal election upon us, this will be a feverishly busy year for the political reporter.

1. Tell us about your typical day.

I start the day reading the newspapers and keeping a keen ear on the radio. The rest of the day is spent meeting with contacts, digging through reports, talking to my editors about ideas for the paper, interviewing people and, when parliament is sitting, hanging around the big house on Spring Street. I write my stories on Fridays and Saturdays. Every second Friday I chat to Tony Biggs on RRR about state politics.

2. When did you first know you wanted to be a journalist?

Quite young – when I was in Year 7 at high school.

3. Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

I have had many fantastic mentors at The Age. My journalistic heroes are mostly American writers, particularly those working for The New York Times and The New Yorker.

4. Which tools can’t you live without?

My mobile.

5. What are the biggest challenges in your role?

Managing my time. I have a weekly deadline, so I have to be very disciplined about what I do. Also, dealing with the spin machine of the government and the opposition is very difficult at times. In an election year the stakes are very high.

6. Tell us about the best story/campaign you’ve ever worked on?

In the scheme of other stories in my career this one was quite small but it meant a lot to me: I reported on the plight of a young mother who was in a public housing flat so mouldy it was causing her and her baby significant illness. The housing minister moved her within months. She is now living in a place with no mould and her life has completely changed. Her baby is so healthy and happy now. I am also proud of the story myself and my colleague Jill Stark broke recently on Kevin Rudd’s chief mental health adviser quitting.

7. Which campaign do you most admire?

This is difficult to answer because in my business a campaign means an election campaign. Barack Obama’s tilt for US president is easily the best example of a political campaign for office that we’ve seen in decades. It’s been said many times, but his harnessing of grassroots support through the internet was spectacular and left the Republican campaign totally flat-footed.

8. What’s been the biggest change to communication industry/journalism since you began your career?

Obviously the internet. It has massively reshaped the newspaper industry, eroded the classifieds and changed our business structure. It has opened up many more opportunities for journalism but obviously threatens the fundamental economics of old-school media.

9. What’s your favourite brand?

I don’t really have one.

10. What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?

Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. An oldy (1918) but a goody.

11. What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in your field?

The value of confidence. Backing yourself is important.

12. Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is… keeping the message simple, powerful and accurate’

You can view Melissa Fyfe’s work when kicking back with the papers on Sunday or follow her on Twitter @melfyfe

Oh the commotion… Ramsay V’s Grimshaw


We’re going to be fence sitters again this week and not comment about the Gordon Ramsey vs Tracey Grimshaw battle. We will however draw parallels with another moment in Australian history, when Frank Sinatra called our female journalist ‘hookers’.


Now if you don’t know the story about Ole Blue Eyes, here it is:

In 1974, Frank Sinatra toured Australia and caused a sensational uproar when he called female journalists ‘hookers’. Sinatra’s “bums and hookers” insult came after “no one met his plane, he was driven into town in the wrong car, and at Festival Hall the singer had to push his way through the media throng to bash on the stage door before he was allowed inside“.


The Unions reacted quickly and demanded an apology. Sinatra’s silence was greeted by transport workers, waiters and journalists striking in retaliation.


So let’s compare the playing fields, shall we??


In the red corner, we have the big, bad ‘Celebrity’ oooohhhhhh



In the blue corner… The great & mighty ‘Media’ aahhhhhhhh


What’s interesting is how the media have bandied together once again. Some may argue it’s tall-poppy-syndrome. After all, Australians do ♥ that! Or simply, righting a wrong. Poor Trace! (he really did say some horribly inappropriate things) So what happened next all those years ago?

“The Australian Journalists’ Association (AJAA – the journalists’ union) called on other unions to see to it that Sinatra’s remaining concerts were cancelled and that he could not leave the country. Further, the hotel unions were asked not to give the Sinatra party food or drink, or to handle their bags. The second Melbourne concert was cancelled at once. Sinatra’s entourage had to carry their own bags as they left Melbourne for Sydney. The president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), at the time, Bob Hawke, was quickly involved. He was reported to have told Sinatra, “You may not be able to leave Australia unless you walk on water. If you don’t apologise, your stay in this country could be indefinite.” Sinatra was told his plane would not get a drop of fuel until he apologised.” Now we doubt that our beloved former PM Hawke would have said anything that cocky… but if we had to choose one PM who could do it, it would be him, wouldn’t it?


Australia had a highly unionised work force so when the call to arms came…*chants* “the workers united, shall never be the defeated”… not even by Ole Blue Eyes.”


Then Hawke flew up to Sydney for a meeting with Sinatra where they worked out a compromise statement – I think it was the only time that Sinatra backed down in his life. He said he didn’t quite mean to call Australian women journalists hookers, that there was a bit of a misunderstanding.

How things have changed? Back in 1974, our former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, then head of the ACTU had to come to the defence of the honour of the country’s female journalists. How ironic that the hero of the story had a wild reputation himself… (hehehe we all ♥ PM Bob Hawke).

Three decades later and Grimshaw didn’t need no man to fight her battle. She successfully managed to take down a male ‘whinging Pom’ on her own? Not only that, she also pitted Channel 9’s A Current Affair against Channel 9’s Hell’s Kitchen… and won (Channel 9 V Channel 9 … fishy or not?). Either way, as a ‘journalist’ (being ACA we’re a little hard pressed to use that word seriously) it’s also an interesting observation that Ms Grimshaw became the headline story for her own program. Post Modernists are having a field day with this (yes BB, we’re referring to you).

I’m sure some overseas readers may be giggling at the goings-on of the Australian media. Well… so are we. Should we be grateful that it’s a slow news week? It has been quite funny to see this story pop up on my Perez Hilton feed and international media outlets. I wonder if they’ll make an awful movie about it 🙂

Enjoy the weekend folks.

the c word


Let’s remember Ole Blue Eyes fondly now…