Having a genuine passion for something other than journalism can be the best asset for your reporting career, says Junkee’s Osman Faruqi.
Speaking at Macleay College this week, the news and political reporter encouraged future journalists to diversify their experience and use their knowledge, skills and contacts in other areas to their advantage.
And Faruqi should know. He is the son of Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi and he cut his teeth in reporting at UNSW’s controversial student journal Tharunka, before moving to Canberra as a political advisor for the Greens.
Although he admits politics “is a horrible way to spend your youth” he says the first-hand experience of being at the coalface and seeing how ideas became law was a great foundation for career in political reporting.
Initial concerns that his political alignment might work against him were soon allayed, with modern publications like Junkee, The Guardian and VICE welcoming his “voice” on the issues of the day. And after establishing that voice as a freelancer he accepted the offer of a full-time reporting role at Junkee earlier this year.
“I found myself quite comfortable there,” Faruqi said.
“I don’t feel like I’m betraying my own values.
“Even when writing news, if someone’s being a homophobic dickhead we call them a homophobic dickhead.”
By offering relatable pop-culture references and “clicky” (as opposed to clickbait) headlines, Junkee has gained millions of eyes, and in turn, financial support.
Faruqi notes they must be doing something right, with traditional media recently introducing Junkee-style elements, such as GIFs, listicals and a more conversational tone.
However Faruqi admits the media is becoming increasingly and uncomfortably reliant on social media, in particular Facebook, which is responsible for almost all of Junkee’s traffic.
He says without access to Facebook’s algorithms, it is forcing the whole industry to look for other ways to reach their audience, such as subscribers, although nothing has come close yet.
“Over 80 percent of young people are getting their news from social media and apps,” Faruqi says.
“Facebook has got the entire industry over a barrel and they know it.”
Faruqi gave Macleay students tips for entering the industry and encouraged them to incorporate their passions, whether it is in politics or fashion, sport or food. He also urged them to get skilled in a range of reporting applications, from print to photography and broadcast to social media.
As well as
writing for Junkee, Faruqi also co-hosts a weekly news podcast on fBi radio with Heidi Pett, called “Backchat“, an “informed and approachable politics and current affairs program”.
He believes the rewards for working in radio are advantageous not only for his career, but have also been fun along the way.
Frauqi firmly believes one of the most important factors in becoming a well-rounded journalist is to observe life and find enjoyment outside of the trade.
Photo by Noel Fisher, artwork by Caitlyn Hurley