Danielle Cronin – Brisbane Times

Danielle Cronin is an experienced, award-winning journalist, with expertise in writing news and features as well as opinion pieces, columns, colour stories, and sketches. She has served in senior roles in newsrooms including chief of staff, features editor, deputy editor, and Queensland topic editor for Nine Entertainment Co.

Currently, Danielle is the Editor of Brisbane Times.

Also, Danielle is a founding committee member of Women in Media Queensland and serves on the board in Women in Media Australia, driving digital strategy at the state and national levels.


HOW HAVE YOU BEEN SINCE WE LAST HAD YOU ON OUR PODCAST? WHAT’RE YOU UP TO THEE DAYS?

It has been more than two years since I was on the podcast. I’m pleased to report that I’m still editor of Brisbane Times and the masthead has successfully rolled out a subscription model. On a personal note, I recently completed a 12-month newsroom leadership fellowship awarded by the Google News Initiative and Columbia Journalism School.


HOW HAS THE AUSTRALIAN NEWS MEDIA INDUSTRY BEEN AFFECTED BY THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC?

Across the Australian media industry, we have seen job losses and belt-tightening in response to shrinking advertising spending during the pandemic. At the same time, many mastheads have reported record readership and growth in subscriptions. As the number of COVID-19 cases reduces, we are seeing signs of recovery.


WHAT IS IT LIKE TO COVER TWO-STATE WIDE ELECTIONS DURING A PANDEMIC?

The first one, the Queensland council election, was held at the height of COVID-19 community transmission. While we are well-versed in covering elections, the pandemic creates particular challenges given the rules on maintaining physical distancing and curbing non-essential travel. Traditionally, voters tend to sharpen their focus on elections close to polling day but more than half has already voted in this instance so that has implications for the roll-out of our election coverage. The electoral commission’s system also failed on election night so we had few immediate results to share with readers.

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We’re still in the grip of a pandemic for the October 31 state election but COVID-19 community transmission is rare. In light of the early voting trend, we have launched our special election content in week one of the campaigns including Poll Call, our interactive seat guide, Marginal Street, and Ask a Reporter.

At a time when people can feel disconnected, we have placed a premium on community engagement. On day one of the campaign, I shared our approach with readers and responded directly to their comments and questions.


WHAT TOOLS OR METHOD WILL YOU UNDERTAKE THAT WILL ALLOW YOU AND YOUR TEAM TO EFFECTIVELY COVER TWO STATE-WIDE ELECTIONS? HOW WILL YOU CONSIDER IT AS A SUCCESS?

We have extensively used Slack for team communications and Google Docs for planning and coordination. We are using a range of tools for reporting including live blogging, a tips portal, a reader poll platform, and an infographic and chart making site. I will consider it a success if readers find our election coverage engaging, informative, and essential.


WITHOUT BEING TOO POLITICAL, DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE NEW NORMS ESTABLISHED IN POLITICAL AND ELECTION NEWS COVERAGE? WHAT IS YOUR TEAM DOING NOW TO ADAPT?

I’m not sure this is quite a norm but the reliability of political polling has been under sustained scrutiny since the recent US and Australian election results defied predictions.

Savvy media outlets have reflected on whether they are effectively listening to the communities who helped deliver those victories and how it impacts on their masthead’s approach to political and election news coverage.

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On a related theme, mastheads are jostling for attention in an increasingly crowded environment. Mark Twain once warned “never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel”; now anyone with an internet connection and a social media account can be a publisher. Why would an editorial declaring who should win the election have more sway over a voter than the views of a trusted friend or family member?

Against this backdrop, we focus on building and maintaining trust with our readers, offering distinctive content that informs and engages, and using tools to easily connect with our community.


WHEN WE LAST SPOKE, YOUR TEAM WAS INVESTING MORE IN ORIGINAL LOCAL BEATS. HOW CAN THIS BE BROUGHT TO LIGHT? WHAT IMPACT WILL GOOGLE’S AND FACEBOOK’S REBUTTLE HAVE IN DISTURBING LOCAL NEWS?

While there are core topics that must be covered, we examine our beats periodically to ensure our focus remains relevant. We have a loyal readership who tends to come directly to Brisbane Times but search and social remain important. In terms of the Australian Government asking Google and Facebook to pay media companies for the news the platforms use, I think the negotiations are still in the early phase and it’s a case of watch this space.


WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO NEW GRADUATES CONSIDERING A CAREER IN JOURNALISM?

Be tenacious and curious, read widely, seek out opportunities to develop new skills throughout your career, and always have a long list of story ideas.

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