Interview: Jason Whittaker, Crikey Deputy Editor

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Jason Whittaker is a big deal. He is deputy editor of Crikey - the online news website published by Eric Beecher, Chairman of Private Media (Crikey, Business Spectator, Smart Company, Eureka Report) - who has previously edited The Sydney Morning Herald and The Herald Sun. Crikey is now one of the most popular Australia news websites around. While I was at university studying journalism, my lecturers always spoke very highly of Crikey and it was seen as a bit of a renegade publication.

Jason has had an interesting career that has seen him work for a number of different publications within the print and online media spectrum. A friend of mine did work experience at Crikey and described Jason as "a very cool guy and really nice with a good sense of humour".  Enjoy this fabulous interview. 

Why did you decide you wanted to work in the media?
I never know how to answer that question. Truth is, I never wanted to be anything else.

You were previously the managing editor of Trader Business Media, a division of ACP Magazines, what was that experience like? And what kind of things did you have to do in that position?
The experience was eye-opening in many ways. There’s nothing very romantic about working on business publications for specific industries. But what you learn very quickly is how important it is to know who you’re writing for and how to cater to their needs. And as a journalist that’s vital, no matter where you work.
I started as a sub-editor on one title, become more of a reporter, a news editor, a product editor and finally the managing editor of a number of titles across print and online.

What has been the best experience you have had in your career so far?
I would say the opportunity I’ve had to travel. My last job allowed me to visit cities around the country and even around the world, which I was able to exploit.

What is it like working for Crikey? And what is the difference working for an online publication? 
Crikey is quite different to where I was working previous, and in other ways very similar. It is an organisation that isn’t flush with resources and so the job becomes doing the best with what you have. I certainly had experience in that.
Crikey works around the clock in the online environment, but our day is still built around a lunchtime product with a daily deadline. So the pressure is always on. 

You have done a huge amount of writing for a diverse range of publications. Where do you find your motivation and drive to write? 
The drive? Deadlines, pure and simple. They drive us all to get done what we have to get done. But certainly I love the craft of journalism, I’m curious about what’s happening in the world, and communicating that with the best product is always the goal.

Do you think aspiring journalists should be thinking more about print or online media? 
I think aspiring journalists should be thinking about being great journalists, pure and simple. There is absolutely a need for journalists to understand the online space, to be across the latest communication tools (social media, etc) and have a basic understanding of producing multi-media content. Your employability will depend on it. But great journalism is great journalism and great writing is great writing.

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers and journalists? 
Write. Write passionately. And, most importantly, write prolifically. Getting a job in journalism has become a self-marketing exercise – it’s essential students and young journalists are volunteering their services on as many forums as possible to build a great portfolio, promote their name, and stand out from a crowded field in a market with fewer and fewer jobs.

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