10 October 2019: According to Katharine Murphy, political editor at The Guardian Australia, political journalism has never been more important.
“As we slide further and further into post-truth, audiences need reliable brokers of information and facts, and they need a cadre of professionals with enough skills, experience and institutional support to speak truth to power,” Ms Murphy said.
Ms Murphy has been a reliable broker of information for many years, with a highly distinguished journalism career, and is the latest recipient of an Honorary Doctorate at the University of Canberra.
Before taking up her current post as The Guardian Australia’s political editor in 2016, Ms Murphy held positions with The Age, The Australian and The Australian Financial Review. However, it was a position in the Australian Public Service that started it all.
After graduating from University with an Arts degree with an Honours year, Ms Murphy landed a graduate position in the public service in Canberra. Through this position, she met ministerial staff and journalists and was eventually put in contact with Tom Burton, who hired Ms Murphy in 1996 in the Parliament bureau of the Financial Review.
“I’m forever grateful that was my first newsroom because the skills and values I learned there have sustained me in every newsroom since,” Ms Murphy said.
As for her interest in political journalism, it was inherent from the beginning.
“I’ve always been a politics junkie. We were one of those families that did current affairs at the dining table. My mother (who is still obsessed with politics) used to insist I read Alan Ramsey’s column in the Sydney Morning Herald each week when I was a teenager, and my economics teacher at school was equally insistent that I read Ross Gittins to engage with the big policy debates of the 1980s.
“I thought it would be great to be a Canberra political reporter even though I had no idea how that happened. I suspect the universe took care of me in a strange way and made sure I ended up in the right place. I was incredibly lucky.”
One word that could be used to describe Ms Murphy is ‘innovative’. She was the first Australian journalist to write a daily live politics blog from Canberra and is always looking for opportunities to do things differently.
Of the many notable achievements in her career, Ms Murphy is particularly proud of her role in the establishment of The Guardian Australia.
“I was recruited with my boss and friend Lenore Taylor to The Guardian when we launched in Australia, and we've worked incredibly hard on this project. It shouldn't have worked, because creating a successful media business in the current fraught commercial landscape is supposed to be impossible – yet we've managed, and the news operation is flourishing.”
In 2008, Ms Murphy won the Paul Lyneham award for excellence in press gallery journalism, and she has been a Walkley finalist twice, for digital journalism and political commentary.
Speaking about receiving her latest accolade, her honorary doctorate, Ms Murphy said she was proud of her connection with the University of Canberra.
“I'm really honoured to receive this honorary doctorate, incredibly honoured in fact. I've had an adjunct role at UC in the past, so have spent time on the campus with journalism students and can see the future of my profession is in excellent hands.”
And the future of this profession has perhaps never been so profound, as the landscape of journalism has faced significant disruption over the past decade.
“Journalists aren't much loved by the public, and we deserve some of the criticism that comes our way, but with demagogues once again roaming the world stage, I'd rather we were there than not.”