Weaver The Journalist Journalist
Sue Rosenthal's piece We're in the busy open plan editorial floor of `The Age. The Arts Editor Stephanie Bunbury sits at her computer, surrounded by mounds of old newspapers. (Click the highlighted speech to hear a sample of voice.)

K: What sort of substance to you attach to the sort of work that you produce. Do you see it as having a lasting effect, and if so what kind.

S: Well some journalism, of course, does make a transition into being regarded as a kind of current literature. Somebody like Hunter S Thompson, or Joan Didion, writer's material that translates to the page of a book, but I still think that in the longer term this is ephemera, but I don't think there's nothing wrong with that, that's the job of the journalist, to report on the current, to capture the moment, to build a series of details, and facts, and observations that will give a picture of the time we live and in five years time that may seem very uninteresting. In the case of someone like Hunter S Thompson probably in 30 years time it will seems very uninteresting, but that doens't matter, that is the task at hand.

K: The relatively temporary nature of journalism, at the end of the day, does it mean that you do think look for or do think about about other things you could be doing, writing a novel, even painting, are there things that you entertain as complement to journalism in the sense that it will provide substance or longevity that it lacks.

S: There certainly are journalist who have moved from writing journalism to writing a novel, there are some in this room. And see that there is a certain complementarity between the two, or perhaps that there is a divine separation between the two, I don't know, but I think that that's quite a leap to make because writing journalism in my view, writing good journalism, involves level of humility that you are never greater than your subject, that you can never bear down on your subject with an attitude of superiority or superciliousness. That you must always have an ear to listen, and be willing to hear not only the words that what people are trying to tell you, to be open, and I think to establish yourself as a creative artist, requires a kind of self-direction, perhaps an act of hubris that is antithetical to the nature of journalism. [interuption] which isn't to say that I'm accusing people for example in here like Martin Flanagan or anything like pride or arrogance, I simply think that they're two seperate functions and there's a tremendous leap of bravery of laying youself on the page or on the canvas, or whatever it might be that any creative artist has to make. That in a sense a journalist doesn't have to make

Let's move across the room and speak to the journalist who's committed this act of hubris, Martin Flanagan.

K: As a writer, you do other things besides writing pieces for a newspaper, is it the same sort of skills that go into that?

M: I think I'd have to say quite honestly that until I wrote a novel and had it published and had to live with it in the world, I often say to people when they ask me to speak on writing it's a pity they didn't ask me before I wrote a novel, because I knew about it then, and now I know nothing. I just found that so unlike anything in journalism. In the sense that you commit self so deeply, personally and pubically, and the responses to it are so intimate and so powerful and they project within you so deeply. There's nothing like that in journalism. And the other thing about writing books is that. I love newspapers as a medium because they are immediate, because they get out to so many people so quickly. I love that about it. But they do have limitations. There are things you can't do in them. And the point about writing books is that one of the terrifying things when you start a book and you've been a journalist is that there is no space limitation. You can go anywhere you can do anything. You have the terror of absolute freedom. But once you've been up there, once you've got one up. And I've written five book in all of different sorts, but my last two, its a little bit like climbing mountains you want to get back up there, and get back up into the slopes. It creates an appetite in you.

What kind of appetite does journalism create? Back to Stephanie Bunbury.

S: A journalist's skills are speed, dailiness, immediacy, receptiveness.

K: So, in the sorts of things that you do when you're not a journalist, besides sleeping, what sorts of things do you look for in a past-time. Is it to extend the sorts of things you do in journalism. Do you look for things which have speed, and dailiness or do you look for the opposite.

S: I think that my favourite activity in whole world is mountain walking. And working in newspaper doesn't fit very well with going on long backpacking trips. You tend to work very long hours. I'm often here until ten or eleven at night. I'm not very fit. Well, that's an understatement. And it's hard to keep in a condition where you can go walking. But I suppose what appeals to me about it is being out in the open. The fact that each day you know exactly what you're going to do, and that you can only do it at pace of our feet and a sort of grandeur. A sense of the greatness of the world that in here can easily be smothered by minutiae. I have a friend who worked in office in Westminster in London, where there was a tremendous about of grumping complaining and bitchiness and so on as there is in any offices, there certainly is here. And she said that she would just close her eyes and think the Himalayas are still here and that this would carry her through all the kind of bile that flowed every day. And I have that too. When I go in holiday, for example, last year went to Norway, I had this sense of filling a kind of bank in my mind of more serene images of something that would sustain me.

K: A kind of psychological hard currency.

S: That's right. Maybe it's software, I don't know.