Jo Mitchell-Turner

Valedictorian speech Jschool 2007

Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.

He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance or loneliness gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.

Like the credulous widow who wakes up one day to find the charming young man and all her savings gone, so the consenting subject of a piece of non fiction writing learns-when the article or book appears- his hard lesson.

Journalists justify their treachery in various ways according to their temperaments.

The more pompous talk about freedom of speech and the public’s right to know; the least talented talk about art; the seemliest murmur about earning a living.

Do those words fill you with indignation? Do they explain why you want to be or why you are a journalist?

Janet Malcolm used those words in the first paragraph of her novel the Journalist and the murderer.

I didn’t think she had written a description that included my reasons for being here but she had made me think.

When I read them a few weeks ago I thought here is the introduction to my speech today. I can manipulate these words use them and make myself sound knowledgeable and interesting.

When John introduced us to Nigerian journalist and journalism educator Dr Levi Obijiofor (O-BI- GEE-OFOR) just two days ago I rethought my speech. Where would Janet Malcolm put him in her description of a journalist? Has she known what he experienced as a journalist in a country under military rule? Did she know the heroic role that he and journalists like him lived every day?

My questioning of her statement and my introduction to Levi are the things that exemplify why Jschool produces quality journalists with real skills and a contribution to make to the Australian media.

John did not stop teaching until the moment we left Ann Street yesterday and if everyone else is like me each time I ask a question of anyone I will hear John say …let me know the answer to that tomorrow.

We have had the benefit of many guest lecturers some who are here today. They shared their knowledge and experiences of photojournalism, subediting, international journalism, the law and many other subjects.

Our study was not limited to journalism; we have become sport reviewers, opera reviewers, theatre critics, readers of the classics and historians.

Nor was it limited to the classroom.

We rode the train together to see the Dalai Lama, the red bus to get to parliament and we have walked miles in pursuit of stories.

I have made a few bullet points about my fellow students.

I know a few are worried about what I may reveal. You should not be.

• Let me start with Mitch because he is not here to defend himself. I am sure all will agree that he is a good man. I don’t know if he would like to be likened to a flower but if I choose the warratah, tall strong and powerful, it may be OK. The many talents of this man have been slowly unfurled like the petals of a flower as the year has passed and we have learnt there is a lot to admire about this modest man. I think he may have changed Desley’s mind about at least one athlete.

• Robyn our visiting Canadian. Robyn it is clear you have a passion for the earth and we all hope that through your experience in Australia you find a way to share the knowledge you have to promote the change you desire for the environment. I have a little something here to add to your camping survival kit. (Tweezers). Be careful with sharp objects on that pole.

• Janni Janni Janni I know that despite your ever present laughter it has sometimes been hard for you. You have maintained a smile and your beautiful laughter through every challenge.

• Katrina: we have missed you in class Katrina. As a young woman you have faced some challenges that many others will never have to. It is testament to your character and the respect with which Jschool is held that you were offered a position when you had completed only half of the year. Congratulations on continuing to work away from class. It must not have been easy to juggle study and work.

• Joe Flynn: we all have great hopes for you Joe and hope when you write that great novel each of us will be there even if it is just in some gesture a character makes. We missed you also.

• Tameka: Tameka your mum would be so proud of you today. You are a remarkable young woman. If overcoming adversity and keeping a smile on your face when its not how you feel helps make a journalist more empathetic and more willing to go the extra mile for a story you will be a great journalist. Kia kaha Tameka.

Finally on behalf of my classmates I would like to thank family and friends who have supported us throughout the year. Thank you Carl, Louis and Stefan. It has been a tough year for all of you and you have been patient with my chaos and a home littered with books and stories. We have not eaten at the dinning room table this year. Thank you to you all.

I extend thanks to all the visiting lecturers who gave their time to share their knowledge with us.

Thank you Dr Gordon Brown for publishing our stories. Long live the independent.

Thank you Desley. We all looked forward to your classes without exception. You taught us not just the skill of story writing but you have helped us to engage that thing inside you would call our moral compass. Each of us will, I’m sure, listen to it and make the right judgment when facing that tough choice. May we never devalue the legacy long established by journalists and continued by those like Michael Harvey and Gerard McManus.

Finally John Thank you. ( there was nothing I could have said that could have conveyed my thanks for what this year had meant to me personally, either to my classmates or to John and Desley)