Chris Tinkler, who is one of the Chief of Staffs at Australia’s biggest selling daily newspaper the Herald Sun made his splash into journalism back in his homeland of England while working post graduate as a researcher for a politics tutor.
“We were working on a book about attitudes and activities in conservative party members and the research manager was looking at doing a course in journalism and I was thinking about what career I’d do and after I had a chat with him I thought it would be a good fit for my skills and after attending the National Council Trainee Journalist college I learnt how to write a story, structuring, interviewing, law, public affairs and shorthand.”
This experience confirmed that he was interested in becoming a journalist and with more hard work, he got there.
“You needed to get a degree at one of these colleges before you could work in a newspaper. So I applied, did the degree, passed and then started blitzing newspapers.” he said.
Persistence was the key as Tinkler applied to 200 newspapers and eventually landed a job at the Burton Evening Mail which was the smallest daily newspaper in England with a circulation of around 25,000.
After spending about three or four months there, Tinker moved on to a paper called the Evening Herald, a regional daily paper of a higher circulation of about 80,000.
“I worked there for around three or four years, also spending some time at the regional daily’s before I found an Australian girl and found myself moving there.” he said.
And like many journalists before him, finding a job in Australia was hard so he found himself at local rag Leader only being allowed to work at a paper for six months at a time before looking elsewhere for work.
“The likes of the Herald Sun won’t take someone on for six months at a time so I found myself at Leader who were able to sponsor me as I didn’t have Australian citizenship. I ended up staying there for a year and a half before I made it over to the Sunday Herald Sun.” he said.
From 2001 to 2010, Tinkler has seen many historical events occur whilst at the paper including the devastating bushfire’s.
“Black Saturday was pretty full on. I was CoS at the Sunday Herald Sun and obviously because it happened on Saturday which is our breaking news day we actually had people on standby overnight in case the fire lines broke and I got a call from one of the reporters who was calling emergency services every hour to get updates that about 4am the containment lines had broken around the State Forest and we got our first team out at about 4.30am to get them on the road,”
He remembers the day being a frenzied day where reporters were risking their lives to report the facts.
“It was literally chaos with reports coming in of new fires and people panicking. A lot of misinformation being spread around.” he said.
“There is a famous picture of a fire truck driving away from a wall of flames coming toward it and that picture was taken by our team who were with the fire truck trying to outrun this fire which was just terrifying.” he said.
And with such events being so emotionally traumatising, does he take his work home with him to speak?
“Yeah you can’t ignore that sort of thing and all those sorts of story affect you. The recent story involving four year old Ayon Chol who died from the pit-bull attack and how Ayon was just hanging off the mother’s leg as the pit-bull attacked her really is hard as I am a recent father and you just think what if that happened to me?,” he said.
“When you get the personal story about children such as the Daniel Morcombe story it certainly affects you as well as the Black Saturday story. I was in the office managing the resources so I didn’t have the go to interview the families who had lost family members and it certainly takes an emotional toll.” he continues, pausing at times reflecting on such horrific memories.
After such devastating stories to cover, Tinkler does appreciate the lighter news that occurs and talks about how working as a journalist can be difficult at times but it is also the ‘thrill of the chase’ that gets him coming back to work day after day and is something that he would pass on to journalists starting out in the world of media.
“Never assume anything, never take anything on face value, always question things and the more time and effort you put in, the more you’ll get out of it.”