Guest Blog: Louise Burke

Journalism fascinates me. That’s why Louise is here! She’s answered a few of my questions.

I guess being a journo you love words? What’s your favourite word and have you used it in your stories?

When people ask me what my favourite word is I always think of the discussion in indie classic Donnie Darko about the phrase ‘cellar door’ being the most beautiful in the English language. Its musical sound has long been used as an example in discussions of semantics versus phonetic characteristics. Is it beautiful because of its association with doorways — adventure, opportunity and mystery — or is it purely the sound of the words as they roll from your tongue? Not to mention ‘cellar’ makes me think of another favourite word: wine. My most treasured words are pleasing to say but also have interesting or tasty associations: kettle, slither, shiver, muffin, boffin, orange, kimchi, clock, cluck, dipped, ripped, clown, drowned. Journalistic style can be restrictive in some ways. It’s usually stripped down and straight-forward. But this gives the few descriptive words you use more punch. There is also more freedom to use decorative language in feature and opinion writing.

Why did you decide to be a journalist?

This is a difficult question to answer because there were so many reasons. My mum started a journalism course at university when she finished high-school, but it was the late 70s and she was looking for a different lifestyle. Within a few weeks she quit and headed south to go surfing, eventually meeting my dad and settling in Denmark. But she never stopped loving reading and writing and always made sure I had stacks of books around the house. She’s also a feminist, like myself, and subtly influenced me by choosing books with strong, ambitious female characters — particularly ones who liked to write! Through my lower school years I was actually considered pretty average at English and was never pushed by teachers in this area. I was encouraged to follow art instead – which I still love to do as a hobby. When I got to years 11 and 12 I went to Albany Senior High School where I was pushed a bit harder and found my niche. It was a brilliant English teacher in my final year — Ms Wiltshire — who suggested journalism. I also studied photography in senior high school, which got me interested in photo journalism. That’s something I hope to get better at one day.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

Variety. Every day is different and every day I learn something new from the people I talk to and write about. With the new role as Social Media Editor at The West Australian, I also get to spend lots of time looking at Facebook, Twitter and other interesting internet phenomenons.

What do you like to write about?

Everything. Though I’m probably more bent towards business and technology than most writers. I love stories where I get to experiment and test things out for myself.

Who is the most famous person you’ve interviewed?

I haven’t really interviewed many famous people. Politicians and business leaders are usually interesting, but it’s often the people who keep fairly low profiles and create amazing things behind the scenes who surprise me the most. I guess in my rounds Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull is up there in terms of well-known people.

Who would you like to interview?

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Apple chief Steve Jobs.

What is a normal day like for you?

Wake up, read the papers over breakfast. Drive to work and listen to the morning news bulletin in the car. When I get to work I check out five or six online news sites and see if anything has happened overseas in my rounds overnight before I get on the phone and start talking to people, or head out for meetings. Most of my writing happens in the afternoons in the lead up to deadline for tomorrow’s paper. During the day I also keep an eye on various social networking sites, particularly Twitter and Facebook to see if there’s anything interesting happening.

Louise, is there anything else you’d like to add?  I’ve always been so curious about your profession and if I had my time again, I’d like to study journalism.

I truly believe the internet has allowed the spirit of journalism to thrive in so many ways. It’s a wonderful thing that so many people can now publish and contribute to their communities — especially through blogs like this one. We are seeing big changes in the media industry and no doubt in 10 or 20 years it will look very different to the way it has looked for the past century. I’m optimistic about those changes though and I think professional journalism will always play a central role in democracy.

Thanks very much for an snapshot of your work life. I must say, I love the capeweed in the photo of you!

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