Episode 2: Amy Remeikis

Amy Remeikis is Queensland state political editor at Brisbane Times.

Penmanship podcast episode 2: Amy Remeikis, interviewed by Andrew McMillen, 2015Amy’s role sees her covering Queensland’s political machinations from Parliament House during sitting weeks. She’s a journalist with serious skill and dedication to the task of holding Queensland’s politicians to account. As a feature writer, I’m far removed from the demands of daily reporting, so I was thrilled when Amy agreed to speak with me and offer her insights into this aspect of the news media.

Our interview took place in April in Amy’s living room at her home in Bowen Hills, in Brisbane’s inner north. For someone who had been at work for the previous 12 hours, she was remarkably chipper, as she sipped on a cup of peppermint tea while perched on a bench.

Our conversation touches on political press conference etiquette; the delicate task of performing what’s known in the media business as a ‘death knock’; moving away from journalism to teach English in South Korea; Amy’s Lithuanian heritage, and the emotional task of writing about her father as he slowly dies before her eyes.

Amy Remeikis has been in and out of journalism since 2001, working in radio (moderately successfully) and television (very unsuccessfully) before finding her groove in the written word, working for newspapers and now, online. Nominated for a Young Walkley Award as a police reporter at a regional daily, Amy has since covered almost every round, and until she became the only reporter to be mentioned in Campbell Newman’s concession speech earlier in 2015, she was most famous for doing the Conga with Clive Palmer.

Amy Remeikis on Twitter: @AmyRemeikis

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Show notes:

3.00 Amy outlines her average workday
4.00 ‘The trash’ – the news items that politicians and businesses don’t particularly want to tell journalists about
7.00 Caffeine consumption during a 12-hour workday
8.40 60% of Amy’s workday is reactionary, 40% is proactive reporting driven by her interests
11.30 Press conference etiquette and Amy’s low tolerance for bullshit
15.25 “It’s a privilege and an honour to be a journalist, because we have access that the public doesn’t.”
18.10 The challenge of trying to get politicians to talk off-message
22.40 The Queensland political press pack and media gallery at Parliament House
24.40 “There’s nothing that bonds journalists like sugar.”
25.30 The pecking order of the media gallery
29.05 Covertly taking phone calls in the hallway to try and get out of earshot of rival journalists
29.45 The essential tools of a daily news journalist, including the Livescribe smartpen
33.10 Trying to learn shorthand to assist with note-taking: “a dying skill”
35.40 Growing up in Mount Gambier, South Australia, and moving to the Gold Coast at age seven
37.40 Studying journalism at QUT after excelling at English in high school
40.30 First paid job working at the Carrara Markets on the Gold Coast for $7 an hour
43.10 Amy’s father and grandmother escaped Lithuania during World War II
44.30 Amy’s connection to Lithuania and her Eastern European heritage
49.20 Writing and journaling before applying to study journalism at QUT
51.10 “I don’t think journalism is a university course. I think it’s a trade.”
53.10 Amy’s first role at the Sunshine Coast Daily as a feature writer
56.00 Becoming chief police reporter at the Daily, which soon became ‘death knock’ reporter
58.40 Giving editorial control to the family members of deceased people prior to publication
60.25 Amy’s first words to bereaved family members upon performing a ‘death knock’
63.25 Amy’s worst-ever ‘death knock’
65.40 Quitting journalism after four years on the police rounds following a car accident
67.00 “I think something kind of snapped in me that night; I can’t do this anymore and stay human.”
68.00 Getting a job with the public school system in South Korea, teaching primary school kids English
72.00 “Journalists don’t have a lot of marketable skills.”
75.00 Freelancing while in Seoul under a pseudonym out of necessity
76.55 Why people talk to journalists: “your job is to listen to people, and act as a conduit.”
79.10 Amy’s story, Facing A Father’s Death with Laughter and Tears, March 2014
81.40 Amy’s surprise at how the story was received by its readers
83.40 Amy’s dad was quite chuffed to find himself being written about
84.40 Amy’s editor was dubious about the concept, but after reading it, he understood
86.00 “I suppose that is the journalist in me: if I can record his story, I can keep him alive forever, in some form.”
88.40 Discussing euthanasia with her father

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