EP 67: The Writing Life of Jewel Topsfield

Podcasts on February 12, 2024

As a leading journalist with The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, there’s not a lot that Jewel Topsfield hasn’t written about. Social affairs, politics, immigration, education, and global affairs are just a few of her specialty areas.

Beyond journalism, Jewel is a sought-after speaker, lecturer at universities and schools, and has led a team that won a Walkley Award and served as a Walkley Awards judge.

I’m talking to Jewel today about her life as a journalist and how her writing life has changed over the years in response to the changing media landscape, in response to the ways that we consume media, and in response to the way in which the success or otherwise of a story is measured and much more.

If you’d like a masterclass in how to research a topic quickly, and come up with world class content quickly that you know is going to be read by thousands of people, that has the potential to spark Senate enquiries – as her story on people smuggling did – you could take a leaf out of Jewel’s writing life.

In this episode, I talk to Jewel about how she:

  • skills up and becomes an expert on a topic she may know little about
  • uses publicly available content to get the facts and figures she needs to write a story
  • uses specific templates to write her stories and attract attention
  • crafts headlines that get clicked
  • stays updated with the technology and trends in journalism
  • uses AI to fast track her research and transcription process
  • chooses her stories and the specific angles that will be of most value to the reader
  • stays safe in a world where journalists are not always certain they will be
  • got her start in journalism and the advice she’d give any young writer getting started today
  • deals with procrastination

About Jewel:

Jewel Topsfield is the social affairs editor at The Age. She was formerly the Indonesia correspondent of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald from 2015 to 2018.

In 2016 she won the prestigious $20,000 Lowy Institute Media Award, which recognises journalists who have deepened and enriched the discussion of global issues in Australia.

She led the team that won a Walkley Award for its reportage on claims Australian officials paid people smugglers to return a boat of asylum seekers to Indonesia. This also led to a Senate Inquiry.

Jewel has been a journalist for 16 years with Fairfax Media.

She is regularly invited to give lectures at universities and schools and moderate and speak on panels. In 2019 she was a Walkley Awards judge in the long feature writing category.

Prior to being appointed Indonesia correspondent in 2015, Jewel was the education editor of The Age.

She was also the launch deputy editor of Fairfax's online opinion site in 2009.

Her experience also includes a three-year stint in the Canberra Press Gallery covering federal politics, immigration and education.

Mentioned in this episode: