author of Fairfax: The Rise and Fall
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in Goulburn on the NSW southern tablelands. My father was the local drycleaner. When I was seven we moved to Wollongong on the NSW south coast. I attended the local girls’ Catholic high school and later studied economics at The University of Sydney.
2. What did you want to be when you were 12, 18 and 30? And why?
When I was 12 I wanted to be a hairdresser because I thought it was glamorous. I left school at 15 and started a hairdressing apprenticeship. I quickly discovered that the job was not for me – after a day of scraping hairspray off mirrors. I went back to school with the intention of becoming a social worker but an inspiring economics teacher in my final year steered me towards economics.
When I was 30 I wanted to do exactly what I was doing at the time – I was a reporter with the National Times. It was a ground breaking newspaper specializing in investigative journalism and it gave me the opportunity to work with a group of top professionals.
I believed that socialism was the best economic system for the common good.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
I won a Commonwealth scholarship which prompted me to attend university. A forced move to Papua New Guinea and later London for my husband’s job introduced me to the world of a foreign correspondent. Thanks to this experience I was later posted to Washington and to Shanghai. In London I worked with the noted journalist and author Philip Knightly which awoke an ambition to become a writer of non fiction.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?
Books are online as well as in print. And if it is a complex tale, the book format provides the required length and structure. Books will never disappear. They provide too much private joy to too many people.
Fairfax: The Rise and Fall is published by Melbourne University Press.
It details the history of the Fairfax media organization and investigates why the once great newspaper group is now struggling to survive.
It has a cast of characters that includes ambitious politicians, conniving media moguls and and a family that lets its internal feuds destroy a century old fortune.
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
A respect for the importance of an effective and well funded fourth estate – across all mediums.
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
Amongst my contemporaries in Australia I really admire David Marr – a fine writer who has never given up the fight for quality journalism.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To write books that people enjoy reading.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Research your topic thoroughly. And put in the hours – get up early, you will do your best work when your brain is fresh and the world is quiet.
Colleen, thank you for playing.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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