Working with Words: Sally Warhaft

Working with Words is a Wheeler Centre web series where we talk to writers and publishing folk about their work and other bookish things. This week, we talk to broadcaster, journalist and anthropologist Sally Warhaft.

Sally is a Melbourne broadcaster, anthropologist and former editor of The Monthly magazine. She is the author of Well May We Say: The Speeches that Made Australia and a regular commentator on the ABC. Sally has a PhD in anthropology and did her fieldwork in Mumbai, living by the seashore with the local fishing community.

She is the host of a new Wheeler Centre fortnightly forum, The Fifth Estate: a measured approach to news and current affairs that will also be indispensible live journalism.

What was your first job in journalism – and how did you get it?

Editor of The Monthly. The publisher approached me. I declined, at first, but he talked me into it.

What’s the best part of your job?

I love working on the radio. There is an intimacy and immediacy that you can’t get anywhere else.

What’s the worst part of your job?

Reading garbage.

What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about working in journalism?

Trust your instincts and be persistent. This has been true for me in everything – anthropology, editing, writing and broadcasting.

If you weren’t working as a writer, broadcaster and editor now, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

I’d be a working anthropologist, doing more fieldwork in India. I think the relationship between India and Australia should be closer than it is.

Do you buy your books online, in a physical bookshop, or both?

Both. I always visit a bookshop first – it’s a delightful thing to do. I’ll order online if I need to.

What’s your advice for someone wanting to break into journalism?

Get a cadetship and find a mentor. Journalism’s a trade, not a profession. The best journalists I know did it this way, and they are all great readers.

If you could have dinner with a fictional character, who would it be – and why?

Arjuna, the greatest warrior and hero from the Sanskrit epic The Mahabharata.

Sally Warhaft will speak to featured guest Lindsay Tanner about the state of the democratic process in Australia for our first event in The Fifth Estate series. They’ll ask the question: how robust is our democracy?

The Fifth Estate with Sally Warhaft and Lindsay Tanner will be at the Wheeler Centre on Tuesday 6 March, 6.15pm – 7.15pm.

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