If there’s one quality any journalist needs, it’s recognising news when it happens.
He was en route to his School Certificate maths exam at the time. But with a keen eye for breaking news, Chris hot-footed it to the North Bourke pub and phoned the news in to his local radio station.
“I got back to school in time for the exam and we all got our marks upgraded because of the trauma we’d been through,” he says with a wink.
It was his first major news story, a good fit for the editor who would go on to head up Region Media‘s first major regional expansion site, based in Wagga Wagga.
Chris grew up in the far northwest where his father was a pastor and historian who hosted an oral history show on the local radio station.
“I’d travel with him as a kid while he interviewed drovers, farmers, World War I diggers and Aboriginal elders. I got an amazing exposure to the stories in the bush from a young age, so the love of stories and storytelling was always there.
“Sometimes in the city you can live a very cloistered life with people who are just like you. But in the bush, you meet everyone and they all have a story,” he says.
Chris’s journalism career began with work experience at Outback Radio 2WEB and a radio skills course at his local TAFE. He worked around Queensland as a radio announcer and journalist before studying media production at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst.
From there, he picked up a gig with NBC reporting on the Sydney Olympics and went on to Fox Sports and Sky News where he read sport and weekend news for almost a decade.
Most recently, Chris has worked on NITV which he says was a better fit for a country bloke who is strongly motivated by his connection to community. Working with Stan Grant, he set up NITV’s current affairs program, The Point, and travelled across remote Australia finding stories and empowering young journalists.
“I loved our Indigenous newsroom and telling stories from the bush, a place I understood,” he says.
“I felt amazingly blessed to travel from Arnhem Land to Broome, telling the forgotten stories of Aboriginal Australia and helping those younger journalists to find their own voices.”
The decision to move to the Riverina was made by the whole family: Chris, his wife Katrina, and three girls have strong family connections in the region and knew Wagga from driving through to see her family at Darlington Point.
“We really liked Wagga. It looked like a great place to live and we were all keen to get out of the city,” he says.
The opportunity with Region came at exactly the right time. He was also strongly attracted by the company’s values around community and people-focused stories on a free platform with high-quality journalism.
It’s been a good choice. The family has fallen in love with the big beautiful country town that has everything from Sydney-style cafes to horse riding for the kids. Surprised by the level of economic growth Wagga is experiencing, he’s keen to tell the Riverina’s stories but is conscious that the news isn’t all good.
“On the flip side, there are lots of challenges too,” he says.
“Twenty per cent of the community in Wagga live below the poverty line and it’s important we don’t get caught up in success only. We need to tell the stories of those doing it tough and help them find their voices.”
He hopes Region Riverina and the team can provide that voice for many different parts of the community, celebrate the region and reflect it back to itself.
Chris is joined in the Wagga office by business manager Adam Drummond, journalist Shri Rajen and intern Anna Maskus. They’re in Bayliss St, upstairs in the old Twin Cinemas building – call in and say hello, or share a Riverina yarn with the team.