9 minute read
Carrington Clarke is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) Seoul Correspondent and covers the East Asia region for the network. He has reported for various ABC shows, including The Business and ABC Investigations, as well as the network’s flagship program 7.30. Carrington has also worked at SKY News as a reporter and presenter. Before making the transition to journalism, he held economist positions in the New South Wales and Federal Governments.
Carrington completed his Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Arts at The Australian National University (ANU) in 2009.
In this interview, he shares his journalistic instincts, the experience of reporting in a pandemic, and how his ANU degrees prepared him for his career.
Q. Talk us through the initial days of reporting from Seoul as a foreign correspondent.
Moving overseas during a pandemic was a novel experience; setting up a bureau from scratch presented its own difficulties. The network’s Seoul Bureau had been freshly minted and it was the first time the ABC had posted a correspondent here. The opportunity arose from some bureaucratic frictions with our China bureau, which you can read all about online.
The major challenges in the beginning were logistical in nature: Working out visas, SIM cards, bank accounts and getting media accreditation organised, among others. Thankfully, I was accompanied by a talented cameraman, who was also a great human. My bosses had also organised a local producer, who was a magician. I had worked up some story ideas before my departure from Australia, so we were able to hit the ground running.
It’s both a blessing and curse to be the network’s first correspondent in South Korea. While there are several interesting stories to tell from the East Asia region, they are equally hard to share, as ABC’s audiences might not only lack the necessary context to understand them, but the stories need to be instantly engaging or risk losing the consumer.
Q. During COVID-19, fake news has generated significant confusion and insecurity across the world. What’s your view on potential mitigation strategies to counter this “pandemic of disinformation”?
The trust of the audience is something my network and I take very seriously. Once you lose your audience’s trust, it’s hard to regain it. ABC is one of Australia’s most reliable news networks because it has strong internal editorial controls to ensure that its journalists adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and fairness.
Social media has been a positive force in many areas – allowing marginalised communities to connect and giving a platform to people whose opinions might otherwise not be heard. But it also means that anyone can publish their own hot takes. There lies the danger – when people start to think all information on the internet is equal.
I think we’re still working through what responsibility social-media sites have for the information published on their platforms. They have started self-censoring, particularly when it comes to commentary around the pandemic and the vaccination program particularly. It will be interesting to see if those standards are extended.
Q. Following the pandemic’s peak, what has emerged as the “new normal” in journalism?
The pandemic has tested journalism in a myriad of ways. At the start of 2020, I was working with 7.30, and the program involves quite intimate and lengthy filming sessions with various personnel. This was particularly difficult during the start of COVID-19, where the best medical advice at the time was to spatially distance yourself from others, even when you were outdoors. We had to quickly change the way we produced much of our content. Overnight, we became experts in coaching on not only how to film high-quality sequences on their smart phones, but how to also upload them on the cloud for us to broadcast.
During the pandemic, journalists evolved their collaboration techniques, so that they could almost entirely work remotely. While there were teething problems, the process has become remarkably smooth. The “new normal” for journalists is to work from home with more efficiency, which could be beneficial in better covering stories outside of major metro areas.
Q. How do you switch off as a foreign correspondent?
To an extent, you can never completely switch off. If a natural disaster hits the country, a major protest sweeps politicians from office or a war breaks out, I need to be ready to cover it. There is also an underlying anxiety that the bosses back home might hear about something big before you do. Hence, I need to have an up-to-date understanding on what’s happening on my patch. Thankfully, those of us who choose this as a career usually love it, so it normally doesn’t feel like work.
In saying that, it can be exhausting if that’s all you’re doing. A big part of the job is also experiencing the place you’re in, and thankfully South Korea is fascinating. Even during a pandemic, there’s a lot to see and do in Seoul. It’s a bustling city with a great arts scene and delicious food on almost every corner.
Q. How did your ANU degrees prepare you for your career?
Ever since I was 12 years old, I have had a long-standing interest in journalism. Around the same time, a wisened old journalist had provided me some sound advice that “an academic background in economics would give me a competitive advantage”.
So I studied economics along with international relations at ANU, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. In fact, I’m the first person in my extended family to have gone to a university.
I have learnt a great deal from my courses at ANU. They have not only advanced my abilities to research and write, but most importantly, developed my critical thinking skills.
Good journalists are people who are inquisitive and are constantly questioning everything. It also often makes us fairly irritating. But that’s small price to pay to get the story.
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