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Journalism matters: the power of great reporting in creating change | Curtin University: Humanities

In 2021, journalist Caitlyn Rintoul began researching a story that is likely to change Western Australia’s resource sector forever.

Rintoul was following up a different lead when a fly-in-fly-out worker told her sexism was a big issue on the state’s mine sites. With some digging, Rintoul uncovered instances of sexual harassment and assault in the mines, and after six months of work, she published the first in a series of stories about the rape of women on mine sites. Ella it was reporting so urgent that it sparked a parliamentary inquiry, which went on to reveal 257 sexual harassment and assault cases across WA’s mine sites.

“It’s essentially the #MeToo of the mining industry in Australia,” Rintoul says. “All of these issues had been kept secret for years. It was a lot of work to bring them to light because you’re dealing with huge companies who have massive public relations teams and money behind them.

“So to highlight the sexual harassment, assaults and gendered violence going on in these environments was a big effort, and it’s really changed how women are treated in the industry.”

  • Kathryn Shine, Senior Lecturer in Journalism at Curtin University, believes stories like Rintoul’s are what journalism is all about: a chance to shine a light in dark corners.

For her work, Rintoul earned the award for best print news coverage at the 2021 WA Media Awards – an impressive achievement for a journalist who is still in the early days of her career. Rintoul studied journalism at Curtin University, graduating in 2015 and going on to work at various regional publications before taking a job at the West Australian in 2019. She believes her degree from ella was a “really great grounding” in the world of journalism.

“You learn so much from the law and ethics, which is obviously core to everything that we do, to research, investigation, interviewing, breaking stories and pitching,” Rintoul says. “It’s a really holistic grounding for a career in the media.”

Kathryn Shine, Senior Lecturer in Journalism at Curtin University, believes stories like Rintoul’s are what journalism is all about: a chance to shine a light in dark corners.

“I very firmly believe that journalism is a fantastic career,” Shine says. “The job is very important. It exposes truths about things like corruption and helps us find where things are going wrong, and how they should be. You make a really significant contribution.”

Learning how to investigate important stories is key to being a good journalist. But in today’s landscape, reporting them can take many different forms. That’s why Curtin’s Master of Multimedia Journalism degree teaches students not only to work with the written word but also to master audio, video, photo and presentation skills.

The breadth of technical ability she gained at Curtin is something Rintoul has relied on. Like many days, she began her career working in regional publications, where it was essential that she knew how to handle every element of getting a story alive.

“I think any journalist who goes out to regional areas will find that you’re it: you’re the journalist, photographer, videographer, editor, sub-editor,” Rintoul says. It’s an opportunity to learn skills across the board.

Shine says changes to the way newsrooms are resourced means today’s media graduates need to be able to cover a lot of bases themselves. But more than that, she believes having a range of skills “opens up an entirely new world of possibilities” for those in the media.

“I think that’s really exciting for journalists – to be able to do everything, and not just be pigeonholed as a writer or a radio journalist, because it makes the job more stimulating, interesting and diverse.”

Staff portrait of journalist Caitlyn Rintoul

The skills imparted in a multimedia journalism degree are sought after by employers, both in and outside of journalism. “We’re finding that we actually can’t meet demand for graduates from employers,” Shine says. “The media industry is really healthy at the moment.”

Rintoul is thankful for her degree – and the career in media that it has allowed her to pursue.

“If we didn’t have journalism, I don’t know how governments and companies would be held accountable,” she says. “It really is a fourth estate and I don’t think there’s any other industry like it.”

For Rintoul, reporting on sexual assaults in WA’s mining industry wasn’t easy but it was definitely worthwhile.

“The resource sector is often seen as a small-town environment where if you lose a job here, word gets around and you might not be able to pick up a job at the next company,” she says. “So it’s a very difficult subject for a lot of people [to speak about] but one that’s obviously really important.

“I’m really proud that we were able to get this done, get the parliamentary inquiry and get some action happening within companies but also within government. It’s just a huge issue that’s really been covered up for so many years.”

Learn about the power of journalism with a degree at Curtin University.

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