Terry Brown teaches Media History & the Ethics of News and Foundations of News units at the Melbourne campus. Terry was a senior journalist, columnist and colour writer with the Herald Sun, Australia’s best-selling daily newspaper, eventually leaving to write novels and to teach.
In his 25 years with The Sun and later The Herald Sun, he worked on almost every big story, major sporting and news event of the era, from the Hoddle and Queen St massacres of the late 1980s through the gangland wars to the Black Saturday fires. Exceptionally versatile, he has covered the Property, Industrial Relations and Religious Affairs rounds, 20 Melbourne Cups, State and Federal elections, served as News Ltd’s national Defence Correspondent and chief of staff.
He worked on the much loved A Place in The Sun and In Black and White columns, wrote features, editorials, news, colour and humour. Terry currently writes for sportshounds.com.au.
Give us a quick run down on your background?
I was born premature in Yallourn just before they dug up the town for coal (phew!), grew up a bit in Horsham and fled to Melbourne at the first chance. After travel, school and a few years of varied reporting, I was plucked from behind the bar at the legendary Phoenix Hotel by the best selling paper south of the equator, The Sun News Pictorial. After 25 years with The Sun/Herald Sun, I jumped ship, wrote a cracking novel and got teaching at Macleay.
How did you get into the industry?
At the end of Year 12, I decided I wanted to be a physicist and applied to Melbourne Uni, but my English teacher found out. She leapt from nowhere in a Horsham Tech corridor screaming Don’t Do It - so I didn’t. After Monash Arts I was tossing up between journalism and advertising. In Horsham five years earlier, a visiting ABC reporter had thrown a name at me of the suburban newspaper editor who got her started. I forgot it immediately until another someone lobbed it at me again at a wine and cheese night. Serendipity. I called Murray Smith at Standard Newspapers (now Leader) and he threw me at a Frankston Council meeting untried. I filed six stories about roads, drains and rubbish. I was in!
What is the biggest difference in the industry since you were at university?
The tech that delivers news now has disrupted almost everything traditional. It has cannibalised the advertising that made newspapers and free to air TV goldmines. Algorithms are deciding what most people take for news, and the factual baseline is spongy. Professionally, the 24/7 demands of social media and online are more relentless. And newsrooms have changed a tad. When you started at The Sun, you got a notepad, pen and ashtray. I remember a Walkley Award winning health reporter complaining about the smoke - and being told to move somewhere less smoky if he was going to be precious.
What do you do when you are not teaching?
I write the odd humour column for sportshounds.com.au, tinker with sequels to my unpublished novel and for six months of the year fret about Collingwood footy club. As often as I can I run away to the bush. I’ve got an old schoolhouse and church on the edge of the Mallee and three acres of grass to mow and termites to outwit.
What do you enjoy about teaching at Macleay?
There is a feeling of satisfaction, mostly, watching the students progress through their first trimester. In the space of 10 weeks they have to learn what news is, how to find it, how to write it; how not to get sued, shamed, sacked or sucked-in. It is a steep curve but in Week 11 they cover a Supreme Court trial, usually a murder. They invariably do it in a professional, ethical and sensitive manner.
What subjects do you teach at Macleay
I teach two core T1 subjects. Foundations of News covers news values, researching, writing, social media, legal issues and a lot more. It is very intensive.
Media History and the Ethics of News helps provide a sound and necessary ethical framework and problem solving skills to navigate the minefield of modern news and news gathering.
What is the best advice you give your students?
Don’t get on Media Watch.