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By Tina Huang

Consider three journalists: Caro Meldrum-Hanna, Madeline Gleeson, and Christine Kenneally.

One would be hard pressed to find three more notable writers of clarifying and politically galvanic content in Australia’s writing landscape.

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Meldrum-Hanna is a five-time Walkley Award-winning investigative reporter with ABC TV's Four Corners. In 2015, she was awarded the Gold Walkley for exposing illegal baiting in greyhound racing and was nominated for several awards in 2016 after exposing the systematic abuse and torture of children inside the NT’s Don Dale juvenile prisons.

Gleeson’s recent book, ‘Offshore: Behind the Wire on Manus and Nauru,’ won the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction, and incisively critiqued Australia’s failure on issues of statelessness, refugees and non-refoulement.

And finally, Kenneally is a journalist whose writing has garnered major critical acclaim in Australia (The Monthly, Buzzfeed News), but also worked internationally (see pieces in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Slate.)

On the 27th of May, all three women took the stage at the Sydney Writers’ Fesitval event: How Deep Can You Go. The event was moderated by Rebecca Johinke, a senior lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Sydney, and focused on the fiercely personal cost of pursuing public, political issues. The talk commenced with Kenneally, for example, discussing the personal toll of researching institutional sexual abuse, while Meldrum-Hanna discussed how – in the wake of her story on illegal baiting in greyhound racing – several people sent death threats and suicide notes.

As the afternoon went on however, discussion turned away from the substantive issue of how deep a journalist can go in any one issue, and focused instead on considering which forms were most conducive to such depth. All three journalists lamented the decline of long form journalism in the face of a hyper impatient 24-hour news cycle, and the preference for efficiency over depth.

“Articles these days go out into the world and disappear just like that,” said Meldrum-Hanna.

The event concluded with all three women avowing the importance of collaboration, even in an industry as cut throat and ambitious as journalism. Gleeson for example, described the international collaboration which helped break the ‘Panama Papers’ story as exemplary and stressed that a multi-organisational “breaking of stories” was perhaps the best way to combat the capricious and teflon nature of modern day writing.

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