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5 Minutes with Graeme Philipson

By Seamus Byrne in Media News on
He’s one of the stalwarts of the industry and he’s been front and centre of the industry on some big industry stories of recent weeks. So it seemed a good time to catch him for 5 Minutes!
What do you do and where does your work appear?
For more than twenty years now I have suited myself. I still need an income but I am not terribly concerned where my stuff appears. It's just words.
Anything else in your career you’ve been known for?
I am known for many things. My work on building user case studies in MIS magazine in the 90s changed the face of Australian IT journalism. People started to realise that the important stories were the users, not the vendors.
What did you really want to be when you were growing up? 
I always wanted to be a writer. I could imagine no other future. I grew up In the bush and there was no obvious career path, but I just gravitated towards it. When I was 15 years old, in 1969, I won a prize for school service. I could choose two books. I chose the Oxford English Dictionary and the Pelican Book of Computers. I still have them both with the dedication inside.
Which story or stories are you most proud of? 
My recent articles tracking the many problems with the Australian Computer Society are probably the best and most significant things I have ever done. Back in the 90s I was also quite influential in making people realise that mainframe computing would never die. I was also the first ever Australian journalist to warn of the year 2000 problem.
What's your secret superpower?
I am really good at crisp, clear, English prose. It shits me that most people don't give a damn. But then, it makes me look good. Some people actually care.
What are three top tips you can give PR pros for working with you effectively?
Understand the journalist. Establish a personal relationship. Do not follow up on press releases and ask did you get my shit. If it is worthwhile it will be published, if not it won't. There is nothing a journalist hates more than being hassled.
How do you like to start a PR relationship if you've never been in touch before?
Talk about personal stuff. Establish a rapport.
What's the most important lesson you've learned about journalism?
Great question. I have learned that people basically don't care what you write. So long as you are accurate and truthful and true to your principles, you will do well.
How do you hunt for good stories?
I don't do it any more. I'm 66 years old. The stories come to me. I basically don't give a shit.
What's been the biggest change in the industry over the past decade?                                                                            
If by the industry, you mean the IT journalism industry, it's so totally fragmented. In my peak in the 90s it was all so much fun. There was a real camaraderie. I was the junket king,?  and how much fun was that? Now it's a fucking dogfight. I'm so glad I was there then, and not trying to make a buck nowadays. I miss print.
What do you think is the most important issue facing the tech industry today?
Too many young journalists who don't understand the history of the industry. Really bright people with lots of enthusiasm, but who have no perspective. Call me an old fart, but it's really an important issue.
What's the biggest issue facing journalism?
The Murdochisation and Nineism of commentary. The marginalisation of independent media outlets. The difficulty of independent voices making themselves heard. A drowning out of truth by opinion. The amount of sheer bullshit masquerading as truth. The fact that PR people are running the agenda. The lack of courage of too many people who should know better.
Exclusives are everything. Discuss.
Exclusives are bullshit. Small-minded greediness. Few people read many publications. More important to get the message out than try to keep it to your own publication.
What do you wish you'd never have to explain to readers ever again?
Name a recent story you wish you'd written.
Can't think of one. It's just words.
Who is the best journo in the industry and why?
This is hard. I think David Frith is excellent. Simon Sharwood is superb. For the last few years I have been the default judge of the Kester Cranswick lifetime achievement award. There are many good journalists in this industry, but I am worried that too few of them are true journalists and have sold their soul to the corporate dollar.
Which industry publications, podcasts or other productions are on your unmissable list?
I look at iTWire every day, but only because I used to write for it, and David Frith's computer Daily News is an essential. Most stuff is just regurgitated PR crap, and I find I get most good information from the mainstream media when they cover  IT events. I do an enormous amount of research for my market analysis activities, which is where I get most of my really important information.
How do you keep up with what your colleagues are writing?
I don't do anything special. I work on the basis that if it's important, I'll come across it.
Which app has changed your life more than any other?
Microsoft Office. I run my life on Outlook, MS Word is my stock in trade, and Excel is the best pieces of software ever written.
Favourite screen-free hobbies?
Travel, country music, sex.
What's your best party trick?
Getting really drunk without appearing to be so.
What’s your go-to song at karaoke?
You really need to see me do Rhinestone Cowboy, House of the Rising Sun, My Way, and Suspicious Minds.
Favourite sporting moment?
Australia's victory in the cricket World Cup in 1987 as my son was being born. My wife went into labour in the fifth over the first innings and my son was born on 45th over of the second innings. But even without that it remains the greatest cricket match of all time.
Have you ever been said to resemble a famous person or character? If so, who?
I have often been mistaken for Dr Karl. One time we were both keynote speakers at a conference, and the man at breakfast the next morning thought I was him. I pretended to be so, and kept up to the persona for more than half an hour.
What's your favourite game of all time?
I was university chess champion and I love the game.
Name five discs you'd want to be stuck with on a desert island?
Bob Dylan's greatest hits volume 1
Bob Dylan's greatest hits volume 2
Ray Charles, modern sound in country and western music
The Byrds: Sweetheart of the rodeo.
Complete Beethoven symphonies
What was your favourite TV show of the 2010s?
House of Cards
What vices do you lean into when you're chasing a tight deadline?
Alcohol. It's a bit more than a lean.
What's the most ridiculous buzzword in the industry?
Going forward. Where else do you go?
The PR fairy calls saying you can have the interview of your dreams. Who's it gonna be?
Bill Gates. My age, and probably the most influential person in the IT industry the last fifty years.

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