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What do Australian readers value from FT coverage? A Q&A with FT's Australia correspondent Jamie Smyth

Jamie Smyth is an Australia-based correspondent for the FT, reporting on economics, business, politics and society in Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and a host of other Pacific islands.

His daily job involves coming up with interesting news and feature ideas, which FT’s global readership wants to read. His journey with the FT started within his hometown Ireland where he used to report on Ireland and Northern Ireland before he relocated to Sydney in 2014. He has been with the FT for more than 7 years.

Q. What is it like reporting on Australia and Pacific Islands as a journalist from Ireland?

Australia is a fun place to report from as it is full of larger than life characters, cut-throat politicians and weird and wonderful nature. It’s much hotter than back home. On one reporting trip it reached 47 degrees Celsius - so hot the petrol pump wouldn’t work at a gas station, nearly stranding me in the outback. 

Visiting Papua New Guinea was an incredible experience. It is a beautiful and diverse country with many challenges, including poverty, inequality and violence. I had the privilege to report on a ground-breaking medical project in Lihir, which has changed the lives of hundreds of children.

Q.  Can you talk us through some of the top global stories from US/Europe that affect Australian companies?

Australian companies and pension funds are heavily invested in the UK and US, which means they need to pay attention to economic trends and political uncertainty. Brexit is a huge political issue that will dominate UK news for the next year, and probably much longer than that. Can the country extricate itself from the EU without causing severe economic damage? That is a complex question, which the FT will endeavor to answer for our readers. Likewise, the fate of the Trump presidency and the US economy will be critical for many companies in Australia which have invested in the US. 

Q.  From your perspective, where do you think the FT is leading in terms of our coverage?

Over the past year we have covered the debt crisis experienced by one of China’s most acquisitive companies HNA particularly well and won the Excellence in Business Reporting Award from the Society of Publishers in Asia. Our Japanese team’s coverage of the Carlos Ghosn/Nissan affair has been exemplary and in Australia we won an award at the Australian New Zealand Aviation Media Awards for a multimedia feature on how China is buying up flight schools in Australia to address a global pilot shortage.

Q. People tend to associate the FT with CEOs, C-suite executives and senior managers. Is there a place for middle managers and early career starters to read the FT and why?

The FT is certainly not just for C-suite executives, although it does provide them with a global perspective that is often needed to keep in touch with new trends and grow their businesses. However, as for middle managers and junior people, having the industry leading, global perspective that the c-suite relies on is how they can advance their career and keep their decision making strategic and at the top of their game.

For example, we have rolled out a school initiative to provide free access to students and beefed up our features and technology journalism to broaden our appeal among young people. Anyone with a keen interest in the world, no matter what age they are, is likely to enjoy reading our content.

Q.  Based on your interactions with readers in Australia, what FT topics or sections do they value most?

We have a lot of Australian readers who want to tap into the FT’s global coverage of US politics, Brexit and the rise of China. Our large network of foreign correspondents gives us an edge over national media when it comes to international coverage. Many readers that I meet particularly enjoy our Weekend newspaper and often scramble to secure the limited number of copies available in Sydney and Melbourne.

Q.  To close off, what are the main editorial themes for Australia in 2019 and what else can our readers expect in 2019?

This year the China-US trade war, a slow down in the global economy and climate change are all important issues. In Australia, I have covered a devastating drought, bush fires and floods, as well as a steep fall in property prices.           

We are sharpening our focus on technology across the Asian region with the launch of a dedicated newsletter and more investment in reporting resources. A joint initiative by Nikkei/FT will also see the roll out of the FT Growth Fund this year, which will support innovative ideas proposed by FT employees to add to our suite of products and improve the experience of our growing audience. 

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