Conference 2017

From Panama Papers to Skin and Bone

By Cloe Read

Kimberley Porteous covered 9/11, worked on the Panama Papers, and now is content strategist for the ABC, changing the way news is delivered to the Australian people.

She has interviewed WWII European migrants and seen within them, those vulnerable children who would come to call Australia home but were greeted as they trudged off troop carriers as “greasy and dirty” people who weren’t welcome.

“Everyone had an amazing story. These people were so vulnerable and traumatised by the war,” she says.

“Some had lost their parents and they had to rebuild a life here from nothing.”

Porteous has seen depravity in the trade of human body parts in the award-winning report Skin and Bone – an investigation into the recycling of bodies in Ukraine. And yet she remains humble, saying in this interview that she didn’t really have anything interesting to say and insisting she does the “behind the scenes, boring work”.

Yet she later recalls the data they tried to crack on the offshore leaks and how information was just out of their grasp.

“It’s extremely frustrating because journalists will often have a story and they’re just missing that bit of evidence,” she says.

“And that’s what happened to us – we had the details of a few ruling families in Asian nations but there was missing data that referred to another spreadsheet.

“We were throwing everything we had at this data set we didn’t know how to open and still couldn’t crack it.

“There might not have been anything in there but when you’ve gone down a rabbit hole and the door is closed it’s frustrating.”

Although Porteous has done all this (and won three Walkley Awards – Australian journalism’s answer to the Pulitzers) she still jokes that her invitation to speak at the Women in Media Conference must have been a mistake.

“I think it is very much a man’s world and a man’s industry,” she said.

“We know we have pay inequality but we don’t ask for pay rises.

“I’m looking forward to some real talk, how we can progress up the ladder and help each other out.”

She will speak about digital journalism at Bond University for the 2017 Women in Media conference.

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