Decompressing from an election campaign, and pondering the next one

I took a day off early this week and a senior editor – who is very skilled and enthusiastic – rang me while I was driving to lunch. “What were our plans for the state election?” he wondered. I didn’t drive off the road, but I almost groaned out loud. It was only a couple of days after the federal election polling day and an intense six-week campaign before that. Can we not just take a week’s breather before jumping into the next big thing?

That’s modern journalism. There is never a “quiet news day” let alone a “quiet news week”. A new federal government needs thorough coverage and analysis – I am not sure when our chief political correspondent David Crowe last had a day off. He went straight from covering the election to travelling to Tokyo to report on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s first Quad summit.

The state election is in November, but we need to start thinking about it, and at least plan the things that will require considerable work, such as special online sections that take weeks of production effort, or editorial ideas that we haven’t done before that will need refining.

If I’m truthful, I did think about what we might try for the state election while the federal one was on, looking at what we and other news organisations did that readers responded to, that was useful to them. As always, there are too many ideas even at this early stage and the trick is to pick a couple that might matter.

Our state political editor Annika Smethurst was back from extended leave this week, and we have, modestly, the finest state team of any media organisation. I want to thank former acting state political editor Josh Gordon who filled in for Annika, and whose experience and knowledge were invaluable. Josh returns to the broader newsroom.

First, though, I need a break, and am taking three weeks off from today. I am driving to Queensland with my husband, and we will stop off to see family and friends, as well as spending five days at a health retreat. I have never been to one before – no alcohol, no coffee – but just sitting around eating good food, having massages and “detoxing” after the election could be bliss. Will stay off Twitter.

We publish a lot about work burnout, work stress, low paid jobs, people with not enough work and too much work. We all need a break if we can manage it. My escape during this campaign was driving home from work listening to Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers, published in 1857. Trollope is out of fashion, but he’s a wonderful and witty writer, and being absorbed in the squabbles among the clergy in Barchester at the end of the day was soothing.

The Age’s deputy editor Michael Bachelard oversaw our local coverage of the federal election, and he did an excellent job. Michael and I are a team, and he will be editing in my absence. Maybe it will be a quiet few weeks, but I doubt it.

Gay Alcorn sends a newsletter to subscribers each week. Sign up to receive her Note from the Editor.

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