Byron a rural town with ‘a capital city’s view on the world’
THERE’S nothing remotely boring about reporting on the issues of the Byron Shire.
Before joining Byron Shire News in March, 2013, Christian Morrow had previously worked for The Northern Star for a stint in 2002 and 2003.
“That was back in the day we had one computer in the newsroom that was hooked to the internet,” he said.
“After the news conference, you had to book to go on the internet to research your stories.”
He returned to The Northern Star in 2011 before taking on the Byron role two years later. He remained in that position, covering what he describes as an “incredibly diverse, incredibly rambunctious” region, until early this year.
“People often have a clichéd version of what a “Byron person” is like,” Mr Morrow said
“It’s the classic Sydney vision of … a dope-smoking hippy lying on the beach all day but it’s incredibly diverse.
“(Byron Bay) is a rural town with all these different sub-cultures within it but it’s also incredibly connected to the rest of the world.
“It’s very aware of world issues and willing to be out there on the world stage and it’s known across the world.
“So it is quite unique in that respect. It’s like a rural town that has a capital city’s view on the world.”
He said having regional journalism that could capture those nuances was “incredibly important”.
“I was always reminded how important the newspaper was to various community groups for just getting basic messages,” he said.
“I came to learn if I didn’t get the tides right in the newspaper, there was hell to pay.”
From major protests to shark attacks and the short-lived “disco dong” lighthouse sculpture of Bayshore Drive, Byron has had no shortage of stories over the years.
“Obviously one of the big things that always comes up is shark attacks,” he said.
“(In 2014) someone was bitten by a shark at Clarkes Beach and died.
“I was the first member of the media on the beach that day, so I saw right through from the poor man being on the beach to the firestorm of media interest that came to be on that.
“That was a really shocking day, really visceral, and a lot of journalists would be familiar with covering stories like that.
“You can’t help but be affected by the human dynamic that takes place, the human tragedy.”
He said it was meanwhile “incredibly uplifting” to cover the School Strike for Climate Change.
“To see tomorrow’s leaders emerging right before your eyes and the power and enthusiasm they’ve got, it really gives you great hope,” he said.
In the “post-truth” age of internet abundance, he said it was as important as ever for “real news” gathered professionally by journalists to be available.
“A lot of people don’t understand how journalists operate, how we’re trained, to make sure our stories have voracity,” he said.
“(On social media) it’s very easy to get locked in your very own personal echo chamber.
“I’m thinking of things like the incredibly destructive and stupid anti-vaxxer movement that thrives in that grey world of Instagram.
“And the thing with news is it is neutral … it doesn’t serve anybody’s political agendas.
“It’s just the news, right down the middle, as close to the truth as you can get.”