Journalists recall their standout stories for 2017

Retaw was a much-loved musician and busker. Retaw's mother Julie spoke to journalist Janene Carey after his death.
Retaw was a much-loved musician and busker. Retaw's mother Julie spoke to journalist Janene Carey after his death.

What is it about this story that sticks in your mind

It's hard to forget a fatality story, especially if you have spoken to the family. Retaw's mother Julie was magnificent.

She was so brave and generous in telling me about her beautiful son who played music like an angel and how she had unwittingly driven towards the accident just an hour after it happened. 

What were the challenges in writing this story

I was new to Bellingen and didn't know much about the town and the community. This felt like an important story because Retaw had been well known and loved as a musician and busker. 

I'd just started as the sole journalist at the Courier-Sun and was struggling with the various demands of the job.

Read Janene’s story here:

I did the interview on Monday morning as soon as I had Julie's contact details but then had to focus on other tasks throughout the day. I wrote the story, which was going to be the front page lead, at home after dinner and was relieved when it flowed beautifully.

Partly this was because Julie had been so eloquent in speaking to me on the phone. It was also because I've had practise doing stories based on interviewing bereaved people. I've written a book of them. And my thesis was about how to do it in a way that allows it to be 'their' story as much as 'my' story and structured so it's emotionally stirring but not maudlin. Without that experience, it would have been harder and more daunting doing this one.

What kind of stories do you love to write:

I love writing profiles about people who are unconventional or remarkable, but I think you can write an interesting story about anyone if you ask the right  questions and the person is willing to trust you.

Janene Carey is the Senior Journalist at the Bellingen Shire Courier Sun.  If you have a story for her email janene.carey@fairfaxmedia.com.au