LSJ meets Kennedy Award-winning journalist Emma Partridge for the inside scoop on the life of a crime and court reporter.
Emma Partridge has had her fair share of scoops throughout a 12-year journalism career. She had a by-line on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald during her very first week at the newspaper, breaking an exclusive story on the “Jedi Council” sex ring that plagued the Australian Defence Force in 2013.
She covered the murder trial of disgraced former NSW police officer Roger Rogerson in 2016, and in 2017 exposed the suspicious death of sheep farmer Mathew Dunbar on the NSW Northern Tablelands in a gripping story about the so-called “widow of Walcha”.
Now, as we meet over lunch at Alpha in Sydney, an unwitting LSJ journalist is about to blow the lid off one of her most tightly held exclusives: she can’t write shorthand.
“It was my biggest anxiety in life. I was petrified when I started court reporting because I didn’t have shorthand,” admits Partridge.
Fortunately, modern journalists can use laptops and phones in courtrooms – so Partridge can probably tap, tweet and publish news faster than if she were scribbling it in shorthand.
But when she started out in crime reporting for the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader almost 10 years ago, before moving on to the crime and court rounds for The Sydney Morning Herald in 2013, there were strict rules for journalists to leave their phones and laptops outside court. Her lack of shorthand meant Partridge would be furiously scribbling down quotes from witnesses, parties, judges and lawyers, praying she didn’t miss anything important.
“I have literally been to work counsellors because I have such bad anxiety about not having shorthand,” Partridge says. “It was only when I found out Kate McClymont [a Walkley Award-winning senior journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald] didn’t have it that I could breathe easy.”
Partridge, who covered courts and crime at the Herald and The Daily Telegraph before switching to television when she was appointed Senior Crime Editor at Nine in January, is already seated when I arrive five minutes early for our 1pm lunch reservation. She seems the sort of person who would be early for most meetings – typical of television and radio journalists who work to time increments of minutes and seconds when broadcasting.