The Illawarra Mercury reporting team is bringing you a weekly series of behind-the-scenes stories, exclusive to our subscribers. Today, Ben Langford shares some insight into his Weekender feature on Wollongong-born violinist Richard Tognetti.
I might not be the best person to interview Richard Tognetti, particularly a deep dive back to 2011. For a start, I'm a lapsed violinist, and a big fan of his band, the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Classical music gets a fair workout in my house, alongside soul, country, hip-hop, rock and old blues. Secondly, I think a mature city should be able to handle criticism without the parochial backlash that greeted Tognetti's 2011 comments - that the Wollongong of his youth had a dark side, and had not been beautified. Most people agree with that now.
Because, as a journalist who tries to report without fear or favour, I have also been the target of criticism that I was "anti-Illawarra" - for reporting honestly about the problems surrounding now-fallen mining magnate Arun Jagatramka. That was also in 2011. Jagatramka's long gone, leaving debts unpaid.
It may have been brave for Wollongong City Council to bestow this honour upon Tognetti. But what better time to revisit his comments, than when he's being given the keys to the city?
Would I be tough enough? Well, perhaps a fair story need not necessarily be balanced - not in the 50 per-cent-each-way fashion. How would any stories of government (or council) corruption be told if half the piece had to be dedicated to the villains claiming they were not corrupt, despite the findings?
It's more important to be fair. And given how much Tognetti was stung by the criticism, now he's being honoured as one of our finest productions, it's fair to hear what he has to say about it, honestly, without the need for hometown cheerleading.
No person, organisation or place gets any better by everyone standing around and saying 'aren't we great?'. And this far down the track, I don't think people really have a problem with that.
You can read Ben's story in this week's Weekender Magazine, or online as part of our subscriber only content.Thank you for your support. If you enjoyed this, feel free to forward it to a friend.