Three Minute Squiz With… Bryce Corbett
11 July 2019
Bryce Corbett is one of the media’s good guys. And we’re lucky to say he’s been a key part of The Squiz right from the start. He’s been a daily sounding board as we put the news list together as well as someone we talk to about our ongoing development. In the time we’ve known him, the 25-year news veteran’s been with Nine’s 60 Minutes and the Australian Financial Review. Before that, he was with the Australian Women’s Weekly – plus he wrote Turia Pitt and Rosie Batty’s books with them. So without further ado, please welcome Bryce to the Three Minute Squiz.
How and where do you Squiz?
I listen to the podcast every morning at the crack of dawn as I’m walking our third child, Louis The Wonder Dog – and then I read the email immediately afterwards over my constitutional morning coffee.
Like our PM, you’re a boy from The Shire (think Cronulla in Sydney’s south) who was destined for greatness. You’re now a Brisbane-ite who’s spent a decade in Paris. If you had your pick, where would you live?
Yeah – when you put it like that, I suppose I have gotten around. Some may call it wanderlust – others, less generous, would say its restlessness. The Shire will always have a special place in my heart, and Sydney will forever be my home town. I did the mandatory London stint, then spent 10 wonderful years in the City of Light – which remains the most formative experience of my life so far. Brissie has been a real surprise package, I’m pleased to say. Oft written-off as the also-ran capital city of Australia, Brissie is having a bit of a moment. And I reckon its winning combination of lifestyle, affordability, amenity (and weather) is going to make it one to watch in the future. Having said that I still harbour fantasies about packing up and going to live in New York. See above re: wanderlust.
You’re married to the wonderful Shay Stafford who was a Moulin Rouge dancer when you met her in Paris. How on earth did you seal that deal?
I still don’t know. All I can think is that because she was a showgirl and the majority of our courtship took place at night, it’s entirely possible that the first time she saw me in the full glare of daylight was on our wedding day. At which point it was too late – and she was far too polite – to back out. I am the living embodiment of the phrase ‘batting above my average’. All I know is that Shay is remarkable – both as a wife and mother – and she remains to this day the most sensible decision I have ever made.
Did you always want to be a journo?
I started my journalism career as a cadet in the hallowed halls of News Limited’s Holt St in Surry Hills. Fresh out of uni, I walked into a newsroom that could have been the set of a Hollywood movie, so exaggerated and extreme were its characters. The place would practically hum with energy on deadline. And though I was paid peanuts to subject myself to a series of daily humiliations at the hands of routinely terrifying editors, it was the best possible training ground for a young journo, and I was in the trenches with some truly excellent people, whom I am lucky enough to still count as colleagues and friends. So, in answer to your question, once the journalism bug had bitten, there was no turning back for me.
But hang on, didn’t you work in corporate communications in Paris?
Yes, indeed I did. I worked for six years as the head of comms for the grandly-titled International Chamber of Commerce based in Paris – which saw me travel the world and spend an inordinate amount of time lobbying at UN Summits, of all places. And then I co-founded a tech start-up in France and set up my own media consultancy. I guess I have never been one for pigeon holes.
You’ve written four books – including ghost-writing Rosie Batty and Turia Pitt’s best-selling memoirs. What was it like to work with those two extraordinary women?
In both cases, it was humbling. Turia is one of the most amazing women I know. She’s smart, sassy and very, very funny. We had a lot of laughs together writing her book. I know that might sound counterintuitive, but she has a wicked sense of humour – which came in handy when we walked the Kokoda Trail together in 2016. And Rosie is, well, she’s a force of nature. We sat down to write her book only months after her son Luke had died. It was all so raw. So much of her grief was being processed even as we sat together. And so much is still being processed to this day. It was simultaneously the hardest and most rewarding writing experience of my life. I feel privileged to call both women friends.
What does it take to be a good storyteller?
Firstly you need a good story – and for that, you need a trained eye for a story. And secondly, you need to be a good listener. Listening is one of the most underrated skills a person can have, in my humble opinion. So much that is communicated is lost because people don’t listen carefully enough to what they are being told. The spoken word conveys only half of any good story: the rest is inferred or purposefully left out or skipped over. A good storyteller will look for what they’re not being told and wonder why and – when appropriate – coax it out of the person they’re talking to. It’s honestly far less creepy than it sounds.
People often ask me if interview subjects are uncomfortable talking about deeply personal topics, but I often find they’re relieved that someone has taken an interest. More often than not they’re bursting to talk about the hard stuff they are facing or have faced – and frustrated that no one has had the temerity to talk about it with them. We do so much talking and posting and status-updating these days that I worry we’ve forgotten how to communicate.
Your first album?
INXS, The Swing. I bought it on cassette at Sylvania Kmart after 2SM ‘Rock of The Eighties’ came to my school as part of a roadshow it was doing, showing off a new-fangled music delivery technology called ‘music video’. I vividly remember the video for Burn For You to this day. Because, yes, I am that old.
Your favourite book/writer?
Oh man. Just one? I feel like it changes a lot. There are so many great writers and wonderful books. For variations on a journalistic theme, I’m a big fan of A.A Gill, David Sedaris, Truman Capote and Tom Wolfe (especially The Right Stuff – which fits neatly with this week’s moon landing nostalgia); Ian McEwan regularly reminds me what effortless writing looks like; Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop is one of my all-time favourites (I also love Oscar Wilde, for the same reasons) and a book I come back to time and again is John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces – it’s perfection. Flying the flag for (contemporary) Aussie fiction, I’d nominate the dream team of Steve Toltz (whose A Fraction Of The Whole still resonates a decade on) and Trent Dalton – a fellow Brisvegan whose debut novel Boy Swallows Universe is breathtakingly good.*
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Patience. Because who’s got time for that?
What’s your worst and best habit?
Feeling compelled to fill the silence with chat.
What would you say is the most currently overlooked news story Australians should know about but don’t?
A recent ruling in the NSW Supreme Court found that media organisations are liable for comments made by readers on their Facebook pages. Stop and think about that for a moment – and think about the ramifications it could have for free speech. This, of course, follows months of hand wringing by governments around the world – in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks – to get the big social media companies to accept responsibility for the stuff people upload onto their platforms. The era of Silicon Valley types getting away with throwing up their hands and declaring they are nothing more than a simple tech platform is well and truly over. Sorry you asked now, aren’t you?
*If you buy any of Bryce’s suggestions using these links, The Squiz may get a little commission.
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