Fairfax’s first investigative podcast series proof that ‘journalism is alive and well’

Fairfax Media is diving into the investigative podcasting space with the launch of a six-part special investigative podcast ‘Phoebe’s Fall’.


The series details a new investigation into the life and death of 24-year-old Phoebe Handsjuk in Melbourne in 2010.

Speaking to Mumbrella, Michael Bachelard, series executive producer and investigations editor, said the story “really deserved telling in a way that text in a straight news story or in a feature or Good Weekend feature wouldn’t be able to do”.

Bachelard said this podcast was proof that “journalism is alive and well”.

“People often consider newspapers, as we traditionally understand them, to be dying. That’s fair but the news organisation that I work for and the newsroom that I’m in is constantly trying to deliver journalism in the best way possible for the stories,” he said.

“We have made a huge investment in ongoing investigations in The Age newsroom and it’s very hopeful for the future that we are turning our hands to whatever model of telling a story that we can and journalism is alive and well even if newspapers themselves are facing dire commercial times.”

Michael Bachelard:

Michael Bachelard: Journalists want people to be engaged by what we do

On why podcasts have seen a rise in popularity recently amongst publishers and audiences alike, Bachelard said: “The way you communicate with people on a podcast is quite different from another medium.

“There’s nothing between you and the listener. The word people most often use when describing a podcast is intimate because with headphones on you have the voices inside your head and that creates a really deep engagement in a story,” he said.

“Serial showed us that people would go off and do extra-curricular work via social media and create long discussions and they become quite lively communities.

“What we’re all looking for as journalists is for people to be engaged by what we do and this seems to be a great way of doing it, as long as you do it well,” Bachelard added.

Bachelard was noncommittal when asked if there was potential for Phoebe’s Fall to gain traction in overseas markets in the way US series Serial gripped global audiences.

“We would certainly hope this story is compelling enough for people wherever to want to list to it but we don’t know,” he said.

“The proof is going to be in the pudding. I wouldn’t want to stake a claim that we’re going to break the internet or anything. What we really wanted to do was to tell this incredible story in the best way we can.”

While Bachelard as a journalist wasn’t able to comment specifically on how Fairfax could commercialise podcasts he said they are open to sponsorships and ads.

“We are obviously open, as commercial media has to be, to ads and sponsorships and we’ll see what comes out from that,” he said.

“It’s also true we’re currently in negotiations with ABC Radio National who’ve expressed some interest in running us in their documentary slots later in the year.”

He added: “It certainly has commercial potential. We would want to be tasteful and considerate of this particular story with whatever [ads] go up next to it.”

Bachelard said the podcast was an investment in innovation by Fairfax “primarily of time rather than cash”.

“It’s also fair to say it’s an experiment, like all innovation, we’re trying to see if it works and it goes well and if it’s commercial, we may do more.”

Fairfax is set to do at least two more podcasts – a series of interviews by crime writer and columnist John Silvester with cops and criminals; and a panel style consumer affairs show.


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