Independent news is one of the pillars of a healthy democracy, but in recent years we have seen the media landscape in Australia shrink to become one of the most concentrated in the world.
Ensuring trusted, unbiased news is at the fingertips of every Australian is one of Jonty Low’s passions. She is the Chair of the new Australian Associated Press (AAP), and as she tells Shirley Chowdhary in the latest episode of The Leadership Lessons, we can’t afford to lose it.
“An analogy that I have is that we wake up in the morning, we turn the taps on, and we just know that water will come out, and we know the water will be safe to drink,” Low shares in the podcast.
“That’s what AAP is to me. We know that it’s a trusted news source, we can consume it and we can believe what’s written there is fact.”
In March 2020, AAP was facing closure after its majority shareholders, News Corp and Nine Entertainment, pulled out and said the newswire was unsustainable. On the brink of collapse, AAP was saved by donations and now operates with a not-for-profit model. More than a year on, a new version of AAP appears in over 400 news outlets around Australia, and continues to play an integral role in the media landscape.
Low is the first female Chair of AAP but says that she tries not to weigh herself down with any expectations in the role and is instead focusing her efforts on making sure AAP is a successful and sustainable newswire into the future.
“We’re the only independent newswire in the country,” she said. “We’re eighty-five years old, we have a brand, we have a reputation and we’re known for fact-based news.”
“If AAP didn’t exist, it would be a problem, I think. Monopolies would grow their reach and not having an independent newswire for me, is quite dangerous for democracy.”
Although her career has led to a point where she is now leading from the front, Low says she’s never adhered to a plan career wise. As a young woman, she even had ambitions to pursue her dreams as a singer-songwriter. Low prefers to leave herself open to different opportunities and jump into new ventures when she’s given the chance.
“None of my life has been planned. Opportunities come up and I will often just say ‘yes’ and whatever I say yes to, I think I’ll just do it for a while and see how it goes,” she says.
“I don’t think I’ve actually ever had a “hell yes” moment, in terms of career. I’ve been very fortunate because they’ve all ended up being quite interesting and taken me on a path that I would have never thought of or planned.”
When giving advice to young women about their careers, Low tends to encourage them to speak out when they feel they aren’t being treated right, and also to step up into responsibility when the time’s right. She also advises them to follow their own path and try to avoid getting bogged down in what their resume looks like.
“I think you should go and explore and take some risks and see what life has to offer,” she says.
“There’s a lot of pressure when it comes down to having to have things on paper that define you. I think it’s as dangerous as the number of likes that you get on Facebook to make you valuable.”
And, despite her position as the Chair of AAP, Low shares that she still doesn’t really have a clear sense of who she is as a leader.
“I don’t have any sense of myself in that way. I just want to do good work and make change,” she said. “I’m not one for hierarchy. I don’t like people treating people differently according to their job title or place of work. I’ve never subscribed to that. I just don’t like it.”
“I think humans are humans, everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and you can learn something from everyone.”
Hear more from Jonty Low’s conversation with Shirley Chowdhary on the latest episode of The Leadership Lessons, a Women’s Agenda podcast made possible thanks to the support of Salesforce. You can listen here, or subscribe via iTunes or Spotify.