Most journalists do their best to stay out of the way of a story, we are not the news, we are the messengers. It’s a privileged position where we often get a front row seat to history, have a hand at exposing lies and help create change for the under-privileged and under-represented. Many in our community embrace the idea of the free press, celebrating the change the likes of Walkley Award winning journalists Caitlyn Rintoul and Annabel Hennessy have created in the mining and political worlds. But that can change if they become the subject of negative news. At best they might feel exposed, guilty, confused or even contemptuous of the attention. At worst they decide to take action in the form of hate mail, threats and physical violence. Of course, like any industry there’s a few bad eggs but to tarnish us all with the same brush does nothing but reduce the number of quality journalists. Especially in regional WA, where quality, independent news importance is high. Last month, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance released its latest survey on regional journalism which revealed journalists feel overworked, underpaid and pessimistic about the future of their careers. But despite the bleak outlook, they remain passionately committed to their jobs and their communities and believe the work they do is valued by their audiences. We are incredibly proud of the work we do in the South West — we work incredibly long hours, sometimes as late as midnight and early as 3am, all for the love of our jobs and communities. We believe in holding people to account, to committing to court, crime and council reporting. There is a widely held view among the regions though, that crime and deeper issues should be swept under the rug to ensure areas aren’t painted in a negative light. But the key to true, impactful journalism is reporting without fear and focusing on stories in the public interest. But this week I did my job with fear in my heart. I was assaulted outside Busselton Courthouse in the course of my duties. Court reporting may not be the most joyous part of my job — which is sharing brilliant success stories of sporting stars, volunteers and fundraisers, if you were curious — but it is part the job. The assault, and accompanying threats came at the pointy end of a fortnight of bitter anti-vaccination vitriol which included no less than six separate death threats from cowardly anonymous callers. The hate mob told me they would harm my pets, my partner and my family because I reported on a meeting where the call to abolish COVID vaccination mandates was made. I am all for free speech, I encourage constructive criticism and will fix errors but, I will not stand for being harassed. No one should have to, and that includes journalists. Not only do the unacceptable actions of the loud few take away any form of legitimacy from their arguments, but they also drive people away from my chosen profession, potentially lowering the quality of journalism. If Hennessy bowed down to the anti-vax hate mob that attacked her last year and taken a break from journalism, she might not have been here this month to reveal allegations of racism within the Department of Communities. If Rintoul shied away from the task of giving female sexual assault survivors a voice, change wouldn’t be happening in the mining industry. These women are modern day markers of quality journalism in WA and they both had humble beginnings, like many regional journalists. If the few continue this kind of behaviour, refuse to reflect on their selfish impacts on fellow human beings, journalism faces a bleak future. Quality, enthusiastic scribes will choose different pathways to save their mental and physical health and biased, conspiracy theorists on Facebook may become your only source of local “news”.