Walkley Award winner and Bachelor of Arts
alumna Charlotte Harper has been ahead of the curve at notable points of her career.
In 1994, the year mainland China was getting connected
to the internet, just three years after the World Wide Web became available to the public, Charlotte was starting out as a technology journalist.
“I was writing for magazines about the internet before most people had even heard of it, and mobiles and laptops back when they were a novelty,” she says.
This work, which she was doing straight out of university, helped her to land a role as one of The Sydney Morning Herald’s first web producers. She created digital-only content for Fairfax’s Saturday Icon consumer technology section, and wrote a column for the print version called Charlotte’s Web.
“It was a little collection of curious and useful websites, and it was a bestselling technology title that year,” Charlotte says.
“Google didn’t exist yet, so readers were glad to have some help with finding quirky and interesting web content.”
After writing about IT for five years, Charlotte changed teams to report on sport. She covered the gamut, including hockey – a throwback to when she played several seasons for the ANU Women’s Hockey Club.
Back then, she was cutting her journalism teeth at Woroni
, where she accumulated a portfolio of writing that helped her get a foot in the door in the field. And even then, she was ahead of her time.
“I had a look over some old Woronis from 1994 the other day and found a story I wrote about the ANU Sports Union with the headline ‘Finally a Swimming Pool’,” Charlotte says.
“So that headline was about 25 years before its time!”
At the Herald, Charlotte was a pioneer in the planning of Fairfax’s online coverage of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. She led a team of 25 digital reporters during the event and shared the glory when the excellence of the online team’s live text, audio-visual and comprehensive coverage earned them a Walkley Award the following year.
After Sydney, Charlotte packed up her life and headed overseas, where her love of books and reading, combined with her journalism experience, helped her land a position as Books Editor of The South China Morning Post in Hong Kong.
“It was a dream job, and just such a privilege to edit book reviews and write author profiles, but the more I learnt about the book industry, the more I wanted to dive into a career as a publisher myself,” Charlotte says.
She began plotting a move into book publishing, but before that became concrete, Charlotte returned to Canberra to care for her sick mother (now recovered). The book publishing dream took a back seat while she threw herself back into journalism as a news sub-editor, then features chief sub-editor, and Sunday magazine editor at The Canberra Times.
It was only after her first child was born that Charlotte had the opportunity to pursue her dream of becoming a publisher.
While working as a tutor in journalism at the University of Canberra and a teacher at Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) and as publisher of Management Today magazine, she launched a vegetarian website, Vegeterranean, and later a blog about the digital book publishing revolution, ebookish.
Research for the latter allowed her to gain the final pieces in the knowledge puzzle she needed to launch her digital-first non-fiction press, Editia
“I’m hoping that by focusing on publishing longform journalism, Editia can provide some of my former colleagues [in print journalism] with a new, financially viable channel for their work,” Charlotte told HerCanberra
Editia has achieved a great deal since its 2012 launch. In 2013, Editia published UC lecturer Scott Bridges’ 18 Days: Al Jazeera English and the Egyptian Revolution, which was shortlisted for ACT Book of the Year 2014 and won the 2014 ACT Writing and Publishing Awards non-fiction prize. In 2015, Editia won a $5,000 Walkley Grant for innovation in journalism.
“Our most recent title, Helen Hayward’s A Slow Childhood, features a foreword by Alain de Botton, who describes this look at thoughtful parenting as a ‘triumph’”, Charlotte says.
The pull of journalism remained strong, though. In 2015, Charlotte became Editor of Canberra’s news and opinion website the RiotACT. There, she went to work building the publication’s reputation as a serious news player, and broadening its appeal.
“Our Facebook audience grew from a few thousand to nearly 25,000 in the months after I joined, and now some 150,000 unique visitors come to the site each month,” Charlotte says.
Charlotte remains a consulting editor, but recently left, as they say in journalism, for “the dark side”. She joined a Federal Government department as a Senior Public Affairs Officer and Publications Editor, and feels this new role is making a difference.
“It’s great to be in a job where I know that the articles and speeches I write, and the publication I edit, really help people,” she says.
Clearly, Charlotte’s career to date has been active and achievement-studded, and she attributes the skills gained through her Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Linguistics and Aboriginal Studies, including several units in English and Classics, with helping her journey.
“The skills that spending a few years in an Arts program foster include communication, critical and analytical thinking, creativity and research,” she says.
“They’ve stood me in good stead during my career as a journalist, editor, publisher, author and university tutor and TAFE teacher.”
She’s now 22 years post-graduation, but ANU is never far away.
“Hardly a week went by during my time at the RiotACT in which I wasn’t interviewing an ANU contemporary – most notably Canberra Airport Managing Director Stephen Byron, ACT Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr,” she says.
“They were always a delight to deal with, perhaps partly because of that shared history.”
Charlotte has also reconnected with her hockey roots, now as captain of one of the lower grades teams. She celebrated her 200th appearance for the club in July.
Her interest in Linguistics from her ANU days also remains.
“My bookshelves are overflowing with Linguistics books that I enjoy dipping into when I can,” she says.
“I aspire to spending a lot of quality time with them in my retirement – that’s if I’m not back at the ANU doing further study.”