Despite being a successful journalist with over 20 years’ experience, Kumi Taguchi did not originally plan to enter the media industry.
But in the back of her mind, she always knew that’s where she wanted to be.
The current ABC News 24 presenter and host of Compass on ABC TV has always had a love for telling stories, but won a violin scholarship to study a Bachelor of Creative Arts at Wollongong University with a view to pursuing a career in music.
A classically trained violinist who started lessons at the age of five, Kumi admits to having “a bit of guilt” associated with the time, money and effort invested into her musical talent, but in the end she needed to follow her heart. So she shifted her focus to media studies during her degree.
“I had to drop the violin … and I needed to trust that the path I was going on was going to be one that I liked,” Kumi said.
“That’s not to say that there haven’t been difficulties along the way!”
— Jessica Spiteri (@jess_spiteri21) October 31, 2017
After completing her degree and working at a music store for six months, she landed an entry-level job at the ABC on the 7:30 Report answering phones, picking up dry cleaning and ordering cakes. It was low pay and admin-based but the people were inspiring and had such integrity she learned a lot about journalism and what she wanted to do: “I just loved that job – the best job I ever had.”
Kumi then moved to Triple J and, despite her passion to produce, her job was still administrative. After begging for experience a friend took pity on her and let her work for free a few nights a week writing intros and booking in guests. It was her lucky break.
Kumi spent six years working in Hong Kong, which she believes helped propel her career. She ran a documentary program and was a news anchor for Star TV, which would sometimes consist of writing five stories a day and then presenting them on television.
“I got a lot of breaks in Hong Kong that I never would’ve got in Australia,” she says.
“I think in three years I fast-tracked maybe 10 years of media experience that I might’ve got here, if I was lucky.”
— fiona west (@fiona_west) October 31, 2017
Kumi is now working as an afternoon news host at the ABC’s 24-hour live channel and hosts Compass on Saturday nights, after taking over from Geraldine Doogue in February.
She had never worked on an always live news channel before going back to the ABC, but says that the only thing that helped the transition was practice.
“It’s one of those weird things, journalism and (being) live. You can practice but you can’t really practice … you get better by doing it but the unfortunate thing is you’re doing it live,” she says.
“[But] I love that space; I find it really exciting and fun. And, in a way, I think a lot of us have the capacity to do it, it’s just that we have never been tested.”
Kumi has a love for reading long-form journalism and, in 2014, she worked on a long-form piece of her own for the ABC on PTSD, called The Battle After the War. It took her 18 months to get access to the hospital and then she spent two weeks talking to returned soldiers with PTSD.
It was a privilege and honour to write, she says.
— Monica Attard (@AttardMon) October 31, 2017
“The trust they invest in you to tell their story and the vulnerability they’re willing to kind of expose is quite humbling,” Kumi recalls.
“You then have an added layer of responsibility to do that story justice.”
— Hatch@Macleay (@HatchMacleay) October 31, 2017
Kumi says the story was challenging, both mentally and physically, and she is proud of the result.
“The difficulty with media these days is often I was on deadline for my long form piece but I was still doing my job of going and doing three hours of live television a day,” she says.
“I’d get up in the morning and start writing, then go and do my job and then get home at night and write. For two weeks I did that. I’ve got to say that at the end of those two weeks …I needed time off, I was on edge of burnout.
“I’m so glad I did it, and I would always do it again. I would always put in place mechanisms around me, emotional and physical mechanisms around me so I can tell that story well.” – Interview, story and video by Thomas Tobler @ThomasTobler1
“Anything you get up in the middle of the night to write, is right” @kumitaguchi on trusting your judgment when writing a story.
— Macleay College (@MacleayCollege) October 31, 2017