One of the most significant reforms in Queensland’s parole and probation system might never have occurred were it not for a series of exposés led by journalist and Griffith University graduate Chris McMahon.
As crime reporter at the Townsville Bulletin newspaper, Chris petitioned the State Government to review the system following the 2016 murder of 81-year-old Beth Kippin, who was allegedly killed by a man released on parole just hours earlier.
It was Chris who made the initial discovery about the suspect’s parole conditions, with the ensuing review leading to the implementation of 88 recommendations, including the new No Body No Parole law.
Chris, 31, says the process and outcome was all about keeping people honest and supporting the community.
His ethical and quality reporting saw him named New Journalist of the Year at the 2017 Queensland Clarion Awards.
“It was never about me, but it is good to see the Townsville Bulletin having that kind of effect and keeping people honest,” says Chris. “That’s why we’re in this job, to make sure we’re showing things for what they really are.” Chris was 24 when he started a Bachelor of Journalism (Public Relations, Film and Screen) at Griffith University.
“Once I was finished travelling, I thought why not become a sports journalist because I spent my life surrounded by sport,” he says. “It was during my study that I developed an interest in crime and human interest news.” Graduating in 2013, Chris was awarded a cadetship at The Courier-Mail in Brisbane before becoming a crime reporter for the Townsville Bulletin. He is now chief of staff there, overseeing a newsroom of 12 journalists and five photographers.
Though he says it was a leap of faith moving his life to Townsville to work at a regional newspaper, Chris now can’t picture himself doing anything else.
“I just love journalism and the thrill of the chase for a story,’ he says. ‘I don’t think I could ever give that up now.
“You just never know what your day will look like; it can be both incredible and scary at the same time.”