Matt Cleary Interview

Why, when and how did you break into the journalism and the media business?

Why: I’ve always loved to write and amuse people with my sparkling wit. Being a journo seemed an excellent way to get paid for bullshitting, something I enjoy - a lot.

When: I was first published in Men’s Health (a story about my girlfriend’s alternative therapy) and a week later in Inside Sport (a half-pager about improving Channel Nine’s cricket commentary by making Tony and Bill fight and get nude, etc). That was in about December of 2000.

How: by hammering away, being persistent and forging mostly loving non-sexual relationships with a couple of editors in Greg Hunter at Inside Sport and Bruce Ritchie at Men’s Health. Both of them sort of took an interest in what I could do (well, they rang me back on occasion), plus I worked out how to pitch them ideas that wouldn’t make them glaze over before binning. This was just experience.

What mentors, if any, did you have?

See above.

What is the wisest piece of advice you have ever been given?

I gave it to myself, don’t give up.

What has been your greatest challenge in the media business?

Staying off the piss before deadlines.

What is the biggest misconception about you?

That I’m an expert in men’s health. And that I have a small penis. Who’s spreading that one I don’t know but I’ll have everyone know: I’m packin’ serious heat.

What delivery platform of media do you prefer? - TV, radio or print?

Because writing’s my thing and because I’ve been on radio and TV for 5 minutes and 23 seconds respectively I’ll say print. However, following those 23 seconds (doing a story about Craig Coleman from Souths) more people stopped me in the street and rang me and said they saw me on TV than in the entire 14 months my head was in Inside Sport. Not sure what point I’m making there but there you go. I was also on 2MMM once talking about sperm donation, a story I did once for an online magazine, and the disc-jockey bloke spent the whole time ripping off gags, word-for-word, from my piece. Again, no point, but it is an anecdote, you’ll agree.

Have you published any books?  Any future plans to?

I’m co-writing one with Jason Weber who’s the Wallabies strength and conditioning guy. In the future I’m going to write a million-plus best-seller about playing golf and drinking beer and I’m never going to work ever again. Gee it’s gonna be a good book.

What books relating to media and journalism have you learned from?

Other than my unwritten but potentially million-selling beer-and-golf opus, The Australian Writers & Artists Yearbook is the bible of the freelance journo. Reading the mags you want to write for is a fairly large tidbit of advice for the aspiring journo person.

What article or feature are you most proud of?

I did one for Inside Sport about Glenn Kelly, this boxing garbo from South Sydney, who was about to fight Roy Jones Jnr, probably the best boxer in the world. It was good because I managed to fit in a bunch of gags and Rocky quotes and still tell a good story. (Glenn got cleaned up in the seventh.)

What have been the most defining moments in your career?

Being broke has sort of sucked. When you’re struggling to pay the rent it makes you wonder what you’re doing aged 32 with no mortgage, car, savings, wife, mistress, Foxtel, X-Box, etc. But every time that happened I’d go for a stroll down to Coogee Beach in bare feet while everyone was at work and read about myself in Inside Sport. That wouldn’t help of course so then I’d go to the pub. Pretty soon, no more problem. God bless you beer.

How would you describe freedom of the press, or lack thereof, in Australia?

Seems pretty free to me. If the Sunday Telegraph can have Piers Akerman and George Pell (George Pell!) on the same page spouting hard-right dogma/homophobic superstitious medi-eval clap-trap without those they routinely offend stabbing them in the street, then anyone can say pretty much anything.

Over the course of your career, who did you both most and least enjoy working with?

Haven’t really not enjoyed working with anyone. That might sound like a cop-out, but it’s actually true. There was a photographer called Inuit or something who was a bit of a flogger but that’s about it.

What advantages and benefits has convergent media, such as your website delivered to you?

Everyone’s online now, so editors can see what I’ve done by looking at the site.

Where can the public currently see and hear you? (please elaborate on Men’s Heath and anywhere else)

Men’s Health magazine. The book should be out in March next year. Some fellah wants to talk about sperm donation on Channel 31, that public access channel. I should update but I can’t be stuffed.

What are some of your personal and profession goals you aim to achieve?

I never want to work again. This is a deeply held personal and professional aspiration. And soon as that golf and beer book starts flying off the shelves. . .

What words of advice do you have for those starting out in the media business?

Don’t give up. If you’re writing find a ‘voice’, something that’s you, that’s amusing as well as informative. Write with an audience in mind – I mostly write to amuse my mates. If someone gives you a hand, thank them. And don’t give up.

Anything else you would like to make our visitors / readers aware of? (Don’t hold back – we are “no holds barred” here)

Never answer a question when someone prefaces it with “don’t hold back we are no holds barred”.