20 Years with the ABC – a story worth telling

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They say that curiosity killed the cat, but Kumi Taguchi’s inquisitive nature has helped to establish her prestige in the media industry for over 20 years.

“I see myself as a storyteller,” Taguchi said today during a guest lecture at Western Sydney University, to an audience of approximately 120 journalism students. Taguchi believes that “storytelling has been a part of our genetic history as human beings for tens of thousands of years”, attesting this to cave paintings and campfire stories that have been passed down over time.

With this “knack” for storytelling having existed for generations, she says, it is no surprise that a lot of us are interested and curious about stories, people, things and ideas that, in her opinion, shape us as human beings.

Taguchi explains how she has “always been interested in stories” despite being a classically trained violinist who, in her first years of attending the University of Wollongong, studied under a Violin scholarship. Her passion for music soon shifted as she began a Media Arts degree that allowed her love for making documentaries and films to flourish.

She reveals that she never studied journalism at University, and that every piece of knowledge that she has attained throughout her career can be attributed to her self-education by reading, watching, and simply doing.

Despite her struggles of self-education and being trapped in chicken-and-the-egg scenarios of people telling her that she simply couldn’t do things because of her lack of experience, Taguchi always remained curious and never stopped believing that she wanted to work in a storytelling space. Because of her determination, inquisitive nature, and passion for storytelling, Taguchi has gone on to work with the ABC for over 20 years and is now the host of the ABC show, Compass.

As Taguchi roamed the grounds of the Western Sydney University campus in the hours leading up to the lecture, her inquisitive instincts kicked into full swing. She began rattling off questions like “what building is this?”, “why is it still here?”, “when did the university buy this campus?”,  pardoning her curiosity by saying that “we are naturally geared to be curious creatures”.

Her interest in the campus and its origins becomes more apparent when she proposed the idea that so many stories could be uncovered by just spending one week at the university, saying that “there are stories in everything”. Stories such as “who used to live in the Psychiatric Hospital that once occupied the university grounds?”, “are some of the patients still alive?”, and “would they be able to tell me something about their time there?”.

In terms of curiosity, Taguchi says, “we are sometimes driven by the things we already feel we have to find”. She uses the example of animal cruelty in which she admits that she consciously makes an effort to expose people who torture animals. Taguchi makes the point that there is something to be said about intellectually “getting your head around” the other side of the argument. We need to use our inquisitive capabilities, she says, to investigate the other side of the story that is otherwise ignored or simply not talked about by others; ‘why don’t some people mind animal cruelty?’. In the words of Christopher Hitchens, “it is important to talk about the dogs that aren’t barking”.

Taguchi tells students that, “in us we have an innate capability to learn” and it is that innate capability combined with her inquisitive nature and passion for story-telling that has enabled Kumi Taguchi to establish such a long-standing and credible reputation in the Australian media industry.

Written by Elissa Sewell

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