Today we are paying tribute to SmartCompany‘s first editor, Jacqui Walker, who died last week.
As the first editor to steer the publication, Walker is remembered by Private Media co-founder and chairman Eric Beecher as “a passionate and fiercely ethical journalist who believed strongly in the important role of accountability journalism”.
Amanda Gome, founder and former publisher of SmartCompany, has shared the following tribute.
Sad news for SmartCompany readers and contributors, especially those with us since launch in February 2007: former SmartCompany editor Jacqui Walker passed away on Tuesday, October 17, after a battle with cancer.
Walker was SmartCompany’s first editor. She joined the publication in January 2007, a month before launch and it was a testament to Walker’s courage that she would leave a prestigious job at BRW magazine for the uncertainty of joining one of Australia’s first digital media startups.
Walker started her career as a lawyer at Herbert Smith Freehills before becoming a senior associate at Clayton Utz. She then switched careers, joining Fairfax’s business magazine BRW from 2002 to 2007. She worked on a number of the flagship issues including the Fast 100, the Fast Start-ups, Fast Franchises and the BRW Rich List. She interviewed some of Australia’s top entrepreneurs and her strong commercial background meant she was a sound judge of potential success and was quick to ask the difficult questions.
When Walker joined SmartCompany, she moved from a comfortable CBD location to an old factory in Fitzroy, where the heating and air conditioning often broke down, to share space with Crikey, which at the time was a loud, fun rabble of bright, young, digital natives.
The early days were full of dramatic ups and downs. Walker was unflappable. James Thomson, companies and markets editor at the Australian Financial Review, who worked with Walker at BRW and then took over as editor at SmartCompany, says Walker seemed a few degrees calmer than everyone else.
“I always assumed it was because she’d seen how the real world worked and a newsroom must have seemed a touch like the schoolyard at times,” he says.
Walker quickly put in place processes and organised the journalists. She also built a team of bloggers and taught many how to write — and some are still contributors to SmartCompany today. Best of all, she helped create a culture of journalism excellence and brought a freshness to reporting. As Thomson says, fast growing businesses are so much about their owners and Walker had an instinctive sense for capturing the joy, energy and drive that defines and drives them.
Walker also acted as a bridge between the more conservative SmartCompany culture and the vibrancy of Crikey, sharing knowledge and maturity so when the two companies merged and became the Private Media of today, there was none of the usual post-merger culture clashes.
Walker will also be remembered for her trademark humour, always quick to laugh and fast with the quip. That served her well when she returned to the law, joining the Department of Education and Training where she enjoyed a successful career as senior lawyer until recently when she became unwell.
Walker is survived by her partner Petrina and their two children.