Guardians of the Rabbit Holes and other stories

This year I am properly investing in my mid-life crisis. I’ve enrolled at Massey University as a student on the Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism. It’s a bold move, and was heralded by questions from my nearest and dearest such as, “Mum, isn’t this a bit like the time you thought you wanted to be a nurse?”.

Yes, little one, I did think I wanted to be a nurse.

Until I remembered I’m not that good with blood and can’t even watch injections being administered on the telly without hiding behind a cushion.

No. It’s nothing like that.

Educating Rita – one of my role models. Source: Common Sense Media

In contrast to my recent brief flirtation with the idea of a career in healthcare, Journalism and I have history. A week’s worth of work experience at BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester when I was 16, for example. Something of a holiday romance, admittedly. My head was turned soon thereafter by a long relationship with Leeds University, ostensibly studying English Literature but actually developing advanced skills in Drinking, Snogging, and Growing an Overdraft. This was followed by an accidental (and ongoing) love affair with Town and Country Planning (reader, it’s not as impossible as it sounds).

So far, so not really journalism.

But, in 2009 my early love of radio was rekindled when I was introduced to Community Access Radio by a friend who invited me onto her regular 60-minute chat show, Migrant Mumblings, which was broadcast live by Wairarapa’s Community Access Station, Arrow FM, out of the Featherston Community Centre. It was the fastest, most exhilarating hour of my life, and I was hooked. Following that initial brief appearance on air, I was lucky enough to snaffle a part-time job with Arrow FM, supporting and producing radio content from the south of the Wairarapa region; developed ReCooper8, a radio show co-hosted with my BFF, Katie Abbott; and developed and produced of a number audio features, interviews, and podcasts covering topics, people and stories that interest me.

Throughout the bitch of a year that was 2022, I found myself undertaking little mental retrospectives of my life so far. A classic mid-life crisis, menopause-inflected activity, and not without its dangers. But, in between navigating puddles of despair, bits of my life – things that I’ve done, things that interest me – started to coalesce into a series of new, quite concrete thoughts: I really enjoy hearing and telling a story. And I want to get better at doing that. And I really should get on with it.

Since being accepted on the PG Dip course, my geek cortex has become fully activated. My bedside reading pile is chock full of works of investigative journalism. I’ve started a list of Stories I’d Like to Write (this was one of them). My conversation style has become increasingly interrogatory. And I have been hassling Google with questions like, “what tools do real journalists use?” and “how do you win a Pulitzer?”

Unsurprisingly, the former question yielded a few more useful answers for this stage in my journalism journey than the latter. I’m particularly interested in finding tools and resources that will help manage the mountain of references I know that studying and writing will generate, and act as a sort of survival kit for the rabbit holes I am itching to be pulled into. And, now I’m officially a student, these resources have to be free.

My searches led me to two tools that have particularly caught my attention – Zotero and Toby. They are free and easy to use, and collectively I think they could serve well as Guardians of the Rabbit Holes.

Guardians of the Rabbit Holes? Possibly.

First up, Toby. As well as being a popular name for a boy (#40 in 2023 according to BabyCentre), Toby is a free Chrome extension that enables you to organise your browser tabs into collections. Webpages and sites you have assigned to collections are then easily accessible from the Toby dashboard. New tabs can be added quickly and easily by just clicking on the Toby extension button. If like me, having 50 tabs jostling for space along the top of your browser makes you feel antsy, then Toby is a good solution with an attractive and easy-to-use interface.

Get your geek on with Zotero. Source: Zotero

Zotero’s desktop interface has an old-school ‘public records’ circa 1990s feel, but it is a powerful and intuitive open-access reference management tool that functions like a personal research assistant on your computer or phone. Through Zotero you can collect, organise, cite, and share research sources, as well as generate bibliographies using most citation styles. Added on-the-go functionality is available through the web browser extensions, the android and iPhone app, and the ability to sync references across all your devices.


Do you identify as female, are 40 years plus, and have recently embarked on a new course of study or a new career? Then, I would love to hear your story for an article I’m planning. Please email Lucy at lucy_e_cooper@yahoo.com if you’d like to be involved.

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