Tess Lawley, general manager at SYN Media

Tess Lawley, General Manager of SYN Media
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"This is the dream job. I did have a moment when I first got the job just like, ‘hang on a second, what do I do now since I’ve got my dream job?’" SYN Media boss Tess Lawley tells Emily Swain about her passion for community radio in a new series of Q&A interviews in which Swinburne students explore the challenges of journalism.   .

What is your role as an executive producer?

So as GM of SYN media, it’s an interesting role that kind of straddles the strategic and the operational side of the organisation. I oversee the implementation of the strategic plan, and sometimes I write the strategic plan. I think a lot about where is SYN going in five, ten, 50 years and I also make sure our bills are paid. I oversee the finances, legal work and report to the board every month about what’s happened. I also oversee and personally support our funding partners and other organisations we are working with.

How has your radio work expanded?

Well when I first started, I was listening to Zan Rowe on Triple J, which made me want to be her. I volunteered at a heap of stations like PBS, Triple R, SYN and FBI in Sydney for a few years but then I decided I much preferred the behind-the-scenes work involved with radio. Once I got to SYN I was a radio trainer and then I became the national youth media project coordinator. The GM job came up and I had the nerve to apply for it!

What is your dream job?  This is the dream job. I did have a moment when I first got the job just like, ‘hang on a second, what do I do now since I’ve got my dream job?’. I’m really fortunate and lucky to be able to say I have my dream career or job. I love community media and community radio, It’s amazing.

How do you cope with the stress?

I work hard and I have a hobby, so I play footy on the weekends and I train during the weekdays. I deal with the stress by working out what is manageable for me, and I think I have such a high tolerance for workload. I work long hours, which for me I love sitting at my desk at 8pm at night eating my dinner and working, it’s satisfying for me. I think check yourself before you wreck yourself, be reflective and learn your limits.

Who would you love to interview?

I’d really love a few hours with Clem Ford, sometimes I can’t get my head around some feminist ideas and whenever I’m trying to navigate something, I see something Clem Ford wrote and I think, ‘wow, that’s so strong and bold’. She feels strongly about certain issues and I love the fact that she just tells it like it is, especially for a woman in today’s society. I’d also like to interview Julia Gillard. As a woman in power in Australia I feel she would have some interesting things to talk about, especially with a lot of the media and other politicians slagging her off and all the sexism that followed her. I feel quite sorry for her.

What has been your most challenging moment?

Challenges haven’t been that bad for a few years now since I gained confidence in my role as GM. Some of the most challenging moments would have to be trying to break into the media industry, especially in university. I felt like I was getting nowhere and time was going by so slowly. I feel like the challenging thing is not knowing at times what I’m doing.

What has been your most rewarding moment?

SYN itself is so rewarding. SYN is amazing to work at and with, when you are working hard, many good things are coming out of it and that in itself is rewarding. Not too long ago I had a staff member tell me that SYN had changed their life and it sort of saved their life and that was so rewarding in itself. I didn’t have a direct part in it but to be told that is amazing. Community radio is such a powerful and rewarding thing that brings people together and to be told it has helped someone, that was incredible.

Why is community radio so important to you and Australians?

It’s just crucial. I’ve seen it first-hand how important it is to people. I grew up quite reserved and I never really shared my thoughts or opinions with anyone because I never thought they were valid, but once I started on community radio airing my opinions and thoughts out, it just changed me completely to the person I am today and I have community radio to thank for that. Now I feel I share my opinion too much and it probably does get annoying for some people but it’s also very helpful and a good skill to have. Community radio gives people the voice that they don’t necessarily have and the creative control that comes with it. It’s also super important to have another voice or voices in the media that aren’t funded by big advertising bucks or their opinion is shaped and manipulated by Rupert Murdoch. Independent sources are needed in our communities.

Do you think radio broadcasting will ever die out?

I personally think there will always be a place for radio because it’s cheap to consume; you only need a radio and it’s also place based. So if you’re in Melbourne and want to hear about Melbourne, you’ll listen to Melbourne-based radio broadcasting. What saddens me most about the thought of radio potentially dying out is the fact that programs on commercial radio like Triple M talking about or making sexist comments and poor content, whereas on community radio it just oozes with good content and people will choose to listen to commercial over community just because big-named celebrities are on there, yet the content is poor and that saddens me because the content on community radio is so raw and so real to people around that community. That’s what will outlast community radio.

How can Australians help keep community radio alive?

I think it’s just about supporting the radio that’s around you, whether that’s volunteering or just listening to community radio. I believe there is something on community radio for everyone and their personal interests. Donating is amazing because a lot of community stations are resource poor.