What drove your interest in becoming a journalist?
From about the age of 15 I knew I wanted to be a journalist. I remember my English teacher saying to me, ‘Mm, I don’t think you’re tough enough to be a journalist.’ I became one anyway and it’s toughened me up that’s for sure. I love sitting down with people having a chat and then putting all the information together and crafting it into a story, I love that. I love the writing part and the interviewing, thinking of how to pose a question so that someone can open-up and tell you about what’s happened to them and what they’ve experienced. I care about the people I’m interviewing. I’m not just getting a story and having that sensitive side allows people to open up and have acomfortable, honest chat and trust you with what they are telling you.
Is there an experience you will never forget?
I got hit by a woman at a murder scene – that was memorable! One of the witnesses (the partner of the man murdered) turned up back at the scene, she didn’t want media there which I could understand and she hit me. I wasn’t trying to interview her but didn’t get out of her way quickly enough. I’d only been on the job a few months and asked the cameraman if this happens often! Before that I’d been working at the Geelong Advertiser so I hadn’t done TV before. People often aren’t happy to see news cameras roll up.
There have been lots of positives as well such as reading 5pm news bulletins and winning a Quill Award (awards for excellence in journalism) for best deadline report in any medium.
What’s the biggest challenge you face on the job?
Probably deadline pressure. Having to do a last-minute live cross gets the adrenaline going. You try to stay calm, get the key information and make sure you’re looking somewhat presentable! Just getting a story to air can be challenging sometimes. It takes a lot of time to film overlay and find interviews. If you’re filing remotely you have to gather your vision and interviews, meet your satellite truck, send all the vision and interviews back to the newsroom, write your script and work with a producer to make sure the story is put together as you intended. The crime round involves early starts, long days, lots of lead stories and lots of live crosses. If you get sent away to floods or a bushfire, the logistics of trying to get the story back, be ready for a live cross and make sure you’re reporting the most up-to-date information can be intense.
Is it difficult to drop everything and be sent out to do a long-distance story?
It can throw you a bit but you have your bags packed in the newsroom ready to go. I remember my boss calling out to me as I was about to head home one day, ‘Yas- don’t go anywhere,’ and I was sent off to New South Wales for five nights as police dug for the remains of anti-mafia campaigner Donald Mackay. It’s a good idea to have your passport on you as well in case a story breaks overseas. If I ever make dinner plans with friends or family, I say ‘I should be able to make it’, I can never promise, but they get used to that.
Do you have any tips on how to do the job and survive the stresses?
Persistence. You can achieve excellent results if you persist and I believe you will get into the industry if you persist. I volunteered for the Surf Coast Times to start with, unpaid – yet it was important to get work published initially. To survive the stresses, I would say the key is learning to switch off. I might think about my day on the drive home and then decide once I get home, ‘right that’s it. I’m not going to think about that anymore.’ Sometimes you see dead bodies or you speak to people who have been through extremely traumatic experiences, you need to learn methods to deal with that.
Do you have any advice for aspiring journalists?
I would try to get work experience and get stories published; even if they’re just little pieces. Work experience can be valuable, if you make an impression you may just land a junior role and work your way up. A lot of people think it’s glamourous to work as a TV reporter – in reality it’s really hard work. You might look glamorous for the short time your story is on air, but sometimes I’ve literally been sitting on the side of a country road trying to refresh my 12-hour old make up and fix my hair before going live to air. It’s a fascinating job and extremely rewarding. It’s fantastic to be continually learning and meeting new people.