Producer and reporter Jessica Moran, Southern Cross News Tasmania

Jess Moran. Photo Sean Mc Comish.
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" You learn from experience. Once you have done every story you possibly can from court, sport, community and all the colour stories, the second time is always easier." Southern Cross News journalist Jess Moran speaks to Sinead McComish about her career as a reporter.

What made you interested in becoming a journalist?

I realised quite young that I was obsessed with telling other people’s stories and hearing about their lives. At high school I really was good at English, I could always write good stories. At first, I wanted to study law and then changed to journalism and I thought that was a good mix of both. I loved being involved in what shapes a community and what shapes a country.

 Where have you worked?

When I graduated I got a part time job for Channel Ten in Brisbane, where I’m from. I pretty much just shadowed journalists and was there for six months. During my time there I covered Schoolies and they loved me because I could actually talk to people. Then I got a job with WIN in Queensland and I was there for two years. I was promoted a few times at WIN and then I got a job for Southern Cross News in Tasmania and I’ve been here for two-and-a-half years.

 How do you cope with the pressure of being a journalist?

 You learn from experience. Once you have done every story you possibly can from court, sport, community and all the colour stories, the second time is always easier. You deal with the pressure by talking to other journalists and finding out how they deal with it too. Always remember to just breathe. I always find that if I’m struggling or if I’m too overwhelmed to write I’ll write in dot points, it helps. Also, call as many people as you can. Everyone is an expert in something, it is just a matter of finding them.

What are the challenges and rewards of the job?

I find the biggest rewards come when you are asking the public to help or appealing for information. Somehow someone always gives it you and you’re always so grateful when that happens. Or, when you get a story which no one else has and then you crush it. I always think it’s powerful that what you hear during the day will be what people hear at night or the next morning. It is a big responsibility – if you have reported something wrong, that’s on you. You’re lying to the public if you get your facts wrong. You have to check everything, it has to be 100 per cent accurate. If it’s not factual and balanced, then you’re not doing your job.

What has been the proudest moment of your career?

While I was in Queensland I did a story about a horse called Bella. Bella had a vaccine which reacted to her body really badly and as a result she died. The vets in the area wouldn’t come and visit her because they were worried that she had a contagious horse disease, so she was denied all medical care. After that incident all the laws and legislations about horse vaccines changed. This one horse did all that and it was exclusive to our news story. It was a really powerful story.

Have you ever found something difficult to write, morally or ethically?

Nope! If you have an opinion you delete it from your brain and let the people you’re interviewing speak. The good thing about this job is you don’t have to have an opinion and that can stop you from having ethical conundrums. Court and crime stories can be difficult to write. After an awfully gruesome court session, you go away and you think about how much detail the public actually needs to know about the case. There are some details that just don’t need to be said. If it was in the public’s interest to know you would definitely tell them but it’s up to you to decide where that line is.

What advice do you have for students who want to break into the industry?

Listen! Be curious, read the newspaper and watch the news. Keep up to date with the world. The biggest thing you have to do is think about who the journalists are talking to. Who did they get to comment on that story? Once you understand who you need to talk to for every story you will find it will be so much easier to be out there writing your own stories. Figure out who the stakeholders are and get in touch with them early. Do a lot of interning and free labour, it’s worth it in the end.

My advice is to go regional if you want to be a journalist, go as regional as you can. Most importantly be prepared, be organised and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.