Sports journalist Melissa Haase

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“You know when there’s smoke there’s fire and I think that’s probably a part of being a sports journalist particularly that people underestimate, you’ve got to be mentally strong to deal with all the backlash in this day and age.” Zack Mains talks to sports journalist Melissa Haase.

What made you want to become a journalist?
I always wanted to be a journalist. There is a funny picture of me when I was in about grade two, where I was dressed up as a journalist for one of those what do you want to be when you’re older days at primary school. I think I’ve always been very curious, I’ve always been someone that asks a lot of questions, and also I just like telling stories. I liked that about journalism. I like sharing stories. I like hearing interesting stories and so I think that lends itself well to being a journalist, because your job is to hear fun stories and work out how to tell them in the best way, so that everyone else thinks they’re interesting as well.

What would be the best event that you have covered?
That’s tough. I’ve covered lots of sports events. I’ve worked on Olympics, Commonwealth Games. I always really enjoy the summer of Tennis. So I’ve done a few Australian Opens, and I think they’re really fun, and lots of really big names. There’s nothing like a celebrity like Roger Federer, so I think the Australian open is probably my favourite.

Melissa Haase interviewing AFL footballer Patrick Dangerfield at the Australian Open.

Do you think people treat you differently than they would a male reporter?
Yeah sometimes, for the most part no, but at the moment I’m struggling with a few people at some of my workplaces, that are. There’s sometimes less respect for me just because they subconsciously assume I know less about it because I’m a girl, so a little bit. But sometimes it can work the other way, like some guys and females in the industry who are more senior than me are more supportive than they would be with a male journalist, because they really want me to succeed. Yes and no.

What is the biggest challenge about being a reporter?
For me this week its work-life balance, I feel like I’m working all the time, and I’m at a period, particularly this time of year, when its footy finals. So if you report a lot of footy, like I’m going to bed thinking about work, and sometimes I wake up and I realise I’ve dreamt about work, that’s not healthy. So definitely work-life balance, because being a reporter is one of those things where you can’t really say I’m at work now and then I’m not at work later, you know what I mean. You kind of always are. It’s so competitive too that if you are like I’m not going to look at Twitter till lunch time today, you could miss like requesting that guest before somebody else has. So work-life balance is a big one, and then I guess job security as well. Like the whole industry and landscape is changing a lot. It’s important to be multiskilled. So I do a lot of things. You know I present at the AFL, I produce at SEN radio station, I do some social media for The Front Bar, so it’s important to keep your skill set really broad you know, not just be really good at being a written print journalist. Like if you up-skill, that would be better for you because right now, job security is tough.

Do you think journalists are heavily criticised? Or can you understand it?
I can understand it, I think it comes with the territory, if you’re a good journalist there’s going to be a degree of public hate, the other thing right is you’re reporting on stars of a sport, we love them, almost no matter what they do. So if you do a story that exposes everything about them, then the public is going to hate you, rather than hate the player. So yeah, I think some of the criticism is warranted, and I think we’re in that weird age where there’s really clickbait stuff and some journalists will dig in areas or report on rumour a bit too much, or you know that heavy speculative journalism I hate and I think that grinds a lot of the publics gears. But that’s the stuff that drives digital consumption. Like those really rumour-heavy pieces are the stuff that gets clicked on most. So that’s feeding the beast. Everyone’s out there to do their jobs. But there are a few questionable ones. So I think critics is almost generally warranted. I think that’s probably a part of being a sports journo particularly that people underestimate. You’ve got to be mentally strong to deal with all the backlash in this day and age.

How do you break into a media this is almost entirely represented by ex-AFL footballers?
I’m finding the same thing at the moment with like a lot of the special comments roles, that females are doing on Channel Seven are girls that have played AFLW for two minutes and don’t have a journalism degree and you’re like, well I think I’d do a better job at the presenting side of it. So that’s hard, I understand. I would just say, I think, they would get an easier path through their experience. So our path is just through proven work so it’s just about doubling down and working harder, expanding your network and just proving that you’re really good at your job, but yeah it’s a factor. But there are different roles, like a Kane Cornes Is not going to be the same thing that you or I would bring to a show. So they are slightly different but I think it just means that we have to work slightly harder