The Conversation’s Anthea Batsakis

Anthea Batsakis. Photo Carla Deale.
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“I’ve been rejected more times than I’ve been accepted. It’s hard, but you learn from it. You try somewhere else and you realise it’s not as scary as you think.” Anthea Batsakis, The Conversation’s deputy editor of politics and society, speaks to Carla Deale.

How did you land your role at The Conversation?

After I interned for the Herald Sun, I got a communications role at The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. It’s a think tank, so there were a lot of academics who were fellows of the academy there. The academy had a magazine that was distributed to the federal parliamentarian politicians and all the fellows of the academy, and my role was to edit it. Eventually, I applied for a commissioning editor role at The Conversation which was only a six-month contract, but I wanted it more than anything because I loved the publication and I’d already had experience from the academy. They asked me to stay on as the deputy politics officer, and that’s what I’m doing now. 

What’s the atmosphere like there? 

It’s really great. It’s a bit weird, because it’s pretty quiet, but everyone is super friendly. We do a quiz every day. On Friday we finish early and get a beer. It’s definitely the best office I’ve worked in. 

How would you describe your writing style?

I try and be conversational. I always think of writing news articles and feature stories as a puzzle: going, ‘Alright, what are the most important bits?’ It feels more mathematical than creative, knowing you have all these important parts and that you need to put them together in a way that keeps people reading. I try not to embellish, but I try to craft a story essentially from nothing. It’s about finding the narrative where it’s not immediately obvious. 

What’s been the highlight of your career thus far?

There have been a lot of good parts. The most excited I’d ever got was when I was working at Meld Magazine while still studying at Melbourne Uni. They gave me a media pass to Fashion Week in the front row and I remember being so giddy. I’d say my favourite person I’ve ever interviewed was when I was a science reporter for Australian Geographic. It was a guy who’d walked across the Simpson Desert for charity. The piece wasn’t very good, because I was just starting out, but it was such a good experience. Sometimes when I look back at my writing, I either think it’s terrible or I’m surprised at the quality.

And the most memorable moment?

Getting the internship at Australian Geographic. I cried when I got the email to say that I’d got in. I just didn’t think I was going anywhere with journalism, and I thought, ‘Wow, maybe I could actually be a science journalist’. I was so happy because I thought that becoming a journalist was a pipe dream, and it was the first time I knew it could be a reality. 

What sort of traits would you say a journalist needs to have?

A journalist should be unbiased in reporting the news, even if what they’re reporting isn’t something they personally agree with. Politics and opinions should always go to the side. They should also be curious, and have friends that aren’t all journalists to avoid that dreaded media bubble!

How do you handle the stresses that come with the job?

I think the anxiety from the job fuels me. It means I’m where I am today. Obviously I’d like to manage my stress better, but it’s lead me to do so many things. I recently edited an explainer on child sex trafficking, and coming up for even a headline for the article was really hard on me – I had to leave the office for a while. The environment we have at The Conversation allows me to take time out when I need it, if things are getting too hard. 

What advice would you give to graduate journalism students? 

Take rejection on the chin. I’ve been rejected more times than I’ve been accepted. It’s hard, but you learn from it. You try somewhere else, and you realise it’s not as scary as you think. I used to take it so personally when editors would find fault with my work, and I would immediately think to myself that I wouldn’t make it as a journalist. 

You don’t need to whittle yourself down to just one niche if you don’t want to. It’s good to know how to write about everything. Ideas are everywhere. Stay positive. It’s hard to make it as a journalist today, but as long as you have interesting ideas, a good angle and stay curious, you’ll be published. Also, editors aren’t as scary as you might think. Whatever mistake you may have made, they’ve probably seen it made by other journalists a million times before. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.