Channel Seven journalist Cassie Zervos

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“Sometimes all you need is someone to believe in you and take a chance on you.” Channel Seven journalist, Cassie Zervos, speaks to Jessiie Rees Dielenberg about her award-winning career.

When did you first realise you wanted to be a journalist? What drew you to it?

I was in high school and was always really fascinated by news and current affairs. My family would get the paper delivered every day and I used to love seeing what made front page news, what was setting the agenda for that day and what people were talking about. I was always interested in listening to 3AW, Neil Mitchell, The Rumour File and what got people talking.

How do you juggle your home life with an often intense and unpredictable work load?

It’s tricky and in the first few months I was in my zone. I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to see my friends. I didn’t want to go out drinking. I really wanted to just focus on this job and this opportunity.

I make sure on my days off I really look after me. I try to see my family. I spend time with my partner. I try to have things to look forward to, but it is tricky. I try to go to the gym when I can as well to get out that tension and move. I think I exercise more for my mind than my body, which is really important.

What is it like being a female in the industry? Have you ever felt that it’s been a disadvantage?

I don’t think it’s been a disadvantage. I think you’ve really got to focus on your work and prove yourself as a person like anyone else does. I haven’t experienced anything where I’ve seen a male get more opportunities than me because I would like to think my work is just as good if not better. I try to keep myself as professional as possible within the workplace and I try let my work speak for itself. I think once you’ve got respect from your bosses for that, then it doesn’t matter if you’re a male or a female.

What has been the most rewarding experience in your career thus far?

I won Young Journalist of the Year (2017)  for a body of work, and that was really good because when I was in year 12 my English teacher said to me, ‘look Cass, I don’t know if (journalism) is for you. I don’t know if you’ve got the academic ability.’ I’ve had a few other people tell me that throughout my career and when I won that award, stood on the stage and gave my speech, in the back of my head I thought ‘up yours’. No one should ever tell someone that they can’t do something.

So that was really special, and it opened up a lot of doors and that’s when Channel Seven got in touch as well. I was also nominated for a Walkley Award, which I never thought would happen, and I won – it was really special, more for me and I proved it to myself. There have been many setbacks. I’ve driven home many times in tears. I’ve been scooped. I’ve stuffed up crosses really bad, but that’s life and I’m a human being. Those two awards were really special for my career.

What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced in your career thus far?

The transition from print to TV. In TV it’s you, it’s your face on camera and it’s your voice. When I first started at Seven, I was about three months in, and I did a live cross, it was so bad. I was outside court and it was late in the day and it was meant to be a news story that went to air and I didn’t need to do a cross, and then I got a text from my producer saying, ‘actually Cass we’re going to get you to do a cross,’ and I thought, ‘okay that’s fine, I can do this’. I started the cross and it was fine and then I got to the middle bit and I just forgot where I was, what I was doing and what I was saying. I looked down the camera and I just froze, live on TV, and it was just the worst feeling of my life.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

I think the best piece of advice is fake it till you make it. Believe in yourself, I know it’s very clichéd but it’s true. Trust yourself and trust there’s a reason why your employer has picked you. You’ve just got to back yourself. Ask for advice. Put your hand up when you need help and, if you’re starting out in a new environment, find a group of people or find a person you get along with and pick their brain, get their advice on how they started out.

After that cross that I really stuffed up, I spoke to my mentor and he said, ‘Cassie, that was me, we’ve all been there, it’s normal. Welcome to live TV.’ It was the best advice because I thought, ‘okay, that was today, tomorrow is a new day, so I’ll pick myself up and do it all again,’ and I said to my boss, ‘can I please do another cross? Because I just need to get back on the horse.’