What first sparked your interest in wanting to be a journalist?
I always had a love for writing and English. I also loved that you could travel in your work and every day would be different. And lastly, that naïve idea that you could actually change the world, you can actually insight change. You can actually draw attention to the wrongs that are happening and the rights that are happening. I haven’t been disappointed yet.
What have been your career challenges?
The biggest challenges are dealing with grief and trauma, you are nine times out of 10 meeting people on their worst day of their life. It is really confronting, and we all think we can handle it, but you never know until you’re confronted head on how you’ll react. It’s hard how you navigate those relationships and how you even validate your job in those situations when someone just lost their loved one and you’re knocking on their front door for a statement. To me that’s the worst part of our job- having to knock on their door saying, “Hello can I capitalise on your grief?” but we do it on the proviso that you can honour their loved one. That ethical dilemma along with the trauma that can come with it.
What have been your career highlights?
Meeting the absolute best of society. So obviously there are extremes in this job. You meet the very best of society and the very worst. But you really get to meet people who are sacrificing their lives to help those less fortunate. Or even just people have a bunch of fun. Just the interesting characters you get to meet. Like on Christmas. To be honest, I did not want to work on Christmas, and it ended up being one of my best work days, because I got put on the charity story. You knew these people would be sitting in a gutter while you tucked into your Christmas turkey but because of these selfless people they get to have a Christmas. That’s what really makes the bad stuff worth it.
Do you have a tip on getting someone comfortable or over the line for an interview?
In terms of getting someone to talk to you and in terms of someone who has just lost someone or who had been through something traumatic, it comes down to being human. Using your intuition and just be nice. I’d rather lose a story than not be able to sleep at night because of the way I got the story. Talk to them as people before you talk to them as a journalist, obviously introduce yourself as a journalist but first just have a human interaction. I don’t remember who said this to me, but it has stuck with me as my life motto: be the hardest working person in the room and be the nicest person in the room and you can’t go wrong. You cannot be faulted.
What do you wish someone had told you prior to entering the industry?
I don’t think there’s really anything someone could tell me because on this job you learn by doing. You’ve just got to jump in the deep end and do it. I do wish there was a way to be better prepared for the grief we deal with. To be prepared for speaking to traumatised victims and the families as they cry and even some strategies on how to address them and how to get them across the line for an interview and then once you have them over the line how to frame the story in a case that’s going to serve them. It is all that negative, horrible stuff when you’re dealing with in people who have lost loved ones, it’s that that I wish I knew how to handle it before I had to do it. And it obviously takes a toll on you and there is a point. It happened to me recently, where I told work I couldn’t handle it at the moment. And I think there needs to be more support in the industry as a whole for journalists and better understanding of journalists’ mental health.
What’s your advice for getting a job as a journalist now?
Just do it. Take the first job that comes along and get into it because you need a job to get a job. You can’t just sit around waiting for the right job to come along. You need to just get a start and begin writing and start making mistakes so that you then learn from them. Because otherwise you’re not going to become a better journalist, you’re not going to become a better writer, you’re not going to become an expert in your trade. Apply for the jobs you’re interested in, take the job that you get, get amongst it, showing that you can prove yourself. In other industries it’s about loyalty and staying somewhere, it’s quite different in the media. People just appreciate the experience that you’ve got at all those different workplaces.
What do you think the sustainability of the industry and what can be changed about it?
Well there’s no doubt everything is moving online there’s nothing we can do to stop that. But that doesn’t mean there’s no journalism and that doesn’t mean journalism is dead. It’s just changing the format and I actually think we’re witnessing first-hand the change from your traditional newspaper and radio to online and what we call citizen journalism. And now I think there’s been a shift because people want fact. They want accuracy. They want real information. There’s no credibility. So now we move back toward journalism, people want someone they can trust and rely on. That might be a video clip on Facebook rather than a segment on your TV.