‘You can really help people who don’t have a voice’

Cassie Zervos has a passion for news. Image supplied
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Cassie Zervos, a Swinburne journalism student who went on to win Young Journalist of the Year, talks to Chloe Roberts about how she got there.

Journalism is the “most thrilling and exciting industry”, says Channel 7 crime reporter Cassie Zervos.

Her advice for anyone who wants to gain a foothold is to apply for anything and everything that’s available.

Where and what did you study at university?

I studied at Swinburne uni – Bachelor of Media – and majored in journalism and sociology.

How did you start working in the industry after you finished university?

I started with a lot of unpaid internships – in fact, I don’t think any organisations offer paid internships and I was totally okay with that. While in my final year at uni I emailed all the news editors and directors at every single media outlet asking to come in for work experience. I was lucky enough to intern at Channel 10, SEN radio and The Herald Sun.

When I was there, I made sure I arrived half an hour early, and stayed back late every single night and towards the end of each internship I asked to speak to the news director and ask to apply for casual work. At The Herald Sun they hire editorial assistants … that was usually a way in for many. I applied for one and actually missed out.

When I was at Channel 10, I did the same thing. Once I finished up, I thought I’d never hear back. Maybe a month or so later I got a call out of the blue asking if I was interested in a production assistant role.

I jumped at the opportunity! From there I made it to the interview rounds … and was eventually offered a role as a production assistant at Channel 10. The job was a behind-the-scenes role. I helped get file vision out of library, roll the autocue for their 5pm news, helped Mike Larkan with weather info, etc. 

I realised that although it was an amazing opportunity, I really wanted to be a journalist. 

News Corp was advertising a cadetship and I applied for a that. I honestly applied thinking I’d never hear back … but as my mum kept saying, “gotta be in it to win it!” And that was the attitude I had with everything I went for. 

After a number of interviews and a few tests, they offered me a position as a cadet there. That was my chance to prove myself and I made sure I worked as hard as I could during the cadetship, knowing a job wasn’t promised at the end … but I kept hustling. And eventually The Herald Sun offered me a full-time job. I spent four years at The Herald Sun

After winning Young Journalist of the Year at the Quill Awards, Channel 7 offered me a job and I said yes, although I was very scared I wouldn’t be any good at TV.

I’ve now been at Channel 7 for three years and love it.

‘You can really help people who don’t have a voice’
Channel 7 crime reporter Cassie Zervos. Image supplied

Why did you want to be a journalist in your field?

I’ve always had a passion for news. I’m obsessed with knowing what’s going on, particularly with crime. 

I also love that no two days are the same. One minute, I could be standing in a press conference with the premier and by the time the news goes to air I could be doing a live cross on a murder investigation. 

It’s the most exciting and fulfilling industry. I also believe as a reporter you can really help people who don’t have a voice. That’s a really special part of the job too. 

Can you tell me about the challenges you have faced?

My biggest challenge was the transition from print journalism to TV journalism. 

For example, with a print story you don’t necessarily need images/picture to tell it … with TV you need vision. And of course, a challenge I faced was live crosses. 

My first few were an absolute train wreck, and I can’t even bring myself to watch them now. But I have no regrets leaving print. I’ve always been of the mindset that life is full of taking risks and new challenges, and I haven’t looked back.

Can you tell me about the highlights of your career?

Two highlights for me would be winning Young Journalist of the Year at the Quills and the Walkley Awards. To have my work appreciated and recognised by people I look up to was a really proud moment for me!

If you had to give some tips about how to do the job and survive the stresses what would they be?

Have an outlet outside of the news world … although the job is very important, so are other aspects of life. 

Friends, family, etc. I found when I started, I was just consumed by news … and often they are long days. Now, on my days off I try – try being key word – to switch off … see my friends, spend time with my husband. And of course go to gym – when the gym is open, and we aren’t in lockdown. It sounds cliched but balance is key.

How would a young reporter break into the world of journalism today?

I think you need to be open to any form of journalism. When I started out, I didn’t really care if it was print, radio or TV. I just wanted to get my foot in the door.

 My first real job in a newsroom was at Channel 10 and I thought I was set on TV but then the News Corp Cadetship came up and I thought, why not apply? Which leads me to my second piece of advice, apply for everything and anything!