Melina Sarris, journalist at Seven News

"Everyone’s got a story to tell and they might not have the means to tell it so we are their voice in a lot of cases." Seven News journalist Melina Sarris talks to Kelly Masters about her work on TV.

When was your first experience in the media industry?

During my last year of uni I got an internship at Channel Nine at A Current Affair in 2009. I went in every Friday for six months and after I finished that stint I worked my way up into the news room. I hung around there and did all the jobs that no one else wanted to do like shot listing disks that had been brought back by cameramen and helped out the journalists whenever I could.

Are many of the stories you report a result of tip offs?

Yeah, contacts are a huge part of what we do. Building that connection with all types of emergency service workers because they’re the ones that are first on the ground when anything crime or accident related happens, so building your contacts and getting tip offs are absolutely huge. In all areas even the zoo or hospitals for health, it’s really important to hand out your number. I’m constantly handing out my number and my email because that’s where our stories come from, the people.

How do you cope with pressure?

Days are really long, I do 12 to 13 hour days regularly throughout the week. De-briefing with colleagues is a huge part of what we do because you do deal with a lot of grief, a lot of tragedy and horrible situations that the everyday person isn’t exposed to so chatting with your colleagues is really helpful.

What drew you to TV news?

I was always really good at English at school and not very good at Maths. So naturally I went towards writing. I love writing. Trying to get into broadcast I worked in newspapers, The Leader, did a bit of freelance work for the Herald Sun, worked at 3 AW and did news reading for SYN Media, the youth radio network. I’ve tried all different fields but I was a bit of a performer in high school so English and performance culminated in journalism. I am pretty curious and I like being first to tell people the news .You’ve got to have a curious mind and just want to know more and constantly ask questions which this job lets me do. I love the fact that I’m never stuck in the office. I never know what I’m going to be doing when I come to work in the morning and I like that, it’s an adrenaline rush.

Is finding balance between work and personal life difficult?

It is really hard, it’s a challenge. I tend to burn the candle at both ends. I don’t like missing out on my social life because I did spend a lot of my twenties working away to try and get where I am. I moved away to Albury for two years and missed out on a lot back in Melbourne. I definitely try to find time for my friends, family and sports because that’s what keeps you sane; but this is definitely a loved job. I love being here, I love being at work.

What are the challenges and rewards of the job?

The most challenging aspect is probably doing death knocks after someone has died and you have to go and speak to the family to see if they want to say anything about their family member that has just died. You’re dealing with people on their worst day so that’s really, really tough and the thing I hate most. The most rewarding part is helping people tell their story. Everyone’s got a story to tell and they might not have the means to tell it so we are their voice in a lot of cases and getting results for people as well who might be having some hardships, that’s really rewarding.

What advice would you give to an aspiring journalist?

Don’t give up. Keep knocking on everybody’s doors until they give you an opportunity because it’s really hard to get that experience if no one’s letting you in. Just keep trying and be persistent no matter how many times you get a knock back. I used to stick all of my rejection letters up on my fridge at home as a drive because it meant I was closer to getting a yes after all of those nos. Don’t say no to a job in the media no matter what it is or no matter how small it is because you’ll build up your portfolio no matter who you’re writing for or no matter who your reporting for. Just don’t turn down any offer.