Kathy Lord, ABC Victorian online news producer

“If you don't doubt your ability as a journalist you're probably arrogant and stupid.” Victorian online news producer Kathy Lord talks to Courtney Gillespie about life as a journalist in Canada and Australia.

When did you know you wanted to become a journalist?

I didn’t! My mother told me I should be a journalist because she said I was stickybeak. I was 17 and in my final year of high school when she told me that. She said, ‘you need to be a journalist and you need to start working at the local radio station’. I didn’t have any other ideas so I went to school and got on a committee to do local radio reports about our high school and I hated it. I was so bad because I didn’t know how to record anything. The poor guys at the radio station, who I later ended up working with, had to edit it all the time. I was so scared and it was just awful. But here I am, still working in media.

What is your favourite thing to write about?

I haven’t really got a favourite thing to write about. Stuff that’s not work related, but I do           n’t have time to do that very often. If I do, it’s just anything that pops into my brain. I like to write about anecdotes and things I see during the day. It helps exercise the other part of the brain. You’ve got to have the creative side and the journalism side

What is your favourite media platform?

I am one of the very few still working in traditional media, but it changes all the time. I’ve worked on radio, television and online. I’ve worked in news, current affairs, and in international agencies. However, online is my favourite platform.

Online is the future because you get to do everything. You get to take photos, edit audio, and edit video. However, because of that, online is challenging. There is a lot more to the job than just sitting down and writing a story now. You get to do everything so it’s good but sometimes it just gets a bit crazy.

Is there a difference in the industry in Australia compared to Canada?

Totally. There is not a lot of blending of news and current affairs in Australia. However, in Canada, they have gone to the opposite extreme. They don’t cover boring news like a traffic accident. In fact, it is hard to find anything that is going on at the moment. You go on the radio in Canada and you don’t find talk shows like you do here. They have rotating headlines and you never get more than a couple lines about anyone’s story.

 What has been your hardest interview?

An interview that I did with the Canadian Prime Minister in the 1980’s. It was a radio interview with another colleague. We were under political pressure from our own organisation about how to question the prime minister and whether we should ask hard questions or easy questions.

We’d seen the prime minister all the time, we’d even travelled with him! But, when we arrived, the interview was around a conference room table with all his aides and he was shitting himself. That made it really hard to get him engaged and tough to get something out of him. Ultimately, we did an interview but we didn’t make any news. The idea is to get something new but we didn’t get anywhere because he was so stressed out.

I don’t think that interview was ever going to produce news. The prime minister just wasn’t there to give us new information. He was there to pay off a political favour to someone and just agreed to do the interview.

Have you ever doubted your ability as a journalist?

All the time. If you don’t doubt your ability as a journalist you’re probably arrogant and stupid.

I did a story about guys charged with terror offences and there was a photo that could’ve been relevant to the story but it was unclear if it was relevant enough to include it. So, I decided not to include the photo. But then when I sat down and watched the news later that night, I saw that everyone had used the photo.

You just have to always be thinking about how to do things the right way and the best way. If you’re not, you’re probably not a very good journalist. You need to always doubt yourself.

Do you have any tips for people who want to get into the media industry?

You can’t say no to anything. You have to say yes to working for free. You have to say yes to internships. You have to work in places you don’t want to work. Just say yes to absolutely everything. You also can’t be afraid of change. Just because you know how to do something today doesn’t mean you’ll know how to do it tomorrow. Everything is always changing.