Getting a glimpse of a reporter’s true character, hearing their views on their industry and the changes they are experiencing is a rare treat, particularly for students aspiring to enter the field.
Such an opportunity was provided to those students among approximately 85 attendees from Perth journalism, PR and communications on 13 September, 2017, when they were gathered together at Northbridge pub Rosie O’Gradys.
In an event that networking organisation Women in Media WA described as a mentoring/speed-dating hybrid, young people at the start of their career in the media were granted exclusive access to a panel of industry professionals including Jessica Strutt, Gareth Parker, Linda Wayman, Nadia Mitsopoulos and Carla Shearman. There were also mid-career individuals who said they were looking for guidance or wanting to reinvent themselves.
Against the background of doomsday predictions that journalists are a dying breed, the panellists assured students and young professionals that there are in fact jobs in the media industry for those that want them and those who are prepared to work hard to get them.
“It’s almost become a cliché that everyone will tell you that you can’t get a job in the media because it’s too difficult, too competitive,” said leading reporter, broadcaster, commentator and columnist Gareth Parker.
“While that may be true, if you want to be a journalist, be a journalist,” he said.
But how ?
All five panellists acknowledged the importance of work experience and internships in getting a foot in the industry, and creating networks with media professionals.
The ability to develop a portfolio of work to present to potential employers as evidence of experience, talent and persistence is easier now more than ever, according to Mr Parker. He said he maintained a blog to raise his profile every day for two years.
The speakers also described the essential attributes of a good journalist, namely doggedness, curiosity and resilience. All three qualities were revealed in in moments of wit and candour throughout the evening.
“I had long blond hair and I was told I couldn’t cover a story on the docks because my hair would blow in my face and my high heels would trip up on the train tracks,” former Austereo General Manager Linda Wayman recounts of one of her early postings.
“I went down and got my hair cut short the next day, much to the horror of my boyfriend at the time.
“I wrapped (the hair) up in black crepe paper and gave it to him.”
It was these unembellished personal reflections on entering the industry that resonated most with those who attended the event.
“I thought it was really interesting how they spoke about getting their foot in the door,” said journalism student Charles Smith.
“Even though they entered the industry some time ago, they really applied it well to current industry conditions.”
The current highly competitive landscape in media requires a person to “make your own luck,” according to Curtin University student Mitch Bennet.
“You have to work to get into the industry,” he said.
“They don’t want anyone who is just a passive bystander. They want someone who is able to chase the stories.”
The calibre of each of the panellists’ current careers was an endorsement of the need to persist and chase opportunities in the media. Notre Dame student Annalise Heeley was inspired by the success stories she heard during the evening.
“I love the fact that you were meeting successful people in the industry with real life experience and they were happy to talk to you,” she said.
“It certainly encouraged me to keep persisting in my studies to hopefully be successful in the industry myself one day.”
The mentoring experience was not only an encouragement to those in the audience, but also served to reaffirm the panellists’ appreciation of their experiences in the industry.
“One of the things I love about WIM and events like this is that it’s a lovely reminder for us in the industry of how hard it was to get in,” said ABC political reporter Jessica Strutt.
“All I can say to you is that, it has been worth it. You have reminded me that it has been worth it,” she said.
“I don’t know what the future of the industry has but I promise you that if you work hard and if you are dogged you will make it.”
Many in the audience commented that in an era of supposed “fake news” it was encouraging to hear from people driven by an authentic passion for storytelling and a sense of curiosity.
Phoebe Pin is a second-year journalism student at the University of Notre Dame Australia. Phoebe hopes to complete her Bachelor of Communications and Media next year and work towards a career in the news media.