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Q&A with Emily Clark

What is your current role?

I’m a journalist on the international team at ABC News.

How did you get into the industry?

I studied at Queensland University of Technology and worked casually at David Jones to fund my student life. One evening I sold a woman a pair of Manolo Blahniks and she asked me to interview for a job at her PR firm.

I worked there until I finished university and then took one of those gruelling 4:30am jobs at Today Tonight where you chase stories all over the state and give up on sleep.

After that burnt me out, I took a gap year to travel and by the time I came back to Australia, Today Tonight had been shut down on the east coast. I decided it was time to pivot to digital media.

I knew the national digital team for ABC News was in Brisbane, so I annoyed an editor there until they gave me a trial (those chasing skills came in handy).

I’ve been on staff with ABC News since 2014 and have worked across several teams.

I moved to Sydney in 2018 to make the jump from distribution back to reporting and feel very fortunate to now be on the international team.

How did you learn you would be covering the war in Ukraine - had you always been interested?

When I moved on to the international team I got across the building tension in the region quick smart. Of course, I wasn’t sure an invasion would actually happen and we have a bureau of very talented people in London so the story is in their patch. But when Vladimir Putin did invade, it became clear we needed more resources in the field. I offered to go on the morning of February 25 and was on a plane to Warsaw that night.

What is one of the biggest challenges you've encountered while reporting abroad?

The biggest challenge has been trying to figure out how to work overseas as a digital journalist within a structure that was built for broadcast. But that’s part of why I love this work – I get to figure out how to do the job as I go.

Who has been the biggest mentor and influence for you?

I have a wonderful editor who has not just mentored me but endorsed me. I was very fortunate to land in a team of smart, dynamic women when I moved to Sydney and they have all encouraged me to push myself. My friend Sophie Scott has also really helped me navigate the vast world that is ABC News, especially the Ultimo office. In leadership training they talk about having an advisory board for your own career and I totally agree with that.

What story has stood out to you the most while reporting in Ukraine?

I think the story of Mariupol has stayed very close to my heart. On some of my last days in Ukraine, I met evacuees from Mariupol and am still in touch with them. One man named Nouri had taken a great risk to smuggle out photos and videos of the destruction there. He hid the memory card under the insole of his shoe. We connected him with NGO investigators who are trying to document what happened there and need original evidence to determine if war crimes were committed. I also think a lot about how a city is occupied – how it changes from Ukrainian to Russian, and perhaps back again. How Ukrainian cellular and data networks are shut down and Russian SIM cards are handed out. How Ukrainians have had their children held hostage until they take a Russian passport. I think these cities are big information black spots and it will take a long time for us to know what has really happened there.

What advice do you have for women interested in becoming a foreign correspondent or covering global conflicts?

I’m not a foreign correspondent – I get to come home at the end of my assignments, which makes a huge difference. But one thing I have learnt so far is that when you’re working overseas, away from the newsroom, in a different time zone and in difficult circumstances, you need to be able to self-soothe. You absolutely have to conquer that imposter syndrome and stay confident and strong. You have to believe you deserve to be there and just go for it and deal with what’s in front of you. The people back home are busy and are waiting for your story, so just get it done and block everything else out.

What does the immediate future hold?

I’m not sure what this year will bring, but right now we are preparing for the one year anniversary of Russia invading Ukraine and preparing coverage that takes stock of what has been lost. There was a moment when I thought the COVID pandemic would be the biggest story I ever reported on, but then I was sent on assignment to Ukraine and to the United Kingdom after Queen Elizabeth II died. So, I don’t dare guess what might be around the corner.


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