Interview: Kiel Egging, Journalist and Entertainment Reporter

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At 23, Kiel Egging considers himself a very lucky guy.

He has rubbed shoulders with many of the celebrities he has looked up to, including Jennifer Hawkins, Kasey Chambers, Paolo Nutini and even Powderfinger.  He works for the Shepparton News - a daily newspaper - as a journalist and entertainment reporter. Shepparton is located in the North East of Victoria with a population close to 50 000. One thing that stands out is Kiel's passionate dedication to journalism and music - as you will read, Kiel put in a lot of energy into doing plenty of volunteer work and networking extremely well while at university (although he also admits to getting very little sleep!) In the end, all his dedication paid off and it has seen him secure a job that he loves. Kiel has also made the top five for the Optus Sound Scribe competition - you can read his posts here.

Why did you want to become a journalist?
shepparton news front page image

I just had some sort of natural knack for it and finding out what's going on in people's lives. I was pretending to commentate sports matches when I was younger and was always into writing. Later down the line I thought how awesome it would be to find out people's stories, meet all my favourite bands and review their music etc. - which is exactly what I'm now doing! Plus it wasn't going to ever be a boring mundane job either.

Where did you study? Do you think much of what you learnt at university was useful in relation to your job today?
I did a Bachelor of Media Studies (Journalism) at La Trobe Uni in Bundoora. Uni was good to get my qualifications and learn a few writing skills, but a lot of it was a bit useless - especially the media theory subjects. The practical experience and hands-on volunteer work got me to where I am today - but don't get me wrong - uni also helped.

What other industry experiences did you have while at university?
While I was at uni I tried to do heaps of volunteer stuff on the side to compliment my degree - partially because I wanted to get a job and wanted experience, but partially because I genuinely enjoyed doing it too. I started off at SUB FM - the uni radio station - in 1st year. Then I started doing stuff for the uni newspaper - just writing heaps of music stuff because it's what I enjoyed! I then got offered to be the entertainment editor and got to go to the 2008 Logies through the uni mag which was pretty amazing.

Along with the practical stuff - I also did work experience placements in the holidays with WIN TV in Gippsland, Sport 927 AM, Inpress and Network Ten. After my week with Inpress, they asked me to be a contributor for them - so I started doing CD reviews, gig and festival reviews and the occassional feature whilst juggling my 3rd year studies. I still do gig reviews with them today every now and then - mainly so i can get in for free ;)

And finally there were my internships - I spent two weeks at The Herald and Weekly Times, and two weeks at the Bayswater office of Fairfax Community Newspapers.

In the 12 months between graduating and getting the gig at the Shepp News, I did a placement with the online team at the Australian Open tennis, and did more stuff with community radio.

When and how did you start at the The Shepparton News? 
I saw an ad on Seek in July last year, saying they were after a new journo with a bit of experience. One of my family friends was working in Shepp at the time, so I thought I'd apply. 

I initially didn't hear anything from them, but in September they called up Nui Te Koha (Herald Sun journo, one of my references) and then they called me. Basically they had someone a bit more experienced for the position, from NZ, but she bailed at the 11th hour. So they started looking for a cadet instead, and came back to my application. They invited me up for lunch and an interview, and three days later, they called me to offer me the position!

In a world where most journo jobs are based on people you know and are rarely publicly advertised, I count myself pretty lucky.

What was it like moving to Shepparton? 
It was kinda daunting at first, because I was leaving behind my mates, family etc. But at the same time, I was ready for a change, and I wasn't going to turn down the opportunity. Plus, my family friend was up here working for Campbell's Soups and invited me to move into his unit, so that made things a lot easier.  And Shepp isn't a small country town with nothing going on in it either - there's close to 50 000 people living here and we've got all the main major outlets and stuff that are back in Melbourne.

What has been the most exciting story you have covered?
In terms of General News - I would say the closure of Kirwans Bridge earlier this year - it's a 120 year old bridge across the Goulburn River just outside Nagambie. The Strathbogie Shire could no longer afford to pay for the maintenance of the bridge, so it's now closed. I also had to go out to a three-car accident on a major road - six people were injured and a four year old boy eventually died in hospital. I started that day at 9am and didn't finish till our deadline at 11pm, but it was all over the front page.

Kiel with Jennifer Hawkins, Logies 2008
You're the entertainment reporter - who are some of celebrities you have interviewed?
Since I took over the entertainment mag in July, I've interviewed Kasey Chambers, Lee Kernhagan, Ella Hooper, DJ Andy Van, John Williamson, Beccy Cole, Phil Small from Cold Chisel, rappers Illy and Briggs, Muscles, former Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick, Daryl Braithwaite, the Scared Weird Little Guys, Ryan Meeking, music promoter Michael Gudinski, and a stack of local bands and young performers. I've also talked to ex-star footy players including Matthew Lloyd, Shane Crawford, Ron Barassi and Kevin Sheedy - which has been great since I'm an Essendon AFL football team fan.

But prior to the gig in Shepp, I interviewed bands such as The Living End, Powderfinger, Grinspoon, Something With Numbers, Children Collide, John Butler, Airbourne, Paolo Nutini and Chris Shifflett from the Foo Fighters.

And at the 2008 Logies, I chatted to stars including Jennifer Hawkins, Andrew Denton, Molly Meldrum, Adam Hills, Nat Bassingthwaite, Eddie McGuire, Andrew G, a couple of the Chaser Boys, Rove, Shannon Noll, Damien Leith, Hamish and Andy etc.

I consider myself a very lucky dude.

What do you think makes a good community journalist?
Someone who has a good relationship with the mayor and councillors, has some solid contacts, is aware of the local issues going on around them, and can generate a couple of their own story ideas as well. Most importantly though, you've got to be hard-working, have a friendly personality, be willing to chase things up and meet deadlines.

Kiel with his idol, Molly Meldrum, Logies 2008
What advice would you give to others wanting to work as a journalist? And whats the best advice you were given along the way?
I'd say do as much volunteer work and get as much experience as you can. Sure it might not be paid, but it looks good on the resume, and if you love journalism enough, you won't be doing it for the money anyway. Also, if you think you can just walk into a metro media job with just a degree and no practical experience, you're dreaming. The only people who do that have some seriously good contacts or are related to a news director at some major outlet.

I've been given a stack of advice along the way - but Mal Walden's advice sticks out to me - he simply said "Network, and use all your contacts." And it's pretty damn true. 

Countless people including Billy Brownless have also said to me - "never give up and keep on doing all your volunteer stuff, because you'll get there eventually." I used to doubt that considering I was doing so much stuff and not getting anywhere, but hey, I did get a job in the end (on one of only four daily papers in regional Victoria) and things are really starting to look up for me now.

So I'd also encourage people to not give up if being a journalist is really what you want to do - because it will pay off eventually, whenever that may be. Just hang in there. 

What are your long term goals? Where do you hope your career to go? 
The grand plan is to take over my mate Nui Te Koha's position as chief music reporter at the Herald Sun in five years time. If can do that it will be misson accomplished. But if not, I might look at moving into radio or possibly do what most journos after more money end up doing, and going into Public Relations - it would be sweet to work for a music label or a sporting team/organisation.

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