Interview: Florencia Cavallo, ABC Journalist


Florencia Cavallo is an inspiring young journalist. After securing a job as an ABC reporter in Coffs Harbour earlier this year, Florencia shows that taking risks and moving interstate is all part of the journey to being a successful reporter. Not only is Florencia a good journalist, she is kind, polite and caring towards others. Remember her name, we've got a feeling at Doorways she is going to go far.

Why did you want to become a journalist?
I have always been a nosy person, ever since I was little. I’ve always wanted to know what’s going on in the world. I like meeting people, talking to people, and telling their stories. I knew that by being a journalist; I would learn something interesting everyday. And I have.

Where did you study? Do you think much of what you learnt at university was useful in relation to your job today?
I did my Bachelor of Media Studies, with a journalism major, at La Trobe University in Melbourne. I think like most degrees, they are useful to a point, but to be honest most of what I have learnt has been on the job. University definitely prepared me and taught me things like ethics, working to deadlines, issues with law, and of course the basics in regards to news writing.

But I don’t think university can teach you to be inquisitive and passionate about news. You either have it in your blood or you don’t. I mean if you’re not interested in learning new things, and if you don’t enjoy talking to people and finding out what the story is, you’re never going to make it.

When and how did you start at the ABC?
I knew I wanted to work for the ABC, so my focus was getting my foot in the door with the company, no matter where I had to move to. After a gruelling interview process I got a call saying I got the job. I was ecstatic. I packed my life into my car and moved to Coffs Harbour three weeks later.

So far, what have been some of your most memorable experiences?
Ah that’s a really hard question. I think everyday is an experience. To say that one has been the most memorable would just not be true. Covering the federal election was good fun, definitely memorable. Such a busy time! It was the first election I had covered.

What was it like moving interstate?
It’s actually being ok. I’ve always enjoyed travelling so I was happy to move. Coffs Harbour is a really interesting place to live. Because we cover the entire mid north coast, there’s always a lot happening, and it’s an area that is growing quickly so we have plenty of interesting stories to report. But of course I miss my beloved Melbourne. I’ll be back one day.

What are some of the funny things that have happened to you?
Oh, I think being a ‘Victorian’ is really not an advantage when moving to NSW. I am still getting the names of some regional towns wrong, and it’s especially embarrassing if I do it on air. And of course getting lost during the first few weeks and being late for press conferences were not fun times.

What's been your best new piece?
I don’t know that it was my best piece, but it’s one that has stayed with me because it was so sad. I covered a coronial inquiry into a little boy who died. And the way the parents spoke about their child, and the pain they were in, was just overwhelming. I think covering things like that really make you learn how to be compassionate and sensitive to families who are going through so much pain. And because there is that level of respect and care, the story ends up being compelling to listen to.

What does an average day consist of?
Finding stories, in a nutshell. I have a coffee to start, then sift through emails and never ending press releases. Which ones are important in our area? What do our listeners care about? What do they actually mean? Then the fun starts: putting calls in for interviews, reading newspapers, listening and watching other news to see what else is happening, doing interviews and then filing stories. It’s about quality and quantity. Each journo does anywhere from three to six stories a day (two versions of each). We produce the bulletins, do live crosses to Sydney if they’re big stories, police rounds, file stories for online, and we read five live bulletins daily. They’re full-on days.

What is interesting about working for the ABC? 
Their training, ethics etc. I just love how diverse it is. There’s so much room to work on stories that interest you, and every day is a challenge. We don’t just work as journalists, but we are news readers, producers, online journalists and twitterers.

What advice would you give to others wanting to work for the ABC? And whats the best advice you were given along the way?
Journalism is a really competitive industry, everyone knows that. I think it’s important to be sure of yourself (without being obnoxious) and know your potential. I think whether it’s the ABC you want to work for, or any other company, it’s important to keep your head up and keep applying for positions. Don’t take no for an answer, and if you get turned down for a job, think about what you learn from it, and how you can utilise that skill to ace your next interview.

I think the important thing is not to give up. A lot of people graduate having a passion for news and current affairs and it slowly dies off because they are exhausted by the process they have to go through. But everyone goes through it.

The best advice I could have gotten was to do work experience and volunteer work while at uni. No one cares if you have a degree – anyone can graduate with good marks. But have you tried to get published? Have you put in hard work at community TV and radio stations? How much work experience have you done? What about internships? Casual work? That’s what employers care about.

And I was lucky enough to have a husband who really supported me, and pushed me to keep pursuing my dream.

What are your long term goals? Where do you hope your career to go?
I’ve always known that I want to focus on TV reporting. I enjoy the creative side of TV news, working with pictures and audio to create a story people enjoy watching and remember even after they have turned off their TVs. And I would really like to be part of a team who is focused on live news coverage.

But as a really wise person once told me “a career is a marathon, not a race”. And at this stage, I’m just enjoying the ride.

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