Interview: Caroline Overington, Journalist and Writer



Caroline Overington is one of Australia's best female journalists. She has had en extraordinary career that includes working for The Age and as New York correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald. Currently she works as a reporter for The Australian. To describe her as an award winning journalist is also no understatement -  in November 2006 Caroline won the prestigious Sir Keith Murdoch Award for Journalism and then the 2007 Walkley Award for investigative journalism for her coverage of the AWB scandal. 
The incredibly talented woman has also written three books including Kickback (2007) is based on her coverage of the AWB scandal and a novel, Ghost Child was released last year with rave reviews. Her novel I came to say goodbye was released two months that touches upon the subject of child protection. 
There is an incredible video interview on her friend Mia Freedman's website Mama Mia about the issue of parents killing their children after the death of a little boy called Imran Zilic and the legal issues of reporting that surround it - both the video and Caroline's article on it are pieces of extremely high quality journalism that will bring you to tears. If you are after something amazing to watch, I suggest you view it here.
She is also a mother of twins but I was reluctant to ask her how she manages juggling her children while being a writer. Why? Because I felt that I was asking a sexist question. Do men who are successful journalists or just successful in their own right often get asked, 'How they manage juggling their kids with their work,' - No. 
She is a fantastic writer and we were absolutely thrilled that she agreed to an interview for Doorways. Take particular note of her answer to how she get's into her 'writing mode' - very well answered. 

How did you get into journalism?
I did work experience at the Melton Mail Express, in my home town of Melton, at the age of 13. I took a cadetship on suburban newspapers after I finished my HSC at 17, hoping to one day get on at The Age (The Age owned the local papers in those days.)

What was it like working in New York to become a foreign correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age?
The Age and the SMH sent me to New York in 2002. My husband and I had twins. They were 18 months old. It was amusing to us, trying to get their big stroller onto the subway (nobody has a car); and through the snow in winter. But obviously it was magical. We had toboggan rides, and rode the carousel at Toys R Us in Times Square, and played in Central Park, and went ice-skating. I even did some work!

In your opinion, what are some of the differences between working for News Ltd and Fairfax?
The most fun I've ever had in my life is working for newspapapers. I don't really mind which ones.

How do you bounce between writing fiction and non-fiction?
It is often difficult, as a reporter, to tell the whole story: the police won't talk to you, except through spokespeople who often weren't even at the scene of the crime; the hospital won't talk to you; the surgeon operating on the victim won't; very often, even witnesses are told to keep quiet.
That is very difficult from when I started 18 years ago, and you could just bowl up to a crime scene and see things for yourself. We've become very strange and secretive, usually to protect the reputations of politicians.
In fiction, I have found a freedom to write what really goes on in society: I can say what I've seen when I've walked into houses where children have been neglected; I can discuss what it might be like to be a child whose brother was murdered by the parents, having to grow up with a mother in jail, and so forth.
My readers are clever: they know it's all true.

What are some of the habits you always do to get yourself into 'writing-mode'?
I have had many giggles about this with my friend Mia Freedman. We both have young children. We are always saying how marvellous it would be to `catch the Muse' and go into a light and beautiful room and write away, with a tea cup and saucer, as the inspiration strikes. The reality is quite different: the children might need a volcano for a school project. Lunches have to be made. So I write when I can.

What is your advice to other aspiring journalists?
It is much easier to get started these days, but you have to be prepared to write for nothing for a while. Write for blogs. Write your own blog! Write for the local paper. Write for the university magazine. Keep all your clippings. And then apply, apply, apply, for every job you can find.

Interview: Tim Burrowes, Editor and Publisher of mUmBRELLA



TIM BURROWES loves blogs. He loves them so much he admits to almost getting fired from his job in Dubai in 2004 from being so fascinated by the vast array of information they offer. The renegade of the media industry has fast become one of Australia's most prominent media commentators. 

He has previously worked in London and Dubai as an editor of media orientated magazines as well as editor and associate publisher of Australian B&T magazine. Yet two years ago, Tim decided to go out on his own and start his website mUmBRELLA, which focuses on the media and marketing industry in Australia.  Since then, he has had over 3.8 million hits, branched into his online weekly video show The mUmBO Report, weekly podcasts, hired 6 people and has over 20,000 email subscribers. The website also has a great jobs section (note to readers!) that has listed over 8000 jobs in two years.

It is no secret on this blog, that I am an avid reader on mUmBRELLA. The content gets me excited and I always find something interesting on the website to read, along with learning a lot how about the media and marketing industry shape themselves. I was also lucky enough to meet Tim at the mUmBRELLA Question Time breakfast in late October this year - it is always exciting when you meet someone you look up to - and he was very friendly and kind.

The thing that strikes me about Tim is his honest and supportive nature through his site. There is something very fun and almost cheeky about the way he comments upon different issues in the media industry - it makes for entertaining reading and gives you something to think about. He is also not afraid for his website to be controversial which adds to how interesting it is. 

Why and how did you become a journalist/publisher?
I stumbled into a local newspaper at the age of 18 as a junior reporter, planning on doing it for a year or so before going to university. I never went.

Why are you passionate about the media and marketing industry with mUmBRELLA?
There are many good rounds to have as a journalist, but when you write about media, you write about your own world. It’s interesting at any time, but with so much change happening right now, there’s no more interesting subject to cover.

What's it like being your own boss? What makes you get out of bed every day?
As a journalist, particularly once you become an editor, you are effectively your own boss, even if you do technically have one. So although this is the first time I’m one of the owners, it’s not the first time I’ve had freedom to steer the editorial ship as I see fit. The best thing? You get to make things happen. The worst? If it’s no good, it’s your own fault.

What have been some of the best things you have got to do in your career so far?
Too many to list. This profession gave me the opportunity to work in Australia, for which I’ll always be grateful. But overall, the best thing about journalism is that (on behalf of your readers) you get a front row seat, you get to ask people in power in questions and (generally) they feel they should answer them.

The old cliched question but you are one clever guy , we would love know, what is your advice to others who want to get into the media industry?
Do whatever you can to give somebody a reason to hire you – that means writing whenever you can (certainly blogging if nothing else), and when you spot opportunities, be persistent. If you sit back, somebody pushier than you will get the opportunity.
And when you get the foot in the door, work hard to exceed expectations for whatever it is you’ve been asked to do. You need to prove to the editor that you can deliver whatever it is you were asked to – it’s not enough to have a good reason why you tried hard but didn’t deliver what was asked. Find a way to get the story.

And if you are looking for an excellent insight into how he works and online media, check out this video by Telstra (love his t shirt too): 

Sarah's column: Is the position of editor of a daily newspaper in Australia only for men?



THERE was recently a marvelous video on mUmBRELLA (my favourite website - the best source of information on the Australian media out there) that generally talked about women in the workplace in the media industry.  They touched upon the issues of there not being enough women on boards, a lack of women in senior roles and women struggling to put themselves forward to win the senior positions.

Inspired by that, I now pose this question for you: 

Is it difficult for women to get to the top position as editor of a daily newspaper? 

After doing some research it appears there are not any women who are currently editors of daily newspapers in Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald Editor - Peter Fray
The West Australian Editor - Brett McCarthy
Herald Sun Editor - Phil Gardner
The Advertiser Editor - Melvin Mansell
The Age Editor - Paul Ramadge
The Courier-mail Editor - David Fagan
The Geelong Advertiser Editor - Steele Tallon
The Daily Telegraph Editor - Gary Linnell
The Australian Editor - Paul Whittaker
The Financial Review - Michael Gill
Sunshine Coast Daily Editor - Mark Furler
The Canberra Times Editor - Rod Quinn
The Hobart Mercury Editor - Garry Bailey
The Newcastle Herald Editor - Roger Brock
The Cairns Post Editor - Andrew Holman
Townsville Bulletin Editor - Peter Gleeson
The Weekly Times Editor - Ed Gannon

That is 17 male editors.

This leaves me with so many questions:

At the moment I am reading Man Bites Murdoch by Bruce Guthrie. It is a fascinating account of his career in newspapers (he was an editor of many daily newspapers) as well as his time battling with Rupert Murdoch on different issues. But it also strikes me in this book that whenever other people in high editorial positions are mentioned, the majority of them are male.

Also in the mUmBRELLA video, Deborah Thomas the General Manager of media, public affairs and brand development at ACP magazines, commented that many boards were an old boys network “bringing their mates in," - could this notion of men bringing their friends along with them be the case in newspapers?

Are women not suited to being editors of large daily newspapers? Should they just be left to their devises as editor's of glossy magazines and community papers?

Over the past few months, while the newspapers were getting excited about Julia Gillard becoming our first female Prime Minister, perhaps they should have been focusing on the fact that it appears there are no women as editors of daily newspapers (I am leaving Sunday editions of newspapers out of the topic).
I really feel that I should make it my goal to be a female editor of an Australian daily newspaper.

To be completely honest, I am not experienced enough to give my full opinion on why men seem to be so dominant as editors? Can anyone shed some light on their opinion on why it seems to be all men?

Does anyone know of any females who have been editors of daily newspapers? I can't seem to find any.

As the circulation of newspapers declines, could a womens touch be the answer...

Sarah's column: An open letter to the Community Newspapers around Australia



For this week's column, I thought I would take a bit of cheeky view on things and write about something that has been bothering me for a long time. Looking forward to your thoughts on it...

Dear Community Newspapers of Australia,

It is with much regret to tell you that there has been a word thrown around to describe you in recent times that may come as a shock. That word is BORING. 

This angers me because you have so much potential as you drop into letterboxes for free all around Australia every week. 

Okay so I am 22, what do I know? Basically nothing. However, my fresh eyes see things with a new view of the world and so I am going to voice my opinion. 

I am sick of picking up a community newspaper feeling like it was designed for an old person with a smiling photo of senior on the front. Or some tacky old politican on some attention-seeking antic. 

You are not just a voice for the people ranting about fluoride in the water in the Letters to Editor section.

And your photo quality! Now, I understand that many community newspapers have to multi-skill their journalists to take photos as well, which is fantastic, but could we please have something a little more creative than people standing there like stunned mullets with their arms crossed? People are far more interesting than that. 

I feel like there is this stigma surrounding community newspapers that they feel this need to be boring, dorky and drab just because you are a 'community newspaper'. You all conform to the same unofficial  rules around Australia. You all have a similar layout on the front page and nothing much changes on the inside in terms of content or advertisements. 

Long, draining articles are not appealing anymore. I want to read about things that are entertaining, fun little features, odd spots, interesting photos, fascinating articles, what's going on a little outside the community too, what the local venues are doing for young people (not just the happenings at the RSL), what is cool on the internet, maybe a little bit of gossip, maybe a little bit of scandal, pets, cute things about, health feature, more romantic stories (love makes the world go round remember) and some things that are left of center. I'm over it all being about the local netball club winning the premiership - I know is an important happening but it gets to the point where it is Groundhog Day every week the local paper arrives. Spice it up a little bit, maybe get the netballer's to submit 10 of their favourite things in their life on a page or get them to submit drawings of themselves - just something different - be creative.

And I am sick to my eyeballs of politicians doing things for their own political gain and re-reading press releases by their media people that have been slightly changed into articles - it is enough to put a pack of hyperactive monkeys to sleep. Can there just be a designated page in all community newspapers for their rants and raves?

I say all this, my dear friend Community Newspaper because you are still extremely important.

Who else is going to tell me what is going on in my local community? People are always going to want to know what is going on. I won't go out of my way to find out but if I am sitting in a cafe and a local newspaper is in front of me that is available to read, I will pick it up. Local advertisers also rely heavily on you, please pay them the respect back by offered good content that people want to read so your distribution is not a lie, when half the people are flinging their community newspapers from the mailbox straight into the bin. I couldn't think of a personal friend of mine who claims to read their community newspaper and if they did, they would probably be stirred up for it and I'd feel a little embarrassed for them. 

Many of you have vibrant real estate sections that a lot of people like to read or that most people just automatically skip to read. But hey! While they are there, you should give them some bonus entertainment from the content you can provide. 

And what ever happened to making it cool and colourful like a magazine? Why are you so conservative? Why don't you involve more of your local community with photos and reader interaction? Hence the popularity of blogs and social media, reader interaction is something we all love!

I don't want the internet to beat must live on. 

I hope you have not been offended by any of these thoughts. I just had to get it out need to change. 

Kind regards,

Sarah Lawrence

This letter may seem a little harsh and parts of it are over the top. And I may be viewing the world from limited eyes as I have not seen every community newspaper in Australia (and I am sure some are very good but a lot are better off as fuel for fire). So I would love to know from you: What do you think makes your community newspaper good? Do you think my letter is fair or rubbish? 

Events and Opportunities



This post is one of a weekly series, which will share various events and opportunities available in the writing and journalism industry. If you have an event or opportunity that you believe will be beneficial to young people who love to journalism and writing, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Please rest assured that there is no conflict of interest; all of these suggestions are made independently.

Jobs, jobs, jobs
If you are looking for jobs overseas then this website has a good array of jobs, in particular in the UK and the Middle East. Worth a look - you never know what you might find!

South Coast, NSW
Aspiring writers out there will love the sound of this. Imagine spending a relaxing weekend near the beach while immersing yourself in your favourite passion, writing. Dr Clare Manning visits houses on the South Coast NSW to conduct writing workshops. She loves helping people unleash their creative side and have fun with their writing. You can find out more here.

This website is the next best for aspiring journalists and writers after Doorways...we are biased, of course! On a serious note, this website was launched by lecturers and some students in the same year level as myself at university. They have put a huge amount of effort into it and there are many interesting articles to read as well as job opportunities, events and profiles about journalists.