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.

Comments (0)

Post a Comment