Hatch reporter Tom Livingstone profiles the industry professionals teaching at Macleay College, for a new series – #FlashbackFridays
Macleay College is paving the way for future journalists with innovative, practical and most importantly, fun teaching methods. The staff are exceptional, giving students the best education and sculpting them into elite professional communicators.
What shapes these amazing people and what journey have they been on to get to where they are today?
We are proud and excited to share our first #FlashbackFridays subject with you; newsroom editor and multi-subject lecturer, Fiona West. (Above: Reporting from an early morning murder scene, 1998)
- What was your first job in the industry?
News Limited Copygirl in 1993. There were about 30 of us, all competing for cadetships, and we worked on rotation between the three newspapers, running (literally) for coffee, photo and library clippings (pre-internet) and page proofs as they were printed hot off the press. We all got together weekly for training in reporting, shorthand and media law, and, although we only earned $220 per week, there was always money for beer. The work was spiritless but the camaraderie was like nothing I’ve experienced since. I forged lifelong friendships in the News Ltd copy trenches and it taught me humility and resilience.
- What did you love about those early days?
When I first started reporting I loved it so much I could hardly believe I was being paid to do it. I never watched the clock, or experienced boredom and the adrenalin-packed buzz of the noisy newsroom when a story was breaking on deadline was intoxicating. I was intensely proud to be a journalist and the best part of the job was, and has always been, the people: the people you are privileged to interview, who put their faith in you to tell, and do just
ice to, their stories; and the people you work with. I’ve been very lucky to have worked alongside some incredibly fun, entertaining and talented journalists, photographers, sub-editors and editors, many of whom I’m still good friends with today.
- What didn’t you love about those early days?
Apart from the midnight-to-dawn police radio room shift and a pretty revolting boys’ club culture among some senior editorial staffers at News Ltd, I loved the early days. I felt right at home in newspapers – the ink was definitely in my veins from day one.
- What is a career highlight you are proud of?
Securing an exclusive print interview with Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, and spending the day with her, and her daughter, at her property on the NSW Central Coast when she returned to Australia from the US in 1999.
Like most of Australia in the 80s, I’d grown up fascinated by the Azaria Chamberlain case. And Lindy’s murder conviction, then subsequent pardon from prison, was the subject of many debates over guilt vs. innocence. As a crime reporter, Lindy was on my list of people I’d most wanted to profile. She’d suffered a “trial by media” and hated journalists – so the interview was professionally challenging. But I felt privileged to have been a small part of the media effort to put her story on the record.
- What do you enjoy about teaching at Macleay College?
The students! I’m so passionate about journalism, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to instil some of that love for the craft into the next generation of journalists. I also love Macleay’s ethos, which looks to the future and encourages students to think and reach beyond what the industry is doing now. The newsroom, Hatch, allows students not only to put into practice what they’re learning at Macleay, but to push the boundaries and produce impressive work across a range of mediums. Plus, I love the Wednesday morning guest lectures. I don’t know any other journalism school in Australia that would be able to boast the calibre of journalists that Monica [Attard] secures for us through her industry contacts.
- What would you be doing if you weren’t a journalism superstar?
If I wasn’t a journalist I think I’d still be in the media industry doing something creative. It is such an exciting industry to work in and it’s constantly evolving. I had somewhat unrealistic aspirations to be an actor or an artist when I was growing up, but I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else.
- What is something quirky, most people don’t know about you?
I love camping. The more basic the better. I’d prefer a holiday up the coast with my family in a tent to a fancy overseas resort any day. Give me sunshine, beach and beer and I’m in my happy place.
- What personally motivates you?
Your health is your wealth. My guiding principle. I never take my health for granted – Tom Livingstone