She’s got one of the most exciting jobs a young news reporter can have, but Cassandra Bain still insists she never learnt more than when she worked in regional news.
The experienced cross-platform journalist who has worked for media organisations including News Corp and Channel 9, graduated from Macleay College six years ago and is now a presenter at SBS.
Cass came back to Macleay to pass on her insights and experience working in regional newsrooms and the wider media.
She spent over three years working in regional newsrooms as a producer and reporter and said it was the best way to get your foot in the door for a career on TV.
A cadetship at News Local, however, strengthened her foundation, learning her craft in terms of writing and hitting deadlines which equipped her for what would come next; a move across to TV with Prime 7 in Tamworth.
“Take what ever opportunity you get,” she said. “It might not be your dream job straight out of Macleay College, but you will get there if you are determined.”
Cassie spent one year in Tamworth covering stories from country music festivals to politics (especially the then deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce), before continuing her career with Channel 9 in Cairns and then Perth.
“Working in a regional newsroom requires a lot of skills as there are fewer resources and producers, she said. Journalists are in charge of their own stories, having to pitch every morning,” she said.
The transition from regional newsrooms to metro newsrooms like Sydney required from Cassandra a change of attitude, around having a national mindset rather than state.
“Fake it till you make it, that really works in this industry.”
“In the rural areas, the focus for stories lies on what is happening locally, however, with SBS the stories have to appeal to any state, considering it is a bulletin that every state sees,” she said. “Therefore, this rules out a lot of stories, which makes it harder to decide what types of stories would appeal to more people.”
Asked about how to prepare to cover a story Cassandra said: “Journalism 101: do as much research as you can before you get there, have a look on your phone, see if any other news outlets have already covered this story … and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
In order to do a great job at covering a story, whether the journalist is familiar with it or not, doing research beforehand is key, she emphasised.
“Building confidence is very important as a journalist,” she said. “Picking up the phone, talking to people you don’t know, is a big part of the daily routine.”
Cassandra admitted it can be frightening at first, but the more you do it, the easier it will become.
“And the more beneficial it is for you as a journalist and your stories as well,” she said.
“Reach out to someone for advice that you admire, ask them how they got to where you are. Ask them to give you feedback on your materials.”
Having a mentor can be very helpful for young journalists to build confidence, to improve their skills and to guide them through the early stages of their career.
“Sometimes you need that other person to tell you something, to wake you up, because you can’t always rely on your own thoughts,” she said.
Cassandra’s hard work and determination definitely paid off. Being a cross-platform journalist requires a skillset from editing to compiling radio packages, writing online articles and your own scripts.