Hatch continues its six-part series of Macleay alumni success stories with ABC news reporter Lily Mayers.
Lily Mayers is an ABC reporter who files stories across radio, online and television. She is also a news presenter for the national youth broadcaster, triple j.
Mayers graduated from Macleay College in 2016 with a Bachelor of Journalism. While studying at Macleay, she was selected for an internship at ABC News 24 which led to a job at ABC NewsRadio. She has worked at the ABC ever since.
Where did your passion for journalism come from?
I used to watch a lot of Superman when I was little so I just wanted to be him, which is not a joke. I think I was one of those weird people that always knew what they wanted to do. When I was in Year Four, we found old journals that said “I’m worried that I won’t be able to be a journalist because my writing’s so messy”, stuff like that from when I was too young to understand what the job was.
I really enjoyed writing. My dad is an actor and he was always forcing us to learn poems and skits, and my mum was a makeup artist so I grew up in a media environment.
You were selected to do an internship at ABC News 24, could you tell us about that?
It was the end of my first year. It was a three-week placement at ABC News 24 but after the second week I had a day off and the Sydney siege happened. I think I had just done six days straight of an internship of just watching people do things, which was great. Then I realised I was at home, and I should be there [at the ABC] if I wanted to see what happened in a breaking news situation. I got on a train just before they closed the Harbour Bridge and came into work and basically did nothing. They really appreciated it even though I was just an extra hand to do something that day.
The next day they said I should story produce from the Lindt cafe. It was great timing to do an internship. I was very much going into the deep end. The adrenaline gets pumping in you; you just do what you’re told. I was told to organise interviews and talk to people at the memorial. They really appreciated what I did and kept me on as a producer at News 24. You’ve got to take advantage of timing sometimes and the opportunities that fall in your lap. If I hadn’t gone into work that day, I would’ve sat at home and just been a pest the second week.
Do you find it hard at all to be impartial while reporting for the ABC?
Yeah, definitely. It’s easy to be impartial but that doesn’t mean you don’t struggle sometimes. It’s very easy because you want to understand why people have different opinions and beliefs to you.
If you interview someone who has the exact same opinion, that’s great but you won’t get a story through if you don’t have the other side.
There’s no point struggling with it; you just need to find someone and interview them and really try to understand and get them to eloquently express why their opinion is different. Then you have a story.
How important is it to learn how to be a cross-platform journalist?
You’ve got to know. You can’t not (know) because people won’t hire you if you don’t. Especially as a young reporter coming out of university – they’ll expect you to know the latest ways of doing things and expect you to be able to shoot and write an article on your phone … because the older journos might have excuses for not being able to do it, but you’ve got no excuse if you’re under 30 years old.
Any pieces of advice you could give to us before we enter the workforce?
I think the mistake a lot of young people make when they come into a newsroom as interns or overnight reporters is that they jump the gun. I think it’s important to really refine your writing as a foundation. When you enter a workplace, stay quiet and work really hard behind the scenes, don’t throw your opinion around.
No one likes someone junior giving their opinion because no one asks and no one values that. It (gets) a really bad reaction. Quietly work on your skills and you’ll find that you get to a point where if you’ve proven yourself, people will ask for your opinion.