After last week’s #FlashbackFridays subject Fiona West shared some great industry insights, we now bring you Melbourne’s Newsroom editor and mobile journalism devotee – Corinne Podger. (Above: Corinne from her early days as a BBC Science reporter, 2001)
What job did you first start out with in the industry?
My first newspaper job was a cadetship with Cumberland Newspapers in 1992. I finished my undergrad degree in politics at Macquarie University midway through 1990, and contacted Cumberland about graduate cadetships – only to learn that they had just finished interviewing candidates for the next 18 months, the week before! It was absolutely gutting – but I was determined to get one in the next round. While I was waiting, I worked at a magazine publisher and spent a night each fortnight doing an overnight shift at 2SER to teach myself radio skills. I also kept in semi-regular contact with the editor at Cumberland who managed cadetships so he wouldn’t forget me. It all paid off in the end. Over 1200 people applied for the cadetships and I was one of eight people to get one.
What did you love about those early days?
This was the analogue era – before the internet. So everything came down to having a good contact book full of direct phone numbers, and actually getting out and meeting people. If there was an event on where I thought I might get a story for 2SER, I was there. It cured me of a natural shyness and having a story to write meant I could ask questions freely of anyone I met. I was quite surprised too when I fell in love with radio. Since I was a kid, I’d fancied myself going into writing, but radio was thrilling – it was immediate, lively, real-world. If you could get someone on the phone, you could get them on air – and you’d be finished with the story when the show ended, while the newspaper folks were still scribbling away.
What didn’t you love about them?
I didn’t hate anything about it at the time. Looking back with the benefit of digital hindsight, I think today’s journalists are so blessed. You can contact anyone, anywhere in the world (pretty much), and do so instantly. There’s no reason why a Macleay student can’t include an international talent in a story, or apply for jobs abroad, or freelance for an international outlet. When I was starting out, doing any of that would have involved a four to six-week turnaround on sending a letter and waiting for a reply. Also – making radio meant cutting physical tape – a slow and laborious process. Digital editing was a life-changing innovation for people like me. This is why I’m so mad keen about digital innovation now. Every new piece of tech, every new app, every new platform, is a whole new landscape for production and distribution and I’m keen to get stuck in straight away to understand how it works and what its potential is, because so much of my early career involved working with ‘slow’ tech. Obviously the damage that making content available for free online – and the problems that big platforms like Facebook and Google are creating for the journalism business model, are a concern. But from a creative standpoint the sky truly is the limit and I just wish I’d had access to the Web when I was 18.
(Above: Multimedia lecturer @Corinne_Podger with Tatiana Radchenko from Ukraine broadcaster, 1+1.)
What is a career highlight you are proud of?
When I was still a student at Macquarie University writing for the student newspaper, I wanted to do a high-profile celebrity interview to give my portfolio some ‘welly’. I managed to get the phone number of INXS’s publicist, and hassled him gently for about a month to give me an interview with the band. Eventually he caved in and that was an amazing highlight. (I still have the original paper copy buried in a box somewhere.) Fast forward to 2001 and I was Religion Correspondent at the BBC World Service when the planes hit the Twin Towers – which meant lots of live Q&As on Islamic extremism. Forward again to 2011 when I was working for ABC Radio National and scored an interview with Sir Terry Pratchett – a writer I’d admired since the late 1990s. That wasn’t a huge story; he was no stranger to the press, but it was pretty special for me. I didn’t include any questions about Alzheimer’s (the disease he died of, in the end), because it was front and centre of pretty much every interview he did from 2007 onwards. He had a new book out and more in the pipeline, so we focused on that. At the end when we wrapped up the recording, he thanked me for letting him forget about dementia for half an hour. That was a good moment.
What do you enjoy about teaching at Macleay?
I’ve been teaching working journalists since 2013. This is my first year teaching in tertiary. I’m loving every moment of working with people right at the start of their careers, and helping make the path into the industry a bit smoother than it was for me. Teaching at Macleay is wonderfully energising; I’m always buzzing from the enthusiasm and dedication of my students. It’s fantastic.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a journalism superstar?
Journalism is a calling, I think. I can’t imagine not working in this industry. It’s all I’ve wanted to do since I was 19, and a combination of luck and bonkers hard work has made that possible. I’m definitely not finished yet!
What is something quirky, most people don’t know about you?
I make my own jam and marmalade.
Tell us a quote that personally motivates you each day?
“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” – Thomas Jefferson
Originally featured on Hatch, Macleay College's student run news site.