Calla unafraid of challenging storytelling

For Calla Wahlquist, after giving up on becoming a vet it was working as a journalist for The Guardian that took on the mantle of dream career.

Now she’s achieved that goal Calla is striving to chase stories that challenge herself as a journalist, along with her readers.

Here is her profile…

Calla Wahlquist.

Name: Calla Wahlquist

Course: Bachelor of Arts (Journalism)

Campus: Caulfield

Year graduated: 2009

Current position: Reporter, Guardian Australia

What was it like breaking into the industry? Was it more ‘who you know’ than ‘what you know’?

It was ‘how many applications can you send in one week’. I set up a job alert at the start of my final year and applied for every single job at every single regional paper, no matter where it was. I wrote a pro forma application letter, tailored the details to suit each job, then sent them off (in the post, which seems rather quaint now). I signed the contract to start work at The Bunbury Mail, a Fairfax community paper in Western Australia, about a month before final exams. I hadn’t even done work experience, so I knew nothing and no one, but I pitched a list of stories in the interview and they seemed to like me.

What is a ‘day in the life’ of your current role?

We have a daily news conference at 9am to discuss what we should focus on that day. We all do a mix of daily news and working on larger projects, which usually tick away in the background. I have been lucky to do a fair bit of travel to cover stories like the deaths in custody of Ms Dhu and Jayden Bennell, the Uluru convention, and the anniversary of the Port Arthur massacre.

What was a key lesson you learnt at Monash that translated into your workplace?

Everyone is interesting if you ask the right questions.

If you could go back and do your degree again, is there anything you’d change? Subject choice? Time management? Internships?

I would take a wider variety of subjects. Studying things that were completely unrelated to journalism – reading all of Henry Reynolds’s books in a fantastic Indigenous history class taught by Professor Bain Attwood; reading a bunch of high court cases for constitutional law; and learning about kinship structures from Associate Professor John Bradley – shaped my understanding of the world and my place in it.

What skill (or skills) would you recommend aspiring journos acquire before getting into the industry?

Shorthand. Don’t believe people who tell you it’s a dying art. Have you ever tried to transcribe a 20 minute interview? It takes forever. Record it as a back up, but if you want to file quickly you need shorthand.

When you were a child, what was your dream job?

I wanted to be a veterinarian, but put journalism down as my first preference for university courses when I realised I wouldn’t get the marks. Still not quite sure why I did that but it has worked out well.

What is your dream job now?

My dream job was to work for The Guardian. Now it’s about the kind of coverage I want to provide for The Guardian, the mix of stories and formats that would both challenge me and serve our readers.

Who do you look up to most in the industry?

It is a terribly obsequious thing to say, but my Guardian Australia colleagues are some of the best and brightest people I’ve ever met. It’s an extraordinary privilege to work with them each day. Journalists like Amy McQuire, Bridget Brennan, Dan Box, Allan Clarke and
Miki Perkins are also on my must read list. If they share one of my stories I know I must be doing something right!

Do you follow any sports teams?

Theoretically, I follow the Sydney Swans. In practice, however, I am spectacularly disinterested. My knowledge of sports is constrained to spending hours loitering outside court (and for one particularly dull week, outside prison) waiting for various former AFL stars.

What’s your coffee order?

Soy flat white.