Nicola not immune from pull of journalism

Despite planning to be a research scientist, Nicola McCaskill has instead leapt into a career in journalism as an Associate Producer for Insight on SBS.

Nicola graduated from Monash with Bachelor degrees in Arts and Science, and sees a lot of crossover between her two disciplines.

Here is her profile…

Nicola McCaskill.

Name: Nicola McCaskill

Course: Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science

Faculty/Division: Arts; Science

Dept: School of Media, Film and Journalism; Department of Immunology 

Campus: Clayton and Caulfield

Year graduated: 2015

Current position: Associate Producer at Insight on SBS TV

How did you manage to land your current job?

I was extraordinarily lucky. Last year I was a finalist for the Jacoby-Walkley scholarship, which meant I had an interview with a panel of big industry names. I didn’t win the scholarship, but one of the interviewees was Jenny Brockie, the host of Insight, who offered me an internship afterwards. I went to Sydney for a month to intern, and at the end I was offered a job!

How have your studies at Monash helped you in the industry?

My degree took 5 years, so by the time I got to the end so much had changed already. I’d see these young whippersnappers coming through that didn’t know how to put a DV tape in a video camera, but were doing whole assignments on their iPhones. That was good, because I got used to constantly learning how to use new programs and equipment and trying not to reveal my actual age (all useful industry skills).

If you weren’t working in the journalism industry, what else would you be doing?

I think I’d be a research scientist, which was my original plan. I love finding answers to questions and getting to the truth behind a complicated issue. I feel like science and journalism are really the same thing, just in a different context.

Were you a planner or a crammer when it came to studying?

I was and still am a meticulously well-planned crammer. I can only work when I feel the pressure of a looming deadline physically weighing on me. But I have the coffee and highlighters ready when the time comes.

Did you complete internships while at Monash? If so, what was one of the key things you learnt from them?

I did, I interned on the Health/Medicine desk at The Conversation, which was amazing. The main thing I learnt was time management. I was doing jobs for lots of different people, so I got really good at making lists. The other key thing I learnt was that I definitely wanted to be a journalist. I remember thinking in the first week: “this is what your life could be like, all the time”. It was a turning point for me, because I was still convinced I was going to do a PhD in immunology and then live in a lab at that point. I also worked on some Monash outlets – Lot’s Wife, Radio Monash and Mojo. Student media is a great way to get more experience and try different things. But I think if it doesn’t end with you trying to pull all your hair out, you’re probably not doing it right.

What’s something that surprised you about the journalism industry?

There are a lot of young people. I sort of assumed I’d be the young one in every newsroom. It actually turns out I’m practically over the hill.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring journalist?

However much energy you’re putting into your stories, you probably need to put as least as much into finding people to pick up what you’re putting down (ideally, people who might have a job for you). Put yourself in a position where the right people can see you and your work. Whether that’s through internships, cadetships, competitions, networking, freelancing or whatever. Also, if you can be prepared to move, you’ll have a lot more options. That’s not to say it’s not absolutely terrifying, but it’s also not nearly as scary as 12+ months of futile job hunting and being paid in experience for the rest of your life.

Who is someone that you admire in the industry?

A lot of people! I started out super focused on science journalism, but when I started broadening things out, I was really inspired by Monique Schafter’s stories about fascinating, unusual people. I also have a lot of admiration for Adele Ferguson – particularly how she took her speciality in business reporting, and applied it to really powerful investigations with a much broader impact.

What do you hope to achieve in the next 10 years?

I definitely want to actually win a Walkley. But also, I’d like to continue my career in television journalism. My goal is to get into documentary making, and find ways to bring science stories to new audiences.

Dream holiday destination?

I’ve been dreaming of going to Germany for at least a million years.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

That’s probably the only thing I never feel guilty about.