For Tara Whitsed, moving into a full-time journalism role after graduating from Monash was a ‘baptism of fire’.
With invaluable experience at multiple rural publications under her belt, Tara is hoping to one day carve out an online career and be her own boss.
Here is her profile…
Name: Tara Whitsed
Course: Bachelor of Arts
Dept: School of Media, Film and Journalism
Year graduated: 2014
Current position: Journalist, Shepparton News
What was it like breaking into the industry? Was it more ‘who you know’ than ‘what you know’?
I fortunately had experience in the industry prior to studying at university and this proved to be a huge leg-up after becoming qualified. It became apparent that the connections I hadn’t even realised I had been making were paramount to me getting my position.
It was also a matter of putting myself out there and not being fearful of the unknown.
In the end, I moved to a small rural town where I knew absolutely no one, to take up the only full-time journalists role at a publication in Euroa.
Despite the baptism of fire that was this job, I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the industry as a qualified journalist.
I learnt more than I ever would have at a metropolitan publication.
What is a ‘day in the life’ of your current role?
Currently I work at a daily regional publication as a reporter as well as compiling a 16-page weekly newspaper published by the company in Tatura.
This keeps me incredibly busy, which I love. At the Shepparton News office we have a small team of journalists and photographers. We write articles on a wide range of topics within the community and surrounding areas.
I also travel to Tatura for around two days each week to spend time at the Community House putting their paper together.
Each day is incredibly busy and we often don’t know what will be on the cards at the start of the day which can be exciting.
We often attend accidents and things of a similar nature which we cannot predict. Perhaps 50 per cent of my daily tasks would be planned and the other tasks we take as they come.
I definitely need to be a ‘triple-threat’ as we often have to take our own photos and upload content to the newly-expanded website as well as the traditional interviewing and article writing roles.
What was a key lesson you learnt at Monash that translated into your workplace?
For myself, the lessons learnt behind the scenes were perhaps the most valuable ones. At Monash I gained a lot of interpersonal skills.
I learnt to have confidence in my writing and interviewing skills which stood me in incredibly good stead leading into my career.
The ability to think critically has also been extremely beneficial in my current role which was something Monash encouraged us to do from the start.
My eyes were also opened to the wide scope of online media and its role in the industry today which has been crucial given The News’ recent expansion of its online publication.
If you could go back and do your degree again, is there anything you’d change? Subject choice? Time management? Internships?
The biggest regret I have is not completing any internships whilst studying. Although it was a concious decision based on my availability to work the hours on top of my degree and part time job, I often think that it was also due to fear.
Having worked alongside several interns at The News I can see the benefit that workplace experience is having on their pathways.
I do think getting into the industry would have been a more seamless process had I taken on several internships.
What skill (or skills) would you recommend aspiring journos acquire before getting into the industry?
It is essential to develop writing, interviewing, photography and online skills before trying to get into the industry.
Fortunately at Monash, we learnt a lot of these skills throughout our degree.
It is these skills that will give you a leg-up on other applicants.
I would also suggest becoming familiar with your local council and its website.
For me, the topic that has been most important and the one I knew the least about, has been council reporting.
When you were a child, what was your dream job?
As a child I would have loved to have been a teacher, but I had always dreamed of doing something with words.
I started to want to become a journalist when I was about 13-14 years old.
What is your dream job now?
There’s no one job I could put on a pedestal and think that is where I would love to be.
For me, I want to be in a job that I enjoy, that doesn’t feel like work.
Ideally, I’d love to create my own career online – whether it’s blogging or something else – and work for myself.
Who do you look up to most in the industry?
There are several strong female role models I have admired over time.
I have always looked up to Ita Buttrose simply due to her trail blazing feminist ways when starting Cleomagazine all those years ago.
Similarly on a feminist bent, I enjoy the work of Clementine Ford.
A little closer to home, there are some fantastic role models within my work place who I look up to for a variety of reasons.
Have you kept in touch with any of your fellow alumni?
Yes. The ‘Party Four’ is alive and well.
Do you follow any sports teams?
Much to the disgust of their loyal die-hard supporters, I’ve recently jumped back on the Melbourne Demon train after years of not caring.
What’s your coffee order?
Skinny flat white, 1 sug – I’m not sweet enough.
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