Resident of Seddon, Former Journalist
When I was ten, I wrote a letter to the Editor of the Herald Sun and asked how I could be a journalist. I received a reply not long after, and remember standing at the mailbox while opening up the lovely letter. The key message was ‘Thank you for your letter Michelle. Our journalists have to do a cadetship.’
That was all I have ever wanted to do. Mum remembers when I was young, and we would drive past the head office in Southbank, and I would be pointing excitedly at it and saying “I’m going to work there one day”. Little did I know I would eventually became a journalist at the Herald Sun.
Not many people manage to do what they aspire to do. I spent most of my schooling working towards that goal.
I’m originally from Morwell, in country Victoria and moved to Queensland due to Mum’s work when I was five. However, after a few years my older brother and sister couldn’t find employment there, and moved back to Victoria for work. That’s where. our family was so we returned to VIC and settled in Rowville.
All the years of travelling back and forth into the CBD from the outer east for uni was a big reason why I desired to be near the CBD when my boyfriend and I bought a house. I just couldn’t do the distance anymore.
When I finished uni in 2008, I got a contract job with the Australian Open Tennis. I wasn’t prepared to push for a journalism job straight out of uni, which would have required moving to the country, as I wasn’t certain if journalism was the right job for me. In 2009, I floated around doing other PR work but was invited to go back to AO Tennis again for six months.
When my contract ended in Feb 2010, I had decided I wanted to be a journalist and do what it takes to get my foot in the door. Journalists generally have to spend a few years working in country papers before embarking on a career in a major paper. I saw a traineeship role advertised for News Ltd, and thought I had no chance as I didn’t have enough print experience.
Amazingly, I got called back for a second interview. However, I had already pre-planned a holiday to the USA and it couldn’t be cancelled. I asked if there was any way we could work around this and we agreed on a Skype interview.
I remember sitting in an internet café in New York, and my friend had to chase people away so it would be quiet. This was the time when people were beginning to realise how important the internet was for the changing media industry. In my application, I had included some scripts for video reports, pre-empting where I thought News Ltd were heading. I was thinking beyond just the standard print paper.
I got the job at News Ltd, without having to spend any time in the country, which was a shock. After my trainee year, I was given a full time role as a general reporter with the Herald Sun.
I covered everything from crime, breaking news like car accidents through to the Christmas shopping season. After about 18 months, I was sent to work as a state politics reporter. I had never asked for that round, but my boss said there was an opening there. I was initially nervous but I grabbed the curve ball with both hands and I can honestly say it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Three weeks after I arrived in Spring Street, Ted Baillieu resigned as Premier. It was an interesting start as the reporting leading up to his resignation was written by the Herald Sun’s state politics editor James Campbell, my boss at the time. I learnt a lot in a very short time, including how everything operated at Spring Street, and how newspapers can still have influence.
In the next three years, I covered state and federal budgets and spent many long sitting days at Parliament House. I wrote a lot on the controversial East West Link, the disputes at the time with the MFB and Ambulance union for wage increases and witnessed the Geoff Shaw period. I covered the 2014 State Election and was out on the road most days following Denis Napthine or Daniel Andrews to events.
A week after Daniel Andrews was elected Premier, I dropped a bombshell on my boss and told him I would like to work part-time and pursue a law degree.
By 2014 I felt I was ready for additional challenges and wanted something more intellectually stimulating. The nature of journalism and the media industry these days, I felt, prohibited a lot of the movement I wanted.
I also knew I needed a career that would present greater challenges over a longer period, and something I could aspire to achieve and set myself towards. It’s very hard to see where the media industry will be in 10 years. I also knew my journalism skills would carry very well into law.
It wasn’t an easy decision to turn my life upside down and go back to being a full-time student. It was a huge challenge juggling uni work and being a part-time journalist. I have always loved being a journalist, but you are never really ‘off’ in your down time. When I get a tip, my natural instinct is to chase it up. I was getting calls while I was in the middle of class and it was tough to be a good reporter and juggle a very demanding degree.
In the final two years of my course, I was the Night Chief-of-Staff at the Herald Sun, which meant I wasn’t writing stories anymore but I learnt a lot about how the paper comes together every night for printing. I would arrive at 4.30pm, while the paper is being put together. I would be help with sub-editing and checking stories, chasing up reporters to file their stories and checking we hadn’t missed any news from the day. After the paper went to print I would then be on the lookout for breaking news throughout the night and a few times I was there until the early hours of the next day as we updated the paper with breaking news. That was my evening job three nights a week while I went to my law classes and studied during the day.
I left the Herald Sun in December 2017, after accepting a job offer from a commercial law firm in August 2017. I was very happy to accept the offer, as it meant my future was settled and all of the hard work had led to a fantastic opportunity and exactly what I had hoped to achieve.
I am in the middle of a two-month break, before starting my graduate lawyer role in March 2018. I have been busy helping my boyfriend, Shaun renovate our home in Seddon. We have lived here since December 2014, and have been renovating since the day we moved in. There have been months where progress has been slow as it was in the middle of winter and we couldn’t do much. It is a large renovation so every room in our house is being re-built. It’s a lot of work but also very rewarding. We will be getting a new kitchen soon and I am very excited to get back to cooking and baking again.
We are lucky to have purchased our home when we did. We spent six months going to open houses and auctions every Saturday and were getting priced out of Footscray. By the time we found our house, I was over it and ready to stop looking for a while. We previously lived in Footscray and after selling there we stayed with family in Mornington and were spending every weekend driving to the Inner West to look for a house.
When we saw our current home, it was an ugly duckling on the street and we saw its potential. For once, we decided not to tell anyone we were attending the auction. I was working on the State Election Campaign that day, and managed to get back across town from a press conference to watch Shaun bidding. We had honed our tactics after watching a lot of auctions, and finally succeeded in outbidding everyone else.
I love the proximity of Seddon to the city, and love the community. The Inner West is evolving and is beginning to own her own identity and it’s nice to be part of that. Shaun and I really like the old houses and seeing the history while walking down the streets.
We love the little café strip in Seddon and people are recognising us after three years. I will get my fruit and vegetables from Pompello, and the staff at Seddon Deadly Sins Cafe know me. It’s really nice.
When I’m not working, studying or renovating I do a lot of running through the streets of Seddon with our dog Bonnie. As she breathes so loudly, people normally hear us before seeing us! We also love the green space around us, and head to the river or to Yarraville Gardens a lot. It can be a bit of a concrete jungle sometimes.