Cherie Donnellan is a journalist at the Geelong Independent newspaper. They cover three titles; the Geelong Independent, Bellarine Independent and the Surf Coast Independent. Cherie covers Geelong and Surf Coast news and entertainment.
Cherie shares her experience at Dolly and gives her advice to journalism students (and magazine obsessed girls like me).
Cherie Donnellan, 22, Bachelor of Arts (Journalism) Deakin University, graduated October 2011.
To be the editor of a women’s magazine (Cosmo or Cleo would be a preference).
Previous interning experiences, where & for how long?
Geelong Advertiser for one week during my first year of uni. I got a front page byline and was pretty stoked. Melbourne Weekly (Fairfax Community Network) I worked across eight of the Weekly titles for two weeks during my final year. I had quite a few pieces published. I loved working in the lifestyle department and I was inspired by all of the writers there. Lastly, I did work experience at Dolly magazine for one week in February 2012. So much fun!
Why did you choose to do work experience at Dolly Magazine?
I chose Dolly because I devotedly read every issue from the ages of 13-16. I identified with the writers so much. My favourite writers were Jessica Parry and Caelia Corse. Dolly was my bible and the writers helped shape my decision to become a writer.
How did you apply for Dolly? Did you know somebody, were you referred?
I emailed Edwina Carr, who was the editorial coordinator at the time, in November last year and she organised a place for me. During that time Danielle Pinkus landed the role of editorial Coordinator and I was worried for a while when I hadn’t heard from someone. Luckily Dani was on top of it and emailed me to confirm my placement. I was so excited when she said I still had the placement.
What was your first day like at Dolly?
I loved every second of it. Walking into the office I had goosebumps. The first thing you see when you walk in are giant letters of DOLLY in hot pink glitter. Even though I’d never been to the offices before, I felt like I was home. All the girls were very friendly, very smiley and very perky. The greatest moment was meeting the fashion editor Lotta Backlund who complimented me on my blazer. She said it was “so on trend.” I could have died right then and been the happiest person in the world. Being surrounded by clothes, beauty products and books didn’t suck either.
What did you do on a daily basis?
My first task every day was to check news websites and gossip websites for the latest updates on teen-related issues. Other than that, every day was different. My duties varied from researching things for stories, assisting the fashion team on photoshoots or sorting all the signed off pages for the latest issue.
Did you get to do something at Dolly that you did not expect to do?
I think sometimes people make assumptions about what internships are. People either assume that the only thing you do is get coffee, or else they expect that they will run the place by the end of the week (honestly I have met interns who believe they are the editor!). Neither is the correct assumption. To me, internships are a test of humility. You have to be willing to do coffee runs without griping about it. On the other hand, you have to be prepared to come up with a pitch for an article that will be the cover story. If you can perfect that balance, you will be noticed and you are more likely to land a paying job with that company.
Tell me about your blog Label Me Happy
I originally started my blog in 2008 as Label Me Happy but I found it hard to maintain. So I gave it up. Less than I year later I relaunched it with a fresh perspective.
My original concept was to write posts about stereotypes and how they can either positively or negatively impact a person. The hook was that the label (stereotype) I wanted to be given was ‘happy’. I struggled to maintain a specific theme per post and felt I had boxed myself in as a writer.
So now Label Me Happy is my outlet to address any topic from relationships to political debates. While I write for the twenty-something audience, I have found that people of all ages still ask the same questions and face the same challenges.
Has twitter helped you connect with fellow students and prospective employers?
I adore Twitter. I think it’s a fantastic platform to connect with people all over the world. It’s amazing to find someone from America or the UK who thinks the same way you do, or even better when they challenge the way you think and get you to consider a perspective you wouldn’t have seen before.
Twitter has definitely helped my blog readership. My blog has quite a big UK and USA audience. I don’t think I could have achieved that without twitter.
I have had many people who are just starting a degree in journalism ask me what I recommend they do. My first two suggestions are internships and twitter.
Cherie gives her advice
You can follow Cherie on Twitter and read her blog Label Me Happy.
Get your name out there by doing as many internships as you can. I only did three internships before I got a job in journalism but I think I should have done more.
Internships are the best way to make connections in the journalism industry and to show your potential as a journalist. Being in a newsroom or magazine office shows you how hard journalists work to track down stories or create the perfect photoshoot for a magazine fashion spread.
You have to constantly research and be the one who knows the inside scoop before anyone else.
If you do land an internship, be proactive. Do EVERYTHING that staff ask of you and then be ready to offer suggestions for a story if you’re called upon. Even if someone has the idea but you have way to create a dynamic story angle, speak up. Editors will be impressed with your initiative. Trust me, they do notice.
Also, ask as many questions as you need to and ask for feedback on any writing you do. Showing that you are willing to learn everything there is to know about the company you’re interning for will prove that you want to work in the industry.
The key in journalism is passion. Jobs are scarce; being proactive and being willing to work hard for a paying job is what will make you stand out.
Eliza Sum is a ‘Singaporean girly girl who cusses like a sailor when the Cats lose.’ She is also a journalist for the Geelong Advertiser coastal bureau.
“Interning would give me invaluable experience and put my name out there so it was a no-brainer,” says Eliza.
Eliza is the fourth person from her graduating class to be employed by the Geelong Advertiser and has been working as a full time journalist for a year.
Eliza completed her first internship with the Geelong Advertiser in 2008. She says she enjoyed her first intern experience but was shy and unsure of what she wanted to do. However, Eliza knew that gaining hands on experience in the media industry would help her find the right career path.
In 2009, Eliza interned with the Sunday Herald Sun where she broke a news story in her first week. She then flew to Sydney where she interned with the Walkley Foundation for three weeks.
At the Walkley Foundation, Eliza wrote press releases, updated media contact lists and sub-edited pages from the Walkley magazine. Eliza was also given a byline in the magazine something she is proud of.
Eliza then returned to the Sunday Herald Sun before starting what turned out to be a six- week internship with the Geelong Advertiser.
Usually the Geelong Advertiser take on interns for two weeks, but Eliza kept extending her time as she enjoyed the atmosphere and working environment.
On her first day of her six-week internship at the Geelong Advertiser, Eliza was sent out to do vox pops at Avalon Airport before receiving a phone call saying Carl Williams had been murdered.
“The photographer and I dropped everything and dashed off to Barwon Prison and it was just crazy town. Media everywhere, TV cameras, helicopters, the works,” says Eliza.
“The web editor was also on the phone to me, telling me to tweet everything I saw and heard so they could embed my posts on the website. I was there for about an hour before another journo came and took over.”
After her extended internship with the Geelong Advertiser, Eliza spent two weeks in the K-Rock and Bay FM newsrooms. Eliza knew at this stage of her studies and experiences that she loved working in media organisation’s newsrooms.
Eliza received a phone call a few weeks later from the Geelong Advertiser offering her a casual position, which she accepted and started immediately. She started off helping in the editorial department where she wrote property and advertorials.
“Not the most sexy stuff [advertorials], but I knew I’d be working on the news desk if I put in the hard yards and hassled my editor to move me across,” says Eliza.
After four months, Eliza’s wish came true. She was offered a full-time graduate position on the newsdesk before she was promoted to cadet. In February this year, Eliza was sent to the Geelong Advertiser coastal bureau in Torquay.
Eliza credits her intern experiences with the Geelong Advertiser and her various experiences with other media organizations that lead to her dream job that she has today.
“The Geelong Advertiser is a fantastic stepping stone in the industry. It’s a great regional paper with an amazing team of staff behind it. I’m very, very lucky to have been given this chance to work with News Ltd,” says Eliza.
While at the Geelong Advertiser, Eliza has been given extensive training such as mentoring sessions with senior journalists, shorthand classes and participates in an online training program. She also does vox pops, writes picture stories and scours news and social media websites for the next big breaking story.
Eliza says that one internship is never enough and says that gaining as much experience will help you stand out to employers. She recommends putting yourself out there using social media tools such as Twitter to converse with editors and journalists.
“Just get over your fears and do it. Interning is so, so important. Don’t underestimate it. There isn’t a media organization out there that will employ you if you don’t have any prior experience,” says Eliza.
“When it comes to the media, I believe that interning is more important than anything you could learn at university – it’s just a hands-on experience and you get to watch and learn from journos who are actually at work.”