She’s spent more than three decades in front of a camera, talked everything from divorce with Dustin Hoffman to diplomatic stand-offs with Julian Assange. And now, Liz Hayes offers us her pearls of wisdom from her stellar career in journalism.
INVEST IN YOUR IMAGINATION & INGENUITY
I grew up in the country on an island dairy farm on the NSW North Coast. It was remote, so when we weren’t working around the farm, my four brothers and I learned how to make our own fun and along the way we developed initiative, imagination and a love of adventure.
At 17 I had to choose between a safe, well-paid public service job, and a journalism cadetship at the Manning River Times. My dad wanted me to take the government job. My mum… the cadetship. My mother always told me I could do anything and at the time, her attitude was rare. She was a woman out of her time, but one who proved the old adage – ‘mother always knows best’.
IT’S EASIER FOR WOMEN IN THE MEDIA TODAY
I’ve been reporting in one guise or another for 41 years. Over that time I’ve seen countless changes and opportunities open up for women. Now you can be married, you can have children, you can even read the news while you’re pregnant! Who knew! We haven’t cracked the upper levels of management and control yet, but I’d like to think it’s inevitable.
One of my fellow cadets, Toni Bell, is now Editor of the Manning River Times. To me, her choice of career path is equally as powerful as mine, and the fact a woman can now be an editor, given that at the time we started the only other woman journalist was restricted to the social pages, demonstrates we are moving slowly but inevitably, in the right direction.
UNFORTUNATELY GENDER IS STILL A TALKING POINT WHEN IT SHOULDN’T BE
Women are still judged by how they look and what they wear. I was shocked and disappointed when Germaine Greer saw fit to comment on [former Australian prime minister] Julia Gillard’s dress sense and her “big arse”. We should be beyond comments like that.
THE CULT OF CELEBRITY IS NOT TAKING US ANY PLACE WORTH GOING
I despair of the vacuous, narcissistic cult of ‘celebrity’ and I don’t buy into it at all. I am a journalist. That’s all. I love what I do. I still enjoy meeting new people, hearing their stories and trying to get beyond the masks. Staying real, staying connected to family and the people that matter to me – that’s important.
Older celebrities like George Clooney are smarter than the younger ones. They understand the difference between their public and private personas. They know what is needed and they know how to deliver it.
People like the Kardashians would never have made the news but celebrity and reality TV is telling us anyone can be a star. The world is being framed through narcissism, so much so, that often when I ask a young person what they want to be, they respond with ‘famous’. That’s sad.
Hearing and listening are not the same thing. Genuine listening is a skill worth cultivating. Try letting the person you’re speaking with finish their sentence, pause, reflect and then reply.
KNOW HOW TO FIND AND TELL A STORY
Learning the ropes at a country newspaper where we reported on anything and everything was perfect grounding for my move to television a few years later. No matter what kind of media you’re in, or business for that matter, knowing how to find and tell a story is still the most important thing. I’m glad I’m not starting today because as a young person I would not have the level of confidence and self-belief that’s required. I developed it with time and experience.
Read the full story in Issue 25 of The Collective, on stands now