Compassionate journalism and Kosciuszko the life for Frances

This interview was done as part of a series on Monash alumni, published through the School of Media, Film, and Journalism.  

For Frances Vinall journalism is, at its core, all about people. It comes as no surprise that she values compassion highly in her reporting ethos.

Frances has been able to meet many interesting people as a journalist for the Tumut and Adelong Times, working in the beautiful Snowy Mountains area.

Here is her profile…

Frances Vinall.

Name: Frances Vinall     

Course: Bachelor of Journalism

Faculty/Division: Arts

Dept: School of Media, Film and Journalism

Campus: Caulfield

Year graduated: 2015

Current position: Journalist at the Tumut and Adelong Times

What was it like breaking into the industry? Was it more ‘who you know’ than ‘what you know’?

Not really in my case, although I’m not sure that I have really broken into the industry! I got my job the old fashioned way, by sending in a resume and cover letter, doing an interview and then accepting the job. I didn’t actually know anyone in Tumut before I moved here to start work!

What is a ‘day in the life’ of your current role?

It can be pretty hectic sometimes. I write an average of four stories a day, along with sub-editing pages and updating the website. We’re a bi-weekly newspaper, which means we have two deadline days a week. Those are filled with adrenaline and are personally my favourite days! Working for a country newspaper I also cover a fairly wide geographical area, so my days can sometimes involve a lot of driving – fortunately I live in a really beautiful area, right outside Kosciuszko National Park, so I enjoy the fact that my job takes me to different spots in the region. I cover absolutely everything relevant to our readers – the benefit to working at a small paper is that you’re really thrown into the deep end and learn pretty fast how to cover all sorts of things. I spend all day talking to people involved in local government, farming issues, court and policing, healthcare, human interest, and literally everything else in this area. I’ve met so many interesting people and learned about so many interesting topics in my time here. 

What was a key lesson you learnt at Monash that translated into your workplace?

That getting a good story is more important than your dignity.

If you could go back and do your degree again, is there anything you’d change? Subject choice? Time management? Internships?

I probably would try and do more internships. I did a couple, but I probably could have done more. I also would do a double degree in Business/Journalism. One thing I loved about the Monash Journalism Degree was that you learned as much from the arts and theory units as you did about practical skills – maybe even more so. As a journalist, your job is to understand and interpret events for the benefit of your audience. You need to be able to write a sentence, but you need to have a range of frameworks to draw upon in order to communicate in the clearest, thoughtful, and most helpful manner. Studying units in sociology, psychology, democratic theory, ethics and so on have been an enormous help in understanding events of the day and translating them into news and feature stories. However, I’m still a bit lost sometimes when it comes to business and economics! Concepts covered in those subjects come up all the time in the life of a general journalist, and it would be incredibly useful to me now to have studied them.

What skill (or skills) would you recommend aspiring journos acquire before getting into the industry?

I think a lot of the skills that are helpful for journalism are the same as for any other field – having a healthy relationship with failure, being able to work hard, keeping your ego in check, staying excited and motivated about what you do even when the novelty wears off. Social skills are really important considering journalism is, at its core, about people, and social skills are something that are not really taught or talked about when they should be! Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman is a good place to start. Otherwise, it’s a cliché, but the best way to learn how to write is to read. Just devour everything you can.

When you were a child, what was your dream job?

Until about the age of nine, I wanted to be a ballerina. From then on, a writer.

What is your dream job now?

Still a writer! Or a journalist in any medium really.

Who do you look up to most in the industry?

One of my lecturers at Monash, Deb Anderson, is a huge role model for me. If I can build myself up to be as intelligent, compassionate, and hard working as her I’ll be happy! Aside from that, Caro Meldrum-Hanna at Four Corners is just amazing, I worship everything she does. Same goes for Katherine Murphy at The Guardian. Going back a while, war correspondent Martha Gellhorn is my absolute number one hero. Female journalists weren’t issued official credentials to cover World War II, so she snuck into Europe on a nursing ship and hitchhiked around the front, filing stories. She cut her teeth covering the Great Depression and the Spanish Civil War, and also covered Vietnam and the Israeli-Palestine conflict, along with travel stories and a whole host of other subjects. Her writing is so precise and alive, I would highly recommend looking her up. 

Have you kept in touch with any of your fellow alumni?

Of course, I met some of my best friends at Monash!

Do you follow any sports teams?

I half-heartedly barrack for the Rabbitohs (I’m from NSW, footy is NRL!) but if you asked me any follow-up questions I wouldn’t be able to answer them. 

What’s your coffee order?

A soy latte… Studying in Melbourne rubbed off on me.

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