Shannen Findlay is a junior content producer at Over Sixty, an online publication with a primary readership of people aged sixty and older. Part of Shannen’s role is to gather news and report topical stories for the website’s targeted audience while overseeing their social media accounts to maintain a high level of interaction, positive conduct amongst readers and interpret data to understand what stories readers find most interesting. While studying her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism at Macleay College, she won an award for ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ and had the opportunity to interview Hugh Riminton. @findlayshan
What aspect of journalism motivates you the most?
When I was still a student, while picking the brain of Hugh Riminton — one of Australia’s most riveting and exceptional journalists of our time — he told our class: “Journalism is unrivalled in its ability to expose you to the full range of human experience within your own city, within your own community and in time across the world”. I find along with this sentiment, there is a deep sense of honour in being able to tell a story to an audience that they might not have known about if I hadn’t told it. With the number of talented journalists walking into the industry every day, I’m motivated by knowing I am a storyteller and that what I say and write means something to someone (even if that someone is sometimes just my mum).
Walk us through your process on how you sort through your press releases, from what’s usable and what’s not.
When sorting through press releases, my team and I find what is most usable by breaking down the gist of the content presented by asking questions like: Are there multiple angles suggested? Can our audience simply digest the content without feeling like they are being used to sell something to? What is the purpose of sharing certain content with our audience?
For a press release to stand out to you, what should it contain?
To avoid falling into the dreaded junk folder, I look for catchy, snappy headlines that I don’t really have to think about before opening a release. In 24 hours a day, a few seconds of scanning could mean a PR release could end up being considered or canned.
What would your advice be to your younger self who just decided to become a journalist?
I would say, read the news sites you want to one day represent AND the ones you don’t, search for the meaning behind your work and become a serial critic of your own pieces. It gets you into the healthy habit of self-editing – a key skill in today’s climate.
So far, what has been your favourite or most interesting story you’ve written?
Last year, I wrote and produced a podcast on the fascinating study of optogenetics. It is a process where neuroscientists are using light to control living brain cells. While it is still in its infancy, Optogenetics has the possibility of blowing open a whole new door of understanding the human brain. My podcast delved into the possibility of the study giving us incredible new information within the next 10 to 15 years – the answer is yes!