Interview with Charis Chang, Senior Journalist with news.com.au
Charis Chang has been a journalist for more than 15 years. She made the move to news.com.au five years ago after working in community newspapers in Melbourne and Sydney, including a two-year stint with the Manly Daily. Her Twitter handle is @CharisChang2.
When did you first decide to be a journalist and why?
When I was in high school I considered being a journalist but was told I couldn’t make a living out of it, so I did a legal and justice studies degree instead and worked in a law firm for two years. I did a working holiday in London for two years and when I came back I applied for a cadetship at a local newspaper and was thrilled when I got the job. Over the years I realised that it’s been my curiosity and love of finding answers that have driven my career. I still can’t believe that it’s my job to talk to interesting people and witness historic events.
You’re travelling around with the PM covering the federal election campaign right now – what’s the most memorable moment of the campaign so far?
I spent the first week of the campaign with the Prime Minister’s press pack and since it was my first time, everything has been fascinating. Flying out of RAAF airbases, visiting carrot fields and witnessing the chaos of a streetwalk with a pack of cameramen all trying to cram into a Korean bakery, have all been surreal moments. I would have to say that asking my first question at a press conference and sitting down with the PM for a one-on-one interview were experiences that I’ll never forget.
Do you find that interviewing political figures is different from other talent and how do you approach the two?
It is different as politicians are usually more guarded and it’s more difficult to get answers that aren’t rehearsed. I think you have to put a lot more thought into how you phrase your questions to avoid getting stock answers, and there’s usually a time limit. With others I tend to focus more on making the person feel comfortable, possibly asking the question in a few different ways, as this can help them to order their thoughts and provides the best answers that reflect how they really think and feel about an issue.
You report on a number of different beats – what is your favourite and why?
One of the best things about being a journalist is feeling like you can make a difference, which is why reporting on the environment is one of my favourite areas. I’ve been interested in climate change since I was in high school, and I enjoy the challenge of getting people to read about it and helping them to understand why it’s so important.
When did a press release help you uncover a good story? Or suggest ways they can be improved to help you find that story.
The best press releases get to the point quickly and are clear about what the angle is. The thing that I always think of when I’m writing something is, “Would I be interested in reading this?” Often stories are pitched about reports that simply confirm what people already know. When I read through the material, I’m always looking for that line that makes me go “Hmmm, that’s interesting”. The first person you need to engage is yourself.