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Journalist Spotlight | Interview with award winning TV and Radio Reporter, Presenter and Producer Caroline Winter

08 December, 2022


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Caroline Winter is an award winning TV and radio reporter, presenter and producer. She was an ABC Audio Current Affairs Reporter for the ABC from 2016 to 2021, and is a Partner at PodTalk. She is currently working as a presenter for ABC Adelaide afternoons and producing a podcast supported by the Public Interest Journalism Fund. 

I know you are spending the next few months at ABC Adelaide, could you fill me in a bit about your work there and what you’re looking forward to about it?

I'm backfilling for Sonya Feldhoff who's the regular afternoon presenter in Adelaide. She's taking some long service leave and I got the call-up which is really great. I've done a bit of casual fill-in stuff, and this is a really great opportunity to have a really good stretch of time to build that audience trust and to have a bit of fun and kind of really explore my creativity in live radio land. 

Can you elaborate a bit about what you mean by creativity in a radio sense? 

So predominantly in my career I've been involved in news and current affairs, so a lot of audio package making and content that's quite bespoke created and then it sort of ends up in a program somewhere. Whereas being live and having audience interaction in that actual moment can just make for some really dynamic radio. So I'm looking forward to perhaps introducing a couple of my own segments that suit my style and personality, and particularly having a bit of fun. Still touching on the important issues, local stories, hard news and soft news, but in that live environment there's room to inject your personality and laugh occasionally, or feel or be emoted, far more than in those more structured programs. 

As with many experienced broadcasters and radio presenters you’ve also made the move into podcasting, I was wondering if you could talk a little about that and PodTalk?

PodTalk is actually my husband's business, which he started a few years ago, and that's grown really organically and quite beautifully. He was also a journalist at the ABC and left quite a while back. PodTalk does what we call tailored corporate podcasts, so conversations that are very much directed for particular clients and really creating quite bespoke content for them and for their stakeholders and their audiences. So using all the journalism skills that we've got but to create very targeted content for our clients. 

I've also been very fortunate to be awarded some funding through the Meta News Fund at the start of this year, as part of the Public Interest Journalism Fund. So I'm in the middle of creating my own first independent podcast, which is looking at the crisis in the veterinary industry. 

It's a huge undertaking. I am experienced, and I've been in this industry a long time, but yes a one-woman band is a huge undertaking. So I've been spending most of the year travelling around gathering my content, speaking to lots of people, recording everything that I need, and I'm just starting to put pen to paper, so to speak.

What is the process for writing and creating a podcast? 

I had an idea of who I wanted to talk to in the story I was hoping to tell, but as it went along things changed, so characters who I didn't know existed popped up, and they've become more a part of the story. Other elements I thought would make for a really big part of it haven't. So I've had to be really flexible in playing around with the structure. And I've also had a little bit of mentoring from two crackers, Ian Walker and Liv Keane, I took a little session with each of them just to help frame what I'm doing. I think the thing with podcasting which I know everybody says but it's so true As with many experienced broadcasters and radio presenters you’ve also made the move into podcasting, I was wondering if you could talk a little about that and PodTalk — it still is the wild west. 

Coming from the ABC where everything is very structured, podcasting is sort of anything goes. So I think the freedom to explore that has been really exciting but also quite challenging, because it is such a blank canvas. 

So [the podcast] has changed as I've gone along. I certainly didn't start writing before I got going, but I had a bit of a structure in mind and I had to plan out episodes. And I've gone back and totally scrapped it and started again a couple of times. So that's been trying but also interesting. 

You’ve also done some work as a documentary series producer with ‘You Are Not Alone’. Do you find it really different to work across this visual platform compared to audio, or is the storytelling techniques inherently quite similar regardless of the platform?

Yeah you've nailed it, so principally the storytelling remains the same, and what it is that you're trying to do in a story. So obviously, you are exploring an issue, you are looking for light and shade, you're hoping to bring to light some important facts or figures. But at the same time everything is character driven, and I think that that's probably the thing that it comes down to regardless of what you are doing. Working on ‘You Are Not Alone’, it was a special project in a way, because Lyndal is a really good friend of mine, and when she decided that she wanted to open up about her miscarriage, she brought myself and Lauren, my co-producer, onboard. So it was a very personal and long drawn out story for her, because she was the one obviously going through it, and as co-producers it was also a really big responsibility because we were handling such a difficult time in people's lives. 

It was character driven, some people didn't make the cut for various reasons, but the people that we really wanted to show up had really important stories to tell, and they also had different parts of the miscarriage story that threaded together to create that series. So obviously thinking about visual elements is quite different to audio elements, but that very underlying story narrative, character driven focus is the important part.

Do you have a favourite on-air or podcast recording moment from this year, or earlier, that you could share? 

Through the podcast, which hasn't been released yet, I've met an incredible family and been brought into their world at a very difficult time, and they've been really open and honest with me about what they've gone through and the suicide of their daughter. I did say to my husband when I got home that I've interviewed many, many people over many, many years and this to me was by far the most moving and emotional interview I've ever done. We sat down for a couple of hours and so I had a good sense of who they were and they were just so generous at such a difficult time. We've stayed friends and I've sort of ended up catching up and having wine and food, so it's become more of a really special friendship. 

And one other thing which is quite personal to me. I shared my story in a podcast called 'Days Like These'. It's such a personal story, it's kind of weird being on the other side. It was such an amazing experience to be on the other side with Eli Kulas and Sophie, who was the producer, and just sort of be comforted in telling your story. I think for me that leant itself when I walked into the room with that family I was just talking about, in that reminder of being so careful with the people whose stories you are taking carriage of. 

Caroline’s pitching preferences: 
Please get my name right and understand that I am a corporate podcasting agency, so to pitch appropriately. [I prefer] a full press release.

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