Interview with ACM Cadet Digital Journalist Ellie Mitchell
Ellie is a Cadet Digital Journalist at Australian Community Media (ACM). She has been reporting for The Courier newspaper in Ballarat since January and is now moving to the national digital team at ACM.
Ellie is speaking on behalf of herself and not representing ACM in this interview.
Can you tell me a bit about the cadetship so far?
It has been such a wonderful experience. The cadetship has been more than I could have hoped for in terms of how much and how quickly I have learnt how to do journalism… how to be a journalist. I've learnt so much about how to find stories, develop angles, how to make contacts and maintain relationships, how to cover different rounds and write different types of stories. I think what's so unique about this cadetship is that it's regional, and because you’re in a regional newsroom you really get thrown in the deep end.
I've been lucky enough to cover things from the economy to the environment, crime, local government, soft and hard news. I've loved doing the court round, that was a big part of my last few months. I think court is just so fascinating, it's where so many issues intersect. I'm now moving to the national team, so you get a taste in this cadetship of everything. I'm one of nine cadets and they're dotted all around Australia. You get to do that local news in your masthead, then you get to work on national news, so that's what I'll be doing for the next few months.
I understand this isn’t your first time reporting for The Courier in Ballarat?
My first internship in my journalism studies was at The Courier. Before I did that internship I thought I wanted to be an audio journalist. Then I came to The Courier and I saw what a newsroom was like and how satisfying writing stories can be, and I just thought ‘that’s what I want to do'. Six months later I was lucky enough to secure a cadetship with ACM and find myself back at The Courier.
Can you describe your day to day work as a journalist? How do you go about finding stories and hunting down interviews and things like that?
Stories can really come from anywhere. They can come from social media, a press release, they can come from an issue you've already covered before, they can come from a conversation you've had at the pub!
Working in a regional newsroom you are often looking at national stories and thinking about how you can bring it home, how you can bring it into how it will affect your community. So stories can sometimes come from there. In terms of how you find contacts, I suppose it's just good research. You really start to build that base of a network that you can call upon when you need a comment.
Being part of ACM's network, you have access to all of our mastheads across Australia and people to call on to share their contacts and case studies too.
Do you have any particular experience or story you've covered this year that you'll really remember when you look back on your time in Ballarat as a reporter?
I'm not sure I could pick just one. There's been a lot of firsts! Pressers, attending crash scenes and house fires, chasing down an offender outside court for a photo, and being contacted by victims of crime all come to mind.
I also really cherish the softer news stories. I remember I got this tap on the shoulder one day in the newsroom, and my colleague said there was someone downstairs to see me. It was a farmer who I’d done a story about the day before. After decades of being a farmer, he had started making art and doing these amazing paintings. I'd only talked to him on the phone, and I went downstairs and he was holding a copy of the paper, beaming. He’d brought his wife in so we could all meet in person. Being in a regional newsroom you’re so close to the community you’re covering. It’s cool.
The ACM cadetship is such a fantastic experience. I can't recommend it enough to journalists who are starting out. Move to the regions and get thrown in the deep end!
Ellie’s pitching preferences: What are you looking for in a story pitch or press release?
Case studies. I think that having a human face to any story makes people sit up and listen, and it makes it that much more powerful.
Applications are currently open for Australian Community Media’s 2023 Cadetship program.