Journalist Spotlight | Interview with Rebekah Scanlan, Lifestyle Editor at news.com.au
Today Medianet is joined by one of our Top 3 most searched for Journalists, Lifestyle Editor of news.com.au, Rebekah Scanlan. In her interview, Rebekah dispels the most common misconceptions regarding her line of work. But besides her industry insights, Rebekah also offers the poignant and profound moments of her career thus far.
You began your writing career in the UK, including working for that’s life magazine. What attracted you to pursue a career in Australia and what are the biggest differences between covering stories here from there?
Oh gosh, what a throwback! I've been working in Australia for close to 13 years now, so the bulk of my professional career has been here, but one of the main driving forces for moving half-way around the world were the opportunities.
Magazines in London, back in 2011 when I jumped ship, were very much struggling; readership was down, jobs were being cut and editorial teams were merging and being made into 'hubs'. I'd heard through industry contacts that Aussie mags were still thriving - a situation I know has since changed - and decided to take the plunge.
At 25, I was fearless and had nothing to lose. I don't know if I'd be able to make the same decision today. I never imagined I'd make Sydney my permanent home, but I fell in love with the country, and I was taken with the "sunnier" approach to journalism too. Real life magazines in the UK were all doom and gloom, whereas I remember my first Australian editor asking me what the "up" was on the first story I ever pitched here, and I was really taken with it. Sure, we did sad and often scary stories, but everything ended on a positive note which I loved.
It's been a good 7 or so years now since I made the move into digital and I feel I know and understand Australian audiences better than British ones. It's crazy how fast time flies.
An important part of your duty is sourcing stories and leads. How do you determine what stories/experiences are newsworthy? Is there a certain aspect that intrigues you/that you look out for?
Ooh this is the million dollar question - and there's no easy way to answer it. In its simplest form, I'm looking for stories I know news.com.au readers want, and we make that decision using data about past stories that have performed well.
Within lifestyle this can include a number of different topics, from engaging real life stories to interesting health and fitness discoveries. We also do a lot of trend pieces across fashion, beauty and even dating and relationships.
There's also not a single day that goes by where we won't cover a core Australian brand - think Woolworths, Coles, Kmart, McDonalds etc
In covering the personal, albeit others’, what in your career has carried over into your own life?
I've learnt that you can never underestimate the power of speaking out and sharing your experience. There's always someone listening/watching/reading and you can have a profound impact. I've channelled this in more recent times when I've written about my own personal life experiences and have always found it so rewarding.
One of the pieces I'm most proud of in my 5 years so far at news.com.au is one I wrote about having a termination, which I shared in the wake of the Roe V Wade ruling in 2022.
It was so empowering to turn something I'd once thought of as such a negative, shameful experience and use it to try and do something good.
Are there any misconceptions about your line of journalism - focusing on real/true life stories - that you disagree with?
There are many, but one of the most frustrating is that lifestyle isn't "real news". On an almost daily basis I receive messages from online trolls telling me the work I, and the rest of my team, produce isn't newsworthy which can be incredibly disheartening at times.
But being a journalist in 2024 means you have to be resilient, and if you're receiving "backlash" and online criticism, it's probably because you've hit a nerve and are doing something right.
To me, the lifestyle vertical is the small slice of news.com.au that is created for women, where we analyse what's happening in the world around us and think about how that affects us as a whole, with the aim of highlighting and talking about these issues.
Of course, in a society that still favours the patriarchal system, we are going to get pushback on this. But this only drives the lifestyle team to keep sharing these stories. Plus, we love the stories we're producing, so let the naysayers nay.
Can you share a memorable experience that has been a highlight in your career so far?
There have been many! I've been lucky enough to do some travelling and have worked alongside some incredible women to share their stories. Plus I get to try a lot of fun products - particularly beauty ones since I took over The Beauty Diary 5 years ago.
But one of my most memorable moments has to be interviewing Chris Hemsworth on a red carpet back in 2017. He was just so charming and lovely and I have the most epic photo of myself holding a microphone up to him as he towered over me. Such a surreal and special experience.
What other goals or achievements do you hope to accomplish with regards to your writing/journalism?
I was 17 when I decided I wanted to become a journalist. It was after reading about a young woman who died by suicide because nobody believed her when she said she had been sexually assaulted. That story really jumped out at me, and led me to discover the grim stats around rape conviction rates, which in turn compelled me to want to do something about it.
Of course, you don't start out as a journalist and instantly get to write about the topics you're passionate about, but fast-forward 20 years since that moment and I believe I'm part of a team that shares my ambitions to make change and do good.
The news.com.au lifestyle team have heaps of exciting things in the pipeline in the next 12 months, including a huge campaign relating to women's health launching in the not too distant future.
It's a very exciting chapter in my career so stay tuned!
And lastly, what do you look for in content pitching?
Our readers are always at the forefront of my mind when I'm looking at pitches, so I'd advise anyone who wants to appear on news.com.au to really familiarise themselves with our content. Often emails I receive are too long or have the best detail buried towards the bottom - and I simply miss it.
Keep in mind that I receive hundreds of emails a day, so I usually only get the chance to give something a quick scan before moving on.