Courtney’s Exciting Journalism Career: RTRFM to the ABC

After leaving Santa Maria College, Courtney Withers (2017) embarked on a remarkable journey that led her to pursue her passion for journalism. Armed with dedication and a thirst for storytelling, Courtney’s path has taken her into the fast-paced world of media. From her days as a student to her current role as a presenter/journalist at ABC Perth, Courtney reflects on her experiences, the challenges she’s overcome, and the lessons she’s learned along the way.

What you’ve doing since leaving school?

Since graduating in 2017, I’ve done further study and commenced working full-time. I completed a Bachelor of Media and Communications/Bachelor of Arts at Notre Dame in Fremantle and then went on to complete a Postgraduate Diploma of Broadcasting at WAAAPA (ECU). Towards the end of my time at ECU, I applied for the ABC News Cadetship and was successful in gaining one of eleven positions across the country. I was posted to Melbourne for my cadetship and have spent the past year completing the program there. I’ve now finished my time in Melbourne and have gained a position back in the ABC Perth newsroom, working as a presenter/journalist. 

 

Can you tell us what a Journalism Cadetship involves?

The ABC News Cadetship is a one-year full-time program that immerses young journalists into a metro newsroom to fast-track their growth. It’s an extremely intense year with lots of challenges and sees cadets learning skills to become a fully capable and equipped cross-platform reporter by the end of the program. Throughout the year, I did everything from live crosses into the News Channel, regularly rotated through as the Melbourne News Breakfast reporter, and did TV packages, online articles, social media videos, radio stories and my own original journalism as well. You can read more about my experience here.

Did you always want to be a journalist?

I knew from about Year 10 onwards I wanted to be a journalist because of my strong interest in writing. I really enjoyed humanities-based subjects at school, much more than math or science subjects, and knew I was much stronger in these areas. I greatly enjoyed subjects in Year 12 such as Politics & Law, History, and Literature because they gave me the chance to write and be creative – something I knew I was going to make a career out of. I loved telling stories and was always reading news articles during class (sorry!), so I definitely had an interest in news and the media from a young age.

Have there been any significant experiences or achievements that have had an impact on you professionally?

My entire time in Melbourne has been my greatest professional achievement so far. Going through the process of applying for the cadetship and being chosen as one of the cadets was something I had always dreamt of. The process and selection are extremely competitive, so I never thought I would be lucky enough to be chosen. The entire experience is something that has expedited my career and allowed me to reach goals quickly and is something I’m immensely grateful for. Getting to do breaking national stories for the ABC last year across all platforms and now reading the news live in Perth is certainly a huge achievement for me.

What are some of the significant stories you’ve covered so far?

I covered many significant stories throughout last year in Melbourne across TV, online, radio and socials. Some of the stories that stick out to me include the 2023 Australian Indigenous Voice Referendum, January’s floods across Central Victoria, the cancellation of the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, the resignation of Premier Daniel Andrews, the Bourke Street car rampage in the CBD, a shooting in South Yarra and being involved in ABC’s New Year’s Eve coverage. 

Did your education at Santa Maria College contribute to your career path?

My education at Santa Maria certainly contributed towards my career path. As I mentioned before, teachers I had across humanities subjects, such as Stephen King, inspired me to continue to make a career out of it. I greatly enjoyed discussions around Politics and History at school and certainly credit those later high school years for fostering that desire for learning and thinking critically. I also had a great interest in Drama and performing at school and continued this throughout University, being involved in plays and musicals. and greatly credit my confidence for TV reporting and presenting to my time in Drama with the wonderful Head of Drama, Amanda Huxtable. 

What skills do you feel are important as a journalist?

There are so many skills which are important for a journalist. Being a cog in the 24/7 news cycle requires you to constantly follow your instincts when chasing a story by using your initiative to follow leads. Having the ability to quickly adapt and be flexible to developing situations when covering certain stories is a skill that is definitely required, as well as having a keen eye for a story. You need to think fast when it comes to breaking news and deal with immense pressure, such as going live on national TV at the scene when you have only just got there! Journalists also need to understand their great responsibility to inform the public and tell important stories that need to be told. You also need strong interpersonal skills to approach interviewees and subject matters with care.

What advice would you give current students interested in pursuing a career in media or journalism?

I would say to start setting goals for yourself now for how you are going to get to a certain job. If you want to be a political reporter, start reading widely and watching political programs. If you want to be a TV reporter, start working on your voice and confidence in speaking in front of other people. I’d also say once you leave school, start doing as much work experience as possible in the industry. I volunteered at RTRFM (92.1) for two years while I was studying and completed work experience across three other organisations before I worked at the ABC. Show your potential employer that you’re serious about the industry and have the experience to show for it! And finally, if you like writing and humanities at school like I did, pursue that path because there are so many amazing jobs out there that rely on those skills!

As Courtney continues to make her mark in the field of journalism, her journey stands as a testament to the power of passion and perseverance. Her story inspires aspiring journalists to chase their dreams. With a commitment to storytelling and a determination to make a difference, Courtney’s future in journalism shines brightly, promising even greater achievements and impactful stories yet to be told.

the Winter Appeal and Outreach Mass at Santa Maria College.

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