Conference Connector

Q&A with Alicia Perera

The national conference was "incredibly inspiring".

Alicia Perera is a senior journalist with Seven West Media regional newspaper the Pilbara News. She attended the 2019 national conference under the WA committee’s Connector program.

Tell us about where you work? What is your typical day?

I work as the senior journalist at the Pilbara News, a Seven West Media regional newspaper based in Karratha, WA. The paper is one of two (the other being our sister paper the North West Telegraph) that covers the Pilbara region of WA.

The Pilbara News is a weekly publication so what I do each day varies a lot depending on the day of the week, but generally I spend the day planning which stories to tackle for the day, uploading a handful of stories online and posting them to social media, covering events or seeking comment, writing and editing stories and/or taking photos for the next issue.

How often do you connect with other women in media and how important is that to you?

The vast majority of reporters in the region I work in are women and we often cover similar stories, so I see other women in the industry in-person a few times a week. However, because there are so few of us I meet the same people every time and we don’t network as such given we all know each other already.

Alicia Perera travelled from regional WA to Queensland’s Gold Coast for the national conference. Photo: Supplied

Given I work in an isolated, regional area where a lot of journalists and PR workers are starting out in their careers, there is a particular lack of experienced and/or more mature women in the industry and it is extremely rare that I have access to any woman approaching the calibre of female media professionals who presented at the national conference.

Connecting with other women, of all levels of experience, in the industry is extremely important to me because it provides a great way to get useful professional advice, feedback, and a network that can help give you a leg up in your career and support and encouragement from people who have most likely been through similar experiences in their working lives.

Why did you apply for the Connector Program?

My main reasons for applying for the program were my desire to gain new skills, advice and professional networks to help me take the next step in my career, and to access an amazing professional development opportunity of a kind I haven’t had access to in the almost four years I’ve been based in the Pilbara.

I’ve been interested in attending the Women in Media national conference ever since it began three years ago but the barriers to attending are particularly high for someone based so far away, so this scholarship seemed like an invaluable opportunity for me to attend the event at last.

How would you describe the national conference?

Inspiring, empowering, positive, supportive and extremely informative.

What are your mind-blowing moments from the national conference?

While I picked up a lot of insights from the conference itself, the biggest highlights of the national conference for me came from connecting with the driven and talented media professionals who attended. The real stand-out experience was on Friday night when I was fortunate enough to have dinner with Women In Media co-patron Caroline Jones, ACT committee convenor Emma Macdonald and MEAA Queensland director Michelle Rae and a number of young female regional journalists.

Women in Media co-patron Caroline Jones. Photo: Photo: Monique Grisanti | Uneek Creative

Being invited to spend time with Caroline was a huge honour, and our group’s discussion on what had changed and what had stayed the same for women in media over the years was very eye-opening.

Conference presentations that I found particularly powerful were Patricia Karvelas’ to-the-point Q&A on purpose and integrity, the truth and trust panel featuring Annika Smethurst that delved into the complexities of media law and its personal cost, the gutsy and funny ideas for getting ahead from the panel on feeling the fear and doing it anyway, and Jenny Brockie’s reflections on her time in the industry at the final event of the conference.

What did you learn that you wish you’d known earlier in your career?

So many things, but the main practical lessons I wish I’d learnt earlier were that there are a plethora of online tools that can be used to make data journalism easier, and Corinne Podger’s tips on maximising digital branding.

What did you learn that will help you at work in the future?

I’m already looking forward to putting the tips I picked up about data journalism at Caroline Graham’s workshop to use in the near future – the online tools for simplifying complex data that she showed us open up so many opportunities for new story ideas in what is a growing journalistic field.

Women in Media Queensland convenor Cathie Schnitzerling chats with Patricia Karvelas. Photo: Monique Grisanti | Uneek Creative

Patricia’s Karvelas’ frank advice for women to back themselves more and not hesitate to ask for a pay rise or uncomfortable questions from a source also really resonated with me, and I’ve already started taking a more assertive approach at my workplace based on that.

Other ideas from the conference I’ll take forward are to take mobile journalism more seriously and develop my skills in it, given it has so many benefits I never considered before; to think twice about news language and be more conscious of gender biases within it, based on Virginia Haussegger’s talk; to reduce multi-tasking given it is not only stressful but can actually make us dumber; and knowing the best way to beat online
trolls thanks to Ginger Gorman whose tips I had never considered before.

Journalist and author Ginger Gorman runs the “troll hunting” workshop. Photo: Monique Grisanti | Uneek Creative

Was there a stand out idea or piece of advice from the conference you think everyone should know?

Yes – that press freedom is very fragile and should be much better protected in Australia than it is. From the trust and truth panel discussion, I found it quite shocking that the press and their sources have so little protection under the law and that is only getting worse in our current political climate. At a time when the media is up against so much yet is more important than ever, that is something everyone in our society should be concerned about and speaking up against instead of (as many seem to do) focusing on criticising the media.

Would you recommend the national conference to a friend?

I could not recommend the conference highly enough! It was an incredibly inspiring and professionally enriching experience that any woman working in the media, who has the time and means, should make it a priority to attend.

Finally, I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the conference through the Connector program and hope WIM will be able to keep this amazing initiative going in future so other young female journalists like myself can benefit from attending. Thank you!

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