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Breaking the fourth wall with Anita Jacoby

Anita Jacoby AM shares her path to becoming one of Australia's most successful TV producers.

By Tatiana Carter

Anita Jacoby AM went door-knocking around regional New South Wales in 1982, with nothing but big ideas and a little encouragement from her father. 

Growing up in Sydney, Ms Jacoby had always wanted to be a journalist. 

After struggling to get her foot in the door at commercial networks, Ms Jacoby packed her belongings and drove to Newcastle. Here, she met Murray Finlay – the then news director for NBN3. 

Six weeks later, she would receive a life-changing phone call. 

Women in Media board member Anita Jacoby, co-chair Cath Webber, co-patron Caroline Jones, and co-chair Kathy McLeish. Photo: Uneek Creative

“About six weeks after I met Murray, he rang and offered me a job as an on-the-road reporter at Newcastle,” she said. 

She describes her time in Newcastle as an incredible training ground, which allowed her to develop her skills and take on multiple roles. 

With some experience under her belt, the then 23-year-old could not have predicted she was about to become one of Australia’s most successful television producers. 

“I was thinking of what I wanted to do next, and I came up with an idea for a television show,” she said.

“I was down in Sydney one weekend and mentioned it to a mate of mine who is a very senior producer and worked at Australian Story, Helen Grasswill.

“I said, ‘we really should do a show on what you can do in Sydney’.

“At the time, there was nothing really similar to that.

“We pitched it to Channel Nine, and it didn’t get a look in. But we pitched it to the Managing Director of Channel Seven and we landed a television show.”

Jenny Brockie and Anita Jacoby. Photo: Monique Grisanti

Although she rarely talks about this early-career achievement, Ms Jacoby considers it a defining event in her life.

“I can’t put into words how fortunate we were to have gotten that show off the ground,” she said.

“It actually determined what the rest of my career would like.”

After working on Weekend Sydney, Ms Jacoby’s career would go from strength to strength.

But as she climbed through the ranks, Ms Jacoby was met with resistance on almost every level – from less-qualified men taking executive positions to struggling with impostor syndrome. 

There’s one experience that Ms Jacoby recalls where she was turned down three times for an executive producer position.

“But again, for the third time, a man was brought in who had very little experience in breakfast television,” Ms Jacoby said. 

“So, the next day I went and resigned to the Head of News and Current Affairs Ian Frykberg.”

Having explained why she was leaving, Mr Frykberg offered her a contract as an Associate Producer on 60 Minutes

“I was able to parlay what was probably one of the lowest points in my career, and that lack of recognition, into a great opportunity,” she said. 

Ms Jacoby is now using her experience to remind other media professionals that approaching their careers with the right mindset and positive attitude that there is nothing they can’t accomplish.

What began as a door knock has evolved into a successful and celebrated career.

 Ms Jacoby has made it her mission to give other young journalists the same encouragement that her late father, Philip Jacoby, once gave her. 

In partnership with the Walkley Foundation, the Jacoby-Walkley Scholarship gives new broadcast journalists a platform to network and get their foot in the door. 

You can watch the full interview here

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