Conference 2017

‘Sunday Stunner’ had to go

By Eliza Reilly

Being appointed the first female editor of the NT News, Rachel Hancock prepared herself for a life of crocs, campaign journalism and cyclones. But first the page three girls had to go – a big call given she risked reader backlash.

The ‘Sunday Stunner’ was a weekly segment, which featured women dressed in bikinis or scantily clad accompanied by a brief story.

“As a female editor, I felt like I couldn’t continue with that in the paper,” she says.

“I think we received six letters, three were criticising me for cancelling it and three were from families thanking me.”

After stamping her authority on the paper, she then sought to expose some of the Territory’s injustices, leading a feisty campaign to lower fuel prices and hold Territorian politicians and leaders accountable.

“We really held the government to account and weren’t afraid to tackle issues that they probably didn’t want explored,” she says.

Despite the significance of such matters, the NT News was never on track to lose its humour as Hancock recalls “My favourite headline was probably ‘They stole my dog while I was on the bog”.

A woman’s dog was impounded after she left it tied outside the public toilets as she attended to her business.

“We had this great front page where we got the dog to sit on the toilet and have the women standing next to it,” she says.

She went on to become the Deputy Editor at The Courier-Mail and Sunday Mail before she was appointed Editor of The Gold Coast Bulletin in October 2018.

She says the biggest issues facing women in the media is still the glass ceiling, but also the actions of women who hold each other back.

“We as a collective need to support each other and provide mentorships to younger women starting out,” Hancock says.

She is passionate about journalism and remembers her early desire to work in the media when she discovered a love for writing during high school in Adelaide.

“I was always quite inquisitive and wanted to know what was going on before anyone else,” she says.

When she wasn’t offered entry into a Bachelor of Journalism, she made the decision to repeat her final year of schooling: “It was a big decision for me but I’m glad I did it.”

She improved her marks and was offered a place at the University of South Australia. Persistence is the test of a good journalist and Hancock had already passed.

Within a week of graduating, she landed her first job at the Murray Valley Standard newspaper, just 80km east of Adelaide.

“I was one the first at university to say, ‘I’m going to start in the country’ and it was the best decision I’ve made because they teach you everything and throw you in the deep end,” she says.

Hancock also thanks the Standard for bringing her and her now-husband together, but she had her eyes firmly on the metropolitan prize.

“One thing I’ve learnt in this industry is if you really want something you have to chase it because nobody is going to give it to you,” she says.

Almost daily calls to the Chief of Staff landed Hancock a few unpaid shifts at the Adelaide Advertiser before opportunity struck and she secured a job at the Sunday Mail.

“It was a big step up from a country paper,” she says.

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