Twenty-two year old Nicole Valicek explains her daily schedule as a cadet journalist for The Northern Times in the northern Victorian town of Kerang as wall-to-wall interviewing, writing and travelling with ‘lots of coffee in-between.’
‘A deadline day involves me writing stories and calling contacts for quotes and follow on information,’ Valicek explains.
‘Once deadline has passed and the papers have been sent to the printers, I switch to news gathering mode. This includes going to scheduled events or following up stories previously discussed with my contacts.’
Working at a regional newspaper has given Valicek the chance to spread her wings. Her weekly duties range from court reporting, covering local government council meetings and visiting police, hospitals and schools.
‘One of the most rewarding aspects of working at a regional newspaper is you have to become a jack of all trades. You are definitely a generalist not a specialist and you never know the next story that you might be working on. The variety of stories I’ve covered in the past year has given me a breadth of experience that will provide a strong foundation for my journalism career.’
Every student journalist must consider the move to rural areas to secure themselves a cadetship. A city girl at heart, Valicek recalls the difficulties of moving out of home.
‘The change from living in Melbourne to a small country town, three hours away from family and friends, was a huge step which took some getting used to.’
‘When I got the [job] I was excited about the prospect of working as a journalist so my fears and concerns were pushed to the background and my instincts told me to take the plunge.’
Valicek’s blog A day in the life covers her personal accounts as a working journalist. One entry in particular highlights a lesson every journalist should learn – the importance of building and maintaining your own contacts.
On Febuary 23 this year, Valicek had no idea she would be on a boat covering the floods that destroyed the small farming communities of Benjeroop and Murrabit West.
Having previously worked with chief flood warden of the Benjeroop area, Lindsay Schultz, Valicek managed to get Schultz’s permission to join him and an ABC journalist and cameraman on a visit to flooded properties.
‘It’s important to touch base with all of your regular contacts and recognise its okay to sometimes just have a chat to maintain the relationship,’ Valicek explains.
‘Often it’s the contacts that are more reluctant to speak that can have great things to say and provide more depth when covering an issue,’ she says.
Valicek says the floods provided the biggest stories of her career to date.
‘The floods were a baptism of fire,’ she says. ‘I’m sure many regional journalists cut their teeth for years without covering a story of such significance. I am still writing stories about the floods today…I guess I’ve learnt that’s the nature of journalism. You never know what can happen and you have to be ready to report to the best of your ability on what does happen.’
The main lesson Valicek has for young journalists, is to be prepared.
‘I drove up to [Kerang] and had a look around before going to the interview [at The Northern Times]’, Valicek explains. ‘I was surprised when my employer asked me to complete a spelling test.’
Along with securing work placement and being willing to learn, Valicek warns ‘journalism is not a 9 to 5 job.’
‘It’s tough work but if you know it’s what you want to do and are passionate, it’s like no other job you can have.’
Valicek celebrated her first year anniversary at the Northern Times last month.