Where are they now? Rania Spooner

17 August 2011

Written by: MATTHEW DIXON

Far away from her home town of Melbourne, La Trobe graduate Rania Spooner managed to secure a job at the Kalgoorlie Miner in regional Western Australia and ended up falling in love with the place.

‘It’s an incredible lifestyle,’ she says. ‘When I wake up in the morning I don’t know what I will be doing that day – I could be sent down an underground mine or flown out to one of the most remote Aboriginal communities in the country.’

Graduating at the end of 2010, Spooner spent a year working for the Kalgoorlie Miner half-way through her degree before returning to study for her last semester. She later choose to study abroad at the University of Missouri in the USA.

The University of Missouri is the oldest journalism school in the world and boasts the best undergraduate journalism program in the US. It is well known for its ‘Missouri Method’ of teaching, which focuses on a hands on approach to learning.

‘I wanted to get everything I could out of the Missouri Journalism School’s program in the short time I was there,’ she says. ‘I learned an enormous amount about television, radio and online news conventions and technology, but got very little sleep.’

While at the school, Spooner worked as an advanced reporter for local newspaper the Columbia Missourian as well as for National Public Radio affiliate KBIA.

These media outlets allowed Spooner to work on a wide variety of topics. At the Missourian she covered community events, crime and undertook campaign-style coverage of legal hurdles to the death penalty method in Missouri.

At KBIA she sourced, wrote and voiced reader bites and wraps for the station’s daily news bulletins and worked on a longer format feature for KBIA’s specialty programming.

Spooner noted the difference between newsrooms in the US and those that she had experienced in Australia.

‘I love the energy American journalists have – they are competitive and honest – they don’t hold back if you’ve done a mediocre job, but will also go out of their way to let you know when your work is exceptional,’ she says. ‘You don’t get that kind of feedback in many regional newsrooms in Australia.’

Working at a newspaper like the Kalgoorlie Miner means that Spooner covers stories many journalists might not get the opportunity to.  Aboriginal Affairs is one of the major areas she has covered.

‘I’ve seen alcohol fuelled violence on the streets and interviewed the grieving sister of a disabled Aboriginal man who died in police custody,’ she says. ‘But then I go out to remote communities where people still live a traditional lifestyle off the land and it gives me a different perspective.’

Working on such issues has led Spooner to this year being a finalist for the Young Australian Journalist of the Year award from the Walkley Foundation.

‘It was affirming and humbling, particularly because I was up against journalists from metropolitan papers,’ she says.  ‘I’m grateful some of the issues we cover in the outback may have reached a wider audience through the nomination process.’

Spooner recommends young journalists wanting to start their career should consider working at regional newspapers, rather than just trying to break into metropolitan ones.

‘If you are not passionate about journalism or think it’s going to be in any way glamorous you may need to re-evaluate your career choice,’ she says.

Matthew Dixon is a final-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University and is part of upstart’s editorial team. You can follow him on Twitter: @matthewdixon23