October 14, 2021
Surviving and succeeding in the ever-changing media industry
Ever wondered what it takes to withstand the turbulent and dynamic media industry?
Long-standing Channel 7 favourite, Susannah Carr who has co-anchored the nightly news for a remarkable 36 years says, “a sense of curiosity and an interest in the world around you” is the key to surviving in the media.
Sharing anecdotes from one of the longest careers in television history with her close friend and colleague, Channel 7 TV reporter Alison Fan, Susannah talked of how much attitudes have changed since she began her television career at the ABC as the station’s first female news presenter.
“They actually had a discussion as to whether people would take it seriously if a woman read the news.”
The pair laughed freely as they reminisced over their decades-long careers, supported by their deep friendship, at a special Women in Media WA breakfast event – ‘Queens of the Screen’, held to celebrate their achievements.
As one of Australia’s most enduring TV reporters, Alison Fan believes, “to survive you have to adapt. It’s really a matter of expect the unexpected,” she said.
Time and again the pair wowed the audience at the sold-out event at Perth’s Pan Pacific hotel.
They described incidents both light-hearted and grim where the glamorous-looking role of a presenter was very much challenged.
Alison spoke of arriving at crime scenes before the police and facing many life-threatening experiences whilst reporting.
Susannah shared a tale of being asked at short notice to lead the live coverage of Princess Diana’s funeral. Her Perth boss had promoted her to the national network as an ‘expert in history’ which she says she most certainly is not.
In an era before Google, Susannah simply rose to the not inconsiderable challenge, trawled through souvenir shops in London to gather as much information about the Royal Family and the historic landmarks that would be passed during the funeral procession, and went on air ad-libbing through one of the most watched moments in television history.
The WIM WA event provided a reunion for many and a wonderful networking opportunity for all as well as a lavish sit-down breakfast and the rare opportunity to hear an unscripted conversation between two of Perth’s most well-known women in television.
These two courageous women who took on the once male-dominated journalism industry captivated the audience with their humour, wit, and authenticity.
Alison says when she started out in her career there was little opportunity for mentorship from women, in fact she says women have always been the harshest critics.
Susannah highlighted the rapid rise in female journalists compared to when she began at the ABC, the only female among 18 men.
In an often-competitive industry, it was encouraging to see two successful women, who’ve supported each other through the challenges of the industry, and more than survived, but thrived.
The ‘Queens of the Screen’ provided hope and insight for many young and older journalists.
They have paved the way for female journalists of Western Australia.
Report by Minna Gill-Rodda, 3rd year Public Relations student at Notre Dame, Fremantle.
Photography by Katya Minns, postgraduate Journalism student at Curtin University.