Annika Smethurst 2005 Alumna

Annika Smethurst, 2005 alumna (Riley).

Occupation: journalist

Qualifications:  BA, Hons (Journalism), Monash University.

In just seven years, Annika Smethurst has completed a BA Hons in Journalism, a traineeship with News Ltd, worked as a print journalist, dabbled in radio and worked for a state government politician.  And in June 2012, she landed a coveted position at the Herald Sun, one of the country’s highest selling newspapers.  As a testament to her talent and work ethic, Annika was promoted within six months to state political reporter for the popular masthead.

Hard working, talented and motivated, Annika, balances work with travel.  Since her first overseas trip to Girton’s sister school Sainte Ursule in Lucon, France, she has had a suitcase at the ready.   Now a seasoned traveller, Annika has visited 30 countries over the last nine years, some off the beaten track, including Syria and Macedonia.

Biggest achievement since leaving Girton?

Until recently my biggest achievement would have been getting a job at the Herald Sun. But I was recently given a new position as a state political reporter. I have always had a strong interest in politics but never thought I would get a specific reporting round so early on in my career.

Did you always plan to work in media?

I decided I’d like to be a journalist in year nine. I had a strong interest in politics and humanities subjects and seemed to be a bit of a news junky from a young age. I started doing some sports stories for the Bendigo Advertiser while still in school. In VCE I chose to focus on humanities subjects including politics, history, English, legal studies, geography and French.

After school I had to choose between studying law at the University of Canberra or journalism at Monash, but ultimately I made the best decision for me. After university I was lucky enough to be offered a job at The Bendigo Weekly. It was the perfect place to start my career – I owe a lot to The Bendigo Weekly for giving me a chance.

What training did you undertake to break into the field?

At uni I did a BA (Journalism) at Monash University. I doubled majored in International Studies which I really enjoyed. In 2007, I spent a semester of my degree at Bishop’s University in Quebec, Canada. It didn’t necessarily help my French language skills but it was a great experience.

After my three-year journalism degree I chose to do an Honours year.

In 2011, I did a News Ltd traineeship. In journalism, university degrees are important but the traditional cadetship/traineeship programs seem to be just as important.

Best bits of the job?

My job can vary from day-to-day which I love. I work a range of different shifts because news can break at any time. Sometimes it is clear what I will be covering, other days it’s up to me to follow up some stories. I have been lucky enough to cover some of the biggest stories of the past few years including the Black Saturday bushfires, the disappearance of Jill Meagher, AFL Grand Finals, the Melbourne Cup and the recent royal tour. There are incredible highs and lows in this job and you just have to be prepared for whatever comes your way.

What advice would you give others wanting to work as a journalist?

I remember my first day at university, the lecturer walked in and told everyone in the room we were mad for studying journalism and we would struggle to find work. While journalism is extremely competitive, jobs are available – you just have to be motivated and put yourself out there. Interning or volunteering in the industry is a great way to build contacts and to suss out whether journalism is the right career for you. You cannot be afraid to move to regional areas or interstate. The best thing about journalism is that every town seems to have a newspaper of some description and many of these smaller papers are great places to start your career.

What life skills did Girton provide you with which you still use today?

I am very thankful for my education at Girton. I don’t think I would have performed as well as I did academically if I didn’t get that extra little push and the support from Girton. Having said that, the non-academic side was equally important. I did a lot of debating and public speaking in my last few years at Girton which have proved valuable since leaving school. I also met so many great people who I am still friends with today.

My memories of Girton…

Most of my memories from Girton involve the students and staff. I had such a great bunch of friends from school and I was genuinely sad to finish Year Twelve in 2005. I think I must have been one of the only Year Twelve students who cried on Muck-up Day.