Hatch reporter Tom Livingstone profiles the industry professionals teaching at Macleay College, for a new series – #FlashbackFridays
Macleay College is paving the way for future journalists with innovative, practical and, most importantly, fun teaching methods. The staff are exceptional, giving students the best education and sculpting them into elite professional communicators.
What shapes these amazing people and what journey have they been on to get to where they are today?
This week #FlashbackFridays is excited to bring you the story behind investigative journalist & Macleay College lecturer Antoinette Lattouf. Antoinette is one of Macleay’s senior faculty members. She teaches Investigative Journalism and Globalisation, is a Presentation Coach, has reported for numerous television networks (currently a Senior Reporter at the ABC) and is co-founder of Media Diversity Australia.
Her passion for telling stories that are unique, factual and fresh, is one of the reasons Macleay College has such a stellar reputation. – Above: Antoinette getting ready to do a piece-to-camera for Channel 10 in 2013.
1) What inspired you to want a career in journalism?
I recall I was about five, and I knew I wanted to tell stories. My mother and my kindergarten teacher can probably bear witness to this. I just loved people and their stories and I wanted to communicate, I wanted to educate. I think my parents being refugees from the Middle East and my fascination with their journey, the culture and history of their birth country, that I think inspired me to want to know more.
2) What job did you first start out with in the industry?
My first paid role was as a researcher at SBS. I worked at Insight while in my second year of university. I was actually a guest on the show. I had been invited on because of an article I’d written for the Sydney Morning Herald. It was a column called Heckler and I wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece about my experiences with multiculturalism in Australia. I had done an internship for a newspaper in far north NSW and would frequently be asked where I was really from.
The piece caught the eye of a producer on the program and I was invited on. I got into a quite heated discussion with a Professor from the Australian National University. So here is me, an opinionated 20-year-old wanting to take on the world, deciding to take on a professor in her 70’s because I was really irritated by some of the comments she made. They must have seen something in me and I started working there soon after. That was probably about 12 years ago now. I studied a Communications Degree at UTS which doesn’t actually exist anymore. It was called Social Enquiry and it had a heavy focus on political theory, social theory and research methods.
3) What did you love about those early days?
I just loved that, as a 20-year-old, a national broadcaster took a risk and hired me without a degree.
4) What did you hate about them?
The reason I ended up leaving my first job was because of bullying. It’s quite difficult as a young woman in a large organisation to know how to deal with bullying when the bully is that much more senior than you, and also to know in the back of your mind that you are really fortunate to have this job. It’s such a competitive industry and here you are with a job while still completing your university degree. So it was really difficult not knowing where to take that grievance and to think I would just have to cop it on the chin because I was too afraid of what it would mean for my career and how it would limit my success as a journalist if I spoke up.
5) In hindsight, what advice would you give a young journalist today, who felt they were being bullied?
It’s really difficult. I don’t know if I would tell that young journalist to make an official complaint. In an industry based on people knowing people, having good relationships, having a good reputation, I think it’s a really tricky circumstance. I don’t know if I would give a young person different advice to what I did, which was to get as much experience as I could, then leave. Knowing your self-worth is important.
6) What career highlights do you have (Or are there a few)?
I would say there are a few. I really loved my time at Channel 10. I always saw myself as a public broadcasting journalist and [thought] my skills and experience wouldn’t work within an organisation like 10, but they did. I did some of my best work there, I really think commercial networks are a great place for young journalists to gain on-the-job experience. I learned a lot of great things.
For the past year, I have been establishing a not-for-profit organisation called Media Diversity Australia, with the sole objective of promoting cultural diversity in Australian media.
I’ve worked across SBS, Ten and the ABC and had dealings with many other outlets and know just how limited cultural diversity is. Not just in the faces of the journos but in their contact books and their understanding of the intricacies of different communities throughout Australia. I think that’s really limiting, particularly for a media that’s meant to speak to all of Australia. So it’s been amazing to put together an executive committee of passionate, driven journos who have other jobs but who come together on weekends and at night to work on this whenever we can.
We’ve been able to engage some fantastic thought leaders in the industry like Stan Grant, Waleed Aly, Monica Attard (Head of Journalism at Macleay), Tim Soutphommasane (the Racial Discrimination Commissioner), Tracy Vo and Hugh Riminton (from commercial outlets). We’ve been able to start a conversation and we look forward to being able to do a lot more in this space.
7) What do you enjoy about teaching at Macleay?
I’ve been here for two years and I love the opportunity to share my passion and knowledge with the next generation of journalists.
The Australian media is facing unprecedented change and disruption and that’s scary for a lot of people but I think it offers opportunities to broaden your skills, and to be creative in the way we tell stories and the way we try and appeal to audiences. I’m keen to be part of the solution and not part of the old guard who think the good days are over. 13 years ago, when I was at university, people told me not to study journalism, I faced the same warnings to do something stable instead. I’ve had a fantastic career and I love getting up every day and going to work. So I love being able to teach really practical industry standard ways and have students who are keen to tell stories also.
8) Something quirky, most people don’t know about you.
I can’t do a cartwheel, ha-ha. I’ve tried, but I’ve always been this really uncoordinated, academic, nerdy kid and I just continue to be that way. I don’t drink coffee and that is very strange in this industry, with journos who work all sorts of hours.
I hate the sound of scratching. Any kind of scratching. I have been in all kinds of circumstances and it drives me crazy. It makes me go ‘I need to stop that person now.’ I’ve been at funerals, filming someone grieving and scratching and I have to fight every urge to go over and yell ‘STOP SCRATCHING!’ I tell people on public transport, I tell anybody to stop scratching, it really just drives me nuts and I don’t know, it gives me goosebumps and makes me really uncomfortable.
9) A quote or belief that personally motivates you each day.
I’m now of the opinion, spending several years in the industry, experiencing the early bullying, now being a bit of a change-agent with Media Diversity Australia, this perhaps makes some people feel uncomfortable. I’m okay if people don’t like me, because they’ll probably come around and respect me. I’m comfortable with people not liking me because I care much more about them respecting me and my work.