When you ask a communications student, particularly a journalism student why they chose Charles Sturt University, the response you might often hear is “I chose it because of the reputation”.
CSU has an invidious reputation among media circles, and for reasons beyond the mere classroom.
It provides an opportunity for industry experience, even before graduation.
That industry experience is in the form of a cadetship, at the radio station, National Radio News, within the confines of a seemingly nondescript office on the Bathurst campus
Many journalists whom appear nightly on your TVs kickstarted their career in the NRN newsroom.
Kamin Gock, Amelia Bernasconi, Mollie Gorman and Xanthe Gregory, are all journalists at the ABC, have all featured on the national broadcaster in the past weeks, and have graduated from CSU.
The four of them have another thing in common: they were all cadets at National Radio News.
Lauren Forbes, Loren Howarth, Lauren Bohane and Nick Everard, have chosen the behind-the-scenes production route, but they’re also former NRN cadets.
The cadetship has traditionally been for second year students, but this year, the newsroom has also introduced an internship program for first years, to add a greater element to a journalism students learning right out the gate.
Second year journalism student, Emily Francis, moved from Tasmania to attend CSU, as well as apply for the NRN cadetship.
“I heard about CSU’s reputation and the opportunities before even thinking what university I was going to. So when it came time I thought CSU was a no-brainer for my studies.”
Emily said when it came time for her to start her cadetship, she was very intimidated, but found the support from the News Director, Frank Bonaccorso, and other journalists in the newsroom to be a positive part of the experience.
“As a cadet, they really try and help improve your skills and I definitely have seen a big improvement in myself from working there.”
Despite only starting her cadetship in July, Emily said she has already seen improvements in her work and feels she has an edge over those who did not take the cadetship opportunities.
“I think for a journalist, if you graduate and have no industry experience it’s definitely a setback”
Emily took the cadetship for three overarching reasons: to give her an edge come graduation, to be more involved in the Bathurst community and to build her confidence in a real-time newsroom setting.
Lauren Bohane, who worked for NRN until 2021, said the cadetship gave her opportunities she would not have otherwise had.
“It taught me so many practical skills in relation to radio journalism. It basically gave me my career today at ABC Central West”
Just as she was headhunted by Newscorp, the ABC’s Central West headquarters in Orange snapped her up, and she’s now producing the morning program.
“It helped with my uni work so much, I could apply what I was learning at NRN and apply it to my assignments and workshops”
Lauren said that everything she learned at NRN, is what she puts into practice at her job at the ABC every day, including how to write for radio and her broadcast voice.
She said it was her first opportunity to do something in the industry and she’s encouraging students to make the same choice she did when it was presented to her.
“You’ll get so much out of it and it gives so many opportunities as you’re actually doing actual stories in the actual industry. Everyone’s so encouraging and will never ask you to do something unless you’re ready.”
Chief of Staff at National Radio News, Erin Archer, a former NRN cadet herself, said undertaking the cadetship was a crucial springboard to her professional career.
“Working in a team environment, working with senior journalists and junior journalists creates an experience that people who don’t do the cadetship wouldn’t have”.
It’s an opportunity not every University has to offer.
“It’s a really great opportunity…there’s not a lot of universities that have a live newsroom on campus”
The cadetship takes you to places your classes can only talk about. It gives you interviewing experiences, and it helps you learn the hard way that not every interview is going to be enthusiastic or spritely. Some interviews will be dry, and they’re just things you’re going to have to work with and coming up against will be inevitable in your career. It’s better to learn how to navigate that kind of interview while you’re still learning than to be blindsided by it after graduation.
As the cadetship progresses and the more responsibilities you take on, the more open you are to mistakes, and it’s the same mentality interviewing, it’s best to make and learn from the mistakes before you graduate.
“What you do, what the cadets produce, have live consequences”
In classes, when a mistake is made, there is an opportunity to go back and fix it or get a bad mark and know to do better next time, but the cadetship, working in a live newsroom adds a certain pressure that any journalist will face in their career.
Learning to work with that pressure in the cadetship means you’re already at an advantage when you graduate. It readies you for the outside world. It acquaints you with the pressure of deadlines and teaches you the importance of accuracy and timeliness, the two fundamental characteristics of life in any newsroom and go into any newsroom and know what it’s like to work to a deadline, to understand the importance of accuracy, and timeliness in the industry.
“It allows you to put the training you’ve done in classes to use”
Ms Archer encourages anyone who is interested in radio or broadcast journalism in general to consider taking the cadetship or internship opportunities.
Employers want fresh graduates Industry ready. Class lessons are a start but the real-world experience of working in an active newsroom is an invaluable induction that will inevitably make you ‘battle-hardened’ and put you streets ahead of your class counterparts upon graduation and life in the real world, which can be done with classes alone, but getting field experience before graduation will put you miles ahead of your classmates when you graduate.
As the uni session draws to close, journalism students should ask themselves what kind of path they want their career to go down, and upon returning to CSU next year, if a cadetship or internship at NRN is an option for them.