Telum Talks To... Julie Tullberg Coordinator of Digital Journalism, Sports Journalism and Journalism Internships, Monash University

Telum Talks To... Julie Tullberg Coordinator of Digital Journalism, Sports Journalism and Journalism Internships, Monash University

By Rhys Evans

Can you elaborate on your current role at Monash? 
I have a multi-faceted role with a focus on education and industry in the School of Media, Film and Journalism. I teach and coordinate digital storytelling, social media and digital production to undergraduate students. I also teach and coordinate sports journalism, which is my main research area. I prepare conference papers for Sport & Society, an annual international conference.

My focus area is industry preparation for the students’ internship program and the academic unit, Journalism Professional Placement. This involves mentoring students for newsrooms at various media organisations. Students learn to back themselves 100 per cent while learning a bundle of journalism skills in fast-paced newsrooms.

How have you seen the state of journalism evolve over your 30-year career?  
When I started writing sport stories for Leader (now News Corp) 33 years ago, I would ride my bike to Jells Park, hand-write my sports stories and drop the copy into a box at Blackburn’s newspaper offices on my way home. Print journalism has come a long way since then due to technological improvements and the digital age. Reporting for websites and social media channels is superfast, with instant penetration.

As newspaper websites developed, I made sure I was up to speed and learned digital skills while at News Corp. Social media has been a huge game changer, and has generated massive opportunities for journalists.

Is it easier or harder for journalists to crack into the industry? 
Students who are serious about journalism will find a way to land a job, either in newsrooms or various businesses. Journalism students who are focused, complete internships and constantly develop their skills are more likely to crack into the industry.

I enjoy watching, hearing and reading the work of Monash graduates, whether it’s on the screen, radio, websites, social media or in print. It’s rewarding to see them achieve, through resilience, hard work, and a healthy competitive spirit.

What type of skills and approaches do you teach your journalism students?  
I teach four academic units, so my work is diverse in digital and sports journalism, and industry skills. I find that students like clues and approach challenges with a problem-solving mentality. I used a strategy called discovery learning, which encouraged digital journalism students to develop skills with various software.

This gives them freedom to experiment with the tools, and so, they produce journalism with creativity and flair. This approach encourages students to enjoy their digital products and gradually build their skills, like an art-form. Also, a positive learning environment brings successful outcomes. We grow as scholars and as individuals if we are encouraged freely along the way.

How has your approach changed with each new generation of students coming through?
I have adapted my teaching to best suit the needs of this current generation. This requires observational skills and also, extra reading to understand the needs of emerging journalists. The needs of students are quite simple if you examine the big picture. All students need to feel a sense of achievement, they need to feel they are listened to, and respected for their views and ideas.

It’s important to listen about their challenges in their lives and their feelings. Having said that, effective teaching is a sign of effective leadership. Students like to be guided and inspired to explore their potential in journalism practice. The greatest challenge is guiding the students to perform while they are balancing other life pressures, such as many hours of paid work to keep pace with the cost of living, family and relationships, and time for personal space and entertainment.

Enjoyable career highlight? 
Reporting at the 2004 Athens Olympics was a fantastic experience, as I mostly covered Australia’s incredible swimming team. It was an enjoyable era of swimming, with Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett and Jodie Henry leading the golden surge of medals. I was well-prepared and mentored exceptionally well for the Olympics.

My reportage was recognised by the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association, and won the media award during the Olympic year. Ian Thorpe’s gold-medal comeback in the 400m freestyle, after his Olympic trials’ flop, was one of many golden moments in Athens.

What advice do you have for media managers working with journalists?
All journalists operate differently, so it’s important for media managers to get to know each journalist informally. It’s vital to build rapport, as this will ensure information is sought through the right channels. Showing respect for each journalist goes a long way.

Why did you move on from journalism to teach it?
I always had aspirations to teach journalism after a significant career with News Corp. I felt I had to earn my stripes by walking the walk, and putting in the hard yards as a news and sports journalist, digital producer, editor and print news editor. With this background, I felt I could share the lessons I’ve learned in a challenging career.

I qualified as a sports science specialist and educator in 1992 while working for The Age as a sports writer. I have always taught, firstly in 1986 as a training coordinator, then as a swimming teacher, coach and lecturer, later as a News Corp teacher, and ultimately as a Monash University educator. I feel education, recognised as a caring profession, is a good fit because I enjoy supporting others on their life journeys.

Do you see yourself returning full time to journalism?
After I retire from the university, I wouldn’t mind contributing some sports stories or opinion pieces to major publications. However, I will be taking it easy and ensure my family always comes first. Grandchildren may be in the picture in the years ahead.

What advice would you give to your younger journalist self? 
It’s important to enjoy the process of creating journalism each day, without worrying about the ultimate job title, such as being a producer, editor or executive. It’s great having short-term goals and focusing on the fun, creative process of storytelling, as this will bring immense joy.

Exercising your passion each day will help develop your skills, and then greater opportunities will arise. Enjoying your friendships with colleagues, as you build great journalism, will help you work happily each day. Your energy and passion will guide you to bigger and brighter things later down the track.

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