Tess Salmon was the kid who was obsessed with emergency sirens – and not because they shone bright – as a self-confessed ambulance-chaser, she was establishing the mindset that would build her journalism career.
“For as long as I can remember, whenever I heard a siren, I wanted to know where they were going and what they would find when they got there,” Tess, 30, said, “On more than one occasion, I asked my mum to follow them – she didn’t, of course.”
Tess’ natural curiosity and love for the written word led her to pursue a career in journalism, attending Macleay College upon graduation from high school.
“After finding out about Macleay and how it was essentially a more intensive course for a shorter period of time, it appealed to me,” Tess said,
“It was also based on more practical experience and less about theory and text books, which again is something I valued, especially in a career like Journalism. It’s not something you can learn in a book.”
A chance encounter one afternoon after college saw Tess land an internship at Radio 2UE with then presenter, Stan Zemanek, working with his producers writing content, prepping interviews and feeding information to Stan in the studio.
“I was extremely fortunate that a client of my mum’s was at her business one day and I was there after college, telling my mum of my latest radio assignment, and this lovely woman insisted I meet her husband who worked in radio,” she said.
“It was only when I arrived and was introduced to Stan Zemanek that I realised who her husband was – I was both excited and terrified!”
Tess interned with Radio 2UE for three months, every Tuesday and Thursday night after college from 7pm to midnight until they offered her a position as an Assistant Producer where she thrived on the adrenalin of producing immediate news.
“Radio is so immediate, you can be live on-air much faster than television and you often get to cover different stories throughout the day. Before online became so dominant, it was radio that was breaking news first,”
But with the responsibility of being a reporter, the ambulance-chaser soon found herself having to report on what the emergency personnel would find at a crime scene.
“Some days you’re able to put it to one side but there are some stories that just get to you,” Tess reflected, “On two occasions I had to leave a court room because the evidence being presented was so graphic that it made me feel physically sick,”
“I have been intimidated by bikies, spat at by thugs, chased down the street by drunks, yelled at more times than I can remember and feared for my life on more than one occasion.”
But with the hard days in journalism, Tess said she has also experienced exciting times where she has interviewed celebrities, been invited on world class cruise ships, followed the pope around Sydney, played with adorable animals and met truly inspiring people.
And although Tess has had to miss out on important events with friends and family because of work, including cancelling on friends at the last minute because she was stuck at a crime scene, she said her only regrets are not appreciating the moment, and not backing herself more.
“You get so caught up in the day to day grind that you forget to appreciate what a unique career it is. It’s not a normal job and I wish I’d spent more time acknowledging my own achievements at the time and really appreciating the opportunities I had,” Tess said.
“I should have backed myself more and pushed for what I wanted. I regret not having a bit more grunt in me to not be afraid of putting a couple of noses out of joint.”
Tess has recently resigned from her position as Senior Media Adviser to the Deputy Premier of NSW to launch her own communications agency, Aube Communications, which specialises in crisis and issues management, profile building, media relations and media training.
“After five and a half years as a media adviser to Troy Grant and Michael Gallacher, I felt I had a lot of skills that I just wasn’t able to use in Government and I wanted an opportunity to explore them, so I took a leap to go out on my own,” Tess said.
“It’s incredibly daunting but so far very rewarding and a lot of fun.”
And for students wanting a career in journalism?
“Any romantic or glamourous notion you have of being a journalist – get it out of your head, throw it on the ground and stomp on it. Journalism is not glamorous.”
Tess said journalism is days spent sitting in gutters at crimes scenes, in small dusty, soulless courtrooms, outside jails, waiting for late politicians, interviewing business leaders, trying to navigate your way around Sydney to suburbs you’ve never heard of and street names you can’t pronounce.
“If that hasn’t put you off then go for it, don’t take no for an answer, prepare to be knocked down a few times before you break through and appreciate this amazing profession every damn day.”
“It’s a rare opportunity to be able to bring news to lounge rooms and car radios of millions of people every day.”
When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
At 10, I’m fairly certain I wanted to be an actress. At 12 I applied and auditioned to be part of the prestigious special drama program offered at my future high school and was one of 12 students chosen from over 100 applicants. By age 15 I was more drawn to reality than fantasy and writing and English became a more interesting subject for me.
If you had one day to try any job in the world, what would it be?
That’s a surprisingly difficult one to answer. I think an Astronaut because it’s so not anything like I could ever imagine. That would really push my boundaries and take me to unknown territory which would ignite the full spectrum of emotions and feelings humans are capable of. It would be pretty awesome. Other than that, I’ve often wondered who comes up with the names for Nail Polishes, that would be fun and could I work by the ocean in the Bahamas.