Entertainment Journalism alumna Kate Streader was living in hot and humid Brisbane when she realised that her creativity wasn't being embraced under a traditional journalism degree. Melbourne — and a dynamic, hands-on course with an industry focus at Collarts — turned out to be the answer.
The results were quick. Just a few weeks after moving to Victoria in 2017, Kate started interning at iconic music street press Beat Magazine, hitting up gigs every weekend and interviewing locally and globally recognised musicians. Now Beat's Digital Editor, we caught up with Kate to chat about her journey to a successful career in which she writes about what she loves, and how to thrive in a tough industry.
What was growing up like for you? Was there a lot of creativity around?
I grew up in a small town named Nymboida in New South Wales, and there was no entertainment there at all. Sometimes my dad would play in the local pub. He was always playing records growing up too, so we were constantly listening to music in the house. I now listen to what he listened to, like The Rolling Stones, Tom Waits, and Pink Floyd, that I thought wasn't the best back then, but now I'm like, "Actually, this is awesome." Even when I was a little kid, I used to write poems and read them to anyone that would listen.
So how did you go from Nymboida to Entertainment Journalism in Melbourne?
I eventually moved to Brisbane to study. I started a course in journalism and then realised that Brisbane was quite small in terms of opportunities as well. I was like, "Where can I write?" Melbourne seemed like the best choice. I just packed my car and drove down. It was kind of dumb, but the right choice. I heard awesome things and I already knew I didn’t want to go to Sydney.
Why did you veer away from traditional journalism?
It lacked creativity. I wanted to become a journalist because I love to write, but while writing hard news, I realised that's not fulfilling at all because it's so structured. It's just: fact, fact, fact, and you don't really put anything creative into it. In feature writing, on the other hand, you have a voice as a journalist and you get to share someone's story. It's special.
Especially with entertainment journalism, it's fun to get paid to talk to musicians whose work you listen to all the time, and ask them about their creative process, or go see them live, or get to be one of the first people to listen to their album. It’s exciting and always something different; no two days at work are ever the same. It can be full on, but I like that rush where everything's go, go, go.
What drew you to Collarts compared to other universities?
Collarts was one of the only universities that offered the course I wanted to study. Because I'd done that year and a half of a Bachelor of Journalism, I wanted to do more feature writing and creative stuff I wasn't getting from that course, and Collarts seemed to have all of that. I could also tell the teachers were still working in the field, not people that gave up 10 years ago, and they knew what they were talking about with such impressive CVs.
What do you love about Collarts?
Coming from a big uni and to this small college where you can actually talk one-on-one with the lecturers who care about how you're doing was refreshing; you're not just a number in a lecture hall and I found that was way more my style of learning. Learning can be fun and journalism isn't something you can learn by sitting in a classroom and being talked at. You have to actually go out and interview people or you're never going to know what that's like.
I also found that teachers actually wanted you to do well in assignments. They'd give you advice on how you could shape a story or what talent to seek, and it was really helpful. There were so many things I learned that I think of now while working, where I'm like, "God, that was good advice." Sometimes I'll be writing a piece and I'll hear [Entertainment Journalism lecturer] Michael Dwyer's voice in my head saying, “Don't use clichés." I still talk to most of the lecturers too, and I know that if I need advice, I can just send them a message and ask them.
What's an unforgettable opportunity that Collarts has given you?
It’s presented a lot of opportunities. When I was at Collarts, we had a guest lecturer come in who was doing PR for the Reclink Community Cup, so I got in touch with her afterwards and I asked if I could volunteer. She ended up letting me do some of the socials for the event. Tracee Hutchison, who was the Head of Entertainment Journalism at the time, flew me and another girl from my class to Brisbane to work on the Australian Women in Music Awards too. It was an incredible experience and I learned that I liked doing things I didn't think I would, such as social media or red carpet interviews.
Were there any obstacles along the way that you've had to overcome?
There were definitely many moments where I was worried about my career prospects, especially because it's such a niche field and journalism's already a tough industry. But Melbourne's the right place to be, and I found that it helps to know people, so interning or volunteering turned out to be a good way to get your foot in the door. Collarts gave me the tools to push through and I thought, "This is what I really want to do." It's really rare to find something that you love that you can get paid for. I thought if I just keep pushing, eventually something will come of it. And it did.
Speaking of a tough industry, what do you say to those who think entertainment journalism is dying?
I don't think it will ever die because people are always going to love music, always going to be interested in what musicians are doing, why they made this music, and they're also going to want to read every little thing about their favourite band. People do want good quality journalism and when the quality goes down as they stop paying for it, they realise, "Oh, I actually have to contribute something to this industry if I don't want it to die." There's also a lot more room for long form pieces and people are more interested in what's going on a step deeper. I see that having its Renaissance.
And lastly: how do you know you’ve got a good story?
I noticed today actually, at work, when I'm in a good rhythm with my writing, I do this little dance like— [dances and laughs]. But other than that, I think when you're writing a feature and you finally read through the interview transcript, realise what direction you want to take the story in, how you're going to start it, and where you're going to lead it, you get this feeling of, “Yeah, I've got this. This is the story that I want to tell.”