She’s been either in our television sets, radios or newspapers for 21 years and conducted something like 34,800 interviews - but that’s all changed. Gordon Wiegold finds out that there’s life after media for this popular local journalist.
GORDON WIEGOLD: Why the move after 21 years as a journalist, is this an early retirement?
LYNN LELEAN: I’ve been a journalist for 21 years, which I hate to admit is exactly half of my lifetime. And given that 42 is supposedly “the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything”, it seemed like as good a time as any for a change.
I also liked the idea of bowing out while I still absolutely love the job and that’s exactly what I was able to do. My new role as a senior media advisor with the Mid North Coast Local Health District (MNCLHD) is the perfect way to maintain an involvement with the local media while taking on some exciting new challenges.
GW: Granted that your new employers are very lucky, will you miss the adrenaline rush of the newsroom?
LL: It’s only been a week, so I haven’t really stopped to think about it. It is hard to switch off that news sense though, particularly when I hear sirens go past. There is still plenty of adrenaline rushing through my veins in my new job, just a different kind now (the kind that hopefully won’t drag me out of bed at 3am).
GW: Lots of people won’t realise you have such a diverse media background?
LL: I had wanted to be a journalist from a very young age (well before I even started primary school). After completing my university studies in Queensland and living overseas for a year I came to Port Macquarie where I started work at the Port News in 1991. I have worked in all sectors of the media (print, radio and television).
GW: You must have met some quirky celebrities in that time?
LL: I worked out the other day that I have conducted something like 34,800 interviews in those 21 years and I have met hundreds of “celebrities” and while I have found most to be genuinely nice people, quite a few have been a bit too caught up in their own fame. I would much rather get to know every day members of our community who have interesting stories to tell.
GW: What about the funny people in the local communities or the people that made you laugh?
LL: We once did a story about an infestation of Christmas beetles at a little house beside the highway at Coolongolook. It was an interesting yarn and there were literally thousands of them, but what made the visit more interesting was when the homeowners started telling us about their daughter who also worked in the “video” industry. It turned out their daughter was an international star in X-rated films. The middle-aged couple then offered to show us their library of films, suggesting we take a few with us. We politely declined and got away quick smart.
GW: News is such an unpredictable process but what were the most awkward and embarrassing moments that stand out?
LL: I tend not to get too embarrassed but I certainly have had a few awkward moments, quite often involving animals and their bodily functions. Back in the mid-1990s we were covering the story of an injured little penguin at Tuncurry that was being nursed back to health by volunteers. I was holding the dear little thing near a big rock pool and started talking on-camera about its amazing story of survival against the odds. The penguin relieved itself on me which came as quite a shock so I threw my hands into the air, propelling the poor thing onto some rocks and adding to its injury woes. Its road to recovery turned out to be a bit longer thanks to my “help”.
GW: What’s the Lynn Lelean philosophy on life?
LL: My philosophy is pretty simple - just be nice to people. Throughout my career
I have always said one of the most important attributes a journalist must possess is empathy, the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others. Being organised is great; being able to communicate well is a bonus, but being able to truly empathise with others is what I believe community journalism is all about.
GW: Away from the media now, will that give you more time to pursue hobbies?
LL: I very much live in “boy world”, with a husband, two sons and a big black dog, so whatever we do it usually involves an adventure of some kind. I’m afraid there are no
girly shopping trips or café latte sipping in the Lelean household. I can’t wait to have weekends off and get back into going for long runs on a Sunday morning.
GW: I know it won’t be the last we see of you but what would your parting message be to the people who have watched and worked with you in the media all those years?
LL: Please keep watching, reading and listening to our fine local media - it’ll help keep many of my dear friends in work. To those I’ve worked with in the past - maybe we’ll finally have time to catch up for lunch now!
GW: Finally, if you could do one major thing or change one major thing in the region - what would it be?
LL: Zip, zilch, nada - I’m an observer, not a decision maker. This place is perfect, even with all of its imperfections.