More needs to be taught to young journalists, especially women, about how to stand up for themselves and to demand what they’re owed, the president of the MEAA has said.
As a journalist Karen Percy said she spent every year of her career, before becoming a freelancer, asking for a pay raise. Even though her quality of work increased, she said she was never recognised by her employers, who turned down her requests at every turn.
“If you wanna play with the big boys, you need to play hard and fast. That’s what I know now, but what I needed to know then,” said Karen.
Karen wears many hats. The media president of the MEAA (Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance), which counts 5000 journalists and media workers as members, she also volunteers as a director of the Walkley Foundation board and is a chairperson at the Dart Centre Asia-Pacific.
On top of all of this, Karen is a freelancer as well as a teacher.
There are more female journalists now than ever before, she said, and yet it remains the men who sit at the top of media businesses.
“There is still an element of toughen up princess,” said Karen.
She left her position as a court reporter at the ABC in late 2020, during a time of swingeing budget cuts, and perhaps as an indicator of those frustrating years of knock-backs admits to being plagued by imposter syndrome.
“I had to leave because of those budget cuts that weren’t really budget cuts,” said Karen.
It prompted her to reflect on her career and her worth, deciding she would take a leap into the deep end and become her own boss.
Karen’s work, as of now, includes writing submissions on behalf of the union, drafting press releases responding to issues, drawing up board papers and agendas, and answering emails.
And, she sees forums such as the Launceston Freelance Festival as crucial to the future of freelancing.
“Freelancers working together can achieve so much,” said Karen.
These events allow like-minded freelancers to share ideas, learn from one another, and become emboldened to ask for more money, better conditions, and to seek authority over what they want to do.
She then went on to stress the importance of better protection and recognition for young female journalists.