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Finding a work-life balance after the political chaos

With two Walkley Awards, a charity, a thriving career and motherhood to deal with, Emma Macdonald recognises that perhaps one of her best skills is juggling.

Macdonald is a former Canberra Times Press Gallery Bureau Chief and Convenor of Women in Media Canberra.

Her 23-year stint on the front line of a daily Fairfax newspaper came to an end in 2016 when she moved to become Associate Editor of online platform HerCanberra.

Macdonald says she had been following Amanda Whitley, HerCanberra’s self-titled ‘head chick’, for a while and was impressed by its intelligent women-focused forum.

When the opportunity to take a voluntary redundancy at the Canberra Times, Macdonald jumped at the chance.

“I still love the Canberra Times, I still read the Canberra Times, I’m still friends with all my colleagues there, but this job at HerCanberra really is just an absolute joy. I was so ready for something new,” Macdonald says.

“I feel like I’ve done newspaper journalism and politics as well as I was going to be able to do it.

“A news story is a news story. It’s got the same structure, it’s all very serious. But to be able to craft a beautiful story about someone and take the time to really get into the emotion of the piece, there’s a power to that. More broadly, I feel the new media is where audiences are increasingly going.”

Starting out in the Press Gallery, where she had an ‘absolute overriding ambition to cover federal politics’, Macdonald feels privileged to have found a seat there for 13 years.

The double Walkley Award winner reveals it was only when she had children that she realised she could not do journalism justice in the Gallery, whilst ensuring her children came first.

“For me – but not for all mothers – I realised it was too hard. It was just too chaotic, crazy and demanding,” she says.

“Now I feel like I have a good work-life balance.”

Another venture that Macdonald dedicates her time to is the maternal health charity Send Hope Not Flowers.

Created shortly after the birth of her second child, Macdonald, alongside a doctor and an internet entrepreneur, set the charity up to raise funds to help more mothers survive childbirth in the developing world. One woman dies every two minutes from complications of childbirth – 98 per cent of these deaths take place in the developing world.

“As a journalist, you’re so often a bystander. But with Send Hope, it was my one chance in life to actually throw my hat in the ring and say, ‘Yeah let’s try it’,” she says.

“We’ve put our hearts and souls into it. We have raised nearly $1 million and are working across eight countries now. I’m so glad we’ve done it.”

The charity provides funding for medical equipment and supplies, educational resources for local doctors and midwives, and support for ‘on-the-ground’ training of local health workers and village birth attendants.

“Send Hope has given me so much more than I’ve given Send Hope,” Macdonald says.

“I can’t even really express it but to be able to make a difference to a mother and baby in a country where they are so up against it, it’s a fantastic feeling. It’s absolutely amazing.”

Published widely, from The Times (UK) to the Business Standard (India) to Cosmopolitan magazine, Macdonald has covered her fair share of issues ranging from politics to education, health, and social affairs.

Despite her love of TV and radio, Macdonald says she has always followed her heart in journalism and stuck to the print medium.

“I just really love the writing process. The joy comes from the words: writing the sentences, crafting the ledes, getting it all down on paper,” she says. “I’m working, but it feels like I’m playing.

“It’s not a job to me. It’s an absolute privilege.”

Emma Macdonald will speak more on the challenge of juggling professional and personal factors on the Bigger, Better, Bolder panel at the Women in Media Conference at Bond University on Friday, September 14.

Author: Maisy Rae

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