Ruth and Brian Liebovitz had high expectations of their only child, Amie. And she hasn’t disappointed them.
Sydney born Amie Liebovitz, not yet 30, has a degree in Asian Studies, Government and International Relations from Sydney University, along with a Master’s in International Security, International Relations and Affairs.
Yet, despite all her formal qualifications, she admits, “I always wanted to be a journalist. But I was concerned that I wasn’t going to make it.
“My parents said you should broaden your horizons and study something a bit different. So I thought, you have to put the context behind the technical. I wanted to work for the Australian Defence Force in Asia. My plan was to move to Seoul in Korea.
“But that didn’t work out. I had to come to grips with the stark realisation that after completing my degrees, that I hadn’t made it through the graduate program for the Australian government. And when that didn’t happen, I said to myself, no, you actually want to be a journalist. Like, why aren’t you pursuing this? Why aren’t you giving it a go?”
So, with all those formal qualifications and nowhere to apply them, Amie gave it a go and is now working at the BBC in London in a freelance postion as a radio producer and journalist for Newsday, the NEWSROOM, and on Outside Source on the BBC World Service, which reaches some 450 million listeners, globally. As well as that, she works on the Today program at Radio 4.
None of that, of course, happened overrnight. It was a long and arduous journey to get there.
Since finishing Uni in 2014, as any aspiring journalist would, Amie promptly found herself some honest work as a sales assistant at Country Road and as a receptionist at VT1 Mixed Martial Arts. By then, she was already doing freelance work at SBS.
“I started at SBS during my first degree at University of Sydney, and that was as an online writer. I was doing freelance work and slowly – I had to learn how to write an article – building up a portfolio from that. And, yes, I did a lot of odd jobs. I just to pay the bills.”
Having got her foot in the door at SBS, fresh out of Uni , one might have thought that with her qualifications, Amie had a bright future at the ethnic broadcaster. But she chucked it all in and moved to London. What was she thinking?
“Who knows what I was thinking?”, Amie asks herself. “What happened was, I was supposed to move to Korea and it didn’t work out and I knew that I wasn’t going to push myself unless I made a drastic change. And it just so happened that lots of people that I was meeting just came from London and had a great time on their two-year visa. I thought, well, that could be me.
“I have family in London. I have friends that I’ve met along the way through traveling. I thought maybe that’s the right move. So, one night I just put it on the credit card and all of a sudden, I had my interview and six months later I was in London. It was a bit of a messy start.
So, Amie lands and London and immediately secures a position with the Battersea Dogs and Cats home.
“Funnily enough, the reason why I worked at Battersea Dogs and Cats, which was a really odd job, is that there’s an ITV program (about the shelter). I’d spoken to a recruiter saying that I wanted a media job, and asked if she had positions for like a media officer or something like that. But it was with ITV. So she thought, well, maybe this could be a good fit, that you have lots of analytical skills, but you don’t have any media references yet in the U.K., so, maybe this could be your start. I worked on a dog program like a dog and cat program for three months. That was like my start, really.”
Still, as she had no formal qualifications in journalism, it took quite a while till Amie was able to earn a living from her chosen career. During that time, did she ever experience any self-doubt?
“Oh, plenty! there were plenty of times that I was told my work wasn’t good enough or, why haven’t you studied journalism? Although, some of my peers had not studied journalism, they got into journalism a lot of other ways.
“But when you’re in a foreign country and you don’t know so many people in your field, and you’re just trying to, like, hustle your way and put your CV in places… it was hard. It was really tough. I got knocked back a lot of times, lots of tears, lots of frustration. Basically it took a lot of networking and confiding in a few close colleagues that really helped me try and find odd jobs and positions to build up my resume.”
It took a year and a half for Amie to finally land a freelance day (and often, night) job at the BBC as a broadcast journalist and radio producer. Up until that time, she’d been doing a lot of writing and researching, but not much actual audio and video production, nor presenting.
To learn the skills she need, Amie began a course with the National Council of Training Journalists in the UK and Ireland (NCTJ) In the meantime she started work with the BBC. “I realised that I was already in the game, and I didn’t need it. So, I stopped.
“A lot of my training is through the BBC Academy. I already knew how to write a storyline and structure and what radio required to make a documentary. All the different mediums that I work with, I’ve been trained on the job. Thrown into the field, I was given maybe a 10 minute lesson on how to use a boom and a mic.”
So, now Amy Liebowitz, bright young Aussie woman born in Sydney, Australia, is a freelance journalist at the BBC, at the pointy end of international news gathering. As a journalist with a strong academic background in world affairs and, in particular, world security, what can she tell us about where Australia’s standing in world affairs is heading?
“I’d say that the current political situation in the Asia-Pacific region is quite delicate. The Australian Chinese relationship is a really interesting one, especially with trade and cyber security and all sorts of things. I would say that the relationship is pretty strong, and I highly doubt anything would really rock that boat – except there is a prediction of possibly more activity in the South China Sea,” says Amie.
Around the world, journalism itself, is under threat. We’ve seen the free press shut down in Hong Kong by the regime in China. In the West, we’ve seen real news labelled fake, while conspiracy theories masquerade as truth. The internet and the social giants have disrupted the business models of the mainstream media that employs journalists. Despite landing a plum job at the BBC, Amie is a little uneasy about the future of her chosen profession.
“I’m a bit sad about the state of journalism,” she laments. “On a positive side, anyone can be a journalist. But the way in which social media is creating a lot of conspiracies, fake news and mistrust, the average person doesn’t trust the media anymore. And when I tell people that I’m a journalist for the BBC, there isn’t that same… let’s say sparkle in someone’s eye. They have a bit of a question about my relationship with the media and whether I’m telling the truth.
“But in saying that, the way in which technology has evolved, it has allowed us to do other things and to be able to go into places and become really vulnerable as storytellers. So, I always encourage young journalists to really stick by their guns if they want to be storytellers and they want to speak the truth and they want to continue being the journalists that they should be. We just have to be very careful with our sources, and we kind of have to prove our profession a little bit more than we used to.”
Finally, we teased Amie with “a letter” sent in by a ‘Mrs. Ruth Liebowitz of Sydney, New South Wales,’ who asks, ‘If your employer sent you to cover a war zone, would you go? And would you tell your parents?
Amie laughed and replied, “I would go and I would tell my parents – 100 percent, I would.”
She added, “I’ve done some pretty crazy things, I’ve gone face to face with a Nazi, I’ve done like really interesting stuff on terrorism. It comes with the job and if it’s not the type of stuff you like to do, then… (perhaps journalism’s not for you).
“I consider myself red flagged anyway. You’ve just got to tell your loved ones where you are and you just kind of go for it. I don’t hold back like these are the things that I would love to do in my life. I mean, ask me in like 20 years or so, When I’m a bit older. I might think differently,” says Amie Liebovitz.