Presenting the nightly news on television was not something the ABC’s Emma Rebellato imagined would be a career. Even when describing her role, it’s not the presenting that comes to mind.
“I see myself as a journalist,” Rebellato says. “News presenting is the visual part of what I do but I carry out a lot of other activities and roles at the station. I don’t consider one primarily over the others.”
Even though television wasn’t on this journalist’s radar, when the opportunity arrived Rebellato took it with both hands. “It was a fantastic chance, and as soon as I started doing it, I felt it was the right fit.”
Rebellato, who’s worked at the ABC for 10 years, believes she’s always had a voice for broadcasting. “I certainly wasn’t the most outgoing student, but I enjoyed public speaking,” she says. “I was also fascinated by recording the voice and, as a primary school kid, I even worked on trying to make homemade audio books.
“My sister, family friends and I invented a radio station one afternoon, and I insisted on doing the news. I don’t know if deep down I knew that I wanted to work as a journalist or if it was simply that the news was something you knew as a child, if it was something you saw and then tried to mimic.”
Work experience at community radio allowed Rebellato to explore journalism during high school and, while studying journalism at the University of South Australia, Rebellato volunteered for radio station 5 RPH. Straight out of university, Rebellato reported for Magic FM and 5RM in the Riverland. “It was challenging in a lot of ways,” she says. “It was my first full-time job, my first time living on my own, but I was working with great people and really just learning everything there is to know about broadcasting.”
Rebellato returned to Adelaide to work for the radio stations FIVEaa and Nova 919. “At FIVEaa, I really got to go into work as a journalist. I was reporting the news, going to crime scenes, press conferences, covering court stories, it’s where I learnt a huge amount and honed my craft.”
While reporting for FIVEaa and Nova 919, Rebellato began freelancing for Channel 7 and Network 10, and so began her move from the audio world to the audiovisual.
“If I am presenting the news,” Rebellato says of a typical day, “I head into work at lunch time and go over all the television, radio and online news from that day. I then have discussions with my producer and chief of staff and we talk about what stories will be making the 7pm news. Conference calls are held with the other stations in each major city, and, from there, I write and edit the news promos and updates. Then it’s time for makeup and I start reading over all the news stories.
“I work on exercises for resonance and pronunciations, as I need to be as clear and concise as possible,” she says. “I can’t stumble on pronunciations, so I’m constantly checking names, places and even things you think you know. There is something about speaking out loud that can make you second-guess yourself and so you keep checking until it is perfect.”
Rebellato doesn’t necessarily get nervous, but she does feel the pressure to do the very best she can with each broadcast. This means delivering a story clearly without too much emotion. “You need to be very aware of what you are reading, you can’t just read the words on a screen, you need to understand those words and connect with what you’re saying. But, at the same time, it’s not about you, it’s about the story.”
Rebellato is extremely humble when describing her style. Fashion is secondary to her role, but this is one elegant journalist.
“What I wear is usually something very classic, tailored or in block colours,” she says. Inspired by her mother’s skill in dressmaking, Rebellato has created her own pieces to wear while presenting the news but her fashion can’t distract the viewer. “I don’t want anything I am wearing to be a distraction from what I am saying.”
Leo Greenfield is a freelance illustrator