A tragedy of national significance marked the beginning of news personality and presenter Tanya Dendrinos’ star career.
The responsibility of representing her new community’s grief and pain as chief of staff of Wagga Wagga’s WIN newsroom tumbled on her shoulders after a shocking event.
“I was listening to the police scanner & I just didn’t like the way that this particular scene was unfolding,” Ms Dendrinos said.
“It ended up being a quadruple murder suicide.
“It was a horrific scene. We broke the story nationally.”
Taking stock of the situation and ‘going with her gut’, the rookie chief of staff who had been a working journalist for only 12 months, said she had to tap into the leadership above her and hold her core journalism values close to heart to report this story in a way that was sensitive to those affected.
Dendrinos quickly picked up the phone and dialed head of WIN news, Stella Lauri, who advised her to think ‘community first’ to get ahead of the flurry of metro journalists that would fly in overnight to cover the story on national news desks.
As someone who would remain in the community in the aftermath and was grieving with her newsroom and friends, Ms Dendrinos decided she would tell the stories that would be meaningful and help her community through this tough time.
“Everyone had flown in to cover the story but I knew we needed to do more than point fingers”, she said.
Dendrinos called the local primary school to investigate if they were providing counselling for their students, who had just lost three of their 43-strong cohort in the murder-suicide.
She knew after the buzz, when the metro journalists flew to the next crime scene, her local area would still be left in shock and ruin.
She shared a similar sentiment with the coverage of the bush fires and outlined the discrepancies between big name journalists who ‘had not spoken to a single person’ and the local journalists who put their communities first.
“As someone who is grinding it out, [the community] can see that you’re there everyday and that you are consistent,” Ms Dendrinos said.
”Co-existing with regional communities during extreme circumstances can create uncomfortable moments in this job, sometimes people will tell you to F off.”
She emphasised the significance of reminding people that you are a part of local news and that this approach will foster rapport and build contacts, noting that this connection will be beneficial for stories in the future especially in times of heightened tension.
“These are the kind of stories we are telling and this is why we think its important, give people the option to talk to you,” she said.
“Carry yourself with integrity & make sure you are doing a service to your community that you are serving.
“Disaster situations bring out the best and absolute worst in people, but the community will remember that you are still there in the ashes of devastation and covering the story with compassion.”
12 years later, Ms Dendrinos shared this experience with third year UOW journalism students in an editorial leadership subject, preaching the value of strong journalism in regional areas that delivers the needs of community members.
Ms Dendrinos urged the students to always show respect and use good judgement when reporting, never forgetting the human element of stories.
Tanya Dendrinos has conducted a regional newsroom, reported and presented for WIN news in Wagga Wagga and Wollongong, reported in England as a foreign correspondent for Network 10 and as a broadcast journalist for BBC news, and is currently an SBS World News reporter.
Ms Dendrinos repeated her strong message of ‘don’t be afraid to go regional’ to UOW students, and said she designated her leadership style to growing and supporting her team, a strategy that would follow her throughout her career, helping to build and maintain strong connections and friendships.
Her attractive career offered timely advice for the audience, who felt encouraged to think beyond their borders whilst honing in on the ongoing value of journalism in today’s ever-changing and growing times in the industry.