Part one of B&T‘s chat with Ita Buttrose reveals how she’s still kicking butt in the media industry, where all the big media egos have gone and why Cold Chisel’s Ita is still the best song ever.
B&T released our Women in Media Powerlist last week and you fared remarkably well…
I know, I read it! I know B&T very well; I’ve enjoyed it for years.
You came fourth in our top 30. An impressive effort indeed! Why do you think you resonate so well with the voters?
I suppose it’s because I have a voice and I use it and certainly the work that I do on Channel Ten and a lot of the work I do for charities and for Alzheimer’s disease and macular degeneration and dementia, it gives me a platform and I guess when people are looking for opinions they invariably ring me, ha, ha! I’ve been working in media for so long and I guess I just know so many of my colleagues be they older or younger or in-between. And they often ask my opinion about things.
B&T’s Powerlist obviously celebrates women in media doing amazing things. How have you seen things change, improve for women over your time. What challenges remain?
I think there’s more acceptance but I think there’s still room for more women in media. I’d like to see more women directors, more women CEOs; I think there is still room for women to advance even further. I think no matter what business you are in, more than 50 per cent of the population is female, and if you want to reach it as well as you might, I can’t think why you’d want to do that without the input of women. You just cannot ignore more than 50 per cent of the population if you are serious about marketing a product to women.
You’re one of the last remaining big personalities in Australian media. What happened to all the big egos and icons?
I think people like Laurie Oakes and Andrew Bolt and Mark Latham – until recently – they might disagree with you and there’s a few of them still lurking around. But for me it’s just been a case of remaining working. I haven’t stopped and so I guess I have longevity on my side. Take a guy like Laurie (Oakes), he hasn’t stopped either. You know, we just keep working away at our craft.
Media’s notoriously a young person’s game – namely because of the crappy salaries. What’s been your secret to longevity?
Well, the secret is working at your skills at all times. Never think you know everything. Making sure you’re up to date and informed… having talent goes a long way too. Ultimately that skill of being able to write well and attract people to read it, I mean it’s all in the skills of the person. And I think you have to keep learning all the time, I don’t think it matters where you are in you career.
I’ve been editor in chief, an editor, a publisher, so long as you’re always learning and that’s very true of our profession. Even with digital publishing and IT generally, technology is taking us to places we had no idea that we’d even reach. We keep evolving and to keep up with that you have to make sure you’re skills are up to date and you’ve got to work on that; you have to think this is fantastic and that it enables you to do far more things.
Would a 19-year old Ita Buttrose want to work in media in 2015?
Yes, of course I would. I think it’s the best profession in the world. I can’t think of doing anything else.
As a massive Cold Chisel fan I have to ask you about their glorious portrayal of you in their eponymous 1980s hit Ita. Do you get utterly bored by people asking you about it?
God no, it’s my favourite song ever! Who would’ve ever though that Cold Chisel would have ever written a song about me and it was inspired by the fact that I was editor of The Weekly and I was doing the Weekly’s commercials on television. To this day I’m amazed that I’ve managed to inspire them. And my kids, who were little at the time, reckon to this day that the Cold Chisel song is the best thing I ever did ha, ha, ha! All my other achievements pale into insignificance!
Please tell me you sing it at karaoke all the time?
No, I have never done that. But Jimmy Barnes was at the Australian of the year awards and he said to me “If I’d known it was you I would’ve sung your song and next time we’re up on stage together I’ll sing it.” And I’m still waiting, he owes me a rendition.
Is it the ring tone on your phone?
No, it’s not, sadly, ha, ha, ha!
Tune in tomorrow for part two!
Ita Buttrose is the patron of the Macular Disease Foundation of Australia. To promote eye health the Foundation is running the mEye Photographic Competition. Check out the details here: www.myeyephotocom.com.au