Science Makes News Sense

The Courier-Mail

BSc (Microbiology and Biochemistry) 1987
Hons (Microbial Molecular Biology) 1988
BA (Journalism and Politics) 1991

Minimum $43,500
Maximum $109,500
Average $68,000 p.a.

SCIENCE and journalism might sound like chalk and cheese, but for this UQ graduate, their pairing has proved to be the perfect mix.

For the past 17 years, Brendan O'Malley has enjoyed an incredible career as a journalist, bureau chief and design/sub-editor for Queensland's major metropolitan daily newspaper, The Courier-Mail.

Completing a Science Honours degree in microbial molecular biology in 1988, Brendan made a decision to steer his future in a creative direction.

"I realised by then that I was always going to be a better communicator of science than a practitioner, and I was more interested in the sheer variety of work journalism involves," he says.

Continuing his studies at UQ, this time as an Arts (journalism and politics) student, Brendan became one of just two people accepted as cadets by The Courier-Mail in 1991 – an opportunity he says opened up to him because of his skills in science.

"I got the job because of my science background, which at that time was a rare qualification for a journalism graduate to hold."

Since, Brendan has covered a range of rounds, from science and the environment to state politics and the property section.

He describes his five year stint as head of the paper's Cairns-based north Queensland bureau as one of his career highlights.

"I covered tsunamis in PNG, visited remote Aboriginal communities most Australians will never see and saw first hand how Queenslanders cope with floods, drought, cyclones, death and all other manner of adversity."

Now based at News Limited's Bowen Hill headquarters, Brendan is co-ordinating The Courier-Mail's coverage of Queensland's 150th birthday celebrations, in addition to working on what is known as the "backbench", which is essentially a design/sub-editing role.

"This is a high-pressured but rewarding job because you are part of the team which decides how the paper will look," Brendan says.

"It's an exciting place to be in a news room."

While he does not directly use his Science degree, Brendan says it has been a huge advantage in the highly-competitive journalism world.

"The most useful aspect of the science degree was to give me a broad but still fairly deep understanding of the basic concepts in life science and an ability to think critically," he says.

"This has been invaluable in covering science, medical and many environment stories and has definitely given me an edge over other journalists in tackling complex science stories."