Chelsea's Passion for the Humanities

Despite always having an interest in news and storytelling, my passion for journalism didn’t spark until 2016.

HASS Story Teller Chelsea

I stumbled across a BuzzFeed article about Gypsy Rose Blanchard, the teenager who was convicted for murdering her mother in 2015. The story discussed Gyspy’s upbringing and how her mother, Dee Dee, convinced her that she had a number of illnesses, milking the system in order to get financial aid. Gypsy suffered from emotional, medical and physical abuse for years at the hands of her mother, and it wasn’t until she turned nineteen that she realised that she wasn’t actually sick.

The story of the years leading up to Dee Dee’s murder was told through interviews from people who knew the family, as well as a revealing telephone interview with Gypsy from her cell in a Missouri prison. It was a heartbreaking narrative with an eccentric yet almost satisfying ending. Gypsy explained that she felt as if she had no choice, and that by killing her mother, she was giving herself a chance to live a normal life and be free.  

This story made me realise that journalism doesn’t only have to be black and white, factual news. It can be a captivating way of telling someone’s personal narrative, especially if it’s a story with an angle that no one has considered. After reading this piece, I knew that these were the sorts of stories that I wanted to tell.

My first opportunity to write a long form journalistic piece was during my second year of study for a course called JOUR1710- Investigative Journalism. We were required to write an investigative piece coinciding with the theme ‘human tragedy’, and I remember struggling to come up with ideas on what angle I should take. Being born premature, I have always had a strong appreciation for those mothers who struggle with miscarriages and premature births. I dwelled on this theme for a while, scribbling ideas and notes about how tragic it would be for a mother to lose their child, and what possible emotions they may experience during their pregnancy journey. This soon stopped me in my tracks, as I suddenly considered how a father would feel in this situation. In Australian society, men are supposed to be the strong glue that holds the family together in a time of need or crisis, but I couldn’t help but wonder if they would be heavily affected by these circumstances as well. When it comes to miscarriages and premature births, their stories aren’t commonly told.

I set out to interview three fathers, each who had experienced their own difficult journey with childbirth. One of the fathers I interviewed was my tutor and lecturer for the course, Richard Murray, whose wife almost had to terminate her pregnancy due to a number of complications. If you’ve come across Richard before, you would know he is extremely tall, has a fascination with Korea, and will tell a dad joke in any situation. So, I was pleasantly surprised during his interview to have him open up to me and tell me the emotional story of his daughters’ births, and how he would bury himself in his work to cope with the difficult journey his family was going through. 

During each of the three interviews, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of pride for being able to share these incredible stories. It was apparent that each father had experienced a very troubling journey, yet had different coping mechanisms for dealing with their emotions, such as using humour, or talking about their experiences with their mates. It really conceptualised the idea that society expects men to be strong, macho and supportive during difficult pregnancies, when in reality it could be affecting them on the same emotional level as the mother.  When the story was complete, I titled it “Pregnancy: A Journey of Two”.

If I had to take away one lesson I learnt from working on this story, it would be that sometimes the best untold stories are hidden in the most obvious places. This is something that I thought about often as I carried on with my degree, and it left me brainstorming other stories that I could bring to life…

For years, I have always walked past the buskers in the city and admired the perseverance and commitment they show towards their craft. The young violin player, the middle-aged balloon man, and the hyperactive juggler all became familiar faces to me, even though I had never spoken a word to them. I often wondered about their backstories- how long had they been busking? How did they learn their craft, and how has their profession impacted their lives?

I expressed my interest in these buskers to a friend, and that’s how our project, “Buskers of Brisbanewas born.  We set out to profile as many buskers as we could in the Brisbane CBD, and soon realised that many of them were performing multiple days a week to thousands of pedestrians that would walk by. We coined the term, ‘familiar strangers’. Their faces were recognisable to the Brisbane community, but their stories were unknown.

After spending countless hours with these buskers, getting to know them and immersing myself in their craft, I realised that they were just ordinary people. Yes, they spent their days standing on the side of the road, performing to a crowd of thousands with only a fraction actually paying attention. But, just like many others, they are only trying to make a living out of doing something they love. Entertaining people.

In a way, I saw myself in them. Here I am, studying at university, on my way to (hopefully) have a career where I love what I do. Entertain people. Tell stories. The unique story that each busker shared with us allowed our readers to really familiarise themselves with their stories and their talent. Now they’re no longer “familiar strangers”. They’re just familiar.

Although ‘Buskers of Brisbane’ and ‘Pregnancy: A Journey of Two’ had subject matter that wasn’t nearly on the same level as the Gypsy Rose Blanchard piece, the journey of working on both pieces solidified my belief that high-quality journalism still exists, and it’s a powerful tool that can give anyone a voice. By giving unique individuals a chance to tell their story, you may be pleasantly surprised by the incredible narrative they tell you, or even just by the fact that you can relate in some way.   

Whenever I tell people I’m studying journalism, people always raise an eyebrow. I think they instantly associate journalists with the tabloid, sensationalised stuff we see on free to air TV and on social media. I hope that during the time I have left in my degree and beyond, I’ll be able to publish stories that will change people’s perspective and allow them to understand that there are still amazing stories out there that need to be told. Someone just has to find them.

The one piece of advice I can give you is use your time at UQ as a chance to find your passion in humanities. My passion in journalism is why I love going to uni every week. It’s so exciting to learn about a field that I love, and the skills that I learn can easily be transferred from a university environment into practice in the real world. 

No matter if it’s journalism, criminology, history or psychology, the university has so many clubs, societies and even courses that are the perfect starting point to finding that one thing that you are interested in, so put yourself out there and don’t leave any stone unturned.  

Advice from the Author's Journey

The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences has some incredible lecturers and tutors who aim to teach us the necessary skills to tackle the fast changing pace of the industry.  If you’re a HASS student and are interested in taking journalism courses, some ones that I personally enjoyed were: 

JOUR1710 –Journalistic Investigation 

COMU1130 – Connectivity and Culture  

JOUR1112 – Journalistic Narratives 

I also really encourage you to consider joining JAC Digital. It’s a great way to meet other journalism and communication students, workshop story ideas, and get your pieces published online. 


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