Newsreader - Today, Channel 9

In June 2014, Sylvia Jeffreys burst into living rooms all around Australia as the newest member of Channel 9’s breakfast program, Today. The role is the culmination of almost a decade of determined effort and commitment; turning her hand to anything that came her way and getting her foot in the door as early as possible.

Jeffreys stepped into Nine’s Queensland newsroom about the same time she first set foot on campus.

“I was in my first year of study at UQ when I was offered a junior role as a Script Assistant,” she said.

“Over the next few years I threw my hand up for everything.

“I worked in the news library, filled in as a PA, assisted the chief of staff, rolled autocue, researched stories, and put bulletins to air from the control room.”

Jeffreys credits her enthusiastic attitude as a foundation of her success, suggesting her willingness to take on any responsibility gave her a broad understanding of television news and an appreciation for each piece in the news cycle puzzle.

“I encountered numerous rejections along the way, but I stuck at it, worked hard, and continued to learn from the people around me,” she said.

While regular rejection can be the norm for many who choose a career in media, Jeffreys doesn’t name it as the most difficult aspect of her job; nor does she suggest ever-tightening news deadlines are her key concern.

“The privileges of working in journalism are met with great responsibilities,” she said.

“It is our duty to ask questions of people in positions of power on behalf of the public.

“People also trust us with their personal stories, often in times of grief and loss; they trust us to handle them with compassion and sensitivity.”

It was Jeffreys’ compassion and sensitivity that propelled her to national prominence while she covered the Queensland floods as a reporter and weather presenter for Nine News Brisbane in 2011.

“Covering the Queensland floods was an important time in my career,” she said.

“It brought new challenges for me, both professionally and personally, and gave me my first major insight into the demands of rolling coverage.”

Despite the challenges, Jeffreys still has to pinch herself regularly, noting that her dream job has led to many career highlights.

“Proving that you never know where the job will lead you, I was sent to Circus School at Coney Island, where I was taught the art of fire eating.

“By the end of the class I was swallowing flames like a pro.

“No two days are the same, especially when you work in breakfast television.”  

Recalling when she realised she had made it in the Australian media, Jeffreys points to an elevator encounter with Asher Keddie, star of Australian TV show Offspring, prior to the 2015 Logie Awards.

“I went silent in a ‘fan girl’ moment, before she turned to me with her baby strapped to her chest, and said, ‘Sylvia, you're just so familiar to me at the moment because I watch you every morning while I'm breast feeding’.”

“If ‘Nina’ from Offspring likes what I do, I have made it in life!

“Also, what am I doing at The Logies?”

While Jeffreys’ work ethic has underpinned her successful career, she says there was never any question that she would go to university after high school.

“My mum places great importance on higher education,” she said.

“She always encouraged me to pursue something that interested me and for that reason, I chose a dual degree in Journalism and Arts, majoring in Political Science and Spanish.

“I enjoyed those subjects, and was motivated to do well in them.

“I loved the campus too; the sandstone buildings and jacaranda trees.

“I spent a lot of time lingering around the Merlo cafe.”

For those considering a similar career path, Jeffreys suggests you cannot begin early enough.

“Don't wait until you graduate to get your foot in the door,” she said.

“The sooner you experience the pulse of a newsroom, the better.

“When you land that job, soak up the experience and knowledge of people around you.

“And don't be put off by rejection - be patient, and wait for another door to open.”

After a decade of ensuring she made it through those open doors (and opening many herself!), Jeffreys is proof that persistence, determination and hard work will well and truly pay off.

“I've always been excited by the possibilities of journalism,” she said.

“It brings access to influential and fascinating people, and allows you to witness historic events as they unfold.

“It is addictive - I caught the bug the day I walked into the Channel Nine newsroom on Mount Coot-tha and I can't imagine doing anything else!”