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Edwina Bartholomew – Channel 7’s Rising Star

By Dan Hutton on May 26, 2012 in People

Photo: Andrew Goldie

During the month The Beast caught up with Edwina Bartholomew, the Sydney correspondent on Channel 7’s Sunrise program, fair-weather friend of Paris Hilton and maker of some of the best choc-chip cookies in the east…

Where are you originally from?
I was born in South Australia, in a little mining town called Whyalla, and then I moved to Sydney when I was five years old and lived here until I was nine. Then my entire family moved to Japan because of Dad’s job and we spent six years there and from there we went to Malaysia, where we lived for five years. In the interim my brothers and sisters and I came back to boarding school in Sydney so that we didn’t have to keep on moving around. And aside from going to Bathurst Uni I’ve mostly lived here since.

Where are you living these days?
I live just outside the gates of Centennial Park in Woollahra.

Very ritzy…
Actually, I bought an apartment there but almost didn’t because I thought it would be a bit too ritzy but it’s actually kind of nice. Aside from the fact that the butchery is made of marble it does have a village-y feel.

And Charcoal Charlies is the best…
How good is that place? I’d have to be there twice a week at least.

How long did have you been living in Eastern Suburbs?
I used to live in Bondi just opposite Waverley Oval near the bowlo. I like to refer to it as Bondi Beach Heights. I probably lived there for about four years, and all up I’ve been in the east for six or seven years.

What do you love about living in the east?
I love Centennial Park for starters. It’s so close and it’s so amazing. My boyfriend actually lived in Newtown and has done for the last ten years. Until he came and saw Centennial Park he refused to move over here. I love that. I love being so close to the beach and equally as close to the city. I love that you can wear tracksuit pants and ugg boots down the street and people look at you strangely, especially in Woollahra. I love that going out for breakfast is a legitimate outing. Getting out and about around here reminds you of what a great city Sydney is to live in. I think we forget that sometimes in the daily slog.

Do you have any favourite local haunts, besides Charcoal Charlies, which you’ve already mentioned?
I like the Nelson up at Bondi Junction. They do the best pub meal you’ll find. There’s always a strange collection of tradies in high viz in there. I’m unsure where they all come from but they all seem to congregate there. And I love Redleaf Pool and I love the Icebergs, the level below the expensive bit with the same view but cheaper prices. And North Bondi RSL is great in summer too.

Is there anything you don’t like about living in the Eastern Suburbs?
I think it has the tendency to think a bit too highly of itself sometimes. I love that you go down to Bondi and all these so called down to earth hipsters trying to go out of their way to be different all end up looking the same. That really makes me laugh a lot. In Woollahra it is sometimes quite ‘ladies with their poodles’ but I like that too. I love that you’ve got such a small area and so many distinct different typecasts. It’s great.

How did you get into journalism?
I had a friend I was at school with who decided to do journalism and did all the research and found a good degree and I basically followed her lead. That led me to CSU in Bathurst. It’s a great uni for journalism but it’s also just a great uni for good times. I’ve got some great mates that I still hang out with from there. It’s a debaucherous place but it’s lots of fun. In my final year at CSU, ‘Sunrise’ was running a competition to win a job, which my uni professor put me forward for, and so I competed on telly to win a job as a producer. At the end of the week I won the job and that’s how I got my first gig in television.

These days you’re the Sydney correspondent on Channel 7’s ‘Sunrise’; how did you score that gig?
In a roundabout way. When I first worked at ‘Sunrise’ I was making coffee, running around, working in the mornings. Basically I’ve done every job possible on that show. I left to do a masters degree in international relations at Sydney Uni and then I went overseas for a bit, backpacked through Europe and worked at the Olympics in Beijing for Seven Sport. When I was backpacking through Europe it was around the same time that Brit Lapthorne, the backpacker, went missing, so I called 2GB, who I had worked for previously and asked if they wanted me to file some stuff for them and they said yes. So I filed for 2GB and then ended up filing for Channel 7 as well. After that I kept on travelling and the original intention was to move to London. I only came back to Australia to sort out my visa and while I was doing that I was freelancing back at Seven. The news director asked me to just do a show reel so I did that and then the day before I was supposed to fly back to London I went into the news office and said, “I can change my ticket because it’s a frequent flyer ticket, should I change it to Friday?” and he said, “Yep, change it and if we don’t give you a job I’ll buy a bottle of champagne and you can go.” The next day he called me and offered me the a two-year contract.

How long ago was that?
That was three and a bit years ago. I worked in the newsroom for two years and then I moved to ‘Sunrise’ at the beginning of last year.

Do you still have plans to go over to London?
I’m going there to cover the Olympics for ‘Sunrise’ in a few months, so that will be a great taste of it. I think I just wanted to go over and try my luck like so many other people do. If I was to go somewhere now I don’t think it would be London.

What’s it like working alongside Kochie and Mel on the number one breakfast program in Australia?
It’s great. I’ve known them now for close to ten years so they’ve seen me go from this 20 year old who made their coffee to now someone who’s helping them put the show together and it really is great. They call us a family for a reason. I go to Kochie and ask him about my mortgage advice and stuff like that. He has kids my age so I think he sometimes just shakes his head at me and goes, “What on earth are you doing?” But he’s a dude. He’s lovely. He’s cooler than any other older guy I know. He’s way cooler than my dad. Mel’s lovely too. She’s really supportive.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
One year at the Bathurst V8s I sold pies out of a pie van and on Mount panorama. That was an experience. I won’t tell you some of the things that they said but let me just say putting three girls in a pie van is probably not a good idea sexual harassment wise. It was hilarious.

Who’s the most interesting person you’ve ever interviewed?
It’s kind of split into a few categories because you have absolutely crazy people who are fanatical about their particular hobbies – for example the man who collects garden gnomes and staged a garden gnome rescue from this woman who had had hundreds of garden gnomes in her garden but didn’t want them – and then you have the amazing celebrities, like I just went to Las Vegas and interviewed Andre Agassi, which was surreal. And then you have stories like the one I’m doing at the moment on a woman who is dying of cancer. There’s nothing particularly extraordinary about her story, in fact that’s why we chose it. We interviewed her and then four days later, before we finished the story, she died. But she was fascinating. I don’t think I’ve ever sat so close to someone who has been facing death.

In terms of not so interesting people, can you tell us a bit about your so called ‘run in’ with Paris Hilton?
My new bestie. I didn’t even know I was doing the interview in the morning and they said, “This arvo can you go and interview Paris Hilton?” and I thought wow, okay, I never thought I’d hear that sentence. So we went off to the Marquee nightclub at the Star. I think that I expected quite a savvy businesswoman who maintained this facade of being quite vacuous and superficial as an image but this is not what I found with Paris. Having said that, we got along swimmingly, I thought, until I asked, “What will you do when you’re not famous?” It wasn’t supposed to be malicious. I wasn’t trying to be a bitch but she took great offence to that. What I had expected her to say was that she wanted to be a vet or something like that. She gave a really nice answer, the interview continued and afterwards her Australian PR came up to me and said, “If you include that question you will be banned from doing interviews on the red carpet on Friday night”, which was the next day, and which is like a red rag to a bull really. You can’t tell someone that they can’t put a question into a story. I could have asked all sorts of things about being in prison, her sex tape, but I didn’t touch on any of that. So when I got back to the office and put the story together I decided to include everything.

Do you think that Paris was actually offended or was it just her publicist being a dickhead?
Well, apparently the Channel 10 reporter who went after me said Paris was in a bit of a mood so I actually think she must have been offended. However, I did get an email from Paris the next day saying that she wasn’t offended and asking if I’d be her personal guest at the Marquee nightclub on the Friday night, to which I unfortunately had to decline because I was going to a friend’s wedding in Cooma.

Which you announced over Twitter…
Which I announced on Twitter, and which ended up in the Daily Mail with the phrase “bizarro world”, which is not something I say very frequently and possibly never again now that I know what gets published.

You’re quite a prolific user of Twitter; are you a fan or do you just use it because you feel it’s part of the job?
I love it. Initially I hated it and I was very anti it, but for what we do, especially in the early mornings, it is so useful. You find that you can’t, for example, get a duty officer at some police station to talk to you but somehow a mate who works for 2GB or 2UE has spoken to them, they put the information on Twitter and you all sort of collaborate with information on stories. And also I think it’s a great promotion tool for us too. If I wasn’t in this role and doing this job I don’t think I’d use Twitter, but at the same time I follow lots of design bloggers, restaurants and cool crafty things and I think it gives you great local knowledge of what’s going on in your area.

Have you ever feared for your life or your safety when chasing a story because I did see you were over in Christchurch covering the earthquake last year?
Yeah, that was interesting. Constantly for the week we were there we kept feeling aftershocks. I don’t think we felt any danger as such because you don’t think that there could be another big one. With all these bikie shootings recently, you do think twice about being in certain locations though. Usually you’re there with Channel 9, Channel 10 and Channel 7 reporters and they’re all lined doing the same story, so it’s not like you’re out there on your own as a maverick. I’m not hanging out with bikie gangs overnight doing gonzo style exposes.

When I started Googling your name the predictive text came up with ‘Edwina Bartholomew boyfriend’ so I assume that some blokes have been watching ‘Sunrise’ then checking your availability; so do you have a significant other?
Yes I do.

Is he your boyfriend, husband or fiancé?
He’s a live in boyfriend, although if he doesn’t take the garbage out today he might not be a live in boyfriend anymore.

Why is that the boy’s job?
It’s always the boy’s job.

Do you have a career highlight thus far?
My first ‘Sunday Night’ story a few years ago on young people in nursing homes is still probably my career highlight. It’s quite uncommon for news reporters to work on that show because they have their own set of reporters. But I have a friend of mine who was injured in a car accident at university and he’s in a nursing home and I just kept on hearing about all these people my age who were in accidents with acquired brain injuries who were in a similar situation. Their families were fighting to keep them at home but if they didn’t raise enough money they were going to have to go to a nursing home. So a few years ago I did a story for ‘Sunday Night’ on my mate and on young people in nursing homes and on a girl in Victoria who was still living at home. She had a really great outlook on life and it was a real struggle for her. She’d been bashed by her boyfriend when she was younger and she ended up in a wheelchair. So that’s still probably my proudest achievement because I just put it together on my days off for three months. That was a hard slog to get it up in the first place, just to convince them to let me do it because at that stage I was only 26, but it had such an impact and people were really moved by it. It’s hard to create television that moves people so strongly.

Do you have any skills besides your ability to spin a good yarn?
I can arrange flowers. I helped with the flowers for a friend’s wedding a few months ago and now I’m doing another friend’s wedding in October. It’s so dorky but I absolutely love it. I’m truly like 28 going on 72. I love baking too. I bake a lot of cakes for birthdays at work and I also like to do DIY sort of projects at home. I’ve turned an old door into a mirror recently. And I love photography too. We go to some amazing places with work so I’m forever taking photos.

Are you on Instagram?
Only recently and I don’t know if I love it yet but I’m a new convert only in the last week or so.

How do you go with the early starts of breakfast television?
It’s hard because it’s not a routine for me. Some mornings I get a call at 4am saying some news has broken overnight and then other mornings I don’t get a call at all so I just sleep through. And then a lot of the time I’ll have a shoot planned for later on in the day so that becomes a balancing act. Yesterday it was an 18 hour day because there was a stabbing at an airport, followed by a meeting, followed by Fashion Week. As much as you try to plan your week you can’t plan breaking news, but that’s what makes it exciting too.

Where do you hope your career in journalism will take you? Do you want to be a regular ‘Sunday Night’ reporter?
That’s the ultimate job, I’d say, at our network. You get to travel around the world doing in depth stories. It takes time to tell a story and they have the time and they have money and that is an amazing and rare thing in TV nowadays.

Do you support any charities that you’d like to give a plug to?
I support Youngcare, which is dedicated to helping young people to get out of aged care and nursing homes. Recently I had the ‘genius’ idea to auction off a piece of toast that One Direction ate when they were in our studio. That sold on eBay supposedly for $100,000 but it was a fake bid so we got nothing. I actually just did a triathlon on the weekend and raised $5,000 and that money will go to Youngcare instead.

You’re doing a half marathon soon as well aren’t you?
Yeah. My sister and I decided to do a half marathon together. I decided that if I didn’t plan it outside of Sydney I would never get off my arse and actually exercise. So perhaps misguidedly we booked tickets to the East Timor marathon, which is on in a couple of weeks. We didn’t really think too much about it a) being a Third World country; b) having undrinkable water; and c) having 80% humidity. The half marathon actually starts at 6am to compensate for the heat and humidity. I’ve always wanted to go to East Timor so it kind of killed two birds with one stone. It may kill me too, so there’s another bird – three birds, one stone.

Do you have any advice for youngsters looking to make a career out of TV journalism?
We have so many girls who come into the office and say, “I want to be a TV presenter.” That is not a legitimate career goal and that will make people turn right off wanting to help you. I think everyone needs to go into television or journalism wanting to tell stories, wanting to do the hard yards, being willing to go out to the country and do some work there, but so few people are. Just work really hard, do overnights, and be interested and intrigued in everything you come across. You will find that every day people who appear boring on the surface turn out to have the most incredible story.

In an ideal world what does the future hold for Edwina Bartholomew?
I’ve been so blown away by what’s happened over the fast last few years. I never ever would have thought I’d be in this position so I could not even tell you what the future holds but it’s an exciting prospect. I sometimes pinch myself and go wow, this really happened. It’s still happening.