When having it all doesn’t mean having it at once
I am penning this article to debunk a fondly held view of those suffering tall-poppy syndrome.
As a journalist myself, I am well aware of the misconception that it takes simply a pretty face to read the news.
The glamorous face of Channel Nine’s recently announced regional news push for Queensland, journalist Samantha Heathwood, is a familiar face for Toowoomba residents thanks to her time as a WIN News reporter in the city.
Her family moved to the Garden City when Samantha was one year old.
Educated at Fairholme and the Glennie School, Samantha is now based in Brisbane but regularly returns for events and to spend time with friends.
“Toowoomba is an amazing place – it’s so close-knit,” she says.
“You often meet two or three generations of the same family. There’s a real family feel, life is easy and it takes 15 minutes to get anywhere.”
And far from bemoaning the foggy mountaintop weather, Samantha views it as a unifying factor.
“Because it’s colder it breeds a family feeling – people do more indoor activities at each other’s homes and spend time at friends’ houses.”
When we met on a cold Toowoomba morning to share a cuppa, it was easy to see why she became a quickly rising star.
Though Samantha undoubtedly has the X-factor a successful news anchor needs, for me it was her work ethic, conduct and knowledge that hit home.
She is set to return to our screens from August 14, recently snagging the prestigious anchor role for Queensland regional bulletins with Channel Nine.
To be based in Brisbane, Samantha was recently named as one of three Channel Nine regional news presenters and will present six regional bulletins.
This includes Nine’s Toowoomba and Darling Downs bulletin, a territory she knows well.
The Heathwood family has enjoyed a long association with Toowoomba.
Samantha’s grandfather ran the iconic Heathwood Pharmacy on the corner of Ruthven and Margaret Sts years ago, and her sister more recently owned a shoe shop in Margaret St.
And while her family has since relocated to Brisbane, Samantha holds her hometown in a very dear place.
A look over her CV shows she’s done the hard yards to get where she is today, and it should be noted she is juggling motherhood along the way.
Her path to success began with humble steps in her home town of Toowoomba… working for free. For a whole year. “Working for free doesn’t mean you’re not getting anything out of it,” Samantha says. “Nobody is better than a job.”
Her work ethic and determination were noticed, with Samantha snagging
‘‘ I love catching up with friends for lunch at Gip’s and I always make everyone come to the Carnival of Flowers and the Food and Wine Festival.
‘‘ You can have a great life and tick all the boxes but you also need to tick happiness.
her first job with WIN News Rockhampton.
She’s since chalked up eight years of regional reporting, as well as a gig in Sydney, before moving back to Toowoomba to take a year off with her second child.
Mother to two young boys, James, 6, and Henry, 3, Samantha has a message for other parents.
“Since Sydney, I’ve been in a no-man’s land work-wise while I took time off to be with my boys,” Samantha says.
“And I guess there was some fear of coming back into the game and feeling like I’d been away for too long. But I remember someone saying to me ‘the cream will always rise to the top’ – meaning if you have the skills and drive, then you have every chance to get that great job.”
Samantha says parents returning to the workforce after taking years off to raise children shouldn’t be “frozen out” by their own mental barriers.
“Everyone’s careers wax and wane, and I want to provide hope for other people who’ve taken time out, have put everything into their kids for the last five or six years,” she says.
“It’s scary coming back into the workforce, but it’s not as daunting as you might think.”
Samantha says her mum spent three months in Sydney helping her with son James. Samantha would begin work at 2am to write and then present Nine’s early morning bulletin at 5am, before going on to write the news bulletin for The Today Show.
And while her career is something she is passionate about, she stresses not to get lost in “trying to have everything”.
“Don’t forgo family things or things with friends for the sake of your career,” Samantha advises.
“They’re things you regret down the track – missing special occasions with your family.”
When Samantha returned to Brisbane after her marriage break-up, she made the decision to work just two days per week, to ensure she was spending quality time with her young sons.
“I started back from scratch and eventually got three days a week permanent part-time, and then this job (anchor for Nine’s Queensland regional news) came up two years later.”
It’s a work-life balance that she admits, while difficult, is important.
“You can have a great life and tick all the boxes – career, family, house – but you also need to tick happiness,” Samantha says.