On September 7, 2001, journalist Lisa Millar received a phone call telling her she got the job as the new North American correspondent for the ABC. There was a sense of celebration among her friends and family at the exciting development in her career.
Days later, she sat on the couch like so many other people in Australia, watching the horrific events of 9/11 unfold. It wasn’t until a few months later that Millar arrived in the US, and as she recalls, “there was still smoke coming out of Ground Zero”. Twenty years on from 9/11, Millar says she still experienced a few “wobbles” around the time of the anniversary, as she reflected on the gravity of it and her memories from that time.
Sharing this story on the latest episode of The Women’s Agenda Podcast, Millar also reflects on how she has overcome a deep and overwhelming fear of flying, something she details in her newly released book, ‘Daring to Fly’.
“My brain had stopped me from doing so many things,” Millar says. “When I realised I could control it, I was ok.”
“The thing I would love to get across to people is that when you do overcome a fear – whatever it might be and it does take work – it is the most empowering feeling.”
Throughout her career that now spans three decades in journalism, Millar has witnessed and reported on unspeakable tragedy and grief, including terrorist attacks and mass shootings. But she says she still believes in the fundamental goodness of people.
“People do ask me when you are constantly exposed to the worst of humanity, how do you believe there is good and joy still in the world?” Millar said. “I think it’s part of my character that that is that case, but I also think I keep getting shown that there is incredible strength and goodness.”
“The balance keeps getting equalled for me, to be honest.”
Now the co-host of ABC’s News Breakfast, Lisa Millar has experienced the many highs and lows that come with being a high-profile media personality, and recently made the decision to deactivate her Twitter account after being relentlessly trolled.
Listen below or via your favourite podcast app. The interview with Lisa starts around 16 minutes in.
She shares that she has felt Twitter becoming an angrier place over the last few years, and for her, it really cranked up in the last couple of months. Mostly, Millar says the attacks centred on the kinds of stories that were running on News Breakfast.
“It got to the point where I realised there was actually nothing I could do,” she said. “The trolls, for whatever reason, had taken a set against me. When you’re doing three hours of live television and you’re getting feedback like that, while you’re on air, I don’t know that many people have to put up with that.”
Millar explains that the constant commentary, while she was working eventually pushed her to a point where she decided being on the social media platform, wasn’t worth it.
“People have turned on a television, or they’ve read a newspaper, so they believe they are fully capable of telling you how to do your job,” Millar says. “And not just in a constructive, helpful way but it’s a very personal, sack her, eliminate her, she’s stupid.”
“Chip, chip, chip, it was dripping into the social media feed no matter how much I tried to restrict it or avoid seeing it and I finally said, enough. I’m not going to be bullied like this.”
Millar says she and her colleagues noticed she copped the abuse much more than her male co-host, Michael Rowland. And it speaks to a reality that it tends to be women and other marginalised groups that experience the worst of it.
“I sit next to a male co-host and he and I both were using Twitter, and he could see how I was being treated versus how he was being treated. We all had a post-show meeting in the green room to sort of say, what on earth is going on here?”
Millar believes we need to re-think what kind of atmosphere we are all contributing to when we use social media, and that the company itself needs look at what it allows to occur.
“The people who use social media and do it anonymously, need to have a look at themselves and wonder what kind of community they are contributing to.”
Lisa Millar’s book ‘Daring to Fly’ is out now. You can listen to her interview on The Women’s Agenda Podcast here.