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Everyone’s Got a Story | Jo McManus opens up about her career and personal battles

Article image for Everyone’s Got a Story | Jo McManus opens up about her career and personal battles

Everyone has a story, and veteran broadcaster Jo McManus has told many, but her own story is one of resilience.

Not only has she shaped the careers of many Western Australian media personalities, she has lived through unimaginable personal battles over the last eight years.

Jo spoke about the highs and lows of her personal and professional career with 6PR’s Steve Mills on his segment Everyone’s Got a Story this afternoon.

The former ECU broadcasting lecturer grew up in Sydney and dreamt of being a journalist from a young age.

“I wanted to be a journalist, my mother was a journalist and my grandfather was a journalist and they both begged me not to do it.”

She said she fell in love with “telling people’s stories” and loved “giving a voice to people who didn’t have one”.

“One day you’re talking to a homeless man, and the next day you’re interviewing the Prime Minister or a rock star, and they’ve all got a story.”

After a long and successful career across multiple journalism platforms, Jo took on the roll as senior lecturer of Edith Cowan University’s post-graduate broadcasting course.

But while teaching she faced two heartbreaking tragedies close to home.

In 2015 her 20-year-old son Max died after having a seizure in the bath at home.

“[It’s] the hardest thing I have ever been through, and will continue to be the hardest thing I have ever been through for the rest of my life,” she said.

“You lose a part of yourself when you lose a child.”

Jo fought to have her son’s organs donated after his death to honour his wishes.

“Because he was diabetic, a lot of his organs weren’t usable,” she said.

“The coroner wanted his heart, which always broke my heart, because I thought anyone who got Max’s would have had the best heart in the world.

“He was able to give his lungs to a young women with cystic fibrosis, and she wrote us the most beautiful letter, and he saved her life.

“Anyone who is not a registered organ donor, please become one, it’s the only good thing that comes from someone’s death.”

Four years later her husband Rod died after suffering a heart attack while on a snowboarding trip in Japan with their son Sam.

“Sam and Rod did CPR on Max, and then Sam found his father dead in his hotel room after a day on the slopes.”

Despite the unimaginable loss of two close family members, Jo continued teaching until her retirement at the end of last year.

She played a major role in shaping the careers of many aspiring young broadcasters and still maintains “it’s the best job in the world”.

“You need curiosity, you need to want to know stuff, you need to be tenacious but also have empathy, you need to listen, and it’s still the most fun you can have and get paid.”

Click play to hear her inspiring story.

Steve Mills