Susie Boswell grabs a moment to get to know the personality behind a name we all know – and meets a true multi-tasker with a sunny outlook on life.
They look glamorous, those TV news gals: Melissa Doyle, Chris Bath, even Oprah Winfrey started as an on-the-road reporter. Yet as a onetime member of the 60 Minutes team, I know TV presenters often come with overwhelming egos, household names captive to the larger than life screen image.
So here’s the problem with Lynn Lelean, prominent name and face of NBN-TV News – our most popular network locally and along the NSW North Coast, with a potential audience approaching two million viewers from Newcastle to the Queensland border: a cheerful, total absence of ego. Lelean’s so humble, thinks she’s sooo uninteresting, that I have to badger and beg, coax and cajole, to get her to agree to come to lunch and reveal a little of what’s behind the small screen persona seen on the nightly news.
There’s a second, albeit subordinate, reason: she’s so damn busy. Lelean’s day begins at 5.30am when she goes for a run with a group of girlfriends. She’s a wife and mother of boys aged 9 and 7, so there’s the family stuff to do, and then the daily news gathering task. So far, pretty unremarkable: there are plenty of working mums in our midst. Like many, she prepares the kids’ sandwiches on Sunday nights, freezing enough for the week.
But as NBN’s senior reporter in the region, Lelean sources and produces stories for the nightly news seven days a week; the task can take her any given day from Bulahdelah, Forster and Gloucester up to Clybucca, covering events as varied as council meetings and sporting competitions to the instant and unexpected demands of highway crashes and murders. She employs modern technology: mobile phone, digital recorder and netbook. When the interviews and stand-ups are done, she writes the story on the mini PC while the cameraman drives to the next assignment. And she transcribes the interview from the recorder, preparing closed captions to go to air for the hearing impaired. Then: she’s also the group’s Mid-North Coast Bureau Chief, responsible for overseeing seven journalists and camera operators, their output and operation in Taree, Port and Coffs. If a cameraman’s off sick, for example, there’s an extra ball to juggle without fumbling. NBN HQ’s not interested in gaps in the bulletin.
At 38, Lelean comes to the challenges with sound credentials. She grew up at Kawana Waters on the Sunshine Coast, her home adjacent to a seven-mile stretch of golden beaches, her school 50m from the sand, often mucking about in the family boat. “We ran around barefoot, lived in our swimmers; everything we did related to the beach,” Lelean recalls. “We had heaps to do, heaps of friends, rode our bikes and just came home when it got dark.” Her, only, older sibling, Craig, is a tropical infectious diseases specialist, married to another doctor, living south of Sydney. “He was always super-smart,” Lelean says fondly. “I was just the kid who came tagging along two years behind, ‘Craig’s sister’.” But she likes to josh her big brother with the taunt: “You got the brains, but I got the personality!”
Lelean wanted to be a journalist “for as long as I can remember”. She took a media degree at the Uni of Southern Queensland at Toowoomba, returning at weekends from her student share-house to the coast to work at Big W. Seeking work experience, she sought out Port News: a boy at school wore a Peppermint Park t-shirt from his holidays here and painted the town as Nirvana. Four visits for work experience at the News apparently impressed editor Laurie Barber: he rang when she was later working post-uni as a barmaid – in southern England – offering her a job. So ended a year of travelling, when she’d earned good tips at the pub by telling patrons the advance plotlines of Neighbours and Home and Away – “ mostly made up,” she admits. A storyteller from the start.
Then came a series of two- to three-year stints around Port’s media scene: at the paper, covering courts, council, general news; at Prime TV as a senior journalist; a return to the press as managing editor of the Hastings Gazette; and again to Prime. Then, having met Taree cameraman Nigel Lelean, the couple took off to Vanuatu and got married. When their first child was born she had “a wonderful six-year stint as a media mum, working freelance for NBN, Prime, ABC Radio and for Rural Press newspapers here and in the Manning-Great Lakes”.
“Now, with both boys at school, I’ve been full time at NBN for going on three years, and couldn’t be happier. I love being a journalist. Every day’s like a school excursion: visiting a new place, meeting new people, and experiencing and learning so much along the way.”
Journalism, it’s often said, gets you a free seat in the front row of the theatre of life. Lelean’s met so many personalities and covered so many stories in her time they’ve formed a rich tapestry, along with a formidable memory bank of local knowledge in the region that’s become her home.
Aside the relentless pace of the daily news cycle, she’s as likely at weekends to be found leaping off North Brother in a tandem paraglide with husband Nigel, who has lots of boys’ toys, including a kite surfer. Then there’s sport with her own boys – cricket, touch, swimming and surfing; free-boarding’s a favourite family pastime. She’s a member of the school’s P & F, a former Rotary president, and on a children’s services committee. Her mum and stepdad live here now; her dad and stepmum welcome them for holidays on the Suncoast.
In her spare time – spare time? – this capable career woman, wife, social networker and mum enjoys long distance running: “I’ve done two half-marathons but I’d love to find time to go the full distance …”. If you want something done, rely on a busy person: no doubt the marathon – aside from her daily marathon – will be achieved before long.
And then there’s MCing: Lelean’s often called on to MC community events, Christmas carols, Australia Day ceremonies and so on, a role she cheerfully takes on gratis for charities and enjoys immensely. She is, she’ll agree, a “glass full-to-overflowing” personality who finds positives in everything. I arrived at lunch today totally burdened by family worries. I left relaxed. “When I’m around, misery isn’t allowed company!” Lelean cautions me. “Sometimes, to MCing invitations, I do try to say ‘No’,” she admits, “but then I hear myself adding: ‘No … worries’.”
Out to Lunch is hosted by Lou Perri at The Stunned Mullet on Town Beach.