Channel 7 star Chris Bath on needing 'resilience' to survive in media

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·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
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Over her 20 year career with Channel 7, journalist and newsreader Chris Bath became such a familiar face to Australia's TV-viewing public.

But when the cameras turned off, Chris' personal life remained just that — personal. Even more so after she stepped away from the spotlight a few years ago to live in semi-retirement in rural NSW with her son and husband.

Chris Bath wears a red shirt on SBS's Who Do You Think You Are?
Channel 7 star Chris Bath unravels family secrets on SBS's Who Do You Think You Are?. Photo: supplied.

Chris digs deep

So, laying family secrets bare in front of the entire country might seem like a surprising move for the 54-year-old.

Chris tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she even surprised herself by signing on to SBS' genealogical show, Who Do You Think You Are? which sees famous faces uncover the good (and bad) apples hidden in their family tree.

"I've never been a really introspective person," she says. "I've never even considered that something somebody I happen to be related to did, say, over 100 years ago, might influence my life or my personality."

Spending an intense 14 days digging into both her mum and dad's side of the family made Chris realise that she had a bit more in common with her predecessors than she first thought.

"I could see some similarities, you know, which is quite strange," she admits.

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Chris didn't expect her experience on the show would be so emotional and confronting. Photo: supplied.
Chris didn't expect her experience on the show would be so emotional and confronting. Photo: supplied.

"There are moments in the show where you find out some information and it'll blow you away because you think, 'Oh wow, I do that too!'" she recalls.

A love and respect for the land was something that appears to have passed down from Chris' paternal three times great grandfather, Johann Hagenow, who immigrated from Germany in the 1850s.

A shepherd by trade, Johann was forced to work as a labourer but, after years of hard work, he managed to purchase land in New England. There, the Hagenow family farmed for several years before Johann was charged with stealing sheep by a wealthy landowner.

He fought the charges and was eventually found not guilty but a series of tragic losses saw Johann meet a sad and lonely end.

Chris wrapped up 20 years with Seven News in 2015 with her final bulletin. Photo: Channel 7.
Chris wrapped up 20 years with Seven News in 2015 with her final bulletin. Photo: Channel 7.

'You need to be resilient to survive'

For Chris, learning the Hagenow's fate was the most devastating and emotional point in the whole experience.

"I found it really difficult to think that these were just hard-working people trying to change their lives and they just kept getting slapped down by people who were more fortunate to have more power and more money, and they still kept going. I think that affected me more than anything else in the story."

The ability to keep on keeping on in the face of adversity is also something Chris, who landed her first job in radio at the age of 21, sees in herself.

"I say this with a smile on my face so please don't make me sound cranky," she laughs before adding, "I think you need to be resilient to survive in the media industry.

"Maybe I can thank my forebears for that. I don't necessarily know that resilience is something that you enjoy, I don't think it's pleasurable knowing that you have to have resilience but I think there's a fair amount of resilience required to survive the media business in this country."

Chris' episode of Who Do You Think You Are? airs 7.30pm Tuesday, July 13 on SBS and SBS On Demand.

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