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From 'Death Knocks' To Dead Bodies: Why Journalists Became Funeral Workers

Dealing with death on a daily basis isn't for everyone, but for some it's the best skill they've got.

Despite drastically differently careers, these media professionals said they already had most of the skills to join the $1 billion dollar a year funeral industry.

News Cameraman Turned Funeral Director

Rocco Polistina worked as a TV cameraman for 30 years. For the last decade of his news career, he worked the grimmest shift, attending accidents and deaths overnight.

"Between 10pm and 6am is 'the graveyard shift', so I saw a lot of tragedies and a lot of fatalities so I was pretty immune to all of those things," he said.

At the age of 50, he decided on a career change.

"While you can never get completely accustomed to death, it made me able to relate to people who had lost someone, from what I saw on the road as a cameraman," he told 10 daily.

Over the past decade Polistina has helped build a family-run funeral house.

Rocco, who recently retired, was a funeral director for a decade and a news cameraman for 20 years prior to that. IMAGE: supplied

"I'm sorry I didn't get into it earlier as far as business goes. It's a good way to make money and you do it while you help people. It's a good feeling," he said.

On average, a funeral costs about $6000.

But he said not everyone has the stomach for the job.

"I could be at a dinner party and the first thing they say to me is 'how can you do that job?' But then they ask so many questions, so everybody is curious about bodies and bullets and transporting bodies overseas."

He said as Australia's population ages, and more people move into palliative care, the pre-paid funeral industry is growing.

"I'd recommend it, absolutely," he said.

Queen Of The 'Death Knock' Turns To Farewelling The Dead

Anita Clark is a freelance news journalist, and given the often uncertain nature of work in the media industry, she trained as a funeral celebrant as a back-up plan.

"I did it a time when I didn't have much freelance work, and a friend of mine was doing it and it sounded like a good option for me. I'm not de-sensitised to death, but I have done a a lot of death knocks," she told 10 daily.

Reporting on death is a daily practice for more journalists. IMAGE: AAP

The death knock is often considered the dark side of journalism -- as families face tragedy and shock, reporters arrive on their doorsteps to ask about their recently deceased loved one:

"How did they die?"

"Do you have a photograph?"

"How would you describe them?"

"How do you feel?"

"It's a horrible thing to do, but we have to do it as part of our job. It sounds really strange but I was really good at it and had quite a good success rate. For some reason, people wanted to talk to me," Clark said.

She said most of the participants at her weekend-long funeral celebrant training course were women, including another journalist.

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"The reason I can do it from a journo point of view, is that I have dealt with grief. A lot of people are very upset, but I can remove myself from that and still carry on with the process," she said.

Much likes news, funerals have quick turn-around times.

"A person dies on a Monday and is buried on a Thursday," Clark said.

This is contrast to wedding celebrants who have a relationship with the couples for around a year, before and after their ceremony.

The Health Journo Turned Holistic Funeral Director

For Yasmin Trollope, it's all about story telling.

She is both a funeral director and funeral celebrant -- which is uncommon in the industry. Last year, she set up her own funeral company on the Gold Coast.

"My entry into the funeral industry hasn’t been conventional. I didn’t inherit the family funeral business nor did I ever work for a large funeral corporation, " she said.

For 15 years she worked as a health and lifestyle journalist.

"The art of storytelling is number on that is pivotal also being able to connect with people. As a journalist you need to be interested in people and be able to connect with them and that is really important for a funeral director," Trollope told 10 daily.

"It's so satisfying. I love it."

She also uses social media to "celebrate" death, and tell the stories of the deceased.

"I think my role is also to start normalising death and I have an Instagram page about what I do," she said.

Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au