Drowning sorrows


Husband has been sending very dismal emails back from the journalism conference he’s attending in Dublin. I have to admit the thought of hundreds of gloomy journalists sandwiched together in a room for five days doesn’t sound terribly appealing.

He’s mentioned “the grim job of stopping people killing journalists in developing countries, so many of the topics are hard and some of the speakers are raw with the danger and the threat”.

Although the “panicked sounding Irish guy trying to translate fiery, quick talking Arabic speakers. Picture this in lilting Irish brogue: “Erm, something about journalists … Journalists are … Journalists want … Ah … Journalists want a future … Erm … A future that is the past … Ah … Better than the past.” Etc etc.” sounds entertaining.

But generally he’s just worried that “they really need to be talking about their future”.

Fortunately he’s sure “large amounts of Kilkenny [at the Temple Bar] will fortify me”.

Ironically, a year ago this week I blogged about my entry into journalism (pick me in the line-up of cadets, above) back when the demise of print media was unimaginable. This is what I had to say …

“Becoming a journalist was my teen dream. My parents thought I had my head in the clouds, they suggested nursing or secretarial work instead. But I was determined to make my living from words. My dream came true when I scored a cadetship at The Newcastle Herald (and proved my parents wrong, ha!). I learned so much during my three years in that grotty, wood-panelled newsroom, as have so many other journalists who got their start at The Newcastle Herald (including, during my time, Mark Riley and Scott Bevan… lots of eye candy about the place in those days). The memories have been flooding back as I’ve watched the heart of the newsroom, the subs, battle for their jobs. It’s odd, the things that stick in my mind from the old days – the chief-of-staff wiping his generous moustache with copy paper while he assigned stories; the cadet counsellor licking his lips like a lizard every 20 seconds as he lectured us; the old guy who looked like a hobo but was actually the most revered journalist on the floor; the cadet journalist who ate a bag of fresh prawns (heads, tails and all) while on assignment with me; everyone smoking at their desks; everyone being stoked to get “VDT” pay allowances for working with computers (I’m very old). And I remember being cross that the Newcastle earthquake struck after I’d left The Newcastle Herald, because I missed out on all the free KFC buckets that management bought to sustain staff while they covered the disaster (oh, and that I didn’t get to report on the  most dramatic new story to ever blight the Hunter). But my parents were kinda right: I wasn’t suited to newspaper journalism (not sure I’d have been any better suited to that nurse or secretary caper though). Too shy. I scored a couple of front-page yarns by chance, one on cock-fighting (written colourfully from a telephone conversation with the cops) and one about a guy who died after his head hit the curb during a fight (also written colourfully from telephone conversations). Actually talking to people in the flesh – who didn’t necessarily want to talk to me – just wasn’t my thing. Shorthand wasn’t my thing either (it’s been filed in the same basket as changing car tyres, foreign languages and non-basic computer skills) and the editor wouldn’t make me a graded journalist without it. I hung around at The Newcastle Herald covering the shipping news, social events and the occasional murder for three years hoping that my shorthand skills – and newshound determination – would kick in. Neither did, so I left to work on a fashion magazine in Sydney. But I’ve never forgotten the passion of its staff and its commitment to local news – that’s so important to the local community. I’m incredulous that management has chosen to move its subbing department to another country. Newcastle is a proud town, parochial in some of the best ways. I just hope that its citizens will stand up for what is right and good and have more luck than they did with the Laman Street trees.”

Around 1000 citizens did stand up, but it didn’t do any good. The jobs went off-shore. This week it was also announced that Fairfax was closing seven suburban newspapers in Melbourne, while AAP is cutting 10% of its workforce.

There’s been a work experience girl in Sprog 2’s class this week, which prompted my little one to ponder what she should do for work experience. I told her I did mine at a newspaper but there was no way I’d be letting any child of mine do the same. That way heartache and unemployment lies.

So sad.

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